Love thy red pen
When I talk with other writerly people, editing seems to be one of the most common pain points amongst them. Some people tell me they aren’t very good at it, some have decided that they can’t do it while others try to do the best they can but will often rely on BETA readers and editors to edit their manuscripts more completely.
I like editing.
Scary thought isn’t it?
I find it gives my creative brain a bit of a break despite the fact that I find aspects of it quite challenging. I know I’m not qualified at it or the best at it, I feel I have a fair grasp on a lot of the basics, but one can always learn more.
With this in mind, I went into this weeks writing class looking forward to the instruction on editing. I was not disappointed.
We started by going over the different types of editing. There are a vast number of articles that outline the types of editing, what they cover and what you could expect to pay for each of these different services. If you’re keen to learn more you can do a very quick google search, but here are a few good articles I found:
1. Word Cafe
Things to consider before starting:
Depending on which book you read or who teaches you to edit, there will be varying techniques for reaching the same level of sophistication within your manuscript. The source for most of the notes in class stemmed from Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (2004) by Renni Browne and Dave King. Amazon reviews seem to back up my teachers choice in this resource, with a vast number of 5 star reviews sporting glowing reports. This of course doesn’t mean you only follow these suggestions, but use it as a guide to perfecting your process, read widely and ask lots of questions of your readers.
Keep in mind also that depending on the type of form you’re writing in you may feel the need to break some of the standard conventions. This doesn’t mean you should forego all editing, just apply what is relevant to your project.
Strategies for self-editing
We covered the 12 areas that Browne and King speak about in their book. It trains you to see your work through the eyes of an editor. Some of the areas were more immediately applicable to our writing for various reasons. Some of the class struggle with dialogue *raises hand*, others do a lot of telling instead of showing or change point of view mid-paragraph. Sometimes this can be difficult to see in our own work, this book is written to help you understand and see common problem areas. Editing is a skill, it takes practice. Frequent exposure to different styles of writing at different levels of competency will help you to hone your skills.
The below points are areas you can address to polish your work.
- showing rather than telling
- characterisation and exposition
- point of view
- dialogue mechanics
- see how it sounds
- interior monologue
- easy beats
- breaking up is easy to do
- once is usually enough
I was particularly interested in the information provided about dialogue. I have noticed that a lot of my work does not include dialogue, instead I prefer to get across what I want through other means. I got a lot of positive instruction even from the paragraph that we were provided in class. One point in particular stuck with me:
Mark every -ly adverb. How many of them do you have? How many of them are based on adjectives describing an emotion (hysterically, angrily, morosely etc)? You can probably dispense with most of them, though perhaps not all. Be selective.
Also, check your speaker attributions. Are there any physical impossibilities?
E.g. “I hate to admit that,” he grimaced.
You can’t really grimace and speak at the same time. A grimace is a facial contortion showing an emotion not a way to say something.
The right verb is nearly always said. Well-intentioned attempts at variety usually don’t work because those verbs draw attention away from the dialogue.
After reading this and discussing the steps amongst the class I looked at one of the pieces I’m working on to submit next week (I’ll probably post a few times showing the various stages of my self-editing) and I was shocked to see I had done quite a lot of the above. When writing it seemed so right.
How do you go about self-editing? Are there any areas you struggle with more than others? Share any great techniques or tricks with us all below.