January 15, 2013

editing like a pro

With two completed manuscripts in need of a little more TLC before publishing, editing is constantly on my mind. Even though I have read countless blog posts, books and articles, I still like to gain input from other writers.

Last week, I posted a comment on a Facebook group for author's and bloggers that I belong to, in hopes of getting some feedback regarding their methods of editing. I wrote:
It's Working Wednesday, and I finally opened a WIP file. (I've been a bad aspiring novelist this year.) This month I'm doing *another* round of revisions on the first MS I completed with hopes of publishing this year. My question for you veteran authors: What is one thing I should do to make these revisions go smoothly? Please and thank you!

I was delighted by the thoughtful responses and ensuing discussion. It seemed selfish to hog them all for myself, so here are a few of the answers for you to benefit from, too.

From Isabella Louise Anderson, soon-to-be published author and Chick Lit Goddess founder
I actually emailed my editor about this yesterday! One thing have issues with is mastering the editing options in Word. The whole "accept" and "declines" seem to really distract me. I've learned to take it step by step and try not to worry so much.

From Tracie Banister, author of Blame it on the Fame and In Need of Therapy
I've never used a professional editor as I didn't have the money and I also felt confident in my own editing skills. However, if you do it yourself, you need to commit to going over your book with a fine tooth comb. Not just once, but a dozen times or more. And this is before you even pass it on to betas, who I think are very necessary for proofreading and pointing out things from a reader's POV.

I think it's really important to proofread from a hard copy. For some reason, typos are very easy to miss when you're reading something on the computer while they jump out at you on the printed page.

From Jackie Bouchard, author of What the Dog Ate
I agree with all the other suggestions. I also print a hard copy and read it several times. A few other things I do are maybe more subtle edits, but I think add to a richer MS in the end. Two things I do before printing the hard copy are: (1) Do a "find" search for words I tend to overuse while writing my draft - like "just" and "really". I go through and edit most of them out. (2) After that, I run a search on "ly" and find places where I used weak verbs propped up with an adverb and try to switch them out with better verbs. (E.g. "She got up quickly from her chair" I might change to "She bolted from her chair." As for the hard copy, on one of the passes through reading it, I (crazily) sit w/ different color highlighters for all the senses. I tend to always describe how something looks and forget sometimes to add in smells, sounds, taste, touch. Highlighting the descriptions helps me flip through and see where I can try to bring the MS more to life. Like I said, subtle stuff, but hopefully it all adds up to something that pulls the reader in more. About to start this whole process on my own MS, after having left it alone for a couple of weeks.

From Meredith Schorr, author of A State of Jane
Print out hard copy and also read out loud. I like to work with 25 pages or so at a time when I'm doing revisions.

I also received these links, which offer assistance in the way of advice or testing your text:

One approach I have used to edit pieces at work is doing backwards line edits after reading something once for content changes. This was a suggestion to me from a copyeditor back in my journalism days. By reading backwards, you are able to focus on each sentence as its own piece rather than getting distracted by the story itself. It's something I'll also think about using for my own writing.

What editing approaches do you use?

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  1. Thanks for including me! And thanks for the post, because I needed these reminders before beginning to edit my own manuscript!

  2. This is a great post! Thank you so much for sharing this! I find it funny that when I go to my Barnes & Noble, there are so many books on writing and publishing, but little on editing. Editing is a huge part of being a writer, whether you're a traditionally or self-published author. The more we know about editing, the better we'll be as a writer.