Ahh the joys of editing

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I’ve been noticing, between the Amazon contest buzz and people finishing up their Nano-novels (Power of the Stars, I have not forgotten you!!) that everyone seems to be in editing mode.

Before I editing my first novel, The Other Side, I found myself totally clueless as to how to go about it. It seemed like such a daunting task when there were over 75k words to go through.  Do I use a red pen? Do I retype the entire thing? Do I start at the beginning and go right through or pick certain scenes to work on? I tried asking around to see how others handled it, but I couldn’t find too much information.  Finally I dug my feet in and just started at the beginning, figuring I’d figure it out as I went. And I did, but I decided I’d share some of my own techniques in case there are others out there who are in the same position I was in.

First thing to do, for me, is to finish the novel. I do very little editing during the writing process. I think that is a reflection of Nanowrimo mentality: Get the words out and don’t look back. Edit later!  I might do some typo correcting as I’m reading before I start writing again, but nothing major.

Once I finish writing, I print the manuscript in it’s entirety and put it in a binder. Then I get it out of the house as fast as I can. I have a couple of friends who are willing to suffer through reading an unedited piece of work. I don’t ask them to make spelling or syntax corrections. Their main focus is to make sure the story makes sense. Are there plot holes? Did I leave any major questions unanswered? Does it flow in a way that makes sense? Are the characters likable? Things of that nature. It’s been a huge help. When you’re writing a long manuscript and you’re not the type to outline, it’s easy to forget you mentioned something a couple of chapters ago.

If you don’t have someone to read for you, or you won’t let anyone look at a piece of unpolished work, then do yourself a favor and hide your manuscript away for a couple of weeks after you finish.  That was one piece of advice I had heard from almost everyone. You need to distance yourself from your story a bit before hacking it to bits to make it better.

After it comes back from the reading, I will look over their notes (if they happened to write them up for me rather than giving me verbal feedback) and then I will re-read the story and make my own notes.This stage is a good place to put to use another important piece of advice I had seen. Reading aloud. You may feel silly, but it can help you check that your dialog seems natural and that the flow is good.  If you’re daring enough, print a second copy and ask a friend to run the dialog with you.

I have gone the red pen route in the past, but I find it didn’t really help me. Also, I am NOT a fan of re-writing the entire manuscript. I’m a fast typist and known for making stupid typos. I don’t just mean spelling errors either. I often type form for from and things of that nature that spelling and grammar checks don’t normally pick up on. Re-typing the whole thing would only lead to more corrections for me in the long run.

When it comes to actually making corrections, I head towards Word.  The more recent versions of the program have a tracking option that I adore. You turn it on and as you remove and change things, it takes the original words and puts them in red and strikes them out. The I copy and paste, by paragraph, into a new document. Even if you cut and paste your red marks, they won’t show up in the new document. When I’m done, I have a nice clean new version of my work.

Finally, I’ll  give the edited version to someone to read. Again they look to see if I’m missing anything and if they catch any typos or grammatical errors, they’ll highlight them for me.

It’s a long process and I know many who have done multiple re-writes. I have yet to change whole scenes, be it cutting or adding, but I don’t doubt it’s in my future. I constantly remind myself that the books on best seller lists are nowhere near the first copy of the story.  To be able to write a story is an amazing feat, but it really comes to life and takes wings in the re-write process, so don’t skimp on it people! Make your work the best it can be!

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