Sunday, August 1, 2010

Editing Your Own Work Effectively

I've had editing on my mind this week. First I had an emergency edit to do from an outside source. A great story, not a romance, though, and told in first person. This is one of the most difficult types for me to edit as it is not my chosen field, but it seemed to flow when finished, was as grammatically correct as conversational first person will be with me editing, and the author and publisher seem happy with it. Hurray for another completed project.

Then I began reading stories for the Victory Tales Press anthologies to be released for Halloween and editing those (thankfully not much as these writers do a pretty good job before they get to me). And finally I am editing some of my own writing trying to stimulate my, lazy of late, MUSE. I ran across this simple, but effective article on editing and with permission wanted to share it with all of you.

Here are the main points and then hop on over to the article if you'd like to see the rest, please.

A Little Honesty Goes A Long Way
So, the first thing you need to learn to be good at editing is to be objective!
I always put my novels aside for a few weeks before going back to rewrites. Otherwise, my head is still in the clouds of that world, and I can't shake myself loose enough to be critical of my own words. (Doesn't do to be in love with your own words. No one else will be, if you didn't get them right!)
If you find you can't be objective about your own novel, find someone you trust who can. (Not your mom! Unless she's an author...)
If At First You Don't Succeed, Rewrite, Rewrite, Rewrite
Start with the plot line. Does it flow seamlessly from beginning to end, sub-plots and all? Are there any missing segments? Fill those in now. Something happened that makes no sense? Cut it.
Yup. If you're going to edit a novel , you have to learn to discard your precious babies. I mean the paragraphs you may have liked the most when you wrote them. 
You also need to look at your characters, your setting (time and place both), your "facts", even if you wrote a fantasy, names of places and people. (I told you it was a lot of work!)
You may find you need to rid your novel of extraneous characters (ouch! I often do). Don't throw them out entirely. Keep a file of discards to consider using in other novels.
The Final Frontier
This may sound silly, but one of the best editing devices I know of for any type of writing is to read it aloud.
Yes, you read that right. Read your novel aloud. Not all in one sitting, but a page at a time, or a chapter at a time.
Reading your work out loud will help you find places where the words don't flow, or you've put something awkwardly. Yes, I know this is a long piece of fiction you've written, but seriously, it will make a difference.
If you don't think you'll hear it well reading it yourself, have someone read it to you. Stop them when you hear something that sounds wrong, and make a note. Then go on.
You won't regret this last step in editing, even if you think you've gone over everything with a fine-tooth comb. 

Editing Your Novel Puts a Shine On All Your Hard Work

Happy Editing!


  1. REBECCA--Being objective when reading our own work is tough. You gave good advice to let it sit a while, then go back and read it again. Fortunately I reviewed a few months, and those reviewing guidelines helped me as much as anything with my own work. (I wrote a blog about "Use reviewer's guildelines to edit your own work." Another useful learning tool is judging contests. That really helps me, as well. Still, with these tools, as well as a few downloads of self-editing tips, I continue to make some of the same errors. It's a never-ending learning process--which keeps it interesting, doesn't it! Good article--thanks--Celia

  2. Until you start to write, you don't realize how much of writing is rewriting. Pick up a book from your favorite author. Did all that seamless prose drop onto the page in one fell swoop? No way. She wrote, and she rewrote and she rewrote some more. And I'll bet her first draft was pretty bad, just like mine (but not yours!) are.

    Linda who rewrites everything, including blog comments

  3. Hi Celia,
    I have certain words, phrases, and habits that seem to jump into my writing no matter how careful I am. And if I concentrate too hard on keeping those critters out, I lose my spontaneous creativity. LOL It's a vicious cycle. And I can see where both reviewing and judging contests would give you a different perspective on your own work.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hi Linda,
    I have a deep respect for my favorite authors I read back in my teen years. No computers, they either wrote everything longhand or pounded it out on a typewriter considered an antique now. Then every book went back and forth via snail mail. They had to be dedicated, talented, and determined. Of course I never thought of that back then, I just enjoyed the results.
    And I rewrite and rewrite and dump pages and rewrite some more. My first drafts are so awful sometimes I think an evil gremlin must have snuck in and written them when I wasn't looking. LOL
    I have a folder full of those...first pages too awful to live. LOL

  5. Hi Rebecca,
    That's interesting about you editing first person for an author because it reminded me of an editing experience with writing first person. My content editor was happy with my chick-lit mystery, A Fiery Secret, and how I wrote it in first person. The final line editor did NOT like it and changed the tenses. It is hard to edit first person. I love to write first person the most but actually don't like to read it and prefer third. LOL

    Reading your draft aloud is a great suggestion. It's so helpful to see where your sentences aren't flowing well. In my earlier writing, I had a bad habit of using the word anyhow frequently.

    Great post!

  6. Hi Diane,
    I think I have such a difficult time with first person because of my technical writing background. Technical articles, manuals, and presentations are very rarely written in First Person.
    But I enjoyed this author's conversational first person approach, but it was a tough project for me.
    And as for using the same words to excess, I often have writers ask what is so wrong with the words had, that, so, well, okay, and several others. In my opinion, there's nothing wrong with those words and others like them when used properly. That problem comes from using that word in that sentence that often.
    A good tip, if habitual words have been an edit problem, is to choose a word (such as that or well) and highlight it throughout the manuscript. If the manuscript lights up like a Christmas tree, it's pretty much a given an editor is going to mark most of them for change or revision. LOL
    It would be the same as if the word 'tree' appeared continuously.

  7. I've been going through a loooong bout of editing. It is a lot of work. Yes, about not loving the words too much. Have to be willing to cut.

    Having a clear character goal-motivation-conflict is also a good idea before starting on edits. Or even first drafts.

  8. Hi M Pax,
    Thanks for the great tip. Cutting at times feels like it goes to my very soul. But sometimes surgery is necessary for the patient to survive. LOL


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