Tag Archives: editing

Edit 6 (auditory)

This is where I just go straight through the book, looking (actually listening) for anything that stands out. Words, characters, plotlines. Does everything fit? If it stands out to me, it will probably stand out to my readers.

As part of the earlier edits I usually convert the draft to PDF, and here I do it again. This time I read and listen. If you have adobe reader, Ctrl shift Y turns on the reader and Crtl shift B activates it (for Windows). Then I can just lay back and listen, taking notes at anything that sounds wrong.

Being able to listen to my words also gives me a chance to catch things I usually don’t in print, like rhymes or alliterations, repeated words or repeated phrases.

Another thing I look for is places where the description or emotion is insufficient (since those are my weaknesses). I can find this out loud far more easily than I can just reading the words.

I don’t usually find a lot wrong–details, things I need to check like timelines (which moons are in which phases, do the characters speak of things they can’t know yet, etc) and blocking. If one character is involved in a conversation and a moment later he wasn’t present that should have been caught previously, but sometimes I still find such things even at this stage.

Writing this editing series has been interesting on a number of levels, because it’s forced me to actually quantify the editing process and write it down. It’s been a loose structure, but I’ve never written it down this way.

This could technically be combined with edit five, but since I do them separately I split them out. Aside from that, seven seemed like a good number. 🙂

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Edit 5 (Which doesn’t have a name)

Edit five is really pretty quick, because by this time I’m deep into another project and have no interest in finishing.

In the fifth edit I’m doing a broad over-view to make sure things fit. Are the issues creating a problem with flow? Does a particular scene work? Why did I put that description there, and would it be better in another place? Did I use the same description more than once? (Which I have done, oops) Are there any sections where I get bored, and want to go do something else?

This is the place where I work on fight scenes, to make sure they read quickly so that the readers don’t get bogged down in details. It’s basically a read-through, stopping at anything that catches my attention.

Then I send the book out to the beta readers again, if I want to overwhelm them. Then on to edit six.

I usually have this process going for a couple books at a time, so one (or five!) might be in Traige stage while another is in stage five and two are in the emotion-description edit stages. I try not to have more than one in each of those two categories, because otherwise nothing else gets accomplished.


Edit 4 (description)

I don’t do description. My novels have been described as “place holders in a shadow world” because there is little or no description. Shapes, colors, scents, sounds, all have to be added after the fact.

The descriptive edit consists of colors, textures, smells, sounds, movement, and even size. Does a character look up or down at another? Are her fingers small? What color are the leaves on the trees?

Trying to fit all the senses in, after the fact, is more difficult to me than the emotion edit. It’s just an artifact of how I see the world.

I like reading books with a solid physical presence, so I try to put those things in my novels. This edit and the emotion edit take the most time.

I’m afraid I have a desire to appeal to everyone, so I want those who like description to be drawn in by the description, and those who like characters to be drawn in by the characters. There’s something for everyone here.

I just need to make sure there’s not too much, but that hasn’t been a problem to this point. If anything, my readers want more than I’m giving them.

I’m much better in this sense than I used to be, but it’s still a continuous struggle.


Edit 3 (Emotion)

I have a very difficult time putting emotion into my novels. To me, their emotions are obvious from their actions, but my readers (almost unanimously) say that they need some indicator of what these people are feeling.

Honestly, if an ex husband comes back with the stated intention of taking custody of their son, I think the woman’s emotions can pretty well be assumed. But apparently not.

So the third edit I do is emotion. At this point I have to put in the little actions, words, descriptions, that will tell my readers what I already feel is obvious.

Makes it difficult, and some might say that if I think it’s unnecessary I should skip it. Since I like the books better when this edit is done, I continue to do it.

This is another step of character development, and unfortunately many of my books are set in a world where visible emotion is frowned on. In many cases what I do is create physical tells for each character. So a character might pick at her skirt when she’s angry and fiddle with her hair when she’s being sarcastic, or whatever. If I can create distinct “tells” for each character they start to pop off the page, just a little.

I go through the book as many times as necessary, trying to put at least three emotion words or sentences on each page. Doesn’t always work that way, but I try.

Then it’s time for the other hard edit, even worse. Description.


Edit 2 (voice)

Edit two is the voice edit, and although part of this gets taken care of in the first edit (mostly on accident) I still need to tweak things. This is usually a short edit for me, making sure the characters are consistent and recognizable.

I need to make sure that each of them is distinct, even if only to myself. I have a bad habit of transferring traits, which leads to using the name of the stolen character in places where they do not belong. So I know that if I use the wrong name for a character they’re blending and I need to fix it.

One thing I have difficulty with, particularly in first drafts, is differentiating the ages of various characters. Some act too old, some act too young, and I have to keep in mind that the way the other characters treat them is going to make a difference in how my readers judge ages.

It doesn’t help that I can’t name those ages outright because days and years are different lengths on different worlds. This leads to my readers saying “What? He isn’t acting 13!” when the character is actually physically 17 or some such thing. So the actions have to stand in for statements to tell my readers what age they’re dealing with.

Again, this is one where I have to trust myself. Do I like (or hate) the characters? Are they distinct enough that I can read straight through without getting stuck on some odd little quirk? Am I trying to figure out who is speaking?

If everything’s good it’s time for the description and emotion edits. These two are the hardest for me.


Edit 1 (Triage)

Ava posted last week about words I use as a crutch, words I have to check to make sure they are actually needed.  It reminded me that I’ve never posted here about my editing process.  So, without further ado…

What I call the triage edit is the biggest one for me. I’m a pantser, so I write from beginning to end without any kind of outline. This leads to plot holes, characters that slip in and then slip out again, as well as a multitude of other problems. Things that happen in real life, but they’re “not acceptable” in writing.

For me this is the best way, even though it leads to more work after the fact. I like the fact that my stories are unpredictable, that the story develops as if these things are actually happening rather than that sense of deliberate construction that I get with many books.

The triage edit is the post-writing surgery phase, or the storyline edit. I read through the story, complete, once. I usually also hand it off to a reader at this point, if someone is available, because I literally can’t see many of the problems.

I am getting better at that, but I’m not there yet.

After I’ve got the plot straightened out (or at least unknotted and the pieces welded together correctly) it’s time to go back, fix the broken characters, put in missing scenes (I seldom have to take scenes out because the writing is so organic) or move them around.

Here’s where I have to decide on the final “shape” of the book. Could one character’s POV be removed or transferred to another more central character? Would a prologue be helpful? Did I start the book in the right place, does it need more or less backstory?

What about the conclusion? Is it satisfying? Does the climax follow the three-act crescendo, or is there a gap in the middle? These are all things we’re used to in the books we read, and although we don’t miss it in real life readers notice if it’s missing.

When I’m done with this I read through it again.

I have to trust myself on this piece–I can tell that something’s wrong, or something’s missing, but not always what. I can see it in other people’s writing, but not my own. If I feel something’s wrong, I’m right. So if necessary I pass it off to another reader.

Once I feel comfortable reading it all the way through, it’s time for Edit 2.


Demolition

By Lauren Ritz

I am sitting here in my office, listening to the sound of demolition ten feet away. It’s a beautiful day (which means no sun and it’s slightly cool) so of course the door is open.

Sledge hammers, saws, and other tools of destruction are in the process of demolishing the old deck so that a new one can be put in. It won’t be much different—prettier maybe, more sturdy. The old deck is about twenty years old, the boards warping and turning when people try to walk on it.

I find myself in exactly the same place with one of my stories. I still love it, but it’s old. When I wrote it I was just starting to write seriously and had learned nothing about characterization, plot, and the million other facets to writing. I thought I knew, but I didn’t.

So now I get to demolish it. Break it apart, piece by piece, learn what can be saved and what needs to go. Restructure the plot so that it’s more of a cohesive whole than a series of unconnected events. Put in foreshadowing and make sure that the real villain shows up early in the book—in the original version, you only find out what’s really going on (and that there’s another villain) in the last few pages when the real villain kills the villain that we thought was the bad guy through the whole book.

Demolition is sometimes necessary.

Even with a new deck, sometimes you learn that there are problems with the construction only after it’s been in for a while. The color’s wrong, or the contractor made the deck wrong so that it slopes to one side. Then you have to go back, do it all again.

The interesting thing for me to watch is people whose deck (their story) is essentially sound. But they don’t like the color, or the boards are slightly too narrow for their aesthetic sense, so they tear the whole thing up and start again. Worse yet are those who wait until all the furniture is in place and tear up the deck because one of the plant pots is the wrong shape.

I have never written a story that I didn’t like. If I don’t like them, they don’t get written. Tearing up the deck because the grass needs to be mowed is the epitome of self-defeating behavior.

If demolition is necessary, that’s fine. Take the time, do it right. If it’s the fence around the yard that’s bothering me, I don’t go tearing up the deck and rebuilding it to match the fence.


Editing Basics

I recently ran into myself at an online critique site. A weird experience, yes, but informative. A friend asked me for a critique of her writing. I hope she wasn’t emotionally shattered after what I gave her, but it showed me in stark detail how much I have learned in two short years with the Snippeters.

It also put me in mind of an article I recently read on LDSPublisher, written by author and editor (and home-schooling Mommy and headless chicken) Tristi Pinkston. The article, “Before You Send Your Manuscript Out to Readers (or Publishers)” goes through four steps that will make your manuscript more readable from the beginning. I wish I’d read this article two years ago. Or ten. Or Twenty. It would have saved me a lot of time and headache.

I had finished two novels and started three more before my first writing group made me aware of a little something called “passive voice”. Tristi’s rule #1: Do a search for the word “was”. Not only does this little word add unnecessary verbiage, it also puts distance between the subject of the sentence, and the action: “Herbert was running from the knife-wielding madman” vs. “Herbert ran from the knife-wielding madman”. Or, kicking it up a notch, “Herbert fled through the darkness, the panting of his breath echoing the steps of the madman at his back…” But I digress. Just having fun with excess verbiage. A tell-tale sign of passive construction: “was ____-ing”. Was saying=said. Was running=ran.

Tristi’s second rule: Search for the word “that”: Until I read the article, I didn’t know that I could overuse the word:

“He remembered little but her eyes, golden and cat-like, thinking that she had somehow looked on his soul and found it pleasing.”

Rule three: Check your punctuation. Sometimes when you remove a word or a phrase, the punctuation gets deleted with it.

And fourth: “Take out fully ¾ of your adverbs.” Seriously, do a search for “ly”. You’ll be surprised how polka-dotted your manuscript appears. Find other words or other ways to say what you want to say. Beware of “He/She said ____-ly”. “He said shyly” could become “…He said, scuffing his toe in the dust like an embarrassed boy…” Or, “She said angrily” becomes, “…She shrieked, white with fury…”

And finally, a rule of my own: Don’t feel that you must follow any rule 100%. Adverbs can be a savory dash of salt to your writing, and you can’t write without using “that” and “was”, but use them in moderation. Learn to refrain and rephrase.

Oh, and my personal favorite: “Never think you know it all.” There is always more to learn.

You can find Tristi Pinkston’s article at

http://www.ldspublisher.com/2012/04/before-you-send-your-manuscript-out-tristi-pinkston/

By Ava Mylne


On Editing, with Heather Moore

heather moore

In our second interview with author/editor Heather Moore, she shares her insights on editing. Listen to learn about the qualifications for editors that work for her Precision Editing Group and how to self-edit your own and other people’s manuscripts. Find out where to place hooks, how to determine chapter length and pacing, and how to choose which characters’ viewpoint to use for each scene, as well as common mistakes writers make. If you struggle with viewpoint, as a lot of writers do, Heather mentions examples of books to read such as Orson Scott Card’s “Characters & Viewpoint.” For good examples of omniscient view point, which is one of the hardest viewpoints to write, Heather suggests reading Lemony Snicket; Alcatraz, by Brandon Sanderson; The Book Thief; and Jennifer A. Nielson’s middle grade series. She discusses the differences between editing for content and line editing and common plot problems she sees in the books she edits.

Comment to enter a contest to win Heather’s LDS fiction novel, Abinadi. Contest will end one week after we post our final Heather Moore interview.

Download here