Wednesday, April 20, 2011

TIP FROM THE TRENCHES: Cooling Down Self Editing Hell

If you write, and ever get a chance to take the Self Editing Class with Angela James, do it. Better, if you ever get a chance to work with her directly, grab with both hands!

Been in edit hell for a while. I've had at this manuscript multiple times so it's easy to numb up and miss things when surgical precision is most needed. To aid the scalpel sweep that produces my final line by line read through copy, I used a TIP from Editor Angela James and it worked to highlight weak spots quick: Grammar check on Word. I know - that's like 'so Mickey mouse' - except, it isn't. You won't accept most suggestions, since voice comes through in style and style isn't always on the 'up and up' as far as the check is concerned. It's a quick way to zero in on potential trouble spots, and worth it as one of your first, and one of your last round pre-flight checks.

I had format issues that this sussed out which is why I gave it a try, but I also found it caught some weak sentences, as well as confusing text, faster than another line by line read through. Employing it gave me a much better copy to do my last line by line read through, too, a big plus. It helped my adverb hunt (Stephen King in On Writing has an excellent explanation of why to avoid overuse of adverbs.). In the end it forced a few re-writes that made better sentences, and gave me a chance to cut more junk words. A Haunting Affair is a category sized contemporary paranormal romance. Its length and story demand tight pacing and economy of words. I like words, and often use way too many. So I know my weak spots. But this made finding them faster and trust me, after so many times at the wheel, I was ready for a co-pilot. After going through the last process, I had my final line by line read through copy and was able to get through that edit round in half the time it would have taken if I'd not tried this tip.

So on this leg of the revision journey in addition to weak sentences I hit the low hanging fruit of:

1. Extraneous activity w/dialogue. Dialogue makes things move fast when you read. Attribution is key, but motion for the sake of motion doesn't enhance the story. So cut a bunch of that.

2. LY - adverbs - kept some, junked most

3. Overuse of low value words: Just, Really, Very, etc.

4. Passive voice and extraneous description

5. Weird format errors achieved though multiple revisions w/track changes.

6. Name change justification and name consistency

7. Flagrant spelling errors (My personal favorite - I am inventive w/letters and do not follow rules, only whim)

What's left:

■25 more pages to 'The End'

■Changing a key item to something more timely and recognizable

■Tim's last pass on copyedit for spelling or misused words


Off to the format guy (who also did my cover)


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