Authors hate editing. We hate it more than being interrupted or staring at the wall, frozen and unable to type a word. It is, unfortunately, the most important thing we do, once the story is down on paper. It’s time-consuming and hard and creates more work, but essential to creating a polished manuscript.
Editing needs to be done in four stages.
SPELL AND GRAMMAR CHECK
Start slow. Drink coffee. Use the spell check and grammar available through your document writing software. This first look is easy, as spell-check catches only half of our mistakes. We can accept the errors because there aren’t many and the software is nice enough to underline problems in blue. It then patiently waits for us to fix said issues.
Use a good software program for the second pass--preferably one that is not biased concerning Microsoft or Apple. There are editing programs on the web. Ensure the program has filters allowing you to indicate the work is novel-based and has dialogue. Grammarly is a good choice. Unfortunately, the errors are shown in red and listed alongside the manuscript. This can feel insulting. Don’t be surprised when it returns hundreds of errors in the document you thought was perfect. Most of these software programs offer an explanation which is a wonderful learning tool. It will describe an unclear antecedent, misuse of a comma, or tense issue. The author can, of course, choose to ignore the dire warnings. The final decision is yours.
Phase three has you in the driver’s seat once again. You must read it to yourself; page by page, and line by line. If you can do so aloud, all the better. You will hear the cadence of your words, catch run-on sentences and discover words used too often. If you, as the author, have to stop and re-read a sentence, chances are high your reader will need to do so, too. Look for easy words, or what some call idle or lazy words, These are words we type quickly because we’re addressing a larger plot issue. It doesn’t matter how careful you think you’re being, we all use such generalizations when we’re in a hurry, when our brain is getting tired, when our time for writing is reaching the end, or when we’re interrupted.
Check your writing for these words; Really, especially, suddenly, finally, probably, actually, nearly, almost, a bit, a moment, now, very, might, like seemed, appeared, began, started, tried, managed, looked, realized, knew, felt and moved.
These words fill space but do not give enough description, depth of feeling or description of the action. They leave the reader uncaring because we, as an author, have been vague. I was astonished to find I’d used lazy words 321 times in my manuscript! I was ashamed, but in addressing each one, I tightened the story and heightened the emotion. I was guilty of using three additional words; everything, everyone, and everywhere. When I described the scene in more graphic detail, the story grew deeper.
HIRE AN EDITOR
You’ve completed three stages. Congratulations, but don’t celebrate too early. Please put another set of eyes on the manuscript. Yours are too used to your writing, too familiar with the story and will not catch the simplest of things such as a backward quotation mark. Here is where an unbiased reviewer may point out a problem with the plot or have a question concerning characterization. Listen to their advice carefully. The key word is ‘unbiased’ reader. Do not have your best friend, partner, or mother read your work. They will love it, which is flattering to our ego, but not necessarily accurate. If you can afford to do so, a professional editor is best, although it tends to cost approximately $1.50 per page. If that is not an option, don’t fret. There are many readers available on the web, who enjoy having a first look at a manuscript and offering their opinion.
Editing is a four letter word, but a necessary one. Deep editing a manuscript is an opportunity to learn and grow. Happy Writing.
WANT TO SHARE THIS TIP? TWEET THIS:
🐦CLICK TO TWEET🐦 @BookDailycom #Authortip: Why #edit doesn't have to be a Four-Letter Word to #authors by @katrinasbooks3 www.bookdaily.com/authorresource/blog/post/2001431 #amediting
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Finding innovative ways to entertain an adult audience is something Katrina Morgan has done for decades. With a background as a corporate trainer, and years of experience organizing civic events and non-profit fundraisers, she understands the importance of not only capturing an audience's attention using humor but also maintaining their interest using flawed characters and a conversational tone.
She has published two nonfiction books; Echoes in the Walls (2011) and These Animals Are Killing Me (2016). Both books received five-star ratings with Readers Favorite, and These Animals are Killing Me received an honorary mention in the annual non-fiction contest for humor. The author is also a motivational speaker, often asked to share her humor and inspire others to persevere despite the obstacles often placed along our paths.
You can find out more about her on her website www.katrinabooks.com.