Thursday, April 5, 2018

A to Z - All About Writing : Editing

Welcome to the Blogging A to Z Challenge, where, this month, I'll be focusing on all things writing. This may be a random jumping around of topics within my theme, but hopefully something somewhere will be useful to someone. (V is for vague - see that last sentence.) Check out all the participants here and lets get on with today's letter.

E is for Editing

Yesterday we covered Developmental Edits, but what about the edits you do yourself before anyone else sees your work?

And yes, you should always edit before you show your work to someone else. If you're going to ask someone to read your work, you want them to focus on the story, not typos, weird formatting, missing words, or jumbled sentences. A few of those will probably slip through no matter how many editing passes you make, but putting your best work forward will get you the most useful feedback, chances of getting published, and better reviews. 

Editing is best done in passes. Trying to spot everything at once is an overwhelming task so break it up into focus areas. Rather like the developmental editing we talked about yesterday, it's beneficial to start with the big stuff and work your way down to avoid making more work for yourself. Passes might look like this:

Main plot and character(s). Does the plot move from point A to Z with a fulfilling ending? Is it engaging? Does the MC internally change from beginning to end? Are they likeable (at least in the degree that someone would want to read about them for a couple hundred pages)? Do they have agency (see day 1)? Are character motivations clear and believable?

Subplots and secondary character(s). Are the subplots necessary? Do they benefit the main plot and characters? Do the secondary characters change? Do they add to the story? Can they be combined to tighten the story? Are they well rounded? Do they have proper motivation for their actions?

Chapter by chapter. Does each chapter have a beginning, middle, and end? Does it build tension from one chapter to the next? Does it have a clear opening and enticing ending? Does each chapter serve a purpose to propel the plot and MCs journey (internally and/or externally) forward? Are the pacing and voice cohesive throughout?

Description. Are all the senses being used? Is the setting adequately described in each important scene? Are the characters described enough that the reader can tell them apart? Are any world words, technology, foreign languages/words, gizmos, and anything else out of the ordinary that you threw in there clear enough that the reader is going to understand them in context and not be thrown out of the story. Are your details (character, setting, etc) consistent throughout?

Dialogue. Does each character sound different? Does it serve a purpose? Can it serve more of a purpose/hold more tension? Does it sound natural? Is it clear who is speaking? Are there any places where action beats will serve better than simple tags?

Paragraphs and sentences. Do they vary in length?  Are there massive paragraphs that need to be abroken up or too many short ones in a row? Do they start differently (no one wants to scan the page and see every paragraph starts with 'He') Do the sentences have good rhythm? Are the sentences clear? Does the sentence phrasing vary? Reading aloud during this pass is the best way to find most of these things.

Word choices. Adverbs - can they be switched out for stronger verbs. Adjectives - are there enough or too many?  Are names clear and not to similar? Do the names (places, characters, etc) fit the story/setting/tone. Do the words being used convey the story clearly? Can any words be removed to tighten the story?

Typos. Oh typos, the bane of our existence. This is also a good pass to do aloud so you can catch those pesky homonyms and missing/repeated words amongst many other things.

Is there anything you edit for that I missed here? 

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  1. Typos. Yes, always finding those. And trying to avoid repeating the same words in one sentences is another thing I have been doing, if I can rewrite the sentence to avoid the word repetition.

  2. Hi Jean - I'm sure this is pretty comprehensive ... but spelling ... people are dreadful at the your and you're, etc ... me too - I find along the way ... correcting what we can makes sense - cheers Hilary

    1. Yep, those simple spelling errors are the worst typos. They're hard to see and hearing them doesn't even help. It takes a diligent pair of eyes to hunt them down.

  3. these are definitely good questions to ask when editing. I can't think of what else to add. but I suppose when you edit your work and you will have to do it about a hundred times, you'll find something that needs fixing and they always come up whether you mean to find them or not.

    have a lovely day.

  4. This is a nice, comprehensive list. Sometimes I find myself making a list of words that seem to appear far too often in a manuscript, and I'll do a search to see how many times they're in there. That helps when I'm telling an author why I suggest removing something—"The words 'emerald eyes' appears sixteen times in your 50k-word manuscript" is far more concrete than "You're using this a lot and some of it needs to go."

  5. Good list, Jean. And I wholeheartedly echo the need to do multiple and thorough edits of your own work before you start offering it up for critique (or even ... *shudder* ... just hitting "publish")


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