Good morning everyone! Happy Hump Day. Sorry I have been MIA the last couple of weeks. Life for me has changed this past month and I’m learning my way through balancing everything. Thank you to the other Quillers for their patience and understanding. Balancing so much has reminded me how valuable writing time is. I’m not the only writer to work outside the home, and actually have three jobs – writer, mother, and a full time day job – and for the first time since I began writing, I think I value the moments of solitude even more. And time with my characters has become golden. In many ways, I took the hours I could be writing for granted a bit because I had so much time before. I’ve learned a lesson here, and I take advantage of every five minutes I can get words down.
But in all the chaos recently, I finished my latest book. It is now fully done and self-edits were brutal. I wasn’t completely happy with it when I was done it before. Thanks to critique partners, I forged my way through the figuring out what was wrong and thoroughly revised many aspects from the original. Which leads me to today’s topic – being a vicious editor. No one else can write your stories for you and we have all said how important edits are. There are still many writers out there cutting corners and releasing stories that are not up to snuff. To each their own, but it is our responsibility to produce stories that shine.
With my last few books, I have used “Pro Writing Aid” program. It’s a godsend for me. It checks over everything from repetition words/phrases to dictation, run-on sentences, grammar, checks transitions, dialogue tags, abstract words, and more. It heavily searches through a manuscript and notes everything that needs to go. There are few things that I don’t change. I don’t want to change the voice in my stories, but I make the decisions on what I change. Nothing is written in stone. But I’ve found it a very useful tool.
I’ve mentioned my “cheat sheet” of bad habits in the past, words I use often – then, it, damn – and it is so important to thoroughly edit out those terrible habits. Readers don’t want to be repeating words over in their heads either. We’d lose readers that way. I can’t stress enough how important going back through your MS is before sending it to a publisher or self-pubbing it yourself. Be your fiercest advocate. Even if it takes you a month to do edits, then let it. Don’t publish crap that isn’t worthy. It’s that simple. Why spend a month or two, or more, on a story that you end up doing an injustice to if it’s not edited properly.
Not all writers are editors. We aren’t. However, it’s a writer’s job to also know about how to edit a story. Common story structure, grammar, to see errors, etc., is part of our job. The edits begin with the writer before sending / hiring another editor if self-publishing, and other publishers demand clean manuscripts. It’s that simple. The writer has all the responsibilities outside of simply writing the story. Too many writers are not taking this part of their job seriously and it saddens me.
It is such a disservice to your characters and stories.
A quick checklist that I tend to use when editing, even without Pro Writing Aid, which I tend to look closely for…
- Omit unnecessary words – then, that, it, and, overuse of the characters’ names.
- Redundancies – avoiding the use of ‘shrugged his shoulders’ (there’s nothing else to shrug!). ‘She nodded her head’ (there’s nothing else on us that we nod!!)
- NO Head Hopping!! So important. Stay in one character POV for an entire scene. If you do switch to the 2nd POV (after a few pages of one character), then make the transition easy and smooth.
- Limit the number of ‘ly’ words.
- Don’t over explain. Example – ‘Doris was angry and pounded the counter.’ I would edit this sentence to – ‘Doris pounded the counter.’ Plain and simple. We read the anger in her actions.
These are a few items on my checklist that I am mindful of with every read through / edit. They’re simple but oh-so-crucial!! The more stories a writer creates and the more editing they do – on their own and with a professional editor when the time comes – the more their voice will shine and the better writer they will be.
Until next week,
Happy Writing. Happy Editing!