Sunday, February 21, 2010

Step 3: Editing

I cannot stress the importance of editing!  It is my least favorite part of the process, and in the past I've kind of fast-forwarded through the process - which as a costly mistake.  I have learned that you should NEVER assume that your work is ready for print.  Instead you as the writer need to focus on any possible grammatical or typographical errors.  A reader may dislike your plot, but you don't want them to dislike your work because of needless typos, which you have the power to change.  

You want your sentences to be polished and follow well whether read on paper or spoken aloud.  I often find reading the work aloud can help me identify sentences, which need restructuring or are grammatically incorrect.  I personally rarely notice typos when reading on the computer - they do pop out at me when the page is printed.  I recommend printing out the manuscript and marking it up.  

Steps within the editing process:

- After completing the novel do a quick read through to make sure you feel the plot works and then reexamine what needs to be done and fix it.

- From there just keep rereading and rewriting.  I also recommend having friends or family who are willing to offer constructive criticism to read the manuscript after each edit.  They aren't connected to the work and will offer a fresh perspective on what works and what doesn't.

- For "Burden of Proof" I had to reread the work 20 times before I got it right.  Why so many?  Part of this was I wanted to lower the word count in hopes of appealing to a literary agent.  My novel is fast paced, but because of a variety of plot twists and plot development it originally ran 250,000 words.  I have pared it down too 166,000.  Some Lit Agents wouldn't look at the work based on word count alone.  Oddly enough one critic of "Burden of Proof" said it was too short and not descriptive enough.  Another review loved the description so you can't win them all.

As for Word Count goes in general it is important to omit needless words or repetitive descriptions, expressions, etc...but don't cut words just to cut words.  If the word or paragraph needs to be in your story - Keep it In.

I thought after an extensive edit I'd eradicated all errors, however lo and behold I get my proof/galley and I caught twenty typos!  I am a good speller, but the fact is even the best spellers have a propensity to mistype words when caught up in the moment of constructing their story.  Typos might not be noticed by you as a writer as you think in terms of what should be there and not always what is physically on the page.

Once again I recommend having a friend check for typos.  Also print out the work and read line by line and circle any typos or grammatical errors then go back and change them.  Repeat this process at least three times before print!

Common Typos:

Here is a list of common typos.  In "Burden of Proof" my most common typos were: every - instead of ever, conscious instead of conscience, what for want, etc...who knows how I made the typos - it wasn't the lack of knowing how to spell a word as much as not hitting the right keys.


abber(r)ation ** aberration

accomodation ** accommodation

acheive ** achieve

adress ** address

alot ** a lot or allot

Alsation ** Alsatian

alterior ** ulterior

ammend ** amend

anti-semetic ** anti-Semitic

attatch ** attach

athiest ** atheist

auxilliary ** auxiliary

barbeque ** barbecue

beggining ** beginning

beleive ** believe

bicep ** biceps

bouy ** buoy

Britian ** Britain

brocolli ** broccoli

Common Grammatical errors:

- It's (It is) and its.  Make sure you have the correct form.  And don't count fully on Word Spell Check.  They told me that it's was incorrect in several sentences when I as writing "it is."  Think does it make sense to say "it is" here - if so write 'it's' if not then the correct usage is most likely 'its'

- to and too.  Make sure you have the correct form of to/too.  Most often it is not grammatically correct to end a sentence in 'to' However certain sentences and vernacular allow for that rule to be broken.  

- NEVER end a sentence with a preposition (i.e. Where's it at? - wrong - Where is it?  of "Do you know where it is?)- is a much better use of phrasing.

- Fragments: I use some fragments stylistically in writing, but try not to have too many fragments.  Connect sentences to make them not so choppy.  On the other hand, run on sentences don't bode well either

- Say what you need to say simply.  Don't create sentences that are repetitive or roundabout.  Instead focus on stating what you need to say in a way the reader can understand.  Simple writing can be descriptive and isn't necessarily because the writer can only think simply.  Rather Simple Writing is a way of writing so the reader can benefit from your plot and not be distracted from it.

1 comment:

  1. Spell checkers have a place but nothing beats having a few pairs of eyes go over a MS.
    My MS had a place where "accident" appeared in the text instead of "accent" (not a normal typo, but I use voice recognition software when RSI becomes an issue and it makes some odd mistakes sometimes).
    Of course it was spelled correctly so a spell checker didn't pick it, but neither did 2 copy-editors. It seems even experienced editors can read what they think is there and not what actually is on the page.
    The error wasn't picked until my mum read a copy of the MS.


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