Editing Tips Needed

tinkerdan

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I second this::

I am about to roll through editing myself. I have read this book (Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne, Dave King) twice, but there is a major difference between reading how to do it, and actually doing it correctly. :-/
::However you need a second set of eyes and if you can get more, then the more the merrier.

There are so many times when I see what should be there when it ain't there.

There is no way to escape that phenomenon.

Although changing font and spacing and letting the manuscript sit for a while might help get you there.

Also, curiously enough, if you can get a single hard copy printed up for your own editing purposes that adds enough self pressure to change the way you see things and suddenly find what was once impossible to see.

Perhaps also find things like this:: from Edward George Bulwer-Lytton's Paul Clifford::

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
::and toy with rewriting such passages.

The storm raged through London streets in torrents of rain driven by fierce winds that swept the street, rattled housetops and agitated scant flames of lamps that struggled against darkness.

Personally though I like the original and would never rewrite it.
[almost never]
 
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psychotick

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Hi,

First, ignore word counts. They may matter to agents, but if you're not submitting to them, then they are of absolutely no relevance at all. Case in point, my latest just pubbed yesterday, is 222K. It started at 228K, dropped to 221K after the first edit, and then rose to 222K after the second.

Next, you need to get outside eyes on your work. Even more so if you go indie than trade. As others have said when you try to read what you write, you invariably end up reading what you intended to write not what's on the page. But even before editing you need beta reading - ie giving it to other readers to work their way through and give opinions about what they liked and what they didn't / what they didn't get. Beta readers don't have to be professionals. They just have to be honest - ie you don't want them telling you what they think you want to hear. And as I have repeatedly said one of the most valuable things a beta reader can say is "I don't understand this". That's a very strong clue that something hasn't been well enough explained either at that point in the book, or earlier on. What usually happens is that when you read the story you understand the plot / character in terms of not what you wrote down, but in terms of what you were thinking about when you were writing. So yes you happened to know that all elves had corkscrew ears, but since your reader doesn't he gets confused when he reads a line about their ear twists later on.

As others have said critiquing is invaluable - from both sides. So before you think about putting up a section of your work to have others crit, do some crits of other works. Read the opinions of others working on the same piece of work. This will help you sharpen your skills. And don't limit yourself to typos. If you think a sentence is wrong and needs rewriting - do it. You may be right or you may be wrong - but as long as it's done with an eye to helping another writer that's fine. It's all opinion anyway. Then when you put your own work up - remember whatever anyone else says is only opinion. They may be right or wrong too. In the end it's your book.

Next if you're going to self edit - something I don't recommend - here's the process. First hit the programs - all of them. Turn them up to eleven, and drive yourself batty as they tell you about all sorts of mistakes that aren't mistakes. It's not the point if they're wrong or right. The value is that they make you look at your work through their mechanical eyes. Next, once that's done, get a text to speech program, and a lot of coffee. Listen to your work being read. Yes it'll sound like crap. None of those programs are very good. But it still makes you listen to your story and pick up strange idioms etc. Also try reading it out loud yourself. It makes you pick up things you wouldn't otherwise.

But if you can get someone to do some editing - a friend, an old English teacher etc, do it. Again they may not be professional, but they will still be better than you in picking up issues in your book simply because they come at it with fresh eyes. You can try an author edit swap also, or a writing group.

Last, I'd just mention that if you're going to want to pursue your writing, you have to expect it to require a lot more from you than just a bit of drafting. It's all consuming. As an example my latest work, went away to the ed for its first go through for nearly a month, which was followed by nearly three weeks of me pulling my hair out an screaming at a laptop as I reworked the book line by line. The second pass through she had it for three weeks and I had it for another two. There's a reason I'm absolutely knackered at the moment!!!

Cheers, Greg.
 

Lafayette

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Hi,

First, ignore word counts. They may matter to agents, but if you're not submitting to them, then they are of absolutely no relevance at all. Case in point, my latest just pubbed yesterday, is 222K. It started at 228K, dropped to 221K after the first edit, and then rose to 222K after the second.
I'm not concern about the word count per se I just don't want to bore the readers with material that is not important to the theme of the story, the plot, or the charcters.

Next, you need to get outside eyes on your work.
I fully understand and agree with you.

But even before editing you need beta reading - ie giving it to other readers to work their way through and give opinions about what they liked and what they didn't / what they didn't get. They just have to be honest - ie you don't want them telling you what they think you want to hear.

I especially agree on this point., but I'm having problem looking for beta readers.

"I don't understand this". That's a very strong clue that something hasn't been well explained.
This is also something else that I'm looking for.

Read the opinions of others working on the same piece of work. This will help you sharpen your skills. And don't limit yourself to typos. If you think a sentence is wrong and needs rewriting - do it. You may be right or you may be wrong - but as long as it's done with an eye to helping another writer that's fine. It's all opinion anyway. Then when you put your own work up - remember whatever anyone else says is only opinion. They may be right or wrong too. In the end it's your book.
This one I'm going to have to think about. I don't mind someone saying this sentence or this paragraph stinks or sucks and rewrite it, but I don't like them rewriting it. I feel the story should be my words not theirs. Feeling this way, I don't want to treat another writer rhis way.

First hit the programs - all of them. Next, once that's done, get a text to speech program,
What are these programs and where can I get them?

Also try reading it out loud yourself. It makes you pick up things you wouldn't otherwise.
I sometimes do this and you are right. I will do more.

But if you can get someone to do some editing - a friend, an old English teacher etc, do it.
I have a friend that's been doing that. Unfortunately, she in the process of a big move and can't touch base with me until the fall.

You can try an author edit swap also, or a writing group.
I am willing to do an author edit swap. Are you available? I am a shut in so right now a writing group is not an option.

Last, I'd just mention that if you're going to want to pursue your writing, you have to expect it to require a lot more from you than just a bit of drafting. It's all consuming.
There's a reason I'm absolutely knackered at the moment!!!
I am finding this out more and more as I go on. I won't say I'm knackered (I like that word), but I lost some sleep over it. From what I have read from a number of sources I can expect to be knackered.
Cheers, Greg.
Thanks for your input.
 

psychotick

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Hi,

There's loads of grammar / spell check programs online. Some you download. Some you buy. Some proof online. Just google something like grammar check spell check. As for writing groups, they can also be found online. I'm not a member of any but I know some of the people here are.

Cheers, Greg.
 

MemoryTale

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Hi, I've found a couple of techniques that can drastically reduce your word count.

The first was when I realised I was over-explaining. Without realising I'd managed to explain my Big Bad's evil plan about four times in one story. By reducing this to two (one for each character that needed to learn it) I chopped out several scenes and an entire chapter. The word count went down by about 5000 just by that.

The second was when I found myself describing things the reader didn't really need to know, such as some of the politics of my world. While I loved some of the concepts they didn't really go anywhere so out they went.

Sort through all your information, decide what's needed for this story, and be ruthless with the rest. Your word count will be down in no time.
 

The Big Peat

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I'm still working out my editing process but this seems to be working so far -


First step is making sure the story works. I read through it, making notes about incomprehensible actions, scenes that are too relaxed, chains of events with missing links, repetition of emotions/plot points where I've failed to progress or was overexplaining like MemoryTale describes, that sort of thing. The repetition thing accounts for a lot of words I find as do scenes that are too relaxed. I have a habit of including scenes that to me are logical parts of the process the characters are going through but which, on reflection, don't have enough dramatic tension to be worth including.

Once I've got my notes about what I need to insert into scenes to make them work as story blocks, I concentrate on each scene, checking the chain of events is right.

After that, I do a first edit. In go the things needed to make it work, in goes the extra description - I tend to write skeletal first drafts, over-lean - in goes a bit of extra voice, all the things needed to remove ambiguities, out come the obvious stumbles.

And the second edit after that is aimed at removing any over-writing and polishing the correct scene to the best it can be.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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You can actually reduce your word count by quite a lot if you go through sentence by sentence and look for those where you can trim off a few words by rewriting the sentence more economically. The words you take out can add up (or cut down) much more quickly than you might think. A bonus is that sometimes forcing yourself to think how to rephrase something leads to saying it more effectively than you did the first time. So you can end up with fewer words and stronger writing.

Sometimes, though, it's got to be a trade-off and you have to decide which is more important, keeping something that you think adds something important or reducing the word count. Reducing the word count usually has the added benefit of improving the pace (which can help reconcile you to losing something you wanted to keep), but sometimes if you cut out things a passage ends up seeming too skimpy and rushed. So you may have to weigh several different factors at the same time and make up your mind which are the most important to the particular story you are telling, as well as that particular scene and chapter.

The best advice I can give you is to be flexible, and don't get hung up doing things all in one particular way, but be willing to adapt as necessary as each individual situation comes up.
 

Lafayette

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You can actually reduce your word count by quite a lot if you go through sentence by sentence and look for those where you can trim off a few words by rewriting the sentence more economically. The words you take out can add up (or cut down) much more quickly than you might think.
I've been more or less doing this and you're right it does make a difference. However it is a long and tedious process.

Sometimes, though, it's got to be a trade-off ...which is more important, keeping something that you think adds something important or reducing the word count. ... but sometimes if you cut out things a passage ends up seeming too skimpy and rushed. So you may have to weigh several different factors at the same time and make up your mind which are the most important to the particular story .........

This is a balance I'm battling with. How much of my artist sense do I allow as opposite to boring my readers to death?

The best advice I can give you is to be flexible, and don't get hung up doing things all in one particular way,.

This is my other battle.
Thanks for the in-put.
 
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Lafayette

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I'm still working out my editing process but this seems to be working so far -
The repetition thing accounts for a lot of words.
I have discover quite a bit of repetition and it does add up. One of the other things I've been doing lately is to pick a chapter, read and examine it, see if it makes sense, and then work on shortening it.
I will re-read your comments and see if I can apply them. Thanks.
 

Hex

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I find there are lots of things that seem obvious now but weren't a few years ago. I have clear memories of far more experienced betas sending manuscripts back to me with comments like "I'll read it again when you've tightened up the language. You'll be able to do that quite easily." and genuinely having *no idea* what they meant.

I tend to under-write and then need to add (my drafts tend to go 40k, 45k, 55k etc), so I'm no help when it comes to reducing a long document. What I do need to watch, no matter how long the draft is, is using too many words -- and they're easy things to fix.

e.g. "He stood up" --> "He stood"

"She nodded her head" --> "She nodded"

"He took the medallion out of his pocket" --> "He took the medallion from his pocket"

Also, when you use strong verbs rather than weaker ones, you often cut word count that way:

e.g. "He ran really fast" --> "He sprinted"

"She climbed out of the sewer with difficulty" --> "She struggled out of [or "from"] the sewer"
 

AlexH

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A bump because I found a very useful list of words to check for (I've copied it and highlighted words I overuse): How to Self-Edit and Edit Your Novel or Short Story Like a Pro

And something else I've learnt: I start consecutive sentences with "I", so I search ". I " in my word processor to spot patterns where I need to mix my sentence structure up.
 

mistri

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I (really) like that list of words, thanks!

I'm editing a WIP now. I find cutting easy, but making structural changes is exhausting. Ahhhhhh, better get back to it!
 

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