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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Turbo-Edits

I am in so much awe of people who edit for a living. It's like having super magic powers.

I'm fortunate to have a couple of editors in my crit circle, and others who are blessed with that methodical gotta-get-it-right gene. I had to have gene therapy just to keep up with them.

Below are the things I check for in my edits. It's probably not an exhaustive list, but I'm exhausted when I finish so that's got to count for something.

Spelling: If I'm tired my brain slips out of gear and sometimes I type a word that sounds like the word I want. For example: peek/peak, fowl/foul. To help me spot any errors I'll change the font before spell checking. Oh, and don't trust your Word dictionary. That's gotten me into more trouble.

Grammar: While I appreciate my critters pointing out my faux pas, what I love is when they explain the grammar rule to me. It's like the fish story. Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish and he eats for life. As a non-native English speaker, I appreciate the lessons more than the corrections.

I do two passes for both typos and grammar throughout the manuscript….then comes the hard stuff.

Edit backwards: Since I'm bass-ackwards anyway this comes easy for me. Yes, I'm that weird person who reads magazines from back to front. But you'd be surprised how much you catch this way.

Time continuity: I keep a log of time of day, season and weather. You want to maintain consistency between events. If the mc walks into a house in early morning, make sure he’s not seeing the moon outside his window.

Character continuity: I added this edit this go round. I go through the manuscript one pov at a time and read it all by itself. This shows me if the character is acting according to his makeup. I found it very helpful in strengthening my characters' reactions and dialog.

Character language consistency: One of my characters doesn't speak with contractions when he speaks English, so I had to make sure he remained consistent in his speech patterns. If you do this one pov at a time, it makes it easy to catch too.

Style sheet: This is where I list every alien word and all proper names with a description and a page number. This keeps me honest in making sure they are always spelled the same. Very handy.

Read it aloud: Or drop it into a voice program that will read it to you. Hearing the words will help you weed out chunky sentences.

Cut and condense: This includes tearing out beautiful prose that no longer fits and tightening sentences until they sing soprano.

Editing is a lot more work than most people want to handle, but I firmly believe it makes or breaks a manuscript. I've read so-called polished stuff that was nothing more than a few rearranged paragraphs. That's not an edit, it's a cop-out. Do the work. There's no easy out.

Editing should be the most ruthless thing you do to your novel.

2 comments:

Mike Keyton said...

Hey, you're getting no comments for some great stuff. So that's it. Great stuff.
Mike

Maria Zannini said...

LOL. No worries. Most of my buddies don't use Blogger so they email me instead.

Glad this was helpful!
-m