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Monday, May 7, 2012

Editing is Like Eating an Elephant

You tackle it one bite at a time.

I don't like to over-complicate my life, so I keep my editing technique simple. Whenever possible, I let Word do the tedious stuff. I also rest my brain between edits so I can review my draft with fresh eyes. 

I generally edit in several passes. Once each for continuity, clarity, POV, and scene strength.

This list below isn't inclusive, but it covers my normal modus operandi.

Typos: To catch typos and omissions, I use a clean font, anything other than Times Roman. It tricks my brain into reading each word individually instead of scanning for what I think is there.

Tracking Changes: Oh, Tracking Changes, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I LOVE this Word tool. Whenever my editor hands me her edits, I make the changes then bring them over (one chapter at a time) to a new sheet with my editor's changes already implemented. Then I switch the ink color to blue (my personal preference) and redo the edit--turning on 'Track Changes' again so I can see what I modified since my editor's initial edits.

It not only lets me read the chapter in a new light, but it helps me strengthen my word choices where necessary. Placing one scene or chapter by itself allows me to edit without the distraction of the rest of the manuscript. When I'm happy with it, I compare it side by side with my "real" draft and implement my new changes for the editor's approval. 

Chapter Hop: I like to read my chapters and POV scenes out of sequence. Often I work from back to front. This helps me pick up continuity issues.

Trust No One: Or at least be suspicious of Word's spell-check and grammar-check. It's not always right. When in doubt, double check it with Strunk & White or Webster's dictionary.

Create a Style Sheet: A style sheet is a punch list of every detail unique to your book. 

--and here is where I'll be mean and tell you to come back next week for the style sheet details. But I promise it'll be worth it. I just didn't want this post to run too long.

Profile your characters: List all your characters' physical and emotional details. Quirks, mannerisms, expressions, hair color, defects, etc. List them all so that you can refer to them later. A lot of people do this, but I also add their psychological profile. What makes them tick? What do they want most? And why can't they get it? Curious readers will want to know. 

Language inconsistencies: I do at least one editing pass to make sure each character's speech pattern is consistent. This is especially important when doing accents, expressions, and gender-specific dialog.

POV: Point of view always messes me up. Sometimes while I'm drafting a story, I will change the POV to see if it's stronger in someone else's viewpoint. It never fails that pieces of the old POV gets left behind, and I forget to switch it.

I goofed on one chapter in Mistress of the Stone, but my editor found it right away. Any time you do multiple revisions, POV is bound to be the first casualty. Save yourself the agony and run an edit strictly for POV consistency.

That's it. These are my main editing tricks. How about you? What's the hardest thing for you to edit?

Next Monday: Style Sheets

Homestead Update: Greg is black and blue, but I swear I didn't hit him. 

Yeah, I know it looks suspicious, him being married to me, but it's true. 

He was on the tractor mowing a weedy area when a tree limb smacked him into yesterday. The branch threw his glasses off and he was stunned for a split second. All he could do was slam on the brakes before something else hit him. 

Fortunately I was nearby and ran over to him when I realized he was in trouble.

His face was bloodied, and his nose swelled up right away. It took a while to find his glasses too. They really flew far. By the end of the day, he had a black eye. Poor guy. It's dangerous out here!


Renee Miller said...

I do similar things when editing, Maria, but I hadn't considered consciously going through the speech patterns. I catch a lot just reading, but I bet I'll catch far more if I look for inconsistencies.

Darke Conteur said...

OUCH! That had to hurt. :( If anyone asks him about it, just tell them the other guy looks worse. :D

I'm going to try something new for me when I edit. I'm going to put the MS in pdf and read it that way. Some writers say print each chapter, but that's a waste of paper IMO. PDF is just the same.

Maria Zannini said...

Renee: When I'm tired sometimes my characters start to sound alike, so editing for speech patterns helps me get them back to how they should sound like.

Darke: I did this with one of my books. I turned it into a pdf and read it on my Nook. It was very useful! I got to see it the way many readers would.

Ref: Hubby
It was a terrible accident. Poor kid really hurt. We spent the next half hour limbing EVERY branch at tractor height.

Mike Keyton said...

I've often thought I should use the tracker tool but never figured out how exactly it worked. Thanks for the tip. I'm glad Greg's okay - what's his tipple for pain and shock?

Rula Sinara said...

Excellent points! And gosh, I'm glad Greg is okay!

Melissa McClone said...

I use Track Changes when I critique, but never for myself. Never even thought about it. I just change the name of the file to the next revision number.

Melissa McClone said...

BTW, hope your hubby is feeling better soon!

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: I'm in and out this morning, but if you want me to walk you through "track changes", email me and I'll write you back tonight.

Rula: I'm glad he's okay too. I don't want people thinking I beat him up. I already have a bad reputation with the grasshoppers.

Melissa: Using tracked changes for myself is my absolute favorite way to edit. It's like critiquing someone else's copy. It gives me distance.

LD Masterson said...

A tree limb, huh? I think we need to hear Greg's side of this.

These are great editing tips. I use a number of them but some differently, i.e. I'll use chapter hopping to find errors in scenes but I think reading out of order would mess me up on continuity checking. That I have to do in a straight read, beginning to end. Tracking changes I only use when working with someone else (CP, Beta, etc.).

Can't wait to read what you do with style sheets.

Southpaw said...

I've always said house/yard work is dangerous. ;)

The hard part of editing is telling my brain to only look for one thing. It wants to correct everything which leads to missing things, ya know what I mean?

How do you get your brain fixed on one editing idea?

Barbara Ann Wright said...

Poor Greg! I'm very accident prone and my husband and I have gotten some suspicious looks before over my myriad bruises. I always respond to those looks with, "Please, you know he didn't hit me because he still has all his teeth."

I look forward to seeing your style sheets. Mine are always a mess.

Sarah Allen said...

These are fabulous ideas. I think the chapter hopping could work really well. Great post!

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: What? Don't you believe me?! I'm shocked!

Ref: Oh, I do several start to finish read throughs too, but after the third read my brain likes to take shortcuts, hence the hopping.

Holly: I'm naturally focused so I don't usually get distracted. But when something I'm not looking for pops up, I write myself a little note with the page number and fix it later.

Barbara: Ref: "Please, you know he didn't hit me because he still has all his teeth."

I am SOOOOOO stealing this. ROTFL!

Sarah: The reason I came up with the chapter hop is that I found I'm good about strengthening copy in short segments. Do this with all 35 chapters and you end up with a pretty strong book.

Raelyn Barclay said...

Poor hubby!! Hope Greg feels better soon.

Love Track Word tool. Thank for the great tip list Maria and I'm looking forward to your style sheets.

Maria Zannini said...

Raelyn: I've gotten whacked by smaller branches, but he slammed into a big one. I'm surprised it didn't need a trip to the ER.

Angelina Rain said...

Oh, your poor husband. I hope he's okay!

I do the POV changes when writing too, and then I always miss something before I sub, always letting the editor tell me that I'm head hopping.

Clarissa Draper said...

I like your techniques. I employ many of them myself.

James Garcia Jr. said...

I don't know why you chose to give yourself such a firm alibi. I never doubted that he had done it to himself for one second... *glances nervously around* Actually, are you certain grasshoppers had nothing to do about it?


Thanks for your comment at my place. And, no, I don't want to borrow any of your ghosts. *glances behind me and turns on more lights*
Thanks for sharing all of these tips. I will be putting many to good use very soon.


Angela Brown said...

Poor Greg. He can always say he was just giving the branch an in depth inspection then things got out of hand OR he can say he gave the branch a run for its money.

You're editing sounds very detailed and doing it in stages, with breaks in between, can certainly help focus on each edit step. Very good ideas. I look forward to the info for the style sheets.

Shelley Munro said...

Oh, dear. I hope Greg is okay.

These are good editing tips, Maria. I change font and load my manuscript onto my reader. This allows me to see it with new eyes.
I look forward to seeing your style sheets. It's funny because I read another post about style sheets during the weekend.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Poor Greg! Oh my gosh, glad he didn't break anything.

Editing is like eating an elephant? LOL I guess that's true. Or like one of those "Man vs Food" challenges. There's so much to do you really have to have a plan of attack. :-)

Nadja Notariani said...

Husbands have mishaps at times...especially when operating heavy machinery. Ha. Glad he's okay.

Love your opening line. It's a wise tidbit. One thing that stood out is your character profile packet. I started this with my last book and absolutely love the process. It gives me something to return to capture that character I first envisioned anew after I've been writing awhile. Adding in all the mannerisms helps so much as me those little extras to write into a scene.
Can't wait for Monday's post!

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: I feel like a dummy when my editor catches those things, but then I feel grateful that she did.

Clarissa: Works, don't they? :)

Jimmy: For some reason people always "assume" I might have something to do with "accidents". I don't know where this comes from.

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: The breaks are critical for me. I know when I'm tired and I'm just spinning my wheels if I insist on working past my expiration date.

Shelley: I was surprised how much more I got out of reviewing when I read it on a reader. It's a good tool--but not as easy to edit with it.

Jennifer: For a few minutes I was afraid it had broken his nose, but he seems okay.

Nadja: Exactly right. Sometimes I drift from my original intention of my character and it helps to have a profile to reference.