Monday, February 1, 2021

Why Edit? Why Not?

 Today I will finish my latest book. Doesn’t that sound great? After months of research, months of planning and many more months of writing and editing, it is finally about to go out the door and I will be ready to celebrate! Months of struggling with not only rewriting the story but also fighting with a dying and eventually dead computer will come to an end, as will editing on a completely new computer. (Sometimes I wish for the days of my old Selectric.)

 While it is great to finally be able to think about sending it off in an email to my editor, and drink the

champagne that accompanies that emailing, it is still sad, scary and with a note of trepidation that I will hit the send key on my computer and know that it is gone. Will it be good enough for the editor to immediately send me the final okay? Will she want more work or changes?

 Heavy sigh… Who knows?

 One thing I know—I will be happy to be finished with the editing process. That’s why today I am discussing the editing process itself. I learn a great deal every time I edit a story, but I know how important that editing can be. A good job of editing can make all the difference in the world on whether a book sells or sits inside your computer as the query letters and submissions go out and you continue to work on the story.

 Having given classes on editing, this whole process should be simple to me, but every book is different and every book needs editing in a different way. Speaking of  seeing things in different ways, some of my older books are getting an update from Wings epress and they are looking great and now available at Amazon, looking better than ever..

With all that in mind, here are some ideas and tips for your own work on editing a book.

 To me, the editing process must go through at least three passes. First I look for obvious mistakes, misspellings, name mistakes where one character is Harry at the beginning and Jeff by the ending. Perhaps the name of the closest town undergoes a name change.

 In the next pass, I look at the basics and mechanics of writing. Yes, some of that can be done with a simple editing program, but I suggest being more careful and doing the job on your own. That means learning and knowing the basic rules of grammar, which is always good for any writer. Learn the rules and make a steady practice of using them and knowing your weak points. That can not only help with this book but any book in the future too.

The next pass is for polishing. Could something be phrased better? Does the writing sing? Where are the passages where I struggled? Did I finally succeed in getting the words just right?  If there were things you wanted fixed, do it now.

The  final pass is one of the most important. I usually suggest that writers complete the process by re-reading your manuscript OUT LOUD.  Why? Very simple. If you stumble over reading a word or a sentence you will notice. Does the sentence need to be rewritten? Is it so long you lose your place halfway through? Did you stumble over a misspelled word or grammatical error? Does the sentence make sense or confuse you even while you read it?

Reading out loud can also help you pick out words that might be misspelled or awkward phrasing. It is particularly useful for dealing with dialogue and whether it makes sense or sounds stilted. Yes, it might seem odd to have to do this, but believe me, I have always found it valuable.  Reading back a story out loud is the ONE thing I suggest to writers when they do any writing—whether it is a book, or even something as simple as this blog. For years when I was working as a television newswriter I almost always re-read my copy out loud before it went to the anchor or report. It was one of the early lessons I received from a wise old news guy (think real Lou Grant) and I never forgot it. I did that in a busy newsroom with other people around and as a result I got used to reading EVERYTHING I write out loud.  (Yes, even this blog as I wrote it – with only the cats listening) In that newsroom most of us did it because we knew our words were going to be read by a reporter or anchorman and the sentence couldn’t afford to be confusing. We couldn’t afford to make simple mistakes that might trip up a person who could be reading the copy for the first time live on the air with thousands of viewers watching. It had to make sense coming out of the anchor or reporter’s mouth.

This is even more true for writing dialogue.  The words should sound as though they were spoken by the hero and the heroine. No one speaks alike so by reading your story out loud, you can hear the words your hero and heroine are speaking and whether they sound different.

My final pass is actually when I make use of the editing program on the computer and only then if I absolutely feel like I need it. What I often find is that my own editing works almost as well, but that also points out anything that might be a blind spot for me or small mistakes that I might make.

As this new week gets underway, I’ll be doing a lot of reading out loud this week as I put the finishing touches on my manuscript.  Hopefully, the cats don’t mind. 

And then  with a heavy sigh and a glass of champagne nearby, I will send out that manuscript! 

One final point -- if you are looking for how to pitch your own story, please watch for my new book on pitching that will be released soon from Savvy Authors. I will have more on information on that in a future blog.

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