Posts Tagged ‘editing tips’

Everyone knows there is no replacement for a good human proofreader or an army of them. The human brain plays tricks on the eyes, translating typos into real words or skimming over errors to fit the context. A single set of eyes on a project means errors will be missed.

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You can’t rely on technology fully, either. While Word, Grammarly, and other products are becoming more proficient at finding errors and typos, they still might miss properly spelled words used incorrectly. It’s true that these programs are beginning to notice if you’ve used there instead of their, but they might not notice if you’ve used Brain instead of Brian.

The reality is, nothing beats hiring a living proofreader. That isn’t always possible for everyone, though. Because I know firsthand that reality, I also know that relying on friends and family may not be an option, either. I did have Book One proofread by a friend who missed many, many errors. I missed many as well.

What else can you do?

A few months back, it was mentioned to me that hearing your book read to you is very helpful in finding errors. It was suggested that if I couldn’t afford to have someone read, Windows Narrator worked pretty well. I thought it was a good idea but didn’t use the advice at the time.

Recently, one of my co-workers accidently turned Narrator on my work computer. Maybe it was a kick in the pants from the Muses because I suddenly realized I should try using Narrator to help edit.

I recently used it on a small project, and it really does make a difference. The current version of Windows 10 is a male voice. It reminds me of Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not only does Narrator read your work back, but it reads one line at a time. This not only lets you hear what’s being read but also to follow along. It gives you the opportunity to move slowly and watch for words like there and their, which still sound the same.

Is it the same as hiring a proofreader? No. Does it help those without a budget? Yes. I tested it on book one and it can read some of the made-up names (some of them it pronounces incorrectly, but that’s okay.) If it can’t read a word, it spells it out. Anything that helps is worth using, and I hope this tip helps others.

Thank you for reading! If you have anything to add, please leave a comment.

Editing is a cruel and unforgiving process. Once you’ve made the arduous journey of turning blank pages into a legible tale, you then must go back through and brutally critique your own work, not just once but multiple times. Seeking out every typo, comma splice, run-on sentence, and unnecessary chunk of text is daunting work.

One of the most painful pieces is cutting scenes, characters, paragraphs, or chapters that are not necessary to the story.  You’ve spent all of this time thinking up such lovely words and now you need to blast some of them into oblivion.

There are some hard and fast rules when it comes to cutting. Does this build character? Does it further the plot or sub-plot? Is this an information dump? (That includes backstory, world building, or what you’ve learned from research.) Is this a repetition of information?

Those are all good rules and necessary. Despite that, sometimes it’s hard to let go of a scene. That’s why I have some simple foundation questions I ask myself while editing.

Will the story still make sense without this?

If you can answer “yes” to this question, then it needs to be cut. Not only is this a simple way of critiquing yourself, it also encompasses all of the rules of cutting.

Does the reader really need to know how this magical engine functions? The story will make sense without it.

Do I need to keep this character with only a couple of lines easily given to someone else? The story will make sense without him/her.

This scene where everyone runs through a fountain laughing sure is fun, but nothing important happens. The story makes sense without it.

A highly detailed description of the castle grounds isn’t required for the story to make sense.

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Cut. Cut. Cut.

 

As an example of cutting info dumping, in the original manuscript of Darkness Falling, the first chapter was 24 Word document pages. In the current version it’s 4 pages. Cutting is hard but necessary.

Is this something this character would already know?

If you can answer “no” to that question, then it needs to be cut or it needs to be explained.

Would a poor girl working in a shop understand the inner workings of the palace guards? Cut it!

Just because your characters are refugees from Earth living on a space station doesn’t mean all of them understand the science keeping them alive. Cut it!

Does your farm boy know the entire martial history of the kingdom and the line of inheritance? Cut it!

This also applies to mind reading. Unless you’re writing in a fully omniscient style, don’t jump from head to head to explaining thoughts and feelings. Stick with body language and facial expressions.

Cutting takes practice.

Sometimes it’s not easy to admit to yourself that a scene doesn’t belong. If you really love a scene but know it needs to be cut, it doesn’t mean you have to delete it forever. Copy and paste it into another document and keep it for yourself.  “Deleted scenes” can be things you share with fans at a later time (or so we all dream.)

Thank you for reading as always. If you have any other tips for cutting up a manuscript, please feel free to share in the comments. The more we know, the better editors we all become.