Friday, June 18, 2010

Edits and Revisions

Guest post by L. Diane Wolfe

Call me weird, but I love this phase! I enjoy revising my work, improving the writing and tightening the scenes and dialogue.

Editing comes with an added bonus - it can re-inspire! If we've grown weary or find we are stuck, rereading can ignite our passion once again.

Every time we pass through our manuscript, we'll discover something that requires improving, changing, or fixing. Allowing our work to sit for a week or two helps us attack it fresh as well. We don't want to start running circles around our work, but we can't skimp on this process, either.

What do we need to look for when editing?

Grammar - Is grammar usage correct? Is the punctuation in the right place and capitalization proper?

Overused terms - Are there words or phrases we use too often? Do we repeat words in a paragraph? Do we find clich├ęs? What can we fix by consulting a Thesaurus?

Excessive description - Are we following the adage "show don't tell?" Are there scenes best left to the reader's imagination? Do we describe scenes or people that have no relevance to the story? Do we provide details a character wouldn't notice depending on gender?

Continuity - Do colors, names, and places vary from one scene to another? Are there glitches in the timeline?

Staying in character - Is behavior consistent? Is dialogue consistent? Are there changes in personality for no apparent reason? Do characters respond in a manner that's gender appropriate?

Point of view - Is our POV consistent? Do we suddenly take on the roll of narrator? Do we head hop too often or too fast? Do we reveal things outside of a character's POV?

Story flow and pacing - Do scenes feel rushed or overlong? Does the story move quickly in the beginning and then drag in the middle? Does anything feel forced or contrived?

What can we do to improve our editing technique?

Read large chunks at a time. Sometimes it's difficult to gauge flow when we only read a page or two. Uneven lulls in the story become more apparent when we follow a scene from beginning to end. Continuity mistakes are easier to spot as well.

Read aloud. Uneven dialogue is easier to spot when we hear the words spoken. We catch stilted, unnatural exchanges. Reading with a partner of the opposite sex exposes improper gender words and phrases. Flow of story and narration also benefit when we read aloud.

Employ a test reader. We are close to our material and sometimes miss the obvious. A neutral test reader often spots flaws and mistakes we may have missed. We know the story by heart, but a test reader can't read between the lines and will question items and passages that don't make sense.

We are not the ultimate editor of our work. A professional is still required before submitting or self-publishing. However, we can improve our story and present our best effort if we learn to master the basics of editing. And growing as a writer is what it's all about!

- Author & Speaker, L. Diane Wolfe,

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