October 25, 2015

How To Edit Your Own Work

how to edit your own work #write31days
Self-editing is the first step after you've written whatever it is you're writing. Don't think you can just pound it out and it will be perfect. I mean it. Don't do it - you'll be embarrassed.

Editing is a long, slow process and for me, it looks a little something like this:

Step 1: Print your manuscript out in its entirety and scribble the living daylights out of it. The computer works very well for me when it comes to the actual writing but for my editing to be productive I find that I really need a physical copy in front of me. I try to be ruthless. I look at each chapter or scene as an individual apart from the whole story, testing its flow and rhythm. I look for word repetitions and replace them with synonyms. I circle every 'was' and try and rewrite those sentences in the margin using better language. I look for hedge words {see below} and I do whatever I can to make my prose active and strong.

Step 2: Import all changes into your document. {Special tip: make sure your scribbles are legible! There have been a few times I've been unable to discern my own handwriting and that's kind of unforgivable!}

Step 3: Print it out in its entirety {again!} and scribble the living daylights out of it {again!}. Think of it more as a whole. Look for story holes. Look for scenes that don't move the story forward. Try not to marry yourself to any one particular scene because sometimes divorce is necessary for your story to progress. Watch for things like 'point of view' and 'character consistency'. Highlight anything that requires fact-checking.

Step 4: Import all changes into your document.

Step 5: Fact-Check. The Church in the Wildwood is set in 1977 with flashbacks reaching as far back as 1954. I ended up making a lot of little changes in order to be true to the era in which my story was set {bead curtains and lava lamps anyone?}. I also had to research such things as 'what kind of moon was it during summer solstice, 1977?' and 'natural birth control remedies' and 'was Fred Astaire handsome?' and 'when did Jim Morrison die?'.

Step 6 {after you've repeated step 3 and 4 a few more times}: Read it out loud. You'll be amazed at the mistakes you find when you put a voice behind your words. This step brings a lot of clarity to the melody of your writing. You want it to flow easily. You want dialogue to feel natural. You want the language to be consistent to your voice.

Step 7: Import all changes into your document.

Step 8: Save your manuscript as a PDF and send to a different device...or print it out in its entirety - again. This time try to read it like a reader {so hard!}. 

            Ask yourself {and keep notes}:
            a. What promises did you make to the reader in the beginning of your story and were those
                promises answered in the end? 
            b. Is your tone consistent throughout?
            c. Does every scene speak to the outcome?

Step 9: Massage your story. Make any necessary changes your PDF-reading inspired and then {if you can stomach it} read it all again.

Step 10: Recognize that you won't make it perfect! It's REALLY HARD to judge your own work because it's so close to your heart. You've known it from conception. You know all the backstory and all the unspoken motivation and it's almost impossible for you to pull yourself beyond it and read with fresh eyes. Find a critique group or beta readers and send it to them with clear instruction of what they're to look for. 

Step 11: Take a break. You've lived and breathed your story FOREVER. Use the time it's in the hands of beta's to rest or start another project {Six more days until NaNoWriMo!!!}.

~ HEDGE WORDS: those words that are kind of likely to take up a fairly big chunk of your manuscript that are pretty much unnecessary but generally hard to let go of because you're presumably really quite fond of being kind of wordy...

                          about                             kind of                             pretty {strong/weak}
                          apparently                     largely                              probably
                          appear                           likely                                quite
                          basically                        mainly                              quite clearly
                          can                                may                                   rather
                          could                             maybe                               really
                          effectively                     more or less                      really quite
                          fairly                              mostly                              seem
                          generally                        overall                              somewhat
                          hopefully                       perhaps                             sort of
                          in general                      presumably                       supposedly

Do you have any editing tips? I love to hear them! Let me know in the comments below!
{click the image above to see all the #write31days posts}
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  1. This is great! Hopefully this will be useful one day... :)

    1. Hopefully :) everyone has their own methods but maybe you'll find something helpful in here!

  2. Great editing tips and advice!


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