Monday, April 23, 2012

Editing…Friend now more than Foe?

It’s been a week since I posted and while I’d rather stick with posting two or three days a week, it is sometimes just not possible.  This past week was extremely busy; not only with birthday plans and time spent with family but also with a lot of time spent on my book. 

I’m thrilled because I am extremely close to finalizing the edit on my book.  I am excited to be at this turning point and I cannot wait to get on the road to publishing.
While the book took me only four months to write, I realize now it has taken the same amount of time to edit.  There may be some necessary changes here and there that I will have to contend with before the book is published but I am satisfied because my story feels whole.

The editing process has finally become a friend rather than a foe.  You may have read one of my earliest posts, Edit…another four-letter word, where I discuss my difficulties with the editing process.  The editing process involves working and reworking the text, pacing, grammar, details, and everything in between until you are positive you have a story that not only reads well but will completely entertain the reader.
What have I learned throughout the editing process?

I learned what I should try to avoid, such as weak words, helping verbs, stacked adjectives, redundant prepositions, clichés and passive sentence structure.  In a nutshell, the trick is to look for unnecessary words and focus on using strong nouns and strong verbs. 
It’s difficult sometimes but the more you “show” a reader what’s happening, rather than “tell” them, it helps to keep the reader on the same page with your characters, rather than with you.  You want the reader to forget they are reading a story so that they feel as if they are living in your story.

Will I always refrain from these writing sins when I write?  Probably not but editing is necessary so that you get a second, third, fourth or even fourteenth chance at making the book the best it can be.
But editing is definitely not all about grammar and sentence structure…

You have to focus on the scenes to enhance them and to determine whether each scene moves the plot forward or adds to the existing conflict.
The characters need to be someone you can love, hate, root for or hope to die but either way, the characters need to bring about some sort of emotion or connection with the reader.

The pacing needs to work and work well; some like it fast, others like it slow but usually we all prefer it somewhere in the middle.
Plot holes need to be filled – no, not pot holes, but plot holes.  Holes in the story that will either completely baffle the reader of totally irritate them because the mistake wasn’t caught before the book was published.

And, very important, you must make sure your timeline makes sense.
For all the so-called rules involved with editing, you can see why it did not begin as my most favorite task.  It is a necessary evil we must accomplish as we grit our teeth and bear it.

Believe it or not, I did have a favorite assignment when it came to editing.
One piece of advice was to look at the first and last sentence of each chapter.  While it may be difficult to always start each chapter with a killer line, even if that is the advice given, it does make sense to check whether the last line of each chapter would compel the reader to continue on with the story. 

Copying all the first and last lines to another document so that I could review them without being distracted by the rest of the story was actually a fun task.  It was also very rewarding when I discovered I hit the mark most of the time.
There was also a suggestion I hadn’t thought of and another I hadn’t yet heard about.

The first is to watch for what may be called “pet” or “crutch” words…or certain words you don’t realize you use often, oftentimes without realizing how often you use them so often.  It’s more than redundancy though; pet words are little stinkers that slink in to a sentence without you even realizing it and more often than not, the words don’t need to be there.
The second suggestion was one with regard to formatting and it threw me for a loop because it goes against everything I have learned ever since I began typing on a typewriter in high school. 

Shoot, did I just date myself again?
Anyway, the suggestion is apparently more than a suggestion but a flat out rule…use only one space after a period, not two.  Well, like I said, ever since I began typing in high school, two spaces after a period was always the requirement.  That rule stuck through college, as I began working in law firms and during my career as a legal assistant and a private investigator.  It is a trained habit I will no sooner break than my love of coffee or chocolate.

Thankfully, we now live in the world of computers and the very task of searching for each double space to replace it with a single place is an extremely easy task.  My search found 5,457 double spaces overall…an easy task for the computer, not so much if I had to do it myself.
I’m sure I’ll mumble and grumble again about the editing process when I begin these tasks all over again for my second book but at least this post will remind me there is a light at the end of the tunnel…and that I must be persistent as I also remain patient with the process.

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