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Entering the Death Throes of Editing

February 27, 2017

For the next month I will be heads down editing a manuscript to send to my publisher. If you’ve never been in my shoes, er, chair, er, sitting on my ball at my desk, you might not know what death throes of editing  means.

It starts with a complete read of the manuscript. I print it out first and read it from start to finish. Somewhere along the way, I pick up a red pen and begin marking sections that need work. Or words that need changing. Or chapters that were once brilliant and now have no home in the book. This is what I think of as the first rough cut, the first time I start at page one and read straight through to “the end.” This read can lead to a flip flop from despair to elation. “It’s junk.” “It’s great.” Usually, it’s somewhere in between.

I find places where I need to fix the story line. I may have glitches in hair color, time line, characters’ names. Yes, I have goofed on characters’ names, going from Eric to Alec, from Beth to Annie. No matter how many tables I have of the characters’ names and what they look like, overeager writing can create chaos. This continuity fix takes time, but it’s the most fun, because it’s where I finally polish the story line.

Okay, now that I’ve fixed the continuity problems, I need to read for word choice.  That is the tedious read. Does every sentence fit? Is every word the right one to convey the sense I want conveyed? What do I need to change to maintain the voice of the narrator? Every word has to be as perfect as I can make it. This is the director’s cut, where everything I think should be in the book will survive.

Finally, I pull out the Chicago Manual of Style and make sure that my grammar conforms to the norm. I read for missing words. I read for missing, or, too, many, commas. I look at punctuation! because? hey…We all #need; punctuation.

When that is done, I read from the last page to the first, right to left, bottom of the page to the top. Line by line, word by word, gray hair by gray hair I work through the manuscript. And lastly, I use Microsoft Narrator and listen to the book. This is the final cut, the best I can do.

AND STILL I MAKE MISTAKES. STILL I MISS TYPOS. STILL I DON’T KNOW THAT THE U.S. HAVE NEVER USED CORDITE IN GUNPOWDER.

Sigh.

 

Writing Analysis, Writing Challenge

A Writing Analysis Challenge

October 12, 2010

The challenge several panelists at James River Writers Conference threw down is to take a favorite writer or book and deconstruct the first three chapters. Read the novel as if you are editing it for publication. What do you like about the writing once you begin to look at the elements of the story? What don’t you like? What would you change?

Select a contemporary work, not a classic since the rules of writing have changed since Charles Dickens. You might look at the following:

  • Pacing: how fast does the writer get into the story, into each chapter?
  • Setting: does the writer give hints about the setting or an indepth description over every detail?
  • Characterization: does the writer show you enough about the protagonist that you have a vested interest in that person?
  • Circle or underline the number of adverbs and adjectives your writer uses. Are there too many adjectives strung together? Does s/he rely on adverbs to drive the action?
  • I’m taking the challenge. I’ll report back on the name of the writer, the novel, and what I found by going through this exercise. Anyone else up to this exercise?

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