July 8, 2011
Tips and Tricks Friday: Editing
Yes, it's the most wonderful day of the year: Tips and Tricks! Editing Style Edition! *start thematic music for the television series*
Anyway, for all of you lucky gals and pals out there I have some great tips for you to master the wonderful art of editing. Here are some fo the basic steps of editing along with some tricks to make sure your manuscript is publishing ready!
1. Make sure your manuscript is done
I know this seems so simple and clean cut but sometimes, common sense isn't common enough anymore. I have to say that there were times when I thought my books were done. Finito! And really, I wasn't. The end I envisioned wasn't what I wanted. It changed midstory. It freaks me out, and I'm like: OMG what to do?!
Change the ending? Change the story? Ha! But I had to. The story that was in my head changed, so the ending had to change with it. So I did. And I knew I was done.
So the million dollar question: How do you know when you are done with a story?
Answer from the audience: When you write THE END!
*loud sound of the incorrect buzzer* EERRRK! Incorrect!
Your manuscript is done once you have followed the plot outline. Exposition, rising conflict, climax, falling action, resolution. If it does not follow this outline, then you're in trouble. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with starting with the end. Just know that it has been done before. Stephenie Meyer has done that countless times. Just make sure you've done your homework and see how other authors do it. But if this is your first manuscript then I wouldn't advise you to go that route. Just saying.
Anyway, main point: You will feel it in your guts when you are done. When somebody writes the end, it really isn't the end. It's the beginning of the editing process.
2. Start Editing with STEP ONE: GENERAL EDITING
I know all of you are giving me the Scooby Doo look of wtf. General Editing? What is that?
Basically, all you do after you are done with your manuscript and jumping all around saying: I WROTE A BOOK! I'M WICKED AWESOME! You read through it. And mark out some simple mistakes like typos and stuff like that.
Now there are two ways of doing this.
WAY ONE: Editing it through spell check and by eye on the computer.
I discourage this way, but some people prefer this way. Why I discourage it? Because reading on the computer can lead to mistakes. I know when I typed on a very old computer, I made A LOT of mistakes by editing on the computer. Why? I'm not exactly sure. There should be a study on it, but I just simply skipped over a lot of stuff that I would have caught quicker if I printed it out. By I have to tell you, I love spell check and the evolution of it.
But DO NOT RELY ON SPELL CHECK!!
That is probably the BIGGEST tip I can give you as a writer. It's like a lazy curse, you know? You think that a computer program, especially in this day and age, would be like a crimefighter, catching all of your mistakes but not all of them. Some of them are going to slip right under the radar screen. Main advice: Be careful on what computer program you rely on. Or any computer for that matter. They can mess up. Crash. Computers are not perfect. Not by any means, so just be careful.
WAY TWO: Print it out and edit.
Why is this way better? For me, and I know this is changing thanks to the I-Pad and Tablet technology, it's a HECK of a lot easier to carry around a folder of my manuscript then to carry around my laptop. And I know some people have the I-Pad or the Kindle but I certainly don't. Why? Because I'm not rich or have enough money to spend it like that. I have some teacher things I need to buy first, then maybe I'll buy all of that flashy technology. But until then, I'm a broke college student who cannot afford any new technology except for a passed down laptop. Therefore, laptop versus folder, folder is always going to win.
And besides, I think I edit a lot better on paper. It's one thing to see it on a computer screen, it's a whole different story once you see it on paper. It's almost like the mistakes don't really bother me so much when it's on a computer screen and it's so fixable. On paper, it's like someone has shot me with a pistol in the eye. It burns. It hurts. It must be corrected. Now. And it makes it real-er.
I know I freaked out a lot of English teachers with that last word. Anyway, main point: You can carry it around (which means more time editing!! Which is ALWAYS awesome), you can catch errors sooner (at least for me, Idk about everyone else), and you have room to do edit stage two.
3. Time to get out the grammar textbooks. EDIT STAGE TWO: Grammar/Line by Line Editing.
I'm actually doing that right now with Angel Diaries. It is the most difficult sort of editing. And I know you guys are looking at me, like you are an English teacher! You should be good chums with grammar.
That is simply NOT the case.
Grammar and me JUST started getting along. We still have some issues to talk about (what is with the comma splices?! I can't hear you! *plugs ears and sings Spice Girls song*) but for the most part, I still struggle with grammar.
I think this is mostly because we don't emphasize grammar in the English classroom. I know I hear groans from the English teacher community but it's true. Out of the twelve years in the public and private school systems, I got taught grammar once in middle school and once in high school but that was an honors class, so I guess that doesn't even count. So I know you guys are wondering how in the world did I learn grammar if I was only taught it twice?
The most DIFFICULT language to conquer grammar wise. I took it in high school thinking it would be interesting. Wrong. *buzzer noise* But I have to say, I learned a lot of grammar skills. I learned about all of the phrases, especially prepositional phrases, and about subjects and verbs and so much other useful stuff which is why I'm making my kids learn a language. It is shameful that kids in America don't HAVE to learn a language. Shameful. Every kid should know at least another language besides English and Spanish. Yeah, you read it right. Spanish should be a requirement. Then on top of that, another language should be learned on top of Spanish. Three languages. Just like in Europe and I think even in Asia too. So yeah.
Anyway, before I offend some people who might think English is the official language of the United States (it's not, but it should be), let's get back to editing stage two.
There's once again two ways to do this:
WAY ONE: Just by plain ol' fashioned reading and picking up on the grammar errors and if you have a question by looking it up. I know this method works for some people. But not for me since I have poor eyesight, especially in the grammar sense.
WAY TWO: HIGHLIGHTING FRENZY!
*whips out highlighters with a crazy happy expression* Yes my friends, highlighting! I highlight every comma, semi colon and this thingy ;. I also highlight verbs and words that I repeat WAY too often (my characters love to smile alot and smirk and roll their eyes. To the Bookshelf Muse!).
Why is this way preferable?
Because I have to do double editing. First, I have to go through (while doing a general editing) and highlight the words then I have to go back and correct them or even ask myself is this necessary? Is that comma necessary? Is that a comma splice? Are the subject and verbs agreeing? Is it all in past tense? I always switch tenses from present to past ALL the time and once I started highlighting it has changed dramatically. Now all of my verbs agree. Now I cannot ignore comma splices. Now I can see the errors I'm constantly making that everyone else can see with their naked eye.
So in other words: It brings out your mistakes and makes you a better writer.
Now, I'm not going to lie: It is EXTREMELY tedious. Omg, it took me forever to go through and highlight everything. It seriously did. But the end result: A bad ass manuscript ready to be published!
So either method works fine, but I have to say, I love the highlighting technique. Plus it's super fun! All of the different colors! It's like watching fireworks! :) It's a neat trick, huh? Not to mention pretty-ful!
4. EDIT STAGE THREE: Storyline editing.
I saved the best for last: Story line editing. Now this could take forever too. I have to say I ripped my poor little Angel Diaries to pieces and had to piece it back all over again. I redid the prologue, the climax, the ending, the climatic encounters with certain characters . . . I could go on and on, but I tore it apart. But it was better for it.
You could tell I love editing huh? I show it too much.
This is exactly why once you finish a book, it's not really the end. It's a beginning. You may love a certain part to pieces, but if a beta reader or your editing partner says, "This part doesn't work" Then you'll have to adapt the tough love technique: Tear it. Shred it. Then rebuild it.
Which brings me to the two ways to do this technique:
WAY ONE: Edit it yourself. This works. Somewhat.
WAY TWO: Get a fresh pair of eyes on that sucker. In other words, in standard english: Join a critique group.
My fav right here: www.critiquecircle.com
It's free and it's easy. Unless you want to post your whole manuscript up there and select the people who are going to critique it. Then you'll have to get a premium membership. I personally don't have it, but I may consider doing it. Not like you need it to put up your whole manuscript but it just makes it easier. And you can have up to like how many you want, to critique your book. The only problem is, there's no guarantee once you agree to let these people read your book, that they'll actually do it within reasonable time frame.
Which is why you could go to a community of writers and share your work.
I know in class we've done this exercise where we would post up our short story online, so that everyone could read it and critique it and come back the next day with comments. It worked like a dream, unless you wanted a zero for your participation grade (alot more people did then you think. Lazy ungrateful people).
Overall: I would definitely do both.
Why am I skipping over the free and cheap labor of your friends and family?
Well here's a clue: BECAUSE they are your friends and family.
I know there are exceptions to this rule. Heck, I am an exception. I critiqued my friends novel, Chocolate Aftertase (Hey Grace!) and it worked out fine. But overall, just as a general rule, I wouldn't go to family members especially.
Because they won't want to hurt your feelings. Or they will simply gloss over your mistakes. Or they will be too harsh and you'll cry and be like, "WHY?" And then your relationship with your family members will be strained at best. That's why. It's just better to have complete strangers to do it for you. They don't care about your feelings. They care simply for the book. And if you get enough strangers interested in your book, and you are a couple of months from self-pubbing, then you have a following or a fan club right there.
That's why it's great to network with other writers who may LOVE your work so much that they will buy it. The secret to success people: Networking. That's a simple ploy. *gives an evil laugh*
Okay that is it for me. Enjoy your Friday! If you have any additional tips and tricks for budding writers, then feel free to leave it in my comments box. Happy TGIF!