Saturday, 5 April 2014

E is for Editing

Editing Sucks. It says so on this list of 5 Things About Writing, so it must be true, right?

There is a feeling of satisfaction that comes when the story is done and I can literally, if not figuratively, write the final two words…The End. But in writing the end, I know it is just the beginning, of the rewriting and revision phase.

What I have is a First Draft. I’ve gotten to know the characters, and have figured out the story. No matter how much planning went into my book there are always surprises when I actually start to write. The story may go off in an unexpected direction and I have to go back and introduce supporting information, but basically, it’s write until it’s done. It might be messy but that’s the creative process.

On to the Second Draft. This is when the inspirational and analytical processes meet. I’ve worked out the main points and get to work, maybe writing new material, restructuring, and rearranging scenes. The key elements should be in place, but here I try to fix any problems, paying attention to grammar and spelling. I read the story out loud and pick up on awkward phrasing, repetitive words, and anything that stops the flow of the story.

I read an article on editing that talked about the use of the words ‘had been’ and ‘have been’. It suggested using the FIND and HIGHLIGHT features on your computer to show how many times these phrases were used. It was an amazing learning tool. I had to do some rewrites to get rid of that wording. That same article suggested doing the same find/highlight with the words he/she and the protagonist’s name, to see how many sentences started that way. More rewrites.

This is also when I look at the use of adverbs rather than action verbs. Like he went quickly could be changed to he hurried. I read the narrative passages, did I describe the setting clear enough, or too much? Are the story elements clear, have I wrapped up all the loose ends?

I print out a clean copy of the story and pass it around to some select friends and fellow writers, asking for feedback, for impressions, and comments. And I step away and forget about it for awhile.

By the time the book has made the rounds I’ve had a break from the story and come back to it with fresh eyes. I read the book through as a reader would, from beginning to end, to get a sense of how the story flows. I may make note of typos or changes needed, but I don’t make those edits now, I’ll go back later when I get into the final editing process.

The final edit, what a joke. It seems like it’s never done. I go through the book, line by line, making changes as noted on my read through, and incorporating any worthwhile suggestions from my reader feedback.

In my NaNo novel from last November, my readers had concern for the names I’d used. My detectives were Steve Kowalski and Danny Hayes. What was wrong with that I asked? Steve and Danny? Hawaii Five-O? I still don’t know how I did that unless I had just watched the show on television and it was my subconscious at work. So I changed the names. I also had a character called Dominic, and changed it to Salvatore. I like Uncle Sal better than Uncle Dom, it read easier if you know what I mean.

I used FIND and REPLACE and made the name change. But on doing the edit I learned that using capitals means nothing to find/replace. Anywhere the three letters ‘dom’ appeared; it was changed to ‘sal’. While editing I found the word ‘ransal’ and couldn’t figure out how I made such a mistake, then realized it was from that name change. The word was ‘random’. Another lesson learned. Better to find and highlight, and make the changes one at a time to prevent this kind of mistake.

No matter how many times I go over the book, there are small mistakes that are easily missed, things like repeated words, the the, for example, or extra words left over from some revision that were not deleted. As good as spell check is, it doesn’t find all spelling mistakes. A word may be spelled wrong for the story, but be a real word and not be picked up as a mistake.

I think I have Hiding From the Night, my NaNo novel, as finished as it can get, maybe. I think I’ll ask my friend to give the final copy another read, she’s got an eagle eye. Who knows what she might find.

Like I said, editing sucks.






Karen Jones Gowen said...

I like your poster!

Bish Denham said...

I'm an AZtech minion stopping by to say hi! Editing is so important and such a hard thing to do, particularly when you read your story 12 hundred times!

Donna L Martin said...

Hi there!

I am also doing the A to Z Challenge and focusing on picture books because I am a children's picture book author. Good luck with the challenge!

Take care,

Donna L Martin said...

Editing does suck, but I've learned to endure it. I am a list person, so as long as I have a to list when it comes editing, I can get through it.