Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What To Look For In Editing

What do you look for when you edit? Spelling mistakes and grammar? Good. But there are other things you should be doing too.

1. 'That'. How many times have you used the word 'that' in your sentences? If you're like me, you'll have used it many times, but it's rarely needed. Try dropping the word from a sentence and if still makes sense, leave it out all together. (I'd like to attribute that to the correct person, but I've forgotten who it was. If it was your blog, please leave a link in the comments section.)

2. '-ing' words. Do you start sentences with words ending in '-ing'? It's a structure that can cause all sorts of problems if you're not careful. "Rubbing her neck, the blinking red light on the answering machine caught Sarah's eye," makes it sound as though the answer machine is rubbing Sarah's neck. You can read the full rundown on this at 'The Blood-Red Pencil' blog.

3. Adverbs. I know this one has been done to death, but have you thought about adding them to your prose. They can be overused, but that doesn't mean we should totally exclude them.

4. Nouns. Have you capitalised the right ones?

5. Verbs. Are they in the correct tense?

6. Description. Is it too long or too short? Have you missed out information that the reader needs to know? Is it clumsy? More importantly, have you given this information before? In my current WIP I gave the same information three times.

7. Cliches. In one sense everything we write is a cliche, and though the advice is to avoid them like the plague(!), sometimes they can be useful. People speak in cliches and some people ARE cliches, expecially management-type individuals and their buzz words. There is also a hangup about a story being a cliche, but that's not necessarily a bad thing as a blog at StrangePegs points out.

8. Jargon. We all have jargon in our lives and while it's useful in certain situations, it can throw people who don't know what it means. If you're going to use Jargon, you have to explain it, remove it or make sure your audience knows it. That also applies to words you have invented, or known words that have a different meaning in your world. For ideas about words and their etymology, The Inky Fool is an excellent blog to follow.

9. Ambulance Chasing. An wonderful phrase that sums up the idea of following trends. Have you done that in your WIP? If so, Electric Spec have a few warnings about the practice.

10. Genre. Is your book REALLY in the genre you're writing for? Just a thought.

11. Are your characters experiencing problems that they have to solve? If not, have you got a story?

There's lots of help out there for us writers, mainly from other writers trying to get published, writers who are published and occasionally agents. In addition to the ones I've linked to above, here are some more.
The Literary Lab
In Medias Res
Adventures In Agentland
Pimp My Novel (Although it's no longer being updated, it's previous postings are a gold mine)

There are many more out there just waiting for you to find them, follow them and tell everyone else about them.

See you on Friday.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Martin! Great list.

Martin Willoughby said...

Freya: You're welcome. Feel free to add to it.

Holly said...

Oooo. Excellent reminders. I'm a really bad that-er. And I'm really bad about the word "totally". And about the word "really".


Martin Willoughby said...

Holly: We're all bad at something.

Nick Wilford said...

According to Stephen King, you should stick to "he said", "she said" instead of "he pondered", "she explained" etc. Although like with adverbs they might sometimes have their place - eg it could be useful to know if someone is whispering.