ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

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Wednesday, 3 July 2013

You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression. 5 Editing Tips I've learned.

Hi there Insecure Writers and friends!

Some people hate the editing process, others (of which I am one) love it...er, maybe too much. When is enough, enough?

I 'finished' Fijian Princess at the end of November 2012. If you've written a novel during NaNoWriMo, you'll know that the ms I completed was pretty rubbishy...but it was an exciting story...I felt it had potential. Maybe it was going to be the first novel I actually finished...and got published. But I'm quite aware that:

"Writing is rewriting" - Eudora Welty.

I earnestly believe that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Publishers these days don't have a big budget for editors, so they are more likely to accept a good story that has been fully edited (publication ready is the term) - it's not just finding all those typos/misspellings/punctuation/grammar errors - there are development editors, structural editors, copy editors...ever look at the list at the back of a bestseller? It certainly takes a village to write/finish a book, a good seller anyway.

Most of us do the bulk of the editing ourselves. Who can afford to pay a heap of editors? That's where critique partners, beta readers, clever editing writer friends are worth their weight in gold. And don't forget the heaps of 'how to edit' books we have on our shelves.


But we should pass our work onto a professional editor at some juncture. Before we take that step, I believe we need to pass our baby around to several readers, as often we are blind to our baby's faults. Then take criticism on the chin. Some writers say they don't use a critique partner as these people are too subjective...well, a publishing house will be subjective too - they know what readers are looking for, what's hot and what's not, what needs work...Maybe you say - "Who cares? I'm not taking any snuff from editors - I'm self publishing."


Well, the proof of your prose lies with the reader, not the writer. You want to sell that book, don't you? 

Here are a few editing tips I've learned along the way, from editors and writing books/friends. I hope they're helpful to you:
  1. Allow yourself to write a 'bad' first draft. That's where the NaNo experience is great. You can't revise what you haven't written.
  2. "Murder your darlings". This phrase is attributed to Twain, Faulkner, Hemingway, Orwell, Auden - but no, it was written by a relative unknown, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. Here is a modern-day translation: "Eliminate all words and phrases that draw undue attention to themselves (or the writer) at the expense of narrative flow." Don't let your lovely writing say: "Look at me!" instead of "Keep reading". Unfortunately (I say, because I enjoy wallowing through flowery prose and literary fiction), readers these days are too impatient to 'slow read', they want writers to get to the point -- quickly.
  3. Put your ms away for a time is advice I've followed. But not too long...or you pick it up again and feel a little lost - what was I actually meaning here? Then read it out loud. This picks up so much of the lack of flow, especially if you've ignored the 'Rule of Three." (New phrase? - check it out!)
  4. Don't make the choice I always make - in my rewrites I can't overlook tuning up my phrases, fixing my sentences, eliminating all typos etc. This is a mistake -- it's been referred to as "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic." (James N. Frey). In your earliest rewrites, it's more important to have your editor's hat on to look for deep flaws in characterisation, plot, logic. Polished prose can't save a ms with such flaws. It's wasted effort. Revise the deepest, least visible aspects of your story first. Those pesky little technical errors will wait for you. Many will be eliminated in your rewrites.
  5. After that rubbishy first draft, where you are advised to take off your editor's hat and get the story down -- stand back and take a look. Ask yourself: 
  • What is my story about? 
  • Whose story is it? 
  • What is my point that I'm sharing with my readers? 
  • What is my premise?
  • What is my theme? 
  • What moves me in my story? 
Sometimes writers, especially pantsers, need to write to the end of the first draft before some of these questions can be answered. Take some time when you've finished the first draft to let your mind meander -- otherwise you're back to polishing doorknobs to empty rooms.

Here are some wise words from Anne R Allen: '...Get that book finished—some will love it, others will hate it—but the writer keeps on writing.' {Click on her name to read the full article - excellent.)

Thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh for this monthly meme. Click on this link to read more 'stories'.

  • What editing tips can you share with us? 

And in July, RomanticFridayWriters' theme is HONEYMOON. First post, Donna Hole's introduction to the history of the honeymoon on Friday July 5th. 









63 comments:

  1. i'm very good at number one tip of writing a bad draft...!! :)

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  2. Some fantastic advice here, Denise. Many people have no idea of the amount of editing needed, even in short pieces. I am going to link to this post when I next do my own blog. (Today or Friday, depending how everything else goes!)

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  3. Great advice and I completely agree with you. Only one chance at that first impression. One chance with your reputation. Hire a professional editor! Don't be part of the problem.

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    1. I'd like to see stamps on ebooks -- 'Edited by ....'

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  4. This is awesome advice, and I need it cos I'm to start working on my second draft! *shivers*

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  5. Great reminder, so true that there's no second chance at first impressions.

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  6. Great post Denise. the one that helps all these is: Put your ms away for a time
    Because after a month or more you read your MS more as a stranger would read it and the mistakes and problems flash out like distress beacons.
    Love all those tips.

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  7. Murder Your Darlings. I like that! I do have an editor, but I feel it is necessary as I just cannot do the editing myself. Critique partners are important too. And they're free!

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  8. All great advice, it amazes me the number of writers who don't believe in editors and refuse to use them. They also seem to be the folks that answer negative reviews too. Hmm!

    Looking forward to the history of the honeymoon!

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    1. I've read plenty of those ebooks Yolanda and I don't get far before I stop!

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  9. Advice: Keep changing the fonts. Thanks for your great advice. New to IWSG.

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    1. A warm welcome Molly! I use colours!

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  10. Excellent advice.
    Except I do edit the small stuff during the first pass. Crap.

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  11. A helpful and enlightening post, as always, Denise. I was a writing network for years and the better writers were the ones who taught me how to write. Having other people look at our writing is a step that's not to be missed on the publication journey.

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  12. Good advice! I'm in the middle of revisions now, and it's all stuff I need to remember. It's a marathon, but it's worth running.

    Great IWSG post!

    Kim
    (This Writer's Growing)

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  13. The best tip - and one I struggle with - is to write a first "bad" draft and then revise. I waste too much time honing each sentence and end up losing my train of thought while searching for a perfect phrase. Great post!

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  14. Excellent advice. I'd also say don't criticise your critique. Saw a comment about another author complaining about a one star review based on poor grammar, they criticised the grammar of the review. Reviewers don't have to present great grammar or writing, but writers do.

    Glad my first draft is allowed to be bad, because it usually is (and so is the 2nd, and 3rd... 57th is usually looking okay).

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    1. Well Margaret Mitchell rewrote chapter one of Gone With the Wind 60 times without a typewriter, so we don't have it so bad huh?

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  15. This was great some bloody good points......

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  16. Great advice, Denise! The only one I would add (which I just experienced) is: be aware that if you make corrections in you Nook, the may get accidentally deleted!!!!

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    1. I'm sorry to hear that. I know you can make multiple edits on your Amazon self pubbed book.

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    2. Hi Denise, I haven't published it. I just read my manuscripts (and my crit partners') on my Nook (it's faster than sitting in front of the computer). Unfortunately, you can delete all your bookmarks/notes with just one click!

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  17. #4 is especially important. I learnt that the hard way in one of my earlier manuscripts. I got all caught up in those little detials and failed to see the massive plot hole that required a complete rewrite to fix.

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  18. Those are really good tips Denise. And yeah you do have to have a strong demeanor to write the first draft - and let it be awful just to get the story down - and then let someone else read it and mention the flaws. And keep in mind that just cuz a critiquer makes a comment doesn't mean you have to take the advise. Keep in mind your target audience.

    But I think it a good idea to have someone outside your genre crit for story structure and technical errors. I never pass up a well meant critique.

    .....dhole

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    1. Where would we be without CPs? I tend to take too much notice of their comments though and fear at times I lose control of my story.

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  19. I think you hit pretty much most of the good tips. #4 is probably one I need to work on. When I'm editing, even first drafts, I tend to do this when you're right, I should be looking at characters and plotting problems.

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    1. But it's very hard to control ourselves, isn't it?

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  20. Wonderful tips! I agree that the first one is so important. I've stifled myself many times by trying to get everything "right" with the first draft. It's not coincidence that those drafts often don't even get finished...

    Happy Thursday!

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    1. Thanks for coming by Dana. Yes, I agree. I often don't finish a first draft because of my 'inner' editor.

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  21. Great post Denise! I'm so guilty of rearranging those Titanic deck chairs too (what a GREAT phrase!!). I agree that it's so important for self pubbers to get an outside editorial view :)

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    1. Yes I love that phrase. I'm practised in the art of rearranging deck chairs, lol.

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  22. 'the proof of your prose lies with the reader, not the writer'

    This is so obvious and yet it still strikes with the full force of epiphany.

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  23. thank you thank you thank you I have been arranging deck chairs for too long

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  24. Excellent post and wonderful advice. Thank you for sharing!

    Mary Montague Sikes

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  25. Great post, Denise. I too get caught up in the nitpicky editing during even early revision rounds. I did find that it was easier to get through a full, not-as-nitpicky read when I had printed my book out on paper, though.

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    1. Yep but when i printed out my full ms i still continued editing online...silly i know...

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  26. Hi Denise .. I suspect flowery writing will be my downfall when the time comes, and can I keep to one subject ... and not spread my thought wings!

    Reading aloud shows up the flaws - I found that by reading my blog posts to my mother on occasions ... thanks for your lovely comment ...

    Cheers Hilary

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    1. Long live flowery writing I say, but no one's listening, hahaha...

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  27. I have a critique partner who was born to murder my prose. He has no heart. No consideration at all for the tender attachments I feel toward my beautiful words. He just slashes and burns his way through my writing, leaving long streaks of red wherever he goes. And I love him for it. :))

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    1. Hahaha...we all need CPs like yours!

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  28. I have a fantastic CP. He isn't afraid to use his red pen and make my first draft bleed. At the same time, he always makes sure to leave a kind word or two in between the all the red. I have learned so much from him. I'm grateful to have him!!

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  29. Great tips, Denise - and I love that Atwood quote in your previous post.
    I tend to need to remember #4 a lot, myself. Copy editing is so much easier!

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  30. Hey Denise! Those are excellent excellent tips. Some of them I've learned the hard way--especially about editing prose when I should be looking for bigger issues. But sometimes learning the hard way is part of the process.
    I can add to your list to always read your ms from another source at least once--like an eReader or printed ms. I catch so many more issues that way. :D

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  31. Hello my dear friend...


    Sorry it took me a while to visit. Spent the week illustrating a cover for Siv Ottem... Such fun. I can't wait for its reveal!

    Also editing my work ... FINALLY. First BG... THEN THE infamous AMBER> Yes, I did look at your notes and I STILL LOVE YOU. NO WORRIES. You certainly had some valid points that I can use. Thanks again for your honesty and TIME.... It is ALWAYS appreciated.

    Thanks for all these great editing tips. I can surely use them. LOL.. But I am rolling along. At least I am back into it again. I had ODeed for a while. Four years is a long time to work on one story. BG, three years,

    I hope to back to the novella sometime this summer. LOL. After all the others are finely tuned. I'll be working on the back cover illustration this week.

    I hope all is well ...

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    1. So excited for your illustrations. Great news. I can't wait to see it either. Writing is hard work, no doubt about it.

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  32. Excellent tips Denise. I would say...keep it aside for few weeks, work on other things and then come back with new eyes to it.

    But then there comes a time when you have to let it go.

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  33. I know Nas. I have let it aside for the hols and will pick it up again tomorrow.

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  34. Excellent advice! Glad to see your advice pretty much mimics the way I edit. :-)

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  35. Those are excellent tips, Denise! The only part I have a real hard time with is to set it aside for a month. The most I can stand is 2 weeks. :P

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    1. I've just put mine aside for 2 weeks and now I'm at it again.

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  36. great tips, dear! Very useful for writers. And glad you like Donnzie's new banner :))

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  37. This is great advice! I'm glad that I found this.

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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    1. Hello Gina. I'm glad it was helpful.

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  38. Great post! I do love all the tips you've outlined here. The advice is practical and inspiring.
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  39. Thanks for the informative post. Good advice, thanks.
    Happy Writing
    Juneta at Writer's Gambit

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