Tag Archives: editing

5 Editing Tips and Tricks for your Manuscript

With The Earl and the Artificer ready for publication in a little over two weeks, I thought I would touch upon one of the major steps in the writing/publishing process: editing.

Editing is one of my favorite parts of the writing process and also one of the most daunting. When you finish your 300 page manuscript and sit staring at the mountain of papers, editing seems like an endless process. Really it is, since you could edit it forever, but at some point, you must edit and release it into the world.

Here are some tips and tricks for getting your manuscript edited and ready for publication:

  • Edit as you go. I know many writers suggest writing a first draft in some sort of adrenaline and creativity-induced haze, but I find that I just can’t do that. If you’re like me, you’re a tinkerer. Embrace that habit… to a point. The problem with editing as you go is you can easily end up not moving forward. If you worry about getting stuck, try beginning your writing session by only editing what you wrote the previous session. That way, you have a certain area you’re allowed to play with, but you do it before moving forward.
  • Make a list of things you need to edit as you write. This goes along with the previous bullet point. To keep you from going back and tinkering or to simply have a good idea of what you know needs to be fixed, keep a list of things you want to edit. It won’t cover the entirety of your editing, but it will ensure you don’t forget thing you had been dying to fix at the time.
  • Know your weaknesses. This may be the hardest aspect of editing. Writers tend to either think their work is perfect or all drivel. Know what you aren’t good at. This can be learned through feedback from writing groups or even reviews of your work. Often, overwriting is a problem in first drafts. Be on the look out for overwriting or over-explaining, especially if you know you are prone to it. I have a problem with lay versus laid, so as I’m rereading my draft, I circle every one I find. That way, I can check it with a chart I have to confirm I’m using the correct tense. It may help to make a list of your known issues that you can reference as you edit.
  • Have someone or something read your work aloud after you’ve edited it. This was an old trick we used in my university’s writing center. If you read something out loud, you’re more likely to catch errors or hear when a sentence is awkward. I usually can’t find someone who is willing to read my 300 page book out loud, but Adobe Acrobat Reader has a text reading feature where it will read your document aloud. It’s like a GPS reading a novel, so some of the pronunciation is awkward. Overall, I found it quite useful for proof-reading my editing novel. I heard the errors and was able to easily correct them on my word doc. Anything that lets me play on Facebook and edit at the same time gets my vote. As mentioned before, this is a trick for after your book has gone through several rounds of editing and is in the final polishing stage.
  • Edit by hand. Yes, I’m killing trees, but I have found that I pay closer attention to what I’m reading on paper and make more thoughtful choices while working on paper versus strictly on Word. On paper it’s “permanent” while on the computer it can be easily changed. It’s all psychological. Plus, there’s less of a chance of being distracted by Facebook or Twitter while working on paper. I also tend to edit my edits as I type them into my computer after hand-editing.
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Plotter, Pantser, Gardener

If you have ever seen an author interview, very often you will see a question about whether the author is a plotter or a pantser.

A plotter is fairly self-explanatory. It means that the author plots out the points of the story before writing (some plot every point, some do only major points).

Pros:

  • Author always know where they’re going
  • Organized- less time spent figuring it out as they go
  • Easier editing (probably)

Cons:

  • Lacks spontaneity
  • Author may not feel the need to write as they already know the ending
  • Author spends a lot of time prepping and not writing

A pantser is named such because the author flies by the seat of their pants while they write, typically not making use of an outline or using a very vague one.

Pros:

  1. Plenty of room for change
  2. More writing, less planning
  3. More “fun” for the author who enjoys surprise

Cons:

  1. More editing (probably)
  2. The author may get stuck more often
  3. Messy, which doesn’t work well if the author is more of a structured person

Most authors fall along this spectrum of rigidity, but what about if you fall somewhere in the middle?

This is where the gardener comes in.

I describe a gardener as someone who begins with a basic plan but allows for a lot of wiggle room. It takes the best of both worlds when it comes to plotting and pantsing. Why call it a gardener? Well, a gardener has an idea of what they want the garden to look like when they start. They know where the plants will go and maybe what types they want. They plant the seeds (plot strings) and tend them until they grow to full-bloom. Along the they way prune or add fertilizer as needed. They may notice that a plant needs to be moved or gotten rid of, and they take that into consideration as they tend the garden. As a gardener, I have a hard time thinking of cons because the style of gardener varies greatly with the writer. It can be a bit messy and will lead to at least some editing later, but it lacks the rigidity of plotting and the “winging it” aspect of pantsing. Here is an outline I wrote while working on The Earl of Brass:

eilian-hadley outlinePlease ignore the crazy diamonds, I was marking off what I covered at the time. As you can see, the major points are plotted out with arrows from event to event. What you can’t see from the final product is that I actually filled in several major events that I knew I needed, and then I added the smaller events in between. This is the basic idea of a gardener. They know the major points and fill in the smaller ones along the way but not to the point of completely locking the plot. For me, I need flexibility while I write to let my characters breathe and do their thing. They often surprise me, and I haven’t been disappointed yet.

So are you a plotter, pantser, or gardener?


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A Sloppy Update

Become-a-writerFor hours I wracked my brain to figure out what I was going to write today and still came up with very little, so please excuse this meandering and somewhat aimless progress update.

Well, for the first time in a while, I have actually been writing pretty consistently. I wish I could tell you what has suddenly caused this change in productivity. Part of it I think it is shaking off the transition period from the end of the semester, but I think a lot of it is taking the pressure off myself. For a while, I was telling myself, “You will write 1,000 words or you are a terrible writer!” Well, that doesn’t accomplish anything and only makes you feel bad about yourself when you don’t reach that goal. Then, I tried not editing anything while writing. I ended up getting frustrated because there were scenes I was itching to fix and it made it very hard to go forward.

Now, I have been sticking to what I like to call the croissant dough method. It can also be called two steps forward and one step back. When making dough for croissants, you need to continually fold it and layer it with butter. By building up the dough and breaking it down, you make a richer product. What I do is reread what I wrote during my last writing session and tinker with it. I tend to build-up scenes when I do this sort of editing because I have a tendency to write before bed, which leads to missing words and skimmed scenes that need to be beefed up later. By doing this, I also become reacquainted with my work, which makes it much easier to move forward.

In terms of word count, I’ve told myself that I need to write daily, which I’ve done all week thus far. My goal is to write between 500 and 1,000 words each day, and for the majority of the week with the exception of two days, I have been able to do that. This actually surprised me because in the past I have not kept up with it when I set word count goals for myself. I will admit that it felt like it took forever to get to 10,000 words, but now that I have passed that milestone, the words seem to flow easier.

Right now, my biggest issue is trying to weave in the many threads that will make up the plot for the rest of the book, and because I’m not that far into the book, I feel like I am sitting in the middle of a yarn basket. Well, hopefully as I reach the middle of the book, these threads will weave and knot and eventually form a story. For now, I keep telling myself that I’m not even a quarter of the way into the narrative and can’t rush things.

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May 2015 in Review

Starting in January, I decided it would be a good idea to look back at each month and see what I have accomplished in my writing and marketing as well as reflect upon what needs to be improved in the future.

School’s out for summer! May has been the month of sweet freedom. Unlike April, which was stressful and made me want to tear my hair out, May has been lovely. Currently, I am at home except for one day a week where I work at my office job, and now I finally have time to write and read, which means, I can hopefully get a lot of work done in preparation for the fall semester. Yes, everything revolves around grad school… and writing, which is practically the same thing when you’re working toward an MFA in creative writing. Shockingly, I think I accomplished most of the goals I set last month.

What I did accomplish:

  1. Finished my last bit of schoolwork and received good grades
  2. Continued to blog and create a monthly newsletter
  3. Wrote 2 chapters of The Earl and the Artificer
  4. Edited The Earl and the Artificer
  5. Read 3 novels, a novella, and a short story (and began Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell)
  6. Didn’t stress out at the Steampunk World’s Fair

Goals for June:

  1. Write 4 chapters of The Earl and the Artificer
  2. Work on creating a routine to be able to write every day
  3. Read every day
  4. Continue to produce content for my blog and newsletter
  5. Research marketing (possibly buy Susan Kaye Quinn’s marketing book)
  6. Get out of the house more

The last goal may seem a bit odd, but as an only child who lives at home and has the summers off for the most part, I become a hermit– a cranky, bored, semi-delusional hermit by the end of the summer. Cabin fever does not help my productivity, so this summer I am hoping to maybe get out a bit more when possible. I’m hoping that on Thursdays when my boyfriend is home from work that maybe we can go to the beach and sit and write/draw by the water. We are also celebrating our 10th anniversary in June, and while we probably aren’t doing anything that spectacular, I am still amazed that we’ve been together this long.

Anyway, getting back to goals, I only wrote two chapters this month. Part of this was due to my transitional period between school and vacation and the rest was caused by my own confusion regarding my plot. That week between the end of the semester and vacation beginning was a sort of limbo for me. My brain was still in work-mode, but I didn’t have any work to do and my story was not coming to me because I had been pushing it away for so many weeks. At that point, it felt like all I could do was read and recover from a lovely cold I developed at the same time. The other issue was my confusion regarding the plot of my current project. From writing bits and pieces over the course of a few months during the semester and never truly focusing on my book, I had no idea really where the story was going apart from the major plot points. If I don’t know where I’m going, I end up not going anywhere.

A good chunk of May was devoted to rereading The Earl and the Artificer and plotting what points I covered and what points needed to be addressed in the next few chapters (introducing certain characters and facts). As I reread it, I edited what I had, tightening the plot and beefing up some of the descriptions and scenes. I must admit that I tend to panic when the beginning of a story takes me a while to get into. Somehow I forget that I do this with every book, but when the threads of the plot are incredibly loose and not yet knitting together I worry they never will come together. I keep reminding myself that they will. I just need time and words.

Right now, I’m hoping to sit down in the next day or two and loosely plot chapters 6-10 of The Earl and the Artificer, so I can get cracking for the rest of the month. Maybe I’ll even be able to slip in a short story for the Ingenious Mechanical Devices universe or possibly for an anthology I have been looking into. One thing I have noticed with my writing is that it tends to pick up when I’m reading an inspiring book. Currently, I am reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and I am loving it. It’s a huge book compared to what I usually read, but it’s moving quickly and I catch myself reading it as often as possible. Because of its size, I haven’t given myself a set number of books to read this month.

As a final note on May, I decided to run a sale where I set both books to 99 cents for a few days. I accidentally set it for Memorial Day weekend, and I’m not sure whether it was a good or bad thing because tons of authors planned sales for that weekend but it was the first official week of summer when people look for beach reading. At the same time, I ran an ad with Ereader News Today and sold quite a few copies of both books. Part of the reason I like to run sales is not necessarily to make money off of it (especially since the mark down obviously cuts my royalty) but to get my books into the hands of new readers. At 99 cents, readers are much more likely to take a chance on an unknown author, and after running the sale, I received a few more reviews and hopefully gained a few more readers along the way.


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The Importance of Proofing

I had a minor rude awakening this weekend.  My proof copy of The Winter Garden came last weekend, so I decided I would give the book one more round of proof-reading to find some leftover typos and make sure everything was in order.  I quickly found out, it was not perfect.

Somehow italics in certain chapters magically disappeared.  No idea how it happened, but somewhere between the original file and the paperback, half the italics in the book did not translate.  Luckily, I discovered the issue Saturday night and fixed it using Word’s compare draft feature along with control-find.  At times, I wish I didn’t reference so many books or have my characters think so much, but the issue did make me very aware of what nearly skated under my quality-control radar.

This is why when you create a paperback, they send you a proof-copy to check over.  At first, I didn’t notice it because half the book had italics (sprinkled throughout), but chapter two didn’t along with many others.  Comb through your manuscript with eagle eyes.  Take your ebook or original copy and compare it to your paperback because that is how issues like this are spotted. I didn’t notice it until I was correcting typos and had my Word file for the ebook and paperback editions both open and saw that a book title wasn’t italicized.

Apart from the italics issues, I also caught quite a few typos or awkward phrasings that were easily smoothed. Proofing is a time to put the final polish on your novel and make sure everything is up to snuff. Luckily, now it is all fixed, though I’m sure I’ll find more silly errors within the coming months, but the issues have been caught and the both formats have been finalized for publication.

What am I going to do with the 35 days between now and March 31st when The Winter Garden is released? Hopefully work on book three.  More about that will come as I get further into it.

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DONE with Editing

kindle wg

You cannot know how happy I am to be finished.  Oh, don’t worry, I’ll be finding typos from now until June like spinach in my teeth, but at least the major editing is done and the “final” file has been uploaded to Kindle’s website.

As I have mentioned numerous times, I have a love-hate relationship with editing.  I love being a rock-tumbler for my story and seeing how it polishes up by the end, but it is so hard to reread the same story twenty times and still be interested.  Editing can take me a while because I need to step back and not read about my characters for a while.  Continue reading

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A Little Update

Okay, so this is going to be a cop out blog post.  I’m not feeling that great, but I will post something of substance later in the week.  I have a terrible habit of eating things that don’t agree with me, knowing full-well I will suffer later.  Currently, I’m suffering and going up to school in a few minutes.  So, here come the updates:

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7 Tips for Editing Your Manuscript

editing

I have a love-hate relationship with editing.

Being the type of person who is appalled and embarrassed to have others discover mistakes in my work, I use editing as a way to polish my work before I show it off to anyone.  I have one alpha reader who reads most of my work while it is in progress because she is the most familiar with my characters and can often judge if I have a scene or reaction makes sense, and of course she sees my work in its unedited glory.  She is also my best friend and a fellow writer, who isn’t afraid to say, “Uh, what were you thinking?”  No one else should see it that way.  To me, an unedited work is like being in your underwear.  You don’t necessarily want everyone to see you in that state. Continue reading

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Finishing Book Two and What I Learned Along the Way

wg manuscriptIt’s done.  The Winter Garden is done.

Well, the story is finished.  While I was stuck on the third to last chapter (yes, I had finished the epilogue and part of the pen-ultimate chapter before I started that one), I decided to edit the first twenty-seven chapters.  Now, the editing is done as well and The Winter Garden (Ingenious Mechanical Devices #2) is off to my beta readers! Until they get back to me with their feedback, I will be taking a little hiatus from Emmeline, Immanuel, and Adam.  Every time I finish a novel, it’s a bit depressing.  I’m done with the characters (for now), the plot is finished, the bad guys have been dealt with, and now, I need to step back.  In my next post, I will discuss editing in more detail, but for now, I would like to impart what I have learned after publishing my first book and finishing my second. Continue reading

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The Editor’s Eye for the Writing Guy

Whenever I tell other writers that I have written and published a novel, they often ask me about the editing process.  For many, editing seems like a daunting and seemingly insurmountable task, but with the help of a beta reader or two, the process can become much easier.  I would like to share my process.  It is far from perfect, but it’s what I usually do and what has worked for me.

There are certain things that are needed before going into the editing process: a finished novel, an open mind, a critical eye, and the drive to get it done. 

  1. A finished novel is fairly self-explanatory.  I suggest it being finished only because I can sit and edit constantly and not move forward for months.  If you think of things you know need to be fixed, make a list and keep it somewhere safe where you won’t lose it (been there, lost several).
  2. Many writers see their novels are their children. No one wants to hear their children being criticized, but when it is in their best interest, you may want to listen to your beta readers and what they suggest.  You don’t need to always listen to what they say, sometimes it won’t work or it’s a personal preference, but be open about fixing things. Try not to get too attached to a certain phrase or metaphor.  In the editing process, as much as you love that line, you may need to cut it or tweak it.  I clung to an analogy comparing England to dingy mashed potatoes but realized the entire chapter needed to be reworked and obviously, the potatoes had to go.
  3. A critical eye goes hand-in-hand with an open-mind.  You need to be able to look at your own work and see the problems in it. Where are you lacking? Where is there too much? If you wrote the story over a long period of time, did you style change from beginning to end? There is no way that after a first or second draft your book is ready for publishing.  Look harder for mistakes and issues that need tinkering with.  One cannot always rely on their beta readers to find every issue, so being self-critical will definitely help when perfecting it before it heads into your readers’ hands.  As a reader, what would make you annoyed or want to change?
  4. Seeing a stack of two hundred and fifty pages laying on your table can be incredibly daunting.  How will you get through all of it with all your other life commitments?  My suggestion is to set a manageable goal for yourself each day or each week.  You won’t always accomplish it and other days you will exceed it, but just try to press on and get through it.  if you are having a day where you reread the same line over and over, step back and do something else for a while or try reading a different chapter. No one said you had to edit the book cover to cover, you can skip around.

My process for editing, can be a long one and a repetitive one to many, but it’s like a rock tumbler.  Each revolution through the story polishes it more and more.

  1. My first editing process (if I hold off until the end of the book) is making the edits I have on my list, things I know need to be fixed, which can include changing characters’ ages or descriptions, changes in continuity or style, passages you have been eying since after you wrote them. I may go through this process more than once just to make sure I got everything.  **As a tip, I like to print out my entire manuscript, then make changes with a red pen by writing in the margins or attaching pieces of paper where I have rewritten chunks of a chapter or scene.  If you tend to miss your changes, go over the pen with a highlighter (I prefer pink) to make the changes stand out.
  2. Leave your draft alone for a while.  Putting away, get some distance from it and make it so you don’t recite the memorized phrases instead of actually reading them.  If you haven’t given your book to a few people to read, you should do so now. Their feedback will hopefully be helpful during your next session. Make sure they will give you honest feedback and most importantly, they will actually do it. Explain to them what you want them to look out for and be specific, write it down even.
  3. Read your story, make notes on areas that need correcting or altering and if any areas are boring.  As you go through and tweak things (mine tends to be wording and adding more since I’m an underwriter. If you are an over-writer, you may need to prune your manuscript), highlight them and mark them in a distinctive pen on your manuscript. Take the feedback from your beta readers and see what they suggest.  If it should be changed, do it now. If you are unsure, save it and wait until you are all done and reread the story again to decide if it needs to be done.  Typically, I go through this editing phase about twice. When doing historical fiction or anything that needs research, make sure you fact-check what you are unsure of still.
  4. Leave it for a week or two. Now, reread it. This is going to (hopefully) be lighter editing.  Read it aloud.  Are there words that need changing? Is any of the dialogue stiff or awkward? Sometimes it may be beneficial to have someone read it to you in order to catch awkward parts that sound fine in your head, and during the reading process, you may also come across typos. 
  5. The final stretch! I call this typo time. I was a writing tutor, so I am familiar with most rules of grammar and can correct most of my work (I still need to look up lay v. lie and a few other rules that always need refreshing). If you have certain rules you know trip you up, make an index card of the rule to keep with you while you go through it again, but if you would rather have someone else deal with grammar, I would suggest finding a proofreader online or a friend who is willing to take a look at it. I go over my work with a fine-tooth comb and often hand it off to my mom who is good at catching mistakes I miss.  At this point, you are done fiddling with your text hopefully. Word changes may still occur, but remember the point is fine polishing, not overhauling. If you are still unhappy with it, I would go back to step 3 or 4 for another round or two of edits.

The point of this post is hopefully to empower you to be your own editor.  The input of others is important, but first and foremost, you should be writing a book you want to read. Take the process into your hands and be self-critical without being self-defeating.  It is your work, your book, and while an editor is a great tool, you should ultimately be responsible for perfecting your writing as it is a process through which you will grow to understand your flaws and what you need to do to become an even better writer.

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