Editing, Writing

How to Trick Your Editor’s Eye

I’m not officially editing my next novel because I haven’t finished writing it, but I do some editing as I write. While I’m waiting for the next scenes to come to me, I go back and read parts I’ve already written, changing bits here and there.

When it’s time to edit the completed work, I use a few tricks to help my editor’s eye read as though I haven’t been staring at all those words for months. I print it, read the story aloud, and send it to my Kindle. That helps me see, and hear, typos, grammar, and punctuation errors, as well as discover the words and sentences I need to move, add, or delete.

Recently, I’ve been editing some short stories, and I created a .pdf of each to share with some critique partners. Yesterday, I sent them something I don’t normally share—a partial first draft. I gave them the first 6,000 words of my WIP as a .pdf, not for them to critique, but for them to give their opinion on the tense I used.

I didn’t take time to read the file at the time, so when I did that yesterday morning, I saw immediately that I’d misspelled a name. I also flagged a few places where my hair-trigger comma gun misfired, a couple of things that needed clarification, a few weak word choices, and a sentence or two I’ll move for better flow and stronger narrative.

Now, I know that reading my work in .pdf format helps me read with fresh eyes. I suppose it’s akin to reading it on my Kindle, but it’s much easier to click Save As in Word and, within a minute, be reading it in Adobe Reader. When this book is fully written and ready for editing, I’ll employ my usual methods, but for a quick peruse of a chapter or two, I’ll be using the .pdf method as another way to trick my editor’s eye.

Your turn: What tricks do you use to make your manuscript look fresh to your eye for editing?

Editing, Editor, Fiction, Novel, Reader, Words, Writing

Word usage. Is it a regional thing?

In case you’re new here, I’ll explain that I’m doing a final polish of a novel. I’m down to rewording a sentence or two and some other nitpicky stuff.  One thing my editor marked in several places was an omission of a word. The pure typos I corrected immediately, but a few other sentences she flagged looked fine to me.

These debated instances are in narrative, but they reflect how I would speak those sentences. I’ve concluded that either my speech is eccentric, or the way I speak is a regional thing. And if it’s regional—how big a region does it encompass? As much as possible, I want to avoid causing a reader to stop, reread, and mentally rewrite. Obviously, the “missing” word stopped her. If it would stop the majority of you, dear readers, I want to change it.

Once again, I need your help.

In each sentence below, a word may be missing. I could make it easier by telling you the word she felt I omitted in these sentences, but what fun would that be? So, tell me, do these sentences read correctly to you, or did you feel the need to supply a missing word?

  1. She looked down at the album as if she needed a visual reminder who Stephen was.
  2. At the least, she owed her an explanation why she’d had to drive all the way over here.
  3. Though she knew it was irrational, she couldn’t still the fear that just outside those beams something huge and solid—a stalled semi, a mountain—waited for them to slam into at full force.

If you comment, please let me know where you grew up. That way maybe I can determine whether I’m just odd or a creature of culture. Well, I guess we already know I’m odd, but you know …

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Critique, Editing, Editor, Feedback, Fiction, Novel, Revision, Writing

When your editor suggests surgery …

After I sent my manuscript to my editor, I received an email from her indicating I should be patient in waiting for her feedback. Less than a week later, I received another email from her. She said though she had planned to work on my book in spurts, fitting it in with other work, once she started reading, she found it hard to stop. That’s good, right?

I opened the attached file and scrolled through. She noted a few places she felt needed clarification or enhancement. She questioned a thing or two. She also found many errant commas, absent quotes, and those tiny missing words that your eye fills in when you read: a, in, of, etc. As I neared the end, I thought, That’s all? Great! Piece of cake edit ahead of me.

But then …

At the end, she’d written a long note. She declared Parts I and II a go. What about Part III? Bottom line—she suggested I cut. CUT!!! Not the whole thing, of course. But, but, but, I thought, I’ve never had to cut before! Well, yeah, maybe a sentence or two. But this was nearly 2,500 words she wanted me to surgically remove!!! Ten pages!!!!!

So, yeah, I freaked.

While I tried to get oxygen flowing to my brain again, the phrase “kill your darlings” swam before my eyes. But when I I could think again, I realized this wasn’t a darling she had told me to cut. It was more an acquaintance. To be honest, I was never 100% sure of that part myself. When I thought about it more, I remembered that a former version of this section was the only one my critique group had ever uniformly given a thumbs down.

She cited solid reasons why this section should go. It delayed the resolution readers would be hungry for at that point in the book. And, probably, this section featured one rejection too many and might turn readers against one of the characters. How can I argue against that?

I’m sad to lose a few lines and images from that section, but it’s history. Now, I just have to put my writer/surgeon hat on and suture that wound.

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Craft, Critique, Editing, Editor, Fiction, Novel, Publish, Revision, Writing

Once more down that editing road

Thank you all for wishing me well on my indie-publishing venture. This being my blog, you’ll be subject to reading about my failures and successes as I learn how to turn a manuscript into a real, honest to goodness book. I’ll try not to bore you with too many details, and I’ll ramble about other things too, of course.

My first step toward publishing my novel is to read and edit—again.  Again.  I confess I expected to have an agent’s input before this book went to an editor. Now, it will be just me. One more time through, and then I’ll pass it to my editor. After I make the changes she suggests, I’ll learn how to format the manuscript for the print and various e-reader versions. (Easy to say; harder to do.)

I think—but you never know—my closest focus on this edit round will be my first chapter. You may remember that after I wrote, edited, revised, pampered, primped, and polished my manuscript, I demoted the original first chapter, and wrote a new opening. The new Chapter One is good, but I’m concerned I left it in foster child status.

In the two and a half years I’ve worked on this book, I’ve had much good advice on what to cut, add, and revise from my critique partners. Now, I will be taking full responsibility. The power is exhilarating, but sobering. I can’t blame anyone else if the type, or layout, or book cover is a failure. Those are minor worries though.

The big worry is that I’m responsible for the story. It’s a story I love. I’ve told it as well as I could. While it’s still in my possession, I can dream about how many others will love it. Once I publish …

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Agent, Critique, Editor, Feedback, Fiction, Group, Novel, Query, Short story, Writing

They’re all going to laugh at you!

Two years ago, I had lost all contact with other writers. I didn’t have a Facebook, Twitter, or WordPress account. I had never even read a blog! But I was back to spending several hours a day writing, and I needed someone who could relate. So, I googled for a critique group in my area. I discovered one that, coincidently, was having its first meeting the next night.

Did I go to that meeting? Of course I didn’t. I finally worked up enough courage to make it to the third or fourth meeting. And that was only because I feared I would quit writing again, if I didn’t have to answer to anyone. So, when one of my sons offered to go with me because he thought I would never do it alone, I realized how silly I was being and forced myself to go.

I had every intention of getting to know the members for a while before I submitted anything, and listening to their feedback on three submissions that night made me question whether I’d ever be ready to let them read anything I’d written. Then, at the end of the meeting the group leader asked if I could submit for the next meeting and, to my horror, I heard a YES come out of my mouth.

For the next two weeks, I debated whether I should quit the group or face them. I kept hearing Piper Laurie, as the mother in the movie Carrie, shrieking, “They’re all going to laugh at you!” Only, I didn’t quite think they would laugh to my face; I imagined they had already laughed when they read my submission. As it turned out, they gave me some helpful feedback on my story—and no one laughed.

In my rational moments, I didn’t believe they should have laughed, that they had real cause to laugh because, for the most part, I have confidence I can write. I just lack confidence in myself as a writer … or something. There’s a fine line in there somewhere. (Explain this, if you can.)

ANYWAY … now, I’m in the agent querying stage for my novel and every time I look at the list of agents I’ve compiled on QueryTracker, I hear that same Laurie shriek. Every time I paste my query into an email and hit that send button, I suffer a moment of what-have-you-done panic. If I’ve been following an agent on Twitter, I unfollow before I query for fear I’ll recognize my query in one of their can-you-believe-this-stupid-query tweets. But, barring a miracle, I have to query if I want to find an agent who can find an editor who can publish my novel.

At least agents don’t carry chef’s knives … right? Right?

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