Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Focus Your Editing With Lists & Re-Readings

We often re-read our pieces over and over during the revising and editing process. It is impossible to catch every possible error, awkward moment or inconsistency during a single reading. We might auto-correct in our minds or even while reading the work aloud. 

Here's my editing tip: Read your work with only one issue in mind at a time. And then read it again with another issue in mind. (And yes, this will take a while.)

Start by making a list with two columns. In one column, write a list of the top 5-10 things you usually do well. Then, in the second column, write a list of the top 5-10 things that often trip up your writing. 

Here is an incomplete list of some things you might include in one of the columns: 
Verb tense consistency
Punctuation (particularly commas)
Verb strength (Do you rely on conjugated forms of "to be" often or do you choose more muscular verbs? Do your verbs need adverbs in order to offer a clear action?)
Noun strength (Do you need many adjectives to clarify your objects?)
Plot (Use your outline to check that you have a clear narrative arc)
Character development and consistency

Read through your writing with one of these issues in mind at a time. Start with the list of the things you usually do well. Do you continue to do them well? Then move onto the harder issues: the list of things that don't come as easily.

Don't forget to give yourself some time between readings. Waiting at least a day between a major revision and another revision will help you to have the necessary distance from the piece to edit and revise it. 

What editing and revising tips do you rely on? Click through for more posts on editing and revising

Monday, May 9, 2016

Write!

1. We write to understand. 
2. Our discoveries are our readers' discoveries. 

These two statements have become cliches because they are true.

There is often a line or idea that haunts me, but I don't write it. And then I stop writing because that something is all that I can think about.

Maybe I'm hesitant to write because I don't yet understand the emotion, maybe I feel ashamed or maybe I feel as though I shouldn't reveal a certain secret.

When I'm stuck like this, here is what I try to remind myself: No one has to read early drafts. I might need to write something in order to move past it. This early work might be more therapeutic than craft-oriented. Maybe my readers wouldn't even understand what I was writing anyway.

If I later spend time revising and editing the original piece, I might come closer to something that is ready to be submitted to literary magazines or belongs in a book manuscript. Maybe that original idea, even if it is somehow shameful, can be masked behind a metaphor. I can share the emotion, one that others have likely felt, without disclosing my deepest secrets. This isn't to say that I can't share certain secrets, of course, but there might be times when it isn't necessary for the piece or a larger truth.

This is all to say that you should write whatever it is that you feel compelled to write. See where it takes you. And then revise, revise, revise.