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  1. TheWriteWitch
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    TheWriteWitch Senior Member

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    Advice Needed on Self-Editing

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by TheWriteWitch, Oct 11, 2016.

    I'm fully armed with SPaG, but have no other productive ideas on how to edit my new short story. I want to post it for the short story contest, and I'm planning to spend the next few days polishing it as much as I can.

    Any advice is welcome, but here are my two biggest questions:

    1. How do you separate from your story enough to see it clearly?
    2. Do you take separate passes looking for specific pitfalls? If so, what do you focus on for each pass?

    Thank you!
     
  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    1. Time. Both from the story itself, and time being a writer, because as time goes on I (and I think many others) find it easier to see my own flaws.

    2. Nope. I do an edit for SPAG when I finish, then let it rest until I've gained distance--usually by starting another project and becoming immersed in that--and then read it like I've just bought it from Amazon. I highlight whatever jumps out at me and fix it. That might be SPAG I missed, awkward phrasing, motivation, repetition, inconsistencies, or anything else.
     
  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    @TheWriteWitch - I'm not a short story writer at all, so I don't know if it's different from what novelists do. But I agree with @Tenderiser about time (and distance.)

    That will obviously be difficult if you're planning to enter your story in the short story contest that ends this Friday, though. Maybe in this case you could find somebody to read it for you and offer some suggestions? That's the best way to achieve distance in a short time period. Get somebody else to look at it.

    However, what you've set out for yourself is probably as workable as anything just now, if you haven't got a good beta handy. Grit your teeth and do it. I'd say it's a good idea to look for certain things with each pass-through. It makes more sense than just jabbing at whatever hits your eye.
     
  4. Desertphile
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    Desertphile Member

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    There are several books on the subject of how to edit a manuscript; many have been written by professional editors who explain how and why they edit.

    The job isn't all that hard:

    o) Start the story in the middle. Editors love to delete first and second chapters, and for good reasons. Never start a story at the beginning.

    1) Delete everything that does not absolutely need to be there. If it does not move the story forward, it does not belong.

    2) Search for every word that ends in "ly" and kill all of your adverbs.

    3) Delete everything that is clever (i.e., elitist or requires special knowledge) unless you are Stephen King or David Morrell.

    4) Kill all clichés. Kill all hackneyed phrases.

    5) Kill all sentences that repeat the same themes.

    6) Check continuity regarding locations, directions, distances, places, time intervals. Can your main characters actually do, here in the real world, what they do in your story? When standing on a street corner, can they actually see what the narrative states they can see? Can they smell and hear what the story says they can?
     
  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that time is the most valuable distancer, but when that's not available...

    Try to print the story out, and read it in a whole different room than where you wrote it. Put it in a different font, preferably a larger one. Read it out loud. Read paragraphs in reverse order (start at the end of the story, work toward the front). Read it while imagining it's being read by someone who really doesn't like you and is looking for weaknesses. etc.

    Try to make everything as unlike the writing stage as you can.
     
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  6. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    apart from 0 and 6 that's really cliched and over generalised advice , to whit

    1) delete everything that does not move the story along, or develop the characters of the participants, or add to the atmosphere you want - there's more to a story than moving it forwards

    2) consider deleting adverbs unless they seem right to you - in particular in dialogue people use adverbs a lot so it will read more credibly if you leave some of them in

    3) id you have stuff requiring specialist knowledge consider whether its necessary to the plot/character/atmosphere if it is make sure its explained preferably without info dumping

    4) consider killing cliche's unless you feel you need them , if you do make sure they are well written (everything worth doing has beeen done before so if you kill all cliches you'll have nothing left

    5) consider killing repetition , unless its necessary to the story structure - for example some stories use repeating lines at beginning and end to bookend the story really effectively (Craig Russel , Lennox is one such example) , or if it seems right

    and 7) - write your own story in your own style, remember that 'rules' are for the guidance of wise men but the blind obedience of fools
     
  7. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    Also looking at the date on the OP I'd say its been submitted by now
     
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  8. Denegroth
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    Denegroth Banned Supporter

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    I have a sledge hammer hanging over my head that's wired to my brain. When I'm editing for grammar and punctuation and I start trying to rewrite the entire story with a striped giraffe as the love interest, my brain triggers the sledge hammer which then falls politely onto the top of my head. I sit straight up with a start and ask myself, "Self...what is it you're doing here....really?"
     
  9. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    "Me...I see what you're doing there....really, you're using a sledgehammer to crack a nut!"

    Actually, giraffes to one side, that's bit of a revelation/good advice; I've developed late onset (own diagnosis) ADHD lately which has me attempt rewrites when I'm supposed to be sweeping for say...extraneous adverbs. Fear of hammer to to head, even politely, may keep me focused.
     
  10. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    For future reference:

    If you have words you tend to confuse, like to and too and their and there, do a search-and-replace for whatever it is and see if you've got the right one in each case. Stay focused while you're doing it, and keep your finger off the "Next" button till you're sure.
     

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