1. sparky
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    sparky New Member

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    Editing ideas?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by sparky, Jun 26, 2010.

    When you are editing your own writing, what do you think is the best way to go about it? I have been trying out this method known as "ratiocination" lately. I really like it, but I am wondering if anyone has found another system useful. Thanks!
     
  2. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    First i go trough what I written, and hunting down unnecessary stuff to reduce the total world count 10%. While doing so I mark section that for story reasons needs changing.

    Then I go trough rewriting the things I need rewritten for story reasons. In the same editing round I and some fluff i skipped in the draft. My first draft is mostly sketchy and I skip things like describing the environment properly. So I add that sort of things, sparingly.


    Then since I go on one more hunt for darlings to kill and try to reduce the new word count 5%. The part of cutting down the word count really helps you found the focus of that you try to communicate in each sentence, paragraf and scene.
     
  3. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    First, print the piece out. It's so much easier to spot errors on paper, than on a screen.

    Then, read through it at least once, maybe twice, before you even touch your editing pen. Also, reading it aloud can help find where there are problems with rhythm and flow (if it's particularly a problem, you might consider recording yourself reading it, and listen back).

    Then, go through it with your pen, circling errors, crossing out, writing corrections. w176 is right, usually the problem is that the first draft is too verbose and the word count has to be slaughtered, but I personally avoid a hard and fast rule about that. Take out what doesn't need to be there, and if there is something missing, that absolutely needs to be in the story, then add it in.

    Another thing that helps, is letting someone else (preferably a writer or avid reader themselves) read it over. They will often spot problems that you yourself (as the writer) won't notice, as you're a lot more familiar with your characters and what you're trying to get across than a reader would be.
     
  4. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    I find that after your initial typo hunt, setting the piece aside for a day (or longer, depending on the word count) so you're not so familiar with the text that you read it without reading! I definitely edit under the zealous banner of 'less is more'.

    Also, I'm unfamiliar with the context in which you use 'ratiocination'. When it's not field-specific, it just means the process of logical reasoning - which is a very good idea whilst writing in general!
     
  5. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    To clarify. The -actual- philosophy I have is to push yourself towards the unforgiving numbers because then you need to play advocate for the writing. If you know that 200 words more needs to disappear your chapter and you find yourself that you -maximum- can take away 30 more words before you start ruining things then you will just take away those 30 words.

    The 5%, 10% or whatever pro cent is there to make you push yourself to kill your darlings and think really hard about what to keep. Your draft might need 11,2% trimming or 8,6% or something. But if you just sets out to "trim away a little" a newbie will probably trim away waaaay to little.
     
  6. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Yeah, that's a fair point :) My tendancy is against black letter rules, but I can see what you mean and what you're going for there.
     
  7. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    I was just wondering if you keep alluding to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch with this phrase?
     
  8. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep. Sort of.
     
  9. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    Ah, I see. The ethos is slightly too homicidal for my tastes.

    This is definitely more practical!
     
  10. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am way too self-critical to successfully edit my work at this stage. :p And with strict word counts for publishing in there, I'd be bad at cutting anything. Yep, I'd need somebody to proofread my work, but that's just me. I'm more of a movie transcriber to be honest. I transcribe mental movies that pop into my head. So yeah, editing is definitely something I need help with cause I am just not a natural editor. :p
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    printing out your ms for a first edit is always a good way to start... after you've incorporated all the changes/deletions/additions into the computer file, you should then be able to do a couple of proofing reads on-screen easily enough and only need to print out your final draft for one last eagle-eyed proofread, to make sure it's as polished as you can get it, before querying/submitting...

    as for having others read it over, be sure they're at least somewhat knowledgeable and if friends, family, or lovers, that their critical comments won't put your relationship at risk...

    hugs, maia
     
  12. rainy
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    rainy Senior Member

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    Check your word count for a general idea of where you are in the "standard". Some people tend to overwrite. Ie, if the manuscript is 175k words, you know you have some serious axing to do. On the flip side, if it's only 40k and your genre tends to be closer to say, 80k, you might have been too sparse on the description or dialogue. This is just example, not any rule of thumb.

    Really read it. Slowly. Learn to read a sentence as a sentence, and a paragraph as a paragraph. The scene might be great, but you might have a sentence that, itself, is a bit clunky. Or a paragraph that is simply formatted wrong. I suggest if at all possible, read a few pages, take a break, then start on the next few pages, etc. That way you're giving each section fresh eyes instead of reaching a point where your eyes are like donuts...glazed over :)

    On a similar note, as your reading, check for scenes that fall completely flat. If there's a lot of dialogue, add some action. If there's a lot of action, you might be able to squeeze in some meaningful dialogue. Flat scenes can be rewritten to solidify other events in the story. Don't be afraid to use cayenne pepper instead of black pepper.

    Print it out and red-ink.

    Read it out loud. For reals. Not just mumbling to yourself. If your SO isn't gonna listen, try the cat. No really. . .if you at least feel like you're reading it to someone, then you'll speak louder. And easier to catch stupid sentences ;)

    Try to find a couple of people that are interested in your topic and have them read it front to back. If you're not having much luck, try bribing with cookies. Hostage situations are frowned upon.

    Don't post the whole thing on WF. Cog will beat you ;) (kidding.)

    Once you're done with the spending every Friday night slowly reading pages between sips of coffee, and ignoring the "where the heck are you?!" text messages; once you're done *utilizing* office supplies for printing your manuscript; once your cat absolutely hates the sound of your voice; and once you know all your friends' favorite cookies--leave it alone. Just leave it. Don't think about it.

    Do something else.
    Write another book (if you dare).
    Take up knitting.
    I hear downhill longboarding is fun.
    Something.

    Then, read it one more time, to yourself.

    You may want to leave time for psychiatry visits. But that's only if you want help.

    //R
     
  13. izanobu
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    izanobu Senior Member

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    I finish and give it to my first readers. Then when they get back to me I fix anything they tell me (that I agree with), make a final pass for typos/errors, then send it out and get to work on the next thing (if I haven't already started it after finishing).
     
  14. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    You give it to people to read before you do a typo/error check? For some reason, that seems quite odd.
     
  15. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    +1,

    If your readers are distracted by all your mistakes, how do they give you any valuable feedback?

    - Andy
     
  16. theSkaBoss
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    theSkaBoss Member

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    Since he used the wording "make a final pass for typos/errors," I'd be willing to bet that he did an initial sweep for them before or during that point where he said he finished right before he handed it over.
     
  17. izanobu
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    izanobu Senior Member

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    She, I'm a girl ;)

    I have two readers I use for most things (for novels I have a couple more). One is very good at line edit type pointing out of stuff (though I always make sure to get his opinion as an avid reader of how the story flows as well). So he catches more typos than I would anyway. It's good when choosing first readers to know what someone's strengths and types of advice will be. I have mine read as readers/consumers first, editors second. Basically, my readers know not to be distracted by minor errors (if they couldn't multitask enough to point out a typo while still grasping the story, I'm not sure I'd want them as a reader...).

    And frankly, the more I write and practice, the fewer errors in the line stuff I make in the rough draft. And for novels I do a sweep revision, ie I read back over the previous day's work and comb it for errors before beginning the new pages, so my novels are fairly clean of those types of errors when I pass them on. So I kind of revise as I go, I guess. It's hard to explain :p

    And at the end of the day, a typo or two won't sink a manuscript in a slush pile. Lots of spelling/grammatical errors will, but a few? That's what an editor is for, it's part of their job. If the story is awesome, they'll just buy it and ask for a revision. It's part of the process.

    I think a lot of writers get paralyzed thinking something has to be "perfect" and then never really finish anything because they're still "revising". I follow Heinlein's Rules here: don't rewrite except to editorial demand. So I make my quick passes through the manuscript (fixing the things my first readers point out that I agree with and doing a final sweep for minor errors) and send it out. No one can buy work you aren't submitting.
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    ow many "minor errors"? If the manuscript is laden with spelling and usage errors, poor sentence structure, and misplaced punctuation, it's rather pointless to critique the flow and overall qiuality, as too much of the writing will need to be changed in correcting "minor" mistakes.
     
  19. izanobu
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    izanobu Senior Member

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    I'm talking a few typos and a few punctuation errors, Cogito, not a manuscript full of errors such as those you speak of. That many line-level errors would mean, to me at least, that I need to learn the basics of the English language (or whatever language is being written). Clearly if you can't communicate effectively to a reader, then it doesn't matter how good the story is because you're not telling it in a way someone can understand. But line level issues are generally easy to correct (just takes a little education and some mindfulness on the part of the writer), unless there's a learning disability at play, in which case more in depth methods might need to be looked into. But anyone without a disability who has gotten through of middle school in this country *should* be able to write comprehensibly enough that the errors they do make can be corrected with mindfulness and the few that slip through can be fixed by an editor.
    (For example, I have a few words I consistently misspell. I know that I do this, so when writing I pay attention to my weak spots).

    The point is that a manuscript that isn't totally perfect but has a kick-butt awesome story will still sell. A manuscript with no errors that tells a boring story won't. Story-telling (and all the parts that come with that) is more important than line-level. It's also far more subjective and harder to critique, which is why often line-level writing gets more attention than story-level stuff. (e.g. I might think character X has no depth and isn't interesting, while my friend might think the same character is awesome, complex, and that the writer shouldn't change a thing. However, both my friend and I can agree that definately is misspelled. Line stuff is easy. Story stuff is harder.) Get the story stuff right (ie hit an editor's reader cookies), and minor (not incomprehensible prose via errors) line stuff won't matter.
     
  20. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    Your argument is based on the two strengths being mutually exclusive. You can have a kick-ass AND polished writing!

    You'd be surprised how many submissions get through onto the heap because of a poor attention to detail.
     
  21. izanobu
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    izanobu Senior Member

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    No, I'm saying that having a few errors and being stressed over whether something is perfect or not to the point that you spend forever trying to "fix" it, isn't productive :p I'm saying don't worry that you haven't caught everything.

    and mostly, I was explaining *my* process, which is just that, mine. Works for me, might not work for someone else. The original question was along the lines of "how do you edit", so I said how I did, which confused people it seemed, so I was just trying to clarify why I do what I do.
     

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