1. I.A. By the Barn
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    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    How is editing done?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by I.A. By the Barn, Sep 1, 2016.

    So I've completly rewritten my short story. I went through the list of things I did wrong last time and removed the few that came up again. And now I'm left with all this text that I read and go, well, that's still rubbish.
    But I don't know what exactly is making it rubbish. I'm trying to edit without really know how to or what to edit and its driving me up the wall!
    I know everyone has their own editing process but I don't currently have one at all and I have spent the last three hours cutting and replacing then slightly tweaking the same four lines over and over again.
    Does anyone have a process for editing that might help? Thanks.
     
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  2. Scot
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    Scot Active Member

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    Short stories are my preferred format.

    I aim for a single plot.
    No red herrings.
    As few characters as required. (no 'walk-on' parts)
    Make every sentence count.
    Make every word count in every sentence.
    No filler or padding out.
    Eliminate unnecessary detail.
    More active than passive voice.
    Avoid word repetition.
    Avoid consecutive sentences starting with the same word (often the pronouns, I, we, they)
    More showing than telling.
    Dialogue. Minimise tags. Drop them where's there's no ambiguity regarding the speaker, or substitute a beat.

    When it comes to Spelling & Grammar.
    Watch out for words correctly spelt but out of context. (see what I did their?)
    Misplaced pronouns resulting in the reader having to scan back to see what 'it' referred to.
    Correct use of paragraphs.

    Note: I seldom never get it all right!
     
  3. Sal Boxford
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    Sal Boxford Active Member

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    How do you know it's rubbish? Maybe you've just worked on it too much recently? See how you feel about it in a couple of weeks.

    I'd second everything @Scot has said, with 'make every sentence count' as the number one thing to keep in mind.

    I'd add: reading the whole thing out loud. Awkward phrasing, confusing exposition, poor explanations/descriptions, overlong asides and of course clunky dialogue - all these things come out when you read out loud.
     
  4. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've read several books on editing, but they didn't help. The only system I've ever come up with is to imagine myself telling the story to someone out loud, but with mostly-proper English.

    That sounds about right. Go for flow and rhythm and pay attention to what sounds repetitive.

    Repetition, unless it sounds like it's been done on purpose, will stand out. The best way to combat this is to repeat the word/phrase for a third time and make the meaning of the paragraph depend on that repetition.
     
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  5. EditorM
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    EditorM New Member

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    I think it can be incredibly hard to assess your own work. So either hand it over to someone who has a good eye, or pay for a freelance person, or let the script sit in a drawer for a few months at least and THEN approach it as a stranger. If you are super keen to edit it yourself, this would be my method. It would normally take me a two weeks to thoroughly edit a 60k manuscript, and there is a significant time needed to 'process' what you're thinking and then being able to verbalise it. Yours is a story story so should take a few days.

    1) Read a few chapters at a time, and where you feel something isn't right, mark it - right down thoughts, questions. You don't have to have a coherant thought process at this time, it's a bit like making markers for yourself to remind you of what 'niggled you' when reading.

    2) After you've finished a chunk, take a break and let your thoughts settle. Hopefully you're also an avid reader so you can make some comparison with books that you have liked, and start to get a sense of problem themes are emerging. For example you could feel that a character is too quiet, or if you're not 'immersed' enough in the story, there might be too much telling rather than showing. Does that make sense?

    3) Continue in chunks like this until the end of the book.

    4) You now need to stitch together the overarching, hopefully fixable problems within the book. Doing this would involve flicking through the ms again, and the notes and structural edit notes (is a chapter superfluous? Is the cliff hanger too tame?) as well as character notes and any commentary on the language itself and the 'flow'.

    5) Spelling and grammar are important but in my mind the least important parts to worry about. I personally wouldn't touch this until you're nearing a final draft as rewrites would end up changing the words anyway!

    6) If you're still stuck, I would go back to basics and check that the premise/ concept itself is sound and appealing. You could do this by creating a shortened paragraph of your story, and then 2 liners blurb for your story. Does it sound exciting to you? Run it by some (honest) friends. What you want to know from them is 1) What is your first thought when reading this blurb? What would make you NOT pick this up?

    Alternatively, take 1-2 of your favourite short stories from published writers and run the same sales blurb + back cover copy. How does your compare?

    As always these things are always highly subjective, but this is the method I use and I hope it sheds some light on a possible way to tackle editing. It can be draining but very rewarding!
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2016
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  6. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    By any chance, did you give yourself permission to write crap? Really, that seems to be popular advice, but it also makes the editing process that much harder, I believe. Chances are it's probably not as bad as you think. That doesn't mean it doesn't need work, but I know I feel that way when I realize I have a lot of work to do before it's ready for possible publication. Don't overthink the editing. It's really just a matter of reading your story and fixing things along the way. Then you do it again and again. Work with what you can. Rewrite what you have to. I like to edit as I write, but even with what could be considered a clean draft, my work usually could use a round or two of revision to really be as good as I can get it. Revision is hard work. In some ways I think it is harder than the original writing process. And I think it is totally normal to feel like you don't know what you're doing and you don't know if things are getting better. Keep working. You'll get there. And I hope you have a truly great story by the end of it.
     
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  7. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    I would say short stories are my thing as well. But if this is this is you do-and-don't list, we are really writing different kinds of stories. And it also must mean we read different things. Since when can't you have a red herring or subplot or walk-on characters? Those things are in short stories all the time.
     
  8. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Not the prefered method, but this handy 12 step program is how I do it:
    1. write something brilliant.
    2. let it sit untouched for a month or so.
    3. fix the less than brilliant bits.
    4. show it to alpha reader (bang heand on wall)
    5. fix the less than brilliant bits.
    6. offer it for critique (bang head on wall)
    7. fix the less than brilliant bits.
    8. send to grad student for proof reading.
    9. fix the less than brilliant bits.
    10. offer to beta readers (bang head on wall)
    11. fix the less than brilliant bits.
    12. send to editor, be told it'd be brilliant if you'd just fix these few bits.
     
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  9. I.A. By the Barn
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    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    Aha. Yep. I use the edit as I go method for my novel (it's only a third done and I've been working on this edition of a first draft since January :bigoops:), but I thought I'd better get a short story done quick so yes, I did allow myself to write crap. Never doing that again...
     
  10. Bolu Kai
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    Bolu Kai Member

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    Random Editing Advice/Rant:

    I haven't have a chance to read through all of the other posts yet, but I would say that the key to editing well is by changing your stance. We can all agree that editing and writing are two different monsters. You don't want to read your story as the person who wrote it, you want to read your story as an editor, someone who doesn't know everything about the story. As a writer you write the story you want to read but as an editor you need the story to meet certain standards so that it may be published (even if you never publish it). Some of these standards may include: how relatable or believable a character is, story consistency, logic, sentence structure, wording, and grammar.

    You need to be objective, not subjective. Being objective will allow you to see the fault in your own work. This is not easy, not for anyone. Slicing off a chunk of a story I worked so hard to complete is among the most difficult things I have to do as a writer. This difficulty exists because I'm attached to the work, it's my baby. Sometimes things just need to be cut out. Sometimes what your cutting works, but not in its current format. You need to rewrite or add to the sentence, paragraph or chapter.

    What I find most helpful in editing is to take a break once you have written it. Do not edit it right away. I promise it will make for poor editing. You are in the moment, you believe you just wrote the best thing in the world. You're completely biased because your on a writing high. Take a break, a day or so. Come back to what you wrote and read it again. Is it as good as it was before? Maybe you noticed some wording you cannot believe you used, or grammar issues. I believe I first heard about this "break" method from an Ernest Hemmingway quote. In addition, editing is a eternal process; It never truly ends. Even once it's published, there will be certain lines or characters you would have tweaked. I know for a fact that I see spelling and grammar errors in some of the books I read. I sometimes revisit some of my completed stories and see so many issues. Editing never ends, there will always be something to fix.

    Hopefully I didn't repeat something someone else already said, and more importantly, I hope this helps!
     
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  11. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    OK, here for what it's worth, is my method.

    1 Complete the first draft.
    2 Get out all the misspelled keywords list and run through them one by one - eg search every their vs there vs they're one by one and check to see it's the right one. There are lists of these online.
    3 Hit the computer spelling and grammar checkers. Turn them all up to 11 and use them one by one. Mostly what they find aren't mistakes, but they make you examine your text line by line. Also as an aside don't add any words like names to your dictionary. Leave them as wrongly spelled. This helps because during this stage you can then finally, add them one by one, making a note of every word you add, and then when you come up to each new red squiggle, go through your list and check to see you haven't already added it. If you have - then either this one or the one you added is a typo. This process takes days by the way. And then finally use one of those programs that reads the text out loud - it helps you pick up things you wouldn't otherwise.
    4 Beta readers. It's time to get down to the story details, and you can't usually do this yourself, so send it out for other, non editor eyes to look at. Get feedback, and make a judgement call as to what feels right and what doesn't. Ask them to make comments throughout the body of the text (Microsoft track changes). Give each and every comment serious consideration and remember you aren't always looking for the obvious. If they say "I don't understand this" go back to this section and ask - why don't they understand it? Was it not explained well? Is the writing awkward? Does it conflict or else not get forshadowed earlier on? Also ask them to think on the characters / the plot etc. Do they find it enjoyable, gripping?
    5 By the end of this you now have your second draft.
    6 Off to the editor. Use someone you know and trust. Now on the first edit you want him to be looking for mostly writing issues. Repeated phrases that become annoying. Passive voice that doesn't work. world building in the action scenes.
    7 Take it back, use your judgement and create the third draft.
    8 Back to the editor. Now you're zeroing in on those spelling and grammar mistakes. Your story should already be tight, your plot worked well.
    9 Create the Fourth draft and when it's back in your hot little hands you should have something publishable.
    10 Now it's off to the formating gods in your little idiot box, and this is not as easy as it sounds. Decide on your preferred formating style, delete annoying blank lines, (having reveal hidden characters will help with this), make sure all of the doc is justified etc, do the rest and then make sure the final doc is in Word - either 2000 or 2007.

    Now it should be ready to go.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  12. HistoricalScience
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    HistoricalScience Active Member

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    Previous posters have given some good advice but, in my opinion, editing is never done. Things can always be improved.

    "Art is never finished, only abandoned." - DaVinci

    Edit: Misread title as "When is editing done?"
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2016
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  13. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I am going to disagree strongly with this bit of advice.

    If you do not add words, place names, etc as you go, you run the risk of the spelling/grammar program shutting itself down. This happened to me because I use a lot of historical place names, nouns, etc. Places like Olbia, Gelonus, Noricum, etc were highly important in the Iron Age, but don't exist by those names today, so are not in my dictionary. Neither are cultures of people like Halstatt or Lusatian. I imagine sci-fi writers run into the same problem, where the dictionary simply doesn't recognize their words.

    If you take the time to add the word to the dictionary the first time you use it, you will spell it correctly for the rest of the book. (And into perpetuity.) And you won't run the risk of the spell-checker having a mental breakdown, which is a complete PIA because you can't just go into tools and turn the thing back on. You have to add the words, and then copy and paste your entire manuscript into a new document because once spell-checker checks into the mental hospital in that document, there's no getting it to come back out and play sane.
     
  14. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    You can restart your spell checkers etc. But if you add words as you go and add say two different versions of eg Gelonus by accident, which is easily done, you will never be able to use the spell checker to identify the incorrect version. Usually by the way I find that the grammar checker is the one to fail.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  15. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Hi Greg;
    I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. Since I have to input place names into a spreadsheet before I use them to record things like present name/location, date present name was first used, oldest recorded name & by whom, archeologial evidence of first habitation, cultural group, language group, etc. It just makes sense to add it to the dictionary at that time. Then as I write, if I get the red squiggle, I can simply right click, choose it from the menu and keep going.
     
  16. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    enhanced-22958-1460750356-1.jpg
     
  17. Crybaby
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    Crybaby Contributing Member

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    I'm making that face right now :(
     
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  18. Crybaby
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    Crybaby Contributing Member

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    I'm not gifted at editing...at all. From what I have read on this forum, I am a bad, bad writer. I can make up stories but writing them well is turning out to be a mega challenge. The unfortunate thing for me is, although I have a few beta readers who have given me constructive feedback, of which I am more than grateful, there is no one I know that could edit to a point I could then send it to a proper editing company without it costing billions.

    Bashing head against the wall right now.:cry:
     
  19. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have a 'cowboy' story on here, a crit piece - [afterwards, I] re-wrote it thirty-seven hundred times, tripled the size, and the complexity. Posted away to a journal nobody reads and 'published' on-line. The original's just as good.

    Same goes for a different short, printed in an anthology - that nobody reads. Even I can't read it. It actually hurts my feelings to read it, even on paper, knowing how I re-arranged her/light/and/brilliant/sparkling/eyes/however eighty-one times. I feel sick to read it. That's probably why no-one else reads it, as the nausea sweeps over my readership.

    But first drafts have an energy, like a shoot-out, peow peow, like it's a genre in its own right. I know people get hooty-tooty about this particular pov, same goes for my celebration of CW as an 'outsider art,' but that's for another day.

    One story, I typed, read twice, posted to editor chap - he published it off the bat. The problem with this guy, though, he's not a very good editor, I really like him, but he doesn't really read the stories, so every time I read my story in his magazine I see how I repeated 'squealed' in three lines running. And we can't all be squealing all the time.
     
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  20. Crybaby
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    Crybaby Contributing Member

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    Hilarious! :superlaugh:
     
  21. Crybaby
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    Crybaby Contributing Member

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    Your too funny for your own good Mr. :superlaugh:
    I'm going to find your western and give it a :read:. I bet it's an alright peice. :supersmile:
     
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