1. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    Learning to Line Edit

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Edward G, Jan 24, 2011.

    I finished my novel, Caretakers of Eterinity a while back, but no matter how much I've edited it, or my wife has edited it, there are still stupid little mistakes to be found every now and then. I've come to realize I need a line edit--but for this novel, I'm not willing to pay for it. So, what to do?

    My thinking is that I will print it out and read it sentence for sentence starting from the end of the novel and working toward the beginning. I will not allow myself stylistic changes, or revision of any kind--the novel is what it is; this is going to be a line edit only. I'm simply looking for grammar, usage, and punctuation issues or some kind of logical contradiction in the story (e.g., I said it was 2006 and somewhere else said it was 2007), should I spot it.

    This is my plan. Is it the way to do it? Any recommendations?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Your brute force method is probably the best way of doing it without having to pay, and it's the method I would use (minus the printing).
     
  3. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    When I'm double-checking my articles for errors, I always read it bottom-up starting with the grafs at the end. If you read [in order] through the story to edit it, you'll get caught up in the content and won't pay as much attention to what you're editing for. Just a tip. :)
     
  4. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    Personally, I can't edit well off a computer screen. In fact, it's hard to read a lot off the computer screen. That's why I use a Kindle and not something like the iPad for e-books.

    That's exactly why I think I've run into the problems I have, because I've always "read" the story looking for grammatical errors.
     
  5. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    Is there any way to crowd-source it?

    Personally, I doubt it would be feasible - I'm just brainstorming here.

    It may be interesting for several writers in a similar predicament to form an "editing club" or some-such.

    Hmm - here's a couple ideas that are useless to you now, but would be interesting for someone to implement:

    Something like ReCAPTCHA. It would be a CAPTCHA, where people are given blocks of text, and must find X errors. If a set number of these match up with what other people have found, the person is allowed to enter the website/send an eMail/etc.

    Or, a web site where people get paid to edit. If, say, X editors find a particular error, it is flagged for the writer. The writer pays the site for the service, which in turn passes the funds on to the editors based on how many flagged errors they participate in. To keep people from trying to game the system, you can modify this payment by a factor that takes into account how often the editor is wrong (ie no one agrees on a particular edit).

    Sorry I wasn't of any help, Edward. As always, your post has got my noggin knockin'.

    -Frank
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the best way to edit your work [and the way most pros do it] is to print it out in proper ms format and sit somewhere comfy while you read it first just as a reader and then with blue/red pen in hand, as an editor...

    but start from the beginning, not the end, because in addition to finding goofs, you also need to make sure it's all making sense, which you can't do if you go over it backwards...
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find it useful to take it out of the main body of the text in small segements - copy and paste just a couple of sentences in another word document. Work them. Then move on. I also always start at the beginning of the document each time I sit down, once I have made three or four passes without making any corrections, then I start with the second chapter each time and so on. Took me six months to edit my work that way.

    I also make a spreadsheet with the timeline, the characters and brief plot summary of each chapter. (this is useful for making a good synopsis)

    The only mistakes I have found this time reading it, where the ones I didn't have the ability to fix at the time.
     
  8. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Maybe it'd be easier to just focus seriously on the first three chapters. Have those as polished and edited as possible for querying. In a perfect world you'd get agent interest enough they have editor connections. But even the skills learned editing the same thing over and over until it bleeds will help to develop your editing skills in general and other stuff will come quicker as you'll start to get a hang of what to look for and where you're likely to err.

    That smaller amount is easier to handle for groups or crit sharing, too, as it's easier to ask someone to read 3 chapters than an entire novel. I know a lot of people locally that are part of both formal and informal writing groups where people are more than willing to do crit exchanges. That might be an option. Or, at least with a sample size, you might be more inclined to find beta readers from friends/colleagues/hobos/whatever.

    People have shared tips and strategies. For the most part I find the best thing is to just get used to editing. It's a different eye, and it took a long time, but I'm to the point I can basically zone out of the 'content' and just pay attention to editing stuff. Also a double edged sword, because sometimes while I'm reading other people's manuscripts, if they aren't very interesting I can give a pretty competent critique/feedback/review and barely even remember what it was about. Still helpful sometimes, but also a bit embarrassing.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's a major mistake to only polish a few chapters before querying... if you get a request for a full ms, then you'd have to either make them wait till you fix it all up [which may lose them!], or send them a flawed ms [which will definitely lose them!]...

    don't ever query for a novel, till you have a completed ms that's been polished to a faretheewell ready to send out...

    with some non-fiction, you might get away with it, but you'd still be wise to have the whole thing ready to submit when requested...
     
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is something everyone has to weigh up in their circumstances. Two of my manuscipts suddenly have deadlines that are very tight, it will take 6-12 weeks for decisions to be made usually. So I will polish first three chapters of both to the best of my ability ship them off giving myself a further 2-4 months to polish the rest. Worst that happens is a rejection but if my work is requested after the first three chapters have been written then that tells me the manuscript is worth finishing. These two opportunities are too good to miss up not at least trying.

    It won't work if you sit on your backside and don't edit whilst decisions are being taken.
     
  11. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Lots of exaggeration running around these days.

    I'm not saying polish the first three chapters and have the rest of the manuscript a steaming pile of crap. I'm saying focus energy on the first three chapters, instead of the daunting task of the entire novel.

    Then the rest will not only be easier (especially if breaking off another small chunk instead of trying to look at an entire novel on the desk), but will go quicker from the experience of focusing on editing the first part. And the query process takes a long time unless you're very, very lucky, if the writer doesn't stop working, the rest will be polished (or at least better) by the time any requests come in.

    And the OP (by his account) has a completed manuscript that is all in order except for some little things he's having a hard time tracking down. This isn't an instant-rejection from an agent, especially if the first three chapters are solid and prove the writer CAN get the polish to a high shine.

    If people were to not query until a manuscript was perfect, nothing would ever get published, as I don't recall the last book where I didn't find at least one little error.


    Not going to happen: "Sorry, your first three chapters were impeccable, but we found a few spelling errors in the rest of the manuscript, and instead of fixing them or thinking it's a good thing we have copy editors on staff, we're deciding to pass on your manuscript on principle alone."

    But yes, in general don't have the first three chapters polished and the rest sloppy and a huge mess. That's not a good idea, of course, and if someone has to ask if that's okay or assume that's what someone is suggesting when told to focus on the first three chapters, then, umm, just pay a professional.
     
  12. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    That is what I recommend.
     
  13. Boring Editor
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    Edward, how long are you waiting between each edit? Make sure you're giving yourself enough time to not just read what you think you've wrote! Let yourself forget a little, if you're not.

    Also, what font are you using? Monospaced fonts are best for line edits, Courier being the best of the monospaced fonts.
     
  14. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    Best, really? I can't stand it. How do you compare it against (say) Lucida Console?

    For on-screen reading, there are some designed prior to the modern age of Windows that were quite readable and (as extra important in programming) make each character not easily confused with another.
     
  15. Boring Editor
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    Boring Editor Member

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    Yep. Best. Lucida Console is too thick--for me, anyway; if I remember correctly, it's actually thicker than bold Courier. Not nice on the eyes. Not nice on the ink, either!

    Though, in Lucida Console's defence, you don't have to underline for italics as you do with Courier.

    To each his own, I guess. Courier and Times Roman are the most requested. Personally, I hate Times Roman.
     
  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    oh another tip for editing on screen yellow background, with blue writing, may help.
     
  17. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    That sounds like a good plan. The addition of a style sheet as a refrence makes sense too. Once the novel "is what it is" there's no reason to risk getting wrapped up in the story by editing front to back. The only thing I might do differently would be to edit back to front by chapter, rather than for the whole ms. That way each chunk of the book is finished in order if you want to start submitting it -- although it sounds like you'll be publishing it yourself?
     
  18. Heather Munn
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    Heather Munn Member

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    Somehow in reading your original post when you said "print it out and read it" my brain read "print it and read it out loud".

    I wonder if this might actually be worth trying. Tiresome, but the thing about reading out loud is that it prevents you from skimming or skipping anything--so if that's what you're having trouble with, maybe...
     
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  19. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Someone mentioned fonts and what I had wanted to suggest is that you proof read in a different font from what you wrote in, whichever one that might be. Maybe even silly fonts, or the ones that use smaller caps for lower case...
     
  20. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Heather thank you you just gave me a fantastic idea if I read it onto tape/MP3 audiobook style that will pick up things I don't reading.
     
  21. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    I frequently read my work aloud -- which never fails to rouse the curiosity of my faithful collaborators Jessie and Cassie -- it very much helps me to catch lumps and twists in the flow of the writing. But I don't think it would do much for finding gramatical, or structural errors. At least for me.
     
  22. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    It works well for me but that could be because I have everyday speech and thoughts which are in dialect (scots/scouse), however when I read out loud I use the voice I obtained going to speech and drama as a child, which is perfect with its grammar and punctuation lol It is much more formal than my thoughts.

    I am thinking reading it on to tape and then playing it back will also probably help with timeline errors.
     
  23. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    No, it's been about a year since I last edited it. And while I am currently using Times New Roman, I'm going to switch to Courier. That's good advice.

    I probably will publish this novel myself simply because I've seen the editing and Kindle formatting jobs of small presses and many times they simply suck. Plus then I would lose the rights to the book while it remained published in a less than acceptable way.

    I agree--a different font, but I think I'll stick with Courier. Interesting suggestion, though, and I'll probably use it with shorter pieces.
     
  24. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    I've used earth tones: shades of brown with earthy green and brick red, etc.
     
  25. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    does it help ?
     

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