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  1. TheWriteWitch

    TheWriteWitch Active 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!
     
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  2. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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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.
     
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  3. jannert

    jannert 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

    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?
     
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  5. BayView

    BayView Contributor 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.
     
  6. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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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

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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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

    Denegroth Banned

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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

    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

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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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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  11. Walking Dog

    Walking Dog Active Member

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    On an Apple computer, click on the Edit tab at the top of the screen, scroll down to Speech and select Start Speaking. Listening to someone read your document, even if it's the computer, is a great way to gain additional perspective. I'm certain this function exists on PC's, but I don't have one at the moment to see how to do it.

    Think of your editing as simplifying algebraic equations. Go from sentence to sentence and look for words that can be omitted.
     
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  12. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Active Member

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    Everyone calls line edits and proofing SPAG, but they almost never are. In the last drafts, you are editing almost entirely for style. You are weighing grammatically correct phrases and sentences against each other so that they flow, and yes, killing the odd typo at the same time. You have to be willing to annihilate words without mercy, not just fix what's already on the page. Just think of the story as text on paper and pretend it's not yours. Sometimes it helps to read it in another voice to make it seem like it belongs to someone else.

    I want to make a list too.
    • Avoid "empty stage syndrome." Put the character and story somewhere interesting. Use meaningful description.
    • Description is not just visual, and it's not just sensory.
    • Showing works with Telling. Active works with Passive. Every technique is a tool, and it's best to use them all.
    • Avoid giving stage directions. The reader will always see a story you don't. Don't torture them with microgestures like eye movements.
    • Cliche action beats are terrible. (His brow furrowed. Her eyes widened in surprise.) They can be nice in the proper setting, but that's seldom as frequent as the first draft hoped.
    • You have plot/character/setting to work with. Any line that builds two aspects at once is strong.
    • Vary your sentence structure. Do not rely on -ing phrases and as-clauses as addendums.
    • Have a theme and say something new.
    • Crush soft statements that waffle away from a point. Be bold.
    • There's a tendency for FPFP. (First Paragraph, Fancy Punctuation.) That makes the first paragraph stand out in a curious way, like a bro in a head-to-toe matching sports ensemble. Don't be a bro.
     
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  13. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    If I tried to address anything deeper than absolute errors (SPAG, typos, etc.) at the proofreading stage my editor's head would lift off. Line edits are a good time for polishing in the way you've listed, but I've never worked with a publisher who would accept stylistic changes at the proofing stage.
     
  14. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Active Member

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    Sure. I understand. I'm assuming the original post is talking about copy-editing and line-editing too, and not just proofing the ready-to-print version. But for me the changes after the first draft are style issues, almost all of them. They can be sweeping on the second/third/etc. draft (which an editor never sees). On the last draft, they're reduced to one-word edits and an infrequent change of phrase.

    This ignores typos of course. You just need many eyes on the page to find those. Spelling and grammar issues don't show up for me beyond the first draft. My spell checker deals with one, and the other is so easily addressed that it doesn't even register.

    I've worked with many publishers (Dozens? It's because of my many short stories.) and have an excellent publisher now. At the end we nudge words about. The reason for each edit is almost never grammar/spelling. At the final edits, there's always a bit of thought to it because the changes are beyond simple grammar rules. That's why I call it stylistic. Grammar, when you consider it, stops at the sentence level, and any consideration you make beyond the single sentence is stylistic, at least the way I'm using the term. I think maybe we're talking about the same thing and just calling it by two different names.
     
  15. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I think there may be a difference between short stories and novels as well. I would imagine that editors would only accept short stories that were pretty close to exactly what the publisher was looking for already, while they may be more willing to "work with" authors on novels. I've certainly had editors suggest some pretty significant changes to some of my novels (adding a whole new POV to one, shifting focus on several) in order to make them fit better into the company's marketing plans.

    So in my experience there's definitely a a macro-to-micro progression to edits, but I may be making some fairly macro changes well into the editing process.
     
  16. joe sixpak

    joe sixpak Banned

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    ==================

    Realise there are 5 levels of editing that many admit to. Whether it is 3 or 10 is irrelevant.
    You need to start at the top level which is the development edit such as the plot and story structure. Get the big picture in focus and making sense.
    Then work your way down through content editing and revision. Wordsmith here for the best prose.
    Then end up at the lowest level where you line edit or copy edit for SPaG and low level items.
     
  17. Sara Raynott

    Sara Raynott New Member

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    I used this yesterday when I finished the first draft of my first short story. Sitting back and listening to the horrid computer voice read it to me as if I were listening to an audio book had me noticing several mistakes.

    Thank you for the advice @Walking Dog and everyone else who has posted on here.
     
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  18. Casca

    Casca New Member

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    This right here. It seems like such cliché advice but it really is sound. I do HVAC installation and I don't always have all of the material I need to complete a job. I could spend an hour of my time driving to the shop to get exactly what I need or I can take ten minutes to step outside, get some fresh air and then come back and look at it again with fresher eyes. Most of the time, with a little bit of creativity I can do just as good of a job with the material I already have. Measure twice, cut once and all that jazz.

    Luckily when it comes to writing, you're not limited to cuts (edits).
     

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