As many of you know from a previous post, I finished my second novel this past July of 2022. Since then I’ve been editing, re-editing, and then editing some more. How many time does one need to read their work before it’s polished? How ever many times it takes. You will know when it’s just right. When you’re done with editing it, give it to another editor who knows what they’re doing. They have those editor’s eyes that will see something you missed that you didn’t think was an issue. Also, give your final draft to a beta reader (or a test reader). Yes, you want to do this. They will give you valuable feedback about your story. Trust me, if there is part of your story that isn’t making sense, your beta reader will spot it.
Before you go beyond the editing YOU are doing, read your story/manuscript backwards. Yes, start with the last page of your story and read each paragraph starting from the last paragraph and working your way backwards. Doing this will allow your brain to focus more on the mechanics of each sentence rather than the story. Think about it. When you are reading a story, the story is flowing through your mind. Your brain is focusing on the story itself and not on the mechanical issues you may have that must be fixed. Therefore, you will end up missing mistakes that need to be fixed. By reading it backwards, the story itself won’t get in the way.
Have you ever read a short story or a novel and somewhere along the way the story/plot didn’t make any sense? It felt as though information was missing, or there was a lack of consistency. The result of all that is you scratching your head in wonder, putting the book down, or leafing back through previously read parts to see what you missed.
That gets too distracting. So how do you as the writer avoid making those same mistakes as a writer? In your own writing, some of the inconsistencies you may be aware of and some you may not be. For the ones you know of, write them down in a plot holes log. For the ones you are not aware of, you will catch those later in your editing.
To expand on this, here is what I do. In the writing software I use, Scrivener (You can find it at Literatureandlatte.com), I create an extra file labeled Edits. Within that file folder I have various files for the different types of editing I will do later. One of those files is called Plot Holes. When I know of a plot hole that I need to address later, I write it there. When I am finished with my manuscript later, one of the things I do is go to that list and fix those plot holes one by one. THEN I start reading my manuscript from page one and go straight through to the end. Along the way I am searching for any more plot holes I may have missed. I make note of them in the manuscript with my red pen and move on. When I get to the end of the manuscript, I go back to those plot holes I made note of in red pen and fix those. Please note…..when I am reading for plot holes like this, plot holes are the only things I am searching for as I am reading. DO NOT fix anything else or make note of anything else during this process because you will lose track of what you’re doing, and you don’t want to start over. If you have to stop to run an errand or cook dinner or something, mark your spot and go back to it later. Trust me, this is the process I used and it served me well.
You’re walking with a friend in a crowded amusement park. In your pocket are some coins, but what you don’t realize is you have a hole in your pocket. The next time you reach in to get them, you may only have a couple quarters left. The hole sucked the rest of your coins and out it went without you knowing it. Well, think of the words you write with as your hole and the reader as your coins. You want to keep your readers hooked and reading, not lost and motivated to put your story down. So…..how do you keep your readers from falling out of that hole?
Your wording should be tightened up, and condensed. In other words, don’t be wordy. It shouldn’t take you several words to get your point across. Here are some examples:
Wordy: The rushing wind hit me in the face and tossed my hair around.
Much Better: The wind slapped my hair.
In this example, both sentences pretty much say the same thing but number 1 uses more words to get to the point. Number 2 is straight forward AND it implies the wind is hitting the person in the face without having said that it is.
Wordy: In the forest it was calm. The sunbeams reached their rays through the trees, and the light was speckled throughout.
Better: Sunbeams fingered through the calm forest leaving speckled light throughout.
Here again all the words in number 1 aren’t needed in order to paint a picture of the setting. It’s boring because too many words are used to describe what few words can actually do. Not only that, but an auxiliary verb like ‘was’ only tells you about it. It doesn’t add to the picture. It takes away from it. Number 2 leaves you with a clear, strong picture in your mind.
Remember something though. When you’re writing your story, write your story. Concentrate on that. THEN, once you have your first draft finished, go back to the beginning and focus on the particulars and details like wordiness.
How picky are you with your words, when you write? Do you have to choose just the right ones in order for you to move on? Or do you belt them out there onto the page and rework them later? The first way can stop you up and prevent you from making headway at a steady pace. Because what happens is this: a creative idea for your story may have popped into your head, and you might forget it by the time you’re finished making your wording what you ultimately want it to be.
Get the words on paper first along with your ideas and worry about making them just perfectly right later. You can also make notes for yourself along the way about what you want to go back and fix. Your draft will still be there waiting for you.
We write and we edit. We try to get the story on paper or the computer screen, then we go back when we’re finished and edit what we’ve written. That’s how it’s supposed to be done anyway. Does that always happen in that order? No. Not always. There are times when we try to edit as we type. The left side of our brain wants to insert itself at the same time our right side of the brain is trying to be imaginative and creative. This process can cause you to slow down when you’re trying to come up with a story.
Let’s say you’re a paragraph into writing a scene. So far you like it, but then the analytical side of your brain (left) is saying ‘No, no. That won’t work’. You go back and rewrite parts of that paragraph. You like what you came up with and move on to the next paragraph. You’re a couple of sentences into the second paragraph when your analytical side starts rethinking what you rewrote in the first paragraph. So, you go back and look at it but aren’t sure how you want to fix it. You end up sitting there thinking. Your fingers start strumming on your desk and you lean back in your chair and stare at the ceiling. An hour later you haven’t fixed anything, nor have you moved on with your writing. Had you waited to fix what your analytical side of your brain wanted to fix, you would have been MUCH further on in your story. You may have even gotten a chapter done.
How many of you can relate to the scenario above. I know it’s happened to me at times. So, how do we turn off the left side of our brain and make its impatient self wait? It’s quite easy actually. You make it wait. Turn it off. If you don’t like something you’ve just written, make a note of it so you can go back at a later date and fix it when you’re not writing. Choose a specific day and time when that’s all you’re going to do is edit and fix.
Loosen the “rope” when you’re creating and “tighten” it back up when you’re editing.
Whether you know it or not, you leave tracks of yourself in places. No, I don’t mean visible tracks. Although, I bet that’s what many of you were thinking after you read that sentence, LOL. Seriously though, when we write and others read our work, something from you is left behind. It could be a mental picture, an emotion, a thought(s) or opinion about the story or stories, a yearning to read more (or less). Whatever it is you leave behind, a mark is left, and it’s a mark no other writer can leave.
Each writer has his/her own mark that is indigenous to them. No other writer can replicate it no matter how hard they try. It’s all in your word choice and expressions you use. When someone edits your work, be sure they don’t alter the YOU you put in it. If they do, then they’re putting themselves in it, and you don’t want that. I don’t think they do this on purpose. It’s something that happens and we need to be aware of it. But hey, you might like what they did with it and keep the changes they made.
Leaving a mark also means giving of yourself, so others can take the good you pass on and use it. Maybe it will inspire them to become a writer. That happened with me. When I was in middle school, I read a short story my older sister wrote about a young girl who goes and stays with her grandpa for the summer. It was a very heart warming story, and it left me wanting to write like that too. Although, I don’t write like her. I write like me, and I write fantasy fiction. That’s the only story she ever wrote, and I wish she wrote more. She’d make a great children’s author. But I was inspired by her because of the MARK she left by her own writing.
We all have something to say, and how we say it is unique to us. No one else can say what we want to say in quite the same way. Let’s say for example there are two different people writing on the same exact topic, and they don’t put their names on their paper. They give them to you (you’re blind folded when they give them to you so you don’t know who gave you what), and you read them. Will you be able to tell which paper came from which individual? One’s personality comes through in their writing. If you don’t know the writer personality, would you still be able to tell? Whether or not we know someone doesn’t take away from the fact that their writing is still unique to them.
This uniqueness is your voice, your light. Who you are comes through on the pages. Whether you’re writing in one character or in more than one, your words are the words that are bringing the story to life. Don’t hold back for fear someone might not like it, because, truth be told, there’s always someone out there who won’t. That’s part of life. Put your all into your work. Put your light into it and let it shine.
As a side note here, if you are editing someone else’s work, be careful to not change too much because you run the risk of inserting your unique style into their work, then it won’t be theirs. You don’t want to take away from their voice/style. A better idea would be to suggest the type of change that’s needed, and let them to the changing.
Those pesky filler words don’t need to be there. Get them out of your writing. You just don’t need them. They only serve to take away from and weaken your story. If you think you even need them, think again. We always think we know best. Trust me, we don’t.
The above paragraph has filler words in them. They’re the ones in bold face print. I put them in there on purpose to prove a point. To prove my point, I’m going to retype it and take them out. You’ll see how much better it sounds.
Those pesky filler words don’t need to be there. Get them out of your writing. You don’t need them. They serve to take away from and weaken your story. If you think you need them, think again. We think we know best. Trust me, we don’t.
Sometimes you will need to use them. After all, they are part of the English language and they are there for a reason. The problem is we tend to use them to much. When they’re used too much, that’s when they weaken your writing. When I was editing my novel The Triunix of Time, I had a list of these words to look for in my story. I went through my book and looked for each one of them one at a time and checked them off as I finished with one, then I went on to the next. Don’t worry, I used the Find option in Microsoft Word. It found them all in an instant. As it turned out, I initially used the word just 350 times. Talk about over use. Please see the grid below for a list of the most used filler words.
So, how do you know you need to use them? Say the sentence without the filler word in it. If it still makes sense, you don’t need it.
If you have any questions please feel free to message or email me. I enjoy helping others with their writing.
What do you bring to your writing? This question has an answer, but it might not be known to us right away. It’s something we may need to think about. I believe it’s subconscious, and on that level something goes into our writing that we aren’t aware of. I call this our unique inner signature…. a writing signature.
Now you might call this style. And you’re right. It is our style. It’s a writing style DNA. About a year and a half ago, I took a class called Keys to Effective Editing. In this class the instructor discussed how, when you’re editing someone else’s work, you have to be careful not to alter the meaning/style of the author. In other words, don’t make it your own. In a nutshell, when you are editing someone else’s writing, edit with great care.
As a beginning writer, you might not know your style, or uniqueness, yet. It’s something that you grow into. The word flow might not be there yet. Not to worry, it will come with time and practice. Something you could try is to write down what makes you, you. Spoiler alert, this may take some thought on your part. We are good at critiquing others, but when it comes to ourselves, it isn’t as easy. To save time, ask someone else what makes you unique. Ask someone to critique your writing style. This is how I learned more about myself as a writer because it allowed me to reflect on their words, then look at my writing, and then grow from there. You can too.