Monday, February 13, 2012

My Three Favorite Editing Tips

My Three Favorite Editing Tips

I find it hard not to edit while I write. But we all know we're not supposed to do that. The best writers will tell you to write, let it sit for a day or so and then edit. But what's the best way to edit? Well, everyone has their preferences. I have three techniques I like to use. They aren't the only ones, just my favorites. Maybe you'll want to try them too.
  1. First I print the pages I plan to edit, making sure the pages numbers are included. Next I jumble the pages up. Because I wrote the words, I know how they should flow. That makes it easy to miss things like awkward phrasing. By reading the pages out of order, it really allows me to concentrate on just what is on that page. I'm not so much worried about how it fits with the other pages at this point. I'm concentrating more on finding repetitive words or phrases and awkward and run-on sentences.
  2. Read your writing out loud. Sometimes what sounds good in your head, doesn't sound so great when it's actually spoken. You'll be surprised what you can find and tighten up after reading your page aloud. 
  3. For each printed page, look for overused words. I have a pack of highlighters just for this. I'm the queen of the word "that". To make sure I'm not using it too frequently, or at all, I go through the page and highlight each instance. Then I decide if each will be cut, replaced or left as is. I write devotions so I use "God" frequently. I highlight that word in a different color. That shows me where I need to replace it with another name like "Lord" or "Heavenly Father". It's helpful that I have compiled a list of words I tend to abuse. But I'm also on the lookout for new offenders.
These three tips have made editing a more thorough process. What editing techniques do you use? Which are your favorites? 





Marietta Taylor is an author and speaker. She is the author of Surviving Unemployment:Devotions to Go. Marietta is a monthly blogger at the Go ask Mom Blog at www.wral.com. Her tagline is Mom of Teens. She was also a contributing author to Penned From The Heart Vol XV. Marietta has a bachelor's degree in Biology from the University of Illinois-Chicago. Visit Marietta at www.mariettataylor.net or www.marismorningroom.blogspot.com or email her at maritaylor@mariettataylor.net.

24 comments:

  1. Thanks for the tips. I definitely find reading aloud helps. I also have to go through my manuscript looking for passive verbs.

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    1. Passive verbs are another gotcha for me. Not as much as the word "that" though :)

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  2. I love the mixed up pages idea!

    And I'm a definite edit-as-I-go type. I don't see anything wrong with it, as long as you go over it in other ways later on...I don't edit-as-I-go then think I'm done when I reach the end of the story the first time.

    Though, I do understand that avoiding editing is probably good for writers who might get bogged down in the nitty-gritty and never finish the book.

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    1. I'm one of those nitty-gritty people Jennifer. I'd be editing forever and no new writing would take place!

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  3. Good post! I can't stress self-editing enough. These are some good tips to use whether you are a beginner writer or have been writing for ages. Thanks for this post!

    Faye M. Tollison

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Faye! I can't imagine not self-editing. We should always try to put put our best efforts out there and that starts with editing our own writing.

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  4. Thanks for the post, self editing is a must and these are great tips.

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  5. Great tips. When I worked for a publisher, I was taught to read aloud also, but using a ruler under each line so I don't accidently "jump" ahead a line. Self editing is difficult for we usually skip right over something that is wrong and we can't see, but it's a must to do!

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  6. I love the ruler idea. I'm going to start doing that.

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  7. Mari, great techniques. I like the mixing up the pages and looking for those "tired" and overused words and highlighting them as you read each page. For my next novel, I will try this technique before sending out to my editors. Thanks for sharing with us some of your methods. Of course, the reading out loud is adefinite way to catch things (including your proof copies of your books if you are self-pubbing; I've read the same book to two different classes and both times found where my illustrator had doubled paragraphs/pages and I found myself reading the same thing several times - made for a funny happenstance albeit an embarrassing one for me).

    I've heard of some folks using the ruler or a blank piece of straight-edged paper to do a line by line edit too - so great idea to bring that back. Thanks for sharing - E :)

    Elysabeth Eldering
    Author of Finally Home, a YA paranormal mystery
    "The Proposal" (an April Fools Day story), a humorous romance ebook
    "The Tulip Kiss", a paranormal romance ebook
    "Bride-and-Seek", a paranormal romance ebook
    http://elysabethsstories.blogspot.com
    http://eeldering.weebly.com

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    1. Elysabeth, I didn't think about reading the proof copies aloud but that's a great idea as well.

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  8. These are great tips, Marietta. I like to issue my editing clients a challenge: Can you remove one word from each sentence, one sentence from each paragraph, or one paragraph from each scene? This helps you look for more streamlined ways to word things.

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    1. Heidi, that's a good challenge. I'm sure it tightens up the writing.

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  9. Good tips Marietta. I use all of these. I also put my final manuscripts into .pdf and then let Acrobat read it to me. I pick up a lot of errors (syntax especially) that way. Of course getting some one else to read the manuscript is critical. An author can't be the only proofreader of his or her work.

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    1. Having it read to me? Hmmmm...now there's a great idea. I'll add that to my list as well. And of course, you always need other sets of eyes.

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  10. I love printing out my manuscript before editing too. I don't believe working on writing could ever be considered a waste of paper!

    I have a chart next to my MS that has columns for character, plot, setting, etc and I make notes in it for what changes need to happen and what pages they are on. This allows me to do a sweep through once before going back to rewrite.

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  11. Great idea to jumble the pages! I also print out hard copies and go through them literally with a red pen.

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  12. Great ideas. I need to work on the overused words.

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  13. Great tips. You really do catch errors when you print the ms.

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  14. These are GREAT tips! Thanks, Marietta.

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