Been posting a lot about blogging and only touched upon writing and editing a bit here and there back when. But before being a blogger and writer, I was also an editor. This got me to thinking: why haven’t I focused more on this? Ya got me. So let’s look at editing, shall we?
Depending on who you talk to some will say don’t edit your own stuff, others will say do. If you can afford to hire an editor, go for it (personally, I’d prefer to spend money elsewhere). Daunted by the task? Don’t be. Anything can be learned (as Queen of the Technically-Challenged, I’ll attest to that)!
A [very] quick explanation re proofreading versus editing. No, they’re not the same. Proofreading, basically, is correcting superficial/apparent errors in writing (grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other language errors). Editing encompasses the aforementioned, but is also about improving the overall quality of your writing, such as language use and expression. You’re also ensuring your work is well-organized, clear, and that ideas and actions flow logically.
Let’s say you’re a first-time writer and you’ve [happily and proudly] completed your first draft. Now it’s time to edit that magnum opus. Fret not. Give thought to these components (and think about incorporating them into some sort of checklist, if lists work for you):
- Given your genre, have you captured its essence, its “flavor”?
- Is voice consistent? We’re referring to two types. One, your narrator’s voice (how he or she speaks and thinks) and two, yours (how you, as a writer, convey your personality and approach through words and content).
- POV (point of view) should be consistent. Change it only when you want to influence readers—i.e. by drawing them in or keeping them removed or distanced.
- Is the plot—and subplots—logical and complete (i.e. have you explained, and tied up, everything satisfactorily)? Is the plot—storyline—entertaining, appealing, and/or captivating?
- Conflict and friction should exist within scenes and characters. You want to evoke tension, maybe garner a little anxiety (as readers we often “feel” for characters and there’s nothing better than being sucked into a good story).
- What about the action? Is it plausible? Is there too little action? Or is there too much for naught?
- Scene breakdowns are important. You don’t want them to be flat or identical (in length, style, form). You want enough to advance the plot/action.
- Is the setting consistent and realistic? If you’re writing in a specific era, make sure you stick to it. Does the locale work, given the plot/action? Have you painted a realistic [visual] picture?
- How about your characters? Are they “real”—i.e. do they come across as genuine human beings or as props, non-entities? Do they have depth (likes and dislikes, dreams and phobias)? Do they add to the plot? Do they detract from the plot? Each character should serve a purpose in advancing the story.
- What about dialog? Is it—yup—logical? Does it help further the story? Or is some of it just jibber-jabber?
- And how about motivation, moods, and reactions? Do they make sense, given the scenes?
- Facts must be spot-on. If you’re writing in a certain era or about a particular place, you want to ensure everything is correct. Confirm that fashion, music, events, lingo, objects and gadgets (to name a few) are appropriate and accurate to the time and location.
- You know the story you’ve just told—you’ve envisioned it. Is your vision clear to the reader? Has everything truly been tied together or might something be missing? Does the flow/pace progress smoothly and quickly?
Strengthen what’s weak. Eliminate what’s of no value-add. (Too much of anything is not a good thing.) “But I spent days conceiving of that scene!” “They’re having such fun.” “The dinner conversation’ sounds good.” Yes, it can prove painful to remove something we’ve worked hard to envisage and write, but sometimes it’s a must do: when it comes to editing, think with your head, not your heart.
In subsequent posts, I’ll provide before and after examples, using works stuffed into a drawer, written over—ouch—a quarter of a century ago [before editing and writing became a way of life].
In the meanwhile, if you’re beginning to edit, have at it—go freely with the flow, focus, and be objective. Mark my words <wink> you’ll do fine.