Self Editing Part 1
Some of the things we’ve discussed previously are good to be on the watch for and remove, but there are other, specific tasks that can be done when a manuscript’s completed to help polish it. Since there are many of these odd jobs, this specific post will continue over time.
Editing your own work involves hard labor. Other authors have mentioned they make as many as ten to fifteen passes in editing, revising, and reworking, focusing on one or two aspects of self-editing each time. Those authors are to be commended, since writing a book is only one third of the work. Editing is the second third, and publishing and marketing take up the final third. You’re never exactly finished, are you?
To review earlier posts, we’ve chatted about removing unnecessary “ly” adverbs, superfluous dialogue tags, inappropriate dialogue tags, redundancies, undue “thats”, and needless directions and impossibilities. It’s hard to imagine there are more chores to be accomplished with self-editing, but there are!
Search for weak verbs such as walked, ran, spoke, saw, met, etc., and replace them with stronger, more descriptive verbs. We discussed this somewhat in post #11, “Using a Thesaurus,” and now is the time to haul out your own personal copy and put it to good use. Be careful not to overdo it, though!
Search for overused words. This can be hard to do, because you can’t eliminate or reduce the incidence of overused words until you recognize them. With careful study and the use of Microsoft Word’s FIND feature, you may be able to identify those you’re in the habit of using. Some popular writing programs and sites offer help to identify your overworked words. Many of these sites will give you limited information for free, and, of course, a lot more information with a paid subscription. Some programs have a 30-day free trial. You can find others by searching “overused words text analysis.”
Grammarly is a popular site with a 30-day free trial.
Word and Phrase will analyze short bits of text, but you have to enter your work paragraph by paragraph and keep track of the results.
Pro Writing Aid has a brief analysis editor for free, but the limited results don’t seem very useful.
Word Counter is free and doesn’t seem to have a limit on text but tends to drop letters (for instance, it listed “edite” as one of my words from this article, instead of “edited”).
- I offer a Text Analysis Program starting at $30, which will give you a good evaluation of your writing, including proper noun inconsistencies, and will also rate your writing against other analyzed manuscripts.
Be forewarned: a computerized text analysis program—even mine!—is not as good at finding errors as a human being. But they’re a good start.
Vary your sentence constructions. You may notice you tend to write sentences such as “Mark did x, y, and z, and then did a, b, and c.” In suspenseful scenes, you may find, “Tony did x. Frank did y. Tony did z. Then he did a.” Try to vary them, including the length, so the reader doesn’t become bored with the information. Or you may notice you usually write “said <person>.” Try to vary that by changing every other one to “<person> said.” Or move the dialogue tag to the beginning of the dialogue.
Next week we’ll continue with ‘Self-Editing Part 2’.
This series is not meant to be (nor will it be) simple static information.
I’ll be here for each post to answer questions, offer suggestions as necessary, and interact with you.
If there’s something you specifically want (or need!) to see addressed in terms of self-editing, please let me know in the comments under this, or any of the articles of the series.