Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Nose to the Grindstone - Getting a book ready for the editor

Just my luck. The weather is turning into summer finally and I'm still finishing up Rekindling.

I took a week off of this book to do some copyediting. The funny part of that story is that I'd only expected the copyediting to take a couple of days. It was much more in-depth than I'd expected. I took this detour, however, to give myself some distance from the current work in progress so that I could come back to it with a fresh eye. That part of the plan worked.

I'm doing my final story edits for Rekindling. Working with my critique group. Making sure it all follows (which raises my point du jour - I thought everyone knew what a one-inch punch was. Clearly, I'm mistaken! Funny how we take certain phrases and idioms for granted . . .  but I digress). The next step, once the story edits are done, is copyediting. Again.  This is what I'm good at, but editing your own work is tough, folks.

You may have seen some of those memes where a phrase is upside down, or backward, or the vowels are missing or some letters are misplaced. The purpose of the meme is to see if you can read what it says anyway. Yep. I can. And that is the reason it's too hard to edit your own work.  You know what its supposed to say. Nevertheless, I have to take the first cut. What does that mean? Here are the top three things I look for during this phase.

1.  Cut overused words.  One of my big offenders is the word "back." Another popular one is "just." I have a list that I work my way through. There is software out there that will help with this process, but for me, it's like working a crossword puzzle. You do it for the mental exercise.

2.  Check for passive voice. This sneaks in when you least expect it, and there are several different checks for this. One is by looking for verbs ending with "ing." They don't all indicate passive voice, but it's worth the second look. Another is by adding in extra words that distance you from what the character is feeling. "Felt. Wondered. Thought." Most times, you can show those things in a more active voice.

3.  Cliches. They're so much a part of our language that sometimes you forget how overused they are. Again, there are usually better ways to describe something. Something more original.

Typos fall into this part of the editing, too. Anything that slips through this process is caught in the final proofreading stage. You may think you've made all the corrections, that you've corrected everything that's wrong, but until you've read through the thing one last time, you haven't finished the job. I ALWAYS find mistakes in the final proofreading stage. Double words when I thought I'd deleted one. Deleted words when I got overzealous. And those pesky typos. Hey. We're human. It happens.

After I've gone through all of this, then I send it to my editor, and she starts the process all over again. Everything I missed/forgot/overlooked/pushed through anyway, she ferrets out. The end result is usually a much stronger, more readable story.

Between work and editing, I spent most of last week with my butt glued to the chair in front of my computer. Nose to the grindstone. I finished my editing project, and then I took a couple of days to catch up on "life." Played with babies. Cleaned the house. Did some gardening and even made some homemade strawberry jam.

This week I'm back to work on Rekindling. It's "oh, so close" but still requires lots of fine-tuning and copyediting. And so I'm back to work at it.


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