Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Editing: Like a Flaming Football Flying at Your Head

Peeking in through my monitor, you'll see me banging my head on the desk. What would have me so frustrated that I'd give myself a headache and an ugly bump?

Some writers like it more than the writing itself. Those writers are clearly mentally unbalanced! The whole process is a struggle. It's one of those struggles that feels totally satisfying when they're finished. Like when a climber scratches and claws her way to the top of a mountain. The climb itself is painful and dangerous, but the view from the top makes the whole thing totally worth it.

My first step when I finish a story, novella or novel is to shove it into a dark corner of my computer. I can't remember where I first heard about this concept, but it was reinforced when I read Stephen King's book On Writing. He has great advice in his book. It's part story of his life and part instructional. He said to put the story away for weeks, months, however long it takes to separate yourself from the writing. To edit, you need to view it as if it's written by a stranger.

After a few weeks, I drag it out. In the time it's been marinating, I've often written another story. That helps me take the extra step back, too. I don't familiarize myself with the story. I start editing right away from the beginning.

First, I remove extra, unnecessary words like just, almost, and up. I don't need to describe how someone stands up. If they stand, it's implied. They don't usually stand sideways or on their head. If a character's doing that, I would definitely describe that in detail!

When I write, it's a fast scramble of ideas. I want the story out there on paper, so I rarely edit as I'm writing. I can edit when it's all vomited on the page. That means that the editing is so important.

I have some bad habits, which thankfully I've identified. I think that's the biggest step in editing. Knowing the mistakes you tend to make.

These are my biggest mistakes:

I tend to forget my commas during the writing process.
I have to step in and remove redundant ideas. I tend to repeat myself! (I'll like an idea or word so much that I'll use it too often.)
I remove as many instances of the word was/is/be as possible and change them to action. Instead of 'He was tired.' I'll try to be more descriptive. 'He slumped in his chair as if he might sleep in it.' Not a great sentence, but you get the idea.

When I'm done finding those obvious mistakes that are peppered through my story, I'll use some online editor software programs to find problems.

I need three more entries to end the month of The Ultimate Blogging Challenge with a win, so I'm going to list the programs I use in a separate entry! I'm either so very clever or a bit of a cheater.

These programs are great for finding errors in stories. Bloggers, you can use these for checking blog posts, too.

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