I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, October 1, 2010

TEE's Five Steps to Editing--and One Pet Peeve






1. Write something. Sometimes getting words on paper is the biggest challenge. Our "internal editor" strangles our writing muse. Here's my rather blunt tip: Throw up on the paper. I call my first draft "brain vomit." Apologies for offending anyone. The goal is to write--and then sift through the mess and find what's worth saving.

2. Read before you edit. Too often we start reading, clutching a red pen, looking for something to slash out. Put the pen down. Get an overview of the piece. Read for flow, asking yourself if what you wrote makes sense.

3. Know your weaknesses. One of my critique partners told me, "You use 'but' and 'just' a lot." I had no clue. Now I hunt those two words down and kill them. (I deleted four "buts" and one "just" from this column.)

4. Don't edit everything all at once. I edit--a lot. So looking for multiple things--spelling, punctuation, flow, word pictures, rabbit trails--comes easily. However, I don't recommend multi-task editing. Read through your manuscript once for punctuation and grammar. Read through a second time for word pictures. Read through a third time for focus. Plan on reading your work multiple times.

5.
Develop a marking system for editing. A standardized editing system is especially important if you're in a critique group. If everyone edits differently, you're going to cause confusion and frustration. I have enough of that in my characters' lives. Learn proofreader's marks. My non-fiction critique group developed a color-coded system for marking submissions. We use comment boxes to explain our suggestions:
  • Blue - needs to be reworked
  • Yellow - passive verbs
  • Fuchsia - repeated word
  • Gray - delete
  • Green - Love this, love this, love this!
TEE's Pet Peeve: Keep sentences to 20 words. Sentences longer than this can usually be divided into two sentences for better clarity. Disclaimer: One of my critique partners writes sentences in the 25 word range. I give him a bye on this rule because this is part of his writer's voice. More on editing and protecting writer's voice next time!

25 comments:

  1. Terrific list, TEE. Having those extra sets of eyes helped to hone in on trouble spots.

    I like how your group has a green color code. So often, crit partners forget to tell the writer what she likes about the piece. I love Rachel's Oreo suggestion to sandwich the negative between two positives.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great suggestions JUST at the right time. Seriously, I'm editing my proposal and this will really help!

    I'm going to suggest the color coding to our critique group. Then you can see at a glance what someone likes, thinks needs reworking, etc. And Lisa, I love the negative between 2 positives. Sometimes I forget that.

    Great post, TEE.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hmmm. Susie used the color codes too. I'll suggest it to my critique group as well. I think the "love this" is so important. When one of my critique partners mentions something she likes, then I know the whole thing isn't brain...uh...what Beth said.

    Do our visitors here know what TEE stands for? : )

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was once crowned the Just Queen since I used the word so often. Better than an unjust queen.

    ReplyDelete
  5. TEE = The Evil Editor, the Ponderers' nickname for me. Said with affection, right?
    And I agree with the "Oreo" style of critiquing: Feedback is supposed to be constructive, not "kill them where they stand."
    I always try to start with something positive before I begin with the comments within an article/chapter. "You're idea is so creative." "Love your hook." "Good use of humor."
    Something.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great post, TEE, and so practical. I really appreciated it. I'm trying to polish my manuscript one more time before submission and it sorta freaks me out. (Okay, nix the sorta...it toally freaks me out.) It seems like such a BIG thing...but your steps add clarity and direction to the process. Thanks!!

    Your "just" and "buts" are my ellipses...see!! My finger just loves to tap out ellipses...

    ReplyDelete
  7. M-Tagg, We all have a favorite things. You like ellipses (like our mentor, SMW.) I like em dashes. Go ahead and use them all you want in your first draft. Then go back through and weed them out in your second draft--leaving behind the optimally placed ones.

    ReplyDelete
  8. FYI: The photo used in this blog post? It's of this much-edited column before I posted it. Anybody figure that out? And I edited my writing even more as I put it up on Blogger. Edit as you go, edit as you go.

    ReplyDelete
  9. (Think green) Love it! Your post is so practical and helpful, TEE/Beth! I will be looking at these steps as I proceed in writing. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom and suggestions!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks for the great tips! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks for the "green," Jeanne! I appreciate it! And smiley faces translate to green for me too, Angela.
    :O)

    ReplyDelete
  12. You are not going to believe this, but I was JUST getting out my WIP and ready to edit the first scene when I said, "I wonder what colors TEE uses to edit and what they mean?" I mean not 15 seconds before I popped on here to read the post!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you, for writing this stuff down.

    You're still the best. Love you lady!!!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Okay, side note: TEE should no longer stand for The EVIL Editor but should now stand for The Elegant Editor! Who's with me?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Oh, Ginger, you are the best!
    Make sure you put some green in your draft, 'k. TEE (whichever way you translate it!)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Yes, she's elegant in lots of ways, but I think she likes the other name. So helpful, Beth, especially w/ even the blog visual object lesson. We appreciate it (and you) so much--like a precise and deliciously presented gourmet meal. (I'll stop now before you edit this comment.)

    ReplyDelete
  16. I do like TEE, Dee. I always mentally add, "Said with affection." ;o)
    And I never edit comments.
    Well, only my own.

    ReplyDelete
  17. So...I think you critiqued a paragraph for me once. And I had no idea what you were telling me to do with your colors. lol. Guess I can pull that out again now that you've filled me in on your nifty key. :-) Good thoughts, Beth. Always good to hear from our editor-in-residence.

    ReplyDelete
  18. So sorry I confused our suspense-writer-in-residence. You're the one whose writing made me jump out my chair, remember?

    ReplyDelete
  19. I'm easily confused. :-) Feel kind of special, though. Like I was in inner circle. So I'll just pretend I knew what you meant all along.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Great post, Tee, leave it to you to boil it down so succinctly. Don't worry about the "evil editor" reputation - I once had a crit partner write an entire blog rant about my edits!

    ReplyDelete
  21. I can't imagine that, "Edit"! You've been nothing but gracious when I've been with you. I'd welcome your feedback.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Edie, we DO say "evil editor" with much love! I'd be happy to have either you Beth bleed over my pages with your red pens. I'd probably have to purchase some refills for you though!

    ReplyDelete
  23. See, I needed you in that comment!

    ReplyDelete
  24. LOL, Teri. Comments are an edit-free zone, remember?

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hey! I'm actually GOOD at brain vomit....just not at letting it be seen.. I feel compelled to clean up my own vomit.. it's the mom in me...

    also: thank you.

    ReplyDelete