Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Self Editing Tip #1

Happy Wednesday! This is an especially happy Wednesday for me. It is the last work day of this week (in my day job); I'll spend the rest of the week preparing for an important family event on Saturday. More on that next week.

On our new and improved blog schedule, Wednesdays are dedicated to helping writers. This will be an easy day for me, as I thoroughly enjoy sharing learning experiences with others. Today I want to talk a little bit about editing.

About a month ago, I was accepted as a founding member of The Blood-Red Pencil. This is a blog specifically designed to share editing tips with writers. Most of the founding members are professional editors, so I was quite surprised, pleased, honored to be accepted.

Why would anyone need a blog about editing?

Many first time writers are surprised to learn the answer to that question. I think Maryann Miller said it best:
Developing the story and getting it down on paper – or stored on your hard
drive – is only the first step in writing a book. The next couple of steps are
crucial and infinitely more difficult – at least I think so. Rewriting and
editing to find just the right words and phrases can lift an average book into
the realm of good and maybe even great.

One of the very first rounds of Blood-Red Pencil posts covered topics associated with self-editing - processes, tips, tools (check out the posts between September 9 and 19.) In my post on September 19, I talked about the various tricks available to enable writers to edit their own work. So wasn't I surprised to find I left out the most effective trick. (Okay, this is subjective, but it is the most effective for me.)

Everyone has their own issues with self editing, but most of us share the trait of reading the words we expect to find on a page, rather than the actual words. This is why, after umpteen rounds of editing we still find sentences with missing words, homonyms, or a dozen other errors associated with words (rather than with grammar.)

So what do I do?

For one of the last rounds of editing, I read the chapters out of order. I believe this works for me because when reading out of order, I don't get engrossed in the story, so the errors easily jump off the page.

What works for you? Please use the comment link below to share your editing tips.


Maryann Miller said...

Charlotte, thanks so much for the quote here. I am so pleased that so many folks found my blog about editing helpful.

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...


You are very welcome. I really appreciate the insite you and the other editors are sharing over at Blood-Red Pencil. I especially appreciate your sense of humor.


Anonymous said...

One of the big things that drives me crazy when working on a manuscript that an author has submitted and said has been edited, some even professionally edited, is the overuse of certain words and the missues of then/than.

was (1600-2000)
were (900-1000)
knew (300-500)
felt (200-300)
seemed (200-300)
that (1500-2000)

All over-used. If you look at the numbers by the words above you will see what I come up with in an average 80,000 word ms. In a good chunk of the usages they can be replaced with stronger verbs or eliminated.

The way I find them is to use the find/replace function in the word processing program and highlight each of those different words in a different color. This allows the author to recognize each usage and reconsider it. It also allows the author to see the proximity of uses.

The overuse of these words can be very distracting to the readers.

Karen Syed

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

Thank-you Karen. I'm going to add your pet-peeve to my growing list of things to check. I already check for all verbs of being. You're definately right about those - finding a stronger verb improves the piece.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of "theme days" on a blog. I gotta maybe try that on Free Spirit. I agree with Karen, I really pick my ms apart when self-editing to find words I over-use. If I read a word used more than say 3 times, I do a word search for it throughout the ms and use the thesaurus and my brain to come up with other words/ways of saying the same thing. It's annoying to read repitition. Just like listening to a speaker who uses the same word/phrase over & over again. booooooring! LOL

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...


I know what you mean. Mark and I both have a habit of finding a favorite word and overusing it. We learned recently this is called 'echo' - a good name. Anyway, in the book we are currently editing, the word was 'apparently' - and the book is written first person, past tense! We were very happy for MS Word's word search feature - which we dubbed 'search and destroy'.