Let’s face it. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes.
As cliché as that is it’s true. Clichés are something we want to try avoiding as writers and authors, but sometimes they echo in our everyday work. Why do we avoid them? Well, any editor with years of experience will tell you that using a phrase that’s often repeated (in most circumstances) doesn’t reflect our true uniqueness.
That being said… not everything an editor tells you is correct either. It’s your work and you have to stand behind what you’ve done, yet be open to criticism and learn from it.
So how can you get through the editing process with minimal aggravation and maximal productivity?
It all begins in our initial drafts and while we are writing our thoughts down on paper. I had to learn this the hard way. My first novel gained a lot of positive attention and feedback, but I’d done it without an editor. I’ve now over thirty published books and I look back at that one cringing.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still proud of the plot and how it fleshed out, but I’ve come far in my works learning with each new release since then. I’m still learning too. It took me a few years to win any awards, and even after those I still am my worst (or best) critic. There are things I do differently now than I did five to ten years ago.
Why did I share that with you? If you’re someone who doesn’t see where you go wrong, then it’ll make for a rough road once it comes to the editing process. Let’s take a look at the steps leading up to and through that final moment where you can say you’re done writing your current work in progress.
As I mentioned before you need to be aware of a few things to avoid as you create your work. Don’t worry too much about grammar and punctuation in your initial draft. You still want to be cognizant of it, but focus more on the content; before figuring out where your punctuation and language skills are lacking.
Clichés are not the only thing for which we must keep a keen eye. How you begin a sentence and paragraph are just as important.
Your transitions from one scene to the next should flow in a way that feels natural; instead of jumping from one to the other with no connectivity. Write the way you can honestly say you’d like to read. Be objective about understanding how a reader will perceive your work. I’m not saying to write for the reader. In fact I’m a firm believer that you should write for yourself.
If you are presenting a finished work that you did for yourself, then it has passion and meaning. People can relate to that more, including those sometimes vile editors.
Dialogue is probably the biggest issue when it comes to comprising a good story. If you aren’t aware of how the characters sound, other than getting what you want them to say across to the reader, then there’s a danger of it seeming unrealistic or at the best very cheesy.
Finally, make sure you have your story mapped out beforehand to some extent. When I conceptualize a book I always know where I’m going to begin and how it’ll end. I have an idea of how I’ll get from point A to B, but oftentimes more than not I’ll be writing portions of the filler material as I go. Sometimes the ending may change as you progress, and that’s okay as long as you are aware of any continuity issues.
Once the first draft is done, go back and reread your whole thing. Print it out and make notes in red or blue ink, so that you can see what you’ll have to edit. Sometimes seeing your work on paper versus on a screen will allow you to see things that need to be corrected; especially in terms of formatting. Your eyes tend to catch mistakes more this way as the brain no longer has the distraction of an illuminated screen.
After you print it, set it aside for a few days. Give your mind a rest from what you’ve just finished, so that by the time you pick it up again you can truly absorb everything you’ve written.
Your first round of edits should be geared toward content and format rather than grammar. Make sure your story flows well. Add or delete scenes if necessary. Revise so that everything has meaning to the overall plot.
Then check your word count. If you’ve written 64,000 words, aim to eliminate a thousand or five hundred of them.
You’ll find that rambling occurs while fleshing out a story, so there will be plenty of unnecessary phrases, repetitive notions, and too many adjectives. On the contrary if you are under your goal of say 60,000 words then write a new scene instead of just adding extra descriptive paragraphs. If you don’t then you’ll be creating what you’re trying to eliminate in the first editing phase.
Guest post by Rick Pipito
Rick Pipito is the award winning author of over 32 published works. His Eternal Hunger Saga series earned him a place in top 25 and 100 lists. He was awarded the gold medal for 2019 Best Opening Lines of a Novel and the “Most Versatile Local Author” according to Philly Current Magazine’s 2017 #PCPicks. This father of two and Co-Owner of sCrypt Publishing works to help other authors expand their works, along with assisting Roberta Pipito of @homemadedelish with her ventures. Rick's works are available on Lulu.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble sites. Visit Rick on the web at www.rickpipito.com, on Facebook at @rickpipitobooks, and on Instagram and Twitter @rickpipito
Author / Co-Owner of sCrypt Publishing
Twitter & IG: @rickpipito