As we’ve been discussing over the last few blogs, switching hats from writing to editing can be a bit…challenging. In fact, it can make you feel like your poor head is about to explode! However, you can make the process easier by following the tips from last week’s blog by not letting the editor and writer come out to play at the same time, and by giving yourself time away from the scene/chapter/manuscript you just finished.
But when you’ve done both of those, and it’s time to get into the edit, how do you make sure you catch the real issues? How do you edit your own work? This week and next, we’ll look at six tools you can use to do that with excellence and ease.
Tip #1: Accept Your Limitations. It’s a simple fact, friends: we’ll never be able to edit our own work as well as we edit others’ writing. We see so much more when we read what others have written than we tend to see in our own work. That’s normal, and it’s okay.
Tip #2: Make A Checklist Of Your Weaknesses. We all have them, those little bugaboos that slip into everything we write. Things we seem blind to when we’re writing, and can too often overlook when we’re editing. So how to be sure we’re catching the places where we’re weak?
One of the most valuable things an editor did for me was to write up a checklist of “Things Karen Needs to Watch for in Her Writing.” She listed overused terms/words/beats (for example, if people laughed, nodded, and smiled as often as I had my characters doing those things, they’d be bobble-heads in someone’s rear car window!), cautions, and grammar and craft issues she’d seen repeated in several manuscripts.
Now, when it’s time to edit my work, I pull that checklist out and go down it, systematically checking my manuscript to see if I’ve fallen back into bad habits. And when I discover new bad habits, I add them to the list.
You can make a general writing checklist, and you can create a checklist for each book, pinpointing the issues you want to deal with in the editing stage, be it craft or elements that need more research. That way you don’t have to worry about remembering these kinds of things as you’re writing. It’s all there, ready and waiting for you when you’re ready to jump into editing.
Third, enlist the help of others. Remember how we don’t see as many things in our own work as we see in others’ work? Well, make that work for you! How? By having one or two crit partners go over your manuscript using your checklist. Ask them to add anything to the list that you’ve missed.
Okay, that’s the first three. Next week we’ll take a look at pulling threads, using your ears, and tightening the (writing) belt.