Monday, October 19, 2015

5 Steps to Fresh-eyed Editing

I'm pleased to introduce today's guest blogger, Deborah Froese. In addition to being the editorial director at Rebelight Publishing, she's also the author of two award-winning books for young people. 
Welcome, Deborah!
Five Steps to Fresh-eyed Editing
As a writer, editing your own work is one of the toughest things you’ll ever have to do. For optimum results, don’t be yourself.
That may sound like a ridiculous challenge, but it’s simply a reframed view of an old adage: read with fresh eyes. Because you are intimately familiar with your own words, you can’t possibly interpret them as readers will. Experience with backstory and development taint your perspective. They trick your brain into seeing things that aren’t there and overlooking things that are—like typos, punctuation errors, and any excess you’ve spilled onto the page.
You could simply put your manuscript away for six months or a year before reading it again, but who wants to do that? Here’s a five-step approach to tackling an edit without leaving yourself—or your manuscript—behind.
  1. Invite passionate, discerning readers (preferably other writers) to critique your work. Bribe them with chocolate if necessary. Accept their comments graciously, but also ask questions. What did they like? What didn’t they like? Was there anything they didn’t understand or found missing? Did attention wander? Where did it wander? Let feedback simmer and then incorporate the ideas that resonate with you.
  2. Root out passive language by annihilating expressionless “to be” verbs wherever possible (be,
    am, is, are, was, have, do, can, could, should, would—you get the idea). That approach forces you to rethink your text and shift from “He was holding his hand over the control switch and trying to decide whether or not he should press the launch button,” to “His hand hovered over the launch button. Go or no?”
  3. Uproot personal pronouns (PPs) and PP statements to yank readers into the story for a more dramatic experience. “She felt the raindrops pummeling her face,” for example, becomes “Rain pummeled her face.”
  4. Read your words aloud. Let me repeat: READ YOUR WORDS ALOUD. Ears detect what eyes miss—from poor flow to lack of clarity and excessive text. Your neighbours might think you’re crazy—but they might just pull up a chair and listen.  
  5. After taking the previous four steps, apply a splash of magic and trick your brain into thinking it sees something new: change the style and size of your font. Yes. Really. When words assume a slightly different shape and line breaks shift, your brain reboots the script.

Editing is an essential part of writing, but learning to do it well takes time. Finding ways to analyze your words logically and through different lenses makes the job easier.
Do you have any editing tips to share?

Learn more about Deborah Froese by visiting her blog: Story Matter


K. L. Hallam said...

A great help! Thank you.

Gabriele Goldstone said...

Wise words.

Elinor Clark said...

A really helpful article, thank you!