The Next Phase of NaNoWriMo: EDITING (Help Me!!)
Not my favorite part.
As a freelance proofreader/editor I can tell you that it's much easier for me to edit another author's work than my own. I can rip a manuscript apart, suggest ways to beef up the plot, help to tighten dialogue and even guide the author to make their characters more endearing to the reader. So why the heck is it so hard to edit my own stuff?
I've come to the realization that it's because I'm too close...too intimate...to my own story. Self-editing is tough because we need to let go of the idea that the story is our 'baby' and be just as hard and critical on our own writing as we'd be reviewing someone else's work. (Actually, I don't really have a problem with being critical of my own work...I'm my own worst enemy sometimes. HA!) Here are some things I do as a freelance editor when reviewing a manuscript that I will have to do on my own manuscript:
1) Content edit: When I'm doing a content edit, I give the story a close read--beginning to end--and I ask questions such as: Does this story have a solid plot? Does it make sense? Is the storyline engaging? Does it capture me from the start? Does each chapter have a hook at the beginning and a mini-cliffhanger at the end (that's what keeps readers away all night saying, "Just one more chapter!")? Do I know where the author is taking me on this journey (eg: where is the story located?) Are the characters believable? Are they engaging? Does the author breathe life into them so I can see, hear and feel them? Is the dialogue solid? Is there more show than tell? Is there a gradual peak in the storyline? Is the ending satisfying (or at least makes sense)? Are there, what one of my wonderful writing mentors calls, 'red herrings' sprinkled throughout the story to make me want to keep on reading? These are more but these are the general and, I feel, most important questions to address. These are what make a story solid. Starting with answering these questions will kick your editing in the butt.
2) Line edit: This part of editing is the nitty-gritty, picky stuff. Once all the story has the solid base, you read it through again to check for things like: Is the punctuation spot on? Is the grammar perfect (or as close to it as possible)? Is the dialogue conversational (This is so important. Nothing slows a story down more than dialogue that rambles on endlessly. Think of real-life conversations that do the same thing...ugh!)? Are commas under control? Are paragraphs tightened up? Are there any spelling words (this means making sure words that you check for synonyms or other things that spell check 'fixes' that don't need to be)? This is all the fussy stuff that helps the story read well. And, believe me, when you're getting reviews red marks in this area after it's gone through edits can make the difference between a 3 star and a 5 star rating.
3) Proofreading: This involves more than just making sure all the above things are taken care of. It also means you make sure to check for things like line spacing, format, tabs and other things that editors really hate having to fix or mess around with. This is like the final run-through.
There you go. OH! And one more good idea is to have a writing mentor or buddy read your book over one last time to make sure you caught everything. DO NOT give it to a trusted friend or relative who says everything you do is perfect. That's really not going to help at this stage. Find someone who will be critical but honest and fair.
If you're like me, the editing process often takes much longer than writing the book in the first place but just remember: all of those red marks we make during editing help our final project become the best it can possibly be. So do what I do: grab your favorite beverage, tune into whatever music inspires you the most and try making the whole editing process as fun as writing the story was. Yeah, okay. That's probably stretching it a bit but, seriously. The better you get at self-editing, the easier the entire process will be.
Feel free to share your own ideas!