Editing technique during writing

David McGowan, based in Liverpool in the UK, made the following comment during an interview:

From my first novel to my second, I have found that my writing is a lot more developed, but I think editing your work well is as important as writing a good story.

I also find that editing the last couple of scenes I have written when I sit down to write pulls me back into the story and helps me to focus and feel part of the world I have created.”

This is good advice gives cohesion to writing. Thanks, David. You can check out the full interview here.

The Math of Writing: subtract to add!

Here’s the scenario: a sentence in my paragraph doesn’t work, no matter how much I change it. When this happens, I use the subtract rule. That is, take out the problematic sentence and see if the shorter paragraph is any better without it. Most times, it is. I call this the “subtract to add rule“, and I have used it more than a few times during editing of my latest novel. I know what you may be thinking—such a move reduces the word count. Yes, it does, and thank goodness! Think of this sentence culling like the fruit picture. If you take some of the fruit away, do you still have a tree full of inviting fruit? If yes, take away the ones that don’t add. The power of a novel can be in the words and sentences taken out, not in the ones that are left in! Happy fruit picking.

John Grisham makes writing error, but does he need an online checker?

From my own experience, I have enjoyed using online grammatical aids, to a point! Here’s my humble take on them:

+ve: picks up repeated phrases, checks sentence length, and overuse of adverbs, etc. Psst, here’s where it would have helped John Grisham in “The Guardians”—on page 157, he writes, “He takes a drink and studies the ocean.” Then, on page 159, John writes, “He takes a drink and studies the ocean.” Well, software would pick that up.

-ve: does not help you develop your own writing style, nor flow or ‘voice’. There is often a cost.

Ask yourself this question: would Hemingway, et al, use an online writing tool? They might in their early days of writing, but I am convinced they would go up the wall after a while and stay their own course through the rough editing waters. Good writing and editing software are destined to call off their romance after just a few dates!

A Writer Never Sleeps!

Novel #2 in Editing Mode: Such a relief to finish my second novel, which is now in the final editing stages. In summary:

write –> edit –> edit again (another full read through) —> ask trusted (brutally honest) friends to proof-read –> final edit –> seek a Literary Agent (more on that soon).  On a funny note:

The other night I could not get to sleep and tossed and turned, mulling over my second full edit. I realized that I had made a minor continuity error and had to get up to fix it. Phew!

It really is encouraging that my brain is actively working on improvements all the time, even when half asleep! Motto?

A writer never sleeps!

PS: This pic is accurate, but the time is wrong – I was up at 2am.

Write Drunk, Edit Sober

This quote by Ernest Hemingway has an element of truth, although I certainly don’t ‘write drunk’. What rings true for me, though, is that you don’t have to be fully ‘with it’ when getting the rough story down. It might be a matter of grabbing a few minutes between meetings or, in my case, while waiting to teach a class. Some of my better writing seems to happen when I am mulling a plot or ‘what’s next’ while trying to sleep. In this case, I have to put the light on, get up and type the inspiration, just in case I forget when I wake up in the morning.Or, I might overhear a conversation while out and about and need to jot a thought down, ready to take back to my computer to bring into the story. For my second novel, I also set aside regular, early morning times to write. And, in the most part, I have kept to this schedule, even if the word output varies. On a good day I will type up about 800-1200 words and, on a bad day, 400-500. But, even the bad days can be good writing!

However, the editing needs time and concentration, plus a critical analysis of words, sentence structure/length, etc. Therefore, Hemingway is right—it is best done while ‘sober’. Incidentally, Hemingway also has a cameo part in my new novel, when two ladies meet an old man on the Croatian coast in a bar in Dubrovnik—the kind of place that Hemingway would, I am sure, have enjoyed!

The Art of Correction

Here’s how it works. You sign up to some fancy editing software (I use ProWritingAid for around $US40) and upload your manuscript. This automatically checks for grammatical errors, overused words, poor sentence connections, long paragraphs, etc. Here is one result – plagiarism – for 3 WISE MEN:

Such analytical processes are actually very helpful but should only be treated as a guide. In many cases (e.g. with foreign place names) the software does a poor job. However, you do need to get past the constant reminders and look at the corrections in context. Do the words and paragraphs still flow? Is the dialogue crisp?

In conclusion, online writing tools like these are fine, but there an “Art to Correction”!


Fixng Erors!

The bain of an author’s journey – fixing errors! Why? Because, as you correct spelling, style and grammatical errors, revisit hanging verbs, and carefully go through sentence starters, connectors and length, you are also likely to add more errors! That’s right – fixing errors can lead to creating new ones. What is the solution? I don’t really know except to put the book down for a few days and then go through it again.

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