Sunday, August 5, 2012

Self-Editing Makes a Difference

This month's theme is self-editing. Some writers enjoy editing and others loathe it, but it is a critical part of this business. I doubt you can get away from it even if you try. If you write in a journal, you might catch yourself overlooking a weak word like run for a stronger word like sprint. That is self-editing.

I believe editing takes place at every stage of writing. When I look at my printed page for proper formatting. I make sure my font is easy to read. I prefer Times New Roman. I check to make sure there is an inch margin all around. Sometimes I'll catch a two inch margin at the bottom and will realize I forgot to turn the Orphans off on my page setup and several lines were sent to the following page. I make sure I'm consistent with my chapter headings. I like the word CHAPTER and the number, written as a word, to be capitalized and on the seventh line from the top. The overall look of your manuscript needs to be professional and consistent or an editor isn't likely to want to read what you wrote.

I keep my spell check and grammar check on to help with my writing. I'm not above a little help. No matter how many times you go through a manuscript, you will find an error. I believe in making the job a little easier.

During my first draft, I type what's in my head and will do some self-editing as I go along, but most of the editing comes in during my revisits to the book. I'll go over a chapter as many times as it takes to sound right. I'm looking for anything that will make the story flow, the characters real, the plot strong, etc.  Is that word strong enough? Is that a run-on sentence? Am I suppose to use there, their, or they're? Do I need a comma or a semi-colon? Did I mix short, simple sentences with longer, complex sentences? Do I need more details? Have I used my senses to add to the details? Did I show the character's motivation? Do the character's reactions make sense? Does that dialogue sound real or stilted? Did I scatter clues throughout the story for the reader to try and guess the identify of the killer? Did I dump too much back story into that scene? Everything you have learned about writing comes together in the editing process.

Why is self-editing important if the publishing company has an editor and a copy editor? Because you are competing against thousands of other writers. If an editor has two equally strong stories to choose from, but only one available slot, it makes sense they will choose the story with the least amount of work needed on their part.

As a teacher, I learned that two identical papers can be viewed differently by their presentation. This is not an exact science, but I am willing to bet in most cases a teacher, agent, or an editor, will be more likely to think a story with proper punctuation, written neatly, in a standard format is a better story, than the exact same words written messy, without proper formatting and punctuation.

I know of an ebook publisher who chose to correct all their writer's errors, but if they were excessive, they charge for their extra work. As an author, the flow of money should always be going to you. You should not be paying editors, agents, or publishers.

When you have a moment, check your social media for the number of writers out there promoting their work. You need every advantage you can get to stand out in the crowd. Knowing your craft and writing a great story isn't always enough. Do your self-editing so both you and your work look professional.

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