Monday, March 2, 2015

5 Tips to Editing

This month I have been teaching a class on short stories as well as working on edits for two projects. While I thorough enjoy letting go with my writing and just letting it take me wherever the muse wants to go, editing is work. Hard work. When it comes to editing, I always find myself looking for easy answers and there really aren't any. There are so many different things to consider when editing so I went through to find a list of things that sometimes get forgotten, but are easy to do to begin the process or when you feel like editing is getting you down. Here are some quick tips to keep in mind as you begin the process or if you get stuck in the middle of the process:

1. Look for your "weak" words.  This might also be called your crutch words. We all have them -- things like

usually
just
really
often
always

On your first editing pass, throw your crutch words into search or find and track them down. If you can do without them, then do it.

2. Look for filter words or phrases. This is something I had not thought about when I first started writing, but why use extra words or put more room between the reader and the characters.  Instead of saying She saw the man get into the car, simply say: The man got into the car. If we are in her head, seeing things from her viewpoint already, then just let her tell the readers what she sees.

3. Watch for padded words.  Just like filter words, these are words that aren't necessary.

Sit down
stand up
drop down
follow behind
rise up
dash quickly

If you sit, you are down, if you stand, you are up.  There are probably more words you can find to add to this list. They might even be crutch words for you. Look for them and get rid of them.

4. Check your opening and your ending.  You should re-read them over before you consider your editing completed, but it is also a good way to start the process.  Make certain that the idea you started with makes sense with how you are ending your story. Do you fulfill the promise of the beginning?  Is your character changed, but still believable?  Is there a scene you need to add or delete as a result of what you wrote at the beginning but now that the story is finishing you find you don't need that. Go back and get rid of it.

5.  Read your story aloud.  This is my favorite editing tip.  Maybe it's because I spent so many years in television newsrooms where so many of us were reading our stories aloud as we wrote them. If you write for TV news you want to know how it's going to sound when the words are read. You want to make certain they work together and the thought is not so complicated that the reader (or listener) will get lost in the middle.  Reading a story aloud can really help you see problem areas.  It can be an absolute must when writing dialogue. If you can't read the dialogue aloud, then I doubt people can speak it.

Most of all as you edit, don't let it get you down. The story is written and you have words on the page. Simply make certain they're the right words. (I was about to write Just make certain -- then I edited it out -- that is one of my crutch words)


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