In less than two weeks, I’ll be sending the manuscript of my Young Adult Fantasy novel to beta readers. That means I have under two weeks to finish my edits.
So, I thought this would be the time to talk about some of the things I’ve learned during the editing process. 🙂
- You really don’t need dodgy adjectives or pesky adverbs. Like, ever.
It has been said a hundred times before, and will be said a hundred times again, by writers much better than myself, but the truth of the matter is at least half of the adverbs and adjectives in your manuscript are redundant. I was reluctant at first to cut them. I had this idea that modern writing was bone dry and ridiculous, that the omission of adjectives and adverbs did nothing but over simplify the text. In an act of rebellion I dumped so many adjectives and adverbs in my first attempts that the reader could barely discern the meanings. It was bad, really bad. In fact, it was terrible. Although cutting as many adjectives and adverbs as I could lowered my overall word count by nearly two thousand, it has made the rest of the manuscript run a lot smoother. That said, there are times where adjectives and adverbs are necessary and do add something to the writing. Just make sure that you use them wisely.
- If you think its fine, you’re probably wrong.
All work needs editing. Even if you think it’s perfect, I can promise you it won’t be. But don’t be disheartened because editing can fix even the most atrocious of problems. As I have admitted before, I am floundering in the deep when it comes to working out my editing process but I had to start somewhere and I am good at editing others people’s work so for once, I took my own advice. I always tell my students to read what they have written out loud, as stupid as it may feel. This is super important when it comes to dialogue because it helps to a) make sure it flows well and b) ensure each character’s voice is distinctive. I also have to force myself to look at my work objectively, distancing myself from the characters and places and events that sprang from my mind and treating them as critically as possible. If you cannot be objective towards your own work, you will never edit it well enough. That said, beta readers come in handy for those parts you just can’t make yourself cut.
- Don’t try to tackle the beast, learn how to tame it.
Before you are start editing a huge work, read first. Read every blog article and advice column you can get your hands on. Read what worked for others and what didn’t. Practice on shorter pieces, essays and short stories. Practice on someone else’s novel because it is always easier to critique someone else’s work. Make sure though that you note your processes, so that when you are ready to tackle your own work, you know what you do and what you look for.
- At the end of the day, you know best.
When it comes down to it, you as the writer know what is best for your story, and if there is something that you’ve been told to cut but cutting it affects a hundred tiny things further down the track then keep that part in but check it. Make sure it flows, that the characters motivations are believable here, that the reader’s interest is maintained. You may have to take the section apart and put it back together again in myriad different ways until the puzzle pieces fit.
- It is a constant learning process.
Editing, like all things, is a constant learning process. You will never know everything, you will never catch every typo or notice every weird turn of phrase but that is okay. There is no right or wrong way to edit. You must find a method that works for you and stick to it. Most importantly of all, find someone who you can trust to tell you the truth and who is willing to read your work and ask them to edit it for you. A second, or third, or fourth perspective is invaluable. It’s these readers who will pick up the bits you missed.
It isn’t always easy but, in the long run, it is always rewarding. 🙂
What have you learned from editing?