Thursday, October 10, 2019

Editing Thoughts: Technology is (and is not) Your friend

For the past two weeks, I’ve been revising my work-in-progress. I’m about (cross your fingers) two-thirds finished the manuscript, and I’ll share some go-to revision moves that work for me.

I’m a big fan of technology –– I sometimes compose using a dictation app –– but, as I wrote recently, I’m a stickler about editing on hardcopy. Here are some thoughts:

  1. Edit hardcopy. Don’t trust the screen. The computer screen plays tricks on you. You don’t always see what’s really there (and not there).
  2. Always read the book aloud (or listen to it). Someone once told me, “Read it aloud. You think you know what you said when you wrote it. Hearing it will tell you how other people will read it.” I use a text-to-speech app to hear what I wrote. But I like reading it aloud more because I know if I get knotted up in my own long sentences the reader surely will. Force yourself to read it aloud. It takes time, but it’s time well spent. One way to do this is read it for someone. (I offered the opening scene of my book at a reading Tuesday night, although reading a work-in-progress is another post altogether.)
  3. The Find option is your ticket to more active prose. Use it to search for repetitive phrases, inconsistencies, and weak verbs. I recently did this to see if I was capitalizing a title consistently (I wasn’t) and to find every use of the verbs to be, has, have, and had. I ran a scan finding every gerund and eliminated a bunch for more active verbs. Know your tendencies: I write has and had way too often in drafts, and I search for them and get rid of as many as possible. It takes hours to search out each one and evaluate it, but it’s worth it. I do this with and and but, too. As you can imagine the word and appears over 2,000 times in 175 pages. I spent upwards of four hours on this chore.

This list is short and sweet, and certainly not absolute. But this is part of my revision process, and it works for me. I’d love to hear additional thoughts on this.

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