Thursday, December 12, 2013
The craft of rewriting-Revision-Self Editing
By OFW chief editor:
Carlos J Cortes And Renée Miller
Published: April 15, 2013
What is an editor? Editors are professionals of the highest order, a writer’s best friend. The work they do isn’t just about correcting spelling errors and chasing down rogue commas. An editor can revise our manuscript, checking for scores of unrelated errors on a single pass. Best of all, a good editor will find those errors.
As the editor reads, he addresses grammar, style, syntax, voice, POV, continuity, repetitions, pace, usage, and many other issues. We lesser mortals must plod, checking one item or a set of related items at each pass.
Novice writers sometimes ask: Then why not just send the draft to the editor?
Because we should never waste their time and efforts. Writers must polish their manuscripts to the best of their ability before submitting. The same is true before sending the manuscript to first-line readers. Having to stop at every other line to repair typos, grammar and syntax errors, missing words, etc., stresses readers to such an extent they are not able to concentrate on plot, continuity, story flow, pace, and characterization, which is what we want our indefatigable beta readers reading for. As our colleague Wendy Swore once aptly remarked “...it would be like showing your filthy kitchen to your friends, while asking them to pretend it’s not covered in vomit. Clean up your mess first. Then show it.”
To prepare a manuscript for readers, it’s critical to do a good line edit. The readers will suggest all kinds of changes, and yes, we’ll have to edit again, but the second pass will require far less work because we’ve already taken care of the tedious bits with our line edits.
Once we receive the manuscript back from our readers, littered with all kinds of graffiti if we’re lucky, we must weigh each suggestion and address it accordingly. Then it’s the time to tackle the final edit to end up with a polished manuscript that is suitable for an editor’s eye.
Thus, the procedure is:
Write the first draft
This is writing at full tilt. We don’t pay attention to anything beyond getting the story on paper. Of course, obvious errors we’ll correct along the way, but we don’t backtrack or pause. We simply write.
Let it rest
This is usually the hardest part, leaving it alone for at least a week. We work on a new project, write a synopsis and a query, or paint our toenails while pondering another outline. We do not even glance at the draft during this time.
Read and annotate
After a week we pull our baby out and read, making notes on changes, problems, etc. No changes just yet. Just read and make note of issues, errors, plot inconsistencies, areas we want to add to or remove and why—and when we’re done, the real work begins.
We now address each note we made on the read-through and make any changes necessary to improve plot, continuity, etc.
Let it rest
By this point our toenails are a mess and that new project is simmering in our minds. We set aside the manuscript once more and work on something else. Again, we don’t even glance at the manuscript for at least a week.
Read and tweak
The week has passed and we pick it up again. This time we read each page and tweak issues such as spelling, grammar, tightening POV, etc.
Then the real fun begins. Line edits. We go through the manuscript from the end to the beginning. We’ll explain the reason behind the reverse order in the following sections.
We now bundle our baby and send it off to readers for feedback. Beta readers are crucial to the editing process. Writers need this feedback to properly edit things we either can’t see or refuse to see. We’ll discuss beta readers in more detail later.
Address reader’s suggestions
When we receive the readers’ feedback, we address every comment. Some, we might think are silly, but still, make a note. If more than one reader makes the same comment, or one along a similar vein, we consider the comment, no matter how silly it seems, more seriously.
Once we’ve addressed the readers’ suggestions, we make a final pass. Clean up the prose, correct formatting, punctuation, and anything that isn’t polished and perfect.
Fireworks and bubbly
We’re done. Break out the bubbly, light some fireworks, and celebrate. Time to start looking for a home for our baby.
In the following sections we’ll address each step in more detail.
Renee Miller & Carlos Cortes
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