We will soon be moving on to a new topic, which was #2 on the list of my blog readers’ major interests: “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.”
I have a nice surprise for you all. We’ll have a guest expert on to answer many of your questions. I’ll still be here adding in my nosy little bit, but you’ll have the advantage of hearing from an expert who knows far more than I do:
Renni Browne will be our expert. Renni is known around the world as the author of “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers,” which she co-authored with Dave King. This is one of the “must have” book on my list of recommended books for novelists.
If you don’t have “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers,” you can check it out on Amazon. Take a look at all those 5-star Amazon reviews! I own a copy and virtually every published novelist I know owns one too. It’s that good.
Go ahead and post your questions here as a comment on this blog. I’ll collect the questions and forward them to Renni. She’ll answer them and I’ll post them back here in groups of 2 or 3, alongside my own blithering commentary. I think we’ll have fun.
Many of you know that Renni Browne heads a major editing service, The Editorial Department. This is one of the premier editing services in the world, as you can well imagine. I won’t belabor this point, but I know that at any given time, some of you are looking for editing services. Check out The Editorial Department to see if they might meet your needs. They also have an e-zine, which you can subscribe to for free on the web site.
I’d like to respond to a few more comments that you all have posted in the last few days.
I try not to work on more than one project at once, but there are several times that I have wondered if I could pull of writing two books at one time. Basically my action plan is to keep writing this one until I’m sick of it and it’s as perfect as I can get it. I hope to finish it early next year…do you recommend writing more than one project at a time?
Randy sez: Professional writers often have multiple projects going. They also have 40+ hours per week to spend on their projects. Most pre-published writers are lucky to have 10 or 20 hours per week. Because of that, I recommend focusing on one project at a time. It’s not a hard/fast rule, but it makes a lot of sense to me.
Like the Simpleology guy says: “See your target clearly. Keep it in your sights. Keep hitting it (until you hit it).” That is sound advice for anything, and especially for fiction writing.
Randy, as you know I’ve been learning A LOT about the marketing end of writing. I posted about all the stuff I’ve mastered these past few months here: http://aratus.typepad.com/tma/2007/10/pebble-turning-.html
Because of what I’ve learned (and boy did that involve a LOT of action and trying things I’ve never tried before), I am much more efficient in this part of my writing.
Randy sez: Bravo, Mary! I’ve been watching the development of your brand and your marketing strategy on your web site. You go, RelevantGirl!
We’ll look at a few more of your comments tomorrow, while you give me your questions for the queen of self-editing, Renni Browne.
Post your questions on self-editing here now!
Kerryn Angell says
I have the book! I bought it a couple weeks ago but haven’t got to reading it yet. I’m part way through No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty for NaNoWriMo and Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell.
I look forward to the posts on Editing. I think I’ll be doing more editing than writing next year now that I have a couple of decent first drafts under my belt.
I didn’t get a notification of the blog by e-mail today. Maybe others didn’t either and that’s why I’m the first to reply.
For Ms. Browne. It seems craft is like peeling the proverbial onion, always more to learn. How do I know when to quit revising?
I love, love, love “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.” One area the book doesn’t cover, though, (and which I’d love to hear more about from Ms. Browne) is macro-editing. Are there any techniques or tips for large-scale novel editing? Tangled plots? Weak characters? Broken structure? I can really dig into scene-by-scene editing, but big-picture editing is a nightmare. I have a few novel-length manuscripts languishing on my hard drive because I don’t know how to tackle the large-scale editing needed to make them work.
Gerhi Janse van Vuuren says
What Rob says above and then the following.
I’m writing a Nanowrimo novel so the editor is of at the moment. But I will have a draft in about a months time. The standard advice seem to be to let the draft lie for a time (a week, a month) before picking it up again. But I know from experience (academic writing) that when I get to the end of a draft I already know about a ton of things I want to fix.
Should I still let it lie or immediately fix the things that I feel needs fixing?
And then what Lynda said, when are you done?
I too would love an answer to Rob’s question–how to get above the trees to see if the forest is healthy.
What are the major points to work on? I have been writing a lot over the past few days, but I feel like I’m going to fast on the actual book. I feel like the most important characters aren’t coming out right. I feel like the story is going to fast…like I’m rushing it. In self-editing, do you worry about grammar and spelling? I generally don’t…that really doesn’t seem to be the most important part to me…but what about the other stuff? When you read over your chapters AGAIN, do you polish the sentences and dialogue? Edit out the worst scenes? Rewrite as you go? Basically, do you edit and write at the same time.
One of the best self editing techniques I’ve ever seen is GAP (Gain A Page). You go through your draft seeking to cut one page from each chapter. You do this by cutting one line from each paragraph. It may hurt to think of cutting so much of your labor of love, but trust me, the end result is worth it.
I tried it, and was very pleased with the results, so I sent the chapter to one of my beta readers who had been bored at several points before (definite problem with the writing there). He loved how the rewrite made things so much better. The action was clearer. The dialog, more crisp.
I had expected to get no more than a 7% cut from the GAP, but my second draft was 16% shorter, and all of it improvements. One reason the GAP worked so well for me is that I can be wordy and take several words to say what really only needs two words to express. GAP helped me spot that.
Thanks Randy, who DON’T you know?
“Self Editing for Fiction Writers” is one of my favorite books on writing so far, along with Noah Lukeman’s First Five Pages. I found both very reader friendly. That’s important for some of us.
Ron Erkert says
I’m with Lynda…at what point do you stop?
With my research and review manuscripts I have to force myself to stop editing and send it to the other authors. By the time I submit, I’m sick of the thing and never want to see it again (but, then have to go through the whole peer-review process which can be a complete nightmare :-P).
Anna, I have a tendency to rewrite as I go (I’m dyslexic, so my writing is ripe with errors). It’s a hard habit to break. I’m trying to limit it to when the characters throw me for a loop, like when I found out two of my characters were brothers or a character takes a sudden turn that doesn’t mesh with previous actions; otherwise, I forget.
One thing that helps me from going back and constantly re-edit myself is to make use of Word’s change tracker (I picked this up from my scientific manuscripts). I’ll insert comments/questions to myself as I write. The highlighter is also useful for marking problematic sections of narrative or dialogue. I use different colors for problem dialogue or places where I’m telling, instead of showing. I can then easily find the problem area later after I’ve let it ferment for a while. Also, I’ll often find the answers to my problem areas later on in the narrative.
And another question for Renni…any suggestions for those of us who are dyslexic? I spend a lot of time going over what I’ve just written to make certain it’s close to being grammatically correct (I rely heavily on spell check)…even then I still end up having to do a lot of editing later. I’ve gone over this post at least a dozen times to make sure I haven’t completely embarrassed myself.
bonne friesen says
housekeeping comment: I didn’t get an email notification for this post either
Question: When writing for youth, is it okay to switch POV? I’ve heard lots of reasons NOT to do this when writing for young people (ages 10-14), but in my WIP the two main characters are separated for a while (due to a Disaster)and we get a look in the less-dominant one’s head while we find out how she returns to her friend. Am I doomed?
Thank you for your time!
Karla Akins says
I didn’t get an e-mail on this one, either, but FeedBlitz did send it to me with the next post.
Valerie Fentress says
Ok my editing question is when is enough, enough? I know grammar editing has an end, but story revisions never seem to end for me. I continuously come up with ideas to improve upon one of my finished manuscripts, and even as I finish up my current project I’m still coming up with new ideas to stick in. So when is enough, enough?
Lois Hudson says
I also suffer from the “edit as you go” syndrome, making every page or chapter as perfect as I can before going on. I know there are lots of warnings against that practice, and will look forward to the discussions on this.
I vouch for Ron’s suggestion of color coding sections you know are awkward. It’s a way to keep going without
losing momentum or worrying about finding it again. Often the next section provides a resolution for fixing the bad spot.
That book’s on my Christmas list because every writer I know recommends it. I look forward to this clinic.
There are so many aspects of editing (spelling and grammar, word choice/usage, sentence structure, theme, etc.) What order would you suggest attacking them in?
I have SEFFW but haven’t finished it yet. Guess I should bone up, as it were.
I don’t have the book yet but its on my Xmas list, too!
My biggest question is: what is the difference when editing a short story versus a novel? What do you trim in a short story that you normally wouldn’t in a novel? How do you decide what’s too much or too little when the story is so much smaller?
Currently, I have two finished short stories and one novel under serious construction.
I’m with Lois – in a writing/editing tug-0-war.
There are changes I want to make to some of the conversations and events in what’s written so far before I *can* continue writing the rest of the story (the changes will affect what I’m currently writing and I’m afraid I’ll forget or it won’t make sense to me later at re-write stage). But I AM CERTAIN that if I go back into those chapters, I’ll get sucked into editing stuff that I should leave alone for now. I have inserted some track changes comments, but it’s better if I stay out of the ms entirely. So I took the time to make a new brief outline of the chapters so far showing the additions and changes and I hope to follow THIS instead of getting sucked back into the ms. We’ll see if it works. Any advice would be appreciated.
My question: How do I know when I’ve over-edited and the prose is too spare? I write tight to begin with and pare down to make every word carry its weight. Because of this I have shorter scenes and chapters, and a lot of them. I harp on myself to keep the explanation within the action and dialogue (R.U.E.!), not the prose–but I worry that I’ve then left too much to the imagination and the piece is not understandable to anyone without a literary magnifying glass. (What do I do?)
Okay, another question: Once I cut out a lot of the flab, I’m left with a long series of very short paragraphs. Is this a no-no, and if it is, is there any way to remedy the situation?
Am I too late for this? If not…I also am a edit-as-you-go writer (as well as a seat-of-the-pants writer). I can’t seem to stop it and the Dean Koontz interview gave me hope that I’m not doing it wrong.
I’m interested in her views on this type of editing, even though most everything says not to do it this way. I know it adds to the writing time but does shorten the editing time.