On Editing, as Torturous as it May Be

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Editing is indeed terrible. Hang in there!

(I am writing about editing, which is tedious in the extreme, so in between telling you about editing, I will put in pictures of my Great Pyrenees puppy Rupert to make you feel better about editing.)

Editing is one of the most boring parts of finishing up a novel.

That is also the part of my novel I’m at right now, editing so that I can send it in for publication. It is tiring work, I’ll admit, but very necessary. I have to stress that a writer should NEVER send in a first draft for submission. Editors can tell. It’s not hard to tell, because not editing something is like sending a leaky ship out to sea. I generally do at least two editing runs before I submit my draft for publication, with the expectation that the editors at the publisher will do even more.

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I am biting this bone and pretending it is editing.I generally do at least two editing runs before I will even contemplate sending it in.

First thing to look for is obviously spelling and grammar. Don’t rely on a program to fix this for you, because more often than not, there will be obvious mistakes that it missed. Also make sure that your tenses all match up – I tend to get very excited while I’m writing and accidentally switch into present tense. I blame university essay writing. Another thing to watch out for is dangling modifiers, which is when the subject of a clause is made ambiguous. Sometimes this is done for some effect, but generally it is a mistake to watch out for.

The main purpose of editing, however, is to take out unnecessary words and tighten up the writing so that it’s more brief and concise. Look at the beginning of your sentences for words like and, then, but, so, and also. If there is a way to take these out, do so.

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If only editing could be buried in this snowbank.

Try and take out words that don’t add anything to the sentence. Take the sentence: “He felt a warm touch at his side.” Usually, you don’t need the word “felt” in any sentence. While you’re writing, it’s easier to just write a sentence with “felt” in it, but in editing, it must come out. Tighten this to something like this: “Something warm touched his side.” Another example: “She felt a branch clawing at her shoulder” can be changed to: “A branch clawed at her shoulder.”

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Pretend this mountain is editing, and you are on top of it.

Another way to tighten up prose is to look at verbs with an adverb and find another verb which is stronger so that you can take out the adverb. Example: “Run quickly” versus “dash,” “sprint,” and “rush.”

Sometimes sentences are arranged poorly, and while the meaning is clear, it is awkward to read. If you find any instances of these, rearrange the words to try and make the sentence flow better. Sometimes sentences can be broken into two sentences to make them less confusing.

That is just some of the advice I can give to writers who have to edit something. Editing is certainly a process, so good luck to anyone else who is at this particular stage of one of their projects.

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