Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My Editing Cheat Notes Document

I think I've mentioned before I'm not trained as an editor and I learned English by reading rather than in the classroom. Oh, don't get me wrong, I grew up in America and took English in public schools. I just didn't get a good grasp on the grammar part.

Not understanding grammar is a real problem for those of us who decide to write a book. But, it's not impossible to overcome. What I did was get people to read Where Love Once Lived and mark the places that needed to be changed. In addition, I paid several professionals to look at the manuscript.

Two sources for free editing to consider are entering manuscript contests and submitting sample chapters to agents. Contest judges were especially helpful to me in this regard. And, while most agents sent me form rejections, one sent me a detailed editing guide.

I analyzed the changes and suggestions I received from everyone and prepared a Word document that would keep me from making the same mistakes again. Here are a few examples from my list:

  1. Don't paraphrase once scene begins. (This one came from Bonnie Hearn Hill, and since she did paraphrase midscene in Cutline, I'm sure there are exceptions to this rule.)
  2. Replace like with as or as if where appropriate. (My list includes examples.)
  3. Check its (possessive) vs. it's (it is)
  4. Awhile vs. a while -- Awhile, an adverb, is never preceded by a preposition such as for, but the two-word form a while may be preceded by a preposition. In writing, each of the following is acceptable: stay awhile; stay for a while; stay a while (but not stay for awhile).
  5. Delete unnecessary qualifiers -- An unnecessary word that blurs your meaning and weakens your sentence. Either something is, or it isn’t. Example: It was a bit cold outside. Either it's cold or it isn't.
  6. Every day is two words.
  7. Nodded her head. Don't need her head.

I have 63 items in my list. Some you wouldn't need, but there are probably others you would want to add. In addition to the grammar related items, my list includes a few that are specific to Where Love Once Lived. For example, my male protagonist's name is Brian. Occasionally, I'd discover his name had changed to Brain and, since that is a word, the spell checker didn't catch it. So, I made a note to search for brains every now and then. Same with the word mayor which also appears in my story and gets magically changed to major when I'm not looking.

One nice thing about Microsoft Word, and other word processing software, is that you can use the Find and Replace feature to make corrections.

Good luck with your editing. Do you have a special list to help?


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