Workshop: Making Editing Fun and Easy






Vision 68



Making Editing Fun and Easy


Lazette Gifford


Copyright © 2012, Lazette Gifford, All Rights Reserved


We often experiment with writing, looking for new ways to approach a story. Outline one, pants another; handwrite in a notebook, write everything on a smartphone. I write some novels in Word, others in WriteItNow and others in Scrievner, just because each has a unique feel and set of tools, making the work different. People often change music, fonts, backgrounds and writing locations as they look for the perfect inspiration..


What people rarely do is experiment with editing. In fact, far too many people approach editing with a feeling of dread and doom so they couldn't possibly look at some way to make the work easier.


There's no reason why this can't be fun.



Part One: Attitude


Before you start editing, check your attitude. As with anything else in writing, attitude is an important aspect of the work. If you dread editing, you only make the work harder than it needs to be, and when something is harder, you are less apt to give it the time and attention you should.



The attitude adjustment list:


1. You can fix anything.


2. You may not fix it perfectly the first time, but that doesn't matter.


3. Everyone has to edit sooner or later. This is part of writing. Nothing to dread.


4. Every writer you love has edited. They learned, and so can you.


Exercise 1

This is an easy one.


Think about how you can better approach your work of editing. Not how you do the work, but rather how you think about it.


Part Two: Editing Tricks


Below are a few ways to approach editing which might change your view of the work.


1. Do not edit your original file.


When you sit down to edit, make a copy of your first draft file and edit it. Save the original file at least until you are finished with all of the editing. There will be a time with at least one manuscript when you realize you have edited out something vital.


Besides, it's always wise to have a backup.


2. Do not edit too soon.


It's important to let the work sit for a while. If you leap straight into the edit, you are going to see what you expect to see, and you will miss a lot of what you haven't added or miswrote. The longer you can let a piece rest before you edit, the more likely you are to see not only nitpick grammar and spelling problems, but plot troubles as well.


3. Set a schedule and plan rewards.


Even if you have never kept a writing schedule, it will help to set one up for editing. Limit yourself to editing a few pages a day (4 or 5 is a good number. You might want to start lower, though and work your way up). After you reach your goal, you can go and write something new or watch a show -- whatever works as a reward for getting the work done.


Editing a 90,000 word novel at 5 pages a day will take you about two months. This is a very doable goal once you get used to it.


4. Paper copy versus screen editing


There is no doubt that a story looks and feels different when you have the printed pages in hand. For some people, this is an essential part of the editing process when they pull out the red pen and get to work.


The paper and pen method also gets you away from the computer. You can take this work and edit anywhere, which can be a nice break from staring at a screen at your workstation.


5. Start at the end


Many of us get caught up in the storyline while editing and find ourselves reading when we should be making corrections. Here is a trick to break up the manuscript so you are less likely to get caught up in the storyline: Start at the top of the last page and edit it. Then move to the previous page and work your way back through the story in this way.


This type of editing is especially good for finding spots where you can use more sensory description. Try to get one or two senses on each page if you find you lack them.


6. Find your Weasel Words


In the world of writing, weasel words are the weak words we use automatically without any thought. One way to find weasel words is to use this program (I downloaded a version of it): Manuscrip Analyzer


Look through the various options of how to list words. You might also want to only do one chapter at a time.


I used the analyzer to spot my most overused words and made a list of them I taped next to my keyboard. When I check a chapter I do a find/replace for each of the 'bad' words, and have them show up in red, bold letters. Then I work my way through the entire list of words before I start editing. This way I only have to edit lines with more than one 'bad' word once. Once I'm done, I simply select all and set the font back to black and not bold. Unless you use bold in your manuscript (most people don't), you won't have a problem. If you do use bold, try resizing the weasel words to something larger and easy to spot. Be sure to use a bright color, though, so you can easily find the words.



7. A paragraph at a time


Here is an interesting trick to isolate your work so you see and edit only one paragraph at a time. These are the find/replace codes for Word, but almost any serious word processor will have the same sort of coding, though you may need to check the help files to find what works.


In find type ^p

In replace type ^p^m


They are case sensitive so use lower case. When you tell the program to do the find/replace you will now have every paragraph on its own page. This lets you truly isolate those words and makes it more difficult to look at the previous set or the next set. You can concentrate on this small section. Typos are far more obvious, as are weak descriptions.


When you are done, remove the page breaks by mirroring the commands:


In find type ^p^m

In replace type ^p


However, be aware that this will have wiped out any forced page breaks at the end of chapters, so make certain they are back in place. If you use the word 'chapter' in your chapter starts, simply look for it and see if there is a page break above it. If you use numbers (1, 2, etc.) you can find them by doing a ^# to locate each one. If you write the numbers out (One, Two, etc.) you might have a harder time locating the break points.


Exercise 2


Experiment with one or more of the ideas above. Combine, change, adapt; be inventive, both with writing and with editing.



Editing is no less about creativity than writing the first draft. You are still working with the same story, but now you are refining the vision. This is your chance to make all those gems truly shine, but also be aware that you can edit too much. This isn't a classroom. A novel isn't about perfect grammar; it's about words that work in the context of your story.


And remember: Have Fun.