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Tip Tuesday #86

Hello and happy Tuesday. Today, I have some great editing tips from Jenna Morris who blogs at Literally YA. After you read her tips below, please hope over to her blog for a visit. She recently added a follower widget and need some new followers. And hey, anyone who blogs about Disney's Tangled gets a recommendation from me. I seriously LOVE that movie.

It helps if you print it out. I don't know whether this seems obvious or not, but my eyes seem to catch a lot more mistakes -- and things that aren't mistakes, but aren't right, either -- when I have a hard copy actually in my hands. Also, a paper manuscript, while a little more cumbersome, is perfectly portable. (School, hmm?)

A pen with bright-colored ink does wonders.
Sure, it might look ridiculous, and some might wonder if a rainbow puked all over your manuscript. But it makes it much easier to pick out your revisions from the black printer ink if you do. (Mine's neon pink. Nerd that I am, I've named it Slasher.)


Read through each chapter individually and pick out the main points. That way, you know what you're cutting out: everything else. It's not always fun, but there's no use keeping it if it's just tying your book down. You might have to rewrite a little to patch up those main points, make them flow, but hey -- you're a writer, aren't you?

Take it sentence by sentence, word by word. This is one of the biggest pains there is, but it's also the one of the most important. Analyze the syntax of your sentence, then any alternative ways to state it; if another can say what the original did, but with less words, I'd take it. Very big note: If it's going to compromise the meaning or ring to your sentence, I probably wouldn't do it unless I had to. But it's really just personal preference.

Contractions are your friends. I mean, merging two words into one? Sounds to me like a desperate author came up with that one.

Use Search and Destroy -- um, Replace. Search and Replace. For example, if you're going by a title a lot, you might consider swapping most of those 2-worded titles for a single-worded alternative. (For example, if you have a queen named Alice and you find yourself calling her "the queen" more often than you need to, you might just call her "Alice" every once in a while, if the situation's right. Also, you need to make sure you didn't alternate the two purposely to avoid repetition, before replacing all of them.)

If there's something you absolutely need to include, consider moving it to another book. A thread of back story? An explanation? A revelation? If taking that scene or such and weaving it into a later book in the series (provided there is one) makes as much sense as putting it into this one, it might make sense just to hold off on it until then. But only if it still holds effectiveness in that other place.

Cut out all of the "that"s that you don't need. See that last sentence? The second "that" didn't need to be there. Chances are, that you've put many of those in your manuscript; I definitely did. But there's good news: after I've noticed that I overuse the word and have begun to actively cut it from my manuscript, I haven't been making the mistake as much.

Cut out all of the "of"s you don't need. This one helps too. Also, instead of putting "off of," "from" usually works just as well.

Remember: not many people have died from editing, and it really does help. While I don't actively enjoy editing, I love the results I see in my book because of it. A tighter manuscript really is better, and hopefully, agents, publishers, and readers all agree.

- Jenna Morris

17 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great suggestions. I don't print my manuscript all the time when I revise, but you are right. It's easier to see the mistakes.

I so have to search for "that" and "of" and a whole list of words in all my drafts. It really does cut the word count to eliminate them. Thanks for your tips Jenna and I enjoyed checking out your blog.

Jennifer Pickrell said...

Thanks for the tips - I've got my "overused words/phrases list," and will definitely add "that" to it.

Beth said...

Great advice. "That" is one of my problem words too. Editing can be difficult, but the brightly-colored pen might help!

sewa mobil said...

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Matthew MacNish said...

Excellent advice, with entertaining delivery. There's nothing better!

Alexandra said...

Thank you for these highly useful tips! I have found the same thing with printing out the manuscript - it surprises me every time just how many things I catch on paper, so I never skip this step. I am also now reading the manuscript aloud, which is a new thing for me. This helps in other ways, but especially for identifying words/sentences that can be omitted, and tightening up the manuscript.

Now, I'm off to Staples to get a neon pink pen and see what that does to my manuscript- I can hardly wait to find out!
PS- it was fun to see the comment about "Tangled"! We're on the 32nd viewing now at our house...

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

I read Jenna's tips and I am going to refer you to another way to do a revision I got this one from the BEA conference. Because sometimes you have to step back and look at your book the way a reader would. http://thepenandinkblog.blogspot.com/2010/05/getting-ready-for-revision.html
Both of these ways are important. My next step is the reading of the manuscript like a reader. Then I will go back and search the little stuff.

IanBontems said...

Good tips and a good post. I'd like to add that a crit partner is great for picking up on details that otherwise might be missed.

(Note to self - must watch Tangled)

Steve MC said...

Printing up something is definitely helpful. You can even try different fonts to make it look new.

And yeah, you can take out "that" half the time and make it better.

KM Nalle said...

These are all really wonderful suggestions. Very timely too as I'm revising my first novel. :)

Anita said...

As a person who has done a lot of critiquing, I have to say these points are right on the money! Fabulous post!

Jenna Blake Morris said...

Thanks everyone! I'll have to start reading my manuscript out loud and switching up the fonts, too.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Great tips! Printing it out helps me, too, although I don't always do it. It's a "saving paper" thing, but I think I should do it more anyway.

I always find things I should change when I read my work out loud! It feels weird, but it works.

Theresa Milstein said...

I never used contractions when I first wrote. Don't know why. When a critiquer pointed the problem out, it was an epiphany. Especially for dialogue.

Thanks for the link. I'll visit.

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

Really great advice all around! I also will outline after I've finished the first draft, creating a mini summary for each chapter. It helps to see plot and character arcs.

And totally random, we're having a Tangled birthday party for my kiddo. Ha.

bfav said...

These are some great tips. It is amazing how well printing-and-reading improve editing. Weird but it does.

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