What is editing? The Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America have composed a great resource list that explains what the different editing job titles do but also what to look for so Indie Authors do not fall prey to a scam.
Editing is what separates a wanna be writer from a real writer in my humble opinion. It’s relatively easy to get that first draft under your belt. The hard and fun part of writing is editing and honing your story until it gleams or until, if you have to read it one more time, you will violently hurl.
The first draft is always exciting. Is it good? Will anyone read it? You may be tempted to rush it out there and you shouldn’t. You should have a reliable friend/family/partner/group that will read your book and tell you if the story is good. Good, in the sense that it is good enough to keep. working. on!
Here are some places I’ve used to do that -
The verdict is – it’s a good story. Great. Awesome. Wonderful. Now – back to work!
Do some self-editing. You know it’s a good story. Now go back and give it a polish. You have a unique set of quirks or things you do in your writing that you probably shouldn’t. The 10% Solution: Self-Editing for the Modern Writer is a great way to organize your editing.
AutoCrit Editing Wizard is another tool to help polish up your next edit.
Margie Lawson has a highlighting system that is pretty brilliant.
Go back over the basics: theme, plot, setting, characters, dialog, point-of-view, style. What logic points have you missed? A spell checker catches most things. This add on works as well for catching some grammar mistakes – After the Deadline.
Even after all of your self-editing, and I am still struggling mightly with this, nothing beats a real person reading and commenting on your story. There are some on-line critique sites that are worth the effort to become involved and stay involved with. Nothing beats finding a critique partner that is willing to basically rip your story apart and work with you to make it better.
Critiquing – is an art. If you come across a person who gives a good critique, befriend them and be super ubber nice to them. Usually to get good critiques, you need to give them, so here are some tips -
I wish I had read these tips before joining critique sites and critiquing. I often took the tone of the last person who critiqued me and it wasn’t until I had a couple of good critiques myself, that I learned what I needed to do. And I’m still learning!
These sites do a good job of making you critique and write about the story in at least 200-300 words. I love in-line critiques, but they do accept different formats.
FictionPress is a little different. You have to be involved for several weeks before they let you post a story. You can sign up to be a Beta Reader and you can ask people to be a Beta Reader for you.
Critique Circle, with a premium membership, you can form your own queue so there is a dedicated group working on your story and you on theirs depending on what format you chose. But there is a ton that you can do there for free and to get yourself established first.
All of these critique sites run on a point system where you earn points by performing certain activities and spend those points on other activities.
If you are hard up for help, you could try this paying site – 10 Day Book Club for a fee people will help develop and market your manuscript. I haven’t used this service.
While you are doing all of this, be on the lookout for a dedicated crit partner. This is someone that you work closely with. They read your stuff and you read theirs. It can take a lot of trail and error and starts and stops before you find someone that will stick with you and support you and you will do the same for them.
After all of this, contact some Beta Readers. You will need to come up with a list and some of the earlier sites mentioned, like BookRix, are good for this sort of thing. The other thing you can do is post some of your story for free on your website or blog and request feedback. These are general readers. The main question is, do you want to keep reading the story? Are you intrigued? Is it entertaining?
After all of that work and earlier vetting, you still need a final edit/proofread/polish. Here are my suggestions. They charge, but they are very reasonable and this is an expense that you cannot skimp on even from a DIY standpoint.
Scott Nicholson – Haunted Computer Books - He’s a bona-fide writer, so check out any of his eBook titles as well.
Runaway Pen: Cover design, Proofreading, Full edit
7 Most Common Grammar, Punctuation, and Usage Errors
by Chryse Wymer
My mother pounded good grammar and usage into my head at a very early age, and I took that pounding to heart…and to head. Thanks, Mom. I hope I can do the same for at least some of the writers who read this. If not, feel free to hire me. Just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with Editing in the subject line. However, you’d better be ready to work, take criticism, and be willing to smile a little. Editing is a serious business, but I’m a pretty goofy person. I am part of the Indiana University editor’s forum; if you’re interested, here’s information about them. If you want to know more about my work or how I edit, feel free to contact me. I am American so I edit based on my country’s standards. Thanks for reading, and I hope this clears up some grammar confusion. Let’s get down to business.
- Ellipsis misuse at the end of a sentence. If you don’t know what an ellipsis is, it’s that little dot, dot, dot [. . .] whose primary usage is to signal that something’s missing. Technically speaking, they should now be punctuated dot, space, dot, space, dot, space, and then the punctuation, such as . . . . or . . . ? The misuse I’m speaking of has to do with the end of a sentence because at the end of the sentence, folks almost always forget (or don’t know to use) the final punctuation mark. There should be three dots and a punctuation mark at the end of a sentence. At the end of a sentence, you could have . . . ! or . . . ? or . . . .
- Commas or semicolons that should be colons. Having now encountered two people whose high school English teachers advised them not to use colons, I understand the unease people have with this bit of punctuation. Of course, the word colon doesn’t cause feelings of comfort either, so that doesn’t help. Using a semicolon and period to cut down on colon use is stupid. These punctuation marks have different uses, for the most part. Basically, a semicolon links, a period divides, and a colon promises the completion of something just begun. Usually, the way to know whether you can use a colon is if the second part of the idea answers something in the first. For example:
- People got energy anywhere they could: stealing, begging, and borrowing from wind, fire, earth, and especially water.
In the above sentence, the question in the first part, which the second part could answer, would be: Where did people get energy anywhere they could? Then, the answer: stealing, begging, and borrowing from wind, fire, earth, and especially water. If you have a question in the first part of your sentence that the second could answer, you probably need a colon. (Look at my own colon use above and you should be able to discover questions that need answers i.e., the completion of something just begun.) There are tons of uses for colons, but I can’t cover them all in this space. The simplest usage of a colon is probably in a formal letter, such as:
Dear Sir or Madame:
I would love to write you a lengthy letter, but this is a short article.
Again, the colon “promises the completion of something just begun” (Garner’s Modern American Usage, Third Edition by Bryan A. Garner). The completion is the letter while the “promise” is the salutation.
- Then vs. Than. I had no idea this would be such an issue, but apparently, it is. Easy peasy: Then denotes time, or when something happened. Than is a word used for comparisons. Examples:
- We went to get our hair done, and then we went Christmas shopping.
- My son is way cuter than a button.
- It’s vs. Its. Our elementary school grammar teachers probably helped this one to be so often misused. After all, it was drilled into our heads that whenever you see an apostrophe, that word is possessive. Well, not always. In the case of its versus it’s, it’s never the case.
“It’s” is a contraction, which stands for “it is” or “it has.” Examples:
- It’s a beautiful day out. (It is a beautiful day out.)
- It’s been raining for three days straight. (It has been raining for three days straight.)
- It’s a very small boogar. (It is a very small boogar.)
When you don’t know whether to useit’sorits,give it the “it is/it has” test. Say the sentence to yourself and if you can’t replace “it’s” with “it is” or “it has,” then it’s possessive. No apostrophe.
Its is possessive, which I know sounds weird, but just pretend like it works. Examples:
- Our family tree has its roots in Scotland.
- The camera has its pictures stored digitally.
- The alarm clock has its own way of telling time.
In each of these instances, again try the “it is/it has” test–it won’t work. This is a very common error, so I’m hoping this helps some non-grammar nerds.
- Lightening vs. Lightning. I never would have guessed that this would be such an issue, but to make it simple…lightening is what you do to your hair (make it lighter), and lightning is that zig-zaggy stuff you don’t want to see on a golf course while teeing off with a great big lightning rod of a golf club in your hand.
- Hyphenated word(s) and separate words vs. Compound word. The easy method: dictionary. American English prefers compound words over hyphenation. If you come upon a hyphenated word or two separate words that could possibly be understood as one word, look it up in the dictionary. I keep www.m-w.com open while editing for just this reason. Examples:
- Rear view mirror should be rearview mirror.
- Pot-luck or pot luck should be potluck.
- That vs. Which. Just stick with me on this and you will understand. I’m trying to make this little article gobbledygook-free, but sometimes, defining mumbo jumbo makes things much clearer. Whether you should use that, which, whose, or who depends on whether the clause is a restrictive or nonrestrictive relative clause. Just read the definition, taken from Garner’s Modern American Usage, Third Edition by Bryan A. Garner—the bold is my emphasis—and you’ll understand. Nonrestrictive relative clause: A clause beginning with which, who, or whose and adding nonessential information about the noun it modifies; a relative clause that narrows and identifies the head phrase. -The clause is always set off by commas , and could be omitted without affecting the sentence’s meaning (in the preceding example, My aunt is the subject of the complete sentence and the who-clause adds nonessential information). Also termed nondefining relative clause; appositive relative clause.
Restrictive relative clause: A clause beginning with that, who, or whose that contains essential information about the noun or noun phrase it modifies. -It is never set off with commas. If the clause was deleted, the meaning of the sentence would be affected. Compare The room that I slept in was tastefully decorated The room was tastefully decorated. The restrictive clause that I slept in identifies a particular room. A restrictive clause never begins with which. -Also termed defining relative clause.
Here are some more resources I’ve run across:
And here is a tiny rant from my good friend Chryse on the subject of editing and keep your eye on her blog as she is my editor and is expanding her services.
Have any editing resources to share? Please comment below!
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