Saturday, March 23, 2019

Round Robin Blog on Self-editing

It’s officially springtime and our first spring Round Robin blog for March 23, is: How do you self-edit your books before submitting or publishing? Many people, and not only non-writers, think the work is done when you write THE END, but this is where work on your novel really begins.

Once I have completed the first draft, I'll put it aside for a few days to develop a flavor, a bit like yesterday's pizza or that wicked from-scratch chili. When I go back to it, I first do a search and find for my usual crutch words which are has, was, had and a few more besides. I’ll see what I can eliminate or if I can make my writing more active by rewriting.

Have I used strong nouns and verbs? I have a list I sometimes refer to improve them if I can. Are there passages where I am telling rather than showing? What about dialog tags? How many can I remove and show what my characters are doing instead? I’ll look for those tricky little homonyms, those words which have the same spelling and pronunciation, but different meanings such as bit – the past tense of bite, or a tiny amount. Then there are the homographs which have the same spelling but different pronunciations and definitions such as wind (it blows) or wind (as to wind a clock.) Last but not least we come to homophones like to, too, and two which sound the same but have different spelling and meaning and are all too often misused. 

I'll nearly always catch my misplaced modifiers in my first drafts, but these aren't always found in books. You'll often see some doozies in church notices and on gravestones such as this, ‘Erected in memory of John MacFarlane, Drowned in the Water of Leith by a few affectionate friends.' With friends like that, who needs enemies?

When I have checked for pace and balance, usually a highlighting exercise, I’ll then read my work aloud. I’m sure many authors would dispute this exercise, but I still make time to do it. It is one of the easiest ways I know to catch long-winded or wordy sentences. If you can’t comfortably read a sentence in one breath, then you know it either needs punctuation or can or should be broken into two, or perhaps three. In reading aloud I’ll also catch myself on continuity – does my heroine have black hair and blue eyes all the way through my story?

Once I have done all that, I’ll hand my work over to my beta readers. If they make suggestions, I’ll look at what they think is required, and then make revisions accordingly. Once that is done, I’ll run the manuscript through Grammarly and make any corrections necessary and only then will I send it to my publisher. At that point, I really do think I have come to THE END and indulge in a large glass of wine before starting the next book.

Visit these authors to discover their processes:

Skye Taylor
Diane Bator
Beverley Bateman
Connie Vines
Anne Stenhouse
A.J. Maguire
Dr. Bob Rich
Helena Fairfax
Judith Copek
Rhobin L Courtright