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Welcome To SORMAG's Blog

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

PANEL: Editing

WELCOME TO THE EDITING ROOM

TODAY'S PANEL IS:

Deatri King Bey, Dyanne Davis, Dr. Bob Rich, Lindsay Murdock

Get some tips on editing your manuscripts.

Articles will be posted in the comments.

Post your questions in the comments section.

Please read the previous comments before you post, so we don’t have duplicate questions.

Please address your questions to a panel member or all panel members.

28 comments:

Tray said...

Hello! My question relates to editing. I am a new writer in need of a structure to my editing process. As it is now it seems to go on forever, with me editing for sentence structure, characterization and plot, all a page at a time. I really need to polish up a few plot issues but each time I begin I am bogged down to a slow crawl with everything else. Any suggestions to speed up the process?

Billie said...

When editing, is it better to finish the whole product and leave it for a while or to edit as you go.

billie - 116

Lindsay Murdock said...

Billie and Tray,

When I am coaching my clients through the initial revision process, I always recommend the red pen method. Print out a full copy of the manuscript, sit down in a quiet room with a mug of your warm, comforting, and preferably caffeinated beverage of choice and start marking. Keep a notebook next to you to jot down notes, concerns, and problem areas along with page references. Do not stop to revise now – just plow through, reading the full manuscript carefully and with a critical eye and liberal pen. This process can be very similar to the initial outlining phase – write down anything that comes to you as you read through the book.

Next, take a look at your notes. Were there things that jumped out consistently throughout the reading? Make an outline of your notes, organized under headings such as Plot, Characters, Grammar, Tone, Voice, and Dialogue.

Once you’ve finished the critical reading, you can start revising. The important thing about this method is that it makes it much easier to prevent getting bogged down if you have written guide and game plan. If you get stuck on something, move on to the next note; you can always go back. Don’t try to revise plot, character development, and mechanical errors all at once, page by page. Work on one issue at a time – you’ll find that your revisions are much more productive and more likely to flow smoothly.

Billie, as far a putting it away for a while, I always ask that my clients put the finished manuscript away for at least two weeks after they finish writing and to promise not to look at it even once. A month is better, but two weeks is the bare minimum needed to gain enough perspective to effectively begin revising the manuscript. You’ve just finished writing an entire book – take a much needed vacation to reward yourself and rest your brain.

Dyanne said...

Good Morning from # 66--Dyanne

I'm sure the editors will step in answers this question, I just want to add soemthing. As a writer we're all different and what works for one may not work for all. But the advice given so far I would try it if you can.

I find that I need to get the story out first, no spell check, nothing, just raw. Well that was until about a month ago when my program refused to highlight another misspelled word. LOL. now every couple of pages I will make correction for spelling errors but not editing.

And this I beleive is a very important step int he writing and editing process. You have to havae some time pass before you're able to see what must be cut. That's hard because you believe every word on the paper is important, neccesary, and you can't get rid of it.

Trust me. After you've had some time to let it sit you will be able to read through your work and get rid of some of the bridges. All writers have bridges even if we don't want ot believe it. A couple of paragraph to a couple of pages bridge is much different than have an enire chapter that could have been cut.

My last words read your work after at least the two week cool down period as though it were the work of a stranger. If you find yourself cutting everything give it more time. Every writer hits that, this is all crap phase. We have to learn to spot the difference. Also there are self editing books out there that are helpful. Good Luck and keep writing.

Leann said...

I would also like to interject--having a couple of good friends who don't mind reading your manuscript for flow, content and development helps, too. But I don't give it to them until I have had a chance to go back over it a couple of times after the initial down and dirty get it on the paper write.

Leann said...

oops--sorry, badge number disfunction I am:
Leann--134

Tempie said...

Good Morning..
Thanks for all of your comments so far. *L.Murdock & Dyanne, I appreciate all of your input on the editing process.

My questions are directed to any member of the panel...smile.

1). Are there any quick reference on-line editing resources available that would assist in the editing process with reference tips? For an example: a). In a dialogue, a title can be capitalized without a name if it is being used as a direct address. or b). Do not have a dialog tag, such as said, at the beginning and the end of the sentence. If so,can you suggest any?

2). A minimum time frame of two weeks was mentioned to be able to objectively go back through your work and start checking.

Is there a suggested timeframe that can be used as a target baseline to set to have for an example a 200 page manuscript that has been written and walked away from for over three months completely edited?

I welcome your input.
Thanks

Tempie Badge #151

Deatri King-Bey said...

Hello Everyone,

The comments so far have been great and I couldn't agree more.

For my writing, I'm like Dyanne and just like to get it out. Then I put the manuscript away for at least two months. You may be saying, there's no way I can waste two months, but I found I'm wasting more time by rushing into my first set of edits. I need to go in with fresh eyes and, as the others, I recommend going in with fresh eyes.

After the waiting period, I read the manuscript and take notes on problem areas I see. Then I go in and fix them. My last step is worrying about grammar and punctuation.

Find a formula that works for you.

Peace
Deatri
Much Joy, Peace, and Love
Deatri

Deatri King-Bey said...

Hello MakeMoney

1). Are there any quick reference on-line editing resources available that would assist in the editing process with reference tips? For an example: a). In a dialogue, a title can be capitalized without a name if it is being used as a direct address. or b). Do not have a dialog tag, such as said, at the beginning and the end of the sentence. If so,can you suggest any?

So far, I have only found sites that help in a few areas. I know there must be a single site out there somewhere that does it all


-----I'm sorry, but, like you, I don't know of one site that contains all of the rules and syntax type stuff. I'm sure one is out there somewhere. I love my Elements of Style book by Strunk and White. It is a real short read, but packed with valuable information. It may be quicker to find what you need in it than roaming the internet.
Here is a link to it.
http://www.bartleby.com/141/


2). A minimum time frame of two weeks was mentioned to be able to objectively go back through your work and start checking.

-------I don't know if it will be very objective SMILE. But it will help you have a fresher set of eyes.


Is there a suggested timeframe that can be used as a target baseline to set to have for an example a 200 page manuscript that has been written and walked away from for over three months completely edited?

-----------Were you asking how long it should take to do the editing yourself? That depends on the individual. I can read through my manuscript and write the first set of notes in a day. It usually takes me around 20 hours to complete my second draft. Then I give it to my critique group, critique partner, and a few readers. After that set of rewrites, it's time to send it to the editor.

Now when you are working with a publisher, and your book has gone through editing, you are given a time frame. Now by the time your book gets to the publisher, your manuscript should be in pretty good shape. At the publishing house I work for now, we usually give two weeks for the first set of rewrites.

Okay, I'm done rambling. I hope this was of a little use anyway.

Much Joy Peace and Love
Deatri

Tempie said...

Deatri...Thanks!!!!!!!!!!

You and the other panelist have answered all of my questions and given me so much valuable input!!!

You have confirmed all of what I was thinking...thanks

You are not rambling at all...thanks for taking the time to give me your input. I so appreciate LaShaundra for having this conference!

Tempie Badge #151

Dyanne said...

Deatri,

I was hoping you didn't scream, what are these writers doing? I'm piping in again to just agree with you on the time limit for letting work simmer without you looking at it. I have no problem with two months or even six months. Since I'm always working on something new that makes it easier for me.

One last piece of advice when your work is as you want it alwyas but always have another project. Generally this is a very slow business and you'll go crazy waiting for the mailman.

Dyanne said...

Sorry, I forgot badge # 66-Dyanne for the last comment.

Cindy Appel said...

Yeah, I agree wholeheartedly on the "hurry up and wait" aspects of the writing biz! ;)

And it is amazing what you read after you've let your work grow "cold" by sitting for a few weeks or a month or more. Sometimes you'll even surprise yourself by how wonderful your writing really is! ("I wrote THAT? That's not half bad...")

But you'll also find all those lovely typos, homophones, misspellings and clunky grammar places, too. My advice to double check your grammar is to read your manuscript out loud. If you experience trouble reading your prose aloud, then you know your reader will have some difficulties reading it silently. :)

Cindy #19
http://cynthianna.bravehost.com

LynCote said...

Hi, all,
Lyn Cote here. All the advice I've heard above made good sense. I always TRY to finish a ms. a month before deadline because I send it to a friend who's a DETAIL person which I am not! After she goes over it and sends it back to me, I've had time away from it--usually the 2 weeks some other bright person suggested.
Anyway, right now I'm taking the EDITS course by Margie Lawson, PhD. EXCELLENT.
Also I always suggest Dwight Swain's scene and sequel method for analyzind structure.
I was going to post here a copyrighted article which I had published in 1998, Dramatic Sentences in Seven Steps. It's on the article page on my website www.BooksbyLynCote.com. If I coudl figure out how to paste it here, I would have.

Dyanne, did we meet in Schaumberg this summer?

If so, hi! Hand waving!
BTW, if you are a BIG PICTURE person like I am, finding a DETAIL person for a critique partner is wonderful!
Lyn

Tempie said...

Ladies...thanks for taking the time and providing so much great information.

* Lyn...thanks I'll go to your website and look at those seven steps...

Again Thanks
Tempie Badge #151

Dr Bob Rich said...

How you do your line editing depends on personal taste, and also on experience. I do it very differently now compared to 10 years ago.
As a relative beginner, I had to use tricks such as the following:
* Read the text while ignoring content. One way of doing this is to start at the last paragraph and work forward.
* Put it aside for a day or two if deadlines permit and read it 'cold'.
* Change appearance. For example, if it's a Word document, convert it to html and read it as a web page. Someone mentioned printing out. That qualifies, but I don't do this because I am a conservationist. :) If I must print something out for my own use, it will be on the back of something with printing on one side only.
* We all have habitual finger stumbles. I learned mine, and kept an eye open for them.
* Crit swaps are great. Everyone is much better at picking up someone else's typos. So, I nitpick yours, you nitpick mine.

Nowadays, I am able to speed read someone else's text, and pick up every comma out of place, apostrophe missing or unnecessary, malapropisms (e.g., their - there), and so on. And so can you -- with enough practice.
Of course, I am still likely to miss things in my own writing that I'll pick up in someone else's. So, I am obsessive. Before sending out anything from a query letter to a novel, I might go over it 20 times.
:)
Bob Rich # 24

SORMAG said...

Did you really mean that?
When subject and object refer to different things

© 2005 Dr Bob Rich

'Working together in this fashion, the pile quickly disappeared.' Um... I've never seen a pile work, in this fashion or any other.

'Walking down the street, my eyes were dazzled by the bright lights.' Right. And what were you doing in the meantime, while your eyes were walking down the street?

Is this just a quibble? 'Surely you know what I mean? We were working together to make the pile quickly disappear, and I went walking down the street, to have my eyes dazzled by the bright lights.'

Say what you mean. 'As we worked together in this fashion...' and 'I walked down the street, to have my eyes...'

This kind of error occurs very often. It is one that raises my ire in many books I edit. Even quite a few people with an otherwise good command of grammar tend to slip into this error. Without naming names, here are a few examples I found amusing:

'Skidding to a stop in front of us, we piled into the car's back seat.' I find it difficult to visualize how people can come to a stop in front of themselves.

'Hitting the sealed road again, the busful of kids cheered.' How could they hit the road, sealed or otherwise, if they were inside the bus? I think it's the vehicle that did the hitting.

And while we're on vehicles, 'Sitting in the open bed of a pickup truck, the temperature dropped with every rising mile.'

I could fill a couple of pages with more and more examples -- but now that I've alerted you to the problem, I am sure so can you. From now on, whether you are listening to people speak or reading, you will be struck by many instances.

How does the mistake arise?
Every sentence has a subject, verb and object, possibly with extra bits and things inserted. 'I do this' is a basic sentence. 'Whenever I arrive home, I like to relax with a nice cup of tea' is a slight expansion. 'Arriving home, the best thing is a nice cup of tea' does NOT say the same thing. I am the subject of the sentence (that which does the arriving). The object of the sentence (what is being done) is relaxing with a nice cup of tea. In grammatical jargon, the subject and object 'must agree', that is, refer to the same entity -- in this case me. The mistake arises when the choice of words make it seem as if the action was being done by the object, here the cup of tea.

By the way, I only drink tea if nothing else is available.

Bob Rich # 24

SORMAG said...

Invite the reader in:
a few tricks of making fiction gripping

© 2005, Dr Bob Rich

All fiction is fantasy. As a writer, you create a reality, and invite me to move into it while reading your story. That reality may be very close to what I find in my everyday life, but even then, you are introducing me to people I've never met, take me to places I've never seen, describe events that never happened.

Your aim is to make this created reality so strong that it becomes more real to me than my own life -- at least for the moment. Every device that helps you to achieve this is good, everything that has a chance of weakening or destroying the illusion is bad.

Now we come to a central concept: 'point of view' (POV). Everything anyone writes is always from a POV. 'The boy crossed the road.' Someone perceived him doing so, and the writing reports this perception. Although the wording is in the third person, the POV could well be the boy's, as in the following:

The boy crossed the road. Ow! Ow! he thought at each step as the hot dark surface burned the soles of his bare feet, but he refused to make any sound. After all, Rachel was watching.

Or, the witness of the scene could be some other person:

The road must feel red hot, Rachel thought with an inner smile as she watched Roddie pick his way across, almost dancing from foot to foot.

If the witness is not any person in the story, then it is the writer:

The boy crossed the road. His name was Roddie, a five-year-old very impressed by her big cousin Rachel, all of twelve. So, he wasn't going to let on that anything could upset him. Therefore, when he crossed the hot road barefoot to her, he did his best to hide his discomfort. However, he didn't really fool her. She could see it from the way he picked up each foot fast, almost like dancing.

This little paragraph has several things wrong with it.

* It's an author lecture: an outside view that distances us from the characters rather than taking us into their world.

* It gives too much information. As a reader, I am not there to be informed, unless I'm reading a text book or other nonfiction work. By telling me all these facts, you put me into an analytical frame of mind. Then I'll be critical while assessing the information I receive. Instead, you want to get me to LIVE the current witness's experience. And there is no hurry about informing me. Their ages, the relationship between them can be revealed later, through dialogue, action, and (as a third preference), thoughts.

* The paragraph reveals both their thoughts. This is tempting, but instead of making the story real, it gets in the way of allowing the reader to identify with the current witness. I cannot BE Roddie if I also know what Rachel is thinking, or vice versa. The most powerful way to capture me is to pick one person who presents the scene. Any other people are best presented from the outside, the way the current witness perceives them.

* The first two samples of writing were vivid, full of sensory data: how that person sees, feels, hears the world at that moment. The third one lacks such elements.

Let me illustrate the relatively subtle point of how an 'omniscient view' can be counterproductive. I am reading a story about two sisters, and have been immersed in the world of Joan, the elder girl. Then the author writes, 'Miriam eventually drifted off to sleep, remembering the wonderful meal they had enjoyed that afternoon, but Joan lay awake.' This is a perfect example of how head hopping distances the reader. Because I am shown the thoughts of both girls, I cannot identify with either, and therefore I FEEL that I am being told a story, not that I am in it.

So, in summary, to bring your writing to life, present it from within, through the perceptions of ONE character per scene, using vivid sense impressions.

Bob Rich # 24

SORMAG said...

Through the wrong end of the telescope

© 2005 Dr Bob Rich

Here are two versions of the opening of a story. Choose the one that grabs your interest the better.

"Leave me alone," she said, and the soft demand was a scream.

Tony moved away to his side of the bed. Hurt, he muttered, "I just wanted to make up. What's the point of hanging on to resentments?"

"Oh yeah?" First you spoil my day, and then you want all the marital services as well?"

"No, it's not like that... It's just..." Defeated, he turned onto his side and did his best to settle for sleep.

OK, now compare this to:

Maryanne and Tony had been married for seven years, and had two children. Five year old Susie looked like her father, and Tony often thought this was unfortunate. He never understood why blonde, lovely Maryanne should ever have married him. Jimmy was two, and in the terrible stage of throwing tantrums, but the parents knew that patience and time should get through the problem.

No, the trouble between them was not Jimmy's behavior, but that they had different styles of dealing with the difficulties that arise between any two people. Tony would blow up, get it out of his system, then be ready to get on with life. Maryanne needed to have an issue resolved, or as Tony often thought, dissected to death, and she could go at it for three days at a time.

Are you yawning yet?

The second version may be excellent psychological analysis. It contains a lot more information than the first. But does it get you INTO THE SKIN of the characters in the story?

The fiction author's job is not to inform or lecture, but to allow the reader to construct a reality, and then, ideally, to move into it. People are very good at doing this imaginative exercise. What the author needs to supply is not a photograph, but a charcoal sketch. A skilled artist can draw a few firm lines, and what appears is a recognisable face with character, _expression, movement. A skilled writer does the same with words.

Vision can take in details simultaneously, so that a photograph is no worse than a cartoon. In writing, we have a sequential medium. The trouble with the verbal photograph is that the reader needs to wade through all that detail before appreciating the real message, which is, inevitably, emotion. So, it's essential to focus in on the few features that will induce emotion.

This is done not by saying how a person feels, but by presenting words and actions that indicate it. The trick is to pick a witness, Tony in the example above, show his perceptions (hearing the scream in his wife's soft statement), and other people's observable behavior. The background, the information that beginner writers are so anxious to present, is not only irrelevant but counterproductive. Everything essential is there, in the live story. What we need to know can be presented later, through action and dialogue.

Tony's feelings of inferiority about his appearance may be essential to the story. In that case, there in the opening scene, you might have him say, "I know I'm ugly." Maryanne can respond, "You idiot, your face has nothing to do with it. I married you, didn't I? I just can't cuddle and be lovey-dovey when you come home two hours after you said, and my dinner is burned, and Jimmy spent the evening screaming the house down because he wants Daddy before going to bed, and..."

But it's not necessary in the opening scene.

The lesson is, don't present your characters from the outside, through the wrong end of a telescope. Show them from within, the way they think, feel and act. Focus on tricking me, the reader, into BEING the person in the story, not some godly outside viewer.

Bob Rich # 24

Tempie said...

Dr. Rich...Thanks...I really appreciate all of your input as well as the ladies prior.

*You mentioned...

I do it very differently now compared to 10 years ago.

*Well, you can see I'm full of excitement and nervous at the same time because I am currently going back through my manuscript I wrote 10 years ago. It's a dream come true for me because I'm dedicating it to the memory of my parents who I lost several years ago a month apart.

I'm excited to finally have an editor and publisher working with me now in it's final draft. I chose to go back through all myself before I return all back to them for proofs and cover design.

Things are so different now than they were 10 yrs ago. I can honestly say that most of what has been said at some point I've done and this first Novel will surely be a learning experience for me as well.

I must admit, ten years later my mental approach of going back in rereading all has been to become this new and different person re-reading. I'm a little scared to admit but I am still pleased with the story in spite of the errors...smile

*I do welcome and appreciate everything that has been said.

Tempie Badge #151

Tray said...

Hello everyone! Thanks for the helpful and comforting comments. I am attempting to copy it all but alas I have run out of paper! (second time this week!) Being an aspiring writer is filled with elation and depression, quite a bit of the latter, and it helps to know that at least I am on the right track. I think I will try printing out my manuscript, which as it stands is 480 pages! (I know, a lot of cutting needed, right?)Anyway, thanks so much. all have been very helpful!

Tray said...

oops, sorry. thats tray #155

Dr Bob Rich said...

Tempie, you can now do MUCH better for having put it aside, for all the reasons you stated. I have the first novel I had published sitting around. I decided to rewrite it from my current experience and understanding. Got the first chapter done, but there is so little time...
Nowadays, more of my writing has been non-fiction, the current work a self-help book on depression. But fiction is so much more fun!
:)
Bob #24

Dr Bob Rich said...

re: length
>Hello everyone! Thanks for the helpful and comforting comments. I am attempting to copy it all but alas I have run out of paper! (second time this week!) Being an aspiring writer is filled with elation and depression, quite a bit of the latter, and it helps to know that at least I am on the right track. I think I will try printing out my manuscript, which as it stands is 480 pages! (I know, a lot of cutting needed, right?)Anyway, thanks so much. all have been very helpful!

Tray, cutting is a good idea. One of my routine revisions is to cut 10%, even though even my first draft is pretty tight. I advise some of my clients to cut 25%! This invariably improves the book.
Every word, every sentence, paragraph, section, subplot, character... is there to do a job. Some of these jobs may be to introduce color, reveal some aspect of a person, whatever, but when you are cutting, ask the question of every element: "If I removed this, would it leave a hole?"
:)
Bob #24

Dyanne said...

LYN,

Good memory. I'm waving back. LOL. Since you're in the area we'll probably run into each other again. I'm in Chicago this weekend and Lisle conference next week. Hope to see you there.

Dyanne #66

Vanessa A. Johnson said...

Hi Bob,
The information you provided was very informative. It will surely help me to improve on my writing.

Love & Peace,
VeeJay, Badge #121

Tempie said...

Dr. Rich...I will forever cherish all of the great advice you and others have given!!!

You mentioned in your above comment...
Nowadays, more of my writing has been non-fiction, the current work a self-help book on depression. But fiction is so much more fun!

Do you have a website sharing your various works? I'm both impressed and plan on doing some works including non-fiction as well.
I would like to read some of your work.

Thanks Again
Tempie Badge#151

Tempie said...

Dr.Rich,
Oops...I just went and saw everything I needed to know under Meet The Author...smile

Tempie Badge #151

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