Do you enjoy editing? Or is the task one that brings as much excitement as washing windows?
Editing and revising my stories is an aspect of writing I approach with almost as much eagerness as I do creating the rough draft. I’m a detail person for whom ousting adverbs, pruning excess proper nouns and removing redundancies is fun.
I’m currently revising a manuscript. Because many romance writers are at RWA® Nationals in Washington D.C. now, I didn’t schedule guests for three of my usual spots. Instead, I’m taking a blogging break and working on a rewrite of one of my historicals.
That won’t be necessary, Keli, dear. I’d be happy to step in and fill your spots.
Oh, Miss Edith! How nice to have you drop by. But I couldn’t ask you to take time from your busy schedule.
Fiddlesticks. I miss my days in the classroom reading my students’ creations. You’d be doing me a favor.
I know you’re an editing pro, but, the truth is, I’ve never turned my blog over to anyone.
You do have that take charge, oldest sister streak, don’t you? But, while you’re off editing, I could fill your spots and have a bit of fun with your visitors. Do say yes, and make an old lady’s day.
Please don’t call yourself old, Miss Edith. You’re as bright as ever and have more energy than I do most days.
What a charmer you are, child. Might I remind you, though, that I wrote my first manuscript on my trusty manual typewriter that dinged when I reached the end of a line. I’d like to help, so what do you say?
If you’re sure–
Perfectly sure. So, scoot along and leave things to me.
Bye, then. I’ll be back to post Tessa Dare’s July 27th interview.
Phew. Thought I’d never get that gal to skedaddle. She holds onto her projects more tightly than my thrifty Horace did a penny.
So, ladies and gentlemen, let’s have ourselves a “write” good time while Keli’s away. For starters, here are some treats. Help yourself to my plate of snickerdoodles fresh from the oven. Can’t you just smell the cinnamon?
Good. Now we’ll get down to business. But don’t you worry your pretty, young heads. I may have snowy hair on top of mine, but I know how to have a good time.
I understand many of you are romance writers. I’ve read stacks of those delightful stories in my day and have critiqued the work of several former pupils who have long since moved on to have brilliant careers in the genre. And, no, I’m not into name-dropping; so, don’t be asking me who they are.
Since I’m tickled whenever I can help a writer make a story shine, I’ll use my time here on Keli’s blog to share what I call my editing essentials. I don’t think she’ll have a problem with that, since we’re often of the same mind.
Let’s start with a couple of the basics.
Turn in a clean manuscript free of typographical errors. With the fancy computers we have nowadays, there’s just no excuse for misspelled words. I know you’ve heard this many times, but one or two students in each of my classes needed the reminder: don’t rely on your spell-check program. It doesn’t catch everything, such as those nasty little buggers known as homonyms. For example, by, buy and bye. There’s just no getting around it. You have to read the text.
I’ll never forget the day I sat at the table grading papers and came across this line in a student’s review of an inspirational romance: “My favorite scene took place when the hero gazed lovingly at his heroin and said, ‘You mean everything to me. I don’t know what I’d do without you.’” I laughed myself silly. My dearly departed Horace came into the dining room to see what was so funny. And let me tell you, getting that man of mine to leave his La-Z-Boy when The Rockford Files was on TV was a feat.
I told you earlier I’m not into name-dropping, but I taught one young woman who was. Sweet little Nancy had two characters in a scene, the hero and heroine, and here’s how one of her paragraphs looked before I took my blue pencil to it.
Joan stood on the front porch and gazed into John’s eyes, John’s face illuminated by the soft glow of the light Mother had left burning. Joan’s heart hammered against her ribs at the interest in the warm brown depths. No man had ever had such an effect on Joan. Joan couldn’t slow her racing pulse if she tried. If only John would give Joan the kiss Joan had dreamed of so many times, Joan’s evening would be complete.
And here’s what Nancy turned in as her second draft.
Joan stood on the front porch and gazed into John’s eyes, his face illuminated by the soft glow of the light Mother had left burning. Joan’s heart hammered against her ribs at the interest in the warm brown depths. No man had ever had such an effect on her. She couldn’t slow her racing pulse if she tried. If only he would give her the kiss she’d dreamed of so many times, her evening would be complete.
Too many proper names can be distracting. Your reader isn’t going to forget that Joan is the heroine and John the hero. So, replace many of the names with pronouns. Some of the names will need to stay, of course. I didn’t circle the one at the beginning of the second sentence in Allie’s first draft because the last person she’d mentioned was Joan’s considerate mother. Since a pronoun refers to the preceding noun, it was important we know that Joan’s heart was hammering–not her mother’s. (Although, if Joan is a young girl and this would be her first kiss, her mama’s heart may well pound too, especially if she doesn’t think John is good enough for her precious Joanie.)
For my final point of the day, I’ll mention something I told Nancy about character’s names. It’s best if they begin with different letters, because that helps the reader keep them straight. John and Joan look very much alike. Nancy agreed with me, and Joan became Carol. (And yes, I know the names are a bit old-fashioned, but I taught students who are now old enough to be some of your parents.)
I meant to keep things interesting, but my post has become as dry as dust bunnies, so let me wrap this up. You’ve got better things to do than listen to an old schoolmarm drone on.
Keli will be away from her blog next week, so I’ll take some time over the weekend and think about what I want to share with you. Come Monday, I’ll return prepared. And if you have a particular editing question you’d like me to answer, just leave a comment for me, Miss Edith. And you have a chance to win one of Keli’s prizes if you do, although I have no use for a bikini bag at my age. I’ll see about finding a prize of my own to offer next week.
It’s been a pleasure spending a few minutes with you today. Help yourself to another cookie as you leave, and enjoy your weekend, my dears. Toodle-oo!
Leave a Comment for Two Chances to Win
Keli’s Regular Drawing
My next drawing will take place July 20th.
The winner will receive a vinyl lined bikini bag, which is just the thing to toss in your tote for a trip to the pool, beach or seaside resort.
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by July 20th and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On July 21st, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.
You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!
If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by me, your blog hostess Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and July 31st. Be sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.
On August 1st, I will choose one person who will have her/his choice of several covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your debut novel in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)