Friday, February 3, 2012

Editing your Book

I like to think of editing like using a shaping tool.

Don't get me wrong, I have no idea what this shaping tool would be called, but I do know the difference between a straight piece of wood and an elegantly shaped table leg.

Photo by: crows_wood, courtesy of Flickr
A piece of wood is the beginning of your work before you've even put pen to paper or keystrokes to computer. It's one of those things that you need to have first before you can really get to work. The idea can be shaped into anything you want: a toy, a table leg, even a shelf with pegs, but it will never be any of those things until you take the piece of wood to the next step.

Cutting away, whether through saw or blade isn't always the most easy task. After that first draft is written, what should a good writer let go of, what should they cut from their work? I look at the following things:

  1. Solid plot, characters and setting. Characters are the most important because they speak to readers in a way that plot and setting can't. I make sure that the characters, plot and setting are consistent in tone and look throughout the book.
  2. I look for holes in the manuscript. Stuff like a character that gets lost in the manuscript;those that I haven't written about for too many pages. 
  3. I may get a reader or two at this point, so that they can give me an overall opinion of the book and what they feel still needs some work.
After the first draft, I always go through a second one. These are some things that I look for:

  1. Extraneous words like and, the and but.  Sentences and paragraphs need to contribute to the book. Nothing is extraneous. 
  2. Extra "flowery" words that don't contribute to the overall feel of my work. 
  3. Photo by: TheLivingRoominKenmore, courtesy of Flickr
  4. Words that should be replaced for a better word, and words that make no sense. I just had this happen with my most recent edit. I used a word that was completely wrong for the sentence and had to re-work the sentence so that it would make sense. 
By the time I'm at my third draft, I'll need some great readers. I choose great readers as well as writers to go  over my work because a writer usually picks out something that a reader misses and vice-versa. My readers always read my book without compensation. This has been a real blessing to me. 

In the end, editing my book means shaving off all the unnecessary clutter, all of the stuff that means little and may even detract from the intent and direction of my book. And I like that just fine.

I'm looking for an elegantly shaped table leg. 



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