Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Edits, Edits, Edits and crutch words

What I'm reading - Reason to Believe by Roxanne St. Claire in What You Can't See

What I'm working on: edits, edits, and more edits. Hoping to get to revisions.

I went through my editor's comments for Hidden Fire and then started re-reading the manuscript, thinking I could move through it quickly and get back to Unexpected Danger for my agent--after all, that's the manuscript that represents my next book, and it needs to be out there making the rounds. Hidden Fire and When Danger Calls are already in the system. As I was reading, I noticed a couple of my crutch words--the typewritten equivalents of 'um' as my fingers apparently needed to take a breath. After six manuscripts, I thought I was sensitized to them and avoided overuse. However, I decided to check. Thanks to Word's "highlight all items found in" feature, I plugged in my invisible friends. What a shock! Hundreds of unnecessary words. Even the one I think I've learned to avoid--"just"--showed up 130 times.

My 'starting' tally:
Just --- 130
Sure -- 121
Only -- 95
Really -- 56
Very -- 38

So, five trips through the manuscript on culling missions before I could even begin to read for better flow. What is it about these words that seem to flow off the fingertips without passing through the brain first? And why are they so invisible? The fact that they didn't seem to bother my editor doesn't matter--they bother me. And of course, as I read, I see instances where a word is repeated in back to back sentences or paragraphs. I think some of this is a by-product of cutting and pasting, and not seeing enough on the screen -- that 'perfect' word seemed perfect because I'd used it already and now it's on the page again. Or I hear the hero say it, and the heroine must hear him too, because she uses the same word or phrase. Or gesture--I discovered an awful lot of hand squeezing in the manuscript. Had to fix that, too.

Then, taking a brief break after dinner, I checked my email. Of course, I find copy edits for When Danger Calls. This manuscript has already been through the first (and second) round edits, but it's the last chance to catch typos, so even though there aren't too many markups on the manuscript, I still have to read it again. And it's for a different publisher, so there are different considerations.

Maybe I'll be able to get back to Unexpected Danger in a week or so. And my agent has a totally different editing style from the other two. Plus, these will be revisions, not just edits. Means a lot more 'writing' effort. I admire anyone who can immerse themselves in one set of characters and plot points to work on one project, and then shift gears to tackle another.

I'm so glad I didn't get any of this until I was already at SleuthFest so I was free to enjoy sessions. I was going to recap some highlights, but that'll have to wait until my next post. Right now, it's back to Hidden Fire.


Eilis Flynn said...

Good golly, I get confused with ONE set of edits! Good luck, Terry!

mimi said...

Great list of words--terrific editing help. Thanks for the tip!

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Mimi -- coming from the edit queen, that's a compliment.

Beyond this list, I'm finding things in the manuscript I'm copy-editing that I wish I'd caught (or my editor had caught) before it got to this phase, which is 'errors only' -- no revisions. I noticed a lot of hair prickling at the back of necks, and a lot of hand squeezing. I can only hope that if 2 editors didn't catch those kinds of repeats, they're not such big deals for readers.

Isn't it funny how once you start writing, you can never read the same way again.