Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Craft of Editing

Today my guest is C. Patrick Schulze, someone I met on Twitter. As he is in the final stages of editing his current manuscript, he offered to pass along some of his insights into the craft of editing. In addition to providing this post, he's also got a podcast version. Welcome!

I'd like to thank Terry Odell for allowing me to guest host today. It was kind of her to offer me the opportunity to meet all of you.

What makes a writer? You'd think it might be his writing. The truth of the matter is it's rare that one's writing makes the writer. For most of us, the craft of writing develops its true strength only after we learn the craft of editing. It is within our editing that our true writing emerges.

So, how does one put the craft of editing to work? Without doubt, it's a laborious undertaking but one that's mandatory if you wish to success with your writing. As with the craft of writing, the craft of editing is a process that's unique to each writer, but here's what works for me.

First of all, I complete my rough draft then set it aside and write something else for a while. When I pick my rough draft up a month or so later, I begin my first revision.

I'll read through my rough draft at least seven times and, with each read, edit for one or two related concepts. I also find it useful to record my manuscript as I read. (I use the free software from Audacity.com.) Further, my wife reads it aloud to me at least once. It really helps to see how others read it.

Here's my editing process.

Revision #1: I look for plot, subplot and conflict issues. Does my plot rise and fall at the correct time? Is it strong enough to carry the story? Is there conflict in every chapter? Does the story move forward at all times?

Revision #2: I pay close attention to my characters. Do they have the personality I intended for them and has it remained constant? Does their voice sound authentic? Can minor characters be combined or dropped altogether?

Revision #3: This is when dialogue comes under review. Do my character's words exhibit their personalities? Does my dialogue stay focused on the tension? What dialogue isn't necessary?

Revision #4: I review my setting. Is it introduced in nibbles rather than big gulps? Is it exhibited by way of my characters' actions? Are my facts correct?

Revision #5: I pay attention to pace, sentence structure, voice and the like. Does the thing "sound" the way I intended.

Revision #6: Here I seek out errors relative to the craft of writing. I look for those pesky adverbs, "-ing" words, run-on sentences and all those fun things. I also review my nouns and verbs for clarity and power.

Finally, revision #7 is used to patch up all the holes missed in my first six.

By now, I've got an excellent concept of how well my story works. However, I don't stop after seven rereads if it needs more. I continue until it's done.

Now, here are a few tips that work for me.

I print out my novel to reread it.

With revision # 5, I don't print it out but rather use my "Find" feature to locate all those many "as -ing" combinations, "-ly" adverbs and such. I go through it once for each issue. (Boring!)

My mantra is "Cut, cut, cut." I know the best writing is said with as few words as possible, so I look for ways to cut out as many words as I can.

As I work on one revision, issues that belong in another revision often surface. I don't fix the problem right then. I make a note and come back to it.

After all is said and done, I then send the beast to my editor for one more run-through. I'm always amazed at what she finds, despite all my work.

Now, what craft of editing tips would you like to share with Terry's readers?

Until we meet again, know I wish for you only-best sellers.

For more about Patrick and his emerging novel, "Born to be Brothers" you can visit his website and blog. Or you can email him here.


Mason Canyon said...

There is so much work that goes into a book before it ever becomes a book. Interesting tips. Good luck with your novel.

Thanks Terry for introducing me to a 'new to me' author.

Thoughts in Progress

Terry Stonecrop said...

Great tips! I'm saving these. Thanks. And I wish you only-best sellers too. :)

Elena said...

Reading out loud is not only a great way to make the editing process three dimensional, but it also opens up another possible market - audio books. I listen to books a lot and am amazed at how often clumsiness in flow and structure show up. Comparing the books to the audio it seems to me those passages would not have been caught with visual editing only.
Definitely a win-win - hope to see you on the best seller list soon!

C. Patrick Schulze said...

I'm glad you found something you could use, Terry.

C. Patrick Schulze said...

Elena, You're right about how a recording catches so much more than reading alone does. It's turned into one of my best editing tools.

You're also correct as to the market as to audio books. It's a small market, to be sure, but worthy of consideration all the same.


C. Patrick Schulze said...

Mason, I'm glad Terry introduces us, too. Thanks for your comment.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Thanks for the post! You've got a very organized approach to your revision process, Patrick! I'm tweeting this one...

C. Patrick Schulze said...

Thanks so much, Elizabeth.

Organized or not, it's still a tough haul to get it done.


Helen Hollick said...

thanks for the tips. So many new or "wanna-be" (and sadly a few too many self published) writers think editing means correcting spelling, punctuation & grammar. They don't realise the importance of checking for POV, author's voice,continuity etc. One "writer" I was trying to help once got cross when I pointed out some continuity errors. "No one will notice" this "writer" said. Well I noticed & you can bet your life others would too - apart from which that is NOT the attitude a writer should take.

Having said that, errors have slipped by in my books, it happens; but I have tried my best to make sure they don't happen too often!

Patricia Stoltey said...

I'm giving a 90-minute class this evening on revising and self-editing, so I'll add the link to Patrick's post to my list of resources. I also teach a step-by-step approach -- it seems a lot less overwhelming to focus on one or two pieces of the puzzle at a time.

C. Patrick Schulze said...

You're right, Helen. Editing is essential to a well-polished novel and many aspiring authors don't see the necessity of it. And you're also correct, people do notice.

Thanks for your comment.


C. Patrick Schulze said...

Thanks for the link, Patricia. That's very kind of you.

I agree with you. A step-by-step approach does serve me better.

Thanks for commenting.


Debra St. John said...

Great advice. Taking defferent portions of editing one step at a time is a great way to go.

Terry Odell said...

Patrick - thanks so much for being my guest today. I know everyone appreciates the way you've shared your techniques.

Carol Kilgore said...

Great ideas! Thanks, Terry.

C. Patrick Schulze said...

Thank you, Terry. This was a lot of fun.


Annabelle Ambrosio said...

Lots of good advise. Thanks for the blog.

Jan Morrison said...

This is wonderful and right where I'm at! Yay!

Janine said...

Good tips, thanks!

A few years ago I ditched the Word 'Find' feature in favor of using the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. The Editing Wizard finds LY adverbs plus a lot more AND it's smart enought to warn you when you have too many. I love it and it saves a ton of time.