Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Recipe for Editing a Novel

 by Brenda Moguez 

(Editor's Note: This post first appeared May 17 on Brenda's blog.)

Unlike other authors, I don’t jump with joy when it’s time to edit. As a rule, I have my worked edited by a professional before sending it out. I loathe editing or did until very recently.  Having reviewed the results of the edit of my latest novel revealed my shortcomings at self-editing and forced me to rethink my process and craft a guideline for the work ahead.

Recipe for Editing a Novel
1 printed copy of your finished manuscript (can be substituted with a short story, poem, op-ed, etc.)
1 Copy of The Chicago Manual of Style
1 Copy of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary
1 Dog-eared copy of Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus. 3rd ed.
1 Copy of Steven King’s On Writing – specifically the chapter on editing
1 Freelance Professional Editor
1 Ballpoint pen
$$ – $$$
Several Boxes of Chamomile Tea
Quiet room
Comfy chair
Patience (you will need this for the rinse and repeat sessions)

Make a pot of tea, carry to the quiet room, and place on a side table next to the comfy chair. Retrieve printed copy of manuscript and ballpoint pen before taking a seat in the comfy chair. Next, read aloud to devoted pet over multiple periods. Drink tea as needed.

  • Awkward worded sentences
  • Misspelled words
  • Overused words
  • Word repeats
  • Missing commas and any other punctuation left out or added incorrectly
  • The word that (will be needed later)
  • Numbers –refer to The Chicago Manual of Style on when to spell out and when not to
  • Inconsistencies such as timeline, the age of the character, etc.
  • Poor sentence and paragraph transitions
  • Too much showing, not enough narration and vice versa
  • Unnecessary dialogue tags or missing ones
  • Excess use of filter words: for instance, if you’ve written your character thought or wondered or saw something. Ask yourself if you would truly say in your head, I wonder or I thought. Of course, you wouldn’t. Even though you do wonder and you do think, you don’t tell yourself to do either, you just do it. Right?
  • Watch for use of passive voice and verbs

    C C C C C

  • Remember the 5 C’s of copy editing
    • Clear
    • Correct
    • Concise
    • Comprehensible
    • Consistent
  • Capitalization
  • Use of Italics
  • Refer to your copy of The Chicago Manual of Style for guidance
  • Consider word choices–is there an alternative option? Is there a stronger word?
  • Check tenses–are they consistent throughout the MS?
  • Use the find and replace function (if you’re using MS Word) to count the number of times you have used
  • Tab to each instance and ask yourself if the sentence can be written without it.
It’s finally time to cook.

Update the e-copy, repeat the steps noted above as many times as is necessary. You’ll know you are ready to move forward when you can read through the edited text or prose with ease.

After several revisions, it is time to solicit the assistance of a professional. I strongly recommend hiring and editor to scrutinize your work before hitting submit and/or self-publishing.

Brenda writes the kind of stories she loves to read, women’s fiction and contemporary romance, staring quirky, passionate women, who are challenged by the fickleness of life and the complexities of romantic relationships. She’s particularly drawn to exploring the effects of love on the heart of a woman. Her forte is stripping away the protective layers concealing their doubts and insecurities and exposing the soul of her beautifully flawed characters. She is the author of  Nothing is Lost in Loving, Loving is Good, and the upcoming Jinxed by Love.


K. Lyn Wurth said...

Brenda, I'm printing this out to use for my novel-in-process. Thanks so much!

Kathryn said...

Terrific, thanks!