Friday, November 2, 2012

Writing 101: Self-Editing Notes and Resources

This weekend (November 2-4) I will be participating in the first Convolution convention, to be held at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport Hotel in Burlingame, California. So if you just happen to be in the neighborhood, please do stop by and join the festivities.

I am moderating a panel on "Self-Editing" at 6:00 PM on Saturday (tomorrow) in the Sandpebble-A room. While reviewing notes, online resources, etc. in preparation for this panel discussion --

I decided to write down these notes and links and such here, on More Red Ink, as a way of gathering my thoughts, and providing a virtual resource to the panel attendees. This way I can simply point the audience to this blog post and not have to worry about spelling out web links, names, and such during the actual panel discussion.

So, let me begin by saying that what follows are strictly notes, quotes, links, bullet points, etc. No fancy paragraphs and flow; these are literally reference notes for the panel discussion. However, if you are a writer, then by definition you are a self-editor, and you may find some of what follows of interest in your pursuit of perfection and publication.

* * * * * * * * * *


Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King (William Morrow Paperbacks).

Update: 11/05/2012.
As I was gathering my notes for the panel, I realized I neglected to include one of the best writing books ever:
On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (Scribner).

I know writers who reread this book once every six months or so, just to be inspired once again.


Alan Cooper's List of Homonyms: words that have the same sound and often the same spelling but differ in meaning; a wonderful list of homonyms, but the list is old (1997) -- though words don't really change, do they. "Self-Editing" by Lori Handeland.
Self editing is a very important aspect of re-writing. It is the last thing a writer does before sending the manuscript off to their agent or an editor. I look at self-editing as a final housecleaning chore. Not a lot of fun in itself, but don't you feel good when you're done?

I always do a final edit with a hard copy. There are so many things you won't see by reading your manuscript off a computer screen--beside the problem of going blind from reading an entire book that way. The printed word needs to be read, as it was meant to be read, on paper, so you can see the mistakes--and hear any with your inner ear. There is a flow that comes with a well written, well rewritten, well edited manuscript that you can hear when you read it. You must also be able to see your work as an editor or agent will see it. Too much introspection or narrative all in a row with no breaks for dialogue or adequate paragraphing makes a reader skip ahead for some excitement. Sometimes you don't notice this until you read your hard copy in the self-editing stage.

1. Are you telling instead of showing?
2. Are you establishing your character gradually and unobtrusively?
3. Is your point of view consistent?
4. Are your dialogue mechanics sophisticated? (reflect adequate knowledge of proper writing technique)
5 Have you checked for breaks?
6. Have you checked for unintentional repetition?
7. Have you checked for sophistication throughout the novel?
8. Have you checked your general mechanics?

Each bullet point has excellent content with examples.

The Chronicle of Higher Education: "Before You Submit: Some Tips for Self-Editing" by Carol Saller.

Things Writers Miss:
- Throat-clearing
- Personal tics
- Repetition
- Non sequiturs

Things Writers "Correct" Needlessly:
- The passive voice
- Use of the first person
- Split infinitives "Red Pencil Round-up: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Annette Fix.
Effective self-editing requires you to have laser focus on each story element and how it functions technically within the whole manuscript. Something to remember: you’re not creating the story; you’re analyzing it and making it better.
1. Narrative
This is where you need to be ruthless with your editing. The modern reader is busy and easily distracted, so you have a limited amount of time to pull her into your story, keep her captivated by your complex characters, and make her want to find out what happens next in your plot.
- Backstory/Exposition
- In Media Res
- Bread Crumb Trail
- Show, Don't Tell
- Balance
- Voice
- Clichés and Idioms

Excellent before-and-after examples.

2. Characterization
- Introduction
- Names
- Goals
- Motivation
3. Dialog
- Subtext vs. On the Nose
- Foul Ball
- Character Voice
- Tags
4. Setting/Imagery
- Sensory
- Grounding
5. Plot
- Cause & Effect
6. Research
7. Grammar
- Weak Verbs
- Infinitive
- Passive Voice
- Ambiguity
- Filler Words

More good before-and-after examples.

8. Punctuation
9. Pre-Submission Proof
- Spell Check
- Audio

Let's Get Digital blog: "Self-Editing: Back to Basics, Part I" by Karin Cox.
Let me start off by stating that there is no such thing as self-editing to a publishable level (at least not without a team of skilled beta readers); I would say this even if my livelihood did not depend on editing. I scour my own text for errors before I submit it to my publisher, but I am still always surprised at what my in-house colleagues pick up when they read through my manuscripts. As much as writers attempt to edit their own work, and should for the purposes of enhancing their drafts, I firmly believe they are incapable of doing so as effectively as a professional editor because they lack the necessary objectivity to assess their own writing.

The human brain also employs all kind of tricks to convince writers that what they put down on the page is correct (if not Man Booker Prize material). Taht yuo cna raed tihs at lal is prcaticlaly a mriacle! But such is the power of the human brain. Read a whole paragraph of that and soon you'll be able to wade through even the most atrocious, unedited drivel and make perfect sense of it. It is little wonder that most authors—even those who are competent self-editors at a draft level—miss a few transposed letters, misspelled words, homonyms, or misplaced modifiers. It's all thanks to the human brain's excellent ability to decode and process what the eyes see.

The first three things I notice in a new manuscript that hint an author is still learning the craft:
1. Wonderfully florid, flamboyant, descriptive and wordy verbiage
2. Comma Calamities
3. Modifiers Gone Mad

Let's Get Digital blog: "Self-Editing: Back to Basics, Part II" by Karin Cox.

More issues I regularly see in manuscripts submitted by novice authors:
1. Dialogue Dilemmas
2. Expository Dialogue
3. Um, Err, How’s the Weather
4. Throw the "Said Book" at Them
5. Name Dropping

Excellent (often over-the-top) examples in both part I and II; plus a brief discussion at the end on often mixed-up homonyms.


And always -- always! -- read the comments posted to these blogs. The comments often provide additional examples, resources, references, etc.

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