What comes to mind when you think about the editing process? If the mere word “Editing” makes you want to hide under your comforters, or find a boat and sail off the face of the earth, I understand. Or maybe you’re a super planner and love the editing process and have all sorts of handy excel charts mapping your progress.
No matter what your feelings are regarding the editing process, there are tools and tips that can help.
1. Cool it on the adjectives
First let’s take a look at descriptors in your book. I know a lot of us have it drilled into us to use adjectives as often as possible, but don’t. Resist the urge. Is there a time and a place for adjectives? Absolutely. Problem is, most new writers don’t know that time or the place.
The most commonly overused place for adjectives is when it comes to dialog. Why do we tag on a hundred unnecessary adjectives to every “he said” “she said” statement? Usually, it’s because we aren’t confident in our ability to convey our point through the dialog itself.
We feel we have not clearly articulated our meaning and, to make up for it, we add an adjective to help the reader understand. Don’t say, “She said nervously.” Show it! Say, “She lifted her hands off the desk, revealing a puddle of sweat.” Your writing should be so clear and powerful you have no reason to use adjectives.
2. Use the 10% rule
The 10% rule means after writing your first draft, go back and trim 10% off your word count. This rule is PAINFUL. It’s also guaranteed to sharpen your writing.
Yes, I know 10% is a lot. Yes, I know you “need it.” Trust me, you don’t. You will be amazed to find how much better your book will read when you cut out that 10% of fluff. For more tips on the cutting process check out this post.
3. Use Clear Imagery
Ever skipped over a long paragraph or several paragraphs of flowery language to get back to the action? There’s a fine line to walk between beautiful imagery and convoluted descriptions that run on and on until you’ve put you’re reader to sleep.
Use clear imagery that gives your reader a distinct picture or feeling. Often times, the first word that comes to mind when you’re thinking of something is the best one.
When it comes to describing people, what are the things that stand out to you about someone? Was it her bangs? His chipped tooth? Her wrinkled dress? His tiny glasses? Why go into great detail about their sharply chiseled jawline and prominent nose? This isn’t a modeling agency.
I hate writing imagery so my natural tendency is to over describe. I hope that by producing quantity, no one will notice the lack of quality in my work. It’s a habit I’m working to break. Don’t let yourself fall into this bad habit. Be intentional about your descriptions. Keep them short and tight. Don’t write something your readers will end up skipping over to get to “the good stuff.”
4. Take a critical look at symbolism
This is better done after the first draft is complete. As you’re editing your rough draft, look for opportunities to slip in symbolism. It’s a way to add that nice finishing touch. When readers get to the end of your book and look back, it’s that “aha moment.”
You don’t need to make this super complicated or dedicate lots of time to plotting and planning it out. If you see an opportunity, take it. Otherwise, don’t worry about it. In the words of Stephen King, “It exists to adorn and enrich. Not create a sense of artificial profundity.”
This is just a list to get you started on the editing process. More to follow.
Candace signing off to go to work.