Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Editing For Yourself Vs. Editing For Others

It's no surprise that I love to edit. I talk about it a lot on my blog, and being that I'm an English major and former English teacher, it's kind of a given that I love red pens and the screen equivalent—Track Changes.

Today topic came by request. :) I edit my own work and the work of others, and the two are very different. Here's why. When I edit for myself, I'm too close to the story. I know things about my characters that my readers don't. That means when I fail to mention something that's key to the plot, I may not realize it until my editor points it out. Then I have a moment where I want to smack myself in the forehead. To try to cut down on those moments, I've done the following things when revising my own work:

  • I keep track of the passage of time: what day it is, what time it is, etc.
  • I keep track of major events and key reveals. *This is important because it's what I need my reader to see and know.
  • I keep character profiles to make sure eye color, hair color, height, etc are consistent throughout my manuscript. I also mark where they are mentioned in the document.
  • I mark overly used words and replace or delete them.
  • I read my work backwards (not word by word, but sentence by sentence) to check for spelling and missing words.
When I edit for others, plot holes jump out at me because I don't know the story. It's so much easier to pose questions to my clients than it is to myself because I don't have the backstory in my head like the writer does. Here's a short list of how I edit for clients:
  • I highlight overly used words.
  • I bring up any questions I get from a reader's point of view. If I have those questions, the reader will too. Now sometimes, the questions get answered later and I'll comment that the questions are answered. But if not, we have a problem for the writer to address.
  • I check for consistency with the spelling of words. Gray/grey and toward/towards are the two biggest culprits I find. Either way is acceptable, but consistency is needed throughout the manuscript. The same goes for capitalization. If you create a term and capitalize it once, you should continue to capitalize it throughout.
  • I mark any shifts in POV. If you are writing 1st person, don't leave that person's head. If you have dual POV, make sure you are only in one character's head at a time. Etc.
  • I check contractions and read them as two separate words. So many times I see "you're" when it should be "your". If you read the contractions as two words, you'll see when you really meant to say "your" instead of "you are".
  • I read my work backwards (not word by word, but sentence by sentence) to check for spelling and missing words.
Again, this is a short list. I could go on, but I'd rather hear from you. What does your revision check list look like?

46 comments:

  1. Editing for myself is the hardest thing ever. I've gotten better at it (thanks to using free editing tools) and beta readers. But it's still a challenge.

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    1. It is tough. I find it so much easier to edit for others.

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  2. My process is usually checking for big things first--I make one or two major runs through the entire manuscript to fill in plot holes that I already know are there, or that I find during my reading. Then I go chapter by chapter, not moving on until each one shines. The last read through is to perfect each word.

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  3. Never really thought about the differences. Basically, I read through and make changes to obvious errors. Then I read through again and look for further errors. I might read through a third time to make sure I haven't missed anything.

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  4. Great advice and observations showing the differences in editing for others as opposed to editing for oneself. Some of the suggestions you've mentioned are about keeping track of certain aspects as the story moves forward. I've found Scrivener does that for me with ease. I'm really enjoying that program. :)

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    1. Me too. Scrivener is definitely fun and helpful.

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  5. One of the things that helps when I'm editing for a client is a compressed time frame. With my own work I tend to drag it out which can make it easier to miss holes and inconsistencies. I'm trying to be better about editing big chunks of work at a time.

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    1. I do two run throughs for clients. One the first one, I'm looking for plot inconsistencies and overall flow, so I read big chunks at a time. My second pass is backwards to focus on SPAG and I do that in small sections so I can be meticulous.

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  6. Fantastic post. {Just what I needed right now.:D }I'm not an editor, but proofreading my own writing is one of those pesky can't quite get it right things. As to plot-holes,I only see these in others' writing.

    Do you have another person who reads your writing as well, Kelly? I mean before the editor who is already waiting to publish it.

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    1. Yes, Mirka. I have a critique group who reads my work and then it goes through my agent. So thankful for them because it's tough to find plot holes in your own work. We are too close to the story and know it too well.

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  7. I was just sharing with a student the read it backwards trick :) It does work well! I also use the "find" feature in Word quite a bit, looking for extra that's and was's :) Very helpful post!

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    1. Yes, I love the "find" feature. Thanks for mentioning that. :)

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  8. This is a really interesting post, Kelly. Thanks for letting us dive into your head as you help us understands the differences in editing. I've never come across such a thorough breakdown. Fascinating stuff! :-)

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  9. Editing others is much easier than editing one's self. Thanks for a glimpse into your process.

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  10. This looks like a good checklist.During my latest edit, I uploaded my ms every day to my Kindle Fire, and read over the revised portions. It really helped me see things I had overlooked.

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    1. Yes, that's a great trick. Thanks for sharing.

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  11. in my latest novel, time was really important so going back and editing against a timeline was helpful...

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  12. I have to learn better skills in editing. This is not my strong suit. These are great tips! Thanks! Reading backwards seems so tedious but I think it would help so much!

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    1. It is slow and you can't get into the story so it's not as exciting, but it works.

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  13. These are some excellent editing tips Kelly. I especially like the one about reading the manuscript backwards sentence by sentence. I can even use this one in the technical editing I do.

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    1. Yes, you can. It's very effective for finding errors.

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  14. Thanks for sharing this with us Kelly. A great post! I also read my manuscript aloud as though it's a book on tape - with the inflection and emphasis where it should naturally be. That seems to help, too.

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    1. I should have mentioned that I do that, too. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  15. I can see how editing for yourself and others is different. When I read books or someone's ms for them- spelling errors and plot errors tend to jump out. In my own writing it can be much harder. I like the tips you shared for editing your own work. Thanks!

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    1. It's the same for me. That's why I love the reading backwards trick. It really helps.

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  16. I get hung up on the little things when I edit for myself. Like you said--too close to it. Best to fix what I can and then get feedback from someone else who can look at it from the outside. They catch those things we know in our heads and fail to put on the page!

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    1. Yes, ALWAYS get other eyes on your work. It's a necessity.

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  17. Lately I've been reading it out loud and on the Kindle. For some reason, it's easier to see spelling/grammar errors that way.

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  18. That's a great checklist. One thing I do is read chapters backwards. I find many mistakes that way. Sometimes I have my Kindle read a manuscript to me.

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    1. Yes, it definitely helps you hear things that you wouldn't have otherwise.

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  19. I get my editing practice from marking my students' essays. You're right, it's much easier to spot plot loopholes when I'm reading a piece for the first time. With my own ms, I sometimes skip mentioning a detail because it was already in my head. Reading backwards is something I'll have to try! Thanks, Kelly.

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    1. Yes, it's tough to see what's in your head vs. what's on the page sometimes.

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  20. Very illuminating! I have both self edited and been edited and it is useful to see the processes you go through.

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  21. Great list, Kelly. Thanks for sharing!

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  22. All things that I've done too, Kelly, editing for others, and for myself. When I do look over my own material for editing, it'll be after leaving the material alone for awhile, and I find printing it off means I can pick up things that I might pass by entirely on a computer screen.

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    1. Yes, I love proofreading in print. Killer on the ink and paper, though.

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