Write, revise, write, revise, write, edit, revise, edit, edit, edit….
There’s a cycle I hate to get stuck in! I wonder how many people would be published if they could break clear of it. With three books published and one in beta, I thought maybe what I’ve learned might help someone else. I’m not a pro, but I wasn’t a professor when I helped other students in college, either.
I have a few things I do to a story before I even think about letting someone else read it. I didn’t always, but now I do because I know I’ll have made these mistakes somewhere along the way.
1) Search for the most commonly overused words.
I’m willing to bet every author ever has had this issue at some point. I keep a list on my desk just for this purpose. For me, the list is: that, so, and, as, like. The word “that” is a special challenge for me and I swear half my work in self-editing is finding instances of it and replacing them. (We won’t talk about how many times I’ve wanted to use it in this post already!)
Oh, and if I’m writing smut, “hands.” Pretty sure my pre-edited smut reads like a bunch of drunk people playing twister. There is a limb somewhere and no one knows who it belongs to or where it came from!
2) Check pronoun use. Did I just start the last five paragraphs with “she”? Have I used “he” when there are four male characters in the room until no one knows which “he” I mean?
3) Check name use. Yep, just as bad as overusing pronouns, overusing names will make a passage read like it was written by (or for) a 5 yr old.
Ex: Susan woke to the sound of a garbage truck driving by. It was a far cry from the bright chirping of birds Susan had enjoyed in the country. Susan couldn’t complain, she chose to move here, but she was a little homesick.
4) Check for clarity, passive sentences, and so on. I admit, I cheat here. I use a subscribed version of Grammarly for these parts. I don’t accept every suggestion, but it has improved enough to give worthwhile food for thought. Even if I don’t accept the suggestion from Grammarly, I’ll rethink the phrase it’s pointing out to me.
5) While I don’t think adverbs are bad, I admit I can get heavy-handed with them. Thank the gods for the option to find them in Word. I don’t have a “rule” about them, but if I have a page that lights up like a fall bonfire, I need to fix it.
6) Dialogue and tags go next. Not every line needs a dialogue tag. At the same time, a properly used tag can add a great deal to a line. I am of the opinion that the “said is dead” and the “only use said” arguments are made up of people who could learn to be a bit more flexible. If my character whispers, I’m going to write the word that tells a reader how a line is delivered. I check for where tags need to be added or removed, where using a different verb is distracting and where “said” isn’t getting the tone across.
Thanks to Twitter, I have a new one I’m going to be using in my process as well. I came across this tweet:
Out of curiosity I pulled up a chapter from current WIP. I ran a search for “was.” Ouch. 68 results in 17 pages. Obviously, this is a word I need to put into the list of overused words! I’m not sure what the end result will look like but what a great call-out that is!
So, that’s my general process. I go through this with every version, too. Draft, revision, pre and post beta.
What do you work into your editing and revising processes?