1.7.11

How to Get the Best Edit Evah!

I've got a guest post today over at the Savvy Authors website in which I dish out ten quick tips for giving your manuscript a final polish before it goes into editing.  Just thought I'd pass on some things I've noted through my editing role that've helped me with my own writing.

Arg! I just noticed a problem w/ my post over there.  The strikeouts for my example were eliminated, so it's a little confusing.  I've notified my contact, but until it gets straightened out, this version of points 6-10 will be easier to follow:

 For the points below, I’ll use the following excerpt (in which it will become abundantly clear I spent way too many hours reading Archie comics at my grandma’s).  There’s nothing wrong with the excerpt grammatically, but I’m sure you’ll agree it can be improved.  We’ll refine it in stages.

Excerpt

            Joe wanted to go to the pool. “Hey, Alex, do you want to go to the pool?” he asked as he pointed his thumb in the direction of the local swimming pool.
            Alex wasn’t sure whether he wanted to go.  He scratched his head and said, “I don’t know, Joe.  Why do you want to go to the pool?”
            Joe answered.  “Because it’s hot at the pool, Alex.”
            Alex turned his head and looked at the thermostat. He was confused. “It’s only seventy degrees, Joe.  That’s not hot.”
            Joe rolled his eyes.  He reached out and put both hands on either side of Alex’s face.  He turned his friend’s head away from the thermostat. He turned it toward the pool.  Two scantily clad girls were paying their pool admission. 
            “Like I said, Alex—it’s hot at the pool,” Joe said.   
            Alex smiled. Now he wanted to go to the pool. “Let’s go to the pool, Joe.”
              

6. Eliminate unnecessary physical movements

As writers, we picture everything as it happens and we want to convey our vision to readers so we tend to over-describe physical movements.  But spelling out every little detail will not only bore readers, it’ll break the flow.  If the action can be assumed or it doesn’t add any new information to the passage, carve it out.   

Excerpt refined (step 6):

            Joe wanted to go to the pool. “Hey, Alex, do you want to go to the pool?” he asked as he pointed his thumb in the direction of the local swimming pool.
            Alex wasn’t sure whether he wanted to go.  He scratched his head and said, “I don’t know, Joe.  Why do you want to go to the pool?”
            Joe answered.  “Because it’s hot at the pool, Alex.”
            Alex turned his head and looked at the thermostat. He was confused. “It’s only seventy degrees, Joe.  That’s not hot.”
            Joe rolled his eyes.  He reached out and put both hands on either side of Alex’s face.  He turned his friend’s head away from the thermostat. He turned it toward the pool.  Two scantily clad girls were paying their pool admission. 
            “Like I said, Alex—it’s hot at the pool,” Joe said.   
            Alex smiled.  Now he wanted to go to the pool. “Let’s go to the pool, Joe.”

7. Eliminate redundant narrative that’s covered in the dialogue or elsewhere.


Excerpt refined (step 7):

            Joe wanted to go to the pool. “Hey, Alex, do you want to go to the pool?” Joe he asked.
            Alex wasn’t sure whether he wanted to go.  Alex He scratched his head and said, “I don’t know, Joe.  Why do you want to go to the pool?”
            Joe answered.  “Because it’s hot at the pool, Alex.”
            Alex looked at the thermostat. He was confused.  “It’s only seventy degrees, Joe.  That’s not hot.”
            Joe rolled his eyes.  He turned his friend’s head away from the thermostat. He turned it toward the pool.  Two scantily clad girls were paying their pool admission. 
            “Like I said, Alex—it’s hot at the pool,” Joe said.   
            Alex smiled.  Now he wanted to go to the pool.  “Let’s go to the pool, Joe.”


8. Eliminate unnecessary dialogue tags

If it’s obvious who’s saying it, you don’t need a dialogue tag.


9. Cut back on names in dialogue

Using names in dialogue is another natural tendency in writing that doesn’t work so well for readers. 

Excerpt refined (steps 8 & 9):

             “Hey, Alex, do you want to go to the pool?” Joe asked.
            Alex scratched his head and said, “I don’t know, Joe.  Why do you want to go to the pool?”
            Joe answered.  “Because it’s hot at the pool, Alex.”
            Alex looked at the thermostat. “It’s only seventy degrees, Joe.  That’s not hot.”
            Joe rolled his eyes.  He turned his friend’s head away from the thermostat. He turned it toward the pool.  Two scantily clad girls were paying their pool admission. 
            “Like I said, Alex—it’s hot at the pool,” Joe said.   
            Alex smiled.  “Let’s go to the pool, Joe.”


10. Vary sentence structure

Not every sentence can begin with a participial phrase; neither should they all be short and direct nor predominately long and winding. Our excerpt has a lot of medium-sized, simple sentences that make it somewhat dull, so I’ve changed things up and added variety.  


Final excerpt:

            “Hey, Alex, do you want to go swimming?” Joe asked.
            Alex scratched his head. “I don’t know.  Why?”
            “Because it’s hot at the pool.”
            Alex looked at the thermostat. “Since when is seventy degrees hot?”
            Joe rolled his eyes.  He turned his friend’s head away from the thermostat and toward the pool where two scantily clad girls paid their admission. 
            “Like I said—it’s hot at the pool.”
            Alex smiled.  “Let’s go swimming, Joe.”

This final excerpt is a lean and mean  74 words versus 156 in the beginning excerpt—that’s half!  And has it lost any substance at all?

7 comments:

Britta said...

Dear Nicki,
that's really convincing and needed a lot of cutting back!
The first (bad) version reminds me of the chapter on "Dialogue" in 'How Not To Write A Novel':
(quote): "Meanwhile, Judy shook her winsome locks," the interesting man from Michigan expostulated.
"But I cannot understand why we are talking like robots who have previously been discussed," Judy rejoined, startingly."
That's also an example for the way it should not be :-)

Summer Ross said...

Great pointers! Thank you.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Nicki, I'm not registered to comment there, so I will comment here - great tips! Most of those I am slowly learning, especially with the help of my critique partners.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hey,

Maybe I should work in reverse CHANGE BG to the first version. I'll double my word count. I don't even have to do the whole MS... maybe the four middle chapters. The editor won't know what hit her... LOL

Carrie said...

Great advice. All the cuts in this example remind me of some of the picture book writing classes I've taken where we have eliminate no essential words.

Elliot Grace said...

...clipping out all the names in my dialogue was something I worked on during re-write number 2...of 4. Yep, took forever...and patience was waning, but worth it in the end.

Great advice, Nicki. My editor would approve:)

EL

fallen monkey said...

Love it - and am laughing at our shared wavelength, as I'm first seeing this now after having posted on editing at the Monkey today. But I only (lazily) dropped in snippets of advice I gave / issues I addressed, not with a brilliant example like you did to put it into context. Bravo, Nicki! :)