Editing Your Own Work Can Be Difficult


Face it…

Most of us have had to do it.  Whether an author editing a manuscript, or a student editing a paper for college.  Editing your own work can be difficult.  The words are written and now they need to be edited.  Thankfully as an author it is not as urgent as it is with a college paper, but the principle remains the same.

Editing your own words is a mind-numbing task.  When you read them, you can miss things because you already know what is written.  Simple typos go uncorrected, capitalization improper and so on.  Blog writers have a hard time with it.  They write their post, they re-read it, they post it, but things get missed.  I will admit I have gone back and fixed a few of my own posts, mostly because I am not the type to write a draft and revisit it several days later.

The same applies to programmers.  You write code, you edit your code, then you have a code reviewer, which is like a writing editor.  Which brings us to the first trick with editing your own work.

Take a breather…

Set it aside for a duration of time.  A college paper, assuming you did not procrastinate and pull an all night marathon, can sometimes have a couple days.  Manuscripts can have much longer.  When you set it aside, it can be like a fresh set of eyes are viewing your work.  You will catch things.

Find a friend…

To help you look over your work.  They will be a fresh set of eyes.  There is no need for them to be top of their English class or a professional editor.  They will find more things to fix or suggest changes to.  Authors should do the same.  Have other people look over the manuscript.  They can find plot holes and more, and this is free.

become educated…

There are tricks to editing school papers, and there are tricks to editing manuscripts.  There are styles that are different from fiction rather than non-fiction.  I, of course, am a writer of fiction.  So what is my go-to source for help when looking over my work?  A book that, if you are a fiction writer, you need to buy “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.”  As I like to do when referring a book, I will include the synopsis:

Hundreds of books have been written on the art of writing.  Here at last is a book by two professional editors to teach writers the techniques of the editing trade that turn promising manuscripts into published novels and short stories.

in this completely revised and updated second edition, Rennie Browne and Dave King teach you, the writer, how to apply the editing techniques they have developed to your own work.  Chapters on dialogue, exposition, point of view, interior monologue, and other techniques take you through the same processes an expert editor would go through to perfect your manuscript.

Each point is illustrated with examples, many drawn from the hundreds of books Brone and King have edited.

So what makes the book so great?  It provides great examples, has a reference section in the back, and most importantly, is about editing your own books!  The book has a copyright of 2004 (all content is still applicable today) and there still are limited resources for editing fiction that are good.

There are exercises, with their answers in the back, which help make your brain think in different ways.  When you look at your manuscript you start saying “wow, I need to change this” or “hey, I wrote that pretty good!”  An example exercise:  “How would you develop the following character through a series of scenes?  Keep in mind that the scenes don’t have to be consecutive and that some of the material need not be included at all.”  (Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, 2004, p. 38)

Hire an editor…

It can be expensive.  Believe me, I suffer the same issue.  An 80,000 word manuscript can run over a grand.  You can find editors for less, but you need to make sure they do a good job.  You can also barter services.  For example, I am a software engineer.  I could barter web design time for editing time.  Make sure to read reviews on the editors, go to trusty blogs like The Creative Penn or ask other authors who they use and how they thought the editor did and their process was.

Don’t rush things…

That can be a big mistake.  If you rush getting your manuscript out, or turn your college paper in, the same can happy in both cases.  A big fat “F”.  You do not need a professional editor.  Using all of the tricks above with the exception of hiring an editor will get your work a million times better.  If you self-publish, you can always update your manuscripts later if you do hire an editor or catch some mistakes.  Your college paper will probably not have that ability.

Whatever you do, do not say you can edit your manuscript later if you self-publish.  Do not put an unedited piece of junk on the Internet.

“The first draft of anything is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway

You do not want people reviewing “shit.”  Trust me.  Edit it, edit it again, then do it again.  Rinse and repeat.

My editing strategy…

So I will share my personal strategy.  Some of you may think it is ridiculous, but it is the way I do it.  This is for fiction.  Non-fiction I highly recommend skipping step 1 and go to step 2.  In scrivener you can rearrange things to your hearts content.  A must for non-fiction.

  1. Remember Hemingway’s quote.  Write your “shit” by hand, on a typewriter, or some other way where you have to rewrite it.  I personally use a typewriter.  Some writers prefer historic ones, which you can find, I just have a modern Brother.
  2. Edit as you transfer your first draft into digital.  It is time consuming, but you will not believe how much changes.  I also recommend using Scrivener rather than Word.
  3. Take a break.  Start another manuscript, spend time with family, take a vacation.  Does not matter, take a break where there is at minimum one-week where you do not look at the manuscript.  I prefer a month.
  4. Revise within Scrivener, or if you chose to use Word or some other software.  Once done, this is what I consider my “First Draft.”  It is my “shit” that I made better than before.
  5. Wait a week or more and print out, double spaced.  Edit it by hand.  Yes, I am serious, by hand.  Edit it while you are sitting in bed before you go to sleep instead of watching television.  While you are eating breakfast before work you can edit it.  Edit it while you are on the train or metro.  Just edit it by hand.
  6. Enter revisions on the computer and repeat steps 3-5.
  7. Repeat step 6 until you don’t make any changes or make very few.
  8. Hand a double spaced draft to your friends, share with other authors who are willing to review it for you for free, etc.  Find people who appreciate the same genre you have written.
  9. Carefully consider suggestions from the people from step 8.  Ask them any questions you have, such as why they suggested a change or asked what they saw as a hole in the plot.  Have a discussion.
  10. Enter revisions from friends and authors and perform steps 3-7.
  11. At this point I do one of three things.
    1. I hand a copy of the book to a relative who may or may not appreciate the genre who did not read it already.  Typically it is a printed and bonded copy like I discussed in Book Binding Your Own Books.  I will take their feedback into consideration and potentially repeat step 10.
    2. I self-publish the book.  Money is tight, we know how it is.  If a book seems to take off, I will hire an editor.  As a beginning author, this step is hard.  After you have a successful manuscript you can use those profits to invest in your next book for editing.
    3. Hand it to an editor.

Yes, it is tedious, yes it is long.  My editing process takes four times longer than writing the actual manuscript to begin with.  This may not be the case for everyone.  Some people are naturally adept at writing fiction straight to the first or second draft.  Others may repeat steps 3-7 quite a few times.  My current book at the time of this writing is in the middle of step 5, so it has some time yet before it will be available.

Most of all…

Enjoy what you do!  Some people love editing their work.  Some authors have started their own editing business just because they found out how much they loved to do it.  I personally hate editing, but believe me, it makes a huge difference.  Once you publish a book after it has been fully edited, wait a few months, finish your next book, doesn’t matter.  Read your published book.  Then read your first draft (the one on the typewriter, handwritten, etc).  You will puke.

Authors are Always Learning – Quick Book Review

As I mentioned in a previous post, authors are always learning.  I have been scouring the web and buying books to improve myself as an author.  A book I just recently acquired, thanks to hearing about it on The Creative Penn, is “Creating Complex Characters” by Jen Blood.  Jen Blood is the author of the bestselling Erin Solomon series.  She also runs her own editing business Adian Editing.

The book helps you better understand character development.  The background, how to make them engaging characters for the reader and more.  She provides real life examples and comparisons throughout the book which provide very meaningful insight into the instruction for that day’s lesson.  The funny thing about the examples she gives is, if you haven’t read the books – you are probably going to be buying them.

Here is the synopsis on the back of the book (yes, I ordered the print copy over the e-book.  For learning, I always prefer a physical copy):

A simple, five-day process for writing complex characters readers will love – or love to hate.  Through case studies, insightful lessons, and writing exercises divided into five easy-to-follow daily plans, veteran editor and bestselling author Jen Blood shares her secrets for creating characters readers can’t get enough of.

The book is set up as a “5-Day Fiction Fix.”  There are lessons, case studies and exercises that you perform, preferably over a five day period when starting out.  I read through the entire book in one sitting just to get a feel for what was to come.  I plan to perform the exercises on my current novel next.  Have you ever interviewed one of your characters?  Jen goes into an example that chances are you have never thought of.  I know I didn’t!

While I have not performed the exercises yet, the book is very promising and well written.  If you are an author, or thinking about becoming an author, I highly recommend you check out The 5-Day Fiction Fix – Creating Complex Characters by Jen Blood.

Authors are always Learning - Check out Creating Complex Characters
Creating Complex Characters
Image © Adian Editing / Jen Blood

Author 2.0 Blueprint = Mind Blown

Author 2.0 Blueprint - Joanna Penn
Author 2.0 Blueprint – Joanna Penn Image © The Creative Penn

I was browsing through The Creative Penn the other day and decided to join Joanna Penn’s e-mail list and got her free “Author 2.0 Blueprint” book.  Hopefully Joanna does not mind that I grabbed the image from her site :-).  The truth is, an author is always learning, especially me since I am at the beginning and just breaking into providing works to the public.  So I got the book and sat down to read some of it before bed one night.  The goal was some – I read ALL of it!

The information she provides in the book is mind blowing.  There are so many things I realized I should have different, shouldn’t have done.  There were a couple I did right, but very few compared to the wealth of knowledge she shared.  She expands on all of the information in further detail in her other books available on Amazon.

First and foremost – Scrivener is a game changer.  Scrivener is essentially an author platform software allowing you to better write books.  I had been using Word!  I played around with the software and fell in love with it in minutes.  They only want $40 for it for the Windows version!  $45 for the Mac.  With the features I have used, and I have barely touched it, it is well worth the money.

The advice she gives, the resources, the examples.  The Blueprint book is filled with so much information I will be re-reading it, most likely multiple times!  The crazy part is she gives it away for free.  Sure she promotes her other works within it, but she would be crazy not to!  The best part is, I got it for signing up to her e-mail list which will give me even more information.  I just want to say, very nicely done Joanna!

If you are an author, consider being an author or just want to see a very nice site, go visit The Creative Penn!

Work Around the House


A Week Off to Work Around the House

This past week I took some time off to work around the house.  The first few days I got to spend entirely with my daughter as my wife slept and then worked.  She works nights, so as she slept during the day I got to watch my daughter take some of her first steps.  She laughed, we played and it was wonderful.  The rest of the week was house work.  The dreaded, unbearable need to get the to-do list done.  We all know too well how the to-do list seems to grow exponentially as time decreases at a comparable rate.

This time last year I was building the nursery.  We took out all of the carpet upstairs and put down laminate.  It was a fun project, though my wife was determined to put the nursery in her office and move the office to the other bedroom.  So, I cleared out the one room where the litter pan for our cats was (more on that later).  I ripped the carpet out, put the floor down and proceed to do the little hallway in between the rooms.  Once finished, we moved everything from my wife’s office over to the room I had finished and then I proceeded to rip the carpet out and paint.  Cute colors, a purplish gray for the main color with a light blue accent wall.  I might have gone pink, but there was no arguing with my wife.  Arguing at eight months pregnant turns into “Yes, dear.”

The Litter Pan Fiasco

Back to the litter pan.  My office is in the basement.  I did not think things through originally and put my office at the bottom of the stairs rather than in the back of the basement.  Naturally, I did not want the litter pan in my office.  It sat up in the extra bedroom.  Well, it was not going to stay there after spending hours and hard earned cash to do the flooring.  It got moved to a much worse area, the living room.  My to-do list from that point on had the litter room project but it just did not happen.  Now my daughter is starting to walk, she has been crawling for a while.  I do not want her crawling through litter.   I hate the smell despite how clean I keep it.  It had to go, so my vacation from work involved taking care of the “litter room.”

The litter room is not a room at all.  I decided to wall in the landing of the steps and put a door in.  The litter pan will sit at the bottom of the steps and the door goes into my office.  The steps remain open and the cats can walk on down and do their business then walk on up allowing my office to remain protected.  Face it, cats love to play.  They love to claw.  My leather office chair and fragile displays of wolves cannot be mangled by my cats, so the door had to be put in.  That left the smell.  Smell carries, so I caulked all crevices and put a sweep on the bottom of the door.  Presto.  Now I just need to get a cat door for the door that leads to my stairs.

The Reloading Bench

This leads us to the next project, my reloading bench!  A work in progress over the months.  Work full time, write a book and doing personal projects takes time.  On top of that there is the need to spend time with family.  My reloading bench sat in sized and labeled pieces for months.  This week I finally got to assemble the base, minus the drawers.  The oak top was already done and sat on a simple support for years.  Now I just need to build eight drawers and it is done.

Wait Mr. Wolf, you reload?  As in ammunition?  Yes.  Yes I do.  Here is the thing about life, hobbies provide great satisfaction.  Some say travel, but honestly if you travel a lot – it is almost a hobby.  Hobbies are something you love to do and distract you from life.  I have woodworking, photography and reloading.  Writing is a hobby too.  Having so many hobbies becomes troublesome to find time for it all.  Don’t fret – the book is still coming along.  As a matter of fact, it is in the editing stage!

The interesting thing…

…about this week off is I did not do the main project that I intended.  Put a radon fan in the attic.  For those of you who do not know what radon is, read these Radon Facts.  Radon sucks and is nasty stuff.  I did a short term test and it came back very high.  The issue was that the attic was too damn hot, so it is put off till the Fall.  I got some other things on the to-do list completed and that is really what mattered.

Did anyone else take a week off this summer to get stuff done around the house?  I would love to hear about your projects too!

Now it is back to work.  Back to writing.