Saturday, 31 January 2015

My editing tips (as a non-editor) - Part 1

I might have mentioned a time or six, that editing is not my strongest skill when it comes to writing. It still means that I have to edit my work, before sending it off to a professional for that final touch. So what do I do, since I don’t know what I am doing?

Over the years I have learned a few things about editing in general, but also about things that work for me as I start preparing a manuscript for publication. Here are the first 5 tips that work for me:
  1. I print the manuscript on paper. Being sensitive about environmental issues, I print the manuscript, two pages per page and double sided – thereby reducing the amount of paper used by 75%.
  2. It is an established fact that we retain more information from reading on paper than a computer screen – hence the print. After printing, I read it beginning to end, no editing, with the exception of spelling or obvious grammar mistakes.
  3. I used a set of fine markers – all colours – to tackle this editing phase. Small things like missing or incorrect punctuation marks, red pen. Editing text, or adding more words – colour of the day. This also helps me to keep track to see if I am on schedule. If I plan to publish a book, say the 21st of April, I need to plan my own editing to be finished by 24 March. This will give my editor enough time to apply her red pen, and myself enough time to work through those editorial gems for updating my work.
     Allow yourself enough time for this process. There is nothing more frustrating to a reader, waiting in anticipation for your next book, to be told that you have extended the publication date.
  4. I edit with a notebook next to me. Despite my good intentions, it takes me about two years to write a novel. This means that there are some things that I forgot, or that was not quite sorted out while I wrote the first draft. (Reminder: while I plan some aspects of my books, I am a pantser at heart). Therefore the notebook. Place names, detail descriptions of the setting, that sort of thing. My notes help with consistency throughout the story.
    In Michael’s Mystery, the people of Kryane live in a desert and I had to be super careful with descriptions on how they dressed and how they lived. Strappy dresses and flip-flops won’t work.
  5. Titles and other forms of address sometimes give me headaches. Using capital letters or not for titles, and references to deities, God and royalty becomes part of this process. Consistency again, and sensitivity to context especially when it comes to religion, is one of those notebook entries of mine.
     In Michael’s Mystery, the High Lords and other magicians are addressed as lord this or lady that. Writing the first draft I don’t worry about capitalisation of titles or not, but during editing, definitely.