Thursday, January 6, 2011

CRAFT: Editing

One of my goals for 2011 is to read a book on the craft of writing in between each work of fiction I read. Lofty goal.

Currently, I'm reading THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE by Strunk and White.

It's a tiny little book with great tips and tools for improving our writing skills.

Some of the concepts seem basic and obvious, however, oftentimes when we are writing our first, or even second, draft of a WIP, we are so close to the story, we don't see the mistakes.

Which is why we should always "put the book to bed" for an extended period of time to gain distance from the writing and from the story. The time period to walk away from the ms is debateable, but maybe a minimum of three weeks is necessary. Then, when we come back to the ms, we can see it with more objective eyes.

Read one or two books on craft before starting the revision process. Then use the tid-bits gained from these books to help you with your editing.

For example, do a pass through your ms where you only look for misplaced modifiers. Strunk and White list examples of these on page 28 of their book THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE:

Incorrect: "He noticed a large stain in the rug that was right in the center."
Correct: "He noticed a large stain right in the center of the rug."

Plus, by correctly placing the modifier (right in the center), not only does the meaning become more clear, but also two words are eliminated, tightening up the sentence.

For more tips on editing your WIP, click on the "revising" tag on the right side bar of this blog.

What does your editing process look like? Do you put your ms to bed for awhile before starting the revision work?


  1. My editing process causes my cat, Gypsy, to cover her eyes with her paws ... when she's not using them to cover her ears from my muttering!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting.

    A great book on writing (though it is about screenplay writing, it is entirely dead-on for novels as well) is SAVE THE CAT by Blake Synder, a successful screenplay writer (sadly, now passed away.) He'll make you laugh, then go out and write better. Roland

  2. I have this book and fully intend to read it this year!

    Just started re-editing a novel that's been "resting" for months. It's refreshing to see it again after so long and after such a break, I can see LOADS more edits that need to be made.

    Wonderful post :D

  3. I have a similar book. It's always nice to go back and see what we're missing. I agree about putting the book aside for a bit and going back to it with new eyes.

    I gave you an award on my blog.

  4. My last book, seriously it took OVER A YEAR before I finally got down off my high horse and admitted my writing was weak in a lot of spots. I really didn't *think* I had such an overinflated ego!!!

    I like that goal, reading a book on craft inbetween fiction ones. That's way smart! I have a whole stack that I know I need to re-read. Unless you read it and then immediately DO it, at least with me - I forget it :(

  5. i do, but probably more like 1-2 weeks. I'm reading edit yourself into print right now as my editing book, but i'll have to check yours out when i'm done.

  6. It is good to put the WIP away for several weeks, go work on something else.

    My book to go to is SELF EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Renni Browne and Dave King. The cartoons by George Booth make you chuckle.

  7. I always do a run-through of editing as soon as I finish the book, because then I can read it as a whole for the first time. THEN I let it sit.

    Also, a good flipside after reading Strunk & White is to read the less structured book: Spunk & Bite...A Writer's Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style. Great book.