Friday, November 23, 2012

"Revision" might be my favorite word.


It's not a dirty word. It's not obscene. I promise.

When I'm self-editing, there's a lot going on in my head. Some revision passes are for specifics like pacing, plot, and characters, but once those are banged into shape I look at other things. Smaller things.

Is this chapter/scene/paragraph/sentence necessary? (If it doesn't advance plot or character, then the answer is no. If it's not necessary for clarity, the answer is no. If your only reason for keeping it is that real people do it, for the love of Jeebus get rid of it. If you're only keeping it because you like how it sounds even though you know it's unnecessary, GET RID OF IT. People WILL notice.)

Is this chapter/scene/paragraph/sentence in the right place? (Trust me. I rearrange sentences like an OCD women rearranges her furniture. Rearrange for flow, rearrange for clarity...things are seldom exactly where they belong when you first write them.)

Is there a better/wittier/more emotional/more concise/punchier/whatever-ier way to rewrite this boring/long/cliched sentence? (Yes. Always yes.)

Is there a better way to re-structure this sentence? (A.k.a Is there a simpler way to rephrase this? Simple is king. People hate your overly complex sentences. Trust me on this one.)

Do I repeat a word or sentence structure in close proximity? (Don't.)

Do I repeat an unusual word or phrasing several times on one page? One chapter? One manuscript? (Please don't. I actually keep track of stuff like this unintentionally. I will literally scream if you use the word scrunched 43 times in your book. Find your pet words/phrases and kill them with fire.)

Is there a better word to use here? (Probably.)

Am I only keeping this sentences/paragraph/scene because I love the writing/I'm so witty? Bite the bullet (<---Cliche!) and kill your darlings. You want your reader to be focused on your story, not your beautiful, impossibly clever prose. (If you're a Literary writer, ignore me.) 

Is this sentence grammatically correct? Is everything spelled correctly? Did I use the correct homophone? (I've stopped reading books I've paid for because of  extreme homophone abuse. I don't care if it's the final installment of a trilogy.  I go through a series of emotions: annoyance, anger, rage, disbelief, more rage, amusement, maniacal laughter. I hate throwing my Kindle in a fit of abused homophone induced rage. Don't make me do this.)

There are always going to be things we don't catch. 
That's understandable.

By picking apart your manuscript on the word and sentence level, you'll catch most obvious typos and spelling/grammar issues. If the subject or verb is missing from a sentence, odds are you'll notice if you're trying to think of punchier verbs and subjects.

When I'm reading for sentence structure, I still keep an eye on grammar/spelling/typos. I have a subscription to The Chicago Manual of Style Online so I can check pesky grammar questions as they come up. No one expects you to be perfect, but they do expect you to look like you care about your craft. If you don't know, look it up. Behold the miracle of Google. Go ahead. I'll wait.


Agents, Editors, assistants, interns--they're all looking for reasons to reject your manuscript. If you send in one that's been polished, they'll notice. Trust me. I might only be a lowly intern, but it drives me crazy when I find multiple typos and misspellings on every page. I even tend to overlook occasional minor grammar oopsies, but there is no excuse for typos. That's just laziness.

Please. For the love of all that is caffeinated, do yourself a favor. Do your agent/editor a favor. Do their assistants and interns a favor. Proofread. Revise. HONE YOUR CRAFT.  Editors aren't there to fix things that you can easily fix yourself.

Final word of advice? Follow publishing industry blogs (agents, editors, writers), and follow those same people on Twitter. If you're serious about being published, don't be lazy. Do your homework and it will pay off.

<3 you all.

Now go write. 

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