5 Content Editing Revelations
I'm almost done with the first round of content edits for SACRIFICE and I've really enjoyed it. I'm not sure if it's because the editing process matches my skillset (I work well to deadlines, I'm very methodical and I LOVE Word's Track Changes function), whether I've got super lucky with my amazing editor, or if my desire to make the book as good as it can be is spurring me on. Maybe all three. Regardless, I've learned a lot during the process so far and here are five of my personal revelations. Perhaps an egg-sucking grandmother moment for many writers, but not for me!
Overusing words No matter how many times you revise your MS and how many common words you have on your list to check, there will always be one you overuse without realising. For me, it is the word 'before'. My MS is split into 5 sections for this first round of editing, and of the 4 we've done so far (about 60k words), it was present 166 times! It is now on my list of words to check before submission :-)
Who are you, again? The 'don't use names too much' rule is important, but not as important as 'your reader needs to know who is talking.' I took the first rule to the extreme, and in various places didn't make it clear which character was talking or performing an action.
Don't diss 'said.' I have a tendency to use too many alternatives to the simple and effective said. My characters nap, snarl, growl, bleat, grumble, yell, purr - all of these are fine in moderation, but I was using them when said would have been fine, or, even better - an action replacing the dialogue tag altogether.
Ssssssss! My characters hiss occasionally, but they should only do it if their sentence ends in 's'. Yes I did test this out loud, as my editor recommended!
Distances, distances, distances! It was pointed out that my MS contains both metres AND miles. Here in the UK, many of us are so higgledy-piggledy with our distances, swapping between metric and imperial at will, that we forget that other places actually have one sensible system. For example: I drove 10 miles to my sister's house, which is about 300 yards from a school. I parked up and walked about 15 metres to her front door. She's 5 feet 4 inches tall, and was carrying a 500 gram bag of sugar when she opened the door, along with her daughter, who weighed just 5 pounds 6 ounces when she was born. Her daughter now weighs about 2 stone, still teeny tiny compared to her German Shepherd, who is about 35 kilos. To many Brits, this would make perfect sense, whereas in some other countries I would get blank looks! Same goes for my MS - I needed more consistency :-)
So there we have it - 5 things I've learned which will hopefully help my writing in the future. Hope it helps you too! Let me know if so!