So last night I finished my final edit of my latest novella, Sheba’s Lovely Maidens. It’s the next installment of my “Ancient” series, inspired this time by a brief story in the Bible that tells of the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon’s court. Intrigued, I linked this historical tidbit to the Bible chapter “Song of Songs”… lots of flowery language, and plenty of mystery. Good stuff.
That’s not why I’m blogging today, though. Today I want to talk about editing! First of all, I have to say that I am not a professional editor. (I have hired one before, and she did a lovely job, but mostly they complimented all the work I had done already with my self-editing. So for my short erotic pieces, I have opted to edit my own stuff. Any mistakes are mine alone!) Now, good editing is essential to producing a finished, readable, professional-quality piece of writing. As an independent publisher – and, I guess, independent editor too – it is an essential component of the writing process.
The most important thing, I find, is to take a break from my work. When I finish a story my blood is racing, I’m bubbling with excitement, and everything seems rosy. This is NOT a good time to critique my writing! So I put the finished piece aside and dive into something new, until I cool down. Ideally, this is long enough that I’ve forgotten enough that to read the finished story is like encountering it anew (for me, this is between 2 weeks and a month). Then, when I see the work again, it is separated from the emotional attachment I felt before. Editing is a skill, but also a state of mind.
Here are the editing steps I have found most helpful:
- Read it again. Yes, and then again. AT LEAST two times over in its entirety (and of course, throughout the writing process you were rereading it piecemeal, right?)
- Read it aloud. If a sentence or paragraph feels awkward, just read it out loud. Your ear will tell you when a word is off, or where there needs to be a break for punctuation.
- Print it out, and read it from the page. Seriously, this changes your outlook entirely. Even if you only intend to publish digitally, do this step! Errors stand out more on a printed page, and that makes them easier to catch. (Also, then you can write all over it in red pen. Who doesn’t love doing that?)
All these steps are free and truly make a difference. Self-editing CAN be successful, if you invest the same amount of time and effort in it as you do for your writing. I have come to enjoy editing almost as much as creating stories, because editing is what brings them into full maturity. It’s a responsibility to your readers to produce the best possible quality of work.
Now, we all have our little whoopsies. Typos happen; spellcheck sometimes makes weird auto-corrections, and yes, the occasional “the” or “a” slips in where it shouldn’t be. (These happen even in big-money published work, too; always a shock to find a typo in a mass market paperback, but they’re there, all right!) However, there are a few things that really get to me. So here, for all to see, are Fionna’s Horror-Inducing Pet Peeves Of Writing!
(I don’t blame you if you stop reading now, but I just have to get these out there. Especially since I have come across them recently in published work, and they just give me the twitches)
Biggest Peeve: There, They’re, Their
- Okay, this one really bugs me. These are three completely different words that just happen to sound the same and look similar. Please, PLEASE use them correctly!
- “There” is a place or direction (Ex: There goes a hot air balloon! Let’s have lunch there today.)
- “They’re” is describing “them,” they are either doing something or being a certain way (Ex: They’re awesome editors. They’re editing up a storm.)
- “Their” is a possessive; something that belongs to “them” (Ex: Their baby rabbit made a mess on the carpet.)
Big Peeve: Affect vs. Effect
- “Affect” is a verb (ex: Good editing will affect your writing in a positive way.)
- “Effect” is a noun (ex: Editing has a positive effect on your writing.)
Medium Peeve: its vs. it’s; your you’re
- Another dangerous one!
- “Its” is something that it possesses; your is what you possess (Ex: The rabbit nibbled its carrot. Your hair is a mess.)
- “It’s” describes some way that it is; you’re is short for “you are” (Ex: It’s a hot day outside. You’re going to want to read that dictionary first…)
I guess those are really my only huge peeves. Anyway, editing counts! (Now, how embarrassing would it be if I had a bunch of weird typos in this blog post….?)