Category Archives: Copy Editing Quick Note Series

When to Delete Part 2 {Editing Tips}

editing

As we saw yesterday we can make changes for the flow of the narrative by editing out any words that do not have to be there; but the same can be said of information and backstory (exposition), repeated information, non-functional scenes, plot points, entire subplots and whole characters!

This is the real nuts and bolts stuff because as you start to edit out these things you could potentially weaken the structure of the story or piece and make it unstable. What you do in one place can have serious consequences elsewhere, but structural editing is a vital part of the process. While I have called this Part 2, in reality, this is the editing you will do first before you tackle the things I talked about yesterday. You need to get the shape of the story right before you start playing with scenes that might not even make the final cut, right?

So look at:

  • How you handle the information we need to understand the story: character backstory, historical information, science information perhaps: the stuff you research. Do not include this as ‘information dumps’ but drip feed in on a need to know basis as and when the story dictates! And use the backstory stuff as a tease so you hook your reader as I have talked about before.

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  • Tell the reader once; do not recap, by repeating information we already know, like Janice, my adopted sister… don’t keep saying who she is. If some information has not been used for some time find more inventive ways to remind the reader through their dialogue or a short phrase. Don’t repeat for the sake of it, this is more you reminding yourself of the story!

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  • Make sure all scenes are functional: by that I mean they move plot, reveal character and by doing so explore theme. I talk about this a lot in my reports, narrative and dialogue has to be functional, like repeated information or information dumps it’s FILLER and needs deleting!

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  •  Subplots that do not tie directly into the resolution of the key storyline: delete. The function of the subplot is to add layering to the story but not to add a whole other story!

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  • Characters also need to be functional and assume defined roles. If you have too many then think about how they work and see if you can merge roles, so you have fewer key characters, doing some of the same things. Look at the traditional archetypes so you will have in there a mentor, lover, enemy, shape-shifter and remember characters can assume more than one role! At the editing stage, you might be killing your darlings… literally or writing them out of existence… oh the power of the writer. But remember, like everything keep drafts and maybe you’ll use the ‘decreated’ ones again. Now there’s a story… what happens to all the character who didn’t make the cut… like rejected toys? The victims of the editor’s imagination?

 

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That is all, character voice tomorrow!

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When To Delete {Editing Tips}

 

editing

All I can say is: be ruthless when it comes to anything that’s — clunky (awkward), redundant, superfluous, extraneous, clichéd, telling, overdone…

When it comes to having a nice fluidity to your narrative you have to ensure you remove things that simply don’t need to be there, simple! Take them out and if it still works then you are on the right track. Some writers think they have to say it in unique and interesting ways. While, to some extent, that might be true it can, if you work too hard, really feel forced. Then it simply doesn’t work! I have seen some wonderful metaphors and similes lost in a crowd of metaphors and similes! The trick is to use such devices sparingly and in just the right place. This gives them power. Got it?

 

Here are just a few things to ponder… I will talk about filler and the things you can lose from the actual story tomorrow!

  • Description — this is important for allowing the reader to really ‘see inside the moment’, to visualise it as you intended them to, but they don’t need every single detail drawn in for them — just enough and perhaps more importantly to create the right mood, or tone, perhaps, even, to create the right sense of danger if you are leading them to the edge of a cliff face, for example. Sparing, yet vivid wins the day! So it really does come down to how you use your words and which ones. And if in a moment of great tension then whatever you do don’t stop to admire the view, make the description an active part of the movement itself. Look at how other writers do it!

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  • Look at things like attributions; the ‘he said/she said’ in dialogue. You will find that a lot of the time you can remove these as long as you can stay with the flow of the conversation. Better to show some body language so we know who said it. And don’t write  ‘they paused’ — create the pause with an action! None of us stop and pause, well not really! Lose adverbs that are redundant if we can see how something is done or said. Lose different words for said when said is just fine (I have talked about this before!) Punchy and sharp!

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  • Lose clichés as these are considered to be lazy prose! The tears streamed down the face… ugh! How about she dabbed her cheeks or some other more interesting way to show she was crying!

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  • Telling tags: These tell why something is done or said when it’s usually obvious! She stopped the man to ask the time because she was worried she was late. Telling! If we see her rush and ask the time as she rushes we can see it, it’s shown! See what I mean?

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  • Lose ‘that’ and ‘very’ and ‘just’: a lot of the time … see some of my deliberate crossings out. Also see the use of italics when I think the word is more functional so I left it in…  The way that he said it made her smile; he was just so angry (more active?); she was very jealous (though better to show this through actions… right?) Also think about some of the adverbs we overuse! Like ‘suddenly‘… So often there is no other way to interpret the action so lose it and just show the action!

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  • Pleonasms: nodding the headshrugging the shoulders; thinking in the mind… Where else? Get the idea?!!!

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The message here is very simple: if you can lose it, lose it. That way the writing becomes sharper! 🙂 Only repeat expressions or use words that are less functional in a sentence when part of character voice and there is a difference as I will show you later in the week!

Happy Tuesdaying!

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Create Your Style Guide [Editing Tips]

Welcome to a new and busy week. I thought I would give some editing tips every day this week, of course, some of this will have been covered before but  I think it’s always useful as a reminder.

So hands up who uses a Style Sheet or Style Guide when they write?Do you even know what one is? 

A style sheet is a list setting out the decisions that your editor has made on aspects of the layout and language of your document, in order to keep the document consistent.

This is a really useful thing, especially if you intend to write this as part of a series and so how you do something in one book must be consistent across books as well as within the book.

As you come to edit your work you don’t just focus on the shape of the story and if it works, on filler, character development etc. When it comes to the nitty gritty bits of the narrative don’t just focus on the flow of the language and the construction of the sentences either, you have to think about how you represent things. So, for example, do you use a hyphen in ‘no-one’ like that or ‘no one’, both are acceptable. Which of the OK or okay forms do you use (ok is not generally an accepted form). Do you write -ise in words like recognise or realise OR the more US form of recognize/ realize and how is this in other forms of -ise/ize words. Do you use capitals in some of your expressions, like the Magic Sword, the Golden Knife. Do you capitalise the East and the West? Do you use a capital in Professor? University… here I would say unless part of the official address, his name, the university’s name then use a small letter — get the idea? US or UK spelling?

By writing these things down you can create a guide so you don’t have to remember because, inevitably, you will use forms interchangeably. The sheet helps you create consistency — which is key here. For a final edit/proof, it’s vital, especially if you plan to self-publish. But to submit you also want to show the highest level of professionalism. It’s very rare I am sent a ms with the writer’s own style guide but it happens from time to time and it shows me they appreciate this aspect is important.

 

It might include notes on what font is used, whether the text is left or fully justified, how particular words are capitalised or hyphenated, how much indent your indented quotations have, what is put in italics.

Especially if you’ve learned English as a second or other language, you will know that the English language is not consistent, and it doesn’t even have proper rules for some things! This can be really frustrating, as two people might do things in two different ways, BOTH of which are correct.

For example, in English …

  • We can use -s- spellings or -z- spellings in words like “organisation”
  • We can capitalise or not capitalise words like Chapter 1 or experiment 2
  • We can hyphenate or not hyphenate pairs of words like policy-maker

 

And that’s before you get to decisions like …

 

  • Are you going to use 20%, 20 percent or twenty percent?
  • Are you going to describe America as America, the United States, the US, the USA, the U.S. etc. etc.?
  • Are you going to use double inverted commas for quotations and single inverted commas for concepts, or vice versa?
  • Are you going to refer to other research as (Brown, 2003; Green and Jones, 2005, p. 23) or (Brown 2003, Green & Jones 2005:23) or any other variant

 

Now, the important thing with all of these is to keep it consistent.

 

More editing tips tomorrow!

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Self Editing: Eveything you need to know

I had planned a post at some point similar to this, but when I read the talented Sharon Zink’s page I decided to share it.

Sharon is an amazing writer and I have had her on my blog. She also does the same job as me in that she offers manuscript appraisals; the same level of detail.

So I decided to share this link because it really is a masterclass in writing and everything on here is exactly the kind of thing I say to clients all the time when I assess their manuscripts…

Take heed fellow scribes!

I am now about to write the homecoming chapter on Pelicans… this is exciting, it’s the final chapter when we reveal the last of the missing pieces… and it’s raining so I am loving the sounds of rain on the roof as I write! The morning goes pitter patter… ❤

Have a wonderful day everyone!

http://sharonzink.com/writing-tips/all-first-drafts-are-sht-so-heres-a-masterclass-on-self-editing/

 

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Dots, Brackets & Spaces {Copy Editing Quick Note Series} 2

Dots, Brackets & Spaces 

I can not tell you how many times I see people use three or more full stops, to either interrupt dialogue or to denote something’s missing.

Here’s the rule, yes you do use dots to show something’s missing, create a melancholic pause or a thought drifting off  but you don’t type three full stops. And you definitely do not type more than three full stops! The actual correct term is ellipsis (plural ellipses) and you make it in Word by typing control-alt-full stop — note the difference in spacing, yes subtle but the ellipsis is spaced more. Word often creates it for you when you make a space after the following word but not every time so best to get into the habit of using the shortcut.

Strictly speaking they say (the great Grammar Gods on high) there should be a space either side but often that’s a house style thing and the interesting thing about grammar is it is not so much defined by absolute laws but by common usage, hence you see rules broken and other interpretations. But aim to get it right. Only break rules when there is a function to that, it aids the story flow, adds an interesting element that forces a reader to read something a different way. For something like this — stick to the rules. The publisher I copy-edit for prefers a space after an ellipsis but not before and I see this a lot in common usage — just be consistent and when your work is published the house style will be applied by the editorial team.

Note how often, in interrupted thought or dialogue, these days the em dash is preferred to the ellipsis:

“But—”

rather than

“But…”

But either is acceptable. I tend to use the em dash if someone is interrupted by someone else speaking and the ellipsis if a more subtle drifting off, losing the thought or words.

 

Brackets or parenthesis. Yes there are different types and some like to use the curly ones if they further parenthesise inside a parenthesis (is it too early for this?), well you can do this, or you can use the same type. All I plan to talk about here is where to put the full stop.

Okay, simple rule, if you use the parenthesis inside a sentence so the sentence continues afterwards — no full stop. Example: The girl (she so hated my mother) sat herself down right in front of her.

If you end the sentence with it but you don’t end the sentence it’s in —  full stop outside bracket. Example: The girl sat herself down right in front of my mother (she so hated her).

If you end the sentence and then have the parenthesis so its contents form a separate sentence, the full stop is inside the bracket. Example: The girl sat herself right down in front of my mother. (She so hated her.)

 

Spaces! Listen up! These days there is no need to type two spaces after you end a sentence in Word. So don’t have: She looked down at her hands and saw the blood.  Oh God!

Like this: She looked down at her hands and saw the blood. Oh God! The double spacing is a throw back from when we used typewriters and it looked too close together so the tendency was to enter space twice. Most modern word processing documents build in enough space that a single space looks fine, look okay here, right?

Single standard spacing is the preferred norm although this might be one of those subjected to house style rules. I set my Word document to highlight anything that is not single spacing (although it doesn’t always pick up on everything!) — I even see mixtures of triple and quadruple spacing that makes it look bitty! I searched for a quick fix so I could change a whole document when I edit and just find and replace for spaces does some odd things but this works:  Find and Replace, click more and tick wild cards, then in Find type a space and then {2,} and replace with: just type a space! Replace all. If the author used multiple spacing and some are 3 or 4 this might not work on those. I have also used (without wild card ticked) ^p^p replace with ^p and that has worked too!

That’s my tips n tricks for the day folks!

 

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