Thursday, March 27, 2008

Editing with a Fresh Eye: Some Useful Tips

Editing our own work--or any work with which we are overly familiar--has to be one of the most difficult parts of getting our manuscripts ready for submissions--and later, after it's contracted--for final publication. It's difficult to see little grammatical errors and typos. We read "the" when only "te" is there, because our brains know what is supposed to be there, and so they fill in the blanks for us. While, it's a herculean feat to catch every jot and tiddle that may be out of place we want our books to be as error-free as possible.

So, I thought I would post a couple of things which help us to see our work with a fresh eye.

Number one: Put away the manuscript for at least two weeks. When you're finished with what you think is your final edit, forget the manscript for a couple of weeks. Don't open the file, don't read the print-out, don't remember something from page 165, and go back and fix it. (Make a note if you think you'll forget) Leave the story alone completely. This will help your brain "forget" what's supposed to be on the page, and help it to see what's actually there.

Two: Change the font and/or the size of the font that you've been using all along. This will help the words appear different to your brain, and you'll pay closer attention.

Three: You've all heard the "read it backwards" advice. Although, this is not one of my favourites because I find it difficult and impossible to read for context, it does work for a lot of people. Typos will be caught this way, so I include it in the tips because it does work well for some people. Try it, and see how it works for you.

Four: Get a speech recognition software program to read the story aloud to you. (There are some free ones out there if you don't have any on your computer). The voice will sound computer generated, and will not always have proper inflections, but it will read "thee" where you really meant to type "the" or "he" where you meant "she," and so you'll hear those mistakes your brain would automatically correct.

Well, this post is getting a little long, so I'll leave you with those tidbits. Happy editing.

Nicola Martinez, Senior Editor
White Rose
English Tea Rose


Susan Macatee said...

Great suggestions, Nicola!
I always seem to catch things in my critique partners' work that I overlook in mine.
I do think getting away from your work for a short period is a big help.

Hywela Lyn said...

Thanks so much Nicola. I enjoy self editing and I find the hardest part of writing is putting it away and then coming back to it fresh. I know I should - but the story I have just written is very dear to me (whichever one it happens to be) and I just want to get it revised to the best of my abuility and sent out into the world. Of course this does not mean my work is perfect - far from it as my WRP editor will confrirm - so I obviously need to take note and force myself to step back. I do know when I look again at stories I've written a long time ago and not done anything with, I am horrified by the glaring writing errors, not just typos but telling when I shold be showing etc.

Thanks editors - for your hard work and for this blog. I'm sure I for one will learn a lot from it.

Clover Autrey said...

Did you say jot & tiddle? Editing right now and my eyes are crossing, or, a, tiddling?

Unknown said...

Very nice post, Nicola. These are wonderful suggestions. I write with a partner, and you are so right, I'm amazed at what she can catch that I had read over time after time and missed.
Thanks for the useful tips and I agree about putting your work away for a bit and then coming back to it fresh.
Thanks again Nicola, and to all the editors for this blog.

Lara Dien said...

Thanks for the self-editing tips--I especially like number 2, which has never EVER occurred to me.


Nicola said...

Yes, Clover--I said tiddle, instead of tittle LOL--see why editing is so important? :) Glad you caught that.

Thanks to everyone who commented. I'm glad the post helped.

Here's another tip that might help some: In addition to changing the font or font size, try changing the colour. This will also help your brain see things differently.

Donna L said...

Change the font, what a great yet simple idea. That has been added to my check off list. I just finished looking over the edits for my novel, and was amazed at how much I'd missed, in what I thought was a darn near perfect manuscript. I don't think I could do the reading backward thing, that would drive me a bit crazy. I have tried the put it away for a week, and managed to last a whole 3 days.

Georgiana Daniels said...

Great pointers, Nicola! I get so itchy that the thought of putting my work away makes me cringe--but my own mistakes are invisible to me. Amazing how that happens :)

Loretta C. Rogers said...

Nicola-all of your self-editing suggestions are great. I'm especially interested in the computer generated voice reader. Gotta check that one out.

Unknown said...

Wow thanks for the great tips and suggestions. I have to admit as an author that self-edits tend to be the hardest thing for me. I'm definitely going to try these out!