Saturday, 3 November 2012

Making The Cut Less Painful

It's been a while since I've visited my blog because I've been editing my novel at every opportunity I can find. In August I sent my completed manuscript of 104,500 words to my agent and having read it, she suggested several helpful ideas; such as moving some chapters around, making it obvious that one of my characters was 'in' on the secret and also making another character more unstable without turning them into a psychotic caricature of a mad stalker! The trouble is, the characters make appearances throughout my novel so it's been a slow process to change dialogue and emotions without missing a crucial scene and confusing the reader.

I've also renamed my book, The Bandstand. The bandstand in question is in Clapham Common, London, and plays a part in several chapters of my book. I felt as if my original title - In Hindsight, gave too much away - protagonist looks back and wonders why she hadn't noticed....

So I thought that for this post I'd talk about editing. There's a huge amount of global competition when it comes to writing, so the sharper our manuscript is, the less likely we are to be over-looked. If we take time to learn how to edit effectively, the improvement can be profound. Every tweak and cut polishes our chapters. Even after we've read and re-read our work numerous times, the odd tpyo (see what I did there?) slips through, which is why copy editors are in employment! Sometimes we are just too close to our work and need an objective eye to cast a glance over it.

But what can we do for ourselves?

If you can bear it, put your manuscript out of sight in a safe place for several weeks or even months. When you come back to it, all sorts of mistakes will become apparent. Spelling, grammar, sentences that don't flow, speech marks in the wrong place, missing words, fluffy/wordy descriptions and paragraphs of information which waffle on and become tedious. The reader wants to be able to flow through your story seamlessly without becoming irritated by little flaws.

Personally I find the most effective way to edit is to print out a hard copy of my novel. I'll sit with a red pen and start to read. It's quite unbelievable how many red squiggles and lines will decorate my pages afterwards, even when I think I've done a good job editing on my computer. Also reading the printed pages out loud will make it obvious if I'm stumbling with the rhythm of my sentences.

Cut out repeated words, dull or superfluous detail, any overuse of adjectives and adverbs and all weak words like 'but' 'quite' and 'rather.' I use 'that' and 'just' too often and I just have to keep an eye out for them.

Look out for occasions when you've stated the blindingly obvious: 'He shouted loudly,' or 'she whispered quietly.' Don't rely on spell check. The misuse of it's and its or there and their won't be highlighted as a mistake. Some authors prefer to edit one aspect of their work at a time, for example, punctuation, spelling or deleting unnecessary information. Personally I opt for doing an overall edit as I'm reading.

Whichever way you decide, try to be ruthless.


  1. Hi Ange,

    Good to see you back on the blog.

    I like editing, but fear I'm chopping too much out of the current WIP, and will end up having to put something back in again. :-)

    Deleting unnecessary information is something I do a lot! I do a mix of printing it out, and sitting with the red pen as you do, but the latest way I edit is via the Kindle. Seeing it on the page, makes the whole thing seem more like a book. Glaring errors stick out like a sore thumb.

    Good luck with your novel

  2. Good luck with all that editing! I think 'just' and 'that' are definitely a problem for most British writers - I don't know anyone who hasn't had to cut many of them.

  3. Welcome back, Angela.
    Thanks for the tips. If only there was an amnesia pill I could take which would make me forget everything about my novel so I could read it with fresh eyes.

  4. Hi Maria. The good bit about editing is that it means you've written something! I hope your writing is going well and that work isn't too hectic. X

    Hi Rosemary. Thanks for the good luck wish. I have everything crossed. Apparently my agent was going to read my MS on a long train journey today. I hope she didn't fall asleep! X

    Hi Keith. Thanks for popping by. Are you still winning competitions? That amnesia pill for writers sounds like a brilliant idea - as long as it's temporary! : )