It seemed to take “forever” but, finally, the proof of The Sin of His Father arrived. As I plunge into yet another edit, I’d like to share a few suggestions to help in the editing process.
Though these apply, for the most part, to prose fiction, I hope there may be some suggestions for those of you writing in other genres.
Set your manuscript aside for a while (weeks or months) before revision. The distance will give you better perspective when you return to what you have written.
Look for echos–that is to say unintentional repetition of words or phrases. Sadness hung in the air like dense fog. I could see that she was sad, is an example of an echo.
Read your writing aloud to yourself and/or another. This process promotes the discovery of grammatical, syntactical and spelling errors.
If you choose to change point of view within the text, make sure that you have provided the reader with a clear distinction between characters. Use spaces or chapter changes to shift point of view. Or use an omniciscent narrator.
Lose adjectives or adverbs whenever an active verb or noun achieves your goal. Consider the following two sentences that deliver the same message:
She felt very afraid.
Fear crept in and overwhelmed her–her breathing quickened.
Which do you think better engages the reader’s emotions?
This next suggestion may surprise you: reread your manuscript in its entirety (chapter-by-chapter or scene by scene for short fiction) but start at the END. This technique enables you to identify unresolved story lines, chronology issues and other inconsistencies. When I applied backwards review to Winter is Past I found that I had changed the name of a secondary character somewhere along the line–the kind of thing that happens when you’ve worked on your novel over a longer period of time.
While doing your backward review, double-check to make sure that every scene has a goal and propels the plot forward.
These are but a few of the things I look for. I hope these are helpful to those of you who face the daunting task of making it better.
Have a good week–whichever stage of the writing process you’re working!