NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!


Julie Moffet . Clare London . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A. Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson

Friday, August 31, 2012

"Edit" is not a four-letter word


“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.”

~ Robert Cormier

I’d be willing to bet everyone who’s published a novel has been told once or a hundred or a thousand times, “I always wanted to write a book.”

My standard response? Go for it! You may enjoy telling stories, creating worlds, bringing characters to life.

I love crafting stories, even if it never turns into more than a fun short for my own pleasure. But if you’re writing for other people’s enjoyment, the expectation level should rise.
 
A lot.
 
Once that first draft is hammered out, the real work of writing begins. Some people groan about revisions and editing, but I enjoy it. Smoothing transitions, finding the rights words, building in layers of meaning, subtle foreshadowing, and (oh, so important!) killing our darlings – also known as cutting the boring parts, losing the overwritten, the purple prose.

To me, the most important question to ask as I revise is: Am I bored here? The wonderful teacher and writer Margot Livesey, put it like this: if you are bored, it’s not because you’ve read that section so many times. It’s because it’s boring.

My favorite editing technique is reading the manuscript aloud. Sometimes my fabulous hubby willingly listens while he’s driving. (We have a cabin in the mountains, a couple of hours away from our home). Speaking the dialogue tell me in a hurry if it’s flat or stilted. An awkward silence tells me he’s losing interest. Either one results in an immediate note in the margin – do I need this scene? Tighten? What’s the point? Is there a better way to convey what’s needed to move the story forward?

Authors, care to share an editing technique? Readers (which of course includes writers!), what’s your pet peeve for poor editing?


12 comments:

Wendy Soliman said...

We all do these things differently. The mantra I abide by is, 'does this scene drive the story forward?' If not, it's chopped.

Rita said...

I’m one of those freaky people that kinda like editing. First I go through and get all the was, had, that, and weak words out. Then on to a plot hole review. Then it’s a go through for conflict. I NEVER have enough.Heavy sigh. Then body language and senses. Slow, slow, process for me.

Elise Warner said...

Love the blog, Cathy. Cutting dialogue that I may love but is all wrong for the character is the most difficult part of editing for me. After that, it's letting go and realizing it's time to move forward.

Cathy Perkins said...

@Wendy - agree, that's the bottom line. Does the scene move the story forward.

Cathy Perkins said...

@Rita - a friend of mine does the same thing. Dedicated passes looking at one element - suspense, emotional impact, theme.
I'd love to be that focused

Cathy Perkins said...

@Elise - you hit on a key bit of advice. The dialogue and perception of the scene and action have to reflect/be true to the character.

My critique partner is a wonderful author, but my most consistent comment about her dialogue is, "a guy wouldn't say that"

It may be a running joke between us, but her testosterone laden detective(now) has very terse observations about life :)


Anne Marie Becker said...

Timely post, Cathy, as I've been in edit mode most of the summer. I'm finding the nice thing about having gone through a manuscript several times already is that I'm at the point where I'm pretty happy with most scenes now. If I find my mind wandering, or feel irritated that I have to read through a scene yet again, I know that that scene still needs to be fixed. Kind of a "gut check."

J Wachowski said...

I love using wordle with huge chunks of the manuscript. It presents a visual of word frequency by relative size. Very revealing. As in:
"Oh crap. Why is the word 'really' as big as the main character name!"

Cathy Perkins said...

@Anne Marie I wrestle with this. Intuitively I agree that if my mind wanders, the scene needs work but part of me is going, yeah, this scene is dialed in, okay, move on...

Cathy Perkins said...

@J Wachowski Oohhh - Wordle! And the cloud is so cool - oops, refocusing. Great visual tool for repeated words.

For anyone not familiar with wordle, it generates a text cloud where the relative size of the word depends on the number of times it's repeated.

I can't remember if there's a limit on the size of the sample you test. A chapter or scene is good, but wouldn't it be awesome to drop in the whole manuscript?

Toni Anderson said...

Great post, Cathy. We use a lot of the same techniques. I think what people forget is that editing takes a lot of time. As much as writing the first draft :) I must try wordle. It looks like fun and I know my BUTs would look big in that :)

Cathy Perkins said...

@Toni I agree - the same techniques turn up because they're effective. I went through my Margie phase where I highlighted with various colors. Great if, like me, you're a visual learner but it kills a lot of trees with the print outs.

Editing takes time - but oh the improvement to the story :)

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