You will never guess it from the title of this post, but today I am talking about...just how mind-bendingly awful the Clash of the Titans remake was!
Wait. No. Today I am talking about EDITING. Oddly enough it's something that's been on my mind lately. I've posted about my specific process before, but I'm a firm believer in my process not being your process. Everyone first-drafts differently, everyone edits differently.
However, there are two huge pieces of advice I feel very confident in giving you. (Okay, three, but one is obvious: EDIT. A lot. Don't skimp on the editing end. A great story can only take you so far--it's got to be crafted and polished and as close to perfected as you can get it.)
As far as the actual mechanics of editing, here is Piece of Advice Number One:
Do an edit on a hard copy. It's been scientifically proven in studies that are scientific (and that I am far too lazy to look up but specifically remember reading and tucking away in the part of my brain that stores scientific things to talk about at parties [and now you know why I don't get invited to many parties]) that when reading on a screen you skip over more words. (SCIENCE, people.) You will catch more errors and more word repetition on a printed copy than you will on the screen.
I usually save my hard copy edit for one of my last edits, since it is intense and I want to make sure that the book is as nearly done as possible. Doing a hard copy edit (which is mostly a line-level edit, quibbling about word choice, punctuation, etc.) would be pointless on a first draft. The first draft of Supernaturally was 22,000 words shorter than the final draft. The first draft of Paranormalcy was 10,000 words longer than the final draft. That's a lot of new, cut, and different words.
Oh, hello blindingly pink printed copy of Supernaturally! Hello, Thai Pasta free pen! Hello sticky notes to signify pages I make changes to (which will probably be nearly every single one)!
And now for Piece of Advice Number Two:
Read it out loud. The whole thing. Cover to cover. Sure, sitting in the corner muttering to yourself makes you look like a crazy person (but, well, so does spending hundreds of hours creating adventures for your imaginary friends and then writing them down, so at this point you really shouldn't be bothered by looking crazy because you are, in fact, officially crazy), but I think there is nothing quite so good for smoothing out language and identifying trouble spots as reading it out loud. If you stumble over a sentence, it probably needs to be changed. If you automatically switch word order while reading, they should probably be switched on the page. It's also great for identifying repetitive word use--you'll notice the worst offenders more when you have to keep saying them. (Not that I, uh, ever have problems with word repetitions. It's just something I've just been thinking about and just thought I should warn you about. Just sayin'.)
As much as we instinctively know how to speak, sometimes that doesn't transfer over to writing. Reading it out loud can help you bridge the gap between spoken fluency and written fluency. (I'm not the only one who does this--the freakishly brilliant M. T. Anderson mentioned that he, too, reads all of his work aloud in the editing stages. So if other, far smarter people swear by it, you can take my word for it.) (I don't, however, have any SCIENTIFIC studies to back this one up. But quoting M. T. Anderson is pretty much the equivalent of a scientific study. And slightly more likely to make me popular at parties.) (But only slightly.) (Okay, the takeaway from this post is totally going to be: Don't invite Kiersten to parties. Which is not even one of my major points, but whatever.)
So there you have it--my concrete advice on how to edit a novel (at least in the final stages).
"Hi, Supernaturally! Don't be sad. You, too, will have a ridiculously gorgeous cover of your own someday soon--and it's all thanks to the glory of EDITING! And maybe to the fact that Kiersten never gets invited to parties and thus has lots more time to spend with all of her beautiful imaginary friends."
(Also, today is the one year anniversary of Erica pre-empting Paranormalcy. And what a beautiful anniversary it is! Yay Erica! Yay Michelle! Yay HarperTeen! YAY EVIE! Today I will sink to the floor laughing in disbelief in a dramatic recreation of that fateful phone call. You can join me!)