Thursday, August 12, 2010

Edit! Edit! EDIT!

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!)


Stephanie McGee said...

Great advice! (And I'd invite you to a party any day.)

ellen said...

Helpful advice when correcting papers you need to hand in at University (or anywhere) too. I always print out and read aloud everything I hand in. And it always amazes me how I couldn't catch all those errors on screen.
Maybe one day I get to do this for my own book (which isn't written but just hangs around - in unclear pieces - in my mind).

Happy anniversary!
(And Clash of Titans was really awful.)

Audreya said...

First, I'm glad I found your blog. I really enjoy it and I'm looking forward to your book.

This post was well-timed for me. I'm also a hard copy / read out loud person. (I even read my blog posts out loud sometimes. So I'm either very thorough... or I need more friends.) :-) I'm about to start my first big edit of my first novel. I've done a fair bit of reviewing / editing for friends but hacking into my own stuff is emotional. I've had to let it sit for a little while to distance myself. But, alas, it is time...

KaelaQLC said...

Keirsten this comes at a perfect time as I'm closing in on my first draft and will need to start the editing process - yours seems similar to what I was thinking.

Questions - how many Betas do you have and how did you pick them?

Did you go out and get your draft covered and bound? Because I think that would actually help me (and make me feel awesome seeing my draft in a book-like form)! Kinkos?

Nikki said...

Great points Kiersten! I have a hard copy of my second manuscript sitting here, right next to me. And every page has slashes through it that I didn't catch on my online edit. I wholeheartedly agree on printing it out.

And I had to laugh about the muttering to yourself/imaginary friends line. Literally LOL'd and had to read it to my husband, who looked at me odd when I laughed at my laptop.

See you later this month!

KaelaQLC said...

PS I'm sorry I spelled your name wrong. But I tweeted your post to make up for it!

Piedmont Writer said...

Congratulations again and again. I'm so happy for you. And I would definitely invite you to one of my parties. I'm sure you'd be a big hit.

Jessica Lemmon said...

Thank you thank you for this post! I just needed permission (and a reason) to edit via hard copy. I do agree though, to save it for the (hopefully) last edit. I couldn't rationalize all that paper and ink for a draft, but now I can.

Thanks Kiersten!

Kristan said...

Gawd this post just made me all smiles.

Excellent advice. Now, do you just get your ms printed at Kinko's, or at home, or what? (And I mean, can you really trust Kinko's? Would JK Rowling have taken Harry Potter 7 to Kinko's? Or would she have bought a copy machine, used it, and then smashed it to bits JUST BECAUSE SHE COULD? Hmm? HMMMMM?)

As for repeating words, well, I just don't know what you're talking about. ;P

Tere Kirkland said...

Doing some major edits right now, too. Glad to know I'm in such good company. ;)

Good luck with Supernaturally!

Emilia Plater said...

Dude. I think I like that pink cover. :D Love hearing about your process! I dig hard copy, but I haven't read my book aloud yet. Gotta do it, gotta do it, hehe... great post!

Kiersten White said...

I do just go ahead and get a copy printed at Kinko's. Believe it or not, I don't even have a printer hooked up at home. Someday I may have to stop doing this, but for now I really doubt any Kinko's employee is going to be like "OH LA LA SOMETHING SOME GIRL SAYS IS A NOVEL I MUST READ IT AND POST IT ONLINE."

I don't actually have much name recognition yet : )

Kaela--No worries about the name, everyone spells it differently : ) As far as Betas, I have three or four. Depending on the project I always have at least two read it. I found nearly all of them through blogging, actually! I've posted about it before here:

Whirlochre said...

This is your best post for a long, long time.

What you say is true. Hard copy edits! Read aloud!

And congratulations on your first year of being officially super-awesome.

Jeanne said...

Great advice! And timely. I'm in the middle of edits right now. Editing can be so hard!

John M. Poindexter said...


This a very good post. I am constantly telling my students to edit their work.


信陳定 said...

看著你的BLOG 好多朋友都回應 真厲害..................................................

elizabethreinhardt said...

Excellent idea! Unless you wrote a fantastic YA novel and need to trap your husband because he's your only choice of captive audience. Which isn't bad unless he imagines your (fiction, I swear, fiction!) novel is actually about you and that he is the hero. And he becomes very upset when she (you) dumps the guy (him), to the point where you begin explaining the meaning of "fiction" and end up smooching your poor husband and assuring him you'd NEVER dump him!

PS I read it to my sister now.
Love your blog and congrats on your sale! Fantastic cover...I'll have my eyes open for it!

Lisa Potts said...

Am I required to do different voices when I read my MS out loud? I think it would be fun to read it as my favorite movie characters.

heidikins said...

"spending hundreds of hours creating adventures for your imaginary friends and then writing them down"...this is awesome. Brilliant.


Magan said...

I feel like I kind of needed a hot pink binder to go along with my bright sticky notes now. Great ideas though! One of the more helpful posts in the editing process that isn't just telling me all of the same things that I've been told before. How much editing did an editor have you do to Paranormalcy after it was picked up by Harper Collins?

Sara McClung ♥ said...

Awesome advice Kiersten =) And happy pre-empt anniversary!!

Kiersten White said...

Magan--Erica and I did one round of edits to tweak the story, and then a couple of more line/copy edit level stuff. It was pretty minimal, but Para was in very good shape since I had so long to work on it before it ever went on sub.

We're on our second round of edits for Supernaturally, the first being pretty intensive and this being more line level stuff.

Alexa O said...

I LOVE the Harry Potter books, but it was not until I read them aloud (Yes, every one. Yes, every word.)that I realized that JK Rowling uses annoying adverbs:

"Shhh," Hermione said, whisperingly.

The books are still amazing, but it made me a convert to reading my work aloud. SUCH a good idea.

Unless, of course, you can force someone to listen to you!

ivy hawthorn said...

Great information! How do you make the pink cover ;)? It's gorgeous!

Kiersten White said...

Printing at Kinko's offers several options, such as the coil binding I used and cardstock covers. And of course I had to go for blindingly pink, since it's Evie's story, after all!

Kathryn said...

Great advice. I also find it more useful to edit on hardcopies, but I have yet to try it on one with a hot pink cover. Excellent advice! And so pretty!

But seriously, I didn't think about how we read and how it'd corelate to hearing the words outloud, as in, the stumbling over words that don't work well in a sentence or words we overuse.

Have you ever tried a word cloud for Paranormalcy or Supernaturally? Those are fun... and useful!

*Andye* said...

OK, my heart just skipped a beat seeing that copy of Supernaturally just sitting better lock your doors! :)

Jessica Subject said...

Great advice! It is so true that people skip words on the computer. I am proof. I just finished a hard copy edit, but still want to brush up the dialogue (highlighters ready) then read the entire ms aloud.

I have heard the advice to read aloud from many published authors.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Thanks for the wonderful advice! I'm doing one more edit before I go over a hard copy - mainly because I discovered a couple of HUGE mistakes that needed fixing. That, by the way, was on the 8th or 9th edit. (P.S. it's depressing to find out so many edits in that the story still has some mega plotholes.)
But this comment isn't about my edits, this comment is about what great advice this is! And how I would definitely invite you to any party because you're awesome. :)
Happy pre-empt anniversary, as well!

Chantele said...

Awesome advice! I love how you print the whole thing out and edit a hard copy. Brilliant idea. Thanks so much for the post, and I'm excited to read your book! Actually, both of them!;)

ali said...

How sad we aren't going to dish about Clash of the Titans. *sigh*

So I guess I have to comment on the rest of all that ... well ... okay, so helpful, but really ... umm ... well, all the advice.

But what can I say? It's perfect. Truly. Couldn't have said it better myself and CERTAINLY couldn't have said it any funnier. Or even remotely as funny.

GREAT article Kiersten. Thank you!

(and you can come to my party anytime)

Madeleine said...

I find it rather cool that I post my giveaway of PARANORMALCY on a day that's the anniversary of something PARANORMALCY-related. Though it's completely unintentional, so I can't really take credit.

This post is very helpful! I've heard time and time again that I should do both of these things, but I think you've finally convinced me to actually do both. Let the editing begin... in a month or so. ;D

Thanks, Kiersten!


Jen said...

Yes, Clash of the Titans was bad was SAM WORTHINGTON! He could be in anything and I'll happily watch it (as I proved with THIS movie, lol)

My editing process is much more fluid but I do use a hard copy near the end. Great advice!

Anonymous said...

That's awesome advice! Thank you so much for sharing with us. :) I wouldn't have thought of reading it know I almost died laughing at the part about creating adventures for our imaginary friends. LOL I'm still laughing right now. *chuckles*
I didn't know that about reading on a screen either, but it does make sense. Sometimes I'll print off a letter or something and be like "Hey, I don't remember seeing that when I edited..." lol Oh the joys of being insane huh?
Don't worry though, you can be invited to my party, it's the "people who randomly spout off useless random knowledge people didn't need to know" party.
Well of course I find it very fascinating but my speeches are often met with blank stares so maybe it's not as interesting as I think...anywho though you can come if you like. :D lol It will probably be just the 2 of us...well probably not if people heard you were coming! :D
I CANNOT WAIT for August 31! I've been practically STALKING B& waiting for Paranormalcy to become a nook book, the moment it's available for pre-order or buying I will have bought it! Mwuhahahahaha <~that's my evil laugh. :)
Well I guess if it was like 3:00 AM I might not know until the official morning (6:00 in my book) but you know what I mean. :)
Okay, my comment has gotten very long so I shall depart. I'm supposed to be editing my own book and I'm procrastinating...*sigh* I'm guilty. lol I wish August 31 would hurry up! I can't wait to see your book in my library! :DDDD
Yours Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia-ly,
Freya Dark -Ah yes, I am back! :)
I learned a new phobia too! Want to know it? Huh? Huh? Huh?
It's Paraskavedsketriaphobia (2nd longest phobia after above phobia) it's the fear of Friday the 13th! :) oooh you know what else? The longest word NOT in the dictionary is the full chemical name for the protein Titin. It's 189,819 letters long! :o lol
Okay, farewell for now everyone! :D

Brooke said...

amazing advice! thank you so much. I love that the cover is PINK! yay! hah

camsrobbins said...

Long time lurker, first time commenter!

You're 100% right. I wrote a novel for NaNoWriMo and my husband (trying to be sweet) had his computer read it out loud. I couldn't figure out who this horrible, horrible writer was. The number of adverbs I used was disturbing! Now, if I'm struggling with a scene, I read it out loud. It's amazing how quickly I can ID the problems that way.

Since you're right about this, everything else you say must be gospel :)

PS I heart your blog.

Katelyn Burton said...

Sound advice. I just wish I could actually FINISH my novel for once. Getting to the editing part is but a far away dream... *sigh* Which is why I spend my time reading your blog when I SHOULD be writing. So, so addicting...

Kay Tee said...

This is a great blog post. Thanks!

I do both of the things you suggest, even though it takes FOREVER :-)

My other 'secret weapon' is to run my manuscript through the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. It finds things I've missed on MANY read-thrus.

Kristi Faith said...

Awww I heart you, Kiersten. Every time you post something like this I'm reminded that I'm not alone. And that one day....well, one day I will strike a deal with the Universe. :)

Dayana Stockdale said...

How exciting! Must be lovely to see what you've got and know what it can become. The one book beside the other makes a very striking image. Congrats to you. Can't wait to read them both. I seriously regret all the time I've spent editing on the computer. I print my WIP out and voila!! everything is clearer. I'm in LOVE with paper!

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Holy cow, girl! 40 comments! I wanted to capitalize 40, but it came out $) instead. FORTY!!!

Great post, and btw...

SEVENTEEN DAYS till I (hopefully) get to meet you and your awesomesauce debut book!

jmartinlibrary said...

This post is as shiny and pretty as Evie's cover.

Thou art wise and witty, woman!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Thoroughly grateful for extremely helpful
Advice, especially for me who is currently
Editing a paranormal novel.

Excellent blog.
CJ xx

Brad Jaeger said...

Fantastic advice. Wonderful blog. I shall follow.