This edit is most effective when you have finished the structural edit and are satisfied that your story reads, flows well, and makes sense.
Copy editing, also called “line editing” or “content editing”, means that you go through your manuscript line by line to make sure each sentence and paragraph zing.
I find copy editing difficult. I just don’t see the grammar and spelling errors and lose focus quickly. Knowing your weakness as a writer is important and I use whatever help I can to line edit my work.
Lorena Goldsmith suggests you don’t edit from the beginning of your manuscript and work through to the end as you will get caught up in the story and the last chapters tend to suffer as you rush to finish. She advises that skipping around the manuscript is more helpful. Select several pages for editing, then skip to another part of the book and select the next lot of pages. This helps you stay focussed and ensures consistency.
I do multiple edits, each with a different focus. I might edit looking for contractions and adverbs in one edit, and then look at sentence length and overuse of words. Editing for me is a tedious process, but others love it and are geniuses at spotting mistakes. Give them a red pen and they edit like tigers. Revere and reward these people.
Cheating or not, I also use technology. Microsoft Word has a good basic spelling and grammar check and thesaurus. I also use a program called ProWritingAid, which has multiple checks and reviews for the editing impaired. I also pay a professional editor who hones my words into the final draft for proof-reading.
The following is a checklist of things to look for when editing. It’s not definitive.
- Have I used the right word/s. Is the meaning clear? Replace a word with a stronger word.
- Remove weak/or excessive verbs and adverbs. E.g., He walked quickly, replace with He marched. She spoke gently, replaced by she leaned over and whispered.
- Eliminate filler words (for example: just, really, very, that, even.)
- Is the selected word in the right mood for the sentence/scene?
- Look at word usage. Everyday words are easy to read and understand and don’t stop the flow for the reader. Mix up words, use a thesaurus to find the right word for your line.
- Is the word politically correct?
- Look for long sentences.
- Does the sentence make sense?
- Is the paragraph too long?
- Are you explaining things too much and repeating information unnecessarily?
- Do paragraphs start with the same word, the same style? Mix up your beginnings.
- Show not tell. Don’t say “He was nervous” use sweat made him cold as the biting wind cut the air from around him.
- Avoid describing emotions. Instead, write a description of your character that incorporates what they smell, hear, feel, see, and touch in their situation that conveys the emotion.
- Dialogue–does it flow naturally? Use contractions, e.g. I will to I’ll, as this makes the dialogue more realistic. Does each character have their own voice? Remove unnecessary dialogue, such as “Hello, how are you?” “Yes, good thank you.” It’s just boring. The dialogue should be relevant and move the story along, so make it snappy.
- Reduce dialogue attributions. “Where are you going Jim?” Jane asked. Unnecessary, if only Jane and Jim are in the scene.
- Look out for cliches. Make metaphors and similes unique and interesting.
After completing your structural and line edit, give it a read. If it’s easily read, tight, well-paced and without obvious bloopers, send it to a professional editor or a competent astute fellow writer. Make amendments, and then it’s ready for the “Proof reading” edit and formatting.
Reference: Lorena Goldsmith-Self Editing Fiction that Sells. (How to Book Ltd. UK-2013)
Photo provided by Creative Commons
Happy editing from Elsie King ©August 27th, 2022