Following on from “Raised commas aka Dratted apostrophes” back in September, we thought you might enjoy the following text of a children’s story featuring these pesky punctuation marks (taken to a somewhat bizarre level, we must admit). Bizarre as they are, in this piece we can assure you that this is grammatically correct.
Jan and her Gran
Jan has a Gran,
Gran belongs to Jan
And Jan has fun with her Gran.
Jan’s Gran has a van.
The van belongs to Gran,
Gran belongs to Jan
And Jan has fun with her Gran.
Jan’s Gran’s van had wings,
the wings belonged to the van,
the van belongs to Gran,
Gran belongs to Jan
and Jan has fun with her Gran.
Jan’s Gran’s van’s wings had nuts.
The nuts belonged to the wings,
the wings belonged to the van,
the van belongs to Gran,
Gran belongs to Jan
and Jan has fun with her Gran.
Jan’s Gran’s van’s wings nuts held the wings onto Jan’s Gran’s van
so Jan and her Gran could hop in the van and go off on trips.
For many, many years I was convinced that I “couldn’t write” even though I loved reading, even though I had ideas zooming around in my head, even though I loved words and playing around with them, even though I made up endless stories…
I did write poems, but they were different from stories. My poems were little, short snippets of language where the words were crafted in my head, fiddled around with to get the best ones in the best place, where everything sounded just right before I had to record them on paper. That was fun. There was a sense of achievement.
Stories and essays were a very different kettle of fish. They were hard work. Producing them was a matter of painstaking drudgery that began in Primary school. Back then, at the start of every school year children were issued with a heap of pristine exercise books that had to be taken home, covered and had our own name and the particular subject name written neatly on the front.
The expectation was that the work in each one was to be our very best. No scribbling; no scratching out; no careless, untidy work; no crumpled or torn pages. In other words, by the end of the year that exercise book should be as pristine as it had been on day one but full of work in our very best handwriting. Unattainable perfection for most of us!!
As far as writing was concerned the two that were my nemesis; my tragic downfalls were labelled Handwriting and Composition. The former was bad enough, but it was the latter that led to my conviction: “I can’t write”. Apart from the “Product Perfect” headset the other thing about compositions was that they had to be written straight into the composition book with correct spelling, perfect punctuation, excellent handwriting… no rough copy, no first draft, no preliminary notes. Straight from the brain cells to the page; no muckin’ about.
If I wanted to use a nice long expressive word like ginormous but didn’t know how to spell it correctly, I had to make do with a little short one I could spell (big) because errors were out, frowned upon, seen as evidence of lack of learning, failure… Where was the interest or excitement in that? I was effectively crippled.
Fortunately, education in this area seems to have moved on. Composition books as I knew them have gone the way of the dodo. Teachers and students now talk about first drafts and final copies. Thanks be.
If you can relate to that last paragraph then count your blessings and keep pouring your ideas, thoughts, stories out onto paper or into your computer. If it is the rest (or even part of the rest) and you want to write but think you can’t then ditch the doubts, grab a writing implement – pen, paper, computer – jump in and make a splash. Mistakes and stuffing up are potholes, not impassable roadblocks.
We learn by doing! And lots of practice!! So go to it and good luck.
[Currently, I’m editing Diamonds in the Cave, the next novel in my War on Boris series. This article, though first posted five years ago, is a pertinent reminder of all that the editing process involves.]
Editing—No Writer is an Island
Some time ago, a member of our writers’ group published a book.
‘I don’t want to tell anyone,’ they said, ‘because I needed a lot of help.’
Certain members of the writers’ group ensured they revealed and celebrated the news; their achievement was our achievement. A book doesn’t happen in isolation; it’s a group effort. Just as a village raises a child, for the best outcome, a community or group births a book. There’s the writer with the ideas, then comes the editor, test-readers, friends and family, the proof-reader and finally, the audience, the readers out there in reader-world.
We write stories for readers, that’s why the editing process is vital. A story needs to be readable to be effective. Readers need to understand the story to enjoy it. It’s the reason language, especially written language has rules for grammar, spelling, and the art of storytelling has a structure.
So, you’ve finished your masterpiece, but now the challenge: how will you go about editing your work? That’s where the writers’ group comes in. Fellow writers are your work’s first point of contact. Their reaction to your story will tell you if your creation is a winner or a flop. Either way, there will be more work required to perfect your piece of genius—more pen to paper, more fingers tapping on the keyboard, more pain and hair-pulling before your work can be “birthed”.
Once you have completed your work, file it away in a drawer for about three months. You need distance between you and your “baby”. When you revisit your work, you may be amazed at how brilliant you have been putting all those words together in such a clever way, or be horrified at how the gremlins of grammar, spelling, typos, weasel words, repetitions, and so on have bred and multiplied. With fresh eyes, you’ll see ways to improve your story, thus creating your second draft.
Repeat the process of draft and distance until you feel it’s ready to meet fresh eyes that don’t belong to you. But who?
Ever had trouble getting someone to peruse your work? Suddenly, they’re all busy. Or they take your story and sit on it for months, years… Again, happy are those in a writers’ group. Or be bold and blog. If you are wanting to sell your novel down the track, having a http://www.presence and band of followers may help.
For those finishing-touches to refining your work, you may seek out a professional editor. When paying an editor, ensure that you define the time and rates in a contract. For Trekking With the T-Team, I negotiated an hourly rate and a limit on the number of hours the editor would work on my book.
There are two types of editing: big picture and proof-reading. Big picture editing looks at the plot, pace, character development, language use and content. Proof-reading deals with the technical side of the work such as grammar, spelling, and formatting. But as my friend who’s an editor said, ‘It’s hard to separate the two. If the content and ideas trigger you, then it’s difficult to be objective and it affects how you respond to the piece.’
So, while it may be preferable for an editor to be outside the genre in which you are writing, it may not work for your book. A good editor, of course, is impartial, but they are still human and will approach your story from their worldview. And on the other side, we as writers are human and see the world through a filter of attitudes and the way we see ourselves. A good editor who is paid, then, is only as good as the receptiveness to feedback of the writer who pays them. After all, you are paying for that objective set of eyes, and feedback based on their experience as a reader and what they perceive as good literature or entertainment. In the end, whatever comments an editor makes, it’s up to you, the writer, to implement those changes—it’s your work, your story.
The last step of editing is proof-reading; the nit-picking of the piece before it surfaces for publication. Ernest Hemmingway, in an interview for The Paris Review (1958), said that he rewrote the end of Farewell to Arms 39 times before he was satisfied with it. However, each writer is different. I use five different coloured pencils: 1) grammar, 2) spelling, 3) word-use, 4) formatting, and 5) content. That being said, I am sure I have perused my works near 39 times by the time it reaches the Amazon shelves.
Other tips: • Reading out aloud helps with sentence structure, flow, and the art of storytelling. Even better, if you can bear it, use a voice-recorder as you read out your story, and then play it back. • Line by line editing. Print out your story and then use a ruler under each sentence to concentrate on each word. Effective for exposing typos and formatting flaws. • Start with the last chapter first, and so work through your piece backwards. Again, helps with plot-holes, character consistency and pacing. • Have an English grammar book and a dictionary within reach, for you’ll be reaching for them repeatedly. I’ve discovered that an online dictionary, or Google are also reliable resources, but beware, as dodgy information slips through the cracks of the Internet.
In the end, it’s up to you, but it’s also a group effort. We are all part of the larger community collective of writers, readers, sharers and receivers of ideas. And I cannot stress enough, the more you read, the more effective your writing will become. We learn from each other.
These little things seem to cause more angst, confusion and errors than any other feature of our written language. There is even a move afoot to eliminate them altogether. Which would be tragic as they play a critical role in clarifying meaning. By way of demonstration, can you decode the precise meaning of each of the following phrases:
1. The dog’s collar;
2. The dogs’ collars;
3. The dog’s collars;
4. The dogs’ collar.
Three words; the only differences being that two of the final words end in ‘s’ and also the position of the apostrophe. Yet each of those four has a very different meaning and, lacking that little squiggle, the meaning would be, not only obscure, but impossible to work out. Context could help of course but not necessarily. Why make life harder than it need be?
Let’s see if I can clarify the issue. Apostrophes have one job to do, and one only. Part of the confusion lies in the fact that this one job has two different aspects to it.
The one job is that it indicates something has been left out so therefore it is a form of abbreviation.
This happens when we turn speech into writing. When speaking we tend to hurry things along a bit – it’s much easier to say can’t and didn’t than cannot and did not. Used in this way our squiggle is termed an “Apostrophe of Contraction” because we have left out, not only the space between two words, but one or more of the sounds and therefore, the letters that represent those sounds, when we put it into writing.
The second instance is called the “Apostrophe of Possession” and is somewhat more complex. But not impossible as there is a rule you can follow that simplifies things beautifully. Before we get onto this “rule” let’s sort out just what is left out though.
Possession means someone or something belongs to someone or something; alternatively there is an owner and who or what is owned by that owner. Thus it always involves two naming words (i.e. nouns in grammar speak). For instance “Jane’s brooch” tells us that Jane owns the brooch; the brooch belongs to Jane. Thus it is the words denoting ownership that have been omitted.
Well then, what is this rule that is going to simplify things?
Take a deep breath and follow the steps:
1. Work out who or what is the owner and what is being owned.
2. Write down the name of the owner and nothing else. If it is a person then the name is easy but if it happens to be more than one thing (e.g. a couple of dogs; a herd of cows; a fleet of yachts…) the owner is plural so that is what you must write down.
3. Add the apostrophe.
4. Say the phrase aloud (owner and what it is that belongs to that owner) listening carefully. If you hear yourself saying “s” (or an extra “s” if the owner’s name happens to end in “s”) on the end of the owner then add it.
5. Write down what is owned.
Done! And done correctly.
The result can, on occasion look quite bizarre. By way of example consider the following: A visitor arrives, is welcomed and asked to take a seat; heads for a comfortable looking chair but host says, “Sorry, please don’t sit there. That’s puss’s chair”. Go through the steps and you’ll see this is grammatically correct, both spoken and written
Were you able to sort out the dogs and collars puzzle I gave you in the beginning?
If not, here is the solution:
1. The dog’s collar (one dog and one collar – presumably that collar belongs to that dog).
2. The dogs’ collars (several dogs each with its own collar).
3. The dog’s collars (obviously a pampered pooch with a whole wardrobe of collars!!).
4. The dogs’ collar (possibly a succession of family dogs with the same collar serving several generations. Or maybe – sad to say – several dogs having to share the same collar!!).
So, what do you need after you have edited your novel? If you intend to submit it for publication or to an agent, a synopsis is a requirement. Even in self-publishing, a synopsis is a great exercise to summarise your novel for marketing and creating your blurb.
A synopsis is more than a summary of your novel. It must capture the attention of a publisher or agent. A working document, it condenses your plot succinctly, introduces the major protagonists, defines the conflict, and ties it all up into a logical and satisfying ending.
Announce the title and mention the genre, word count, setting and era.
The synopsis must be short and easy to read. I recommend one page. Single spaced with a word count of 500-700 words but if submitting a novel for a competition, agent, or publisher check if they have specific requirements.
Grammar, spelling, and word selection must be perfect. The synopsis is selling you as a writer. Get it checked by someone with editing skills.
Write in the third person and use gender neutral language. E.g., police officer, not policeman.
Cover all the major plot points, including spoilers and the ending. There should be no mysteries in a synopsis. The publisher wants to know you have finished the book, and it has a great ending.
Name two or three of major protagonists and their motivations. Bring them alive. Demonstrate how they grow and change and make them shine.
Clearly convey the tone of the novel but the emphasis is the story, allow the theme to sneak in without belabouring the point.
Avoid praising yourself in a synopsis or include positive reader reviews.
Expect to write, rewrite, rewrite and then do it again so give yourself time to get it right.
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)
In 2008, my late uncle who was playwright and author flicked through the wads of paper, an early version of my manuscript called “Mary’s Story”. He didn’t like Science Fiction. He called it “Soap Opera in space”.
‘Well, at least you have only typed on one side of the page—you can use the other side, at least.’
“My baby” judged and found wanting and for very good reason. Uncle outlined all that was wrong with the novel—weasel words, you know the ones ending in “-ly”, and a thesaurus of words other than “said”, a parade of passives and you name it, I did it—wrong—in “my baby”.
‘And,’ he went on, ‘you need to number the pages.’
‘But,’ Uncle stressed, ‘and this is a very, very, good idea. I don’t mean very good, I mean very, very, very good.’ He leafed through to near the end of the manuscript and pointed at the paragraph on the Wends. ‘I like the idea about the Wends.’
Historical fiction was Uncle’s thing.
Anyway, the next novel I was writing at the time, Diamonds in the Cave, has Wends. Thus began the formulation of a future novel, The Lost World of the Wends.
Then the best advice ever and for which I’m forever grateful to my late Uncle Richard. ‘Join a writers’ group,’ he said.
I did and I love it. Writing is a craft and I needed to hone my skill with the gentle and sometimes not-so-gentle feedback from my writing companions and mentor.
Mary’s Story was shoved in a box and hidden in the closet, never to see the light of a computer screen and I moved on. The group enjoyed my Central Australian Safari story. Yay!
Then in 2010, inspired by the biblical account where Jesus healed the man with the withered arm, I remembered Mary’s Story languishing in the closet. With my honed writing skills, I reworked the novel, plotting, developing characters, and cutting all those not-so-wonderful weasel words. I read successive chapters to the group and they got stuck into that all important helpful feedback. More changes—Mary morphed into Minna, Gunter morphed into a Grey alien and then Fox and then back to Gunter. The Hitch-hiker was born. The back story to Liesel’s itch to touch developed. And the word “was” culled.
Happy with the result in 2011, I emailed “my refined baby” to my mentor. Over our summer break, she pulled “my baby” apart. Not just withered arms, but legs, torso and head too—a vestige of Oliver Cromwell sent back to me in sections labelled: Formatting, Grammar and Spelling, Characters and Plot—Chapter by Chapter. The time, effort, and detail she put into how to fix the novel was a book.
Was there anything right with “my baby”?
I spent the next eighteen months putting the broken and more withered effigy of a novel back together. Again, rather than giving up, I embarked on this project to polish my craft. Story-time with my mum became a regular treat; first for me and then as I improved, for mum too.
When I’d completed putting the pieces back together, I contemplated the prospect of showing the mentor the finished product. But after discussion with another member of the writers’ group, I decided to get a second opinion and engaged another editor. I also re-read “my reworked, unrecognisable baby” to the writers’ group. What a difference! What a change! But still more editing…
In 2014, I recorded my story on audio and then listened to it. Best editing and proof-reading tool ever!
So…after combing through the novels dozens of times…and now all grown up, but perhaps like any of us, not perfect, The Mission of the Unwilling and The Hitch-hiker sit on the Amazon shelves…And now, the book, The Lost World of the Wends which my uncle said was a very, very, no, VERY good idea is, no longer lost, but can be found in the world of published books, too.
And my challenge continues as it has done for the past number of years…Advertising and promotion…and blogging.
Plus, in the last year, the formation of Indie Scriptorium.
As with Stonehenge, the elements of a novel need to be placed in just the right place and with the links to make the story work.
Editing—The Structural Edit
It’s suggested that after you complete your first draft that you put the manuscript in a drawer and take a break for weeks or even months and then edit with fresh eyes. Re-read your work and ask yourself the following questions.
Is the manuscript easy to read?
Does it make sense and have a consistent style?
Does the novel start at the right time and place? Avoid starting a novel with a backstory. It’s better to get straight into the narrative.
Are the chapters in the right order?
Eliminate unnecessary repetitions?
Search for contrivances, conveniences and plot holes in your story?
Add tension from the beginning. Ending chapters and scenes with a cliff-hanger, or an intriguing question which will keep the reader engaged.
Make sure the pacing is consistent throughout the book. Start strong, avoid meandering middles and finish strongly.
Look at your setting? Are there enough description of places and people? Have you captured the mood, beliefs, language, and customs of your setting? World building involves research and imagination.
Does each scene or chapter have a designated character’s point of view? Avoid head hopping from one person’s POV to another. It can get confusing. It’s easy to slip into another character’s POV without realising so check this carefully.
Keep characters to a minimum only include those essential to the story. Ask if your characters are well-defined? Do their names suit them? Let the personality and description of the character emerge gradually. Do your character’s change and grow as the story progresses? Does each character have a unique voice so that when they speak, they are easily identified? Are their motivations sensible? Avoid stereotypes such as grumpy old men, silly secretaries etc. Give your characters challenges, quirks and personality.
Research, make sure it is correct and have your sources written down for further reference. Assume all your readers are experts and will get upset with inaccurate information.
Avoid rushing your ending. It can be tempting to summarise at the end of a novel so avoid clarifications and show rather than tell.
Structural editing is the big picture. When you do this edit, don’t worry about correcting spelling, grammar and punctuation. If you need to delete chunks of your work or add more narrative, you will need to do another line edit, anyway. I do the line edit after I make structural changes.
Having readers and critique partners is essential for structural editing. It may be helpful to have a list of questions or even formulate a questionnaire so you get consistent feedback from several readers.
Each element of the structural edit is important and needs to be addressed. Use Google and search for topics such as “Pacing your novel”, “Points of View” or “Character development”. You will uncover an abundance of good advice. Your local library will have books covering writing style and plotting a novel. I wish I had taken more time to learn and develop my writing skills before I wrote my first novel. I’m still learning and growing as a writer and I’m no expert, but that’s what we do at Indie scriptorium: we learn, share and grow.
I like to celebrate. As a child, when I received full marks for a spelling test, Dad rewarded me with a Kitchener Bun from the Fish ‘n Chip shop/Bakery which in the good old days of my childhood was situated opposite Glenelg Primary School. Years ago, now, when I used to drive my son his course in Magill, my mum and I treated ourselves to lunch at the local hotel.
Every so often, I check my Amazon account. I wipe off the virtual cobwebs of neglect, and dig deep in the files of my mind, retrieving the password to enter. I expect nothing to have changed.
I’ve been busy with my blog and the rewards, small, though they are, compared to the rest of blogging world, but the steady trickle of views, likes and comments, satisfies me. Over the years, the number of followers has steadily grown.
Once long ago, now, I made a daring move, and posted my short story,Boris’ Choice—not for the faint-hearted or while one eats breakfast…After the post, I checked for results on Amazon with my War on Boris Series books?
And…there were. Yes!
Then, I checked the reviews. Now, I don’t know how other writers have fared with reviews, but for months since I published my books, I had received no reviews. Yes, I asked my readers to do the deed and tick the star-boxes and comment, with no results. Yes, they’d say, and the weeks went by and nothing. Were they just being polite? A little research on comments on Amazon yielded answers. This platform is selective in who can give comments. If they think the author is using friends and family to generate positive, five-star comments, they will not publish those comments. Amazon were onto me, I thought.
Eventually, though, feedback and comments began to trickle in.
Anyway, back to checking the reviews…I looked again at one of the countries one of my books sold. The page appeared different. A yellow bar, and a comment. Genuine feedback. Not a great appraisal, but an appraisal all the same. I knew the person responsible for this first-ever comment for my book but was not surprised at their response. I did wonder at the time how my novella would work for them—not well—just as I imagined when they informed me, they’d bought the book on Kindle. As I said before, Boris and his antics are well…not for everyone.
The point is that trusted readers, friends, writers’ group colleagues need to give honest feedback that helps the writer refine their craft. We as writers need to be open to how we can improve our writing.
But, once the work is on a public platform, feedback has a different purpose. Comments from readers can help sell the work, or help prospective readers determine if the story is for them.
Of course, there’s always the Trolls who get a kick out of making hurtful comments. In Amazon and WordPress there’s an option to screen harmful comments out. And of course, there are people who mean well but the story or genre is not for them.
That being said, and for fear that there will be readers who will misunderstand my works, the over-riding theme of my stories are the classic fight of good against evil. How evil, like Boris, can creep into our lives. And when for whatever reason, usually when we maintain and enhance our self, and to avoid discomfort, we allow evil to stay. This evil, however subtle, will drive us to isolated places in our lives, like Boris does in The Hitch-hiker; places we never wanted to go. I want young adults and people young at heart, to make choices and use their energy for goodness and to fight evil, so they can live a full life and be an agent for good in their community and the world.
Your readers want to read the story, to be entertained or informed. They want to finish reading the book with a satisfied smile. If they do that, they may just buy your next novel.
Editing is removing all the mistakes that stop the reader from enjoying your story.
“Assume all your readers are editors.” (Lorena Goldsmith 2013)
You may find that as you write your novel, the words and ideas flow effortlessly. The creative drive is magical. The words fly into your computer or out of your pen and you write and write. (Unless you have writer’s block which we will discuss at another time) I find writing is exhilarating and wonderful. Editing, for me, is far more tedious and definitely much harder.
Editing requires a different mindset from creative writing. I think some people excel at editing. They have the focus to spot the errors and methodically work through a manuscript without getting caught up in the story. If you are like me, I’m good at spotting a few mistakes, but then it all seems to blur, and I get drawn into the story and the editing goes to pot.
Some writers are also exceptional and can write a novel with brilliant flow, use just the right word in the right place, don’t start all their sentences with the same word and make all the myriad bloopers that it’s possible to make. That’s not me–but I’m slowly improving and editing definitely makes me aware of what I’m doing wrong.
It also helps to acknowledge strengths and weaknesses in your writing. I can’t spell and I suck at grammar. I overuse words, adverbs and the passive voice. I often start each sentence with the same word, (as if you didn’t notice) and I make lots of other mistakes. But my strengths are plotting, character development, dialogue, conflict and pacing, and I can write an entertaining story. For me to get my story read and enjoyed I need all the help I can get.
There are three different types of editing:
The structural edit–or the big picture. With this read through, you are looking at the overall construction of the novel or short story. The plot, pacing, setting, points of views, character development, chapter length, use of conflict, cliff hangers and plot holes plus other stuff.
The line or copy edit–which looks at grammar, word usage, spelling, elimination of overused words, elimination of filler words, repetition, sentence length, paragraph starts, incomplete or non-sensible sentences, showing not telling, good dialogue, unnecessary dialogue attributions, cliches, mixed metaphors and poor research, to name a few.
Proof-reading–the final edit which picks up the typos, line spaces and other issues that will disrupt the printing process.
I need the line and proof-reading edits more than the structural. However, I have had good structural feedback from other writers. I have rewritten and changed chapters around. It is a daunting task, but I learnt a lot from the process.
If you struggle with editing, there are also some ways of helping you get your editing cap firmly on your head.
Buy a good reference book and have it on hand at all times. I found Lorena Goldsmith’s Self-Editing Fiction that Sells. (How To Books Ltd. UK 2013) was excellent. I also use the Oxford English–A Guide to the Language compiled by I. C. B. Dear (Guild Publishing 1986). Steven King (yes that Stephen King), swears by William Strunk Jr. The Elements of Style (The Macmillan Company 1959). Stephen King also has a very entertaining informative book, Stephen King-On writing.
(Pocket Books 2002)
I purchased “ProWritingAid”, an online editing program, for $120 a year. I love it, but it takes a while to learn how to use it. Other writers use Grammarly, Scrivener or Hemmingway. I suggest you Google “editing programs for writers” and see what suits you. Many have free trials too. You also have basic editing tools in Microsoft Word.
Find yourself one or two friends who can edit your work if you edit theirs. This person is more than a reader who will give an overall impression of your novel. They will need to have a good idea about what good writing entails. School teachers who specialise in English make talented editors. Give them a red pen and they become eagle eyed warriors for the English language (Bless them)
After I have completed my structural edit, and have had a go at the line editing, I employ a professional. My editor does a wonderful job using track changes in word to make comments and fix my grammar, punctuation, spelling and she’s brilliant at spotting anachronistic words. The cost for an 80,000-word novel is about AU$600 -$800. The cost increases if you supply a rough draft which needs extensive editing.
Thanks to Mary McDee and Lee-Anne Kling for the editing corrections.