I spent the weekend traversing slippery words instead.
Here are some lessons I've learned while editing:
• For me, editing on paper is easier than editing on the computer. I find it helpful to spread out on my desk or the table with my hard copy and a colored pen. The words flow as I write, adding layers to my story. I can’t write nearly as fast as I type, so by the time I get the first words written, more are spilling out of my thoughts and onto the paper. This is a better use of my time than staring blankly at the screen.
• Use a different font and/or color for each POV character. Whether I’m working on the computer or on paper, I can keep an eye on the balance of the story.
• I use cheat sheets when I’m stuck. Writing pages I follow on Facebook often share tips like these: Emotional expressions. When to show. When to Tell. Words to use instead of looks/seems like. Character defense mechanisms.
• Search “crutch” words and try to remove some if they occur too often. Words such as: very, only, almost, glance, gaze, seem, believe, like, sudden, began, would, and should. For a list of other crutch words, try searching “crutch words in writing” and see what comes up!
• A lot of sources say to read backwards or read out loud to catch missing or wrong words or awkward sentences. If something stops me as I’m reading and editing, I like to read that section slowly and deliberately, letting the words sink in. Usually, I am able to rewrite so the words flow more smoothly.
• Let it rest. Sometimes I have to take a couple days off from editing. My brain gets caught up in the story and knows what is supposed to happen, and it tends to glide over words instead of really reading them. Taking a break resets my brain and allows me to edit with fresh eyes and a fresh brain.
• I don’t want to lose anything I’ve written. Just because I cut this paragraph here, doesn’t mean that I can’t or won’t use it somewhere else. I have a “Cuts” file but I also save my files with a date. For example, MyWIP011717. I’m a packrat when it comes to my files. I save them on my computer, on my USB drive, and either in Google docs or by emailing them to myself. You never know when you might want to go back to a previous version for some reason.
It’s hard to cut words you’ve written, even when you know they don’t belong. There are more lessons to be learned so I will continue learning and improving. After all, isn’t that what editing is for?
What are your favorite editing tips? Please share.