Looking back on working with my editor for Mara’s Passion, a few things came up that I wanted to share with you. No matter how long you’ve been writing you always learn something new when you go through the editing process. Below are some of the mistakes I made, even after going through the manuscript before I sent it to her. Lesson learned? Patience, Grasshopper. Take the time you need to polish and polish again. There is such a thing as “over-editing”, but I do believe taking the time to really look hard at your work even before you send it to an editor is so worth the time.
I’m a little vulnerable here because I’m sharing with you some of my own mistakes, but if you learn from them, then I’ve accomplished the goal of this blog. Read this excerpt from my editor’s email to me about some pre-edits that I should have done before I sent it to her. Doing this made the second half of the process go so much faster. And…I’ve learned more ways to prep my manuscript next time. Hope you learn something as well.
You need to go through and do some pre-edits upfront because they’re slowing the process down (and you’re gonna have to do them anyway).
-ly words — 846. Try to cut to 1-2 per page (or less!)
that — 825. If the sentence works without it, cut it (including in dialogue). Just makes the story read smoother.
now — 127. Now is a present tense word used in past tense verbiage. Delete/revise out as many as possible (dialogue is okay to stay if you like)
as – 300. Cut to 1-2 uses per page. As often throws events out of order and can also create “impossible” events. Ex: He swallowed the last bite as he walked down to the corner. (um, hoping that corner is just a few feet away, otherwise that’s a mighty loooong swallow. )
and – 1624. Please don’t try to get rid of all of these. However, this high a number indicates that there is little sentence variation. Ex: He opened the door and let her in. => Opening the door, he let her in.
Sentences should have a varied rhythm to them. If it’s a repetitive rhythm, readers fall asleep or set the book aside. But if you can create a “poetry” type cadence, then readers get swept up in the story and read longer.
Note #1: Try to eliminate as many overuses of names as possible. If it’s just a guy and a girl, he and she work great.
Note #2: As you start each chapter, ask yourself, is the reader grounded in this scene? Does the reader know where these characters are? Are my characters interacting with their surroundings or are they just talking? No one really ever sits still and just talks. People are always moving and doing things. Having coffee? Yep, they are sipping and wrapping their hands around the mug to warm their hands. In a car? They’re looking out the window, fiddling with the radio, digging through the glove compartment (well, at least my boys do… <wg>). You get the idea. Don’t let where they are just be a page long description. Boring! Let the room unfold a little at the beginning, then have the characters “work” it to let the reader know what everything looks like, feels, smells, and tastes like. Let the reader experience the setting along with your characters.
All of this will probably take you several passes through. You can’t really edit words out and ditch adverbs for stronger verbs and still do a good job at eliminating overuse of names…not to mention getting the characters to interact with what’s around them. Two of those are your editor hat, the other is creative hat. The two don’t mix well! LOL
Hope this was valuable for you. If you have anything to add that you’ve learned along the way, please share.