As promised, here’s the piece I did on editing, complete with all the editing I did to it made visible.
Notes on the marks I used: I don’t know all the standard editor’s marks, and a lot of them assume a physical copy anyway, so I’m substituting my own.
Text that’s been struck through is something from the original piece I decided to drop.
Brackets mark a new addition
parentheses note a change in case
Three hash marks note a new paragraph break.
I don’t have a mark yet to note the movement of a chunk from one place to another in the manuscript. Any ideas?
You’ve been writing for a while now if you’re keeping up with me. And chances are pretty good you have a finished piece. If you’ve been writing regularly along with me, you should have a finished piece by now. [Whether it's a] (p)oem, article, or short story, anyway. If you have a novel or novella, all I have to say is wow. (g)ood job[, keep up the good work]. [If you have a novella or novel, you're a bit of a showoff, but good job to you too. You probably want to sit on,those fire a little while.
###Tell you what, everybody grab a
soshort piece, let's say[,] ten thousand words or less, that’s had a bit of time to ferment. The fermentation’s important. Creative writing needs time to age, to mellow and percolate out of your mind before you try to tinker with it. That time varies from writer to writer . Some need a week, some need a few months or even years. [,](b)ut the important thing is let it sit. Work on,something else for a while before you come back to a piece.
Now, we’re going to take that lovely bit
if [of] aged work, and we’re going to tear it apart and rebuild it. Ready?
Start with a read-through. Start to finish, go through your piece and get a feel for it. Try to think of it as someone else’s piece. Does it hang together? Does anything jump out at you as being out of place or making no sense? Mark those. [Mark] (a)nything you think needs to go or be changed.
But what about grammar? Don’t you need to fix all the grammatical errors first?
I don’t think so
, for a couple of reasons. First off, you have tools for that. Ultimately[,] you’ll just be doing clean-up. Second, why fix the spelling on something you’re going to throw away? Editing for most of us is tedious, so the less time you can spend on it, the better. Of course, if the sight of a misplaced modifier drives you to distraction, go ahead and do a grammar edit first.
Alright, now that you know what you want to change story-wise, go ahead and fix that. [Make sure all your guns went off, that characters didn't disappear halfway through or changed names, etc. We can go into more detail about what can go wrong in a story another time. For now, just make sure there's nothing egregiously bad going on.] Got it? Now do a grammar check.
Read your piece forwards and backwards. Look at each sentence on it’s own as well as in context with the surrounding sentences and paragraph. Be ruthless.Spare no ambiguous verb. Or if you’re no good at grammar, now might be a good time to pass it off to one of your grammar nazi friends.
And we’re done.
Well, not quite. Now you need other eyes. But I think I’ll save that for another day.
For this week, try running through an edit one of your pieces. Extra points if you had to throw out more than ten percent.