Some editing tips and tricks for you, me, and all the writers we know! And don’t know, too ….
Because if you did NaNoWriMo this year, then now is right about the time you might start to thinking about attacking the editing beast. Or maybe you just don’t want to look at it yet. And that’s perfectly fine. However, you need to edit it eventually. Since professional editors cost money, it will pay for you to do some of the work early. Furthermore, if you have beta readers (and every writer should!), then you owe it to them to not waste their time reading an unpolished manuscript. Of course they should expect some issues as that is why you’re turning to them in the first place. However, a big garbage can full of word salad does no one any good.
So first of all, before you do anything else, run spell check. While that sounds simple and obvious, I have beta read for people who didn’t do that first. Second, check your dialogue tags. So, what are dialogue tags? Dialogue should run one of three ways:
- She said, “I’m hungry.” Notice the comma before the first quotation mark, and then the period before the second? The first two words are the dialogue tag. The comma is mandatory in this case. And it’s the same thing if you move the dialogue tag to the end. So in that case, you would write: “I’m hungry,” she said.
- She patted her belly. “I’m hungry.” Notice there’s no comma this time? That’s because the initial sentence is an action; it’s not a dialogue tag at all.
- She growled, “I’m hungry!” The comma is back! And Grammar Girl (as usual) says it best: “Simplicity is the rule in attributives. Many writers try to think for the reader by replacing “said” with words like grunted, growled, demanded, bellowed, cooed, roared, squalled, and simpered. If the tone of the dialogue is not immediately apparent, rewrite the dialogue and not the attributive.”
So make sure your dialogue tags are correct and your dialogue makes sense. And third, get into your scenes and anything (or anyone) else you need to describe. Too much description can bog down the action. And too little can leave your readers guessing. So here is where a knowledge of films can help. Current movies rarely show little transitional scenes like walking down a hall or driving unless something else is going on. And you should do the same. If your character starts off at school and then comes home, don’t show the character on the school bus unless that particular scene matters.
Do some basic editing, at the absolute minimum, before anyone else looks at your work. Respect others’ time and they’ll keep helping you.