Filed under: Editing
Often seen: Everywhere
Editing is a five step process to cover these basics of writing:
1. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation
2. Use/overuse of adverbs, and repetition
3. Character development
4. Story arc/plot development
5. Final edit – one last check on all of the above
For our purpose here I’m most concerned with #1. My take is that we come to Protag for opinions and help on #3 and #4, and hopefully have #2 fairly well under control. Of course #5 pertains to a completed manuscript.
If you want to be taken seriously, you must edit for grammar, spelling, and punctuation before you publish anything anywhere. You’ll see the same excuses everywhere, not just here. “I didn’t have time.” “Oh, this is just a draft.” No. It’s not even a draft until it’s been spell checked and edited for grammar and punctuation as well. If you can’t be bothered to do that, then you don’t care. Why should anyone else care, or take time to read what you’ve written?
Beyond sheer attitude, there’s the mechanical aspect. Too many mistakes slow the reader down and distract them from the purpose – your purpose, your story. Don’t sabotage yourself.
We all make mistakes, and we all fail to catch all of them now and then. I’m not talking about the occasional blooper – I’m talking about failure to edit at all. It’s easy to spot the difference. If you simply don’t know how to use punctuation, stop and study it before you write another word. It will pay off in the future.
For grammar, there is one exception. If your character uses bad grammar in their dialogue, that’s realistic. As a writer, you don’t get a pass.
Just some final words about #2, and I’m off my soapbox. Adverbs are great, wonderful, useful, and necessary, but too many will distract, disrupt, dilute, and detract from a scene, making it clumsy, burdensome, tiresome, awkward, and sloppy. See what I mean? Choose them wisely, use the ones with the most impact and leave the rest to the reader’s imagination. Don’t sell your reader short, or worse, tell them what to think.
Example: It was a cloudy, dreary, rainy day.
Edited to: It was a rainy day. (the rest is obvious)
Last, but not least – repetition. Using the same words or phrases too often, in some cases simply more than once, is also distracting. Words that you don’t often hear in everyday conversation are the most glaring offenders. I guarantee you that if you use a word/sentence like this in a novel, “he was the quintessence of hipster nonchalance,” and 500 pages later you write, “she was the quintessence of ultra modern fashion,” your reader, despite the passage of pages and time, will nearly jump out of their chair. If you’re completely in love with an unusual word, then love it enough to give it a brief spotlight and let it rest and bask in glory. I’m certainly not saying not to use the big words if they truly fit. If I have to jump up and grab a dictionary a couple of times,* I’m far more likely to thank you than to pitch your masterpiece into the fireplace.
* ahem, that was a couple of times – not every other page xD