Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Writing Tip Tuesday

Many years ago I worked as a technical editor for insurance manuals. (I know, I know...BIG YAWN).

But, as boring as that job could be, it also taught me a few valuable processes that I still use today.

One thing I learned from the process of proofreading = focusing on one thing at a time.

For instance, a good proofreader will go through an entire manuscript focusing only on headings and subheadings. Are they in the right font? Are they all indented consistently? etc.

I use a similar approach to revision.

I read through the entire manuscript looking for only one element to revise.

Some examples:
  • Focus on consistency of point of view (This is a biggie. It's VERY easy to jump out of point of view and you might miss it if you aren't totally focused on that particular element of the writing.)
  • Focus on unnecessary words, sentences, paragraphs, etc. (Eliminate anything that doesn't advance the story, reveal character or enhance setting. Don't be word drunk, as Donald Murray calls it.)
  • Watch out for overused words. We all have our darlings to kill. Mine happen to be: now, then, and every now and then. (And remember to use the features of your word processing program - like SEARCH. If you think you may be overusing a word, search for it.)
  • Watch for sentences, paragraphs, scenes or even characters that repeat or serve the same purpose. (Resist the urge to repeat yourself - whether it's words or ideas.)
During this stage of revision, don't try to read for meaning or story structure. That's a whole different ball of wax. Just focus on whatever element you're looking for.

2 comments:

Colorado Writer said...

I used to write benefits summaries, policies and procedures and employee handbooks. Good times.

My darlings are "just" and "always."

Thank you for this reminder. I just finished revisions, but used your handy list to give it the once...I mean twice over...whew.

debrennersmith said...

When I wrote my book, Beyond Retelling, I reread it for revision and edited it following this over 20 times following this advice. My dad is an editor for a college newspaper. He also read it 3 times. My mom did too. Then we sent it to the "real" editor. She said it was the cleanest script she has received in a long time. www.debrennersmith.com