Let’s be honest — one of the biggest challenges for people when writing isn’t the actual writing. It’s editing. So much so that some newbie writers think editing is something done by someone else. But long before it gets to that “editor” at Publisher Inc., you have to do your own editing. Virginia Ripple is a writer, and she has a website called “Writer on a Shoestring Budget”. Catchy. And one of the big writing tip websites leveraged a reprint of an earlier version of a post about editing, but her main website has an updated version (13 Resources to Make Editing Your Novel Easier).
Mostly what I like about her post is the initial main thrust:
No matter what you do, if you want to be read and have those readers give you great reviews, spread the word and buy your other books, you have to face the red pen. You must edit your manuscript.
Self-publishing or traditional publishing, you need to edit. So she published a list of 13 resources to help with editing. Not all the links are created equal, and some are dead now, but I liked A Perfectionist’s Guide to Editing: 4 Stages by Jami Gold as she breaks down the stages into finishing, editing and polishing, with tips on which questions to ask in which stage. I also liked A Good Edit Would’ve Fixed That by April Hamilton, although I’m not always as sold on the example of changes in verb tense that she uses as an example of “bad” tense. Often when people are talking in the past, they will use the present to make it seem more immediate. The example she uses is grammatically inconsistent, but it doesn’t mean the tense was wrong, but rather the transition was wrong from one to the other. I’ve had the same problem in french for years — when I tell stories orally, I often switch to present in both English and French. Which works ONLY IF you give an indication of time in front of it to show why you’re switching from past tense to present. For example, if you said, “Picture this: I go into the boathouse…” instead of “I went into the boathouse”, both tenses are fine. But the first requires something extra to indicate why you’re using that tense. The normal solution of everyone — including my language teachers — is to just stay in past tense the whole time. Except that limits both the immediacy of the story and the action; in a sense, it automatically puts you in a more passive style. And Catherine Ryan Hyde’s resource — 5 Essential Tips on Self-Editing – has a great description of creating a cheat sheet to spot errors you make regularly.