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Last Week’s WW: You’ve Gotta Read

Most of the things that find their way onto this blog are in first draft status.  In fact, a lot of them are typed directly into wordpress text box, not copied and pasted from somewhere else.  It saves time, but can cause trouble.  As it was pointed out to me in the FFF – Dinozombie, I misused a few words, also know as homophones.  And thus, I was inspired for this weeks topic.  

Editing is an important part of writing.  In many cases, it can be almost as important as the writing itself.  Editing can make or break a story.  It can change the entire meaning, or just make it flow better.  In some ways, the ‘art’ part of writing is in the editing.   Once you’ve been through the revision processes, you gain an appreciation, mysticism, and loathing of editing.  But there’s no getting around it.  No one is above the red pen.

There are different types of editing.

Content Editing

It is important to do large, sweeping edits of your story to check for continuity, plot holes, dialogue, theme variations… For me, this happens after the first draft.  Although, it might not be a bad idea to have someone read your story, or what you have of it, if you get stuck at some point, and have them do a content edit.  It might just help you get focused in the right direction.

Copy Edit

In this step, the person copy editing your story will make sure that it flows well, that it has a consistent style, and may even check any facts that need fact checking.

These bigger edits are important.  Not all stories need editing that deep.  The next item though, is the one we all face.

Line Editing

I know many of the rules of the English language.  For example, I  know that possessives get an ‘s, while plurals just get an s.  I have no confusion about this rule whatsoever.  And yet, when I let my fingers do their thing and channel the story in my head, I get it backwards a lot of the time.  It’s not because I don’t understand.  I honestly don’t know why it happens, and with such frequency, even when I’m aware it’s a problem.  Yet, it does.

Then there are the homophones.  Words that sound like other words, but are spelled different, and have different meanings.  In my FFF, I spelled steak, when I meant stake.  It’s important to watch for that.

Also, there’s the old beast, spelling.  I’ve always been a terrible speller.  I think it’s likely because I’m a bit dyslexic.  I remember being in sixth grade and crying over not being able to get the words whistle or whisper spelled right.  I had to write every word over and over and over to memorize the correct order.  It took a tremendous amount of focus.  I still have trouble dialing a phone sometimes.  I get the numbers in the wrong order, or skip a digit when there’s the same two in a row.   Yes, spell-check is amazing.  But there are a lot of words that are spelled close enough to the word you think you’re using.  If you spell the word right, but it’s the wrong word, or if the computer corrects it to the wrong word for you, you’ll never know until someone reads it.  Unless, that is, you or an editor go over it.

If you’re writing something big, and you can afford it, I suggest a professional edit.  It seems these days that they are essential.   Of course, check out what your editor will do exactly for what price.  They don’t all define the various levels of edit the same way.  And it’d be awful to pay two thousand dollars (on the cheap end) for a content edit when you wanted a line edit.

For every day things, Word is probably good enough, I’d think.  It’s important to not just use the spelling and grammar check and run through it really quickly, but to actually go through and reread it yourself in addition.

Now, I just have to put my own advice into practice…