Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sane Editing for Writers

Artists experiment and learn on different canvases and mediums, so why can’t you? Painters don’t always paint on traditional canvases, often switching to paper, bed sheets and bodies!

Writers need to experiment as well. Yes, notebooks and computers are a writers best friend, but so are grocery receipts, dinner napkins, hands and arms, and index cards - anything that can take thoughts spewing forth from pen or pencil. Forget using bathroom walls at the mall – you can’t take those with you.

So when it comes to proofreading, editing and revising, writers should take the same ‘freedom’ with various canvases as they do with their writing.

Keep Your Ear – Don’t Go Crazy

Editing is needed to find grammatical flaws, punctuation flubs, spelling mishaps, and homonym mix-ups (there vs. their). Added to all that, editing also means keeping an eye open for storyline and character name confusion, sentence run-on (my own personal problem) (can you tell?), and much, much more!

PHEW! Trying to juggle all those, plus keeping your coffee cup refilled, can make you go crazy!

But changing HOW you edit – like the painter who changes his canvas - will help you see things in a different light, therefore edit more precisely and concisely. Unlike Vincent van Gogh, you don’t have to lop off your ear to be a famous, fantastic artiste!

Save Your Sanity, Not Paper

If writing on a computer, print your work to review and edit. Not only does it give your eyes a much needed rest from the screen, but there is something to be said for using a good old fashioned blue pencil (don’t use red – it’s too angry). Sure you have to go back and type in your changes, but errors jump out at you if printed on paper.

Don’t always rely on your spell check feature in your word processing program – it sometimes lies. Homonyms are not always picked up, and wrong word usage can get skipped over. Just when you thing technology will save your butt, it only comes ‘round and bites you IN the butt (see the word ‘thing’? Spell check never ‘flagged’ it). Your mind and eyes need a change, so use yet ANOTHER piece of paper (recycled kind is best), and sharpen your blue pencil.

Get a Dye-Job

Countless authors handwrite their first draft on yellow legal pads. Why not try this yourself? And while you are thinking in colour, why not try writing on coloured printer paper? A ream of it is it fairly cheap at the stores, and although unlined, it can give you the freedom to keep writing, outside the lines.

And when printing that manuscript to revise, why not print on coloured paper? The glare of white paper can be headache-provoking. Soft pink or blue can be soothing. Why not give green or yellow a try? But don’t try black – it doesn’t work for some reason.

Screw With Your Mind

If working on a computer, copy and paste your work onto another publishing program, if available. When transferring my work to this blog, my work is inputted to a different kind of screen for posting - a different ‘canvas’ – enabling me to edit even more because I see things differently (I hope!).

Email yourself. Although this is not conducive for a whole novel, why not email parts of it – the parts giving you a bit of a struggle? It’s all very psychological - a mind over matter kind of thing - and again, the different medium will be a change. And heck, on days when you are feeling lonely and no one has sent you an email (not even a spammer), at least SOMEONE has emailed you!

Why not considering changing your work to a different font? Yes, editors and publishers and publishers require submitted work in a specific font, such as Times New Roman or Courier, but for your own editing purposes, a different font might just do you a world of good.

Take a Bathroom Break, Then Start Talking!

Take a break. Take a step back from your work, and let it simmer, or rest, for an hour or two; or even better, a few days. Come back and see things with fresh eyes – but don’t take that break for too long!

Read your work aloud. To yourself, your cat, your plant, or even a writing partner. Reading aloud helps you discover lack of flow and countless errors. After reading the darn thing so often, you can sometimes skim without even knowing it. Reading aloud slows down your reading, forcing you to enunciate read each word. So gargle with mouthwash, take the pen out of your mouth, and start reading out loud. You don’t need a diploma in Toastmasters – just do it.

So print, scribble in blue, use a bit of colour, and edit to your heart's content – and remember, sometimes spell check lies!

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