Never underestimate the power of the edit. You want to make sure the first time a reader gets their hands on your words, they are not distracted by spelling or punctuation errors (or both!) or lazy hooks, stilting qualifiers, tardy segue ways and repetition.
Melaina Feranda has been writing for an eternity. When she was booked for a school visit, and was expected to be there first up on Monday morning, she had not choice but to do a sleep-over in Toowoomba the night before! In a clever bid to make the visit as productive as possible, she offered an editing workshop the day before and googled her way into contact with all the local writers groups and rustled up a full class. Impressive.
I was absolutely hooked from the introduction. Melaina uses the English language like a dancer uses music. To say that she has a broad vocabulary is an understatement and it was nearly hypnotising hearing so much rich language used in context. But I digress - you were reading this for editing tips!
1/ Hook (line and without it, a sinker!)
It is super important to have a hook, not only at the beginning of the first paragraph, but at the beginning of each paragraph AND at the end of each paragraph. You have to give your reader a reason to persist with your story. Their time is precious!
2/Sentences - vary the length / vary the tempo
Have you started with different words? Have you used different sentence lengths? Consciously choose languorous when necessary or choose short bursts if it mirrors the action!
3/ Avoid proximal repetition
You will find you repeat yourself. (Should I have used ‘you’ twice in one sentence!) Plus, if you have chosen an unusual word, it can stand out, so use once!
4/ Avoid too many adjectives
You have to trust that the reader is capable of interpreting the story without the handholding. Avoid adverbs as well, use strong verbs instead. Walked quickly should be strode or marched...
5/ Consistency with the choice of ‘person’
First, second or third person – the choice is yours. Once you decide, it is a useful exercise to rewrite in another person!
6/ Imagery – to be authentic, it needs logic and realism
Hemingway said, “You may have to murder your darlings”, in reference to those magical constructs that truly, whilst they sound ‘fabulous’ simply don’t make sense!
7/ Purple prose – ditch them!
Purple prose are overly lyrical and have way to many adjectives within a sentence. Additionally, avoid the cliché – it is low hanging fruit and lazy.
8/ Avoid qualifiers
They weaken or soften a sentence. Use strong verbs instead. ‘Ing’ not ‘ly’
Double duty! Reveal the character and move the story forward. Remember ‘said’ is nearly invisible, whereas ‘she shouted / he puffed / he roared / she whimpered’ are unnecessarily noticeable! Get rid of the attributive verbs.
10/ Use active language
The girl picked the flower, not the flower was picked by the girl.
When you are writing, most importantly, strive for the virtuoso. And finally; don’t rely on these notes, go to a short course by Melaina if you can – you will be languorously swimming in virtuoso!
The Society of Editors www.editors-sa.org.au and Editors Victoria www.editorsvictoria.org have comprehensive lists of courses if you want to learn the skill yourself. Alternatively, these are two great sites to source a qualified editor. For a full list of state based Editor’s Societies, go through the Australian Publishers Association site www.publishers.asn.au/links.cfm?doc_id=63
Keep your hand in with local writers groups. Recently, a professional writer contacted our local one. She was invited to do an author school visit on a Monday morning. So, to make the trip worthwhile, she offered a 3-hour editing workshop on the preceding Sunday! Emma has shared her notes with you www.writersweb.com.au/blog/best-tips-for-editing-yet/