I’ve spent a lot of time editing for other writers over the past several months. I’ve reached a point where I have to limit my time editing so I can actually spend time on my own writing. Editing for others has a two prong effect: It encourages me to write my own material because good writing pulls on me to write as well, and bad writing taps my ego to say – I can do better than this. Just being honest people, writer’s have a good share of ego or else we wouldn’t think our stuff needs to be read by the masses.
So, having said that I’m going to air a few of my ‘Are you kidding me?’ thoughts as an editor.
* clears throat*
When you submit your manuscript — that baby you’ve coddled for however long, that special creation that you’ve birthed through pain and agony — do yourself a favor and present the best manuscript you can.
Here are a few tips that you, the author can tackle yourself. These are common things, so don’t feel like you’re a hack because you find these things in your manuscript.
- If it shows up in Word underlined by red, green, or blue – address it. Misspelled words, unique spellings, proper names are all tagged as well as sentence fragments and extra spaces. If Word catches it you’ll be damn certain the editor will.
- Make certain that your formatting issues are addressed; appropriate page breaks and spacing. Check the submission guidelines for each publisher s they may vary.
- Correct grammatical use of common homophones: to, too, two; they’re their, there; etc.
- Sentence structure matters people! Fragments, dependent clauses, infinitive phrases, participle phrases, run ons, the gerund phrase – it matters. If you are going to write – WRITE WELL OR FRIGGIN’ GO HOME!
- Mechanics – basic grammatical skills. I’m not saying that everyone needs to be a grammar Nazi, but could we at least keep it to the same mechanical structure of the English language? ( As I edit in English I can’t speak for other languages, and slang and backwoods redneck speak do not qualify unless it is part of the dialog between characters. )
- Do NOT rely solely upon spell check, it will count something correct because it is a word, but the sentence will not make any sense: “As they bled out on the slow covered alley, my heart sank in my chest. They were truly gone.” Slow is a word but the correct word should be snow. READ YOUR WORK! Better yet, read it aloud, you’ll catch more mistakes that way.
- Punctuation: Can I buy a comma for $500 Alex! Punctuation is important. EXAMPLE: Let’s eat mother! Let’s eat, mother! It makes a difference!
- Dangling bits: Nope I’m not talking about erotica, although it happens there as well. I’m talking about the dangling verbals, phrases, clauses, the dangling participle. Would I be way off base here in suggesting that anyone who is serious about writing should take at least the basic English composition class?
- VERBS: plural versus singular, keeping things consistent.
- TENSE: * facepalm* In the latest piece I was editing, I got so confused whether i was in the past, present, or future tense that I literally had to get up and walk away.
- PRONOUNS: Oh good Lord what a mess! Ever read something where he met this guy and he handed his bag to her, her father giving glowering looks at their hands touching as she leaned in to kiss him? Which him???? The author listed four different hims – which one is she going to kiss? I’m assuming not her father, although giving daddy a kiss is the least offensive thing in this little scene.
- Incorrect word usage: Know the definition of the word you are using because what you are saying isn’t necessarily what you think you are saying.
This is just a quick down and dirty list, trust me, more will follow. We all need to edit ourselves before we think our baby is ready for the big publishing world. I’m guilty of some of these myself, it’s why I am a firm believer in self editing. My first drafts are not fit for public viewing.
However, there also comes the point when the writer has to let their baby stand on it’s own and cut the umbilical cord. This post is not a vent about any particular writer. It’s an overall view from seeing many mistakes in various submissions and manuscripts.
Write on my friends – and do it to the best of your abilities!