Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Walking in an Editor's Shoes

This past weekend saw me doing a marathon edit for a project. And I can say I'm grateful to my editors for being tough on me because I was able to take what I'd learned from them and apply it to the stories I critiqued.

Nothing is more wonderful than reading a story that needs little editing. One gets a sense the writer has studied his/her craft and respects not only the editor (and publisher) but the reader as well.

There were three major issues that were prevalent throughout the editing process. The first one was writers who used two spaces after a period rather than one. Apparently, the situation is so common-place, there's even a Facebook meme going around begging people to stop doing it. True, when I learned to type on an electric typewriter my freshmen year in high school, two spaces was the norm. But not anymore.

The second issue concerned body parts acting on their own. Things like eyes roaming over someone's body. (Okay, that's probably a bad example, but hopefully, you get the idea.) This one is a hard habit to break, and even I've caught myself doing it. But I also know my editor will beat me over the head with her digital blue pencil, so I try to catch when I do it. (Speaking of blue pencils, does anyone remember them?)

And then there's what's referred to as "author intrusion." This is a little tricky, because writers do it without thinking, and I've even seen it in books published by best-selling authors, so I don't know if all editors subscribe to the idea or not.

Basically, what this means is if you're writing in first person POV or third person deep POV, you're inside that person's head. So phrases like "He saw," "He wondered," "He thought," etc., aren't needed. For example: "He watched Carrie storm out the door." Instead, all that's needed is "Carrie stormed out the door." If he's watching Carrie, then that part's implied and the reader will understand what he's doing without needing the "He watched" part. As for phrases like "He smiled," "He grimaced," etc., my editor told me that when one is doing these things, one doesn't think about it. In other words, you don't smile and think, "I'm smiling," and if you don't, neither should your characters.

Breaking this habit can be hard, especially when you want to convey how your character is feeling. I've found The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi to be a wonderful resource.

The last issue is another one that seems to be common among writers: head-hopping. That is, the reader is in one person's POV and then, all of a sudden, s/he is in another's, with no scene break to indicate the POV has shifted. This can confuse the reader, which is why POV shifts are often indicated by scene breaks.

Being aware of the above issues and avoiding them is one way to make your editor happy. Not only that, it will make your writing stronger.

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