Thursday, July 16, 2009

Be Your Own Editor

Today I took a break from editing my fourth manuscript and started to read a thriller. To say I found it less than thrilling is an understatement. I hope in my efforts to become a good writer I do not lose my love of reading, but I can feel it happening. I get caught up in the words and lose the story.

And the authors are not helping.

In this particular thriller, the author described a character as a precise individual who did not use contractions. The writer did fine for most of the first chapter, then forgot what his character's persona was and started contracting all over the place. So, is the character precise?

How do I know if the author does not?

According to Emerson, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Some authors must think any consistency is an indication of a small mind, or they do not know the meaning of the word. The only consistency I see is poor writing.

I know I'm getting cynical about books, so I will give the author the benefit of the doubt. Sitting at a keyboard for any length of time can be rough, and one can get so involved in one's own story that one loses track of the words one is typing, but that's why there are editors.

Are there editors, though? I don't see much indication of it. Too many elemental mistakes are being made by authors who should know better.

The moral of today's tale? We must learn how to be our own editors if we hope to master the art of writing. This blog is no place for a tutorial on editing, but you know how to do it anyway. Make sure you use proper grammar (except for when you purposely do not want to use it). Take out all unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, remembering that most of them are unnecessary.

Remove anything, no matter how much you love it, that does not move the story along.

And be consistent.

Pat Bertram is the author of More Deaths Than One, and A Spark of Heavenly Fire now available from Second Wind Publishing, LLC.


SM Blooding said...

Great post and great timing! I'm working on revisions as well AND I picked up a couple of books that sounded good and in the same genre that I'm attempting to break into and...I was flambugled. *shaking shock off* I couldn't believe that they got published like that. But the blurb was good and that's what sucked me in, and those books are selling...but, good grief! I wish they'd put more time into their own editing.

SM Blooding said... ignore all the major run-on sentences in that comment. *wincing smile* It', still early yet.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author & marketing coach said...

Great post, Pat! And I so agree.

As a writer you are not only responsible for getting the plot down, creating interesting characters and engaging dialogue, and maintaining a strong pace, you must also take the time to edit, edit, edit.

One book I find very helpful (although I do not agree with the writers about everything) is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. It serves as a great check list!

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
bestselling Canadian author

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Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author & marketing coach said...

*Please note: I've sent an email to Lillian to get clarification on whether she's referring to The Write Type ~ Multi-Author Musings blog or Pat Bertram's blog.

Either way, this is great news! :-)

Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
Author & The Write Type creator

Debra Purdy Kong said...

Great blog, Pat and I agree. I've been reading and reviewing many independently published novels lately and while there are plenty of good story tellers out there, the editing is really weak for most of them.


Pat Bertram said...

Wow! I did not expect so many comments. Nor did I expect to have to spend so much time editing my books. I am a slow, precise writer, which just goes to show how much we all need to edit. I do have the book Cheryl mentioned, and I have a list of words I compiled to watch out for, such as "just." I just use too many just's. Just because.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author & marketing coach said...

I'm a "just" person too! Probably just because I like 'j' words.

In school, teachers called me "the comma Queen", because if I felt a person would pause saying something, I'd add a comma, then later add another, until I was finally done.

Now I think I'm a 'but' person. I know. It sounds bad. But...


Pat Bertram said...

I love starting sentences with but. It's so much more emphatic than sticking it in the middle of the sentence. Sometimes the word "but" is of more importance the the phrase that follows it.