Don’t Fear the Reaper

Welcome to another Friday! Casey here.

Depending on your viewpoint, one of the most difficult or most fun aspects of writing is editing. I admit I land somewhere in the middle. Since I write straight on to the end with a bare minimum of re-reading, I have to edit more copiously than a writer who cleans as they go along.

However, even if you edit as you write that doesn’t mean there will be no editing. I generally edit as follows (and this is not all-inclusive – I know my fellow Scribes can add more):

1. Use search and find to locate needless or overused words such as: had, that, still, just, whichaslike, etc. I could go.These are a few common empty words. In my most recent manuscript – Misfortune Cookie – I went nuts using still. Unless I meant standing still, they were mostly deleted.

2. Search for was or -ing. This is to eliminate passive verbs and replace them with stronger verbs. Example – I was walking to the door. Instead – I walked to the door. Don’t rush through this phase of editing. This is where you can make your sentences stronger and increase the pacing. This doesn’t mean every instance of “was/-ing” should be nuked. Use passive sentences sparingly and appropriately.

3. Search for sensory words – heard, felt, smelled, saw, thought (and their variations). In this step, I try to remove any unnecessary telling – example – I heard the door open. Instead say, The door shut with a dull thud. Again, don’t skimp here either. Replace telling with showing when you can (and when appropriate).

4. Search for words ending in “-ly“. Adverbs should also be used carefully. Also, make sure you aren’t using adverbs in dialogue to tell the reader emotions. Example – “No. Not again,” he said, angrily. Instead – He stalked across the room, then slammed the door. “No. Not again.”  This is another place to show instead of tell.

5. Spell check! But ignore the grammar checker. It’s crap.

6. Enlist the aid of first readers. My friends, who are not writers, always get the first draft after steps 1-5 (don’t rely on them to be your line editor). They catch all the words I left out or used incorrectly. In Misfortune Cookie – I kept using rationale when I meant rational (and I used it too much, so I had to find new words or change the sentence). I do know the difference between the words, but I didn’t see the error anymore!

Next comes the harder part, editing content. Hence the reference to The Reaper. Don’t be afraid to delete large (or small) passages. Every word is not sacred. If you don’t want to lose the words, create another document called “deletions” (or whatever you want). I have a scene graveyard for every book.

Conversely, I also have a document called “additions.” This is my playground where I re-write a new scene or re-work one that isn’t quite right.

This is what works for me. And I take these steps with every book I’ve written and so far my editors have requested very few changes.

Who has other tips or suggestions for editing? Do share!

And if you have time, stop by my blog where I share – Renaissance Fair Fun!

21 thoughts on “Don’t Fear the Reaper”

  1. I work the other way. Editing as I go. I have to work in order just to keep my sanity. Although sometimes I wind up getting myself stuck. Rereading the same scene until I think it’s good enough to move on, but it works for me.

    1. I used to edit as I went and it took me years to realize it was slowing me down. I can do that with work-related writing, but not with my books. Go figure! In the end, everyone has to do what works best for them. 🙂

  2. Great post with lots of awesome tips for editing, Casey! I am an edit-as-I-go girl, but there is still an editing phase when the whole thing is done. I am an editing fiend! But it does make the work so much better! 🙂

  3. Casey, thanks for all the great editing tips. The first thing I do in the morning is read what I wrote the day before and edit it. This does two things for me. At the end the editing isn’t so overwhelming and it puts me right back into my story. Not finished yet but loving your new book.

    1. Thanks Marian! I’m glad you’re enjoying the story. I actually edited USI when we lost power last October. I had printed half the book so I used the time to edit. I also like to download a copy on my Nook and read it through. I find a ton of mistakes that way too.

    1. 🙂 I’m know what you mean. It’s kind of necessary in first person. I think you can get away with a lot more because no “thinks” in active voice constantly. At least I know I don’t.

  4. These are all great tips, Casey. I work like Marian, doing a quick edit of the previous day’s work to get myself back into the story.

  5. Awesome post Casey, but I edit as I go. So, that’s probably why it’s taking so long. I cannot seem to just write without reading back what I wrote. No such think as a perfect sentence, is there? It will get done eventually.

    1. Why thank you! I’m not sure why I chose that term, but I’ve been using it forever. Maybe it’s because, like a zombie, a dead scene could rise again. You never know. Muwhahaha!

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