From Imagination To Publication

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Writing World: Molly The Magnificent's Editing Advice

Any published author knows that finishing your initial draft is only the first step of many in completing a novel. Get ready to read through/edit your book at least 5 times (maybe more, maybe less depending on how you work). Uprising (Children of the Gods #2) has been completed for a while now, but edits and read-throughs have continued. Recently I completed what is known as line-edits. The line editing process is a line by line analysis of the sentence structure and word choice. It's very tedious, but necessary. Molly, my editor at ZOVA Books, always gives me the best advice, and I wanted to share it with you along with one other thing I learned in the process.

 Molly's Notes:
The most common adjustments I made were (a) to eliminate some (but not all) of the repeated prepositional phrases and descriptions, (b) to adjust some (but not all) of the passive voice to active, and (c) to bring the action closer to the characters. 
For example: 
(a) Inside I was empty, lost, afraid. ---> Inside I was empty, lost, and afraid. (p.300) (This may not seem like a big change, but if you look at that page, there are three instances where the same sentence structure is used. "...she was in there, protected, safe." and "...someone being in here with me, naked, so vulnerable." This is an example of a poetic structure that's more effective the more sparingly it's used.) 
I scanned the hillside to our left, to our right. ---> I scanned the hillside to our left and right. (This was an easy one to fix, though most of these repeated prepositional phrases were a bit harder, as the information was necessary but the structure was repetitive. If you find more that you can adjust, feel free. I tweaked several, but not all.) 
(b) I pleaded as I began to succumb to anger. ---> I pleaded on the verge of anger. (p.10) 
(c) Men and women towered over him as he forced himself through the mob. Voices jeered and the angry protested. ---> Men and women towered over him as he forced himself through the mob of angry protests and jeering voices. (p.59) 
My words came out surprised. ---> I said with surprise. 
(In other words, rather than giving the action to some part of Elyse, the action is hers. Elyse's mind, brain, hands, heart, and voice do a lot of things. Used occasionally, this can be poetic. Used frequently, and it disembodies Elyse, making her actions seem disjointed and disconnected from her own will. In times of distress, this might be revealing of character. But on a continual basis, it's hard to sympathize with a character who doesn't own her own actions, thoughts, and feelings.)

Genius, right? I also learned that one of my go-to words is "eyes" ...jeeez. I did a search for that word and came back with a staggering number. I went through each instance to see if there was any way to eliminate the use of the word. It turns out, sometimes those overused words can simply be deleted. My advice would be to figure out which words you use too often. Then see if you can delete them from your sentences. Here are some examples:

I couldn’t see her eyes through the dark, but I could feel her looking at me. ---> I couldn't see her through the dark, but I could feel her looking at me.

He turned to look at me, his eyes full of regret. ---> He turned to look at me, full of regret.

What have you learned in the process of editing your manuscript?


  1. Great post Jessica! There is nothing better than getting constructive feedback on your writing from a pro.

    The biggest thing I have learned thus far in editing my manuscript is that I need to stick to my theme.

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