Writing can be so much fun. We have the thrill of creating something out of nothing, and when our muse is friendly the words just flow.
After that, comes the tedium of editing and line editing. In the first edit, we look for major writing issues: characterization, plot, pacing, and structure. In line editing we focus more on details of the prose.
Here are some things to look for:
Repetition of words - in a scene with a car, how many times did you use the word car? Circle the word every time you see it, then go back and change some, take others out.
Circle the character's name. Can you substitute a pronoun for some of them, a noun for others?
Circle the word "said" - can the dialogue stand without it? Can a character action take the place of an attributive? "Sit down," Mary said, motioning to a chair. "Sit down." Mary motioned to a chair.
Clauses used in the wrong place – WRONG: He saw a vase of flowers on the counter that was right in the center. RIGHT: He saw a vase of flowers in the center of the counter.
Subject/verb agreement - words between a subject and verb do not change the number of the verb. EXAMPLE: The beauty of the garden - the roses, irises, petunias- is a sight to behold.
Action/motivation not in the right places. WRONG: He jumped, startled by a loud bang on the door. RIGHT: Startled by a loud bang on the door, he jumped.
Qualifiers - rather, very, little, almost, pretty. EXAMPLE: At the sound of the door opening, she almost lost it. BETTER: Hearing the creak of the opening door, she forced herself not to whirl in panic.
Weak words - as, while, since, somewhat. WEAK: As Fran raised the cup, she... BETTER: Fran raised the cup and...
Next week we’ll talk about more things to look for in line editing. Keep in mind that this is not proof reading. That’s another process, and one that is my least favorite thing to do. In the meantime, have fun going through your manuscript and line editing.
Wait. Did I really say that? That’s like saying have fun cleaning the cabinets.
Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Her latest books are One Small Victory and Play it Again, Sam. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. When she is not working, Maryann loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas.