Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Lighter Side of Editing

Every writer edits. Some edit as they go, some save it for later, some do it for a living. Whenever I head down that ol' editing highway, my writing sheep come along for the ride. 

Sheep #1: This is cheating.

Sheep #2: It is, you know.

Writer: Why is this cheating? I'm writing.

Sheep #3: But this is dialogue. You like writing dialogue. It comes easily for you. FOUL!!!

Sheep #1: You should be working on her prose.

Sheep #2: It does need work.

Sheep #3: And we're being kind.

Writer: I'm  aware work is needed. I've been searching and destroying her repetitive words.

Sheep #1: We know. We've named one of us 'Just' and another one 'That'. (lifts front hoof and points to the left) See that sheep over there? The one with the bland expression?

Writer: Aren't most sheep's expressions bland?

Sheep #2: That was uncalled for.

Sheep #3: We're a myriad of emotions. We're deep.

Sheep #1: You have no idea.

Writer: Anyway...

Sheep #1: (shaking head) Of course. That sheep over there is "Smiled". He was everywhere. Now he's shunned. Don't go near him. He's bitter.

Sheep #2: He bites.

Sheep #3: But it's not just the repetitive words. We want more description. A clearer picture, if you will. We want all our senses engaged.

Writer: I know. I'm doing my best.

Sheep #1: And tell her we want more conflict! Conflict makes us happy.

Writer: Conflict makes you happy?

Sheep #2: We told you we're complex.

Sheep #1: Now, don't get us wrong. There is a great deal of the story which has our approval.

Sheep #2: We like the food.

Sheep #3: And the horse.

Sheep #1: We want to drive the red car. Can that be arranged?

Writer: That might prove difficult.

Sheep #2: Fine. Disappoint us. We're only sheep.

Sheep #1: Just tell her to finish. We're ready to move on.

Writer: So am I.

Sheep #3: Good. We want new pastures. New views. New characters.

Writer: But two of the characters will be in the next manuscript.

Sheep #1: We know. We're fine with that.

Writer: Why?

Sheep #3: They're the ones who drive the red car.

Elspeth Futcher is a bestselling author of murder mystery games and playwright. She has been the top selling author at host-party.com since 2011. Her British games are published by Red Herring Games in the UK. Her latest game is "The Great British Bump Off?" Elspeth's 'writing sheep' are a continuing feature in the European writers' magazine Elias and also appear on this blog from time to time. Connect with her on Twitter at @elspethwrites or on Facebook at Elspeth Futcher, Author.


  1. This is exactly what I'm doing right now: searching for repeated words and editing them away. And it is soooo boring; I want to scrub my brain just to stay awake. Maybe I need myself a sheep. Where's Nigel?

  2. OMG, that was so much fun. I do hope we get to hear from the sheep again.

  3. Maybe you should see someone...

  4. Elle; Good luck as you continue your search!

    Maryann; Thanks for the kind words - I've always enjoyed writing about the sheep.

    Patrick; Maybe.

  5. I want the red car!

    Humor so effectively makes a serious point (or two). Great post, Elspeth. :-)

  6. Elle, don't you have a list of repeated words and a W4W trick to find them fast? Eons ago, I worked somewhere where MSs somehow were programmed to show word culprits with different colored highlights throughout the manuscript so that each word could be dealt with separately throughout. It was clever in an odd way.

  7. Well, I guess that's what creativity is for. Never heard a discussion of this subject quite like this one, Elspeth! You brought a dull topic to life for us, thank you.

    Now I wonder what the sheep would have to say about sentence diagramming...

  8. I just read this again. Oh, my. Elspeth, I have dreams that sound like this. LOL.

  9. Linda; LOL!

    Dani; I'm attracted to anything that is described as clever in an odd way. Wait. That sounds bad.

    Kathryn; I'll pass your compliments along to the sheep.

  10. I like the sheep. They don't at all seem sheepish, and they didn't pull the wool over my eyes.

  11. Dani,

    You could set something like that up as a Macro, but that's fairly advanced (I do cover it in W4W, though). However, I have found something else that does the job even better, and I'll review it here soon ;-)

  12. Elspeth, Love the sheep! And I'm rooting for their drive in the red car. If dogs in New Zealand can do it, I'm sure that sheep can, especially ones so obviously complex.


    :-) Alison


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