Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Self-Editing

Should Writers Self-Edit?


I’m sure there are a few writers out there who should never self-edit; but, what if they have a burning desire to publish a book, don’t know anyone else who can help with editing, and have no money to hire someone?

Self-editing for Writers

Image Courtesy of Andrew Beierle ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/andrewatla

Now, let me edit that first sentence

Some writers are weak in editing, have no access to folks with experience, and can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars; but, they have a strong desire to publish their book.

There are books that can help and Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas of Beyond Paper Editing have a guest post on The Book Designer that offers support—The Indie Author’s Bookshelf: 19 Best Titles for Self-Editing.

After laying out their criteria for choosing the books they list, they say:

“…books commonly used by editors didn’t show up on this list. Why? Writers are not editors. Many books directed to editors are also written by editors, and they’re heavy on theory and discussion. Writers want accessible books that provide clear explanations, examples and instructions.”

Well, even if you’re a writer who Loves theory and discussion, you may want to consider their choices

They have four categories of books but I’m only going to list one in each category—encouraging folks who don’t take links out of blogs to spend a few more minutes reading the full article—much more there than just a list of books

Big Picture

The Artful Edit, by Susan Bell

“If you have trouble with structure, it may be helpful to choose one straight off and use it as a guardrail as you write.” — Susan Bell

Paragraph Level

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King

“Even writing that was never intended to be…read aloud can be improved if you read aloud as you revise.” — Renni Browne & Dave King

Sentence Level

Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English, by Patricia T. O’Conner

“Surprisingly often a difficult problem in a sentence can be solved by simply getting rid of it.” — William Zinsser

Word Level

Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares: How to Avoid Unplanned and Unwanted Writing Errors, by Jenny Baranick

“Use the semicolon like you would your most powerful weapon (your best pick-up line or your most effective push-up bra): carefully and sparingly.” — Jenny Baranick

Even more reason to click-through to the full article —> they have four “Books that Will Inspire You to Write”
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Writers Who Self-Edit


If you’re not a writer, you may not be familiar with the process of internally editing what you’re about to say.

Self-Editing

Image Courtesy of Leo Cinezi ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/cinezi

Some writers aren’t aware they do this—some are plagued by it…

Then, there’s the dreaded internal editorial critic who’s getting in the way of the creative flow of the first draft—judging little things and keeping the important parts penned-up.

Of course, there comes the time of reckoning—after the Muse has done the magic—doing the necessary self-editing of one’s work, even if it will be passed on to other eyes and minds for appraisal.

I found two articles about self-editing that I’ll share with my readers who are writers (and, hope my other readers will share them with their writer friends…).

The first is 5 Steps for Editing a Novel from the Inside Out by Marc Baldwin, owner of edit911.

I find Marc’s article fascinating because he doesn’t talk about grammar and syntax directly; nor does he give you methods for catching typos—he goes above that into what might be called the developmental editor’s mind.

Here are his 5 steps (with explanations in the article…):

  1. Be true to the narrative voice
  2. Assure the characters’ credibility
  3. Attend to the plot
  4. What does it all add up to?
  5. Is it a satisfying, organic story?

Do go read Marc’s full article, especially if you just finished one or more early drafts…

The other article is Writing: How to Self-Edit Your Novel by Jessica Bell.

Jessica gives you some powerful ideas for what she calls editing piece by piece and has a book to back it up—Polish Your Fiction: A Quick & Easy Self-Editing Guide—but I’ll only excerpt the bit that clearly shows the wrong way to self-edit:

“…let’s say you’ve read through the first chapter of your manuscript and the only error you notice is the word cafe lacking the accent on the e. Easy. You fix it. And you make a mental note to catch that as you go along.

“But in the next chapter, you come across an awkwardly structured sentence, an embarrassing grammatical error, a character that is speaking in a way that sounds like another character, and you seem to have used the word look way too many times in one paragraph.

“That’s a lot to fix. But you do it fix it, and all seems like it’s in order.

“But guess what? You were so focussed on fixing these things, that you didn’t notice the other instance of cafe lacking the accent on the e. And now that you’ve reworded a few things, you’ve also buggered up your punctuation, and introduced a new spelling mistake. Whoops.”

I know I have at least one editor who reads this blog (perhaps she’ll add a comment…) but I have many writer-readers—hoping they’ll all add to the Comments :-)
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Editing ~ By Writers & By Editors . . .


Last night, I was sitting in the Writers’ Block Cafe on Book Island in Second Life.

There were four other writers there and we got to talking about editing our own writing—sometimes called revision—though mere editing of improper grammar or clunky sentences is much different than the larger task of Re-Visioning

One of the writers, Barbara, the Correspondent for our weekly newsletter, revealed that she loves the process of writing but often doesn’t quite know what to do after the initial act—“I just have trouble seeing past what i think I’m writing down on paper…”

Another writer, Arton (Jane Watson in this First Life), was referencing WebSites for Barb to help her find editors.

Yet another writer, Nicole, indicated yet another take on writing vs. editing and, today, messaged me saying, “To write is human. To edit is Divine.” :-)

Jerry, a writer with extremely unique habits, said, “I like editing. I hate doing the original.”

Then, Dedee came in and we moved on to talking about coffee, tea, and, well, basically, just having a good time

Writers must always do as much editing as they can on their own, if only to assure themselves they’re turning over an adequate version of their work to the folks who specialize in the editing process.

In the previous post, 4 Very Different Language Sites, I mentioned a WebSite that specializes in writing about editing—the English Editing Blog by English Trackers, an online outlet for professional editing services.

Here’s their description of their blog:

“Here we discuss this ever-changing language and the role it plays in both our business and personal lives. How words and expressions become extinct, how new trends give rise to new vocabulary, and so much more… Come join the discussion.”

The subsections of the blog are interesting in themselves:

Editing

Funny

Informative

Interviews

Guest Posts

Language News

Translation

Proofreading

Having trouble with your self-editing?

Having trouble knowing what a good editor could do for you?

Not up to speed on the changes in what’s “acceptable”?

Do, please, explore the English Editing Blog and come on back and let us know what you found!

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Diagramming Sentences ~ A Lost Art?


I have no doubt that the English language is always changing—usually extremely noticable in time-spans of centuries.

Still, grammar has remained remarkably stable—except for certain maverick creative writers.

Some folks gain the title “grammar nazi” while others leave all that boring stuff up to an editor.

Grammar is a branch of linguistics that deals with syntax and morphology (and sometimes also deals with semantics).

I still remember slowly slogging through books on grammar but spending hours happily diagramming sentences.

If you’ve never seen a diagrammed sentence here are a few examples (images from Wikipedia):

If you’d like a good read about the history of sentence diagramming, check-out Kitty Burns Florey‘s article in The New York Times, A Picture of Language.

Kitty says: “The curious art of diagramming sentences was invented 165 years ago by S.W. Clark, a schoolmaster in Homer, N.Y.”

Did you ever do sentencing diagramming?

Was it taught to you in school or did you learn it on your own?

Over the years, I’ve asked many folk if they’d heard of the technique but found very few who have

However, with many people considering self-publishing and simultaneously being unable to afford an editor, I thought I’d add a few links where you can learn it.

The first resource, called simply Diagramming Sentences, includes the download of a Power Point presentation so you can watch diagrams being constructed.

It begins with this quote by Gertrude Stein: “I really do not know that anything has ever been more exciting than diagramming sentences.

The next resource is called Sentence Diagramming and begins with this rationale for learning it if you edit your own work:

“…we need to know how to recognize complete thoughts and how to vary our sentence structure. This makes our writing more coherent as well as more interesting to read.”

The last resource, 500 Sentence Diagrams, amongst many other aids, includes sentences diagrammed from Charles Dickens, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Graves, Edith Hamilton, Henry Fielding, Thomas Wolfe, Oliver Goldsmith, Sir Walter Scott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and John Milton.

Hope these help :-)

If you explore this technique, I’d love to have you report your feelings in the Comments.

And, of course, if you learned it in the past, please let us know what you think in the Comments
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