Editing tricks

A few weeks ago I turned in my final edits for Incarnate 3. This was both exciting and scary! And it took a lot of revising to get to this point.

Like any writer, I have several stages of editing. I make all my big changes before I worry too much about the prose, but once the story itself is in good shape . . . then what? I go through the story in Scrivener and adjust anything that looks gross.

  • Lines that don’t fit.
  • Remnants of plot threads I snipped.
  • Conversations that need to be expanded or shortened or guided in a different direction.
  • Places that need more/better foreshadowing.
  • Places that are thin on details and/or emotional responses.
  • Multiple scenes that serve the same function. (I usually try to get these in the bigger-picture edits, but sometimes these are added during those edits and don’t become apparent until I’m focusing on smaller things. I combined two consecutive scenes in ASUNDER because they both did the same thing.)

If I have critique partners who are reading this late in the process, I look at their notes. I look at my editor’s notes. By the time I’ve done all this, the story and prose are pretty good. Hopefully really good and close to final. But hopefully and close aren’t good enough.

After double-digit drafts of the book — with multiple versions flying around my head — I start becoming blind to the story. (This is why good crit partners and editors are invaluable.) Knowing the book is going to come out like this (well, after copyedits and final proofreading), I have pretty good incentive to do a couple more reads to make sure it really is as good as I think it is.

So I have a few tricks I use to help make the story look new to me.

Goodreader: This iPad app costs a few dollars, but it’s been worth it for me. Goodreader allows you to annotate PDF files with comment bubbles, new text, freehand drawing, strikethroughs, and other things. (I use this for doing critiques now, too. People seem to like it. Especially because I’m mentally twelve years old and draw stick-figure pictures.)

Instead of printing out the manuscript when I’m ready to line edit, I send the file to my iPad and leave the computer to get some work done. It helps my focus, and it’s useful seeing the manuscript in a different format and font. Marking it up is easy. I do, however, have to add all my edits into Scrivener manually, but that gives me another chance to look at my changes and decide whether I like them or I can do better.

Text-to-speech: I don’t know about Windows PCs, but all new Macs have a text-to-speech option. You can find the settings for it under VoiceOver Utilities. (I like the “Alex” voice.)

This is really easy to use. Just highlight the text you want read, or place the cursor where you want the computer to start reading . . . and select “start speaking.” I use this feature in my final revisions to identify word repetition, missing/extra words, and places where the prose just doesn’t flow nicely. It’s also hugely useful for me to listen to a monotone, unemotional voice read my story. I hear the words, not what I feel when I read them in my head.

(A lot of people recommend reading your own work aloud to achieve the same thing, but I find myself reading — with feeling — the words I think I wrote, not the words I actually wrote.)

What about you? Any nifty tricks for seeing (hearing!) the story in a new light for your final edit?