Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Grab the Windex. It's Time to Edit.


By April

I hate cleaning. But I can hire someone to clean my toilets. However, when it comes to “cleaning up” a manuscript— especially after only a first draft — I can’t hire someone to do that.

Last fall, I went back to an old manuscript from a decade ago and started “cleaning it up.” I got halfway through when I realized I had only been dusting around the edges and buffing out a few scuff marks here and there. It was like cleaning with just water and not using soap.

You need soap. Think of those sudsy bubbles as your imagination and creativity. Without it, you have a so-so story. Sure, it might not have dirty grammar grime, but does it sparkle and shine?


I started over. I may have gotten some gunk off the surface with that first pass, but I needed to put some elbow grease into it. I had to look at every nook and cranny and ask myself if I was truly finished with that sentence, paragraph, or scene. What could I do to make it better?

When I did that first edit pass, I only wiped the surface and accepted the story as it was without slowing down to see any possible alternatives when it came to writing a particular section. Once I took the time though, and gave the scene some thought, I came up with better ways to say the same thing. I even added paragraphs that helped flesh out the scene, which gave the reader a cleaner picture.

Sometimes I feel as writers we get an idea in our head, write it down (in stone, practically), and stop considering any other ideas or possibilities. We also tend to skip over those areas where we are only telling and not showing. The first major editing pass is the perfect time to stop and think about every sentence, every paragraph, and ask ourselves if this is the best we could do. Each sentence counts, so make them sparkle.

When my sister and I were kids, and my Dad would tell us to wash up, we could always count on him to add, “Use soap!” So as you’re editing, I encourage you to roll up your sleeves, give the WIP a good scrubbing, and ask yourself, how can I make this piece shine? Hint: use soap.

How do you clean up old manuscripts and stories?

5 comments:

Dean K Miller said...

All I got as a kid was soap in my mouth, usually not of my own hands. So I'm trained to have someone else do it for (to) me. And you're saying I have to do it myself? Cripes, that makes the editing even less pleasant . . . but here goes!

Jerry Eckert said...

April: I'm becoming one of your biggest fans.
Recent posts have been great.

April Moore said...

Gosh, Jerry, that means a lot coming from you. Thank you. I'll try to keep it up.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Excellent post, April. I'm using heavy duty detergent with bleach to work on mine.

April Moore said...

Thanks, Pat. And sometimes, I find I need a high-powered washer or even a blowtorch.

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