Sunday, January 31, 2010

Editing Glitch

The long, drawn out editing process can do strange things to your mind, especially when you’re on your fourth, fifth or sixth pass through your manuscript. There’s so much to look for. Grammatical errors, places that drag, plot holes and glitches, passive voice, mistakes in continuity, misplaced modifiers, sentences ending with prepositions, too many be-verbs, adverbs, adjectives, ugly people. You also have to comb through your work, looking for crutch phrases or overused words.

In the first novel-length disaster I wrote, snickered was my word of choice. In almost every scene, I had someone snickering. It’s difficult to come up with another word to describe that Ernie laugh…the one that’s through the nose, kinda snorty, not even close to a guffaw or a chuckle…it’s a snicker. For some reason, the characters in my book were only finding things sort of funny and not hilarious enough to warrant a full-bellied laugh. As a snicker replacement, you can use sniggered or tittered, but too many of those appear and read quite silly. I try to only use one of those offbeat snickers per book. Same thing with guffaw, if it graces the pages at all.

In my latest completed novel, Kings & Queens, my main roach is huffed. While editing, I'm finding there’s a whole lot of huffin’ going on. J.L. Campbell so kindly pointing out the overabundance of huffing, so I can exterminate the bulk of those pesky verbs.

One day after hours of editing, the word THE started jumping out at me from every angle. THE was annoying me, totally and completely, until I realized its importance. It is difficult to write a story without that word, although I'm sure some feisty soul would be willing to take up the NO-THE Challenge, but I can’t even write a post without it. THE is greatly overshadowed by snazzier words like ostentatious, sprightly or sardonic. They possess flair, while THE generally goes unnoticed, sitting in the background, dissolving in shadow, waiting for recognition. I definitely recognized it. THE should be lauded. It does, after all, own total unsung power. A work of fiction can include zingy treasures like precipitation, chimera, onomatopoeia or zephyr, but without conjunctions, prepositions and articles gluing those ritzy, glitzy words together, stories, articles, blogs, etc. wouldn't make sense. [The jury's still out on poetry, which sometimes fails to make sense with or without our beloved, trusty THE. That artistic expression is in a league of its own.]

When editing, look for word and fall-back phrase infestation. Squash those buggers right quick. Some reader will notice and it will pull them out of the story. Of course, now that I brought the all-powerful THE to the stage, front and center, you may be annoyed by its seepage throughout your work. As long as every sentence does not start with THE, same thing with He, She, [insert character’s name] or I, THE will go unnoticed, like it always has from the beginning of the English language. Keep polishing. And then find a point to let go and hunt for an agent, if you don't have one already. You could be the next, great undiscovered talent, soon-to-be best-selling author. Get crackin'.

~ Signing off and sending out Cyber hugs


  1. Ooooh, I so feel your pain. My first completed manuscript had an abundance of cliches and words ending in -ing. In fact, that -ing appeared so much it might as well have been named the protagonist. Best of luck with this process! Someday it will get easier. Hopefully. :)

  2. Good post. We all have something we like and use too much. My characters tend to find humor in the strangest situations and therefore smile a lot. I’m trying to kill that tendency. :)

  3. That's funny. I always edit for different things. Sometimes i look for comma errors or crutch words. Now, I'm on the hunt for misplaced modifiers.

  4. I know. There are some words like kiss or smile that have no adequate synonyms.

  5. I ran into a block myself with my first novel. I realized that when I stopped putting much red ink on my hard copies I always print that it was time to turn it over to someone else to edit and make their comments because it was beyond me. I had worked out enough problems it meant it was good enough for me-but not necessarily others!
    Great post and keep at it, the rewards are internal often, but that only propels you into the next project with fervor and passion!
    Keep writing!

  6. Thank you. I'm glad you stopped by and enjoyed the post.