Sometime in the near future, HAUNTING CHARLESTON, will be ready for first edit. I do very little editing while I write. The only thing that matters in the rough draft is getting it down on paper, following the outline as best the plot will allow, making adjustments as needed to tell the story until finally typing — THE END.
In first edit, it’s all about carving it down. Culling out the unnecessary. It’s about getting rid of any passive voice that made its way into the manuscript. I have a pretty specific strategy for doing that.
- I do a global search on the word — that. I evaluate the sentence and see if it’s needed. In a majority of cases I can find a better way to say it.
- I do a global search on the word — was. Same thing, I see how its used and ask myself is there a way to say it better. For example, A letter was written to me by Denise. (Passive voice) I would change this to the active, Denise wrote me a letter.
- I do a global search on the combination —had been. Example: David had been talking about getting a bike, becomes — David talked about getting a bike. I know these sound like no-brainers and shouldn’t be there in the first place, but in the heat of getting it down, you’d be surprised at the kinds of things that find their way into your manuscript.
- Get ruthless with adverbs. Look for any word that ends in -ly, and if it’s not absolutely needed, carve it out.
- Examine each sentence for proper tense.
- Look for cliche’s
- Look for mixed metaphors.
- Look for missing words.
- Look to replace the mundane. (Keep a thesaurus handy)
- Look for repeats. Have I said the same thing in different sentences?
- Read each paragraph, sentence by sentence, backwards. so I will read the last sentence first, followed by the next to the last, etc, etc… and I read them aloud. If it doesn’t sound right, change it.
This method is about getting it readable. It’s about carving the story down into as close a finished manuscript as possible.
Once first edit is done, I will print the manuscript and then go over it with the readers eye. I will use red ink to mark up things that need to be tightened up or expanded. More about that later.
If you re-read your work, you can find on re-reading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by re-reading and editing. ~ William Safire