Dawn Montgomery

Five Things Edits Edition

In Write Talk on July 21, 2013 at 5:03 am


Five reasons it takes so damn long to get edits done

You finish your story and it’s the best. book. ever. Much cheering. Confetti Cannon. It’s all over! YAY! Let’s slap it in an email off to an editor or upload for self publishing, etc.

Hold the phone, my friend.

You’ve completed what’s called the rough draft. There’s this whole other round of cleaning up and tweaking to do called edits.

In the awesomeness of Social Media, I’ve been contacted by writerly types from all experience levels and walks of life. The conversations are enlightening and, occasionally, frustrating. So I’ve listed the five things that cause the most amount of grumbling when I start talking about edits and why they’re important. Please keep in mind, as always, this stuff works for me. Take from it what you will and discard the rest.

1. Spellcheck is not a substitute for proofreading.

This is NOT a problem for everyone, but it has become the most argued discussion topic I’ve had in the past year or so.

Don’t believe me? Check out Owed to a Spell Chequer. I’ll highlight one of my favorite passages for you:

And now bee cause my spelling

is checked with such grate flare

Their are know faults with in my cite

Of nun eye am a wear

Spell check and grammar check programs are designed as tools to help assist your writing. They are not substitutions for understanding the use of the English Language.

2. Continuity checks are a PITA, but necessary.

I’m notorious for this, and trust me, it drives me nuts when I read it in someone else’s book. If Debbie B Herogal can blow the head off Werewolf badguy and superbrother with a sawed off shotgun on page one, I’m going to have trouble believing her issues with killing things later. Likewise, if the door to her house is blue, make sure it doesn’t turn red somewhere else down the road without a damn good reason (ie, let me paint this door since it’s marred and scratched after my altercation with the werebrothers).

How do you figure out if you have them? Read through the book. In a notebook (specific to editing this particular book or series makes it easier to keep the notes in one place) write down every interaction with an object you see the protagonists, antagonists, and supporting characters use. I can hear the screams of frustration now. It’s okay. Go ahead. I’ll wait. lol.

Feel better? Me neither, but it’s necessary. WHY? Well, if you’re submitting to an editor, you’ll have to fix them anyway. If you’re submitting for self publication, you won’t find out where, exactly, you went wrong until the first bad review rolls in. That’s what an editor/editing service is for! See the first reason. You’re going to have to fix them anyway. Might as well do it now.

3. Timeline. Curse you timeline. CURSE YOU!

Debbie B Herogal wakes up at the crack of dawn and yawns, big and bright. With a quick shower, a breakfast of supercharged coffee, and a change of clothes, she’s ready to tackle the day. This lady is bad. ass. With elegant precision she locks and loads her Kimber .45, sheaths it in her bag, and steps out the door to admire the vibrant slash of a West Texas sunset.

Wait. What?

Timeline continuity is just as important as the props your character uses in the story. Jot down notes. It can be as specific as 2130: Police arrive at the scene or as vague as Evening: fight to death with two Werewolves. Police arrive at sunset. You’re already reading the book anyway. Keep track. Headaches saved later.

4. Deliver the promise. 

While you’re writing down all these little things, you have to objectively observe your characters. Is this a romance? An action adventure? Urban Fantasy? Contemporary mainstream fiction? Military Thriller? Horror? The list goes on.

There are three things we ask of every main character in a book no matter which genre it’s in.

How did you get dragged from your ordinary life?

How did you handle the life altering event thrust upon you?

Did you learn something/change from that life altering event?

The things/events that occur in the story are the heart of your character’s changes. For the better, we hope. Your chosen genre has specific promises of character growth. The event usually revolves around the genre, itself.

Here are some generic promises based on four of my favorite genres:

In Romance, love (or lack thereof) has to be a catalyst for the character’s change.

Action Adventure, the object/goal being thwarted is the catalyst.

Urban Fantasy/Dark Fantasy, the fantasy element going wrong while intricately tied to the character forces their change.

Horror, the horrific event is reason for change.

But wait! I have a romantic suspense story. It has mystery and romance. 

True. It does. So you get to track both arcs for each of your characters. 😀 So you have to evaluate how the mystery/suspense affects the hero/heroine. Then evaluate how their relationship affects their willingness to love again. THEN you get to evaluate how the romance strengthens their resolve to face off against the villain in the mystery/suspense arc. Nice. Right?

You have to deliver what you promise. To the editor. And. To the reader. If you ask the character questions above and find your character is back at square one, having learned nothing, you may want to reevaluate the character arc.

5. Formatting. 

My. Goodness.

In the past six months I have nearly come to blows over this one multiple times. Publishers have formatting guidelines. This includes self publishing ventures like Amazon. Every publisher has their own set for a reason. Many supply a template for your use. Almost all of them have their requirements listed on the site. This includes Amazon, btw. Amazon even has a free ebook available for download which lists exactly how to format for publishing, create coverart, etc.

If you don’t know the difference between an em dash and an en dash, take a second to browse youtube or do a google/bing search for the word ’em dash’. Take the extra time to do proper formatting before emailing your manuscript off or uploading it to your self publishing location. Please. The eyes of all your readers (to include editors) will thank you.

In order to do a proper edit of your manuscript, you have to do a read through. Cover to cover. There’s no way around it. Should you start working on it immediately? Some do. I’ve found that I need one to two weeks between completion and a readthrough to prevent me from screaming like a banshee in my mind.

But, now you know. LOL. Time for the Round of Words in 80 Days Update.

#ROW80 update

ROW80Logocopy1 Focus this week:

Thunder and Roses edits and submission. I received T&R back from my beta reader with some hefty notes on continuity. I broke the 190k novel down into four (mostly) equal parts. Each quarter of the book took 1-2 days. I’m now down to the final day of edits. So draining. Once I’m done with my final run of 48 pages, I’ll take the book, strip it of formatting and paste it to my publisher’s template. The novel, you see, had been changed, adapted, and edited in four different word processing programs. Mine. My writing partner. Both beta readers.  Since this has been an issue in the past, I have to take this little extra step (little. TRY MONSTROUS). To prevent italics from being lost, I put a $ in front of all italics and an * after. That way, when I’ve pasted the plain text to the new document, I can do a search for “$” and set italics again.

If you’re interested in joining us on the Round of Words in 80 Days Challenge (your own goals for the quarter!), check it out HERE.

I’m part of a fantastic group, and if you’d like to see how everyone else is doing, check out the list HERE.

Keep Writing!

  1. Editing is evil….evil. but necessary. Still don’t like it. Lol Great post!

    • LOL Thank you. Since I can butcher the English language like nobody’s business, it’s necessary for me to take a little longer breaking it down. lol.

  2. I hate editing on my own. All those search and finds for overused words, dangling participles and independent body part! It’s tiresome, and sometimes leaves the sentences less than sparkling, so it’s rewrites as well. I love editing with an editor – they find all the bits for me that need fixing 🙂

  3. Editing… ugh… the only fun thing with editing is that it means that we’re almost done 😀 Finishing a project is a great feeling. Good luck with Thunder and Roses!

  4. I’m still smiling from reading this post. Uncounted times editing and even this last time through, I’m finding an extra space here, a missing quote mark there, and heavens! A typo! As far as I know, so far no repainted doors. Yet. Your post captures the obsessive attention to detail we do pursue. Aargh! I want to read Thunder and Roses!

    • LOL! It’s something else, isn’t it? When I do a find and replace, I’ll put two spaces in find and one space in replace. It cuts all the extra spaces out in one hit. I’ll do it one more time (just in case there were three spaces at one point) and then it’s done.

  5. Excellent post! Funny we all have some weaknesses, some strengths. I obsess over timeline though I never graph it out, it just lives there before my eyes. I rarely get dinged on that issue. But I do have to go through again and again and pick out the crutch word of the week. Its never the same from book-to-book so I don’t even know what to look for!

    For big multi-book projects don’t trust your memory. I keep a Bible for series like Coalition (Belle Starr, Uncommon Whore, the Bacchi) and in a graph, keep track of alien species and their traits, planets, pronunciation, possessive and plural spellings (are they Somians or the Somian?) and then individual notes. Eye-color, personality traits and so forth. Its a headache but better than having a reader ask if its “Interdimension space” or “alternate dimension space.”

    • Oh man, the crutch word!!! The word you repeat a zillion times in a book. Every book is different. I think in on book it was the color “red”. In another, desperate. Hunger was another LOL!

      I can’t trust my memory anymore anyway, so your suggestions on the bible are fantastic!

  6. Dawn, it’s kinda funny to me. The continuity and overused words and phrases are something I do during the rough draft stage. A quirk of mine to be sure, but I’m very visual and I end up going nuts if something as simple as a being a day off in the story as I’m writing it crops up. The list you have is good, but if you’re working with a series, you need to keep in mind blocking out a calendar of days or a timeline that connects all the action of the books together and how each of the books falls within the 6 Stage Story Structure in regard to the overarching goals and conflicts of the series as well as the individual goals and conflicts within each book.

    • Great points, Qwillia! A fantastic idea and one I’m going to implement while the book is still fresh in my mind.

      I wonder what it is about the way my mind works where I can’t see continuity and overused words while I’m doing it. It might be part of the hazards of writing with someone or perhaps its the way I tend to jump around. I’m started keeping an active running timeline on each of my books to keep me straight.

  7. Another awesome post on writing basics, Dawn. I love to do some of the first edits, but I agree about working with another person who is skilled at editing. It’s a real talent that doesn’t get recognized nearly half as much as it should be,

    Your issues with Thunder & Roses sound too familiar. I actually have several versions of wordprocessing software installed on my machine just for the projects I beta read. I like your idea of having a “code” (almost like markup text) to go back and edit later. Things do get lost in translation too often as it is.

    • Thanks, Eden. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Truth-be-told I don’t know what I’d do without the editors I’ve been honored to work with. They are the unsung heroes.

      I use several other codes when I’m writing. “xxx” for instance, is a placeholder for an item or name I have to either research or comb through the book for reference to.

      • That is one of those “things”, isn’t it? The movement to thank the people involved in a project via the acknowledgements is now being derided as self-serving, but really… without our beta-readers and editors, even our patient spouses and friends, many of us would never get this far. The thanks are are heartfelt, and the placement is meant to be a tribute.

        It kind of sucks that so many good things are seen with such a cynical eye these days.

        (And yes, I do that too. Sometimes it’s best to just get the story down and eek out the details later.)

      • You know, I’ve never considered it self-serving, honestly. As a reader I rarely glance at the acknowledgements anyway. They’re names I won’t know and people I’ll never meet. It’s strange. So many little things to nit pick over…the truth is saying thank you is polite. Having a thank you in writing even more so. I say ignore the drama surrounding acknowledgements and thank whomever you want.

        I’ve thanked my editor in every book. She always removes them before publication with a sweet note sent to me in thanks. 😀

      • I never considered it self-serving either, but in reviews and critiques I’ve seen a lot of people calling it that. I really doubt those people understand how grateful we can be to those people who’ve helped us along the way, but as emphasis on using reviews as a way to choose purchases increases, it makes sense to note the trend. And thank those you appreciate as you choose. (And sometimes I read the acknowledgements, sometimes I don’t. I like to gather names for writing and characters, so lists of names is like mana for me.)

        Your editor is sweet and savvy.

  8. I love this post! Love! This is so exactly where I am in my current WIP. Continuity! Darn my sloppy Nanowrimo days! ;-] This post had me also thinking of getting two fresh notebooks – one as a Bible for continuity and facts, the other for timeline… Now I’m excited to tackle this. Any excuse to cut into or buy a fresh new notebook… =D

    Also, thank you two for talking about a crutch word! I’ve got to look for that – there’s almost certainly one in there! I’m going to add this to my grammar / language checklist I’m creating.

    And lastly, Thunder and Roses is a great title! ^_^ thx again.

    • LOL. I have a notebook…issue (I won’t say fetish, obsession, or sickness) so I feel you on getting a new notebook 😀

      Crutch words are tough to spot. I almost always need someone else to point them out to me. A way to help would be for you to write down ten words to describe each character (sometimes I think of them in terms of color too, like red for someone with a lot of passion or a hot temper). Then, run a check on each of those words. You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly if you’ve done it. The other place I use crutch words is in action sequences (to include love scenes, but I’ve always considered them action anyway LOL!). I had a novel where the heroine was desperate to win in hand-to-hand combat. Unfortunately, my subconscious was so “desperate” to get that word across, I repeated it a dozen times in two pages. My editor caught it, thankfully, because my eyes glazed over it as it checked the box on the emotion I wanted to convey.

      Glad you like the title. 😀 The two main characters are Dakota Thunder and Tonya Rose. 🙂

  9. […] sponsor post went live on the ROW80 blog this Monday.  I wish I’d read this wonderful post on editing by Dawn Montgomery before submitting it to Kait Nolan.  Those (Five) Sentences is living proof of […]

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