I’ve been working on a couple of novels over the past few months. The rough drafts are easy enough. The revisions have been more of a challenge. The editing is enough to make me consider employment in either the food service or housekeeping professions.
As a blogger, I have never had the luxury or burden of an Editor. With the exception of the on-board spell checker, I’m free to rattle off my thoughts in as random and scatter shot a fashion as I choose. And hence, I have a blog with a readership that must reach at least the teens.
Blogging has always been a more personal form of expression, like countless others before me, I’ve used it as an online diary and a platform for the occasional rant and just to get in a few hundred words now and then. Writing novels, well, that means writing for an Audience. Which means thinking about what that Audience might want to read. And most problematic, it means the use of a few Standards of Grammar, Punctuation, and Story Structure. Oh the horrors.
editing made easy by Bruce Kaplan is a wonderfully slim little book on whipping a manuscript into shape. He leaves all the higher level nonsense about Three Acts and Compelling Characters and Eliciting Emotion off to one side. That is the stuff of writing and revision.
Editing is the art of making it readable. Yes, as many an aspiring writing has come to learn, the people who work at Magazines and Book Publishing Companies have this odd notion that submitted works have to be as close to perfect as possible when they get them.
This means they don’t really care how exiting! the story is, if the first sentince is a run-on with three mis-spelled words and two mis-used hyphens, that is all they will ever see. Narrow minded twats. Don’t like fragments either.
Editing Made Easy: Simple Rules for Effective Writingis a fun little book. The chapters are tiny, often just a couple of pages. The rules are simple and yet, sometimes they are still damned hard to put into practice. Once a sentence is written, it has this desire to live, to continue its existence exactly as it was born. This makes it hard for me to change from Passive Voice to Active Voice sometimes. His examples are clear and easy to understand, but I still find myself stumbling.
Too many books on Editing are bogged down with esoteric instructions that have left me dazed and confused, though I did find the advice on avoiding cliches to be useful.
There are a couple of bits of concrete advice that I found very useful. He has a list of words to remove from your writing. This list includes: of the, that, there were, there are, there was, and of course, never use an exclamation point. I was amazed at how much tighter my sentences were once I went through and remove most of the instances of these words.
I still found rules that put me to sleep as I read their three page chapters. Overall, following the advice offered by Editing Made Easy has improved my novel and made it more readable. So for that I am thankful to Bruce Kaplan.