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Editing: The Next Step
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Yesterday I mentioned printing out your document in two columns, using a font different from the one you use to write your manuscript. The advantages: Your eye sees things differently. First, the line breaks will come at different places. This means the words line up differently, and things you haven't noticed will jump out at you. Also, the narrower columns mean your eye can take in a whole "line" much more easily.

I also said I prefer to print it out single-spaced, and I use an 11 point font which is still easy to read, but saves paper. The idea on this read is to read the manuscript like a book. I'm reading for story. Here, I'll try to read in larger chunks. I keep my red pen handy, and a stack of Post-Its.

(Confession – I started this manuscript while we were in the process of moving, and didn't use my tracking board. So I was actually going back and doing a lot of what I SHOULD have done as I was writing – but either way, it gets the job done.)

And, because I hadn't used my tracking board, I read each scene and then summarized it on a Post-It. One thing I do leave in when I print the manuscript is the page break between chapters. This gives me room for my Post-Its and also any other notes I think will be helpful. I also decided that I'd never write another manuscript without my tracking system. Saves a lot of effort in the read-through.(And if you click to enlarge the images, you'll know why I don't write longhand!)

On this read, I marked things I knew I needed to fix: typos, more crutch words, formatting errors—anything that jumped out at me. For example, I noticed that my characters seemed to "beam" a bit too often. When I'm ready for the next phase, I'll go back and use the "Find" function to see if I've unearthed yet another crutch word.

I also kept another sheet of paper handy, and when I found phrases that seemed to repeat, or a plot point that went nowhere, or something that needed to be inserted, I jotted it down. If I found the perfect place to insert something, I'd note it on the page, and/or on the Post-It.

Example: The heroine (Elizabeth) is running from an abusive husband. Even though she's had help creating a new identity, she's lacking the skill set she needs to assume her new life. The hero (Grinch) is helping her. Since he's a covert ops agent, this IS part of his skill set.

After his tutelage, she's trying to be observant without being conspicuous. He's helped her zero in on distinguishing characteristics. One of the things he told her to look at was someone's ears. I know they're distinctive and can be helpful in identification. However, by the time I got to the end of the book, nobody had picked out either a villain or a red herring based on ears. Since I'd waved the flag in front of the reader, yet never followed all the way through, I made a note to go back and get rid of those bits.

In another scene, I had Elizabeth paying very strict attention to a woman in the grocery store. She showed up again in another scene. BUT that was it. She turned out not to have anything to do with the mystery plot. I did want to show Elizabeth practicing her observational skills, so instead of following one person, which waves that red flag to the reader, I cut the second sighting, and instead, had her notice a few more distinctive shoppers. She can then relay these descriptions to Grinch to show off her skills.

One of Grinch's skills is singing. I like my characters to have some "real life" expertise beyond the primary plot. I discovered that I'd written a scene where his son refers to their special "good night song" yet hadn't given him one. When I wrote one in there, I realized it had potential to open up a conversation with Elizabeth that would reveal a bit more about his character. So, I have a note to find the best place to work that in. (Or cut it entirely if it bogs things down)

Once this is done, I'll take my printout back to the computer and start making the fixes I've marked.