Self-Mutilation…er…Self-Editing

By: Karen L. Syed

You've got that blessed first draft completed and now it is time to jump from the frying pan into the fire. You've got to clean it up and get it ready for submission. The first thing you need to do is to set it aside and give your mind some space from it so you can go back to it with fresh eyes. Don't go back to it with the mistaken idea that it will just need a little tweaking. You are going to need to do some serious overhauling on that baby and the more comfortable you are with the idea, the more productive your edits and revisions will be.

Okay, you've taken some time and now you are ready to rip that mother up! Make sure you have all the tools you need.

A back-up ink cartridge or toner.
A fresh ream of paper for printing out your chapters.
A highlighter or two.
A notepad.
A dictionary.
A Thesaurus.
A Tape recorder with a couple blank tapes.

Now that you are prepared, make sure that you have a couple of hours each day where you can go off alone with no interruptions. Build yourself a comfortable little nook and settle in.

Step one: Use your search and replace function to highlight the weak verbs. Use a different color for each word (was, were, knew, felt, seemed). Generally, these words are overused and can be replaced with stronger and more active verbs to make your work flow with ease.

Step two: Print out your first chapter. You want to work one chapter at a time. Take out your tape recorder and read your first chapter aloud. Follow along on your hard copy.

Step three: Once you have it recorded, play it back. Listen to your voice and the flow and cadence. Use your highlighter to accent anything that you stumbled over in your reading.

Step four: Get out your notepad now. Rewind your tape and listen again. This time, make notes of any words that sound awkward or out of place. If anything stands out or might make the average reader stumble, make a note of it. Listen for any words that you might use repeatedly in a short amount of space.

Step five: Set your recorder aside and focus on your hard copy now. Using your Word Grammar Check is fine, but do NOT rely on it for total accuracy. If you are unsure of the validity of a comma or the proper usage of a dash, ellipsis, semi-colon, etc. Check the spelling of those words commonly misspelled (their, there, they're, piqued, peeked, peaked, etc.) Take nothing for granted.

Step six: Go back to step one and repeat until the chapter is perfect. Once you cannot find any additional errors or necessary (learn the difference between needed and wanted) edits, move onto the next chapter.



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