Learning to edit

There are very few things as painful as having to cut a 6,000-word-long story down to under 3,000 words.

Still, sometimes it’s necessary. Editing and proofreading things has become almost as prevalent in my life as writing itself – I’m in the process of going through two novels for two different friends of mine (which I’ll definitely review and encourage you to buy once they get published), and last week I edited four different fanfics for teammates in the Quidditch League Fanfiction Competition. Not to mention my own work – which is significantly harder to edit, since it’s so close to my heart.

I used to be confused when I read interviews with famous authors who said that they had rewritten their novels about a million times before ending up with the finished product that they published. The concept was baffling to me. It’s already so hard to produce a quality first draft – how on Earth did they find the energy to rewrite the whole thing so many times? And once you’ve written a story, it’s mostly set in stone in your head – how much could possibly change drastically enough to require a full rewrite?

But nowadays, sitting at the computer with no less than thirty-five browser tabs, three pdf files and four different Word documents open (and all for a story that ranges between 3-6K), I think I’m beginning to understand. My writing has significantly improved over the past few years, thanks to things like the SATs that taught me to recognized when a sentence isn’t structured properly (I’ve never actually taken any English classes), and from editing other people’s work and figuring out what common mistakes we make as writers when we assume the reader will just get what we mean. I’ve rewritten and restructured short stories, and learned to go over them many times (on separate days, ideally, to try and keep a clear mindset every time). And beta readers are life savers – especially when even I’m getting confused with my plot.

Making every word mean something takes a lot of detachment, especially when there’s a flowery sentence that sounds amazing but doesn’t really contribute anything to the story. Switching between creative and critical requires a sort of blunt sincerity that I’m not used to – but it’s extremely useful, even though I have to control it when beta’ing stories for my friends, or my constructiveness will turn destructive. I’ve also found that reading snarky book reviews (see Jenny Trout’s hilarious blog) is both really entertaining and educational; sometimes after reading a ton of badly written mainstream fiction, you need someone to point out the gaping holes it has in order to avoid making the same mistakes yourself. It’s hard to notice when you’re so used to them.

And while I used to hate editing my things, I suspect that once I get back on track with my novel and actually finish it, I’ll have a much easier time going through 100K+ words and getting something of quality out of it. I know that I have a tendency to repeat words and use way too many commas, so those mistakes are some of the first things I seek out in my finished draft. I’ve become much better at punctuation and much better at cutting unnecessary things out – even though it hurts my soul, sometimes. But it’s refreshing to know that longer doesn’t necessarily mean better. You can write short things and still keep the same quality content.

(I’m still in pain about that story, though – I actually posted two versions. But I’m learning to let go.)

(also, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to put any editing energy into my blog. I’m lazy like that.)

What’s been your experience with editing? Please tell me in the comments!


Last week I wrote A Tapestry of Bruises for the QLFC, a Harry Potter fanfiction competition. I’ll be posting a new story within the next few days.

I have some pretty intense exams coming up this weekend, so please keep me in your thoughts! And if you see me on tumblr too much, please yell at me. I should be finishing the next chapter of The Malfoy Case sometime next week… I don’t want to focus too much on that and end up getting a bad grade.

Useful links for the stressed writer!

I’m extremely busy at the moment, working on my own stories, editing my own work, editing friends’ work and studying for upcoming tests… but what I’m doing in between all of this is a ridiculous amount of research about the writing world. Since I came across so many great sites during my adventures, I thought it might be good to share them with you, since you might find them useful, too!small

Clever Girl Helps – For all your reference help and advice! Possibly the easiest and most comprehensive tumblr writing blog I’ve ever found. You can ask things, but you’ll probably find all of your answers somewhere in their tags. I think I’m writing most of my novel thanks to this blog.

Cathy’s Comps and Calls – I’m poor and not really earning any money right now, so finding writing contests worth my while that don’t require an entry fee is tedious work. Thankfully, this wonderful person compiles writing competitions and calls for submissions by deadline–and they’re all free!

Tip of my Tongue – You’ve probably heard of this one already, but it’s great to have when you can think of the definition but are having a hard time coming up with the actual word.

Writing With Color – I literally just found this a few hours ago, but it’s a great blog for advice writing characters of color. In my opinion, no matter what your character’s ethnicity is, you should really read at least a few of their posts. They’re great.

Writing Contests – Another well-organized list of contests that you can filter through tags according to what you’re looking for!

The Review Review – Okay, so I haven’t had the time to go through everything, but the two articles I did read are extremely useful to me when it comes to submitting work to literary magazines and trying to understand what editors are looking for.

Have you discovered any other great sites lately that might help us tackle the challenges of the writing life? Please share them with the rest of us in the comments!


*and do I know why there’s a rat on that pile of books? No, I don’t, but I suppose he’s an intellectual rat.

Seven words I constantly misspell

At day #12 of NaNoWriMo, I’m quickly realizing the words that I seem unable to spell correctly no matter how many times I write them.

It’s absolutely ridiculous. I know how to write these words -at least, some part of my brain must know, because I correct myself every time- but no matter how many times I write each one of these words, I always end up misspelling them; even if I literally wrote them last less than a minute ago.

So, here it is… the list of words that I’ve compiled over the past week and a half, and will probably misspell again, now that I’m writing them:

 Misspell: I KNOW. It’s Misspell, but I always write mispell. You don’t know how many times I made this mistake while writing this post. I need to learn to think of the word as Ms. Pell; maybe that’ll help.

Career: I always write carreer. Maybe it has to do with my knowledge of Spanish, and that’s why I identify the ‘r’ sound as ‘rr’?

OppressionRemember that post I wrote sometime ago? Yeah, well, I kept writing opression the entire time.

AcrossI write accross. I don’t know why.

OccasionallyWell, there already are two letters that are written twice… so I might as well go all out and write it occassionally…?

Triumphant: For some reason, it’s always thriumphant. Which actually sounds a bit more triumphant in my brain; I really like how it sounds. BUT THAT’S NOT HOW THE WORD IS.

 Possess: It’s four ‘s’ in a single word; which, in my opinion, is a little weird, but whatever… it’s still not okay to write posess. That would be like the feminine of pose, or something.

 

I’m sure there are more, but those are the ones I’ve noticed lately. I hope I’m not the only one who can’t seem to learn how to spell things properly!

What words are your constant enemies?


If you feel like procrastinating a little more today, here’s  my interview at The Kelworth Files, where I talk about writing, breakfast, and share a weird picture of a giraffe. You won’t regret it.