Self Editing Do or Don’t? And where to start

I say DO! I can list many reasons I self edited and self proofed my novel. While I did have some help it was not that of a professional. I am not anti-professional. By all means if you have the luxury of using a professional editor, go ahead. I would have loved the help of a professional editor. However not only can I not afford a professional, I also do not know any professionals who would have done the work for free. With that being said, that was my number one reason for editing my own novel. Some say the author is too close to the work to properly edit it. While I can understand, perhaps relate and maybe even agree with that thought, I still did not feel the need to hire an editor. Call me unconventional but I feel there are many ways to explore becoming a successful author.

Even if you choose to go with professional editing, the writer is responsible for making their work as neat and tidy, and well written as is possible. Spell checking, grammar and structure are just some of the things you have to look at before you can even begin to call a story or novel publish ready. Even though I always did well in English class, I still find I make common mistakes.  One big one for me was comma use. I used to add a comma after words like however, yet, and but. It was in prepping for my GED that I was taught when you use a word that means the same as a comma, or is a way to pause then you do not follow that word with a comma. To this day I almost add a comma after but or however…then I stop and remember my GED teacher and what I was taught.

Spell Check should always be where you start, even with self editing. Spell check can be your best friend. One wise piece of advice though, pay close attention and do not allow spell check to change a not so common word into a totally different word. (there’s always a dictionary) Spell check will also help with grammar and sentence structure. It will give you suggestions on words to change or other ways to change the sentence so it sounds better or flows more smoothly. My biggest advice for spell check:do not allow spell check or grammar suggestions actually change what you are trying to say.  While spell check and grammar functions are very helpful they can actually harm when the computer is suggesting a change that either does not actually make sense, or makes your sentence or words mean different from what they had.

Ok so let’s say you got through spell check without wanting to slap the program…what next? In all honesty…re-read, proofread your work once more. Make sure that your story reads the way you want it to and that spell check’s grammar options didn’t change things in a harmful manner. Even if you take a break from editing and work on another project, that’s ok. Sometimes you need to leave things be and come back to it with a clear head.

You did spell check, you survived it’s grammar suggestions…you proofread a second time…what now? Let someone read it. Rather that be one someone or ten someones, it needs to be read by others. Not only for the reader point of view but also because others will see mistakes you weren’t even aware you make/made.  They’ll find those errors where spell check allowed a word to slide because it’s an actual word yes but it made the sentence sound like nonsense. (this has happened to me so many times I did want to give spell check a good shaking haha!)

Once you’ve allowed someone else to read and hopefully suggest editing fixes or maybe even other ways to improve your story, make the changes needed to improve the work. Be honest with yourself and make changes you know it needs. This doesn’t mean change it in ways that makes it something you don;t wish the story to be. It means do what is necessary to make it publish ready.

One part of editing I find that I do a lot of is going back over a story and seeing how I can re word things that I may have originally worded unclear or not as crisp as it should be.  I think all writers do one thing the same, we tend to write fast when ideas hit, we don;t look back and the enter key keeps going like the energizer bunny.  We don’t stop to edit, we make those common mistakes and sometimes we don’t even see it when proofreading.  Our minds have a way of correcting the error without us actually correcting it on the page. For example, when typing a sentence may become “I cannot tell you who many times I have made that mistake.” While spell check/grammar will overlook the mistake of “who” instead of “how” it’s also possible for our brain to overlook that mistake. But the point is that your reader will most likely catch the mistake. Numerous times my husband has caught typos that spell check allowed and that I did not realize were there.

So you think you’re done? Perhaps you are and your story is ready to publish.  I say perhaps, because when I went back to “A Killer’s Saga” after it had been stored away for a long time, I not only found things i wished to change to make it sound better but also some major changes to make it into a story that truly holds to me and my personality. I found that I’m very comfortable writing erotica and wanted to meld that into a story I was already very proud of, already very attached to. And now that same story is one that holds true to how I feel it should have been written from day one. So sometimes give a story some shelf time. Set it aside and when you come back to it after that shelf time, read it again. Make sure you’re honestly happy with it and that it’s truly your best work. Then work on publishing.

Happy self editing! If you have any comments, or questions, positive feedback is always welcomed.

Journal Entry-Thoughts and Advice from experience

Inspiration: Inspiration is something personal of course, and so it should be, because it’s something that gets your mind going and makes you write. I’ve probably been writing poetry since i was about 13, and a lot of my poems are on love, unrequited and lost love and as of recently, true love.  So that all came natural, a bunch of feelings poured onto the page in rhyme form, from experiences of my love life.  Rather it be a guy I cared for, one I wanted to be with, or my best works, from the love I have and share with my husband of 3 years. I’ve been asked so many times how do I write poems so easily?  Easy? Sometimes (I wanna laugh on how simple it could be.)  But I for one have to be inspired when it comes to poetry.  Only on rare occasion have i just written a poem without it coming from my own feelings.

Then there’s my works of fiction…On some level I have to be inspired, yes.  But for me it feels like ideas are always flowing through my mind, even while I’m working on a different book or story.  And with my novels and short stories I actually can sit down and pop out some kind of writing, with or without true inspiration behind the piece.  The difference is, rather or not it’s my best work.  Probably not, no.  But it is practice in wording, grammar, spelling…all the little basics down to character building.

Writer’s Block: I’m sure we’ve all had it and I’ve been asked by other friends who write, how do I get passed my own writer’s block.  One of my worst forms of writer’s block is to start a novel or story and not go back to it for the reason of being stuck mid story.  Funny enough, I find if i set the piece aside and work on something else, then go back and re read what i had done on the “writer’s block” piece, I’ll be re reading and go “Oh yeah, that’s where I was going with this one….”  And suddenly I’m back to work on the one story I got stuck on.  And when that doesn’t work, the only advice I have is not to scrap the piece, but rework it.  Rather reworking it means starting over with the idea and making it work, or using the whole idea in a new way.  Maybe the whole storyline sucked (be honest with yourself) but the characters are well-developed and are so great that you’re attached to them and they must have their own fiction world in your library of work.  Scrap the storyline and rework those great characters in a new one that will become something to love.  Yeah, reworking the storyline will be daunting, maybe seem overwhelming, but I’m betting the end result is something you love so much that it becomes something so much more than just a novel or story to you.  I guess all of this is my remedy to writer’s block.  Another is the advice we all know, write anything, just to keep yourself writing and honing skills.  Good advice?  Yes, of course.  And simple to do. Even writing a journal or blog can be a form of honing those skills.

Write what you know: While this is the most basic and realistic advice there is, I fight this theory to a point.  Now let’s not go dramatic and per-say try to write a non fiction book on “Being Mommy,”  if your a man who has no children and doesn’t know the first thing about parenting.  That’s a model for write what you know.  However, fiction opens us up to a world of huge possibilities where we’re able to stretch the limits and boundaries within reason.  I don’t have to know what it’s like to be a Detective and to hunt down a serial killer, if my research and imagination can give the reader a realistic book w/o the experience behind “being” my character, and having walked in her shoes.  Am I saying fiction allows you to skip the write what you know rule? No.  A part of me goes into each and every book or short story I write.  Simple things, do I know what it’s like to deal with sibling rivalry?  Yes I do (I grin looking at my two dueling sons.)  Do I know how it feels to need coffee just to start my day?  Yes! (I am so grouchy if I haven’t had that first cup.)  It’s obvious how those two simple things help me write something I know.  My Detective lead character feels grumbly and lost without her caffeine fix. As for the sibling rivalry example, that one opens up plenty of ideas based on life situations.  So, yeah write what you know, what you don’t know you can research and even sometimes stretch the limits.

Wow just when I thought I could end this thought, another one hits, same topic…

Write what you know probably is one of the biggest, most heard and best given advice, ok I won’t fight that point. and yet as a writer we are challenged with writing and creating believable characters, even when the character may be completely unlike us.  How do we do that? (fake screams) Best advice I ever read was to study people…how they walk, talk and behave with others.  And if you know them personally, how they react to certain situations.  Every morning when i drop my son off at school, i have at least 20 mins before my ride picks me up.  People watching time!  Now that could sound so creepy yes, but remember I’m talking about observation.  Everyday some of the same people pass by my son’s school.  Rain or shine, one passerby is always on his unicycle.  (he would make a good character basis)  My advice, grab onto any little observation like my example and boom you just may have the start of a character, or a quirk for a character you have already modeled.  Don’t be afraid to at least stretch that old “write what you know,” rule.

well that’s my thoughts for now.

Journal Entry-Random Thoughts

As someone who has always loved writing, i wonder to myself lately why I’m dragging my feet when working on the novel.  One answer…my mind is everywhere!  Now how do I put my focus back to writing?  Well for one thing, I’m actually proofing/editing my own work at the moment.  Now, while all kinds of advice columns and articles will say this is a no-no, get a pro to help, one thing to consider is I am a mom of two boys, with little income and unfortunately my passion “suffers” a bit for it.  However I refuse to believe that the pro editor is the only way to go.  Maybe I’m just too stubborn to believe everything has to work the traditional way.

I got off track a little there.  But it’s not to say I’m not actually writing at the moment.  I find I’m inspired to write at even the oddest moments, and a short story can fly out of me in 2 hours flat.  And then I have days where this got in the way, that got in the way…my toddler had a screaming fit with my 7 year old.  I will say practice is a number one rule in bettering yourself in writing.  Rather fiction or non-fiction.  And you should write something everyday, if you want to hone your skill.  Yes I procrastinate…and yes I’ve had writer’s block.  Then bam, a weird dream I had one night will inspire a short story…or at least get me pecking at my laptop keys.  Either way, the simplest thing got me writing.  Rather the dream inspired story pans out or not, it got me back to my passion…didn’t it?  I will also pat myself on the back that even if i don’t type one word of my (currently hand-written) draft up for it’s 2nd draft, I do at least look back on what I do have done so far, once daily.  Even if it means re-proofing.

Does anyone else drag their feet when writing?  Or in doing a second draft?  If so, what do you do to get back on track?  How do you keep motivated?  And what are your thoughts on self-editing and self-proofing vs a professional editor?