Things to Look for When Editing Your Manuscript

Good afternoon, Arrowheads! Today, we’re tackling the subject of editing manuscripts. *Shudders* Yeah, I know… editing sometimes feels akin to getting cavities filled. But, don’t fret! I’m here to help during this time of rewriting, crying, and binge-eating chocolate with today’s topic:

EditingManuscript

Okay, so first thing’s first…

Consistency

Let’s check the plot. Is it consistent? One of my biggest fears for my own writing (and a pet peeve in reading others’ writing, and watching in TV shows/movies, to be honest) is finding inconsistencies in the storyline. Oftentimes, inconsistencies occur as a result of the details being spaced far enough apart in the work that the author forgets to continue the original detail, and doesn’t noticed that the detail has changed overtime. An example of this is having your characters go to Linwood Whaley High School at the beginning of the novel, and they receive a diploma from Andrews-Harding High School at then end, without ever transferring schools. Sometimes inconsistencies will jump out at you when editing your manuscript, yet other times it can sneak by and wind up in print… something we hope to avoid!

So, what can we do to prevent inconsistent details in writing? Well, nerdy ol’ me uses spreadsheets to keep track of tons of things in WIPs, going by chapter and recording specific details when I can. Basically, for my newly finished WIP, Speak Your Mind, I maintained three spreadsheets to stay on track:

  • Character Sheet: Keeps track of characters and places them in different facets, such as main characters, schoolmates, church members, family members of main characters, etc.
  • Event Sheet: Keeps track of dates the chapters go by to prevent date inconsistencies.
  • Town/Location Cheatsheet: Central for all my WIPs because they all take place in the same region, it keeps track of the names of towns, schools, neighborhoods, restaurants, shops, churches, etc.

If you’re not comfortable creating spreadsheets, I also think a bullet journal could be just as helpful, and it could be carried around with you when you don’t have computer access.

Overused Words

Now that we’ve helped weed out the possibility of overlooking inconsistencies, let’s check for overused, unnecessary words, shall we? (Yeah, I know. Grab some coffee for this one!)

The first thing you want to do is open your Word document (or whatever digital writing tool you use) and press CTRL+F. This will open the Find/Search box for the document. Type these words in, and see how many times you’ve used them. If they occur regularly, read the sentences they’re in aloud, and work to cut out the ones that can convey the same meaning without using the word:

  • Like
  • So
  • Just
  • Thing
  • Look/Looked
  • Feel/Feeling/Felt
  • That
  • Only
  • Really
  • Seem
  • A lot
  • Adjectives ending with “ly”

If you can’t seem to cut these words (and there are many more, if you scour other writing blogs) without losing the meaning of the sentence, then by all means, keep them. One of the hardest things to do is rewriting sentences to avoid using adjectives that end in “ly”. However, it can be done.

Example

“Ly” Adjective sentence: “Aiden glanced at Victoria, blushing slightly.”

Rewritten without the “ly” adjective: “Aiden glanced at Victoria, a slight blush hinting on his cheeks.”

If you’ve abused use of the “ly” adjectives like I did in my first manuscript, it can be frustrating to change things up, but it can be done!  Your writing will only benefit from it, trust me!

POV

This is one that almost caused a minor blunder in my first release. The novel is told from the point-of-view of a girl named Riley, though two scenes in the original draft randomly cut to the point-of-view of her cousin, Trent, to show something that Riley couldn’t see. My editor had me ax it and rewrite it from Riley’s POV–albeit, limiting the readers’ as well–because it was confusing. In hindsight, I can see how that could be true for other manuscripts, unless there’s a consistent split POV throughout the course of the work.

Be Descriptive

Sometimes when we get caught up in the character’s mindset, wondering what they’re about to do in a certain scene, we fail to paint a picture or build the setting for the reader so they can join in on the vision in our heads. As you’re reading back through your manuscript, try to read it objectively, as if you had never read it before. Does the existing story convey a vivid image in your mind of what’s going on/the setting, or is it hard to image? This one is tricky for me to spot and required outside help to know where to add in details. Beta readers will be an excellent diagnosis of lack-of-description syndrome!

Well, that’s basically the four main tips I’ve crammed up my sleeve for editing. What other tips do you recommend?

-Allyson 😀

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As an author and blogger, my goal is to teach writers that there is a way to write realistic, thought-provoking, redemptive Christian fiction that honors God while not sugarcoating the realities of the world. 

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