Wednesday, April 27, 2011

5 Best Pieces of Editing Advice

As a writer, I find the editing process a royal pain in the you-know-what. My wish is to one day write perfect prose in the first draft. No need for spell check or the grammar tool in my Word doc. Just sheer perfection. Every word a gem.

Like that's ever gonna happen.

Actually, I've come to terms with this. After you've been rejected by superagents, editors, magazines, and ezines as many times as I have, you start to take away a few things from the experience. I've discovered a common thread in some rejections and have tried to use them to my advantage. Hopefully, this strengthens my writing. I have to admit I do find myself correcting things that in the past I might not have caught. Editing has become a bigger part of the writing process for me whether I like it or not.

Today, I received a request from an agent to look at a partial for my young adult novel, Bayou Myths. Two years ago, I would have been thrilled, excited, bouncing off the walls. I still feel that way, but I'm a little more contained about it. I know the pitfalls of being too wound up about this. Writing is incredibly subjective. We all know how easy it is for an agent to read a few pages and then pass on it altogether. Pessimistic or realistic--call me what you will. However, as I started to prep the partial request, I tried to remember the best writing advice I'd ever been given in the hopes I've applied it to my manuscript.

1. Economy of Words--less is more. Just say what you need to say. Hmm...sounds like a song or something.

2. Cut your ly words. You probably don't need them.

3. By page 100, the stakes should be clear. This advice came from a super agent, and I really try to abide by it.

4.  Its and It's--yeah, I finally figured this one out. I know, I know.

5. Leave out the back story or find a way to weave it in later. This gets your reader to ask questions, and hopefully stay with the book.

These are the things that really stick out for me.

What's the best piece of editing advice anyone's every given you?


  1. Those are all good, in my book (pun intended). The other thing that's been drummed into me is to start where the action starts. Not where the character is getting out of bed, not where the character is contemplating life, unless you're writing literary fiction (and then I have no idea what the "rules" are). Start where the story starts--but that's not easy!

  2. LOL. Kaye, unless your a literary writer... or a NY Times best seller ;) Great rules. Also one rule or suggestion as the case may be is always keep the action going forward. I learned this in my recent edits.

  3. Great suggestions, both of you. Forward movement in the action...drat, wish I had included that one in my top five!