Editing tricks you might not know of

Officially back up to my waist in editing, slicing away chunks of backstory, re-writing chapters, cutting and polishing, polishing and cutting. I’m sure you know by now this is not my favorite part of the writing process, no matter how necessary.

However, I have learned a few things over the years, from other authors and my own explorations, that make the job just a little bit easier. Here’s my short list.

1. Track Changes

The tool bar in word is full of goodies that make editing just a little easier. You surely have visited it for spell check and word count, but have you ever tried out track changes? What it does it literally makes note of every single period you add, sentence you delete, and word you correct. Turn it on when it’s time to edit. On the drop down, choose “final” to work and you won’t see anything different, but when you’re done for the night you can look at “final showing markup” for a view of everything you did, and you can even go back to view your “original” and “original showing mark up” if you’re still wondering if you should have cut that third chapter.

This tool is especially helpful if you feel like you’re spinning your tires in editing. Seeing lines and lines of red crossed out text can be very motivating.

2. Find and Replace

This Edit tab favorite helps in two ways. The first is if you have a persistent misspelling or misuse of a word. For example, a novel I wrote had alot of big trucks in it. Through most of writing of the novel I referred to them as rigs. Later, after talking to a trucker, I decided to change the term to semis. Find and replace was much easier than trying to scour the entire novel for every time I used the word. However, use this with caution. If you do not set your preferences right, it will replace every instance the letters appear together. So there were alot of refsemierators and that was not alsemiht.

The other use of find and replace is to go through and find your weaknesses for you to make it obvious when you are doing a read through edit. For example, say you have a tendency to use passive verbs too often. Replace all your “had”s with capital “HAD” so that it is glaringly obvious what sections need work just as you are scanning through. Or you overuse the word “juxtapose” change it to “NEW WORD ALREADY!!!”. You want to keep it in caps so that it is unlikely you will miss one of these helpful pointers and send it to your editor.

3. Hemingway App

This app will not make your work like that of the American master, however it will help you eliminate run on sentences, passive voice, and awkward phrasing. It will run a formula that let’s you know what reading level your story is coming out on giving you an idea how “easy” your story is to read.

If you enjoy flowery prose, long descriptions and elaborate metaphors, this may not be for you. The Hemingway App is just an app. It can’t tell you that your comparison of a broken heart to a sinking sunset made it cry. It can’t laugh at your sarcastic account of a bank robbery. It can only count how many passive verbs you use and how many run on sentences you got going. Plot holes, character confusion, POV issues are beyond it’s realm of expertise.

4. Text Readers

There are several free programs available that will read your text back to you in a sorta kinda natural voice. I cannot emphasis how helpful this step can be in editing your story. No matter how much distance you get between yourself and your story, the lines will still run together fluidly as you read silently to yourself. If you can read it out loud to a friend you will find a dozen or so issues you would have missed. If you have it read aloud to you, you will find even more.

Awkward phrasing, redundancies, even plot flaws you hadn’t realized will all become apparent when listening as opposed to reading.

5. Notes File

Ideally, you would have had a notebook or a file started while you were writing your first draft, but if you didn’t need one or didn’t get around to having one, no big deal. However, now that you are editing, this is more than important. This is where you keep all your research, this is where you note any serious plot, character or writing issues that you will have to work out. This is where you can paste sections that you think you might not want to ax completely but need to move out of the way for now. If you use a program like Scrivener (a very helpful tool that I have not had the chance to try out yet) you can keep a note right with the text file, but if you’re comfy with your Word, as I am, you can make a separate file that you open while you’re working or you can use the footnotes option. Just keep it digital so that you can copy links, pictures, and text easily.

Do you have any editing tricks? Please share them in comments!

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