Thursday, July 19, 2012

Editing Tips For Your Draft

It’s Grammar Time!

I've been reading more posts about how we process revisions on our manuscripts. Well, I don't have a manuscript yet because I've been procrastinating for the past 5 years! However, I do have many short stories, blog posts, and essays which have had their share of "polishing".

In the past 3 years, I've received much feedback from my critique groups and my instructors at Gotham Writer's Workshop, but I’ve also learned to critique with what I call my 5 Scans.

1. I scan for ' you'

Notice the space before. My intention is to find all instances of "you", "your", and "you're" without picking up words like “bayou”. When you write, I'm sure your mind isn't on every single use, or misuse, of words you may have typed. This is why it's important to do this scan. I cringe whenever I see these types of mistakes published, so I'm sensitive about finding them in my own work. And, I do find them!

2. I scan for ' the'

Notice the space before. I do this because my intention is to find all instances of "their", "there", and "they're". However, I don't want my word processor to highlight "bathe". I do this for the same reason I do the first scan above. If you don’t understand these first two scans, please email me.

3. I scan for 'ly '

Notice the space after. My intention here is to find and eliminate as many of the "ly" adverbs as I can. My instructors hated them, and now, so do I.

4. I scan for 'start' and 'began'

If written in past tense (obviously I will scan for 'begin' if I had written in present tense). There are so many times we want to write things like:

It started to rain.

Well then, did it stop right away or did it continue? If it continued then it didn't start to rain, it obviously rained.


He began to sing and his voice was heavenly beautiful.

He sang, didn't he? If you heard him sing and his voice was beautiful, then he didn't just begin to do it. He did it. He sang!

5. I scan for ' that '

Notice the spaces before and after? How many of these irritants do you think I found in the last critique I did? 82!

If you're referring to an object, switch it out with "which" and if you're referring to a person, switch it out with "who" or "whom", whichever applies. Better even, if you can eliminate it altogether and make it more active, do it.

The blue boat is the one that won the race
The blue boat is the one which won the race
The blue boat won the race.

He was the one that met me at the park.
He was the one who met me at the park.
He met me at the park.

This is the dress that I wore to the prom.
This is the dress I wore to the prom.

So those are the 5 scans I do, no matter what I've written. My drafts always have these basic mistakes, but I don't want to worry about them while I am compiling and being creative. However, I don't want them to slip through the cracks, causing me a great deal of embarrassment.

Do you scan your work? And if so, what words do you scan for and why?