I wear two very distinct hats: Instructor of English and Author. The “Instructor of English” in me has been called “harsh” and “critical,” but I can spot a run-on a mile away, and I won’t let that comma before the coordinating conjunction go missing (Oxford Commas Forever!). The “Author” in me loves fragments. I use them religiously. And sometimes I start sentences with a coordinating conjunction. And I eliminate articles (a, an, the) for voice purposes.
So . . . I’m working with two completely different mindsets during any given day. Grammar Nazi vs. Creative Freewriter.
I’m pretty good at keeping the two from crossing. The exception to this?
The editing process. I tend to edit as I go anyway, re-reading over passages written the day before and tweaking as necessary. . . .
I also read and re-read and re-read and read aloud—again and again and again.
The problem with reading straight through an ms is that I get sucked into the story and lose track of pages—I already know what I’m going to say, so my eyes just gloss over—I’ve read the page so much it loses all meaning. . . .
Sound like you? Yeah. I hear ya.
So, to combat this, there is always one editing strategy I undertake soon after I have what I feel is my final “story” draft (no more changes to plot/character, etc.).
I edit line by line.
I edit line by line in a non-linear fashion.
All this means is that I open my MS Word document, scroll to a chapter (four, maybe?), and I read a sentence. If that sentence sounds okay—if it’s structured the right way or I can’t embellish or find a better word for what I’m trying to say, I highlight it yellow. And then I scroll to chapter nine (Eleven? One?) and find a new sentence to look at. If I like it, I highlight it yellow. If I think it could be better, I tweak and adjust. Then I highlight it and move on.
The next day, I open my document and read all of the yellow passages. If they sound okay, I highlight them blue. If not, I tweak. Sometimes they stay yellow—to be read the next day.
What I’ve found is that this forces me to really look at what I write—what I’m trying to say—and this is the most effective way to do it. Notice I didn’t say “fastest.” For each manuscript I write, this can take anywhere from 2-4 months (depending on my work schedule. Nope. Can’t write full time, yet.).
All this to say: if you struggle with the editing process or tend to “rush” through your ms, try highlighting as you go—and don’t read the sentences in order.
Go line by line, word by word. Highlight yellow. Come back later, re-read. Highlight blue. All the way to The. End.
Slow and steady wins the race. Always.
Katie Klein is a diehard romantic with a penchant for protagonists who kick butt. Her YA contemporary romance, Cross My Heart, is an Amazon Teen Top 100 Bestseller and was a 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee for Best YA Fiction.
She doesn’t really think you only have to highlight in yellow or blue. You can use purple. Or green. Or pink. Or….
You can find her on the web at www.katiekleinbooks.com, http://katiekleinwrites.blogspot.com/, or https://twitter.com/#!/katiekleinbooks.