Anyway, before I get into the heavy stuff I'll quickly update about the whole publishing thing. Since I last posted, mostly I've been getting form rejections. But yesterday I received another request for a full manuscript and another request for a partial! And the full request was from Laura Langlie who is Meg Cabot's agent! (*Squee*) I hear she replies fast though, so for all I know she could reject me in the next two minutes. But hey, at least she requested the full. Plus, Katherine Boyle is still reading my full, too. So *FINGERS AND TOES CROSSED*
Now onto EDITING.
Okay so a while back, someone requested that I write a post on editing. My response was something along the lines of "HAHA You are asking the wrong person." It's not that I don't like editing, or that I'm bad at it. It just scares me, since it's such an overwhelming process. I remember the innocent days when I thought "editing" just meant you fixed all the typos, and you were done! Huzzah! But noooo … There are all these horrible things called "plot holes".
But before I can go on a long angry rant about that, let's approach this in a more organized manner. So I guess I'll share how I, personally, go about editing. That doesn't mean there's a "right" way to do it, but this is my advice.
1. Once you finish writing your first draft, don't attack it right away. Let it sit for a while. Enjoy that wonderful "I finished writing a book" feeling. Start writing something else. I wait months and sometimes years to edit things … Partly because I'm a procrastinator and partly because it's good to look at a manuscript with fresh eyes when you're editing.
2. Before you start editing, read the whole manuscript first without changing anything. Take notes about things that might need work, and fix any typos or spelling/grammar mistakes you notice, but don't do anything major yet.
3. Remember: You have to pretend the book is not yours. Then you'll start thinking like "OMG, this book is my baby. I cannot kill my baby." And that's bad. You must learn to murder your children. Errr … I'm sorry, that's too morbid of an analogy. The point is, you can't help but be emotionally attached to your book. Writing a book is a long process that involves a close relationship with the story and the characters, etc. The hardest part is detaching yourself from it. Continuing with the child analogy … If you never punish a child or teach him/her anything, the kid's going to grow up to be a spoiled idiot. You have to give that child some tough love and whip him/her into shape, and he/she will grow into a good person. With books, it's the same way. Of course you love your book, but you have to teach it a few lessons. Books, like all children, have a rebellion stage, where they start to go off on their own and go out of control. You have to remind that crazy teenager who's boss! And then you have to let it grow up and make its way out into the world. :)
4. Allow someone else (or a lot of people) to read the manuscript and give feedback. And I don't mean your best friend or your grandma or your dog. It should be someone who you trust but also someone who won't be afraid to rip your book to shreds (figuratively, not literally. If you think someone would literally rip your manuscript apart, I wouldn't trust them as an editor if I were you …). Like I trust my mom, for example. Now I know a lot of people are like "Your mom? Psshhh that doesn't count!" But trust me, my mom kicks serious ass at editing. She rocks. Most of you probably can't trust your mom's because they'd be like "Oh goodness dear, what a lovely little story!" If your mom is a kick-butt editor like mine, then you are lucky. I also trust my good ninja-writer-friends who I met through Goodreads.com and now communicate with through Facebook and Skype also. It's good to have an online group of writing friends. There are tons and tons of websites to get writing feedback. Be careful about spilling writing all over the internet, but there are a lot of great websites for posting/critiquing websites, such as Goodreads (as I already mentioned), WEbook, Mibba, Critique Circle, Critters, etc. Get more than one person to read your book and give feedback. Others are better at catching the little mistakes (I find that I tend to read over my own typos hundreds of times without noticing them) and they catch the big gaping plot holes too. Now you don't have to take all of everyone's advice, but if there are patterns in the critiques (like a lot of people have problems with the same things) then you should probably change those things.
5. Make sure the writing has a good flow. A lot of readers get caught up on writing style, even if it's a great story, so this is important. When it comes to dealing with this, the first thing I do is take out all the useless words, which mostly consist of ADVERBS, ADJECTIVES, and DIALOGUE TAGS. I write these things in caps because they are evil. Well, not really. To a certain degree they're alright. But too much of any of them makes your writing sound awkward.
"Hello!" the beautiful, smart, young girl exclaimed brightly.
"Get out of my face!" the talking, purple, fat mushroom retorted angrily and indignantly.
You see what I mean? It gets ugly. (btw, I have no idea where the talking mushroom came from.) Unfortunately, I used to be obsessed with adjectives, adverbs, and dialogue tags. And sometimes the bad habit still sneaks up on me. It makes editing my old work total hell. But anyway, the point is, powerful verbs and nouns = good. Adverbs and adjectives encourage telling rather than showing, which is FOR THE WEAK. ARE YOU A WEAKLING? I DIDN'T THINK SO. And excessive use of dialogue tags exposes you as an amateur. Forget all those words like "exclaimed, shouted, screamed, shrieked, gargled" … whatever. Use them very very very occasionally, like if you REALLY need to, but not after every piece of dialogue. And if you must use dialogue tags at all, please just use something simple like "said, asked, answered" etc. This may be a shocker to you, but most of the time you don't need dialogue tags at all. *GASP* The actually interesting part is the dialogue. As long as the reader can clearly follow who's talking, there's not much use for dialogue tags except for an occasional reminder of who's saying what. We don't need to know how something is said, because it's usually implied in the context of the scene. You can pretty much tell how someone is saying something just by what they say. Like, "I hate your freaking guts you stupid talking mushroom!" … I think anyone could make a pretty good assumption of what tone that would be spoken in. You don't have to say that anyone "shouted angrily" for readers to get the idea. :P
Also, read out loud to yourself. It might feel silly at first, but it's a useful strategy. When you hear your own words out loud, it helps you get a better sense of how the writing flows or doesn't flow. And if it doesn't, you can play with it by talking to yourself until it sounds right.
6. Adding/removing scenes. Now, this is the tricky part, not really my strong point either. But I'll try. I'd say, only add a scene if you think it's necessary––like, if you need to develop a certain character a little bit more, or there's a gaping plot hole that you forgot to explain somewhere. Likewise, remove scenes if they're NOT necessary. Like maybe there's some long scene where the characters are all eating breakfast for 20 pages and nothing really happens. Maybe there are some good bits of dialogue or a great description in there somewhere, and you can still use those … just in a more interesting scene. Just because you remove a scene doesn't mean you can't take the gems out of it and use them elsewhere. But if there's a scene that drags out for too long and interrupts the flow of the story, you need to take it out. One of the worst things you can do as an author is be B-O-R-I-N-G.
Well, that's the advice I got for ya, and I hope it helps. If it doesn't, well SORRY. If it does, well YAY ME. As always, if you have questions for me you can leave a comment. :) Thanks for reading!