The Most Important Content Editing Rule for Authors

Content editing means looking for factual errors, contradictions, inconsistencies and discrepancies in plot, character and dialogue. Why do authors dread content editing? They are too immersed in their story to edit with an open mind.

The most important content editing rule for authors:
Give your work a rest;
then edit with your mind focused 
on your story’s relationship with the reader.

• Take each chapter one paragraph at a time. Search for obvious errors.

• Then focus on each sentence. Look for awkward sentences that might confuse readers and commas that change the intended meaning of a sentence or cause readers to pause where you don’t want them to.

• Check for similes and metaphors. Are they necessary? Do they make sense? Overuse distracts readers and misuse makes you look amateurish. He produced globules of liquid lava (The heat made him sweat.) He ambled forward on boney supports. (He limped.)

• Think about characters and dialog. Is it clear who is speaking? Does the dialog fit your character’s personality and historical time? How does the character react? Is the reaction appropriate? Too strong? Too quick? Necessary? Consider dialect—regional differences in speech. Water fountain/bubbler. Shopping cart/buggy. (The Dictionary of American Regional English is a helpful multi-volume resource for writers, although pricey. Look for a used set on Amazon.com or find it at your public library.)

• Zero in on technology. Do appliances, communication devices and electronics fit your story’s historical period? If set in the future would the technology have changed from present day? Choose generic terms instead of trending ones. Smart phone/phone. He made a copy on his printer and mailed it/he made a copy and sent it.

• If your book is one of a series, consider whether you have shared enough back story in the first chapters so new readers won’t be confused. Lilian Jackson Braun, author of the Cat Who mystery series always began her books with a review of her main characters. She was a master at segueing any necessary back story into her content. (If you decide to check out her work, I suggest any book from the middle of her series. The last several books were ghostwritten and not well done.)

• Finally, if your novel is with a publisher trust your editor. She, or he, is reading your work with fresh eyes. Trust that your editor’s suggestions are good ones, and be open to change.

_____________________________

Are you on Facebook? Check out my page where I post daily articles and inspiration for writers. And while you’re there, I’d appreciate it if you’ll click on the “like” button near the top of the page. Thanks!

_____________________________

*NOTE: Any ads appearing in this post were not put there by me nor do I endorse them. WordPress sometimes posts ads in exchange for hosting this free blog.

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Editing and proofreading, Tools for Writers

6 responses to “The Most Important Content Editing Rule for Authors

  1. Laurie Latour

    Excellent article, Jean! Thanks for posting!

  2. I’m going to link to this, Jean. We often hear these writer terms, but it’s refreshing to see them defined and explained.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s