A Few Self-Editing Tips

First in importance in writing fiction is telling the story. Second is absolute clarity. Third is the language. All three need to be integrated in really good writing.

Nonfiction should be written like fiction with a good mix of dialogue, narrative and action.

Be sure your story actually begins in the right place. It needs to be when something exciting is happening. You can bring in the back-story and other such information in bits and pieces as the story moves on. Is the plot clear and compelling?

Always show us the most important scenes rather than telling about them. On the other hand, use narration to bring information to the reader that’s necessary for him/her to know, but not exciting enough for a scene. Be sure that events are in the right order and the scene builds toward a satisfying climatic payoff.

Editors and publishing houses have preferences for things like ellipses and dashes, and other punctuation. This is what I prefer:

The less punctuation the better. Often a sentence with a lot of commas and semicolons might be a lot better if it was more than one sentence. Don’t use semicolons in dialogue. I tend to overuse ellipses for pauses in dialogue when a comma would be enough. Use exclamation points sparingly. Say it so the reader knows there’s a punch without the! In fiction skip the parenthesis, instead use dashes. Check your sentences to make sure they are varied in length and construction. They should be vivid, move the action, have sensory detail.

Use single quotes inside dialogue, double quotes in narrative.

When a noun serves as an adjective for another noun, connect with a dash as in two-way street.

First do all the obvious things–run the spell-checker.

Watch out for those words that are spelled the same but mean something different. You’ll need printed copy to check for those.

Compound words can be tricky. Check a dictionary when not sure.

All right–two words--still seems to be preferred usage by editors.

I/Me I is used as the subject of the sentence, me is used as the object. Example: I am going to town. Mary will go with me. Mary and I will go to the zoo. John will go with Mary and me.

Lay/Lie: Lay means to place or put down. Lie means to recline. Example: Lay the book on the table. Lie on the bed. Lie: lay, lain, lying–Lay: laid, laid laying

Remember it’s is the contraction for it is. Its is possessive.

Look for the words you must often overuse such as that, just.

(Continued tomorrow. Don't forget to check out the blogs on my tour.)

Wednesday, March 2
Guest blogging at The Hot Author Report
Thursday, March 3
Guest blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner
Friday, March 4



Holli said…
I get lay and lie mixed up so much I usually change the sentence so I don't have to figure out which one to use. Very concise and easy to follow editing tips, and a great reminder for me while I'm editing to turn in Jambalaya's manuscript.

Holli Castillo

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