Monday, August 2, 2010

My Editing Machete by Lori Hebert Leger

My WIP needs work. I have to admit I’m pleased with it. I’m hoping to launch it as the first in the sequel WHEN some bright, talented, agent/publisher with excellent taste realizes what a gem he’s got.

First I have to shorten the word count. This first draft is around 116,000 words – 16,000 to many. So, should I use the highlighter method where you highlight conflict and dialogue scenes in yellow, characterization in pink, and setting in blue? Then go back and delete or cut back scenes with too much pink or blue. That should eliminate any pages that don't contain enough white space/dialogue, right? Not as easy as it sounds.

I've adopted my own method of eliminating words. Once I finish the first draft, I read the entire thing again from the beginning. At first it’s difficult to switch gears from the create/write mode to the slash/edit mode. The first edit pass is where I find the obvious mistakes I've made; those pesky typos that my selective dyslexia seems to allow over and over again. You know, typing a V when I need a B or vice versa...agian instead of again, or God forbid I have to type the word Calcasieu. Inevitably, I'll type a y instead of a u…Calcasiey Parish? Must be a case of lazy fingers. That’s what my old spinster high school typing teacher, Miss Nora Saltzman would call it. Yes, I said TYPING classes…on a real electric Olivetti typewriter. ddd aaa ddd, dad dad dad. I’m that old.

Sometimes my laptop conspires against me. If my thumb touches the pad, the cursor will jump four lines and cause me to delete text I shouldn’t have deleted or add dialogue where it doesn't belong. A big problem, especially if I get distracted before I fix it. I go through the entire thing, and make the obvious corrections. When I’m done, I do it again. I start from the beginning and go all the way through it to catch even more wasted words and typos. Then what? I go through the whole thing at least one more time and read it aloud. If it doesn't sound natural, I fiddle around with it until it does. Or I cut it out, whichever gives me the best results.

It used to kill me to cut out complete sentences, but trimming two manuscripts of 140,000 words down to 95,000 and 100,000 words cured me of that little problem. Now when I edit, I eagerly look for paragraphs, or better yet, entire scenes that I can delete using my editing machete. There's nothing more torturous than getting rid of 40,000 words by deleting 4 or 5 at a time. I must admit it’s made me a better writer. It forced me to tell the story without all the extra weight and wasted space. I now find editing to be a piece of cake. Need to slash 5,000 words? Easy cheesy, folks; just let me get my machete.

Happy Writing…and Editing,
Lori Hebert Leger
Lori Leger has only been writing seriously for two years. In that time she's completed five full length novels in the Women's Fictional Romance genre. Visit her website HERE.

1 comment:

  1. Great. That's how I cut words too. We're in good company. Larry McMurtry does the same thing -- that's how I came up with the idea.