Monday, June 1, 2009

The Three R's of Editing

For the past several years, I have been trying to live a greener life. Lately, I've been getting so green, I've started recycling my own underwear. On a lighter note, I've also started greening up my editing. My new editor has been working with me on Anaedor and I found that much of what I do in the editing process can be put into three categories, which I like to call the Three R's:

1) Reduce
2) Reuse
3) Recycle

Sounds simple, doesn't it?

Actually, it can be, but you've got to want it. Anyone who has tried to edit their book knows that it can be a difficult and emotionally taxing endeavor. While my editor might make suggestions about what I need to change, it's up to me to figure out how I'm going to implement those suggestions. Thinking in terms of the three words listed above is a good way to clean up your book so that it flows, doesn't waste any word, sentence, space or thought, and keeps your plot on track. It also helps you to avoid a nervous breakdown (after you get done cursing out your editor when he/she doesn't praise you as the genius that you are and tell you to not touch a thing).

So here's what I'm talking about:

Reduce: You'd be amazed at how many unnecessary words and thoughts you use. Print out your book and go through it with this thought: Does this drive the plot forward? Is this repetitive? Can the book survive without this word, sentence, paragraph, character? If you answer yes (be objective now!), then ditch the unnecessaries. Cross them right out. You'll find that eliminating 5,000 + words is actually not all that hard. Actually, I was shocked at how easy it was. Sometimes I fought letting things go, but in the end, when they were gone, I didn't miss them. I'm trying to convince my children to apply the same concept to using toilet paper (you really don't need three feet to do the job), but they aren't yet buying into it. We'll see how it goes when I make them switch to leaves.

Reuse: A lot of what you write is reusable, just as it is. Say hurray! might need to rearrange it, use it in a different way. Yes, that's a funny joke, but not right for this character. I love this phrase, but it doesn't work here. Put it here and it has much more impact. Recycling example: Milk jugs can be used for milk, but they also make great water containers for my plants, or chew toys for my dog after she steals them.

Recycle: Here is where you can use what you have, but it needs an overhaul. This is when you have the right idea, but you're not saying it the way it needs to be said. Melt it down and reform it. Perhaps you have a scene that's necessary for the book; however, it's just not coming out right. Scrap the words and rewrite the scene. Same idea, different look. As it is, this empty pop can has no use. Recycle it and voila! you have a new roof. they turn soda cans into roofs? I don't know, but I think you get the idea.

Like writing, editing is a process with definite rules. I am still learning them, rule by painful rule, and not always very gracefully. So whenever I find methods that help me maintain my sanity in this 'interesting' process, I pass them along. Give the three R's a try. You won't just be contributing to a better world, you'll be making a better book and keeping your health at the same time.

So make this your new motto: Live Green, or Die a painful, horrible death from radiation poisoning and/or an editing aneurism! Or, just live green or die.

Side note ~ Update on agent search: Stagnant. I have my new manuscript out there, but am hearing nothing back (other than the quickie rejections, which leave me feeling very unsatisfied). Remain hopeful. Have yet to resort to cannibalism.

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