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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Proofing and Polishing

Well, try as I might, I couldn't hold back on editing "The Changeling Kill" for very long. I kept having good ideas to put into it and figured I might as well just dig in.

My editing/proofing/polishing method is not a true cut-and-dried process, but there are a number of things I always include. Most of them are borne out of bits of writing advice I've picked up here and there over the years.I don't do any of these in a particular order, and I might wind up doing some of them more than once.

I started this time using the find-and-replace tool in Microsoft Word to locate all instances of "ly". I know that while writing the first draft, in my eager rush to get my ideas down in words, I tend to overuse adverbs, mainly to capture a character's attitude at the moment. "He said angrily," "she sat gracefully", etc. When the tool finds a word ending in "ly", I consider if there is a better way to show what I need to show. For example, I replaced "she eased gracefully into a chair" with "she eased into a chair with finishing-school grace." Not every "ly" instance will generate a replacement, but publishers/editors/agents are quick to jump on overusing adverbs. (See my post of 4/4/2011 "Tools for Writers" for reference to the book "Write In Style." It has lots of other tips for correcting manuscript issues that drive editors nuts or make the writer look like an amateur.)

I know I also tend to use the word "that" too much. Many times, it isn't even needed. Some other words I know to look for: just, said, was, again, actually. As previously mentioned in one of my posts, I found a tool on the Internet which processes an entire manuscript and counts how many times each and every word is used and how many words separate each instance. (It's free!) This is great for fixing repetitiveness that might otherwise get missed, especially since my proofreading is on a computer screen. For some reason, repetitions are usually easier to spot on a printed page, but who wants to kill that many trees over many iterations of proofing?

There'll be another pass to make sure there are no continuity issues (things out of sequence, people knowing things before they should), and yet another to be sure I have provided enough information to convey the idea, event, or thought clearly. Another pass will be done with formatting marks on display. I've learned that not all new paragraph controls are treated equally, and they sometimes disappear when put through a program for web publishing. If the first line of a new paragraph does not show a little right-pointing arrow, I'll correct it with a shift+tab. In this mode, I also hunt for extra spaces or other extraneous control characters. This makes a cleaner first galley and a lot less work for both my editor and me.

Finally, one last spell-check run (with caution since spell-check is far from infallible) and one more full read, possibly on paper, hopefully finding nothing I would choose to say differently.When I can't find any more improvements to make, I'm done!

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