Talking to writers
Once upon a long time ago, I belonged to GCWA and served on the committee as newsletter editor and secretary.
On the topic of editing
I’d given some thought to what information about editing would be most useful to these writers, many of whom are multi-published.
Many people think that editing is simply a matter of correcting punctuation, spelling and grammar.
However, I illustrated through examples that when editing is done on a professional level, it far exceeds these basics.
We began by analysing together various sentences from published books to refute the myth that editors only correct punctuation and spelling. This analysis uncovered much subtler changes that an editor would make to improve the writing. These include redundancies—saying the same thing using different words, e.g., new innovation, free gift, added bonus; repetition—e.g., a paragraph that contained the word ‘just’ four times in five sentences; incorrect use of countable and uncountable nouns—e.g., ‘amount of cakes’ vs ‘quantity or number of cakes’; dangling modifiers—and much more.
Other issues that professional editors regularly check for include writing flow, plot inconsistencies, unengaging writing, pacing, and characterisation. Editors also carry out fact-checking as a minimum and often, more in-depth research.
What are some more common errors in writing?
Some other common errors I generally encounter in manuscripts include:
- Layout, formatting
- Punctuation (dialogue, general)
- Spelling and spelling inconsistencies
- Homophones (e.g., its and it’s, there/their/they’re, your and you’re, to/two/too)
- Convention inconsistencies
- Styles (Word) not utilised
- Capitalisation errors
- Possessive apostrophe for plural
- Run-on sentences
- Passive voice
- Breaching copyright.
I could go into an entire discussion on the latter--breaching copyright--and may well write a future blog on this. It is an area that constantly comes up in the manuscripts I see because most writers are unaware of it. The simplest way to avoid breaching copyright by quoting from another writer's (or artist's--e.g., song lyrics) work, is instead to come up with your own original writing! If that's not possible, then you'll generally need to seek permission from them in writing. This can be time-consuming and may incur reproduction rights costs. More on this another time!
Should you be your own editor?
Writing and editing are different skills. Writing is largely a creative activity, while editing is largely analytical.
Can you do both? Should you edit your own manuscript?
There is a certain amount of self-editing you can carry out. These include:
- Getting the formatting correct (check out my free guide)
- Check that your sentences are not long and complicated—simpler (not the same as simplistic) writing is often more engaging and relatable
- Ensure the first and last paragraphs of your chapters are page-turners
- Use power verbs—think ‘hurl the book’ rather than ‘throw the book forcefully’
- Make sure you are ‘showing’ more often than ‘telling’.
Becoming a better writer
Finally, we covered ways to improve your skills and become a better writer. These include (but are far from limited to!) reading quality literature, reading books on writing technique, taking writing courses, and always having your resources to hand—the minimum being a reliable dictionary and thesaurus.
Check here for some writing resources. It’s also fun to play word games or subscribe to ‘word of the day’ sites to increase your vocabulary.
Is your writing falling flat? Perhaps you don't know where or how to start writing your book? Maybe you've got stuck and are lacking the confidence about whether what you're writing will make the grade. Perhaps you're after that all-important accountability to keep you on track with your writing and get your book to the finish line! We'd love you to book a chat (link below). Be sure to tell us what you'd like to consult with us about.