Saturday, October 4, 2008

Editing pt 2--Oh You Knew This Was Coming :} Oct. 04, '08

Based on a comment that what if the writing was 'A child caked in mud'? Love that, TL.

Take time off--3 days, 2 weeks, (let the mud dry), then randomly pick a passage and start there.

It's never as bad as you think. There's a purpose to 'mud' aside from keeping off insects and hiding the truth. Often literary mud is a way for us to protect ourselves--and we do need it. Writers sabotage their own work by being too critical, by losing the love they have for the art, for the play of words.

Forget the audience, forget the publisher, just tell the story. Read aloud to yourself as if you were a child--or appropriately aged audience of yourself. Read to share, not to scare. Don't rush through or feel like it's a chore, these are your words, with your heart in them. It's okay to feel a bit shy even with yourself.

You love this part of yourself whom you're reading to, and that listening part adores the writer. I'm not saying blind adoration, I'm saying again, GENTLE ACCEPTANCE. Let the flow come and be heard, watch for repetition that can be deleted and turned into a better description.

READ ALOUD--I repeat. This is an effective way to pick up all sorts of things, which can be improved. I catch the same descriptive phrases or words done in close proximity, or using the same word to begin two adjacent paragraphs. I can straighten out action and dialogue between two characters. I can embellish to make a description richer: blue becomes teal, indigo, cerulean, cyan, lapis, sapphire, topaz. Him or her, nameless--not so much of a connection, but give a name, even a made up one for a minor character: Duin, and you snag the reader. Names have meaning. We don't name something that we don't care about.

If you have that luxury of time, giving time between works in progress is helpful. If not, read the work differently.

I've only one pair of eyes! Unless you're an arachnid, but hey, we can still fool ourselves with changes in font, color, size, spacing, direction. These will all make us pay new attention to a familiar work.

Change the font style. Print the work out in a different font than the one you use for the screen. If you want to save paper, then just change the font on the screen. I always use Arial, similar to Helvetica, sans serif (Latin for without feet). Something like Courier or Times is a serif font. For some people the serifs feel like they link one letter to another making reading faster and easier--which means we can miss errors. Condensed type also makes us read faster, so do Italics because they are on a slant. Don't use them. Ponderous fonts labeled Black or Bold are hard to read because they look intimidating by calling attention to themselves. Good for titles but not for the body of work. I know, it's all optical illusion and psychology but it's true, so play into it and switch to Garamond or Gill sans.

Change the font color--do dark blue or red or purple. As you edit, change the read paragraph back to black so you can easily track what you've done.

Change the size. We pay attention when something is larger in our field of vision. One of those pesky instinct things.

Change the spacing between paragraphs. I write single space but with air, meaning more space with a double or space and a half between lines, again you feel less crowded and tend to see errors better.

Read back to front. What?! Yes, this does work. It's tedious, but reading the last paragraph and working your way back to the beginning is a whole new way to see the literary child.


AmandaLyn said...

The reading out loud thing is so true -- it wasa concept that was clawed into me some time ago, but it really works. It also helps dislodge those pesky roadblocks and to solve minor plot inconsistencies. You remember better, you pay attention better, because you use more than one sense. Reading out loud -- it's not just for children's bedtime stories.

Turkey Lurkey said...

Some great ideas. I like the idea of changing my words to purple. I used to write all my notes in purple ink while I was in college. :) Thanks for this post.