ROW80 Check-In #6 – Self-editing and dealing with repetitions

Hello gentle reader,

last week I tackled the issue of self-editing a novel (here!) and from your comments I gathered that a lot of us have the same problem: repetitions. When we write, we unconsciously repeat the same words or ideas when really, once is enough. Then, when self-editing our work, we are faced with the issue of dealing with those repetitions.

So here is a 4-step guide to help with reducing unconscious repetitions…

Step 1- Identify overused words

Having a fresh look at your novel or a beta-reader read your WIP is a way to identify overused words. However the best way to know which words are the most frequently used in your manuscript is to use a word cloud generator like Wordle. According to its own website, “Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.”  So in our case, and if you paste your manuscript into Wordle, you will get a word cloud where the words that occur the most in the manuscript are the largest. The largest words in your cloud should be proper nouns.

Here is the word cloud for THE LAST QUEEN, which I’m editing during this ROW80:

See? All the biggest words are my characters’ names. If your largest words are “eyes” or “says”, you might want to have a second look at your manuscript…

Then you can…

Step 2- Identify repetitions of effects

In SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS, Browne and King explain:

“Most writers already know to edit out places where they have literally repeated a word or phrase. But the repetition of an effect can be just as problematic. (…) Repetition can rob your writing of its power.” (pp. 175-176).

So you need to check if you have in your manuscript:

–       two sentences that give the same information,

–       two paragraphs that accomplish the same thing,

–       two characters who could be made into one without harming the plot,

–       two chapters that cover the same topic or use the same plot device.

If you do, highlight the repetitions you identify. Once you have done this, you can…

Step 3- Eliminate repetitions

Two is too many…

This is the hardest part. Because this is the time to make choices, to decide what to do with your highlighted words/sentences/paragraphs/chapters. And only you can choose whether to delete or change repetitions.

Step 4- Do a final check

To do so, repeat steps 1 and 2: your word cloud should now only have large proper nouns and you shouldn’t have the same ideas/effects repeated over and over.

That’s it for me. How are you other ROW80 writers doing?

Here is the Linky for the other check-in posts.

ROW80 Check-In #5 The art of self-editing your novel

Hello gentle reader,

6 weeks into ROW80, I am happy to announce that I have had a breakthrough in my self-editing process. As a reminder, my goal for this ROW80 is to edit my YA Fantasy manuscript The Last Queen and to have a final draft for it by the end of June.

So, up until this week I wasn’t very organized to self-edit my novel: I knew I had to cut 20K words and tidy up the whole thing, but the way I went about doing it was quite random and unsystematic.

But this week, I decided I had wasted enough time playing around with my MS and being inefficient. It was time to be professional and serious about this self-editing process.

It was time to slay some bad writing habits and come up with a shiny, edited and readable manuscript.

Today I am going to share my method to self-edit my novel, as maybe some of you, fellow would-be-published writers out there, are still struggling with this process.

Step 1: Finish the first draft of your novel. Your book has a beginning, a middle and an end. Congratulations on making it this far. Now put the manuscript away in a drawer for at least a couple of weeks and celebrate.

Step 2: Recover from celebration. then read two amazing books on the craft of writing.

How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them–A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman 

This one is not only a hilarious read, but it will also help you reflect on the main aspects of your novel: the plot, the characters, the setting. It is a great way to evaluate if your book has cartoonish villains, a plot so complex even you have lost track of it, or a setting so clichéd it will make any publisher nod off.

Self-editing for fiction writers by Browne and King

This second book is great for the next step of your self-evaluation: it will help you see the mistakes you have made regarding style, dialogue, points of view, beats, proportion and repetitions.

Once you have read those two books (or others like them), you can move on to…

Step 3: Know your strengths.

These you will know from experience and from the feedback of your beta readers. For example, I know that I don’t really need to amend the plot and characterization in The Last Queen. Devising a complicated plot that falls into place by the end is what I know to do best. Once you know what is great about your novel, you can focus on amending what needs to be edited, rather than wasting time fiddling with characters that are already well-written.

Step 4: Know your weaknesses.

From your readings, you should know by now what is probably not that great in your Beloved Manuscript. One of my main problems in The Last Queen is repetition. For you, it might be settings that are too detailed, lengthy paragraphs with boring content, and so on. Just know what they are. Because it is only then that you can…

Step 5: Make a checklist of what you want to edit in your novel. Edit your novel.

I love lists. They are a great tool when you self-edit as you can have yours by your computer while you read through each scene/chapter. Read each scene, and check it against your list of mistakes. If you have committed any, you edit, then move on to the next scene.

Step 6: Finish self-editing your Precious Manuscript. Celebrate some more.

Step 7: Repeat Steps 5 and 6 a few times before thinking about sending your Masterpiece to an agent.

That’s it for me. How are you other ROW80 writers doing?

Here is the Linky for the other check-in posts.

A Round of Words in 80 Days – Check-in #2

So I’ve just finished my first week of ROW80 challenge (I joined in a few days late) and so far it’s going well (although I’ve been told this is often the case for the first week).

For the record, my goals are:

1-      I shall write the first draft of my new dystopian novel with at least 750 words per day.

2-      I shall also self-edit/revise The Last Queen so that I finally have a final draft for it.

And this is what happened this week:

1-      I did write 750 words per day of my new dystopian novel.

2-      I didn’t revise The Last Queen per say but I’ve been reading a book on self-editing (Self-editing for fiction writers by Browne and King) so I still think I’ve worked toward this goal.

As a result: yeah! This challenge is doing me some good.

Here is the Linky for the other check-in posts.

Also, please have a look at my post for today: an exclusive interview with YA Dystopian author Teri Hall on her books and the craft of writing.

How are you other ROW80 writers doing?