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November, 2015

Rewriting and Editing, Part 2

by Webmaster

In last month's column, "Rewriting and Editing, Part 1," I wrote about rewriting and editing a novel, as well as the difference between doing both to a novel vs. a song or poem.

Bookbaby (related to CD Baby) has a blog about copy editors for novels. "A good copy editor has the expertise to find and correct errors in spelling, grammar, continuity, flow, and punctuation." A copy editor will even determine if the length appropriate for the audience and media. In addition, a copy editor will look for the following:

  1. Is the main idea conveyed concisely?
  2. Are any words, sentences, or sections of the writing extraneous?
  3. Does your introduction inspire people to continue reading?
  4. Is the progression of the text well organized?
  5. Are the tone and style consistent throughout?
  6. Is the final thought strong?

If you change "introduction" to "first line" in #3, "final thought" to "ending" in #6, and novel-specific words (sections, text) to song-specific words (verses, lyrics), the list is a good checklist for writing a song.

Good writing is good writing regardless of the format.

As a songwriter, I learned to use sensory details: What do I see, hear, taste, smell and feel with my fingers or on my skin? What movements or actions happen? In additon, I learned to use active verbs instead of passive verbs: "I walked" instead of "I was walking." These are excellent techniques for novelists, too.

The checklist for novelists from, which I mentioned in last month's column, that could be helpful for songwriters, includes the following:

  1. Cut long sentences in two.
  2. Axe the adverbs.
  3. Stick to one voice.
  4. Remove extra punctuation.
  5. Replace negative with positive.
  6. Replace stuffy words.
  7. Remove redundancies.
  8. Reduce prepositions.
  9. Cut "in order to."
  10. Don't use "start to."
  11. Nix "that."
  12. Replace "thing."
  13. Spot "very" and "really."
  14. Make your verbs stronger.
  15. Ditch the passive voice.
  16. Refer to people as "who."
  17. Avoid "currently."
  18. Cut "there is" or "there are."
  19. Match up your bullet points.
  20. Use contractions.
  21. Steer clear of the "ing" trap.
  22. Check your commas.
  23. Use "over," not "more than."
  24. Hyphenate modifiers.
  25. Identify your tells.
  26. Double check everything.
  27. Use contractions.

With the exception of the references to punctuation and bullet points, these are good rules for writing songs, too.

"How to self-edit your writing: 8 tips" by

  • Structure the task - Put the largest elements (such as plot structure) first. Once satisfied with these, focus on the details of language (grammar, style, punctuation).
  • Use free tools - is one. Use it to see sentence difficulty ratings and where you can replace awkward words with shorter synonyms.
  • Check tense - Errors of tense are common amongst new writers. Ursula le Guin's book Steering the Craft has a concise yet thorough overview of tense types.
  • Be ruthless - Don't be afraid to cut parts of your book that aren't working and start afresh - maybe the cut piece was vital preparation for something much better.
  • Take a break - After finishing a draft put your work aside for a day, a week, a month—however long you need to be able to return and edit wtih fresh eyes.
  • Read aloud - Read your writing aloud. hearing the rhythm of words will help you edit for flow. Your ears could help you find errors your eyes miss, too.
  • Mix it up - Reading a text over and over might make your eyes used to an error. Try reading backwards from the last word to the first to pick up hard-to-spot errors.
  • Change the picture - Try changing the font and font size in your word processor for editing . The altered appearance could help you see the text anew.

BookBaby suggests the following free online tools:

  • I Write Like
  • Hemingway App
  • The Writers Diet
  • The Up-Goer Five Text Editor
  • Ninja Essays

If your book is stalled, BookBaby suggests "Four Wayst to Blow Up and Rebuild Your Novel":

  1. Combine characters - Maybe you’re asking your readers (and yourself) to invest in too many characters at once. Instead, combine multiple people into a single (more) complex and (more) compelling character.
  2. Cut to the good stuff ...[use] the MOST exiting ... section [is] the beginning or your book.
  3. Do it over again, and write towards an uncertain ending ... [to keep] a book [from losing] all its steam in the wind-down.
  4. Change tense or POV [point of view]

After several major revisions of my novel, I'm using the checklist for novelists from I'm keeping suggestions form the other lists in my mind, too. As I work my way through the checklist, I'm revising sentences and, sometimes, paragraphs. I'm also making a list of redundant words that need to be replaced with synonyms. My relatively short revision list is much longer. I hope it will iimprove my novel.

I have a feeling this process will improve my poetry and songs,too.

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