Editing is a bitch

Thanks to my buddy Craig (ex-college professor and avid writer/reader), my own novel, SNM, has been in the editing phases for the past two months. I could have had this locked up and finished by now, but don’t judge me! I’ve been busy—moving into a new apartment, sitting by the pool, sleeping, eating. BUSY! Very important things!

Regardless of these very important things, I am halfway done with the initial edit. The “initial edit” is me going over Craig’s comments, accepting and rejecting, and making comments/reminders of my own, as in: MORE DESCRIPTION! MORE DIALOGUE! I will have to go back and deal with all these comments once the initial edit has come to a close. That being said, I thought I’d give you a taste of the initial edit, and see if my intellectual and creative agony will somehow help improve your writing, too.

Thanks to Craig’s comments, SNM is already stronger. (The full list of Craig’s fix-it’s are on an earlier post here: https://saradobie.wordpress.com/2009/04/02/a-damn-fine-critique-of-snm/.) The quick pointers are as follows:

1) Remove ellipses at the end of dialogue. Makes it WEAK!
2) Embellish descriptions of people, places, and food. Make your reader feel like he/she is sitting there with you.
3) Stop using superlatives. (Everything is not “great,” and men are not all “handsome.”)
4) Clean up compound sentences. If sentences are too long, they slow the pace.

Shem Creek, SC

Shem Creek, SC

So here are some segments from the beginning of SNM, before comments and after comments. Picture it. Our protagonist, Susan Welsh, is having her heart broken by the damn fool (Seth Thomas) who decides to get back with his ex. Susan and Seth are standing on a pier, outside a crowded bar, overlooking a creek filled with antique shrimp boats and tourists in kayaks. The sun is setting over Charleston harbor, and the silver backs of dolphins break a blue basin of saltwater. See what you think. Did I do better with the changes or (gulp) worse?

Example 1: Boo ellipses.
Before: He shrugged. “I don’t have an explanation. It’s just…”
“What? It’s over? Just like that.”
After: He shrugged. “I don’t have an explanation.”
“What? It’s over? Just like that.”

Example 2: Wimpy descriptions must be thwarted.
Before: I noticed the sand, the surf, and the sun.
After: I noticed the white sand, the dark green surf, and the scalding sun on my shoulders and back.

Example 3: Superlatives suck.
Before: I looked into his gorgeous eyes.
After: I looked into his eyes—honey brown but tinged with ocean green in the middle.

Example 4: No more wire hangers! Wait. I mean no more compound sentences!
Before: “Seth?” I asked, and the desperation reeked on my breath.
After: “Seth?” I asked. My breath reeked with desperation.

So that’s what I’ve been up to with my novel. It’s a painful process, but like I said, SNM is already stronger for it. I hope some of super-smart Craig’s advice can set you straight, too!

And YOU! Keep writing, or the boogie man known as Writer’s Block may come calling.

One thought on “Editing is a bitch

  1. I only use elipses when someone is interupting me…. hey- stop watching tv while reading this post.

    All men are not universally handsome. Take Zach Braff. He is my imaginary TV boyfriend. Goofy, big nose, long dangly legs in scrubs. And something about that cgarcater makes me want to write a YA novel about things that didn’t go right when I was 15.

    Short sentences do the trick. See the above sentence.

    I love the editing stage…. editing is so much easier than the PR stage which totally makes me want to vomit thumbtacks.

    (Giggle. Snort)

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