Two Neat Editing Tips

I’m currently in the process of editing my WIP.

I like to edit.

I also hate to edit.

Editing is great because so much stuff is already there on the page.  I spoke of “blank page fright” in my post about writers block.  Without having to face a blank page, it seems far less intimidating.  It’s also fun to tweak and improve and discover a coherent story emerging from what initially seemed like a whole lot of random words thrown against the wall.

On the other hand, when I’m in draft mode, I can pound out 1,000 words and then go watch an episode of Storage Wars.  When I edit, I’m staring at my computer or page print-outs for hours. Literally.  It’s kind of hard to stop.  Someone is going to have to rip this WIP out of my hands eventually.

I also have a detail problem.  I tend to be better at the big picture than the details. (That moon in Gemini thing.)  Editing is all about the details.

I’ve found a couple of ways to cope, one a suggestion from author Molly Greene’s blog.  The other one I thought up myself.  I’m sure I’m not the only person to have thought of it, but it’s something that happened to pop into my head as I was getting ready to edit.

Molly wrote this blog post about key line editing.  It’s a very simple concept.  When you print out your pages to edit, instead of doing it in standard manuscript format (like in the photo above) you print them out in paperback format.

To do this, format your paragraphs as single space.  Then change the page orientation to landscape. The final step is to format the manuscript as a two column document.

First of all, it’s cool to look at your manuscript in paperback form.  Makes it seem that much closer to reality.  More importantly, it makes you catch things you wouldn’t notice in standard format.  One of the first things I noticed with mine were some paragraphs that were way too long.  Breaking those up made the story flow much better on the page.

This next suggestion I thought of because I love to listen to books on audio.  It occurred to me I could listen to my story with my Kindle‘s speech-to-text feature.  After all, I can load personal documents onto the Kindle.

Two problems with that:  I discovered my cheapie version of Kindle doesn’t have a speech-to-text feature (it doesn’t even have a headphone jack).  Even if I had a Kindle with more features, it wouldn’t do speech-to-text with a personal document. The only Kindle with this capability is the pricey Kindle Fire.


So I started searching for speech-to-text software.  I found NaturalReader.  There is a free version, as well as several paid versions with more features.

I chose the Personal version, which costs about $50, because this allows you to make an MP3 version of your document.  Now I can pretend I not only have my book in paperback form, but audio as well.

They claim “natural sounding” voices–they’re still kind of stilted, as computer-generated voices often are, but easy to listen to.  Of course, the voices will sometimes pronounce words in a strange way, but not that often.

It was a very easy set-up–once I figured out how to input the serial code.

(They could work a bit on customer service–the tone of their email in reply to my plea for help was a tad on the snooty side.  “Dear Customer: Here is your code broken up into manageable bites.  Now cut and paste, moron.”)

Again, as with the key line edit, it’s all about the fresh perspective.  The first thing I noticed is I use way too many ellipses.  The reader . . . pauses . . . at . . . every . . . period.  So those had to go right away.  I’ve also noticed I use certain words far too often.  My characters sniff, sniffle and snuffle a lot.  Half-way through listening to the story, I wondered if they all had colds.

My next step will be to listen to the story in tandem with a key-line edit.

Then, hopefully, I will be ready to let someone pry it out of my hands.

6 thoughts on “Two Neat Editing Tips

  1. Editing is my least favourite part of the writing process. Totally necessary, obviously, but I can’t stand it. I like thinking up stories, not shuffling sentences around and checking that Sally Lou’s eye colour stays the same. But I really like your idea of printing off the manuscript in paperback form. I think I will do that for my latest round of editing. Thanks for the tips 🙂

  2. The first thing I do when editing is have someone read it and note things that seem odd. Too long paragraphs and repeated use of the word. But I really love the idea of key line edits.

  3. Debbie, two excellent ideas!

    I made sure I got the Kindle with the text-to-speech feature, though i haven’t used it for editing yet. I always seem to be editing against killer deadlines. always end up having to hit send way before I’m ready!

    Next time I print something to edit, I’m definitely using that paperback formatting idea. May even be able to save trees by using it onscreen when I get my bigger screen laptop set up. I currently use a laptop with a dinky little ten inch screen- useless for seeing the big picture when editing!

    1. I will be doing a key line edit myself today. Also have a deadline, hope to get my manuscript out by tomorrow. Glad you found the tips helpful!

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