10 Rules on Self-Editing – Basic First Draft Editing – Final 5

Of course there are more than 10 rules to self-editing however my list has easy first steps.  Anyone can do basic first 1st draft editing.  These are the last 5 of my 10.  Please, please, please do not submit your first drafts anywhere or show them to anyone.  It’s like showing a crude chunk of marble to someone and saying your a sculptor.  Don’t do it.

RULE #6-  Put that in your cross-hairs.  That can usually be deleted outright without any replacements.  You will find that there are hundreds of these demons.  My ‘word find’ or ‘search’ in MS Word shows me how many that are there and that makes it simple to hunt them down.  I write down the amount and compare that body count at the end of that check.  I’m always amazed how many I’ve destroyed.  Having so many points to a typical first draft.  Zap of all the thats in this paragraph and you’ll see they are like parasites.

Rule #7–  Had also and Has needs killing, especially had been.  Last but not least, ly.  Readily, hopefully, hungrily, etc..  You probably can’t eliminate all these, but have a look at them, especially two in the same sentence or paragraph.

RULE # 8– Sentence structure.  Search for and and you’ll find plenty of them.  By eliminating some you’ll be forced to restructure sentences and end up with sentences of varying lengths and they’ll look good and read well.  See what I mean about and?  James Lee Burke is the only writer I know who can string together a quarter page of ands and get away with it. He takes readers on a ride with them.  Oddly, it works for him.

RULE # 9- Basic contractions work.  Do not, would not, will not, can not, sound too formal.  Find not with a word search and cut them down with an apostrophe.  When people speak they usually say not for emphasis, otherwise it’s contracted:  I would not go near that woman with a ten-foot pole.

RULE # 10– Basic overall structure.  Be consistent on spacing between sentences, lines, paragraph indents, italics, and capitalization.  Use the ¶ symbol up in the formatting bar of MS word. It tells all.  Proper structure is pleasing to the eye and flows better, especially if you can vary sentence length.  eBook readers are probably more tolerant of some improper capitalization.  Don’t mix two people speaking in one paragraph or more than one idea.

Now that you’ve accomplished all that work, read it aloud.  This should eliminate problems with pace and awkward phrasing.  Keep a calendar and timelines for your story.  Have some realistic expectations.  You can’t be in Hawaii one day and the next day infiltrating Nth. Korea on a lark like on TV’s Hawaii 5-0.  I turned it off.  Book ’em, Dano no more for me!  Even if you take your manuscript to an editor for a fee you’ll pay less because you’ve already done some basic grunt work.

Do these 10 rules yourself and you’ll understand why professional editors charge so much–it takes time.  Simply destroying was and restructuring in a 100,000 word manuscript will take many hours.  Think of editing as taking readers for a drive around your town.  You need to achieve various speeds (pacing and flow), obey signs (punctuation), show them the sights (imagery), talk to them about your town (dialogue), take the right road (plot), add tension (radar traps, animals, and kids running out in front of you), all the while avoiding speed bumps (creates jarring prose requiring rereading the sentence) etc..

After completing these time-consuming tasks you’ll be far ahead of where you were and in doing so will probably find other errors along the way to patch up.  Good luck.  It’s not supposed to be fun.  But you must do the basic first draft editing.  If you want to put your books on eBook sites remember: the reviews last forever, you cannot take them down.  Don’t give reviewers a chance to crucify you.


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