Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Most Essential Key To Editing Your Manuscript

Many great books and lecturers teach steps on how to edit our manuscripts. Like a diet plan, each one can work for the writer who is willing to follow the steps.

Today's post: The Most Essential Key To Editing Your Manuscript introduces an idea that is crucial for any editing method you use. 

I think we've all asked ourselves, "Why hasn't my manuscript been accepted? I've checked every word. What more do they want?"   Right? Today's suggestion may be the one idea that will help reveal issues, improve the quality, and potentially bring success.

I came home from the 2016 ACFW writing conference in Nashville excited to put into practice what I'd learned. I had a mashing of puzzle pieces gathered from Ted Dekker, Erin Healy, Jim Rubert, Allen Arnold and other instructors I sat under floating in my brain. My goal: I wanted to write and edit my manuscript with a depth that would suck a reader into story and not let go until the end. 

Notice the words, write and edit.

I'm going to present this information backwards because many of us have a finished manuscript. Let's start with the editing component.

Erin Healy, editor and author, stated in her class, "Always edit your manuscript using a different medium than you first wrote."

What she meant was:
If you key your words into a computer do not read from the same style screen when editing.
If you handwrite your words on paper, do not read the same paper when editing.
If you dictate your words do not listen to the text when editing.
Photo Courtesy

Our minds are easily tricked. We see, hear, feel what was intended, not what is actually there. For example:

You're walking along a dark road at night when leaves and branches suddenly crackle behind. A snapping rhythm mimics footsteps. You turn. Why? Because you know someone or something is there. You see nothing but are not convinced. There is someone there. Your hearing told you so. Your mind believed it. Your heart responded. Panic sets in, and the belief system set in stone.

When edit our manuscript using the same tool we used to write the words, we often become blind to errors. By the last page, we're convinced what is on the page is the best and is ready to send to crit partners, beta readers, contests, agents, or editors. To our surprise, red ink with suggestions for new content, grammar corrections, and character description errors are sent back. Ugh! Disaster!! 

The sad part is, after making these changes more hidden issues hide in the ink on the page. We can't see them. Why is that? 

We need to follow Erin Healy's advice: edit using a different medium. Preferably, and this is key, one that matches our learning style.

Some of us are audio learners, some visual, some kinesthetic, and some learn best by combining two or more of these. I knew I was a visual learner. One I see something, it sticks.  Or so I thought. Turns out, a second learning style happened at the same time to make information really stay in my brain. Without it, failure.

When Erin presented the idea of using different ways to see/hear/engage in story, she and classmates brainstormed ideas like: 

*Send the manuscript to your kindle-the change in formatting helps to reveal errors.
*Send to the kindle and turn on the reader.
*Scrivener users have a speech reader program that will read the manuscript.
*Word apparently has a reader (but I haven't found it yet. If you know how to turn this feature on, please tell us in the comment section)
*View on a desktop computer
*Have someone else read the manuscript to you.

My favorite new idea was Scrivener's speech reader. It took a while to find (Go to edit, choose speech, select start) After hearing only a few sentences, better words popped in my head, pieces of missing story world unveiled themselves deepening the story. The characters seemed to come alive and spoke through the reader's voice breathing life into the words.

So... this happened because some monotone male voice read my story? No. I really needed to experience the story in a different format than I wrote it.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Seeing/hearing/sensing my story in a different format is only helpful if and only if I have a deep sense of my MC's journey. 

Author, Ted Dekker said, "Storytelling is different than writing. Storytelling is a series of events involving worthy characters who change as a result of those events. Readers long for an escape from life and they search in our novels for another way."

As I listened to the monotone male voice read my story, I walked about my house, envisioning the action, MC's distress, her momentary successes and failures, her choices and changes in plan, her journey and the forward movement to the last page. And when the words hit a speed bump, I stopped my monotone friend from reading and rewrote words, sentences, and paragraphs, slicing and dicing, adding and modifying, drawing out a swirling depth that engaged me to the heart. Wow! What a terrific feeling.

Allen Arnold, Jim Rubert, Ted Dekker all said writers need to cry, laugh, shout, basically spill emoji while engaged in writing/editing a story. This is an experience writers not only give to readers, they give to themselves as well.

Allen Arnold said, "Many writers burn out because they weren't sustained for the journey." He also recently share this meme:

In the depths of your writer's soul is a story waiting to be told. Vivid words that transform each main character from the first page to the last. Don't trust an edit from the first means used to write your manuscript. Step into the reader's shoes and join them through the pages of the main character's journey by using a unique tool to edit.

Happy creating!

I can't wait to read your comment(s)!

Help others--tweet or FB share this post


Rock climbing, white-water rafting, zip lining, and hiking top Mary's list of great ways to enjoy a day. Such adventures can be found in her stories as well.

Mary writes young adult mystery/suspense, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and tell Bible event stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids. She has finaled in several writing contests.

Visit Mary at her websiteblog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter

All subscribers to Mary's newsletter will receive her new short story an intriguing suspense/mystery. Come, read a good story. To get your free gift, sign up for the newsletter at Mary's website or:  Join the adventure!



Casey said...

I heard Erin say the same thing and it's such a good piece of advice we too often don't take! I know I focus better or differently in different surroundings, so to take myself into or out of a place definitely brings things into a different light. Thanks for sharing, Mare! It's a good reminder for me as I jump back into a story. :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Casey,, I can't wait to read your story.

I was also thinking, except the post was getting a bit long, but even changing locations helps a heap. Like if I'm writing in the dining room, if I switched to the living room, or better yet, Panera Bread :) these are also good changes.

Laurie Tomlinson said...

I didn't get to sit in on those classes but wish I had! Such great advice here!! Thanks for sharing, Mare <3

Mary Vee Writer said...

The benefit to Alley Cats and Alley pals sitting in the different classes is we all share and learn. :)

H.R. Sinclair said...

Changing reading mediums made a big difference for me. It's important to note that only the Mac version of Scrivener currently has the reading functions.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Oh, say it isn't so, H.R.! That is so sad. Hopefully our friends at Scrivener can get this great feature up and running for the PC...and SOON. In the meantime, I think Kindle has a reader. Still hoping someone knows if Word really has one, and if so, how to make it work.

BTW..what different reading medium have you found that works for you?

Robin E. Mason said...

What a great method for editing! and so true! However..... I write (stories) on my laptop, and my best learning technique is to write notes BY HAND. The problem here is my stories are over 100K words!!!!! It'd take me til next year to write that out! hahahah Alternately, what I've done is print the darn thing out and edit old school with a red pen.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Oh, Robin. Such a simple and fantastic idea that hadn't been mentioned yet.

I'm so glad you stopped by today :)