Editing like mom
I think my house is the site of a truly bizarre and under reported but not uncommon weather phenomenon. I’m quite sure a tornado hit my daughters’ room over the weekend. On Friday, it everything was on the shelves and in the drawers and it could safely be described as orderly. Then sometime over the weekend this thing happened and nothing is where it should be.
I will tell them to go in there and stay in there until order has been restored. There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth and almost serious threats of television deprivation before it looks once again like a magazine photo. The issue is that the real problem goes much deeper than what we can see and they don’t know where to begin.
It’s much like being faced with a finished manuscript. You know it doesn’t look good (yet). You know there are grammatical problems and typos, much like the clutter on the bedroom floor. But where do you begin? Picking up the clothes doesn’t fix the structural issues.
You need to start with the architecture. Before you attempt to make things look good, look at the structure. If this is a book, evaluate the story line and the characters. If it’s an article, are all of the pieces needed? Are there things missing? Read through the piece and write out a basic outline. Does it make sense? Does every scene move the story forward? If it’s a shorter piece, does every paragraph lead into the next?
Next, you can bring in the interior designer to make things look good and to make the room function well. This is when you go through the chapters, the paragraphs and the sentences. How do they sound? Are there good transitions? Are you using active voice and showing rather than telling?
When all of this is done you can move on to the cleaning part of the project. You will have done some of it along the way, but now it’s time to focus on fixing the grammar.
The good news is, once you’re done with your book, it won’t ever get messy again.