Self Editing Check List--the Dirty Dozen:

I blogged a few days ago and then realized that some examples might be nice of things to watch for when self-editing. So, I whipped out a dozen for your amuzement.

Attend to these, but in no order of importance:

  1. A beverage--Gotta have one--editing is thirsty business
  2. Pleasant surroundings--Gotta have one--editing is hard enough
  3. Darlings--words and phrases that are so clever you don't want to get rid of them--but they don't fit the story--store them in a darlings file for another story--not this story
  4. Repeated words or phrases--when we're on a role we can get hung up using one word or phrase repeatedly for that writing session--Do some theasaurus work.
  5. Spell-check lies and substitutes--(1)Spell check may not know the word you are using--add it to your dictionary(2) Spell check sometimes substitues words it thinks you mean--and you don't(3)Spell check may not be working--see above amuzement for amusement....
  6. Cut, Copy, and Paste violations--the problem with moving things around is that sometimes the move isn't as seamless as we thought it was, but we don't double check it. Sometimes little orphan words or phrases are left behind making absolutely no sense to a reader.
  7. Characterization uh-ohs--characters all sounding the same in speech or movements.
  8. Grammar check garbage--grammar check doesn't know what you are trying to say--don't believe it always is correct--it isn't. I split the infinitive. Also a bad move.
  9. Passive/Active--Contrary to popular writology, stories need a little passive voice to rest the reader between bouts of action. Make sure they are there and in good interesting shape.
  10. Grade level--much of the world doesn't read, but that doesn't mean the readers are simple. Don't only write simple sentences. Do a check once in a while and find the grade level you're writing at.
  11. Paragraph and sentence blahs--Paragraphs and sentences that are always the same size become very hard for a reader to follow. Vary them.
  12. Left out words or substitued words that seem the same--like life for like.


Starla Kaye said...

Thanks for adding some samples to your post of the other day. When I was reading through your list, I caught a typo (role instead of roll) talking about getting hung up using one word or phrase repeatedly. Then I thought about it.

ROLL, of course, is what you meant. But, when you think about it, when we're writing, we're in a particular character's head (playing their ROLE). Like real people who do favor using certain words or phrases out of habit, sometimes our characters also do. Unfortunately, as mean old self-editors who know that publishers want "clean" manuscripts, "tight" manuscripts, we can't let the characters get away with that.

Penny Rader said...

Great list, Nina!

I have my Dr. Pepper handy. :D

I love the idea of a darlings file.

Spell check definitely doesn't catch everything. And Word's grammar check is also quite frustrating.

While revising I often keep synonym lists handy in a steno pad so I don't have to keep looking up the same words.

Cut, Copy, and Paste violations -- Too true! During revisions with my editor this just about made me crazy.

How do you check the grade level? What grade level is recommended?

I so agree about paragraph lengths being important. Especially l-o-n-g blocks of paragraphs. Break 'em up or my eyes (and maybe other readers' too) will skip over them.

Nina Sipes said...

Microsoft word has a function that will tell you what grade level and reading ease you are writing at. Merely pick a section, select it, and grammar check it. At the end of grammar check, the program kicks up a report. Many will tell you that a fourth grade level is ideal for adults. I believe in a writer's ability to make things clear for readers so I don't worry overmuch about grade level on my novels. I use it more for children's stories.