I’m about halfway through my first proof copy of “The King’s Sons.” I’m doing a full edit, not just proofreading, and some of the things I’m changing are little things that are making a big difference. I love that!!! It never ceases to amaze me how much the quality of a paragraph can increase after a relatively minor tweak when I’m editing. For instance:
- Random typos. And punctuation errors. I’m not finding too many; hopefully that means they’re not there and not that I’m missing them! (I plan to order a second proof copy when I’m done with making changes to this one to simply proofread.)
- Sometimes, just realizing a snippet of dialogue is a bit too learned for the character speaking and changing it goes a long way to increasing readability and credibility. A villain who’s a cobbler might have made a point of educating himself, sure, but that doesn’t mean he’d say, “I deemed it more expedient to….” He’d probably say something like, “I judged it more to the point.” Yeah. Can’t believe I kept that first option in the draft for as long as I did.
- I still have characters’ eyes changing colors throughout the novel. UGH! Why, Victoria? WHY? This kind of inconsistency drives me batty. Especially since I have a stinking character list with physical descriptions on my computer.
- Getting rid of adverbs. And wordy phrases that I overuse, such as “He couldn’t help but notice….” How about a simple “He noticed” or “He marked” or “He saw”? Remember, less is better. Simpler is preferred on the vast majority of occasions.
EDITING IN MISTAKES. WE ALL DO IT!
One thing that really annoys me, though–and the real purpose of this post–is that I get angry about all the problems I edit into my novel. Mainly, this involves redundancies. You know… you see you use one word twice in a paragraph, so you change one of them to a synonym, only to realize later the synonym appears in the paragraph above pretty close to the end and using it twice doesn’t sound much better than what you had originally. That happens to me a lot.
I’m really big on trying to vary word choice when possible within sections that are pretty close together: say, adjoining paragraphs or sentences within the same paragraph especially. It can be hard: “wall,” for instance, can be a chore to replace. And “floor.” Depending on context, “hand” and “arm” can be interchangeable. (“an arm around…” vs “a hand on…”). So can “hand” and “fingers” and/or “palm.”
Character names, depending on who the character is and the context of the reference, can also be tough to change. You’re getting the picture by this point. What I’m saying is: whenever I can make a synonym work, it’s golden. Sometimes, one of the clauses in which the offending word appears can be cut. That’s the simplest fix there is!
FIXING REDUNDANCY: A WORD OF CAUTION
There’s a temptation when fixing redundancies to go for a word that’s not a real fit, just to have something different. It’s too upper-crust or unusual or perhaps too plain. Its connotations don’t fit your tone or style. Don’t pick a synonym just because it’s different from the word that first came to your head: especially if it’s not a word you genuinely thought of but had to look up in an online or print thesaurus.
And remember there’s a difference between dialogue and narration. I will upon very rare occasion (say, once a novel) use the word “descry.” With my personal style of third person narration, it works for me in limited circumstances: such as, describing what is visible down the road in a setting and a culture reminiscent of an urban area during the late Middle Ages. I felt using an old-timey verb to describe the setting really helps to bring about the tone and the images and the overall vibe I’m going for. I wouldn’t really use that word in dialogue, though. Way too stilted for my characters.