Today I’m proud to present a fabulous article on editing written by historical romance writer Eliza Knight, who gave me permission to post this today. For more about Eliza and her latest release,see the end of the article. Thanks, Eliza!
Finished the Damn Book – oh no – Editing!
By Eliza Knight
Congratulations! You’ve written “The End.” I assure you this is no easy feat. Many people set out on a quest to write a tale and, for one reason or another, do not complete it. The question is: now what? You must edit!
Why should edit your work? Your work should be edited because competition is fierce in the publishing world—the number of submissions accepted is quite small. The average number of books accepted by publishers for publication is around 2-4%. That is not very high. For every one-hundred manuscripts they receive, only two, maybe four on a good day, will be offered a contract.
With odds like 2-4%, you will want your book to be in the best shape it can possibly be. Here’s an example of why:
Jane Editor at Big Six Publishing House has two manuscripts in front of her. They are both phenomenal! The plots are compelling, the characters intriguing. Both books are sure to sell well, but she’s been told by the editorial board she can only accept one book—that’s all they have room for, as her own list of authors and books on the table is vast. Jane Editor goes back and forth between manuscripts. The decision is hard to make. She wants both. How will she possibly decide?
Well, as it’s been mentioned, Jane Editor has a very busy schedule. She already works 60+ hours a week, and during her free time at home she reads over her authors’ work. Another quick look at the two manuscripts shows that Manuscript#1 has a lot more editing issues in it that Manuscript#2… Decision made, Jane is going to go with the manuscript that will require the least amount of work.
And if all goes well, that’s yours!
A few pointers to keep on hand when editing your manuscript…
Tightening up those sentences – By paring down on filler words, weak words and strengthening verbs, you can tighten up your sentences. Writers tend to put a lot of extraneous words in our sentences we do not need. Remember, Evil = that/had. You can’t delete all the “that” and “had” words, but do a search and find, read the sentence thoroughly. Do you need the word? Often times we write in something like: “She had gone to the market earlier that day.” This is a sentence that can be easily tightened: “She went to the market in the morning.” Another example of what we can do to tighten up sentences is delete redundancy. Instead of saying she sat down, say sat. Stand up, becomes stood. Turned around becomes turned. Don’t let too much backstory bog down your pages. Sprinkle it in through dialogue, action, reaction. If it doesn’t move the story along, delete it.
Inconsistencies – Beware of inconsistencies! Eye color, location, years, setting, season. A character with a broken leg won’t be miraculously healed the next day. If it’s the dead of winter, your heroine won’t be picking roses unless she’s in a greenhouse.
Format – Always check the submission guidelines for format. If none stated, use the standard 12pt regular font, double-spaced, 1” margins, 1st line indent.
Using the 5 senses – Readers want to experience the story. Show them what is happening with the characters. Let the reader, touch, see, hear, taste and smell what the character does. This works great during every scene and should be especially potent in love scenes and highly intense scenes.
Hooks beginning and end – Draw your reader in and keep them there. Examples of hooks are: danger, strong emotion, shocking situation, evocative narrative, witty dialogue.
Point-of-view – Pick the character who has the most at stake in a scene and use their POV. Use transitions to switch “heads”. Don’t hop back and forth. If you feel that in a scene you need more than one POV, do it smoothly so that you don’t confuse the reader, and don’t do it for only one line. If you only have one line, best to save it for a separate scene when the character is reacting to the previous scene. For one scene with two POV’s, authors will often have the first half of the chapter in one character’s POV and then switch the last half to the other character. Some do only one POV per chapter and then switch. Whichever way you choose, make sure it is done in a way that does not confuse your reader. A note here on secondary characters: it is fine to a scene in a secondary character or two’s POV. But don’t go overboard. And above all, remember this is a story about the hero/heroine. You don’t want secondary characters to take over.
GMC – Make sure your characters have goals, motivation for those goals and conflict that impairs them from reaching their goals. This is the what, why, and how. Make them strong, believable and meaningful. If your GMC is not rock solid, you story won’t be either. You don’t want to have wishy-washy characters. If your characters are flaky, the reader will become frustrated. Characters can have more than one goal. Their goals can also change throughout the story as they grow and change. Don’t forget your secondary characters! They need to have believable GMCs also. Don’t forget conflict is both internal and external. What inside the character is keeping them from meeting their goal? What outside force is interfering?
Story Development / Plot / Characterization / Setting – Create a world—your setting, make it interesting, unique. With this and your characters’ GMC and Arc (how they grown and change), develop a story line. What if…? Develop your who, what, when, where, why. What is the black moment? What is the resolution?
Show vs. Tell – Instead of telling the reader your character is scared—describe it. How does this feel? What is happening inside the character? What are they thinking? Show us so we “see” it in our minds, rather than just being given a recap. As I said previously, a reader wants to experience a story. They want to visualize it as though they were watching a movie. Ramp up your sensory detail, paint a picture, get those gut-wrenching emotions pulled, thrill them. Show us what is happening through dialogue, action and reaction.
Active vs. Passive – Make sure your writing pops. Instead of saying “She felt sad.” Say, “Despair clouded her mind.” This goes hand in hand with show vs. tell. A passive writer tells the reader a story, wheras and active writer shows the story. Get rid of as many: saw, felt, feel, heard, look words as you can. Replace them with sentences that allow the reader to experience the story. Instead of telling the reader: “She saw a hundred troops lining the top of the hill.” Show: “At least one hundred mounted troops topped the hill. The sun glinted blindingly off the metal of their helmets. Their horses’ hooves pawed and stomped the earth.” Use the senses. Make sure your pacing isn’t being bogged down by too many wordy sentences.
Dialogue – Use dialogue whenever possible to bring your characters to life. Dialogue shows the reader your character’s personality, sets the tone for the scene, explains what is happening, shows reactions, shows us the character’s unique beliefs, values, etc… It also shows us the personality/beliefs/reactions of other characters. Read your dialogue aloud to make sure it flows naturally. Don’t overuse “he/she said” tags, and on the flipside, don’t use too little. Whenever possible use an action tag. “Wow, I hate editing.” She threw her pen down.
I hope these tips will help you with making sure your book is in tip-top shape! Take your time, and do it right. Don’t rush the editing process—but don’t take the next ten years to shape your book either. Try to do it in thirty days. If you make daily/weekly goals for your editing process, you will get it done in a much orderly fashion. Always read through your book one more time before sending it in for submission—and better yet, see if you can have one or more people read through it too.
Best of luck! Happy Editing!
Eliza Knight is the award-winning, multi-published, Amazon best-selling author of sizzling historical romance and erotic romance. While not reading, writing or researching for her latest book, she chases after her three children. In her spare time (if there is such a thing…) she likes daydreaming, wine-tasting, traveling, hiking, staring at the stars, watching movies, shopping and visiting with family and friends. She lives atop a small mountain, and enjoys cold winter nights when she can curl up in front of a roaring fire with her own knight in shining armor. Visit Eliza at www.elizaknight.com or her historical blog, History Undressed,. www.historyundressed.com, Twitter: @ElizaKnight and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elizaknightauthor
A Highlander tamed…
Laird Daniel Murray seeks adventure, battle and freedom for his countrymen. Putting off his duties as laird—with a promise to his clan he’ll return come spring—Daniel sets off with his men to fight alongside William Wallace and the Bruce. But soon he stumbles across an enchanting lady in need. She tantalizes him with an offer he simply can’t refuse and a desire he attempts to dismiss.
A lady’s passion ignited…
Escaping near death at the treacherous hands of a nearby clan, Lady Myra must find the Bruce and relay the news of an enemy within his own camp. Alone in a world full of danger and the future of her clan at stake, she must trust the handsome, charismatic Highland laird who promises to keep her safe on her journey—and sets her heart to pounding.
Together, Daniel and Myra will risk not only their lives, but their hearts while discovering the true meaning of hope and love in a world fraught with unrest.