Friday, May 4, 2012


Yup, I impressed myself this week.

Started with a definite bad impression. I didn’t complete the April pirate challenge. Just. Didn’t. Happen.

Lots of reasons, most of them with the initials R.T. But it wasn’t the only reason. Lots of reasons, nothing to really relate.

I did hit a breakthrough with the current WIP and think it will be finished by mid-month…maybe sooner.

In the meantime, May hit and I got a bee in my bonnet about looking at an older MS, already in the hand of my agent. I hadn’t opened it in more than a year, and maybe…no, no maybe about it… I had learned a ton of stuff in that last year. It was time to tackle it and see what I could do.

So, Wednesday night, I cracked it open and fiddled my way through four chapters…replacing pronouns, untwisting sentences, correcting misspellings, a bit of polish here, a bit there… The next day, yesterday, I sat in Starbucks just past noon and opened it again. Four hours later, I was done. 80k MS polished.

I am impressed with myself!

All in all, it went fairly easy. Why?

Well, I hadn’t fiddled with this story in more than a year, it was fresh and new to my eyes. I’d always liked the story and as I moved through it, I was such a pleasure to see it rise from my computer in better shape.

I’m generally not a very good self-editor. Too close to the story, too aware of what I want to say to see the problems with how I said it. That’s me. Generally, if it’s pointed out to me, I can focus on the errors. Like a bright light hits the mistakes and suddenly I can SEE! A fresh set of eyes makes all the difference. Or distance.

But I’m working on it. A few things are falling into place that is helping. I’m taking a class on self-editing, starting next week. I’m also looking into that program that reads a book aloud, to help me hear the things that need fixing.

I’m currently listening to a book, Chill Factor, by Sandra Brown, as read by the delicious Stephen Lang. And I’m hearing all sorts of things that bother me… Leaving me to believe that this could be a valuable tool to self-editing.

So, two new tools for me. Distance and hearing my MS. I did read The Kraken’s Mirror aloud, but it made me hoarse. ;-)

I know that track changes is a valuable tool, but I cannot figure out how to make the thing work for me. How do I get it to highlight every instance of ‘she’ or ‘he’ or ‘was’ …? I need a real primer on how to use track changes… I also picked up two readers this week and I look forward to hearing what they ‘see.’

What are your favorite self-editing/polishing methods? Do I have a right to be impressed by 80k in approximately 7 hours?


Di R said...

Congratulations Chance! That is a great accomplishmet. I think it calls for a drink! Since I can only drink a few sips of anything before I start giggling, I'll leave the choice to you.

For track changes to highlight every 'she', click the little box that says find all. Then, once they are highlighted I click on the highlight at the top of the word document.

Di R

MsHellion said...

YES! *LOL* And thanks for proving the technique that DISTANCE is a great tool. I know the majority of us don't/can't/won't do it, and then we end up getting frustrated or fiddling with shit that was fine instead of what actually needed the fixing.

I love hearing books read aloud. It started with Harry Potter...but I really like memoirs and stuff. Right now I'm listening to a book about Elizabeth II and it's wonderful. This writer is just wonderful--I want to read other stuff by her.

I don't tend to listen to books where I don't like the writing being read to me. (I tried to listen to a Catherine Coulter book once and abandoned it immediately. Same thing with a Janet Evanovitch book.) So I'm not sure I'm learning as much as you are--but I am listening to what I *want* to sound like. :)

Janga said...

Way to go, Chance! Not even a week into the new month, and you've had a successful May already.

I find that the ear often picks up things the eye misses, particularly awkward constructions. I have always read my stuff aloud. Another strategy I often use is to read backwards through a section or an entire ms. Doing so forces me to look at individual sentences, and I am far more likely to catch wrong or omitted words. Reading in natural order, I sometime see what's in my head rather than what's on the page. But for a final polish, I don't think anything works better than a new reader. I just think it's easier to see the glitches in things that we didn't write.

Janga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

WAHOO!!!! Way to go Chance!

I'm trying to use the walk away method right now. I wrote The End and haven't opened the docuement since. Trying to stay away at least 2-4 weeks before I start digging in.

But, my draft is really rough. It was my first MS and some of it was written 2 years ago. I have a lot of work to do and it's more a rewrite than an edit.

I too have discovered by listening to audio books that you can use the tool of recording yourself reading your MS to see how it really sounds and flows. Great idea!

Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

ACK - It ate my comment.


TerriOsburn said...

Your comment is there, Scape. :)

You are a phenom, woman. I don't know how you did that. Wow.

I'm all about reading out loud. I go back and read aloud every scene as soon as I finish it. Of course, there's still the issue Janga mentions. We see what we know should be instead of what really made it on the page. Which is why an alternate set of eyes is helpful.

I'm not sure I could read backwards. Huh.

Good luck, Scape! You might be surprised how much of that MS stays. Or only needs tweaking. The best part is how much more you know now than you did 2 years ago. You'll feel good when you start molding that puppy into shape and see it come alive.

Maureen said...

Di - I'll give that a try. Generally I do search, it all looks highlighted, I fix one and the highlighting goes away on everyone. But I wonder if I was missing the step of selecting highlight... I feel a little silly at the moment, but I wonder...

Maureen said...

Hells, I'm enjoying the book, it's just interesting how the ear picks up things that tweak me. Like how often the author used 'precipitation' instead of rain, snow, sleet...any number of other appropriate words.

Nice big word. Overused. But Stephen Lang does pretty good with the feminine voices and it's set in the south and he does the very mild accent nicely...

Maureen said...

Janga - Wow, reading backward aloud... I'm not sure I'm up for that. A lot of what I find as I do my edits involve keeping things in order. If I read backward...I think I'd get even more confused. But I get the idea would be looking for sentence structure, etc.

I did have such a good time with this...I'm thinking of working on one of the older MSS one day a week. It's a learning experience and it trains my editing eye...

I know there is a program out there that will read my stuff to me, but I do see how I'd still need to read along in order to catch stuff...

Maureen said...

Sabrina - With this book, I hadn't just walked away, I hadn't even thought about tweaks for the last year. The distance helped. Also helped me see that I was right, this is a strong story and deserves another walk through to polish it.

Generally, I'm a bit lazy but I'm working on it!

Maureen said...

Terri - I'm gonna have to tame my drama queen to read my stuff aloud again. Remember that I'm reading, not acting...


Though it was great fun to pontificate, as if upon a stage, when I read The Kraken's Mirror...

JulieJustJulie said...

What is my favorite self-editing/polishing method?

What are your favorite self-editing/polishing methods?
M, you hit on two very important tools.
Whether it is for an hour or a year, step away from your piece. Physically and mentally. Writing (IMHO ) is a lot like cooking. When you are making a sauce ( or writing a story ) a good cook knows to let it simmer for a while before they adjust the final seasonings … or in this case final edits.

Maureen said...

I do think distance calms the eye, means you see what is there, not what you think is there.

JulieJustJulie said...

Those of you who have received emails from me know that often times my message to you isn’t written, it’s recorded. So, it should come as no surprise that my other favorite tool for editing is … read your work out loud. For me the true test of a well written piece should be how does it "sound”? Is the pacing pleasant? Do the words flow naturally? Trust me; any glitches in sentence structure, pacing, etc. , that are not evident during a visual reading will become evident during a verbal rendition. When I am going through my apprentice’s writing I will often send him a recording of myself reading a passage. That way he can “hear” for himself what needs work … or as I often point out “This sounds so beautiful when read out loud. You were brilliant here … you just didn’t know it.”
my advice is read your stuff out loud. Better yet? Have someone else read it to you. That way the sound of your voice doesn't get in the way of Your Voice.

JulieJustJulie said...

Do I have a right to be impressed by 80k in approximately 7 hours?

Congratulations, Maureen. Not only are you the epitome of a very hard working writer, you are a great inspiration to newbies like my Apprentice!

Marnee Bailey said...

Way to go, Mo! :)

This past edit took me FOREVER! I spent 3 months with it. Okay, three solid months and a bit of fussing here and there. I"m hoping that the next time, it's not so bad.

But like Sabrina, parts of this book were written almost 2 years ago. While I was in my third trimester. Then other parts were written while under the influence of baby brain and some serious sleep deprivation. So three months to correct all that "bleh bleh bleh" is not that bad I guess.

Way to go, getting going again this month!!

Maureen said...

Granted. Most of the books I'm looking to polish have been gone over numerous times! I figure this will get harder when I open a real raw piece.

P, Kirby said...

80K in 7 hours is freaking awesome.

I think distance is a huge help. I have a really bad habit of launching into revisions right after I finish the first draft, which is a really bad idea. Especially, since I'm kind of ambivalent about the story at that point.

Reading out loud is also great; I just feel silly doing it.

quantum said...

I'm a big fan of text to speech for proof reading and catching the errors that you overlook when reading it yourself.

The story is usually so embedded in your mind that you can happily float over the most awful errors without registering them. A fresh computer voice can reveal how a reader might see it.

My favourite voice is 'Amy' (UK English) from Ivona and I use her with 'TextAloud' from

The latter has one of the most responsive and helpful support teams that I have met in the software industry!

80k in 7 hrs is impressive! That's 190 words/minute or 3 words/sec. I couldn't read much faster than that let alone polish. Not that I ever do much polishing! LOL

Maureen said...

Thanks, Q! I wasn't sure where to go for text to voice. Now I have somewhere to start looking.

Maureen said...

I am lucky, Pat. I have so many older MSS, I can find distance.