How to Edit

If anyone looks forward a post, they can see I mentioned “CUPS” – the acronym used by English teachers in elementary school to encourage proof reading, which I’m sure I will mention again in the near future. Well, CUPS is basically a ‘pass’ process, not by drafts, that encourages readers to examine their paper through different lenses. We can do the same for editing!

1. Character consistencies

When your characters first appear, just like with real life, they come across with first impressions and appearances. These should remain constant throughout your story. If Bob appears grumpy, he should remain grumpy, not suddenly become ecstatically happy, unless you gave him a reason to change. Your story is basically a persuasive essay. You have to justify everything.

2. Action, reaction

This may seem silly to include as a separate dimension of editing, but to me this is one of the most important. Your story must have emotion and affect your reader in some way. If your reader isn’t feeling anything, then you haven’t hit that point yet. A good way to start is to make sure your characters are feeling it first! Refer to the previous post on action, reactions.

3. Plot construction (and purpose)

Just like with characters, your plot should remain consistent, which will be harder and harder to track as you add sub-plots, but this means you have to examine every dimension of your story and see if it answers the question, does this add to my theme or conflict? Because everything has a purpose. And if it doesn’t, consider cutting it.

4. Style

This is one of the most common thoughts for editing. Your style must encourage readers to keep going. It must feel natural, not forced. This is not grammar editing, only overall stylistic edits. The difference between ‘he hit a wall’ and ‘when his car smashed into the wall, the front crumpled on impact’.

5. Singing Senses

These are not my own thoughts, but those of Elissa Field, and I am including them here because I feel they are an important part of the editing process. As Field said, writing is related to sight, and we should include as many sensory details as possible. But, what I love most of all is her conciseness, that “writing is overly preoccupied with details related to eyes and unnecessary sight direction. ‘He turned and looked toward the dock. The boat was on fire,’ is a great example of unnecessary sight direction. Better: ‘The boat was in flames.'”

As I mentioned, we can make this into an acronym to encourage a pass process, not a draft process. And if you look at my ordering – each first letter – this will make ‘CAPSS’. Not too far from CUPS. If you print out your manuscript like me, you can write this in the top corner and use each of these acronyms to remind yourself what to check for. It certainly will help me in the future!

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