Disclaimer: This is a longer post than I intended, but it’s funny. Read it through, I promise you won’t be bored. 😉
Yesterday I finished transcribing a short story I wrote in high school with a friend. I briefly wrote about it in a post last week. It was written in two parts, but part two was never finished. Sad face.
Turning it into an electronic version was hard though for two reasons:
- I left the journals in my trunk (for 6 years), and one ended up under a forgotten ice chest. Thus, the pages were wet previously, and now dry. I wish I’d taken a picture of the first few pages. They were JUST legible enough that I was able to transcribe. But not an easy task, for sure.
- I had to resist the urge to edit everything now. This story was horribly written and I just wanted to fix it. But I do my best editing on paper. So I needed to just get it typed up first.
On the outside, the plot summary sounds pretty good. If I had to write it now, it would go something like this:
The night of the high school band lock-in was set to be a great one. Lots of food, fun, and friendship. The craziness of the evening distracts everyone to the real event taking place. People are disappearing, and only one person has noticed. Will he be able to solve the mystery without getting caught in the cross-hairs himself?
That was surprisingly hard to write, and I’m sure I’ll reconfigure that significantly while I work on editing it.
The completed part had a lot of problems once I finally got through typing it:
- It focuses on too many characters, and never lets you really get involved with any of them. I think it can work this way, BUT it needs fleshed out. Because when bad things to happen to any of the characters, I feel nothing. And that’s no bueno.
- The “plot twist” near the end makes no sense. Like, someone comes to a conclusion that no one else would have ever come to. That’s the conclusion it NEEDS, to make Part Two work, but it needs to happen in a better way.
- THERE ARE SO MANY ADVERBS ENDING IN -LY. It got so bad I did possibly edit lots of them out. I think I even made up a few in the original draft. Like WHY, Danielle. WHY.
- There are a lot of unnecessary little plot points. The story opens on one character watching a hornet fly around, and some internal thoughts about it. Never mentioned again. Also, the female MC passes out at band rehearsal in the first couple pages, which literally has no bearing on the rest of the piece. It never comes up again. It’s clearly not necessary.
- In my defense, I did actually pass out at band rehearsal one afternoon, and I think I just really wanted to write about how it felt.
These notes I wrote above are literally things I wrote on the paper I was editing off of.
I, as an editor, tend to write really sarcastic notes to myself on a first draft edit.
I fear many people wouldn’t like my style of editing. It could come across the wrong way, and some would be offended. But I kind of prefer to tell it like it is. Because that’s what I want from an editor.
Some of my comments are actually pretty funny. Here’s some examples:
- After a quote that sounds dumb, I wrote, “What a stupid thing to say in front of people.”
- They said they were going to the car, but no action took place. Just talking. Thus, “HOW DID THEY GET TO THE CAR THOUGH.”
- Another dumb quote making a stupid suggestion, and I answered it. Question: Doesn’t that sound like a great idea? “No. No it does not.”
That’s just me though. And it’s only a first-draft editing style for me. Once I dig into second drafts and on, my comments become more pointed and useful (although in my opinion, sarcastic comments are useful too). In later drafts, I’m cleaning more, marking things out, changing words. The structure and the plot are usually decent by then.
I’m looking forward to delving more into this short story. At least part one. Part two is a trainwreck. I’ll tell you about that one later (I thought this one was terrible, sheesh).
But this long-winded post leads me to my question:
What kind of an editor are you?
When you edit your work, what kind of notes do you take? Do you edit on a computer? Paper? Do you write a lot of notes, or just scratch things out? What do your notes look like?
I think it’s interesting to see how everyone edits differently. It’s why having beta readers is so useful, not just for the different eyes, but also because different editors look for different things. They leave different kinds of notes in ways that make you think about the piece in a new way. (I think an editor needs to fix how many times I used the word ‘different’ in this paragraph lmao.)
So tell me in the comments! Even better, make a post about it (link back to this post and I’ll add it a link to the bottom of this one) and tell us all about your editing style.
Whenever I read something I wrote in the past, I mostly cringe. Like “Why? Why would you do this? What were you thinking?”
I too have sarcastic editing and I tend to treat my work more like an analysis of the characters than improvement on the story.
Character 1: I just don’t know if it’s the best idea
Me: Of course you don’t, you little wimp. Grow a pair, why don’t you?
I try to vary my characters in such ways that I end up not liking them some of them.
Character: I’m going home
Me: I hope you get hit by a car
But then I hardly ever go back to old stories. I find my creative process flows better with fresh starts.
I can totally agree with your opinion on old stories. But I’ve had a hard time getting into new stuff, so an adventure through the past will hopefully get my motivation rolling. Love your sarcastic edits. So glad I’m not the only one who does this haha!
So far, when I’ve edited something I’ve written – whether it’s a blog post, a short story, or my novel – I edit at the computer, making changes as I go. I haven’t printed anything out, yet, since I don’t have a printer up here where I work, and I’m too lazy – or too in the zone or too disinclined to use the paper and ink – to go downstairs and open a copy of the file on Google Docs, using my husband’s computer, which is the one hooked up to our printer. So, I’ll edit either in Word, or in Google Docs – the latter of which makes it easy to edit wherever I am, since I can access it on my iPhone as well as on my laptop. I always enjoyed making notes on a paper copy, though. I miss that.
When you’re editing for yourself, you can always to what you want. I leave all kinds of notes in mine, mostly “is this needed” or “look this up/accuracy”. It’s when you’re editing for others that requires much more objectivity.
When I write during Nano I side line my internal editor by making little snide remarks in my document as I go. Things like, “This is never gonna work you idiot and you’ll just be editing it out later because it sucks but on the off chance the plot wraps around and sends them to Antarctica this might actually be important.” It ups my word count at the very least.
After Nano is over, I let it simmer for December, then pick it pack up in January with a skim of whatever I have, no editing allowed, just enough to see the story arc. Then I start at the beginning fixing it all and laughing at my snide comments.
Then BETA, edit.
Then Beta again with edits.
Then I read the mess out loud to someone following along on a PC.
Then I read it sentence by sentence backwards.
Whew. Then I’m done editing.
Glad to see I’m not the only one writing in snide remarks lol!
Reading it sentence by sentence backwards! What a great way to catch all the things I normally miss in the flow of reading it.
Exactly why I do it. Kills the flow completely.
A few weeks ago my computer decided to upgrade to Windows 10 without my permission. Long story short (read after much crying, cursing and carrying on) I realized in order to maintain my New Years resolution of a post a week (and a very busy schedule for the next few days) I was going to have to hand write my article and just transcribe it when the computer finished having it’s midlife crisis. I don’t know how I used to do it when I was younger. It was incredibly hard and wasteful although it did rather appeal to my romantic side as I sat at the desk and crumpled up sheet after sheet of paper and tossed them over my shoulder as I imagine William Faulker might have done. Still, I found myself hesitating to write the wrong start rather than just typing up what came to mind and then deleting it ad nauseum as I usually do, until something good shows up. Several posts later, I still cringe when I reread that entry. It’s much easier to stare at a computer screen until your forehead bleed, than a blank piece of paper (credit: Douglas Adams) if you ask me.
I always make really sarcastic remarks when i edit my own works but never when I edit anyone elses. Most edits I do on the computer though for a final edit, I’ll print it out and go through it with a system of coded pens 🙂