Saturday, May 16, 2015

Your Own Style Sheet

Scott D. Parker

Last week at press time, I mentioned that I had met with my editor and received her markups for my current manuscript. Well, this week, I made the changes.

Whew! There were a LOT of them. But that’s okay. It’s expected, even. Any writer who thinks they can write a draft that needs no editing, well, I’d like to meet’em. I want them to tell me their secret.

When I made the changes for WADING INTO WAR, I picked up a few things I consistently did throughout the manuscript. I put them on a list and, when I’ve read other manuscripts since then, I refer to that list and identify things I can preemptively change before the editor sees it.

Now, I have even more. Boy do I. When I see a particular edit she is repeatedly marking, I’ll flip to my cover page and make a global note. Sometimes, it’s for a character name. “You said ‘Joe’ on one but you wrote ‘Joseph’ elsewhere. Be consistent.” Or “You refer to every other character by a last name except the two heroes. Why did you name this bad guy by his first name?”

See what I mean? Good stuff. Stuff I often miss since I’m deep into the story.

Then there’s the grammar. I can string words into sentences and paragraphs pretty decently but there are seem quirks I need to address. One: I don’t need to use the word ‘that’ so frequently. Over and over again, I’ve seen ‘that’ slashed by red ink. Eek. Two, and this one I do way too often. It needs an example.

“No, I didn’t,” he said, taking out his notebook. “What for?”

“No, I didn’t.” He took out his notebook. “What for?”

You see how the revision punches up the prose. The original isn’t wrong and might be good to throw in every now and then for a change of pace. But, holy cow, was I *only* doing to original style all over the place. I’m almost to the end of the book (chapter 25 out of 27) and I’ve knocked off almost 500 words from the original word count just tightening things up.

Boy, is it great to have an editor.

Anyway, do y’all use edits and comments from editors and/or critique groups and create your own style sheet for common mistakes you make?


Kristi said...

I'm in that stage of revising right now - your sentence is exactly the sort of thing i'm looking for in this read through. Boring but necessary to tighten everything up ...

pattinase (abbott) said...

I used word search a lot to look for words I use too often. And I do have a writing group with a very good editor in it that catches a lot of stuff for me.