There are several metric crap-tons of editing advice online. I've spent a LOT of time reading it, but every time I make another pass over one of my manuscripts, I seem to forget everything I've ever known about English and the rules of grammar. *please note that this post is strictly about sentence construction and grammar, and not editing for plot or character or voice or anything else* Luckily for me, I usually reach a point (today it happened on page 243) when the lights come back on and I can see all the WTF-ery for what it is. At that moment, I have two choices.
I could always go right back to the beginning with my newly-remembered knowledge and fix all the offending passages, or keep slogging along until I reach the end. I could save the fixes for the next pass. I need to make another pass anyway, even if only to write the synopsis. *that sentence makes perfect sense if you know how I write synopsises. Synopsize? Synoptopodes? Whatever.*
Today I chose to keep going. It's only Editing Round One. I like to look at it as Drafting Round Two. One common bit of drafting advice I've seen is to just keep writing. No matter what problems you think you've run in to, keep churning out words. Everything can be fixed later, as long as all the words are there on paper (or on the computer) to fix.
If I'm in Drafting Round Two, I'm still swinging. I'll keep punching my way to the end, and live to fight again tomorrow.
I'm keeping a list of issues I need to check when I start Round Three. Here's a sampler of problems I need to evaluate. These might have you nodding along, or might inspire pointing and laughing. Everyone has their own writing demons that plague them. These are some of mine. Yours are probably completely different.
Some people are befuddled by commas. Others have a sentence structure they love, and cling to it like little word monkeys. We all have pet words we use over and over again, because we can't help ourselves. This last one is a giant thumbtack in my patootie.
I use some words over and over again, but they're completely unnecessary, and often irritating. Just (200 times in 305 pages). That (already hacked out a few hundred of them). Simply (surprisingly curtailed in this draft at only 30 uses).
I use the "find" feature in Word and search for words I know I use too often. You can even search for word fragments, such as "ing." I nearly fell down dead when I ran that search this morning, before I remembered SOME WORDS HAVE "ING" IN THEM BUT AREN'T BAD VERBS.
Almost every post on general editing warns against using too many -ing verbs. They can turn your writing passive faster than a chipmunk stuffing nuts into its little cheeks. See? Just like that. (there's the evil JUST again, too!). Sometimes, the verb ending in ING is the absolutely correct choice to make. Other times, the "ing" the search tool finds isn't a passive verb at all. Like "morning," "evening," "sing," "sting," "fling," "spring," etc.
When I saw there were nearly 3,000 instances of "ing" in this MS, I wanted to cry. I pride myself on my passive-voice avoidance radar. My CP's know laser beams shoot out of my eyes when I find it. *pew pew pew*
I started subtracting all the *okay* uses of "ing" from the total, and started to feel better immediately. It turns out I used "morning" 22 times. After that, I couldn't stop myself. I do love a good statistic. Without much effort, I found more than 2000 perfectly acceptable uses of "ing." 500 of them were variants of "thing," such as "something," "anything," "nothing," etc. I'm sure there are other words I could deduct from the grand total, but I'd proved my point and picking out the rest of the individual offenders seemed silly.
My morning panic was essentially for naught. It was a good splash of cold water to the face, and I am keeping a closer eye on repeated words now, but I still guarantee my CP's will have their slapping-fish at the ready to hit me in the face with all the WTF-ery I overlooked.
I'll make at least one more pass before I subject anyone else to this story. I know I said this was the first round of edits, but in reality it's probably the third or fourth. Remember that drafting gem from the top of this post? The one that said to JUST KEEP WRITING, don't stop to edit until the draft is done? Yeah. I don't pay much attention to that little rule, either. It's excellent advice, but at the end of the day, nothing I wrote would be sensible or coherent if I didn't go back and reread what I wrote from day to day.
That being said, you probably shouldn't heed any writing advice from me, either. :)