The Nitty Gritty: Tips for the Final Edit

We’re on the final stretch with Grey Lore. It should be in stores at the beginning of December (deep breaths).

In these months/weeks leading up to its release, there’s been a lot of editing going on (by me and others). The big editing was done months ago and as we go along we get into the tinier details, the grit of the thing. It’s that about which I wish to write (how’s that for a sentence, eh? Somebody better edit that thing). This final part of the process can be a little painful, but I believe it really helps a manuscript shine.

Below you’ll find tips on how to fine-tune that lovely little manuscript of yours. It’s not the big stuff. It’s the tiny, the nitty gritty, the scraping and polishing at the end. I hope it helps.

  1. Adverbs. Who was it that said the path to hell is paved with adverbs? Well, whoever it was (what? this is about editing, not fact checking), I’m not sure it’s ecclesiastically accurate, but it is helpful to remember that adverbs should be used sparingly. There is no reason in a hushed burglary scene to say that anything was done quietly. Well, of course it was. Seriously, watch them. I don’t feel like I’m particularly adverb crazed, but in the last edit of my book, I cut out over a hundred (and there are probably more that could have gone). Cut them. Mercilessly.
  2. “Sort of” “Kind of.” Maybe this is a me thing, but since I’m writing fiction for teens, I often feel that to capture their voice I should have some of these sorts of phrases in my manuscript. And sometimes maybe I kind of should. But I definitely overdid it. Even if these particular phrases aren’t your thing, watch for those overused phrases that really aren’t contributing to your story.
  3. “That.” As in “She looked at the picture that she liked.” Instead of just, “She looked at the picture she liked.” Again, I cut out dozens of these bad boys. And they weren’t even missed. It’s kind of sad for them really.
  4. Infinitives. As in “His medications helped to dull the symptoms.” Instead of just, “His medications helped dull the symptoms.”
  5. Read your manuscript aloud. It helps. You catch a lot of the stuff mentioned above. In fact, you might think you don’t use those clunky “that’s” and infinitives, but you’ll find that sometimes you do. And that they can go. You fix phrases. You trim out words. And if you’re lucky, you kind of fall in love with your manuscript again.
  6. Listen to your manuscript. I use an app called Alreader. It’s a robot girl voice and it’s painful to listen to your story read that way. But it catches all the things a human eye/brain will glance over. Did you type “tying” instead of “trying?” Your eye will probably miss it, but not painful voice robot chick. What about that that extra word. Yup. She’ll find it too. (Did you see what I did there? Hint: that that). Or word you skipped (catch that one? It was a little easier). You’ll hear all the extra and missed words. It’s just so useful. In Grey Stone, I caught dozens of mistakes this way. Grey Lore was a much cleaner manuscript, but I still caught about 15-20 errors just by listening.

Now go forth and polish.

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