Daily Archives: June 7, 2010

Exercise Your Editing

“How was your run?”

Every once in a while, my DH will break up his normal exercise routine and run outside.  He has worked out faithfully five days a week for the past six years.  His routine includes any of the following: stair master, treadmill, free weights, universal weight machine, calesthenics and the rowing machine.  On occasions, he will take his tennies out doors.

When he does, he usually ends up a bit sore. 

You see, his body is used to the gym routine he puts it through.  He’s in great shape, active and healthy by anyone’s standards. Yet different activities can utilize different muscles in different ways.  Even for those who are in great shape.

Editing is no different.  We get so used to seeing our own writing and editing our own words that we forget to give our manuscript a challenging work out.   We edit within our comfort zones, following a routine that pushes us just a little, but doesn’t allow for a full body work-out.

In this way, our writing is ill prepared to enter the submission rounds.  It may have some serious strengths, but over all, any switch in the routine will test unused muscles–something agents and editors are very adept at.

To fully prep our manuscripts, we need to strap on our metaphorical tennies and hit the pavement. 

What unique techniques boost your finished product?  What is your favorite editing tip?  Give us something to work with so we can challenge our manuscripts to a better edit.  I’ll add them to the list.


  • Read Out Loud.  Besides annoying the dog, it gives me the opportunity to really  hear what my writing sounds like.  This is especially important for poets and picture book writers.  Although, it is important for all writers to capture a good rythm and cadence to their sentences.  Jmartinlibrarian takes this editing exercise one step further and reads out loud at critique groups.  There’s nothing quite like stumbling over words to know they don’t flow. 
  • Read Out of Context.  One of my favorite AQ games is the one where we post a quick excerpt from our manuscripts with a particular word in it.  This really isolates the passage and is great for picking out echoes, extra words or odd sentence structure.  This really helped me refine one of my manuscripts.  And the feedback from other writers was invaluable.  Lisa Gibson shares my love for this game.
  • Cut and Paste: literally.  Laura Marcella cuts her WIP into scenes and rearranges as needed to get the best flow.  Pete Morin uses a version of this by copying scenes onto index cards.   This method is highly visible and flexible during the editing process. 
  • Critique and Be Critiqued.  Eric Trant over at Digging with Worms recently gave critiquing a try.  You can read his experience on his blog.   I think Eric was surprised at how useful the feedback was after he swallowed his fear put his work out there–very publicly.  Additionally, it is always easier to see mistakes in someone else’s writing.  The key, according to Jean Oram is applying your words of wisdom to your own work.  She says critiquing wakes up her editing eyes.
  • Wordle.  Wordle?  Yeah, you know those clouds that give you a visual on your word usage in a manuscript?  That Wordle.  The word according to Jemi Fraser is that this helps her find her overused words.  Know who else loves Wordle?  Cassandra Jade.
  • Find and Replace.  Jemi also uses this tool to get rid of her rut words.  I’ve done it myself to nail down my bobble heads, as there is nothing more annoying than a character who nods at everything. 
  • Take a Breath.  Yvonne Osborne puts her manuscript away for days, weeks or months.  This self-imposed vacation helps her see her writing with fresh eyes.  This step is often missed by newbies who can’t wait to get their roughly edited drafts into the real world.  How do I know?  Obviously, I was a newbie once too.
  • And don’t forget the real exercise.  Limbering up your limbs keeps you in good shape for extended writing stints.