Editing Conundrums

Editing your novel always brings surprises. Here’s the latest one that I found upon doing a final read-through for Perish by Pedicure, one of my backlist titles that I’ve revised for an updated Author’s Edition.

editing your story

HANGAR OR HANGER? This one tripped me up, so I looked for a definition. Guess what? My word choice was wrong. A hangar is a shed or shelter especially for housing aircraft. A hanger is a shoulder-shaped frame with a hook at the top for hanging a garment when not in use.

Here’s the original excerpt from Perish by Pedicure (previously edited by Kensington). Oops, I’ve also started three sentences in this paragraph with “ing” phrases. I’ll change the second one for better grammar.

Old Version:
Imagining how she’d exact restitution, Marla showered, blew out her hair, did her makeup, then pulled on a pair of black slacks and a ruby knit top. Not knowing what to expect at the convention center, she snatched a black Ann Taylor jacket from its hangar in case she would need it later. One more thing. Picking up the telephone receiver, she dialed her salon and left a message that she’d be there that afternoon with the Luxor crew. Thank goodness Georgia had stayed overnight at the hotel, she thought, finishing with a spritz of perfume. Dealing with two houseguests already had her frazzled.

New Version:
Imagining how she’d exact restitution, Marla showered, blew out her hair, did her makeup, then pulled on a pair of black slacks and a ruby knit top. Not knowing what to expect at the convention center, she snatched a black Ann Taylor jacket from its hanger in case she would need it later. One more thing. She picked up the phone receiver, dialed her salon, and left a message that she’d be there that afternoon with the Luxor crew. Thank goodness Georgia had stayed overnight at the hotel, she thought, finishing with a spritz of perfume. Dealing with two houseguests already had her frazzled.

Watch for over usage of the word, “Just” like in this passage where I use it three times.

“And why was that?” Marla asked, noting Ron rushing around the corner. Spotting her, the master stylist halted, looking shocked, but then he just as quickly recovered himself. He must have gotten a look at Sampson’s disheveled appearance. Marla missed Miguel’s response, because just then the hostess called their group. “Wait, Georgia isn’t here yet.”

“She’ll find us inside,” Liesl said, looking very hip in an off-the-shoulder ribbed lavender top. “Let’s go, luv.”

Twenty minutes later, Marla got worried when Georgia hadn’t shown up. Her friend knew they were meeting everyone at eight o’clock. Had she gone to their room to change? Taking her cell phone from her purse, she punched in Georgia’s personal number. No answer.

After excusing herself, she found a hotel phone and dialed their room. The ringing tone persisted until Marla gave up. Now what? Could Georgia have met some guy at the marina and decided to chuck her plans? Possibly, but she would’ve told me, knowing that I’d worry. She’d wait a while longer just in case her fears were groundless.

Replacements:
Marla missed Miguel’s response, because the hostess chose that moment to call their group.

She’d wait a while longer in case her fears were groundless.

These are the latest! Something always pops up when you are editing your work. But it’s important to catch these problems to make your work as polished as possible. Don’t stint on proofreading for one final time. Chances are you’ll always catch something. Happy Writing!

What are mistakes writers make that bother you the most?

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Proofreading Your Novel

No matter how many times you review your manuscript, you’ll always find something to correct. I am reading through Peril by Ponytail for the third or fourth time. And here are the kinds of things I am still finding to correct.

Moustache or mustache? Both spellings, according to the dictionary, are correct. But I use the first variation 5 times and the second variation 3 times. I changed them all to “mustache” because it seems to be more common.

Nightstand or night stand? I have these both ways. Which is it? Considering that my editor did not correct the first usage, I changed the second one to match.

Consistency is the key. A particular word should have the same spelling throughout the story.

I also am looking to reorder sentences for better flow of logic, like these passages:

Original:

An attractive redhead at the front desk glanced up at their approach. “Carol, I see you’ve brought our guests. How was the drive?”

“Not bad. What’s going on, Jan? Why is the sheriff here?”

The fortyish lady thumbed her finger at an inner staff door. “You’d better ask your husband, hon.”

“Marla and Dalton Vail, meet Janice Sklar. Jan is our Director of Reservations.”

Janice flashed them a smile. “I expect you’ll want your room keys. You have Hacienda Number Seventy-Five. Here’s a map.” She circled a few buildings and offered a quick review of their room location and other highlights. “Do you need help with your luggage?”

“I’ll get it, thanks.” Dalton stepped up to the counter to complete the formalities. That included the key to a loaner car from Wayne.

“This way,” Carol said when he’d finished. She led them through a door marked Private.

Revised:

An attractive redhead at the front desk glanced up at their approach. “Carol, I see you’ve brought our guests. How was the drive?”

“Not bad. Marla and Dalton Vail, meet Janice Sklar. Jan is Director of Reservations.”

Janice flashed them a smile. “I expect you’ll want your room keys. You have Hacienda Number Seventy-Five. Here’s a map.” She circled a few buildings and offered a quick review of their room location and other highlights. “Do you need help with your luggage?”

“I’ll get it, thanks.” Dalton stepped up to the counter to complete the formalities. That included the key to a loaner car from Wayne.

“What’s happening, Jan? Why is the sheriff here?” Carol asked.

The fortyish lady thumbed her finger at an inner door. “Ask your husband, hon.”

“This way,” Carol told her guests. She led them through a door marked Private.

I felt Carol would more logically introduce her guests right away then ask about the sheriff.

Go for more precise wording, like in this example. I also changed swarthy to sinewy to avoid stereotyping:

From:

The swarthy laborers glanced at the new arrivals and then went back to work. Marla hoped they spoke English as they approached one fellow applying a coat of paint to a window trim. She was careful to sidestep past a ladder on the walkway and tools on the ground.

To:

The sinewy laborers glanced at the new arrivals and then went back to work. Marla hoped they spoke English as she and Dalton approached one fellow applying a coat of paint to window trim. She sidestepped past a ladder on the walkway and tools on the ground.

Here’s a sentence that needs completion to improve clarity.

Original:

“He [the sheriff] came to tell us Garrett Long is dead. His body was found out on the Snakehead Trail by a couple of hikers.”

“What? That’s not possible.” Jesse’s tan faded under his sudden pallor.

“I know. It’s hard to believe Garrett would let his caution slide. Hopefully the sheriff will investigate and determine what really happened.”

Revised:

“He [the sheriff] came to tell us Garrett Long is dead. His body was found out on the Snakehead Trail by a couple of hikers.”

“What? That’s impossible.” Jesse’s tan faded under his sudden pallor.

“I know. It’s hard to believe Garrett would be so careless as to fall off a ledge. Hopefully, the sheriff’s office will investigate and determine what happened.”

One must have sharp eyes and an alert mind to inspect your own work. Eventually, we get too close to the material. We send it off to our editor, who hopefully picks up any errors we missed. We’ll get back the clean copy for another read-through and then it’s done. If anything slipped past, it wasn’t due to negligence on our part. We tried to catch everything. But no matter how many times we scrutinize our work, the editing process is never done.

Smart Edit Software Revisited

Recently I downloaded the updated version of the Smart-Edit software I’d described below at http://bit.ly/12iU9nZ. I ran my work-in-progress through it even though I’d already made corrections based on the last analysis. Guess what? The program still found problems for me to fix.

self editing

Redundancies caught me this time. Here are some examples:

I started off

I flung myself backward from whence I’d come

Hurry up

Under Punctuation, the program pointed out I had two straight apostrophes. These were easy fixes.

Under Acronyms, I discovered I’d shortened medical examiner three different ways—M.E., ME, and M.E missing the final period. I changed them all to the first one. It’s great having a second set of eyes like this to find mistakes.

The program counts curly and straight apostrophes and quote marks. It found two straight apostrophes instead of curly ones. Under punctuation problems, it alerted me that I hadn’t eliminated all the extra spaces.

proofread

More new findings:

Overused phrases: “gave me a”, “hands on”, “thank goodness”

Repeated words –“when” 204 times

Possible misused words: Different from or different than, eager or anxious, less than or fewer than. (I’m not sure I understand which one to use. Do you know?)

The new edition also lets you work in word processing software, but I didn’t use this feature.

I repeat my recommendation to try one of these programs after your last round of polishing. You’ll be amazed at what you’ve missed.

Here’s a list of programs, some suggested by readers of my earlier column. I’ve only tried the first two and they’re similar in tasks. They don’t replace the read-throughs you need to do for yourself. Rather, they help you pick up errors, repetitive phrasing, redundancies and such that you might have missed.

SELF-EDITING SOFTWARE PROGRAMS

http://www.smart-edit.com

http://prowritingaid.com/Free-Editing-Software.aspx

http://www.myWriterTools.com

http://www.wordcounter.com

http://www.naturalreaders.com/index.php