There comes a time when the big things are done: you’ve figured out your audience; you’ve finally got your voice down; your themes, concepts, and symbols are there; your plot is running; and your characters are who they need to be. But, sadly, the big things being done doesn’t mean everything is done.
This is the point where editing becomes a bug hunt. You’re triple checking continuity. You’re checking punctuation. You’re fixing wrong word and spelling errors. You’re straightening out formatting problems. Unless you are a very special person this part of the editing process isn’t a lot of fun.
But, you can make it better if you use your tools
My wife is a full-time employee and affiliate faculty at our local university. I go there to do research. Between us we hear many people (students and faculty) whining about nitpicky problems with formatting.
Yes, weird stuff happens. But, you can cut a lot of your formatting headaches out of the bug hunt if you do your work up front.
Think then write…
Think and plan what you’re working on from the start. This helps you have the formatting in place from day one. There is less to do at the end if you’ve been doing it all along.
Learn, use, and love styles…
A certain professor who shall remain nameless constantly protest that styles are a plot by Microsoft to control our writing. To be honest, I’m not sure if it is laziness or just paranoia. Styles existed before we had any word processing or desk top publishing software.
Most desktop packages have styles options. Most good ones allow you to edit styles and create your own. Even if you’re not ready to create your own styles, just using and changing existing styles helps you a lot.
Using styles helps keep all those formatting bits under control and allows you to change the easily when needed. I can change the body text of my entire 73,000+ word novel from Calibri to Times New Roman, or even Wingdings with a couple of mouse clicks using styles.
Without styles… Now we’re having headaches.
Styles allow you to have your formatting under control without having to do lots of little fiddly stuff on every page.
Choosing and/or creating styles at the beginning allows your manuscript to be formatted right from the get go, even if you want to do something obscure.
Using styles simplifies the bug hunt. But, we can do even more…
A while ago I wrote about Pro Writing Aid and Grammarly. Choose the one you like, or some other that works better for you, and use it. The sad truth is we can easily go blind to punctuation, spelling, and grammar issues in our work. These packages can help us find these problems (but like I said don’t let them do all the work…)
You might even consider volunteer or paid copy editing help. A good editor is better than the software, and can really help. Software doesn’t understand intent. Editors just might. Editors can hash through things with you in ways the software can’t.
You might get away with eyeballing an email or text. But, maybe not… For a book… Do yourself a favor and get some help (and if your help finds nothing wrong, maybe you have a career as a copy editor…)
Summing its up…
The bug hunt is necessary dear reader. Even the best story becomes hard to read if it’s full of errors. A story without copy editing is kind of like showing up to a wedding in your underwear… You might get away with it in some limited circumstances, but most of the time you’re opening yourself up to ridicule and denial.
Using your tools helps make your bug hunt easier.
Do your editing dear reader. I know your pain (I’m working on mine…). And, I’ll see you next post.