Tuesday, June 23, 2009

From the Land of Self-Editing Books!

That's right folks, it's time for our first (and possibly only) edition of "From the Land of Self-Editing Books!" (please insert own echoing announcer voice here.)

Since I haven't been able to be near my computer a lot lately, I've been reading quite a few self-editing books. I've noticed some common themes in these and wanted to point out a few of the rules that have really made me think. Hope they help you too. :)

1 - Ignore the Thesaurus - Unless you are using your thesaurus to think up words that you know, but your sleep-deprived mind can't conjure at the moment... don't. In order for a piece of writing to flow as though effortless, it must feel natural. If it isn't something you would use in every day conversation (and having to look it up, by definition, means it isn't), then it will ring false to the reader.

2 - Go full steam ahead - For first drafts, let it be messy, let it need work, let it get on the page. Revisions are for editing and too many authors let a need for perfection the first time stop them from ever actually finishing the piece. Get out of your own way and get the words "The End" down on paper. Then go back and make it flawless.

3 - Give your characters (all of them) at least as many flaws as you have - We are women and we are writers... of all people, we have a hard time shutting up the voices in our heads--especially that nit-picky voice that tells us all the things that are wrong with us and what we're doing. For once, let's use that annoying voice to our advantage. Find flaws, rejoice over flaws, see the good and bad in life and people... and use it. No one is perfect, in reality or fiction. Give the reader characters they can believe in.

4 - Perfect the villain - Evil villains who are just bad are boring. Give them charisma, give them rational behavior (by their standards), make them relate-able. Unlike cartoons, few real people don't do things just to be bad. Villains shouldn't do that either. Give your bad guys motivation, a cause, something they find to be worth fighting for. If you can accomplish this feat you will find your villain just went from a stiff, cardboard cutout to a living, breathing, three-dimensional being.


  1. Love it! Thanks, Jenn. I especially needed to hear number 2 today. I'm getting hung up in my writing, which is weird for me and just need to remember that the first draft doesn't have to be perfect.

  2. Thank you! I love number three! My character's definitely have flaws, and most of them are the same ones I have! LOL:) I also have a horrible time with the second one. I always have to make myself keep writing, even if I am itching to go back and fix a bunch of stuff.:)

  3. Great post! I am working on editing my WIP right now, so good timing. Thanks for the tips!!!

  4. Thanks Jenn!! I like it when other people read the editing books for me and give me the reader's digest version!!

  5. I love this! And I'm up for any reminders I can get especially as I rework all my Austens in the next few months. Thanks! Jenni

  6. I love this post. Especially number 2. I definitely overthink the technical right now when I should be focusing on getting the story down.

  7. I keep reading back over what I already wrote, and I tell myself it is so I can get back into the story. But in the end, I just edit and edit, when I should be puking out my rough draft.

  8. Well, you have done really a great job by suggesting the rules for self editing specially the number 2 as most often I get hung up in my writing, which is weird for me and just need to remember that the first draft doesn't have to be perfect. Also, I think it will help me in editing my book that I have written last month or earlier.



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