Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Editing tips 1: Using a word list

I know that I'm supposed to be sharing an update on the reading challenge today but seeing that my improvements are inexistent since last time (I even forgot my current book at my boyfriend's last week-end) I thought that I might as well talk about something more entertaining. I'll definitely read those 1200 pages but this month doesn't seem anymore like the best time to do it.

Anyway as I have been doing a lot of editing in the past few weeks (months?) so let's talk about a tool that I particularly like which is the use of a word list.

When I write my drafts, all I care about is to get the story from point A to point Z and to get the big picture. As you might have noticed, I don't care about grammar, or spelling, style or vocabulary, I just write whatever comes to my mind, but this is another tip which I might or not discuss later. The great thing about writing this way is that it gives me a story. The not-so-great thing is that it's full of mistakes, misspelling, grammar errors and so on. Something about my writing is that if I do something wrong I will almost have it consistently wrong which leaded me to create my word list tool.

The word list tool is used mainly for copy editing but can be used early on in the draft just to roughly fix things if you find them to distracting to concentrate on plot and characters. It allows you to get your most common errors fixed. Let see how it works.

1) Create your word list: what words should you put in your word lists?

I'm going to give you a list of what kind of words works in my case for the type of mistakes I make:
1) Auxiliary verbs (Would, should, could.... ): I tend to get my tenses wrong at time so I make sure what follows my auxiliary verb is a verb stem. 
2) To have and to be in all forms: Here again I need to fix my tenses.
3) ing: that's not a word, just verb ending but it still help me fix my tenses.
4) Verbs that I consistently miss used: My main bother at the moment is to lie, I have this page constantly open and check it every time. 
5) Nouns I constantly misspell: rhythm, words differing from French spelling by one letter.
6) Words close in spelling: thoughts, thought, though...
7) Words close in sound: ear, hear, here...
8) Characters names: I need to make sure they are always capitalized.
9) Words requiring particular font, or capitalization in the story: cities, countries, particular location
10) Specific words (group of words) created for the story.
11) Words appearing often.
You can easily find words to add to your word list by reading you novel, mostly every thing I got wrong once get in the word list. For Demon and Fairy I have currently 74 words. I had 58 earlier on when I used the word list on the text for the first time, but new edits and multiple reads through of the novel increased the list a bit.

2) Use the word list.

Search every word one by one through the entire novel, read the sentence they are in and fix it. I generally only make grammar and spelling changes this way. As it's a very selective method and other type of changes might not fit in the global picture anymore so be careful and use it discriminatingly. 
It can be really fastidious at time and you don't see the page number decrease as you do with normal editing, cross out your words every time you're done with one. It will give you a sense of progress. 

3) The advantages of using a word list.

There are several advantages of using this method, let me give you some of them:

It breaks the narrative. When editing it is very easy to be caught up in the story leading to avoid reading every words and spotting mistakes. Reading sentences instead of paragraphs help to make sure that you catch everything more easily.
It's fast. Seeing that I still find mistakes after 12 or more reads spotting where they are is definitely a must to same my time.
It's consistent. It allows you to fix the same problem all over the novel instead of jumping from one to the other like a normal read through would making the fixing more efficient as you don't have to go back and forth checking how to do it. 
It helps spotting repetitions. Buy this method you will see how many occurrence of the words there is so you can decide if it's too few or too many. 
It covers most of your novel. If you check most of your verbs you'll be checking most of the sentences in your novel, just not in sequential order.
It gives you confidence. If you spot mistakes every time you read your novel it can be very frustrating and you can feel that it will never be done. I generally stop to copy edit when I can read the entire novel without finding more than three mistakes. (I still have reader pointing some at me at times) This method help you make sure than all those hot spots or mistakes nests are actually mistakes free. I can assure you that it feels incredibly good.

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