Tag: editing

editing tips form a woodcarver

3 Editing Tips from a Woodcarver

“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.” -Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

You’ve probably never thought to ask for editing tips from a woodcarver. I normally wouldn’t, either. Yet this past week, I had a little time to spend on my ongoing woodcarving project–a woodland-themed chess set that will likely take forever and a day to complete.  As I sat outside chipping away at my little cube of wood, I realized that woodcarving and editing have some surprising similarities.

Creative endeavors often speak to one another. The basics of creating something useful or meaningful or lovely jump across the boundaries between different mediums.  And when you indulge in different art forms, the principles of one art can offer helpful reminders for the other.

So here are 3 Editing Tips from a Woodcarver:

1. Start with your rough-out (and don’t be discouraged by it!):

The first step in turning a block of wood into a bird, or horse, or (in my case) a mushroom, is to rough out the general shape of your piece. You lop off corners, carve out chunks, and usually end up with an ugly mass that only slightly resembles your finished product. The wood is rough with splinters and frayed edges. But that’s to be expected. The rough-out is just a template of what’s to come, so no one expects it to be perfect.

When it comes to editing, our first drafts act as our rough-outs. They’re the beginning stage, rough-hewn and maybe a little ugly. It can be discouraging to read through the result of long hours of writing only to discover many flaws that still need to be fixed. What we must remember is that the first draft is just the general shape of our stories; just our template of what’s to come. Think it of it as the necessary, unavoidable first step and keep going forward.

(And if you’re one of those people with perfect first drafts, please send us mere mortals the name of your muse. We’d love to meet her.)

2. Cut. Cut, and chip, and carve away everything you don’t need:

Once you finish your rough-out, you can carve with more confidence. You cut away everything unnecessary to your piece, slowly excavating your vision from the wood. Big cuts, little cuts, long cuts, short cuts. Every change you make in carving is done by taking away. You can’t add more wood, you can’t move sections of wood around. You can only subtract what you don’t need. Woodcarving is the art of discerning the essential from the nonessential, and creating something beautiful from what’s left.

In editing, we have a little more freedom. We can add more words to our block if needed. We can shift paragraphs and chapters around. Even so, the ability to cut away anything inessential to our story makes our work infinitely stronger.

3. Step back and look at the big picture periodically.

One of the final steps in carving is smoothing out the surface. Smoothing and rounding wood, in a way that looks natural, requires working gradually. You can’t focus solely on one spot; you have to work from one side to the other. Each cut blends into the next, starting at a distance and working softly toward the spot that needs to be fixed. If you don’t keep the big picture in mind, you can end up cutting away too much without realizing it, or creating stark edges that look unnatural.

In editing, it’s easy to make changes that cause problems in other areas. We can labor over one scene or chapter, getting it just right, only to discover that now it doesn’t fit the chapters surrounding it. As we edit, we have to make sure we step back occasionally and look at the bigger picture. Our changes need to blend into each other and make the story flow.

Bonus Tip: Have Patience with Yourself

Editing, like woodcarving, takes time. If you rush the process, you miss the opportunity to polish your piece to the best of your ability. Have patience with yourself and your work; allow yourself time to check over the details. That way when the times comes, and you decide to call your work complete, you can feel confident that you’ve done your best.

 

Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’d like to hear yours. In what ways do your hobbies speak to your writing?

 

 

 

 

Grow Your Writing Skills — Part III

Polishing your writing is the final step in Ian Lurie’s copywriting course.

In an effort to grow my copywriting skills, I took Ian Lurie’s LinkedIn Learning course “Learning to Write Marketing Copy.” He broke copywriting down into four easy steps: create a plan, free write, write your first draft, and polish your writing. While the course focused specifically on writing marketing copy, I’ve been able to apply his method to fiction writing, blog writing, and even journalism.

For the final blog in this series, I’d like to focus on Lurie’s fourth and final step: polish your writing.

Polish Your Writing

When I first started my job as a promotional writer with Liberty University Marketing, I noticed something almost immediately. Writing only takes up a small amount of my workday. The bulk of my time is spent editing and proofreading my work (and other writers’ documents).

Our editorial process has several levels it must pass through to meet the university’s quality control standards. Because everything that comes from the marketing department must be properly branded, there are very specific guidelines we must follow when creating an email, letter, or advertisement. 

Our editorial team, called quality control, checks for grammar, spelling, clarity, and, of course, our brand. They ask questions like Does this piece sound like it was written by the president of the university? Is this email consistent in tone with our other pieces?

However, before they ever lay eyes on my projects, I need to polish my text to be the best it can be. Lurie suggests taking three steps when polishing your work: get help, edit, and proofread.

Get Help

Always be willing to ask for help when polishing your work. Readers will often catch mistakes that you do not.

No matter what kind of writing you do, it’s always good to have another pair of eyes on your work. If you’re writing a company newsletter, have a fellow employee read over it for you and offer suggestions for improvement. If you’re working on a fictional piece, reach out to a friend who enjoys reading fiction. 

As one of eight promotional writers for my department, I have seven other writers who review my work for me before it goes to our quality control team for proofing. Generally, we try to have two “reads” on our work before we hand it over to quality control. 

This is helpful, especially when I’m writing something similar to what I’ve written before. Every month, I write monthly offer emails. These emails generally advertise similar offers, but I often leave information out because my brain writes on auto-pilot. Having coworkers who are unfamiliar with the material lets me know where I need to improve. They ask questions as both a reader and a writer, offering insight and sparking conversation.

If you cannot find someone to review your work for you, take some time away from the piece. Anywhere from an hour to a few days will give you “fresh eyes” when reading the document, and you’ll find mistakes you didn’t catch while writing. Reading your writing aloud is also a great way to spot errors.

Edit

Editing is making large structural changes to your work, while proofreading is checking for grammar and spelling.

Lurie describes editing as “reorganizing and modifying copy.” Basically, this means you should make large structural changes before worrying about the details of a piece.

When editing, you’re looking for readability and flow. You want your piece to make sense to the reader without them having to work too hard to understand what you’re trying to say. (Many readers will stop reading if the writing is difficult to decipher.) Editing can be as simple as rearranging a few paragraphs to totally reworking sentences. 

At the end of the editorial process, your piece should have a logical flow that gently guides the reader from sentence to sentence. 

Proofread

Proofreading is a little different than editing, though the two often get lumped together. Lurie says proofreading is “correcting spelling and grammar.” Spelling and grammar are difficult for many people. Understandably so.

My suggestion for proofreading is to make it easy for yourself. Always write with spellcheck turned on. Download Grammarly for free to have your work automatically proofread as you go.

Tools are great for proofreading, but they will fail from time to time. That’s why it is so important for you to have a basic understanding of English grammar. I keep a couple of books on my desk at work to help me with proofreading. You don’t have to know everything about English grammar, but using these resources will help you grow more comfortable with it:

  • Merriam-Webster Dictionary — Because spellcheck doesn’t always work the way you need it to
  • The Elements of Style by Strunk and White — Great basic overview of English grammar
  • The Copyeditors Handbook by Amy Einsohn — Excellent resource for mastering copyediting

Never rely solely on built-in tools to proofread your work for you. Always proofread your work all the way through before submitting it to your editor, posting to your blog, or sharing online.

At the end of the day, writing is a skill that you develop. You may be a passionate young writer with many exciting stories to tell, or you may be a seasoned professional struggling against the daily grind. No matter where you are in your writing journey, know that there is always room for improvement. Just remember Lurie’s four steps: plan, pre-write, write, and review.

Follow these four steps, and you’ll see improvements in your writing in no time.

Emily Babbitt is a promotional writer for Liberty University Marketing. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband. Learn more about Emily here.

Editors – Should an English Teacher Edit Your Book?

Editors & editing

Write2Ignite 2019 is history, but now your work begins! We hope you’re primed and ready to tackle a new project or pull out an old one that needs editing and polishing.

No matter how well we write, we all need someone with an objective perspective to critique our books. That’s why writing critique partners and groups are so valuable to us.

Still, we need to be careful. How do we process the feedback we receive? What is the background or experience of the people offering their critique?

We need to be especially intentional about the people we hire to edit our books. Are they familiar with the contemporary publishing industry? Someone with an in-depth knowledge of English or even classic literature may not be the best individual to edit our books. Which brings us to English teachers…

English teachers as editors?

At first blush, an English teacher sounds like the perfect editor. But the grammar and punctuation rules a teacher may follow might not be the same as those used by editors familiar with contemporary books in your genre.

For example, most of us were taught that sentence fragments are inappropriate. Yet they’re in frequent use today. And many classic literary works are heavy on flowery descriptions which contemporary fiction readers tend to pass over. As Elmore Leonard once said, “When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.”

Additionally, English teachers frequently encourage creative substitutes for the word “said.” However, in today’s publishing world “said” is better to be as invisible as possible. An even better choice is to replace it with physical beats. For example:

“No way!” Mary exclaimed.

As opposed to:

Mary slammed her fist on the table. “No way!”

Another example is the use of punctuation. From the perspective of an English teacher, semi-colons can be correctly used in fiction. However, in contemporary publishing, semi-colons are often discouraged in fiction. Why? They tend to pull the reader out of the story.

All that to say English teachers can be great editors as long as they also understand the current publishing environment.

Of course, they can be terrific at critiquing plot flow and character development. And they would also serve well as beta readers to provide feedback on whether your book held their interest.

So, definitely seek out critique partners and editors. But don’t make your choice based on titles or vocations. And when it comes to hiring an editor, connect with the individual to determine if they’re the right person to edit your work.

Bottom line: understand your genre’s standards and ensure your editor understands them, too!

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén