Saturday, January 22, 2011

Gut Editing

img-013A couple of days ago I was at a friend’s house, dropping off some craft supplies for the Girl Scout meeting. I was in a hurry, as always, made my goodbyes, jumped in the car, turned the key in the ignition…and nothing happened. And I mean nothing. It wasn’t like the car even tried to turn over…and I’d just been driving the darned thing minutes earlier.

I can do a few things with a car—I can change a tire, add some oil…but I’d probably just call AAA auto club to come and do those things, since we have a membership. I had a feeling this problem was battery related so I popped open the hood.

My friend and I looked at the engine dubiously. Finally, I noticed that there was a cable that was kind of flopping around. I frowned at it. “That couldn’t be right, could it? Some cable not connected to anything?”

My friend said, “You know, I think that’s supposed to clamp onto the battery. See? It’s got a red cover on it and there’s the green one.”

Ahh. I hooked it onto the battery terminal, or whatever it was. I jumped into the car and it started right away.

I know very little about cars, but I do know when something doesn’t look right.

I’ve focused a lot on editing this week, probably because I just finished a slew of it recently. Now I’m back in the creative part again, but the editing still lingers in my mind. So my mind jumped right back to editing as I hurried back home.

I think that sometimes we can overthink the editing process. It seems so daunting (or boring) sometimes, but really…all it boils down to is that we’re searching for something that doesn’t look right.

Now the car engine was completely unfamiliar to me, so my eye went right to the thing that didn’t look right. But with a manuscript, we’ve been working so closely with our words that it can be hard to get that distance.

Ways that we can distance ourselves enough from a manuscript to find the things that don’t look right?

Time: You can put your manuscript down for as much time as possible, then return to it.

Reading aloud: This is a method that I use and it does help quite a bit.

Change of scenery: I really don’t know why this works, but it does. If I’ve written the majority of the book at home, then I’ll go to the coffeehouse to edit it, or vice versa.

Different font: I’ve heard this trick before, but haven’t used it. Some swear by putting your manuscript in a completely different font for editing.

What gives you the distance to see when something doesn’t look right?