Practical and Effective Self-Editing for Authors
Instructor: Patricia Fry
|4 Weeks (with a bonus Week 5 for those who need extra help)
|You choose when to start!
|For authors who seek publication for their fiction or nonfiction books
|A completed or almost complete manuscript.
Learn self-editing techniques. This is an intensive, hands-on course for authors who want to publish their best efforts, which should be the goal of every serious author. Patricia gives you the instructions and tools needed to perform specific editorial processes during each of the four (or five) weeks and works alongside you to help you perfect your book manuscript.
Yes, students will have the opportunity to work with an experienced editor on their manuscripts as they learn the process of self-editing. Think about it, you are no longer struggling on your own trying to make your story sing or your nonfiction text work.
Through this course, you will learn how to:
- detect and correct the most common editorial errors.
- identify inconsistencies in your manuscript.
- write with a more active (thus more interesting/powerful) voice.
- use transitions more effectively.
- write with more clarity (eliminate muddy writing).
- recognize and correct run-on sentences for much greater readability.
- catch those sneaky hidden mistakes.
- exchange tired clichés for fresh writing.
- tighten your writing by omitting filler words and qualifiers.
- use “person” and “tense” appropriately.
- and more!
If you feel you’ve gone just about as far as you can with your manuscript, stop the merry-go-round and get off. Let Patricia help you to turn your mediocre manuscript into one that shines!
We will discuss the most common editorial errors, such as spacing problems (it is now one space between sentences), the appropriate way to type the em-dash and the misuse of apostrophes, quotation marks, Italics, underline and so forth. We’ll talk about clichés—what they are and why they are discouraged. And I’ll lecture on the proper use of numbers in your book manuscript (when to use written numbers versus numerals). Students will also learn how to use the “find and replace” function for editing.
Assignment: Students will be instructed to check their manuscripts over for the problems and errors discussed in this session. Once they’ve completed the assignment, I’ll invite each student to send one chapter or approximately 25 pages of their manuscript for my review and comments.
This session will focus on filler words and qualifier words. I will explain how to tighten your writing and make your sentences more powerful and meaningful by omitting, rather than adding words. We’ll also work on using the active rather than the passive voice.
I’ll ask students to check their manuscripts over for repeats. This is a common and annoying problem in many manuscripts. Repeats come in three forms. First, there is the tendency for some authors to use the same word too often in a sentence or section. I will show you how to vary the words you use so your writing is more interesting and lively. Some authors tend to forget that they introduced their oldest daughter, Jill, or their husband, Ray, and they repeat this information over and over throughout the book. If you introduced Jill once as your oldest daughter, we know who she is; you don’t have to keep reminding us.
Some authors have a habit of repeating information. You might describe your character or give us a specific bit of information in your nonfiction book in Chapter Three and then repeat it in Chapter Seven. I’ve even seen authors give conflicting information in two different chapters. Your father (in your memoir, for example) might be 5’ 10” in Chapter Two and 5’ 9” in Chapter Eight. This is not acceptable. These are inconsistencies that must be caught and corrected.
Assignment: Students will be asked to eliminate unnecessary and, in some cases, detrimental, filler words and qualifier words from their manuscripts. They will also check to make sure they are using an active voice throughout their manuscript rather than the weaker passive voice. And I will ask them to scour their manuscripts for unnecessarily repeated information. I will evaluate one chapter or around 25 pages of students’ manuscripts after they’ve done the work.
This is a big week as we will work on transitions. (Oh, how important those transitions are!) A transition is your way of moving the story or of organizing the material so your reader can easily follow along. We will work on techniques for creating effective transitions.
We will also discuss your tendency to write muddy and run-on sentences. If this is one of your habits, we will work hard this week to break it. Your readers need and deserve clarity. If they find themselves being bogged down by complicated, confusing sentences, they will stop reading.
Assignment: Carefully read a section of your manuscript—that first 25 pages, for example—to check for muddy writing (awkward, confusing, complex, complicated sentences) and run-on sentences—those that go on forever. This is one of the most important sessions in this course. It could transform you from a so-so writer to a really, much better, more professional writer. I’ll be here to review your work and help you to attain that quality of writing that you (and your readers) desire.
Now that the manuscript is in pretty good shape, we will check for inconsistencies that may have occurred during the writing/editing processes. For example, if you changed a character’s name somewhere along the line, you’ll want to make sure that you made the changes throughout. If you have created an unusual spelling for a place name, you’ll want to be absolutely sure that you are consistent in the way you spell it each and every time. I can’t tell you how many times I have discovered a random name in a manuscript I’m editing. When I question the author, she generally tells me that she originally planned to use that name for her character and changed it in midstream.
We’ll also check for hidden mistakes of the sneaky kind—the use of then instead of than, clarify instead of clarity, etc. You may wear out your find and replace feature on this lesson.
Assignment: Check for those sneaky mistakes. Let me know how many you discover. And also locate any possible inconsistencies within your manuscript and repair them. Again, I will review those 25 pages after you complete this assignment.
Session Five: Optional
I’d like to work with fiction, memoir and story-writers on how to show and not tell as well as how to appropriately use tense and person to the advantage of the story. I’ll also work with students on any additional bad habits they might have that are detrimental to their projects.
Students, who want to continue working with me beyond those first 25 pages of their manuscripts, and/or who want me to do the final edit, will be eligible for a discount of 30 percent. This discount could amount to anywhere from $200 to $800 off the cost of editing. And here’s a news flash: because of the self-editing you’ve done on your manuscript, you’ve already cut your editing bill by, presumably, 30 to 60 percent.