Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Things I've Learned While Editing

Things I've learned while editing...

*Exclamation points should be smited at twenty paces. Show urgency through dialogue, action and description instead.

*Don't overuse names in dialogue. Think hard about how often you use someone's name in casual conversation. I'll willing to bet it's not often.

Good Ex: "Hey, Bob, can I ask you for a favor?"

Now you're engaged. Carry on your conversation as usual.

Bad Ex: "What I wanted, Bob, is your input on this paper I wrote." (That's not bad in and of itself. It's only bad when you compound the previous comments with something like this: "Thanks, Bob, for your help."

That's just too much Bob. Use names sparingly. You want your characters' conversations to read smoothly and naturally. Deleting names helps.

*This is another "use sparingly" tip. Dialogue tags are necessary, but keep an eye on them. Instead of a simple "he said", can you use an action tag instead?

Good Ex: "Don't touch me," she said. "Or you will regret it."

Better Ex: "Don't touch me." She slapped his hand aside. "Or you will regret it."

*Don't say "Her heart beat within her chest". It's her heart. Where else is it going to beat? ;)

*You can use "he shrugged" or "he rolled his shoulders", but it's repetitive to say "he shrugged, rolling his shoulders."

*Punctuation is one sticky wicket, but I've noticed others using punctuation similar to what I have used in the past. My editor corrected me. YMMV But I think it's worth mentioning.

Ex: "And I think,” her cheeks pinked, “Nesvia assumed you wouldn’t go without me.”

Corrected Ex: And I think…” her cheeks pinked, “…Nesvia assumed you wouldn’t go without me.”

Unless the phrase interrupting that bit of dialogue is an actual dialogue tag (asked, said, etc.) you have you use ellipsis or emdashes to punctuate the interruption. I'll show you a couple of variations to illustrate what she meant.

Ex with dialogue tag: "And I think," she said as her cheeks pinked, "Nesvia assumed you wouldn't go without me."

Ex with emdashes: "And I think--" her cheeks pinked, "--Nesvia assumed you wouldn't go without me."

Well, that's about all I can think of off the top of my head. These are all the points I've made sure to memorize, not only so that I turn in cleaner manuscripts, but so that I save my editor work I could be doing on my own. A happy editor is a...well, let's just say I want to keep my editor happy. 

How about y'all? Any tips you'd like to pass along?


Ryssa Edwards said...

I think you're my editor in disguise. This is great. Especially the part on exclamation points.

Hailey Edwards said...

When I turned my first book in to my editor and she saw all the exclamation marks, she said something that stuck with me.

That unless I wanted readers to read those sentences with the same volume and enthusiasm as a bunch of tweens at a Miley Cyrus concert, that I needed to remove them. LOL

Tatiana Caldwell said...

My very first manuscript was riddled with exclamation points. Probably read like a comic book (which wasn't the intent). I pass the tip to tone down on those a lot.

Never saw the tip about interrupting dialog with ellipses or em dashes - my editors seem to like commas. Interesting to note, though.

The one that seems most often repeated but least often heeded is "Show, don't tell".

Hailey Edwards said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hailey Edwards said...

It's all about application.

If you're using a dialogue tag, then, unless you're going for emphasis, there will be only commas.

If you're interrupting dialogue for action, then a different form of punctuation is required. :)

And you're absolutely right. Show vs. tell is hard to learn, so it's often absent in an author's earliest works.

As with any other job, the critical part of writing is to continue learning, growing and improving your craft.