Editorial Process: Blood Diamond

Screen Shot Blood Diamond 2015-05-12 at 10.47.18 AMIn order to take a more systematic, thorough approach to my editorial, I have changed how I work.

Change is a pretty common theme in my life at the moment.

I use Scrivener as my writing tool of choice. I like the layout, I really appreciate the compiling abilities of the program, and there are many useful features.

Because I have gotten a new computer–one that actually works–I have completely changed how I work. Unlike Windows, Mac OS X has a special way of handling programs in full-screen mode. By swiping three fingers across the track pad (or two across the magic mouse), I can switch between windows easily. This has let me focus my concentration quite a bit; I don't get distracted by shiny things, including IM messages. (I hear them ping, but I ignore them until I finish what I'm working on.)

It has also done away with my side-by-side editorial practices. While it slows my editorial pace a bit, it has had a lot of fringe benefits.

One of the consequences of this change is the fact I have to pay more attention to what I'm doing. That's a good thing. As I am constantly swapping between screens, I have to take better notes on what I've done to each chapter.

That's where Scrivener comes in.

In order to polish Blood Diamond, I am doing multiple passes on each and every chapter. I am recording the passes as I do them. Here's a list of editorial work I'm doing:

  1. Implementing Rachel's Edits
  2. MS Word Grammar/Spelling Check
  3. Reread/Line Edits/Proofing Edits
  4. MS Word Grammar/Spelling Check
  5. Reread/Line Edits/Proofing Edits
  6. MS Word Grammar/Spelling Check
  7. Implementing Proof Reader Edits
  8. MS Word Grammar/Spelling Check
  9. Re-Read/Proofing Edit

Proof Reader / Rachel Edit Implementation is pretty straightforward: I read over their notes, confirm the correction, implement the correction, and triple-check it.

MS Word Grammar/Spelling Check might come across as a little silly to you; it's actually quite helpful. Here's the thing: computers aren't great at grammar checking, but there are some rules that simply shouldn't be broken. Its vs It's is a great example.

Word is actually very good at catching errors of this nature. I've seen it correctly identify passive voice–and even make suggestions on how to rewrite the sentence. It isn't always right, but it is a really good starting point for fixing a lot of little things.

The green, red, and blue squiggles in MS Word are my friend, and I am absolutely not ashamed of admitting this. Any tool that can help me catch an error is a good tool. MS Word flags things–sometimes it flags the wrong thing. That said, it's my job to go through each and every thing it flags, confirms whether a fix is needed, and fix it if it is.

Computers aren't a substitute for a human… but a computer is also a neutral party.

If it sees an error, it'll tell you–even if the error is not legitimate for fiction. What it does is force me to look at the sentence, at the phrasing, and at the specific words. This allows me to make an editorial decision.

You'll notice I do this quite often.

Editing always runs the risk of introducing a new mistake when any change is made. So, after every round of editorial, the chapter or section I'm working on is run through MS Word again.

This significantly helps me catch mistakes.

Now, you've probably noticed that my list has a lot of repeated work. One pass isn't enough. However, here's something really important: I am not going back and making changes for the sake of making changes. I'm only making necessary changes. If there is a sentence that is awkward, I need to fix it.

If there's a word that isn't used appropriately, I need to fix it.

Changing a sentence for the sake of changing the sentence isn't what this phase of editorial is for. So, when I say Line/Proofing edits, I mean I am making necessary adjustments to the book.

While I will sometimes rewrite a sentence because I can, I shouldn't. If I can make the sentence substantially better, I should.

My goal is to write a good story my readers will enjoy.

Fiddling for the sake of fiddling usually does one thing and one thing alone: it sucks the life out of the story.

Over-editing is a real risk, and it's one I'm trying to avoid.

So, while I am going to be doing a lot of passes and recording them as I finish (on a chapter by chapter basis), I am perfecting what is there, not changing it for change's sake.

It's a challenging line to toe without belly flopping. Here's hoping I can refine the story and make it a tale people want to read.

I'm excited. I can see my self-editing skills improving, and that's a huge thing for me.

Leave a Comment:

John D says May 12, 2015

How to work with Scrivener and Word? Do you flip-flop between the two? What are the benefits of Scrivener? I have a full version, but hardly ever use it.

    RJBlain says May 12, 2015

    How I work with both is pretty simple. I full screen both word and scrivener. In Mac OS X, you can just swipe your fingers across the trackpad to switch between different full-screen windows. I look for errors in word. When I find them, I swap back to Scrivener, hunt it down, and correct it.

    The benefits of Scrivener is… complicated. Essentially, I use it as an over-glorified version of Word, one that lets me organize files within a manuscript. In this case, I have one file per chapter. the real power of Scrivener is in the ease of compiling manuscripts for publication. A few buttons, and bam! Done.

    It’s not for everyone, and there are a lot of higher end features I don’t actually use. I just like the interface, the compiling ability, and how I work with it. 🙂

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