Monday, May 21, 2012

I Didn’t Mean to Say That!


Ah editing. It is one of life’s necessities when you are a writer. I recently went on an editing frenzy and ended up cutting over 2000 words of Bonded. I’d discovered I had used the word eyes over 350 times. Yes, my characters all have eyes and they all use their eyes to do stuff, like looking, but that’s just overkill. (Perhaps that shall be the topic of another post).
Today’s post is about seeing what you say and not what you mean. Writers are great at writing awesome sentences, but sometimes, what you see in your head and what your reader sees are two entirely different things.
Here’s an example from my editing adventures:
Her fingernails scrambled against the stones, trying to escape.
What I meant was that she (the owner of the fingernails) was trying to escape. But now that I look at what I actually said the only thing I can think is, “Why are the fingernails trying to escape?” This isn’t a zombie novel. Nor is it a sci-fi-your-fingernails-have-become-alive . . . though that might make a good horror story. Imagine waking up in the middle of a dark night to find your fingernails escaping or worse, seeking revenge on you for biting them . . .
Anyhow . . .
The moral of the story: When editing, make sure you see what you say and not what you mean.

20 comments:

  1. Ha, excellent advice! I found many dodgy word choices while I was editing!

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  2. ...great advice. Editing is a necessary evil that, when completed, is often times capable of deciding a story's fate.

    El

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  3. Oh yes. I've just been through the editing process for publication and it's amazing what I didn't see in the m/s! I have problems with eyes "traveling" - i.e. "his eyes traveled from her shoes to her hair" LOL. My editor assured me that everyone has these little blips :-) We are obsessed with eyes, though. 300 times? Yikes....off to check my WIP (I remember I once eliminated all the spare "that" s and reduced word count by thousands.

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  4. I'm lucky to have a wonderful critique partner who always points these things out for me. That's interesting that you used the word 'eyes' so many times. Good luck on editing.

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  5. Excellent advice loved the write.

    Great for me to be back.

    Yvonne.

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  6. Great advice. Reading out loud was an huge eye opener for me. What seemed a perfect sentance in my mind became obviously clumsy when I read it out loud. I also will leave the MS alone for a few months, then go back to it with a fresh mind. If I read it too many times, my mind's eye sees what should be there and not what is actually on the page. Feather

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  7. Yep, eyes are a dangerous thing :)

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  8. Oh wow!! I do the same thing! this made me lol!!! Funny and relevant!! Thanks a bunch. :)

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  9. You're right. We have a firm grasp on the image we're trying to project, so we're pre-programmed to see that image in our writing, as opposed to seeing what the words actually express. That's why it's such a good idea to let a manuscript stew in its own juices for a while before picking it back up to begin the editing process. Great post!

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  10. Know what cured me of eyes, looking & overkill of eye movements? I read a piece by a crit partner that had so many looks and eye movements that I cringe every time I see mention of eyes in any form. lol Although some is necessary, it sure taught me to scale it back, way back.

    If you let a piece sit for a while then come back, it's amazing what you can see.

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  11. You used the word 'eyes' 350 times? I see.
    Ooh, sorry.
    What really helps is if I read the thing out loud. I don't have to really project, either. In fact, I often mumble my way through it. It's a tad tedious, but it helps weed out sometimes unfortunate word choices (which smart-alecks like me LOVE to catch), dangling participles, and just plain sucky verbiage (like this).

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    1. When it gets tedious, I switch to a random accent. That makes it fun.

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  12. Oh, you have to edit, too? Good grief. Why didn't someone tell me this before? :-)

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  13. thank you for pointing this out...i appreciate tips and advice!!

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  14. Excellent, Jessica. Love the mental image you paint about the fingernails--so funny--and so true. Thanks!

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  15. Excellent advice. Reading aloud always help.

    Nas

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  16. Great post Jessica, and a well-caught mistake there with the fingernails. I recently read a book that had been PUBLISHED that was utterly riddled with that kind of mistake. Urrrrgh, it drove me nuts.

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  17. That's cute -- those scrambling fingernails trying to escape will stay in my mind this evening.

    I belong to a critique group and we help each other spot those funnies. Most often seen are phrases like "she dropped her eyes to the ground" or "his eyes darted around the room." One of my personal favorites: "he flung his arm out to stop her."

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