Thursday, 8 July 2010

Editing 101 for Self-editing Fiction: Mechanics Part 1

So you've finished editing for Style and now you're ready to dig deeper than sentence structure and variation. Readers nowadays rarely take what they read at face value, which is why editing for Mechanics is so important. A book may be written well in a voice and style that appeals to a broad audience, but with information available at the click of a mouse a writer has to have his facts straight. Otherwise bad things happen such as nasty reviews that damage one's reputation and credibility as a writer.
This is what to look for in no particular order:

  • Don't ever rely on your PC's spellchecker, invest in a good dictionary. It doesn't have to be a heavy, bound book. I love my MacBook's dictionary and thesaurus because it doesn't clutter my desk. Also, always read your chapters paying attention to each word, and when you're finished, do it again to catch any spelling mistakes that you may oversee the first time.
  • Be consistent in your spelling. If you write for a British audience, use British spelling. There's nothing wrong with sending manuscripts with British spelling to US publishers and agents as long as the spelling is consistent and you don't jump back and forth between British and American spelling.
  • As a rule: look up every word you're not sure of. Don't pick synonyms just to ensure you don't repeat words without researching their proper usage because a synonym can't always be used in the same context.
  • Always check your facts: names, places, titles, works of art, events, anything related to history, geographical details, anything related to nature such as flora and fauna, physical possibilities, travel times, street names etc. Never assume the reader won't know anyway because many readers are more critical than the writer. Reviewers often do their research, and as a writer you don't want to come across as too lazy to invest a bit of time to get your facts straight.
  • Quote material properly (if applicable); if you use anything from other people's work never ever forget to mention it otherwise you risk being accused of plagiarism.
Next time: Editing for Mechanics Part 2

To your publishing success!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing such wonderful advice. Research and spelling is a must. I totally agree!