Editing Bible

2009-05-12There are many different stages of editing. With my mentorship novel, I (thankfully) have finished the huge, plot altering style editing. Over the last 8 months I have done numerous rewriting drafts, crafted all my characters carefully, explored the hidden folds of my world, reordered plot points and polished the pacing to a high shine.

Next step? The final fiddly edit, a whole other realm of editing. It’s about tightening, pruning, fastidious shaping of sentences, dialogue, the five senses, and making your prose sing. For this stage, I have discovered an editing bible: Writing Tools ~ 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, by Roy Peter Clark.

This book smoothly guided me through the final fiddly edit, reminding me of old techniques I’m familiar with and introducing me to new ones. It’s beautifully set out: each tool has several pages devoted to it, with clear explanations and examples. I’ll likely reread this book again before I begin editing future novels, or at least skim the title of each tool as a quick way to get into that head space. Here are some examples from the ‘Nuts and Bolts’ section:

  • Begin sentences with subjects and verbs: “Make your meaning clear early, then let weaker elements branch to the right”
  • Activate your verbs: this is something I think I’m quite good at, and yet with a gentle reminder, I still found many weak verbs hidden in my prose
  • Take it easy on the -ings: this was new to me, but I found it to be a powerful tool in making my prose more immediate
  • Fear not the long sentence: a good reminder, as I tend to use shorter sentences, whereas a variety offers a more dynamic paragraph
  • Establish a pattern, then give it a twist: “Build parallel constructions, but cut across the grain”

Other great tool titles include: Get the name of the dog, Climb up and down the ladder of abstraction, and Place gold coins along the path. On an aside, yesterday, in the middle of editing, I left my desk for just a second. My adorable yet cheeky little pup, motivated no doubt by the lure of the winter sun splashing over my desk, discovered how to jump from my chair up onto my writing desk. I literally found him as captured below, red pen in mouth, crouched over the chapter I was editing. Now on first glance it may indeed look as though he is simply chewing my pen, but I like to think he was trying to help me edit…



15 Responses to “Editing Bible”

  1. 1 Karen Tyrrell May 12, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Thanx Katherine for these wonderful editing tips, written clearly enough to put into practice. I’m printing this page off … Karen

  2. 2 chrisbongers May 12, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    A variation on the dog ate my homework? You and me just have to have a puppy date; mine’s just as cute, but not so curly!

  3. 3 Katherine Battersby May 12, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Glad it was helpful, Karen.

    Chris, having a pup has made me realise how that saying came about! How do you think an editor would respond to ‘the dog ate my manuscript’ in response to a missed deadline? And Frank and I would love a puppy play date!

  4. 4 Lynn Priestley May 12, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    How cute is that dog? Let’s hope he doesn’t take a liking to the pages you are sweating over. Mine love to shred at a moment’s notice.Very helpful for junk mail. Funny you mentioned that book. I recently found an old desk that I restored. It is now “the writing desk”. I put the finishing touches on it today with a plaque I had made with a quote from Einstein.”Imagination is more important than knowledge”. A few days ago, when the varnish finally dried,I picked four of my favourite books to live on the desktop. One is ‘Writing Tools’ by Roy Peter Clark. The others, a giant Synonym finder, an Oxford dictionary and Julia Cameron’s The Sound of Paper. All high in the inspiration stakes.
    God, even if Frankie did eat your manuscript – how could you stay mad at that face?

  5. 5 randy May 12, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    I might have to look into that book.

  6. 6 Fabio May 12, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Fabio is jealous. Fabio is thinking maybe this “dog” is in fact Fabio’s long lost, even MORE beautiful brother…Fabio is getting all misty eyed just thinking about it.

  7. 7 Sheryl Gwyther May 12, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    Great blog, Kath.
    That’s a great photo of Frankie! :)

  8. 8 Kathleen Noud May 12, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    Hahaha! So cute! I want a dog that edits my work :D

  9. 9 Katherine Battersby May 14, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Lynn, your new writing desk sounds gorgeous. And that’s a favourite quote of mine, too.

    Not sure Frankie’s editing skills are quite up to scratch. Or maybe I just couldn’t read his writing…

  10. 10 Dee White May 15, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Great blog Kath. Oh, did I say blog? I meant dog. Well actually, I enjoyed the blog too. Thanks for the great tips. I’ve added Writing Tools to my list of books to buy.


  11. 11 Sandy May 17, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    Great blog. Great dog. And I have definitely got to get a copy of that book! :) Sandy

  12. 12 Karen June 19, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Have just ordered my copy of the book. I’m in desperate need of editing guidance right now!! And your dog is way too cute for his own good. Awesome picture too – could be used in a magazine somewhere I reckon!!

  13. 13 Writing Desk Fan October 2, 2009 at 11:26 am

    To me editing has always been the hardest part. Learning to edit is difficult, and that’s been a learning process. Any book that acts as a good guide to that is a good read.

  14. 14 Katherine Battersby October 2, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    I completely agree – editing can be tough. Glad to hear that you’re keeping at it though. This book is certainly a great resource for keeping focussed and on track while editing.

  1. 1 Get the Name of the Dog « the Well Read Rabbit || Katherine Battersby Trackback on August 19, 2009 at 6:39 pm

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About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

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