I learned the hard way. After I submitted my first novel to a publisher, I thought I was finished—really finished. I was already a professional writer. Didn’t need any more help.
Boy I was wrong. I needed help in areas I didn’t even know about and the publisher let me know that. At the same time, I saw this as a gift; a gift of new knowledge. I wanted to have the power to fix my defective grammar—without relying on others and critique partners. So I enrolled in an online grammar refresher course and read additional educational materials on grammar.
I wanted to share my knowledge with other aspiring writers. There is the creative aspect that drives writers to express their ideas, but it is so important to make sure that your writing conforms to the very complicated framework of English grammar. I believe learning to write never ends—it’s an ongoing journey. I’m sure there will still be things I’ve done wrong after I completed polishing up my grammar for my novel.
To prevent, or lower the chances of getting bombarded by surprises after submitting your first baby to the publisher, I would like to share a few editing tips. Things you may not know needed correction or attention. You’ll be saving yourself a lot stress--before your work lands on the editor’s desk.
Don’t let body parts act on their own. You’d think you’ve seen these written in other novels.
Example: “His fingers raked his hair.” It sounds like his fingers are detached from his body.
The correct way is “He raked his fingers through his hair.”
This I didn’t know about and I have written so many sentences with these wandering body parts. Keep going over this rule as you edit. I had to go over it many times until it was drilled in my head.
Keep out details that have nothing to do with the scene or story. It slows the pace. However, you can be creative and make those detailed statements having to do with a scene.
For example, in my Living with the Ex novel, Karina welcomes Naomi into the townhouse when she brings in her luggage. (Karina is Naomi’s ex’s sister. Karina and her ex live together in the townhouse.) Naomi notices Karina is wearing a Minnie Mouse T-shirt and has her hair up in braids.
I sat back rubbing my chin. I’m thinking the editor or reader is going to say, “Who cares if she’s wearing a Minnie Mouse T-shirt. How is that related to the story?” I could either eliminate this, or be really creative. Give a reason why the Minnie Mouse T-shirt should be in the story.
And I changed it to: Karina opened the door, wearing a big Minnie Mouse T-shirt. Her hair was in two braids pinned up over the crown of her head. She drew a warm smile, probably convincing Naomi that they were in Disneyland. Right … she wished.
Now it has something more to do with the scene. Naomi’s nervous. She’s about to face her ex-boyfriend in the townhouse. Karina’s Minnie Mouse T-shirt and braids made her feel for a fleeting second that she was in Disneyland--where you’re happy and relaxed. It took her away from reality, knowing she had to face someone cold, someone who’d broken her heart, and someone who was furious about being in a reality TV show with her. Now if any of you were in Naomi’s situation, you’d probably rather be in Disneyland too!
Make sure your words are spelled in either American or British English. I ran into a few words I’ve written in British English. Such as “towards.” Sometimes you see it spelled “towards” or “toward.” I’m glad I had caught this and googled “towards vs. toward.” I came upon a link that states “towards” was British English, and “toward” was American English.
Keeping Author intrusion out when you come upon these phrases:
“He noticed that Jack was nervous.”
Instead: “Jack faced him, eyes widened.”
“She was shocked when seeing him with nothing on …”
Instead: “Omigod. He was in her room naked!”
“He thought he was safe …”
Instead: “He was safe.” or “Safe at last.”
“Ivo knew he had to tell her that he didn’t sleep with Bianca.”
Instead: “Naomi had to know he didn’t sleep with Bianca.”
This is in Ivo’s POV. Doesn’t it make you feel more connected with the character’s POV and feelings?
Take your time getting familiar with these tips. There’ll be more to come soon on my next blog.