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Welcome to my self-indulgent location for the stories (good and bad) that I can't prevent myself from writing. All comments and criticisms welcome. I post on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Game, SET... Edit?

This is about writing.  Stick with me for a paragraph or two, kay?

Ever play SET?  Give it a shot.  Click on "Daily Puzzle" to the left.  You have to find three cards that make a SET, which means the number, color, shape, and shading each individually all match or all mismatch.  For example:

In this picture, even though the three red cards have 1-2-3, they do NOT make a set because 1) there's no squiggly shape and 2) there's no solid.  The three purple cards also do no make a set, but they would if the single purple were an oval and not a diamond.

Sets here include the three singles in the bottom row.  The numbers all match (they all only have 1 figure), but all the colors are different, the shapes are all different, and the shading is all different.  Also the upper left three-squiggle-solid-green goes with the upper-almost-right two-oval-empty-red and the bottom-almost-left single-diamond-shaded-purple.

Okay, got it?  Go play (when you're finished reading).

I hear you.  What the hell does this have to do with writing, right?  It does.  I promise.  It's about...

....drum roll....

....self-editing.

When you play this game online, you have to find six sets in the twelve cards.  After a while, you keep seeing the same thing over and over because the cards don't go away (notice how, in my example above, the single-diamond-shaded-purple is used twice?).  There are obvious sets, but you don't see them right away.  If the stupid game didn't time you, I'd walk away, eat an apple, and come back.  My time today was under 5 minutes, but I was about ready to pull my hair out, since I got the first five sets in a minute-twenty.

When we self-edit, we have to learn to find the things that we wouldn't otherwise see.  These are faults that we can easily see in someone else's work, work that we haven't dedicated weeks/months/years/decades/lifetimes to, and so we're not emotionally invested.  Pick up our own work, and it's really hard to see it.  Is there too much backstory?  Is this dialogue stilted?  Is that character really necessary?  The first few edits, you may see the first five problem-sets, but if you just keep staring at it, that last set of edits can elude you for months.

I try to get around my own blindness by walking away.  For me, that's the biggest help.  When it comes to spelling and punctuation, I read backwards (bottom to top, right to left), because then I can't become emotionally invested in my characters' lives on the page.  Read it on paper or a computer screen (whichever way you don't write it first).  Read it aloud.  Print white words on black paper/background (color changes do amazing things, or so I've come to learn by accident over the past couple of months).  And, when in doubt, ask a friend.  I realize this goes beyond self-editing, sort of. If the friend is a comma-commando, then that's "typical" editing, but if the friend is reading for content, s/he can help me at least see the problem.  It's still up to me to FIX it.  Just remember that too many friends/readers can spoil the plot--something I forget ALLLLLL the time--so be selective.


What are some tactics you use to help you self-edit and see the faults you wouldn't otherwise?

7 comments:

Carol Riggs said...

Wow, good reminders about editing, Rosie. I always see my mistakes easier when something is printed up on a page rather than onscreen. (ugh, but all the ink to print up a 65K ms!) Good point too about readers spoiling the plot; you have to be careful, especially when showing off a WIP, so it doesn't become more their story than yours.

Cold As Heaven said...

I'm still writing the first draft, haven't got to the editing yet. One of the great tips I've picked up on the writer blogs is to not write and edit at the same time >:)

Cold As Heaven

Heidi said...

I haven't gotten to the editing yet either, but I enjoyed the game. :)

It's true, though - we miss all the obvious things and overthink everything else.

RosieC said...

Carol, I definitely have the problem of too many readers. I need to control my excitement more :)

CaH, I think it's much better to write and then edit. Unfortunately, until NaNo, I'm trying to finish the editing on one novel, and it's driving me berserk. *shrug*

Heidi, glad you liked the game. I'm definitely an overthinker. :)

Chary Johnson said...

When I edit, I often don't see the common errors like spelling or verb tense agreement. I think its because I kind of skim over instead of reading word for word.

Great tips. Is there a link to the game? I didn't see it.

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Erica Woolridge said...

I find reading outloud (and really slowly) works the best for me ... and picking it up again after leaving it for a few days ... both of which you said:)

Or asking someone else to read it because then I panic and read it over way more carefully :p

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