Editing your own writing: identifying your errors and bad habits

Support group for writers editing cartoon

Back in December, I wrote a post asking whether you can ever really finish editing a piece of your own writing. I talked about how I’d recently re-read my entire novel after a six-month break and been surprised by how much I wanted and needed to change.

In this post, I thought I’d share some of my editorial findings and pet problems. All punctuated by some good cartoons, of course πŸ™‚

Peanuts Snoopy Editing and writing cartoon

One of my most common editing notes was “fix flow”, which makes it sound as though I need a plumber rather than an editor! These were places in the story where I felt the connection between sentences or paragraphs was too sudden or jarring and needed smoothing; as if reading were like climbing down a ladder and suddenly a rung was missing. I blame these absent rungs on a previous round of harsh word-cutting prior to submitting to literary agents. From “internet wisdom” I became convinced that if my MS was over 90,000 words I had no hope of anyone asking to read it. And so I cut as many words as I could, leaving things a little too bare in places. However, now it seems I’ll be self-publishing, the book can be as long as I damn well think it needs to be! So the words are going back in (you can’t stop me, mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha… you get the idea).

Debbie Ridpath Ohi cartoon writers something amazing happen here fix it later

I had also failed to eradicate inconsistencies in usage. I had “OK” written as “ok”, “okay” and “OK”. I also used “OK” far too much. That’s sorted out now.

And there were orphans. You know, little bits and pieces which get stranded from previous drafts. My example from this edit: “Let’s go to up to my room.” Can you see what happened there? Earlier draft would have said, “Let’s go to my room”; later draft, “Let’s go up to my room.” During the change the first “to” got stranded. As I mentioned in my previous writerly post: EIGHT BETA READERS (and I *cough*) DIDN’T SEE THIS! *shudders*

Comic rewrite contest cartoon cyanide and happiness allergic to grammatical errors

Words can get confused in the mind of the writer. When you’re writing at unsociable hours around work and other commitments, typing with one hand, propped up by caffeine and sugar, you can make mistakes you’d never make when “sober”. My last beta reader caught a mix-up between “taut” (adjective) and “taught” (verb). I had someone with “taught muscles”. Oh deary me. Muscle lessons must have been compulsory at his high school, I guess.

I described a character’s hair as “coiffed”. Well, I wanted to say “coiffed”, but my MS had it as “quaffed”. I’d like to see that.

Another character had spent all evening dusting and using the vacuum cleaner. I wanted to use the verb “hoover” (that’s a very British one!), but instead I had my character spending the whole evening “hovering”. As my beta reader said, that must have been exhausting!

That’s enough about me. Over to you. Please share your editing tales! Have you ever found something in your MS/WIP that made you laugh?


Claire Huston / Art and Soul
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14 thoughts on “Editing your own writing: identifying your errors and bad habits

  1. I love that last comic.
    And don’t you love when you don’t know how to spell a word but you know the options your word processor is offering aren’t right, either? It drives me up the wall, because I’m usually good at spelling, but apparently I’m so wrong the spell checker has no clue, or the word I want isn’t actually in its data bank yet.
    Most of my inconsistencies tend to come in terms of hair color, eye color, and whether someone’s hair is straight or curly. I have to go over everything and make notes, and then decide once I’ve tallied up all the different choices I made.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love hassling with an American spell checker (that insists it’s a British version) and I’m after an Australian spelling, anyway – usually something ridiculously complicated like ‘manoeuvre’ (yes, and there goes the red underline right here, telling me it’s not the U.S spelling!). Oh, boy. Why do we do it?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t see the to and had to reread it after you’d explained. Oh dear…just shows how often we see what we expect to see…like that bird in the bush triangle thing that gets sent round. I think inconsistencies must be so hard. I find I have enough in blog posts and I go through changing them (like numbers written or not etc) then forget halfway which one I wanted to use in the first place. Good luck with the OCED x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you!
      It’s quite frightening. I had a similar experience when another writer put a sentence of hers on Twitter and I couldn’t see the mistake for ages! Little things creep into a manuscript when you’ve been editing it for a long time. I will definitely be paying someone to do a final proofread before publishing my book (although, if I’m really lucky I’ll get picked up by a publisher and they pay for that sort of thing!).
      I check blog posts and comments but I’m sure small errors sneak in. Everyone has been kind enough not to point them out so far πŸ™‚ xx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. omg That top cartoon is ME. Haven’t yet let a single one of my amazingly edited manuscripts out in public. I’m actually very good at catching other people’s mistakes, but my own typos continuously reassert themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m the same: I can see the errors in other people’s work work at 20 paces, but mine slip under the radar. I can only think it’s because I know what I wanted to write so that’s what my brain sees. The prepositions which are the sneakiest: an extra ‘to’ or ‘for’ hanging around when they should have been long gone! πŸ™‚

      Like

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