Sunday, June 25, 2017

Editing Short Stories

Hello Lovelies!

Today I thought I'd tell you how I edit my short stories. Feel free to use some or all of my techniques, or simply read and move on, happy with your own system. As long as you edit your stories, it's all good! (But, please, no matter how you do it, edit your stories!)

The first thing I do is simply read through the draft. I do this in one sitting, which, let's be honest, with short stories isn't too much of a time-sink. If I find typos, I fix them, but otherwise all I want to do is make sure the story, from front to back, is fresh in my mind. If I find any glaring plot problems during the read-through, or otherwise discover a way to make the story better, I fix it now. Otherwise, if I'm happy with the structure and how it plays out, I continue to my next read-through.

My second read-through is pretty much the same as my third, fourth, fifth, and however many I need before I'm happy with the story. (Usually by my fourth or fifth, I'm ready to move on.) I check word-usage, punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, and all that good stuff to make sure the prose sparkle. I want my dialogue to sound realistic, the story to not be too passive, and words to not repeat too much, or at all, if possible. If you get to a read-through where you're not finding many things to change, it's probably time to move on to the next stage. If you're not sure, another read-through won't hurt.

One thing to remember, though; you will be able to tinker with a story forever if you want to. You change and grow every day, so you'll find something else in your story with every pass. At some point, you need to say, "It's ready." When I find I'm at that point, I move to the next step.

My next step is a program called SmartEdit. No, it's not free, but I find invaluable. I use the stand-alone version, not the Word plug-in. I copy and paste my manuscript in, and it makes a number of checks for me. Personally, I have it check my adverb usage, possible misused words (ex. accept vs. except), redundant words, and my monitored words, which is a list of many words I know I use far to often (ex. that, was, up). There are other things it can check, as well, and you just need to click on an option for the software to add it to its compiled list. It helps trim up my prose, making it leaner and meaner. The best part is you can get a 10-day free trial, so you can see how well you like it. I'm sure you can also Google other programs, some maybe free, to help clean up your story.

If you don't want to use a program at all, you can make a pass where you focus on only adverbs, one where you check words which you know you know you use too often and eradicate them if you can, and so on and so forth. You can do the same thing as SmartEdit or other programs, but it's going to take a bit longer. If you don't mind that, or are good at focusing on more than one task earlier in the read-throughs, you're all set.

After I use SmartEdit, I give the story one more read-through to make sure I didn't jumble anything while removing words. Also, one more read-through is never a bad thing to make sure everything still flows. I then move onto my final (editing-wise) step. 

This final step is another program, but it's free, and you might already have one downloaded on your devices. I listen to my story with a text-to-speech program. Personally, my favorite is NaturalReader. You can download it at that link for free. Whatever device you edit on (laptop, desktop, iPad, etc.) may have a text-to-speech program built in, but I find the voices on NaturalReader are the easiest for me to listen to. There is a floating bar so you don't need to copy and past anything, simply highlight the text you want read, and push play. Other programs may work just as well, but I love NaturalReader. There is also a paid version, but for my purposes, and likely yours, there's no need to go to it. Every once in a while, the voice will stop so it can offer you a chance to upgrade, but it's an easy two clicks to get back to your work. 

Why do I suggest using a text-to-speech reader? First off, it's the best way to find pesky typos or wrong words. Often the eye skips over typos, but if you're listening at the same time, you'll pick them up. You can also determine if a sentence or passage sounds unnatural to the ear and fix it. It's also easier to tell if dialog sounds natural when you listen rather than simply read it. Basically, I highly suggest you don't skip this step for the hunting down typos reason, but you'll also benefit in other areas.

That's it. Once I finish listening to the story, I'm confident my story is ready to be published. I know it's a lot of steps, and my longer short stories (those running 10k to 15k words) often take a week or longer before they're ready. But, honestly, that's no time at all to make sure a short story is ready for the world to see. When I'm editing a novel, I often spend a couple of months to make sure it's polished to my perfection, but that's a topic for another time.

Once you've finished editing, you need to ready your manuscript for publishing or submitting, depending on what you're doing to it. I will talk about how I ready a story for Amazon in a future post, but for now, you see my editing process. As I said at the beginning, feel free to follow each of my steps, but if you don't, that's fine, too. We all do things differently! (But, for the love of all that is holy, don't finish your first draft and deem it worthy of publishing. Guess what, it's not ready!) 

Feel free to leave a comment if you enjoyed reading about my process, totally agree or disagree with it, want to let me know how you edit, or anything else! Thank you for reading!

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