Line Editing

While we were traveling last week, I didn’t get any new scenes revised, but I did do some line editing.

3 Line Editing Strategies

When I line edit, I’m trying to balance three things:

  1. Smooth, easy to read. First, I want the text to be smooth and easy to read. I try to read aloud or at least move my lips, so I can see/hear places where sounds collide, words are difficult to get out, or where I stumble for any reason whatsoever. Then, I either rewrite, or at least flag it for attention later.
    Often, these are places where my fingers were typing so fast that I left out a word that’s needs to smooth it out. Or places where I did some major editing and it just hasn’t had enough passes through it to be smooth yet.
  2. Cut unnecessary words. I’m also watching for awkward repetitions, unnecessary prepositional phrases, unnecessary adjectives or adverbs, “nothing” words – those words which add no new information, such as good, happy, wonderful, etc., and places where I can leave out speech tags and the reader won’t wonder who is speaking. Sometimes, I realize a whole paragraph could be left out because I said the same thing in the last chapter. For repetitions like that, it’s essential to get the long view to do this editing, to read large chunks at a time.
  3. Fine-tune the voice. Finally, I’m fine-tuning the voice, and really, this can override the other two concerns. Would this character really say THIS? And say it in THIS WAY? I’m writing in first person, so it’s particularly hard. I know that I would say something a certain way, but would this character say that? It’s hard because I think I have a tin ear, not good at catching these slip-ups. I have to focus hard and when my attention wanders, I have to go back and repeat it for that section.

    Overall, I’m liking the voice of this story and I think it’s working well. It’s just the small things, the word choices that matter here.

    I saw the sun was getting low.
    I realized it was getting late.
    When Sam turned on a lamp, it jerked me away from the game. I glanced at my watch. We were late.

    Any of these would work in my story. It’s not just a matter of Show-Don’t-Tell here, but how would this character, in the first person, perceive and record what is happening. Would he notice the sun out the window? Would he just get a general feeling of being late in the afternoon? Would he be oblivious until someone turned on a light? It’s the voice and character that matter.