Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The downfall of Ctrl+F

Editing this novel has become a bit of a writerly journey for me. Since this is the first time I've considered something I wrote good enough to bother editing, each step has been a new journey. I've worked through lots of steps and re-written the first chapter dozens of times.

This week will be my last week of editing for this piece which is way ahead of schedule for my May 15th deadline to start querying. I've done all the structural changes that I think need to be made and now I'm just down to fixing words.




I recently wrote about the joys of Ctrl+F to seek and destroy words that bogged down my writing. However, I think I may have taken my joy too far. As I slash words with glee, I'm noticing a trend. Sure, my writing is getting tighter (read better) in a lot of places, but in some spots the change in wording is altering my voice.

Gasp in horror! The voice is often considered a crucially important consideration for a potential agent/editor. Dozens of agent wishlists specify things like 'an adult romance with a cynical voice' or 'a fantasy with a strong female driven voice'. Voice is something that is unique to each writer and can't be duplicated.

So if the changes I'm making distort my voice, is it ok to leave 163 instances of the word 'like' in my manuscript?

For now, I'm going to say 'yes'. I could be wrong and my betas might rip this thing to shreds. But right now, every word I change feels like I'm tearing the soul out of my story. Maybe this is what it feels like when a writer reaches the end of editing.

So that's it. No more. I offer up my work to the betas and then I'll make one more sweep to fix anything they find that needs fixing.

I guess it's time to get serious about that agent list cause this ship is about to sail.

10 comments:

  1. I think tightening is important, but sometime voice does override rules. For me, voice is key. If certain words add to the voice of the manuscript, then they serve a purpose and shouldn't be deleted. JMO

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    1. Thanks, Kelly. It's nice to hear someone else feels the same way. After hitting the delete key for the hundredth time I realized some of my writing lost its zing.

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  2. I definitely can't sacrifice voice for brevity. I agree with Kelly!

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  3. There is a fine line between tight writing and lifeless writing. Finding that balance is HARD. But that's what your betas are for. :) If it really bothers you to have 163 instances of 'like' in your ms, you can always try to find another way to say the same thing, but keep your voice.

    Writing is just plain hard. I'm so glad we have the internet so all of us writers can commiserate together. :)

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  4. This happened to me, too. I edited, re-edited and then edited again a story that I was finally happily happy with. Then, I read through one more time and decided there were too many I's. So I went through, with the help of control F, and changed a bunch of the sentences, dropping the I. Now I hate the first chapter! All of the character's silliness is gone. I was so disheartened, I have yet to re-write - Four months later!

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    1. Eeek! That's exactly what I don't want to happen.

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  5. Yeah, deleting words en masse seems way too scary! I would rather do a strict read-thru and slash and burn that way.

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  6. Thank you so much for nominating me for the Liebster Award! The MNINB challenge was fabulous and I learned so much but most of all I appreciated forging new connections with other writers. Your thoughtfulness is much appreciated!!

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  7. "Just" is one of the words I always have to look at twice. I tend to take it out of prose as much as possible but hardly ever touch it in dialogue.
    I find it useful there as a single syllable beat that can help define a rhythm.
    I tend to edit in layers and my final edit is usually for rhythm as I read aloud. Which is why I am no longer allowed to "edit" at Starbucks.

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    1. Just is a hard one. It can add a lot of impact to a sentence, but if overused it can bog down the reading. Too funny about editing in Starbucks. :)

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