So you’ve written your masterpiece. But you know that’s not the end of it. You’ve heard lots of talk about crit partners, beta readers, and the importance of editing. There’s so much advice about editing, in fact, that it can be hard to know where to start. While there is no one magic bullet to take care of all your manuscript needs, I would nonetheless like to propose an overarching philosophy that will serve well in any editing situation: Don’t sweat the small stuff.
I found over many years of teaching that focusing intensely on grammar and typos in a manuscript is the worst thing you can do. Don’t get me wrong- these things are important. You can’t ignore them. But what I’ve found is that writing has layers of varying importance. Spelling and typos rank near the very bottom in importance as far as editing goes. What’s most important then? It’s simple, really: the biggest concerns, the foundation of your writing, is the most profitable thing on which to focus. Here’s what gets me really excited about the subject:
When we focus on the larger concerns in our manuscripts, the smaller ones tend to disappear. Like magic, right? ;)
Okay, not like magic, but the basic principle is sound. If the foundation isn’t solid, no amount of detail will save the house. That’s kind of obvious. But what’s so fascinating to me is that by focusing on the bigger picture of plot, pacing, characterization and the like, many grammatical snafus and misspellings will disappear on their own. It’s as if these Lowers Order Concerns, or LOCs, are symptoms of bad writing rather than the cause. Fix the Higher Order Concerns, or HOCs, and the LOCs often go away. Not totally, of course. There is no way to get out of proofreading, but they will at the very least shrink a bit.
Conversely, you can also look at a section riddled with LOCs as a signal flag for deeper concerns. Odds are, if there’s a section with lots of misspelling, passive voice, and unnecessary tense shifts, something bigger is going on. Try ignoring the LOCs and plug the section back into your overall plan: are the characters not being themselves? Perhaps the whole thing doesn’t relate to your meta-plot, and needs serious cutting. Maybe you need to go all the way back to freewriting, brainstorming, or whatever discovery process works for you.
In a nutshell: HOCs before LOCs, every time.
For more information about HOCs and LOCs, check out Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab, or OWL, online writing lab. It’s one of the best writing resources out there, bearing in mind it’s set up largely for academic writing. It’s an engaging site, and if you think of things like “thesis” as your main message or central plot, then it’s easy to transfer these ideas to fiction.
Vicki Keire grew up in a 19th Century haunted house in the Deep South full of books, abandoned coal chutes, and plenty of places to get into trouble with her siblings. She spent the last decade teaching writing and literature at a large, football-obsessed university while slipping paranormal fiction in between the pages of her textbooks.
Published works include the bestselling Angel’s Edge series, which includes Gifts of the Blood, Darkness in the Blood, and Blood Redemption, The Chronicles of Nowhere series, and the stand-alone novel Daughter of Glass. She is included in the Dark Tomorrows anthology with J.L. Bryan and Amanda Hocking, and the Primetime anthology with J.R. Rain and Anita Exley.
When not reading and writing about all things paranormal, she enjoys other people’s cooking and keeps vampire hours. She’d rather burn the laundry than fold it, and believes that when an author wins the Newberry, he or she gets a secret lifetime pass to Neverland. She is fond of lost causes and loud music. She currently resides in Central Florida on a lake-front farm full of many furry friends. She loves hearing from readers and can be reached on most social media sites or through her blog (link: http://www.vickikeire.blogspot.com/), of which she is awfully fond.