Editing Techniques

Guest Blogger: Lincoln Crisler

I play G.I. Joe for a living and write scary stuff in my spare time. Janice has been good enough to let me climb aboard and share a bit of my magic with you and suggested my editing techniques as a possible topic of interest. This is what I do; if you’re looking to try something different, it might be worth your time. If you’re a reader looking for a peek behind the curtain, this would be that. As wiser men than I have said, your mileage may vary. Just for fun, I’ll name the segments after songs from the best rock band ever, RUSH.

Leave That Thing Alone: Once I’m done writing that bad boy, whether it’s a short story, a comic script, flash fiction or a novella, it goes to sleep for awhile. If I’m still lucky to have blocks of writing time in the days that follow the completion of a story, I’ll usually move onto something else. I’m always working on more than one project at a time; I’m ADD like that. Sometimes I’ll take a break from writing altogether, either because I can’t find time to write for a few days or because I need to do something else. The most important reason for putting a finished work in a drawer for a while (I recommend two weeks, but sometimes my impatience wins out and it’s only one) is so that the next time I look at the work I have a fresh perspective and will catch things that I’d miss if I edited right away.

The Main Monkey Business: So, with a couple of weeks between me and the story (and hopefully with another completed story to shove into the drawer, ideally), it’s time to pull that puppy out. I read every single sentence, as you might expect, and if something doesn’t seem quite right, I read it out loud. If it sounds awkward when spoken, it needs a rewrite. I also look for signs of slop like excessive adverbs (words ending in -ly) or one of the biggest indicators of passive voice, words ending in -ing. Sometimes I’ll get a jump on that two week break by critiquing with some fellow authors whose opinion I value. I can usually implement their advice right away, since it’s not tainted by lack of objectivity. There’s been one or two times when I’ve been up against a deadline and needed to forgo the break. I depended solely on the advice of my critique group and didn’t go wrong. It’s very important to have some good people around you, for a variety of reasons. I also pay particular attention to the dialogue portions of my work. I’ve been complemented on numerous occasions on how natural my characters’ dialogue seems, and by and large it comes naturally, but that praise makes me paranoid. Now I have something to live up to. Every so often somethng won’t roll off my tongue as well as it did off my pen, and I err on the side of caution in those instances.

Working Man: Basically it’s business as usual at this point; find some decent markets, write a good cover letter and push that bad boy out of the nest! I’ve had editors come back at me two or three times requesting further editing; a couple didn’t like my curse words (and honestly, the stories weren’t harmed by their removal, either!) and another noted a slight difference in writing style at a certain point (coincidentally, the same point where I set the story aside for a year and a half!). All that’s essential at this point is deciding whether you want to make the changes, and then getting word back to the editor in a timely manner. Other than that, the only thing I should point out is that asking for revisions usually isn’t a guarantee of acceptance. That’s okay, though; I have a list of ten things you’d be better off doing than worrying!

Lincoln Crisler’s debut novella, WILD, was publishied this month by Damnation Books. He has also authored a pair of short story collections, Magick & Misery (2009, Black Bed Sheet) and Despairs & Delights (2008, Arctic Wolf). A United States Army combat veteran and non-commissioned officer, Lincoln lives in Augusta, Georgia with his wife and two of his three children. You can visit his website here.

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3 Comments:

  1. Wayne A. "Tony" Conaway

    Good advice, and the song titles were a nice touch.

    The line about “There’s been one or two times when I’ve been up against a deadline and needed to forgo the (two week) break” made me laugh. For me it’s just the reverse: one or two times in MY ENTIRE WRITING CAREER I’ve had the leisure to put something aside for two weeks. I always seem to be up against a deadline.

  2. Hi Tony! I’m guessing you write professionally, hence the constant deadlines. I aspire to write fiction for a living, but not for another ten years, which is when I plan to retire from the Army. Most of my work these days is on spec.

    I value deadlines, though. I do my best work under pressure, and did not jack around nearly as much as student reporter with constant deadlines as I do now as a fiction writer with a day job! I have a touch of that ADD, and every bit of discipline helps, which is why I’m such a good fit for the military!

  3. Pingback: Lincoln Crisler – Author, Editor, Reviewer, Live-Action G.I. Joe » Blog Archive » A Few Tips on Pre-reader Selection » Lincoln Crisler - Author, Editor, Reviewer, Live-Action G.I. Joe

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