October 15, 2011

Writing/Editing Checklist

Let's face it, not many of us are born with the gift to write a novel after one draft. In fact, I think it's fair to say, that most first drafts are pretty bad, crap, dreadful, sh_ _  you can fill in the gaps.

Most writers work incredibly hard to get their writing right and it can take years to become published and develop the craft of writing well.

Many people have misconceptions about the writing process and assume that all writers need, is a flash of inspiration and hey presto: you're the next J.K Rowling. 
If only it was that simple. 

A quote by American inventor and business man, Thomas Edison sums it up well: 
Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.

So, with Edison's quote in mind, I have devised my own personal writing/editing checklist that I thought I'd share with you.

1. Look for evidence of telling. Describe your characters by the way they look, act, and feel. Instead of writing, 'He was angry' you could describe what he did or said to show he was angry. His nostrils flared. 'How dare you?' he spat.

2. Replace weak nouns and adjectives with strong nouns and adjectives. Avoid adverbs to stabilise a weak verb. For example, She smiled happily could be replaced by she grinned.

3. Check that the tenses are right and that you haven't changed half way through.

4. Examine your grammar, punctuation and spelling. Don't rely on spell check especially when it comes to homophones, such as, their, there, and they're. Most writers have trouble areas that they need to work on, such as tenses, commas, dialogue, etc. Write them down on a piece of paper to assist you during the editing and proofreading stages.  Go easy on the CAPS 'READ THIS NOW' and the feral exclamation mark!!!!!!!!!! It can sound like you're shouting!

5.Read your writing aloud. Listen for clumsiness, repetition, odd sounding words, or unacceptable word order. 

6. Ask fellow writers, a critique group, or beta readers to read your manuscript. They're more likely to give you an honest/objective opinion rather than a sugar coated version from a family member or friend.

7. Proofread with the target audience in mind. Consider your readers age, education, values, politics, background, gender and religion. Who will want to buy your book and what makes yours so different?

8. Check that your writing is clear. You don't need big words and long complicated sentences to impress your reader. Ditch the writing clutter and write simply and clearly to express your message. 

9. Rewrite any worn out phrases/cliches. For example, It rained like cats and dogs. It made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Shock your audience by writing interesting phrases to keep them turning the pages.

10. Make sure your point of view is consistent throughout the book. If you keep changing your characters POV then it jolts your reader and you don't want them going back to try and work out what's going on.

11. Tighten your writing by examining the flow. Do the paragraphs connect? Vary sentence and paragraph lengths and see if you can cut the insignificant words and events that don't move the story forward.


Susanna Leonard Hill said...

Very helpful post - excellent list! :) And I love that quote about inspiration and perspiration - I quote it all the time!

Unknown said...

Thanks Susanna,
It's great to hear from you. Edison's quote is a beauty!

DimbutNice said...

Love this post Renee. Clear, concise and well worth noting and remembering.

Unknown said...

Hey Dimity,
Thank you for your comment. I can always count on you :)

As you know, I'm in the process of redrafting and tightening my manuscripts.

I'm hoping that by writing/recording this checklist that the points will stick in my mind and make me more aware before I post anything.

Vicki Stanton said...

Sigh ... if only a book could be written in one draft. I think I have about 10 before I'm even half-way happy. Great post.

Unknown said...

Thanks Vicki. Drafting and editing seems to be when the hard work begins. I'm an expert at scribbles, arrows, circled paragraphs, scissors, sticky tape, and cut and paste word options.

Like many writers, I have plenty of first drafts that live in books all over the house, Maybe I could put all of my first drafts together into one book. Now that's a scary thought, ha ha.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your post.
As you know,I love that type of stuff.
I'm hoping that by writing/recording this checklist that the points will stick in my mind and make me more aware.Essay Editing Checklist.thanks