If Walls Could Talk: Random Word Syndrome – Editing

M. H. Norris

M.H. is mired in editing and excitement this week; James’ fill-in post was delayed by light food poisoning and two missed buses. Thus 18thWall Productions is proud to present, an article from the M.H. Norris archives. Back in the innocent days of 2014, M.H. had another, earlier blog on another, earlier 18thWall blog. It’s now lost to the sands of the internet–but now, from time to time, we’ll be presenting the best of her past thoughts, former emotions, and long-lost points. This week, we’ve taken a TARDIS ride back to April 4th, 2014.

Editing is as much fun as smashing your head against a table.

Those pages you thought were inspired are now covered with ink in the color of your choice (I tend to use pink or purple instead of the usual red). Now you are staring at a draft, finished (or mostly finished in my case, I still have a chapter left), you wonder, what do I do now?

“An Old Charming Book” (Image via Flickr user Wader)

The simple answer?

You keep writing.

But just saying that will leave me with a really short blog post. So let’s expand upon that.

There are several things you run into when editing through a novel.

The first, and the most fun of the things you’ll encounter, is a snapshot of sorts. You’ll get a snapshot in print of the last few months of your life. You’ll see the late nights, the sneaky writing sessions when you should have been in a lecture, that day off where you wrote for twelve hours straight. Even there at the end when you had that last push and hit the last few chapters. All of that is there, hidden in the pages.

Now for the other, difficult things.

One thing you’ll find…I like to call it the Random Word Syndrome. This usually is a word at the end of the sentence that is nowhere close to where you were going with your thought. Usually, the reason these words pop up is because you were multi-tasking when you were writing. Whether that be a conversation on Facebook or watching something on TV, these words tend to slip in.

Granted, sometimes, you can catch them when you do them and as a result, you won’t see them during the fun process that is editing. But then, there are the times where you just don’t catch them fast enough. And then you read said portions at your writing group. But hey, we all had a great laugh.

And in this field, you really have to learn to laugh at yourself.

Moving on…

Another thing you’ll find are inconsistencies. Usually, these are an accident. Usually, these remind you why TV shows have a person whose job is to make sure that inconsistencies die before they’re born. But they do happen.

Don’t let them bother you.

They happen for several reasons. One, you change something in the novel, add a plot point, or insert a detail that seems relatively minor at the time—but then you have to use it again. For example, I named someone, used the name once and later on, had to name them again and I accidentally renamed them.

Another is changing details, like the timeline, which can throw off earlier events. This usually happens when you decide to be cool and add authenticity by trying to make it fit into the actual calendar (which was rude and refused to match with what was in your head).

That can be fixed by sometimes reworking an earlier scene, which can be tricky if you have evidence involved. But that evidence can be reworked into the scene, sometimes in the same form, sometimes in a another. But rework it and hopefully it flows smoother.

One thing you’ll find, however, this one is strictly dependent on if you work the way I do. As I’ve said before, I primarily write in Scrivener. From there, I can export to Word. But, on occasion, somewhere in the transfer of the data, something messes up. The most popular one is it doesn’t like to italicize and instead underlines it.

That’s another easy fix, just a few clicks and your back in business. That said, don’t forget to fix them. If you take your time to make your manuscript look the best it can, it will show.

Editing is a fun process. It’s the necessary evil that every writer needs to face, no matter how much we would like to think otherwise.

Another piece of advice that I’ll leave with you is this: find someone to help you edit. Find another set of eyes (they will see something that yours don’t). When you write something, you know what you mean—but that doesn’t mean that that is what you said. By having that other set of eyes, you’ll be able to catch those spots and clean up your novel.

Writing is a process that seems solitary, but when you really get into it, you realize just how much that isn’t the case. You have peer editing (if you go that route and I advise that you do), that extra set of eyes, and when you get a publisher, you have those sets of eyes also looking at it. Add in the people that help you research, write the books you read to do your research, write and produce the shows you watch (and the extremely insane amount of people, time, and effort that it takes to make one of those come to the small screen). Everyone comes together in your novel.

It isn’t as lonely of a world as people think.