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October 21, 2012
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So, there are a lot of tutorials for writing; tutorials for character's names, personalities, storylines, and everything else under the sun. Don't get me wrong, some of those tutorials are pure gold. But, and keep in mind I'm no avid tutorial-reader and I haven't read all of them, I have yet to find one about editing. And it's about as important as the actual writing, because what's the writing if you can't read it? So, here I am, making one. If you've already read this far into the introduction, do me and you a favour, and read the rest of it, you might find some of it useful and I won't just be talking in a void. Please?

View of an Editor

So! You have your piece you're going to edit, haven't you? What's the first step, before you start editing? You have to get in the right frame of mind. Repeat after me! My writing is not perfect. Yeah, that's right. It's not. It won't be even after editing it. Writing can be wonderful, amazing, beautiful, emotional, and brilliant, yes, but never perfect. That's why writers must always be open to suggestions and criticisms. Because no matter how long you write for, no matter how much you edit and revise it, no matter whatever you do, it. Will. Not. Be. Perfect.

Got that? Right, now on to the next step!

Character reference sheets

I know, I know, Character reference sheets are only for dumb role-playing games with lots and lots of information on them. Right? Wrong. The character reference sheets are essential for writers to. You don't want your character to drop a vowel there or change an eye colour here half way through the story. I'm not saying write tons and tons of useless information about them. Heck, unless it's super important to have the height and weight and whatnot, all you really need is the name, age, the appearance, the gender and the species. You can even take those last two out if you want to, because they're easy to remember. Here's an example:

Bob Smith
Blonde, blue eyes

Put them on an piece of paper or something or other, and keep it close when you're writing or editing. Add any names of special groups, for instance if you're writing fantasy and the magic group has some really long name with one too many A's.

Wait for it

If you edit something you've just written you've still got the scene and picture still fresh in your mind, so you can't read it like your reader will. A week at least. A month is better. A year is brilliant. Yeah, you don't have to wait a year, a week will do. Now, print your piece out-- if it's really long, take at five pages--and grab a pen and get ready.

Now it's time for the REAL editing!

Typos and extra spaces (Suggested by Tiamate.)

Ok, so it may seem obvious but it's really important. If half of what you write is unreadable garbage then how is your reader going to get involved in the story? Always capitalise your "I"s unless there are stuttering or it's in a word, and never use text speak in a professional piece, unless in a rare occasion if it's a character's phone. I don't care if you were writing it quickly or you were tired or whatever, if you don't have the time to write it properly, why should we take time to read it? Also quite common is extra spaces and incorrect puncuation. I for one get extremely annoyed when I see 3+ ellipses (dot-dot-dots "...") and when more than one exclamation point/mark. If you have Microsoft Word, it picks up quite a lot of them, but not all of them so you still have to edit.

Repetition (Also suggested by Tiamate)

The first impulse is to use a character's name over and over again, and most new writers always use "The blonde" or "the raven head" or "The tall man". After a while, these phrases become stale and annoying. It's ok to use the character's name once every sentance, or once in a line if you're using short sentances. Also repition of, for instance, if Bob found a dress, he wouldn't contantly refer to it as "The dress", he would refer to it as "it" or some way of describing it. You need to find a happy medium with repetition.

Take out unnecessary description

It's ok to take out things. Words, sentences, paragraphs, pages, even chapters. Even Characters if they're slowing the story down or are weighing the plot down in some way (If you're going to kill them off, do it for a reason. Like the villain wants to taunt the main character, or if there is crazy evil ghost people floating around, and one of them sucks out their soul...) And since you're character isn't perfect, just like the writing, it's ok to do so. People do it all the time.

Let's think about it, a reader begins reading your work and is suddenly lost in a maze of complicated words or is wading through adverbial swamps or trying to find the needle of action in the haystack of unnecessary description. I'm not saying no description--god no-- Just know where to use it. For instance, say your character Bob is running through a spooky shadowy forest, being chased by a scary vampire who wants to suck his blood, he's not going to suddenly pause the action and start describing a interesting mushroom cluster at the base of a tree. Every time you describe something, the action slows or stops. This can be used, for instance if your character, say it's bob again, is in hospital for a week, you don't want to summarise it all. He's going to describe the room a lot more than he would have done the forest. But not everything, because you have to leave some of the unimportant detail to the reader's imagination, so they feel more involved with the story.

Information dump trucks are a bad idea

Ok, so you've taken out all other unnecessary words. Good for you. Take a moment to just sit back and congratulate yourself on this achievement. Done? Good. Now, onto the information dump. The description isn't the only things that slow down the stories and make them duller than dull. There's another hidden mistake just waiting to be made. It's the infamous information dump.

Especially fantasy, but all types of non-fiction, you're taking your reader to another place. If you weren't your story would be boring, a waste of time, because writing is meant to take you to another world, or another place or time in this one.

It's really easy to just go ahead and list all of the differences, start to finish, between this one and that one. Resist it. Dumping information is like dumping description on them. They're lost in your complex words and ideas. They can't make sense of it. They loose interest and stop reading.

Instead, put them on a drip feed of information about the new world. Leak it into them. Leave out uninteresting or unimportant bits. They don't have to know everything.

Don't have any bad characters

No, by 'bad' I don't mean 'evil' or 'villainous', I mean 'badly made'. That means little to no Emos and no Mary Sues. If you have a world full of moping and dark and misunderstood people whose entire family have been killed by evil demons and wolves and whatnot, and are now self-pitying 'misunderstood' emos, then I for one would get annoyed by everyone, and there would be practically no speaking at all. Mary Sues are perfect goody-little-two-shoes who have never thought a bad thought in their lives. These are just two examples of a universe of bad and annoying characters. Just get someone else to tell you if they hate them.

Edit other people's work

Not only is editing other people's work a good karma booster, it's also helpful, letting you hone your editing skills so you improve yourself and other's work. If you don't have time to help other people with their writing, you can't expect them to help you with yours.
Ok, so this is my first ever tutorial, I've wanted to do one for a while now. This is just my outlook on it, it's not the perfect way to do it, just the best I can think of.

I'm so sorry that sometimes I write "Editting" insted of "Editing", I'm just a poor speller, I'm trying to improve but I'm only getting there slowly.

Oh, and I'd love to edit and review ANYONE'S work, just drop me a comment with a link, or a note if it's not on DA, and I'll do it as soon as I can!


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HealerKira Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
 Er, could you read over some of my writing?

(They're my only recent ones, I apologize)

I always try to make my writing flow, and let the readers get sucked into the story, but I'm never sure if I actually accomplish that. I do wait a little while before reading over the work again- but only around a day. 
Also, I haven't really started into writing my own characters- I myself can never get involved in the story. But I am working on it! 
Thank you. 
Lunawerewolfy Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
They're veeeery good. I like them. You are a great writer.?
HealerKira Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you! :D
kaerze Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I only have my art on my DA page.
kaerze Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Your article clears away some of the problems I am having in my own work. I am editing this message, though. :) Thanks! I am having a lot of trouble moving on, however. Do you have any suggestions? It is a long story, and I cannot stop being a perfectionist. I am drawn once again back to the stuff I have already edited to improve it once again. arrrrgh!
DAPoliticalForum Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2013  Professional General Artist
I fancy myself to be the "Editor-in-Chief" for the Journal of the #DAPoliticalForumClub Group. However, even if I read the article forward and backwards five times, after I post the article I will find an error that I have missed. After cursing, briefly, in Latin, I hit the edit button again.

I truly cherish any tips that I may get from others.
Depressedmuch Featured By Owner May 5, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The thing of greatest importance that I find when I read someone's writing in an attempt to edit it, is that there is often a lack of pacing. This is what you were referring to about when to drop in some descriptions about things and when to leave it to the reader. I've found that an excellent author to check out whose works use this very well is Tamora Pierce. Her writings aren't of a particularly difficult reading level, but the way she makes use of character placement and descriptions helps her lay down a culturally rich, yet easy to understand setting. Often she places things that would otherwise need a narrative explanation to the reader in context by having another, uninformed character around that the other character that brought the topic up would need to explain it to. (That was a very clumsy sentence to fumble through.) This is often the case when introducing things like other languages, dialects, titles and ranks, or traditions.

The item of second greatest importance is to look at your sentences. Seriously, if it helps, have Microsoft word do a find and replace with your periods and replace them with some large and prominent symbol so that you can find the beginning and end of each of your sentences. Now look closer. If a single sentence has stretched on the length of half of a paragraph, you should probably investigate alternate methods of syntax for it to properly break it up. The best way that I have found for doing this is to read the text aloud, with the proper pauses for the proper punctuation. If you imagine punctuation as musical notes, the period would be your whole note, comprised of four full beats (in 4/4 meter.) After that comes your colon, it is about 3 beats, the semicolon is 2 beats and the comma is one beat. Question marks and exclamation marks are also four beats, where an ellipses just drags on very much like the punctuation implies, and can take anywhere from four to twelve beats, depending on the context clues. Em-dashes are the equivalent of a semicolon as en-dashes are for a comma. Quotation marks and parenthesis are also roughly equivalent to a comma, but it also depends on the context clues again. After having figured out the proper method to time your pauses you are then banned from taking breaths at any point that is not marked by punctuation. Now try to read it aloud and see how well you do. You'll find that often you run out of air before your sentences have fun out of words. In these cases, you should find a different way to structure your sentences so that you can break up what is obviously a run-on sentence. At some point you will just internalize this method into an in-head narrator who will help you figure out when you need pauses or breaks.
Depressedmuch Featured By Owner May 5, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
*run out of words
Depressedmuch Featured By Owner May 5, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I know it is a really small issue, but it is lose, not loose. That is one of the spelling pet peeves of mine that I will always pick up on. Just think of how you would say the word, if you hold the oo sound, as in somone complaining that their pants are too loose, that they keep falling down, then you use two o's. But when you lose interest in something, the o sound is quick and thus involves only one o.

I would also love it if you could read my one little short story and give me your opinions. I've been editing that thing for almost two years now, off and on, so I've read it so many times now that I could probably rewrite it from memory. The link is here:


I had to stick it there because DA was not being friendly to the length and size of my story. Something about not wanting to submit a plaintext file of more than 64kB.
Lunawerewolfy Featured By Owner May 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Okay, so I've only done the first page, I'll message you the other ones as I edit. Note that I'm doing this in SUPER EDITOR MODE, so the stuff I pick up on in your work is usually minimal word-choice stuff. It's just my opinion of how you can improve.

Fear does not "ran itself" down someone's spine. Maybe if you change it to just ran, it would be better. As for the opener itself, you might want to start with something more striking, like a question, that usually works, but in this case it might lose some of its punctuality if you used a question. Apart from a question, a short, minimal-worded sentence would work in this instance, like;

He couldn't help being like this.

Just like he couldn't help the fear running down his spin, he couldn't help being like this.

You also wrote "chiming of bells". I'm pretty sure, whilst a grand-father clock has a bell in it, it definitely made me think of church bells as most people just see the outside of the grandfather clock. Also there is only one bell in a grandfather clock, and you don't really need to meantion it anyways since you already did last sentence.

Whilst you meantioning the clique thing (sorry can't spell well =n=) is good since it dispels my doubts of this story's credibility, this guy has been in this place, what, ten, maybe more years, and you already noted he sleeps on a materous (argh >.<) so he wouldn't really have access to pulp fiction or jail movies, and he apparently hasn't got much memory.

You probably wouldn't "transfer" a spoon into the hole in the floor. You would probably just dig it into.

The clopping sound of footfalls? I'd just say footfalls, I'm pretty sure your readers have heard them before ;)

Radiance is a good word, but you've already set the mood as a dim, dank, dirty, cold laboratory, so I'd just stick with light, as this doesn't really fit.

You don't need hyphens around the Good Doctor. Don't underestimate your own abilities at mood setting, and don't think your readers aren't bright enough to get that he's not really. Good Doctor.

Ribs aren't really precarious. Precarious things are cliffs, places you can fall off, trip on, or knock over. I'd just stick with uneven.
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