Unleashing Your Internal Editor: The Small Stuff

Does the thought of viewing your manuscript though a magnifying glass cause you to break out in hives? Or do you dig details?

While macro edits can be a challenge for me, micro editing comes easily. I’ll even go so far as to say it’s fun.

Since you might be wondering how I can get excited about examining every sentence, word, and comma in my story, I’ll satisfy your curiosity.

Suppose you discovered a diamond in the rough. An uncut diamond isn’t attractive. During the cleaving process, though, it begins to take shape, much like the rough draft of a story. Next comes the blocking, when the facets are made. I liken this to macro editing.

The final stage of preparing the diamond is polishing, during which the full brilliance and fire of the stone is revealed. This last step is similar to the micro edit of a manuscript. Without it, our stories won’t reach their full potential. We want them to shine so brightly that the publishing pros need to don sunglasses, and this final polishing pass can do that.

Taking a story from pretty good to great is, in my book, fun.

10 Things to Look for During a Micro Edit

Because I truly am a Diva of Details, I could make an exhaustive list that would blow your mind–and not in a good way. So, I forced myself to keep things general.

Spelling errors ~ I use Spell Check, but it doesn’t catch everything. Therefore, I do a careful read of the manuscript to catch misspelled words.

Grammatical mistakes ~ I turn on the Grammar Check feature in Word, which helps catch some of my grammar errors.

Punctuation problems ~ Make sure you know how to properly punctuate a sentence. When I judge contest entries, I often see commas, ellipses, and em dashes used incorrectly. Check for proper use of quotation marks, too.

Repetitions ~ Avoid using words and phrases in close succession or so often in a story that they lose their effectiveness.

Overuse of proper nouns ~ Avoid having characters call each other by name repeatedly since we don’t usually do so in real life.

Similar sentence structure ~ Resist the tendency to overuse the subject + verb format. Vary things, which will liven up your writing.

Consistency ~ This is where personal style comes into play. For example, if you capitalize a certain noun at one point, make sure it’s capitalized in every use.

Time sequence ~ Be sure the passage of time in the story is accurately portrayed.

Clichés – Replace trite, worn out sayings or overused plot points with fresh, new ones.

Anachronisms ~ When writing historicals, don’t use words, sayings, etc. that hadn’t come into use in the period in which your story takes place.

What are some others things you look for during a micro edit?

Bonus question just for fun ~ Based on this post, what’s one work I tend to overuse?


Image: Graeme Weatherston / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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15 Responses to Unleashing Your Internal Editor: The Small Stuff

  1. Hey Keli! Thanks for the post, this is fun. Is the Detail Diamond the next giveaway? lol.

    I posted on Tana’s blog that You should call your kindle Gwindle. have a great weekend!

  2. All great points!

    It ties in with the sentence structure, but I also look at the flow or rhythm of the sentences. I find reading portions out loud helps me with this.

  3. Wendy says:

    These have been excellent posts, lady!

    You may have mentioned character believability in your other post, but that’s one thing I check and also along the lines of what Julie wrote sentence variation (long verses short).

    ~ Wendy

  4. Julie Nilson says:

    In addition to the things you mentioned, I also look for blocking issues–I mean blocking as in, where the characters are in relation to the set pieces, as in a play or movie. For example, if I specifically mentioned that a character was standing at the kitchen counter, but then later in the conversation I mention that he’s sitting at the table, I need to make sure I say when and how he moved.

  5. Linnette says:

    The word you used multiple times in this post was “use/overused.” 😀

    I can’t say that I ALWAYS enjoy micro editing, but I do enjoy the results!

  6. I like microediting too. Sometimes I think it would be a lot easier to just be an editor and forget the whole first drafting thing. 🙂

  7. I like editing, macro (not so much, but SO necessary) and micro. Your list is very helpful. Thank you for taking time to prepare it and share it. Blessings to you, Keli…

  8. Cindy R. Wilson says:

    Super list! I do many of these things while I’m editing, but I have to admit that I don’t enjoy micro editing that much. I get so excited for the first read-through of my story, the macro edit, and getting the flow right, pacing right, scenes right, etc., by the time I’m ready for a micro edit, I’m burnt out. Sometimes it’s hard for me to read through and check for things like sentences structure because I’m still focusing on the bigger picture. But, that’s why it helps to set the story aside for a little bit and come back later.

  9. Tana Adams says:

    I love editing my novels. I feel like the pressure of producing a beginning, middle an end with some cohesion. Editing is the fun part, the manipulation of words, the beauty, it’s the dance of writing a novel.

  10. Anne Barton says:

    Love the diamond metaphor, Keli! And I’m with Bonnie–can’t wait for the prize drawing. 😉

    I’m editing now (as you know!) so all this stuff is in the front of my mind. A couple other things I lookout for as I revise:

    was, were, & had: not that they’re always bad, but they can often be replaced with stronger verbs

    thought, felt, and seemed: again, not taboo, but they tend to distance the reader from the POV character

    Thanks for the great checklist!

  11. Great post, Keli! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this checklist—I plan on referring back to it.
    Blessings, Patti Jo 🙂

  12. Carla Gade says:

    Great analogy. I often think of it like that. Oh, my. I overuse pronouns big time. I never realized how much until my great critique partners pointed it out.

  13. A great list, Keli! One of my overused words is ‘that’. I do a search for it and am always annoyed at how many unnecessary times it’s slipped through.

  14. I’m nearing the end of my first draft and not hugely looking forward to the macro edit. It’s still a creative thing, and I’m not sure I’ll have much creativity left by the time I get there! On the other hand, the micro edit, at least to me, is picking up on the tiny details. Hard work, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Just time-consuming. Apparently I use ‘and’ until it passes out from exhaustion, so I’m working on that 😀

  15. I forgot to mention that this is an AWESOME post and I’ll be referring back to it when the time comes. In case anyone is interested, someone recently put me onto http://www.editminion.com – you input text and it tells you how many times you used certain words, picks up on adverbs, cliches, etc, etc. I’ll be using that as well.

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