Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Grand Editing Contest Results

The Editing Contest for Overused Words and Phrases, etc. is over. 

All the results are in and have been officially tabulated and confirmed by Price, Waterhouse. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts, and let’s have a dramatic drumroll and drumstick.

  1. The First Prize Winner is . . . Zada Kent!
  2. The Second Prize Winner is . . . Zada Kent!
  3. The Third Prize Winner is . . . Zada Kent!

Now you’re probably wondering how one person managed to win all three prizes, especially since the results specifically state a person can only enter the contest once. Well, the answer is very simple. There was only ONE participant in this writer’s contest. Zada submitted a very thoughtful, intelligent edit of the page from my novel, and she deserves to be the Grand Prize Winner. Of course, she doesn’t win First, Second, and Third Prize. Gosh, I was just having a little fun. But according to the rules, she does win First Prize, which entitles her to select any three of my MuseItUp books in the format of her choice. Her choices are (in order) “The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes,” the winner of Preditors and Editors 2010 Annual Readers Poll; the novel Dark Wizard; and the extremely dark and perverted “Wet Dreams.” I am delighted to send them to her, along with my congratulations.

And now for the answers. Please follow along with the rough page from the first draft of my novel, bearing in mind there is a certain amount of subjectivity in editing, and editors will differ on precise edits. Also, I have to confess I inserted some extra repetitions to make this page more of a test. Okay, scribblers, here we go:

1.  Most obvious, at least to me: there are too many “that’s” on the page, a total of SEVEN of them. Folks, if this is one page, and your novel is 300 pages long, you could have a total of 2,100 “that’s.” Assuming half of them are superfluous, then you have at least 1,000 too many.

Paragraph seven – “I don’t think that you’re going . . .” Just remove the “that.” Paragraph eight – “There’s something that I’d like to know . . .” Remove “that” again. (Save words, make it tighter.) Paragraph twelve – I changed “That small?” to “So small?” (Use a little variety.) Paragraph fourteen – I shortened “That’s amazing!” to “Amazing!” Then I recast the next sentence to eliminate not one but two “that’s.” Thus: “You know, it reminds me of a Greek myth involving Zeus.” Since “that” is a necessary word, there’s little danger it will vanish from my novel, and by pruning it, I not only tighten my prose, but find a way to vary it.

2. Without going into detail, I use “like” on four occasions. Check it out yourselves. Are all those times necessary?

3. Even repeating myself twice may be questionable, especially if it involves using the same word close together. Zada, for instance, points out I use “gazed” in the fifth paragraph and “gazed at” in the sixth. On the other hand, I don’t believe repeating the words “Make love” in the second and third paragraphs are a defect because it’s obviously done for a specific purpose. However, is it really necessary for both Turtan and Yaneta to “pause” at different points on the page?

4. Last, there are similar or repetitive phrases which probably need revision. Yaneta “swept her gaze over him,” and “He swept his eyes over her body” (paragraphs 5 and 10). Turtan says “Just a moment” not once but twice (see if you can find them.)

How harmful are such invisible defects? Obviously, some are more serious than others, especially if they become visible and detract and distract from our story, our plot, our characters, and also, our language. The competition for elite markets and publishers is hard enough without making it harder for ourselves by sabotaging a fine manuscript with words and phrases we’ve used so often they’ve become second nature. So use your Find, your Find and Replace tools, train yourself to recognize such offenses, and good luck in your editing! 

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