As authors, we know what we want to say with our words, but sometimes, while trying to be clever and wonderful, what comes across is, well, fractured. In other words, our words get fragmented, mangled, mutilated, and dismembered from our original thoughts.
I once had the pleasure (I had been relegated to the slag pile) of reading unsolicited manuscripts sent to a small publishing house. It wasn’t exactly Penguin Random House, so the writing was shaky.
A favorite line I came across was, “The hunters moved quietly into the forest and found the deer sitting up in the trees.” All I could think was, how did they climb the trees? But that happens. Even Stephen King admits that an early-reader friend once caught a passage where he said something like, “In October, the fields are crowded with local hunters, killing their fill of peasants.” Peasants, pheasants, whatever, it’s all good, right? Wrong. Editing matters.
Editing Your Work
We’re mostly Indie authors here, so sometimes we have to cut corners, but don’t skimp on your editing. I know my editing is, ahem, spotty. So, I use my word processor to spell and so forth, but that’s not enough. I need a backup software program like Grammarly to get things close. Their free program is good; the premium program is better. I use it, and that’s an affiliate link. I’ve also heard good things about Hemingway, ProwritingAid, and PerfectIt.
Beyond those software aids, you can get help from friends who might (luckily) be librarians, English teachers, or just freaky smart with this thing we call grammar. Barring that, you can have great success with unconventional methods like reading your work out loud.
Another way to hear problems is by using text-to-speech on your computer. Listening to it keeps your eyes and mind from automatically blipping over mistakes because “We know what it’s supposed to be.”
Simple Tricks for Better Editing
One other trick is to read your work backward. It won’t sound pretty; reading backward can make you concentrate and find any pesky problems. And they are there, even when you think you’ve explained everything just right.
Headlines for articles can also be problematic. Consider the headline “Man reunited with sister after fifteen years at the Department of Motor Vehicles,” because I know those lines are long! Still, slips can make your work silly instead of serious. So, do yourself and your readers a favor and clean up your writing as best you can.
Then, don’t be too disappointed when a reader finds a mistake or two. It’s going to happen, so cut yourself some slack. You wrote a great story, right?