Friday, March 6, 2009

Self-editing part 3

More tips on preparing your manuscript for submission, compiled from various publishers.

1. Avoid adverbs. Delete LY words whenever possible and use a more descriptive verb instead. For example: He hit the egg gently against the bowl. ‘Hit’ is too strong a description in this case so requires gently to accurately depict the action. Instead, use: He tapped the egg against the bowl. Tapped is a better description of the action performed by the character, and lets you omit the adverb.

2. Commas. This one’s tricky. Some publishers follow Chicago Manual of Style, and others have their own style.
One publisher wants commas before conjunctions such as ‘and’ ‘but’ ‘or’ ‘yet’ ‘for’ ‘nor’ and ‘so.’ As a Catholic School grad, this really went against the grain for me, but then I got used to it. Unfortunately, other publishers may not like it, so the key here is to pay attention to those self-editing tips the publisher sends when it accepts your manuscript and adjust accordingly.
In general, place a comma between a series of words/phrases: ‘They walked, talked, and caught up on life.’
Place a comma between descriptive adjectives (i.e., the cool, clear water)
The trend for commas used with ‘too’ leans toward: If ‘too’ is at the end of the sentence, do not use a comma before it. If it appears in the middle of a sentence, separate it with commas: ‘he, too, asked for directions.’

3. Ellipses. To ‘trail off’ at the end of a sentence or thought, use Use .… (four periods with no spaces in between). Not to be used to interrupt thoughts or sentences (see #4).
If the sentence ends with a question mark, use three periods and a question mark.
At the end of an exclamation point, use three periods and the exclamation point.
Within quotes, use three periods, a comma, and then the end quote: “I just can’t believe you’re really…,” Amy shook her head, “…expect me to believe that.”

4. Em (long) dash. Use — to show an interrupted thought or sentence.
One publisher’s example:
“If I never see you again—”
“I’ll be the lucky one,” Sandy interrupted.

Milo took the same route each day — the same route his father took before him — to the village below the castle.

5. Possessive form for names ending with ‘s.’ Use apostrophe ‘s’: Jess’s, not Jess’.
For this one, I suggest you check your publisher’s guidelines.

6. Keep tense consistent throughout. Self-explanatory. Don't confuse/lose your reader with sloppy tenses.

Harold Pinter said: "The speech we hear is an indication of that which we don't hear. It is a necessary avoidance, a violent, sly, and anguished or mocking smoke screen which keeps the other in its true place. When true silence falls we are left with echo but are nearer nakedness. One way of looking at speech is to say that it is a constant stratagem to cover nakedness."

Keep ‘em interested enough to want to uncover it all.

More self-editing tips to follow.

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