When I am preparing to edit one of my manuscripts, it helps to have some space between when I wrote the piece and when I’m editing. This helps me see it afresh. I like this quote by A. Bronson Alcott, "Sleep on your writing; take a walk over it; scrutinize it of a morning; review it of an afternoon; digest it after a meal; let it sleep in your drawer a twelvemonth." It’s great when I come back after time and am amazed at how well I said something or how a scene flows naturally. However, much of my writing “needs improvement” on a second or third or fourth examination.
This is where remembering the goal of the scene, chapter, story, etc. comes in handy. It’s not what I wrote that is important, but making sure I’m getting the message across—not in a preachy way, of course. But does the scene make sense? Does it raise the emotion I want it to raise? Am I showing? Are the characters grounded in the setting? Is the action logical? Is the important stuff happening on scene? Does the dialogue sound natural? Do I include sensory details? Do my critique partners laugh at the appropriate lines and sigh or worry over my character in others? If not, I’ve got reworking to do. Nora DeLoach says it well: "Writing is rewriting... If you fall in love with the vision you want of your work and not your words, the rewriting will become easier."
That first draft was getting it down—rewriting is reassembling the puzzle of scenes and words. Some scenes and words will be torn out or replaced. Others may be moved to different places or reshaped. Eventually each are polished until they shine. It takes time and care. Norman Cousins says, “Words have to be crafted, not sprayed. They need to be fitted together with infinite care.”
We all need to take care with our writing to make it the best we can and that includes self-editing. If you have any revision techniques you’d like to share, feel free to share in the comments.
"The title of your book or short story is your only opportunity to make a good first impression on a reader; it will either establish a promising tone – or not." – Edmund R. Schubert
A title should intrigue the reader, hint at the theme or subject of the book or magazine piece, and it would be great if it was unique. (More on that later.) One book I rewrote for a publisher was originally called What’s that Smell?, a title the editor disliked, and in my opinion made it sound like nonfiction. Since it was fiction, I retitled it to The Smell of Trouble, which made us both happy.
Some authors use one word book titles, which is something that appeals to me. Others use quotes—either a line from within the book or a portion of a famous quote. Titles can ask a question. They can include a character’s name, a place name, or feature an action. One author I like uses titles that reference classic books in some way—and the subject of her novels fits these references.
I also like titles with multiple meanings, e.g. one of my students wrote a story she titled "In the Dog House." The story was about her getting in trouble, but was also about a dog, therefore double meaning. I also like taking clichés or sayings and twisting them. For example, I wrote an article for Children’s Writer on judging the Science Contest (July ’10) and titled it: "It’s Not Just Rocket Science." All I did was add one word to a common saying.
Some titles are so unusual, it makes a reader say, “Huh, what’s that about?” However, Tucker Max says one attribute of good titles is “Not embarrassing or problematic for someone to say aloud to their friends.”
So you have some potential title ideas, but are they unique? I think this is especially important for books. One easy way to find out is to look up proposed titles on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and your library system. I didn’t do this with my book ALONE and wish I had—seeing how many other books have that title would have made me rethink.
We do all this work for our titles and sometimes the editor, or publisher, or marketing recommends (or changes it to) a new title. Sometimes we think “Wow, I’d wish I’d thought of that.” Other times it’s just different.
Here’s another post on this topic: “How to Pick a Title for Your Book.”
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too. She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.