Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for...

Line editing.

Ever heard of it? If you haven't, it's because either you don't realize you're doing it or because your friends are trying to protect your innocence (or rather your sanity).

Line editing is necessary. Line editing is grueling. Line editing sucks. But, oh how we need it.

It's a process by which you fine tune your story by pouring over each line of your work and taking out unnecessary words, fluff, or impertinent information that isn't fluff, but it's also taking up valuable real estate and doesn't really need to. Think of your writing in terms of New York...not Texas.

Next week is the second class in line editing I'll be taking, and I'm excited, because the first one taught me so much about my writing. Not that it stunk or anything, but how much better it COULD be. How to make each word count. How we skip over words that drag us down or bore us.

So how do you know which ones those are? Glad you asked.

  • Read your prose out loud. Your pet will love you for the attention you're giving them. Unless it's a fight scene of course and then they may go running (which may also mean you've done a good job). :)
  • Take out any unnecessary descriptive words. -ly words are the biggest cause for red-lines on a manuscript. Show, don't tell. We'll go over more of that when we get to S.
  • Trust your reader. You don't have to explain everything that's going on or what the reader is thinking. Their reactions are a response all their own. If you say, "Hey, you bumped me!" You may not even need to show the person running into them. The words are enough.
  • Too many creative tag lines or explanations in dialogue. "Said" works and exclamation marks are overrated. At least in dialogue. In blog postings? Bring 'em on!!!!!!! :)
  • Open your work in a new document to do your editing. There's nothing worse than changing your mind about something and then forgetting what you had before. It takes virtually no space to save multiple copies anymore. And you'll be glad you did.
  • Tracking changes is another way of seeing what you've done. Word has a great function for doing that.
If you need more examples, there are a lot of great postings and sites out there dedicated to discussing line editing. David Edelman has this post and it's fantastic.

Please remember though that line editing comes AFTER you've written your entire manuscript. Don't try and do it as you go. You'll get so utterly frustrated and halt the flow of ideas. Get everything down. Get the feeling of your work. Get out all those exclamation marks as you pour your heart, soul, and anguish into your story. Then make the delete button your friend.

Have you ever heard of line editing before? What other names do you know it as? What is your biggest red-liner when you're revising your manuscript?


  1. thanks for this great post Karen, I'm currently in the throes of massive editing of a short story collection so needed to read what you said!
    Here from the A-Z but will be back!

    1. Cool. Happy I could help someone today. :) Good luck with your story!!!

  2. I line edited soooo much when I taught middle school English. Now I teach Kindergarten and I spend most of my time deciphering inventive spelling..."one sup on a tim."
    Happy A-Z April!

    1. Hahahahahaha. "one sup on a time"... Love. It.

      P.S. Did I mention how much I appreciate teachers? :) Thank you for all your do for our children.

  3. "Your pet will love you..." So true! I read aloud to my cat, and she purrs and purrs, thinking I'm reading to her. But yes, we do spot errors when we read aloud.

    Loved this post. I'm now a follower! :D

    1. Welcome Shelley! So glad you enjoyed the post. :)

  4. Really good. Thanks.
    Anna del C. Dye
    for clean tales of Elfs & Romance


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