If you are a writer, you know that writing can be great fun—a creative outlet like no other. But if you want that story to be read by someone other than your best friend and your Great Aunt Mildred, you will have an editor go through it and tell you all the things you did wrong. Going over your editor’s notes and comments can be a very humbling experience. After all, long before any publisher laid eyes on that manuscript you had rewritten, and edited, and polished it to the point where you never wanted to see it again! But someone is now telling you what you screwed up.
My alter ego, the romance writer, recently received edits from her editor for the book that will be coming out this spring. Fortunately there were no pacing or story structure issues that needed to be dealt with. Phew. But she found plenty of words and phrases I (switching to new POV here—dropping the pretense and going to first person!!) needed to address/fix/change/rethink. She is an excellent editor, and many of her fixes made perfect sense to me and improved my prose. I happily hit ACCEPT on the track changes for 99% of her suggestions, and made what I hope are logical arguments for the few things I disagreed with.
BUT, and here’s the crux of the matter, I had a word I overused throughout the manuscript. This happened with my first book too. Despite multiple rewrites and hours of editing and reading it aloud I missed the fact that in this book I overuse every possible conjugation of ‘to look.’ In my first book it was the word ‘minute’ as in length of time. How does this happen?? As I moved through the edited document I got more and more embarrassed by my sloppiness with this word. It got so that I was afraid to scroll to the next page for fear of seeing her blue marks on the page! Look. Looks. Looked. Looking. Arrggghh!
After the first book and the ‘minute’ problem I thought I was being very careful in this book to avoid word overuse. I THOUGHT I was attuned to listening for repetitive word usage as I read it aloud. But it just slips in there, and before you know it everyone is looking at something or someone all the time! They rarely thought to peer at someone, or glance, or gaze, or stare. No, most of the time they looked. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. Arrggh.
As I finish up these edits, it’s time to go back to the first draft of my YA novel and start the rewrites and edits and polishing. You can bet I’ll be on the look out for repetitive word use, and you can also bet there will be at least one word I’ll completely miss and it will be way overused.
That’s why we need those wonderful editors!