Why editing is like streakingPosted: July 19, 2013
I’ve seen a lot of writing metaphors in my time. But this one is totally new to me. I hope you enjoy this guest post by Lauren McKellar!
If you’re a sports fan you’ve no doubt seen a man naked before. Of course, I’m not referring to the locker room or some more extreme version of sumo wrestling, but more to the one sport that seems to get everybody talking: streaking.
Recently, us Aussies watched a rugby league game where two of our fine states went head-to-head in a battle to win the shield. Or it could have been a plate. Maybe even a trophy. Have I mentioned I’m an editor, not a sports journalist?
So, they battled it out to win. It was the series decider and the question on everyone’s lips was: Will Queensland take it out for the eighth year in a row?
Yet the day after the match the winning state wasn’t the most reported on topic of conversation; instead, it was the guy who streaked.
Which got me to thinking (and I should warn you, this is a stretch): editing is like streaking. Do it well, and you notice it. Fail to have it, and you’re left with a lack of exposure and no chance of going viral.
That’s not where my loose connection ends. When preparing your book for an editor, there are a few leaves you can take out of the streaker’s book to enable your expert to focus on the bigger elements at play. These tips include:
Shedding those outer layers, baby. If there’s one thing a streaker does well, it’s delete excess items of clothing. You need to ask yourself if, as a writer, you have any.
Is every paragraph, every scene, every chapter moving your story forward? Are you telling us some new information we need to know with every sentence you craft?
Because if not, it’s time to make like a streaker and delete, delete, delete! Your editor will thank you for it.
Break the rules. Yes, there are rules of grammar and no, you don’t want to look like an idiot and use ‘there’ when ‘their’ would have been a better choice. Still, there are times in writing when you’re allowed to break the rules.
Technically, you’re not supposed to start a sentence with the word ‘and’,
And I guess you’ve never done that, right?
If there were a naked man at every game we’d quickly get bored and lose attention. But a well-timed streaker can take a rugby match from dull to damned interesting in a heartbeat!
Sometimes, being a literary badass can give your writing character and help get your point across. Go against the grammar grain and run naked across that football field; you deserve it.
Eliminate the backstory. One of the most common editing issues I come across is excessive chunks of backstory just vomited throughout a manuscript.
I have to confess; I am guilty of committing this crime in my own work. I’ll be all ‘What? No! Never!’ and then look at the highlighted paragraph in question: a quick little explanation on my childhood best friend, my family dynamics throughout history and a short snippet on how I used to be a nerd but now I’m a crime-fighting superhero, and realise I’m guilty as the next person.
Search your manuscript for backstory and include it naturally through relevant dialogue, pertinent flash backs or a subtle sentence here and there. Remember, as readers, we’d like to think we’re pretty smart. We get it, already.
And how is this like streaking? Well, just like you don’t want to have too much backstory on the record in your manuscript, a streaker doesn’t want to have too much of a streaking history on his criminal record. After all, get caught streaking once, face a hefty fine. Get caught for streaking twice…now you’re a crazy man who thinks he’s the emperor wearing a new suit.
Lauren McKellar is a freelance editor currently taking on new clients for late August and beyond. With over six years publishing experience, she is currently a Senior Editor for digital romance house Entranced Publishing. For more information on her services, visit her website here.