Editing Until I Just Can’t Anymore!

Once I decided to self-publish my book and knew the burden of editing was on my shoulders, I examined my options. I looked into hiring a professional editor, but abandoned the idea because of the cost. I reminded myself that the motives in writing the book were not financial.

Most writers are insecure, as evidenced by the existence of an Insecure Writer’s Support Group with thousands of members. For me, the book was never written with the intention of it hitting the bigtime, despite my belief in the uniqueness of the story and my dreams of a movie deal. So I found several readers willing to edit and provide feedback, and then I edited and edited and edited it myself as well.

I learned from a literary agent, who read thirty pages of a much earlier version, to watch for the misuse of pronouns, and to be certain it is clear to whom “he, she, it, and, they”  is referring (or is it “are referring?”).  She advised me to avoid passive voice and “to use ‘were’ instead ‘had been’ as much as possible.” She told me to be careful of repeating words, which I did not realize how often I did  until it was highlighted in yellow!

I found a useful online editing program called “ProWritingAid.” While care should be taken while using it just as one should do when using the much-flawed “spell check,” this tool found many errors I missed. ProWritingAid pointed out grammatical and spelling mistakes, overused words, passive voice, and vague word choice. While I did not always agree with its assessment, it was another set of eyes—albeit not human—to assist in improving my writing.

Reading the book in different formats such as on my computer, on paper, on my Kindle (Did you know you can send any document to a Kindle?), and finally, the proof of my book, resulted in more reasons to return to the drawing board.

My biggest mistake besides the misuse of pronouns was the repetition of words, which is why thesaurus.com became my BFF and why I began accumulating a list of “fun words” and “not fun words.” Thank goodness for the ability to write notes on my phone, because I am constantly adding to the list as I hear a word spoken on television or read a word worthy of being added to my personal dictionary.

Just this morning I was reading an article about the Dunkin Donuts discount (How Old is Old Enough for the Free Donut?) when I came across a fun word—curmudgeon. According to Merriam-Webster, this word refers to “a person (especially an old man) who is easily annoyed or angered and who often complains.”

Wow! What a great word! I know a few people who fit that definition. After I added curmudgeon to my fun-word list, I sent a text to my sister, who has been playing along with me lately. She hates “moist and tapioca” but loves “glorious.” She agreed that curmudgeon is a fun-worth word.

We are both trying to bring back “groovy.”


About kjw616

I am a genealogy detective. I have already written one book about my Irish family's journey from 19th century Ireland to the United States- a family history sprinkled with personal anecdotes. My second book was intended to be a similar story about my Russian ancestors. Instead, it turned into a tale of just my father's immediate family. It is the tale of what happens when 6 children from New Jersey are moved to the Soviet Union by their Russian-born parents during the Great Depression. It details who lives, who dies, and who is able to return to NJ during a time when leaving the USSR was not an easy endeavor, particularly during World War II and the Cold War. It is my hope that those interested in history during this time period will find this story fascinating as well as those fellow amateur family historians who will learn some of the tools such as ancestry.com, visits to the National Archives, and local libraries I used to uncover this story.
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