Mercury retrograde is a great time for editing and bad time for starting a new project. While this prognostication is astrological in origin, it’s often a time when skeptics start to recognize there may be something to it. Astronomically, it means that the planet Mercury is moving backwards in the sky. Of course this isn’t true, only by appearance, similar to when you’re passing another car on the freeway and it appears that the other car is moving backwards when you are actually moving away from it.
Astrologically, since Mercury rules communications of all kinds as well as anything that moves, this is not when your brain, electronics, or anything mechanical is functioning properly. Computer, automobile, and appliance problems are common at this time as well as communication problems at the people level. This is a time to go back and review, revise, reconsider, and reassess while starting something new is likely to not go anywhere ever or, at best, be delayed.
This usually happens three times each year. The next one will be from November 17 – December 6, 2018, but to be safe, avoid new projects from October 29 – December 25. Put this time to good use by editing and revising as opposed to new copy.
A fellow author/friend told me she uses a text-to-voice reading app for proofreading as well as finding typos and awkward wording in her novels. If your book will eventually become an audio book this is an even better idea. Besides finding mistakes, this is a tremendously useful self-editing tip that puts your writing in another sensory dimension that provides new insights into your story’s effectivity.
Missing words are difficult for the author and sometimes even editors to catch, but not an alert reader. When reading over your manuscript, do so slowly enough to note each word is indeed written as opposed to assumed. Reading it aloud may help, but not necessarily.
I suspect that most authors think much faster than they type, making it easy to skip over words. When you’re on a creative roll this is especially true, when you can hardly get the thoughts down fast enough, before you lose them. Nonetheless, like invisible typos, missing words will throw readers out of the story, something you want to avoid. In some cases, a good grammar checker may catch them, but test it to make sure. If you use beta readers, make sure they keep an eye out for such things, too.
Know the different types of editing, especially if you hire an editor. Otherwise, you may be disappointed or not get your money’s worth. I’m always amazed when I find a multitude of goofs in a book that has supposedly been edited. Just because a person can read, doesn’t mean s/he can edit! Furthermore, if they’re a specific type of editor, they may do a great job in that category, yet leave others flapping in the breeze, waiting for some discriminating reader of jump on them like a duck on a June bug.
Rather than reiterate what has already been said very well by another blogger regarding the different types of editors and what their duties are, check out this outstanding blog.
Scrutinize all prepositional phrases to determine if they’re needed or whether the sentence can be reworded to avoid them. If they’re redundant in any way, zap those suckers out of there! For example, saying “He put his hat on his head” could easily be shortened to “He put on his hat.” Where else would he put it? Economy of words for maximum impact should be your goal.
Understand there are several types of editors. Just because you hire one, doesn’t mean they’ll do the job you expect, especially if you don’t understand there are different types. They may do a great job within their realm, yet miss other problems. I can’t tell you how many problems I’ve found in books where the author supposedly hired an “editor.”
Here’s the basic run-down: Proofreaders look for typos. Copy editors look at punctuation and grammar. Line editors look at everything. Content editors look at plot & characterizations. If this is news to you, then I suggest you read this great article that gives more detail.
Read your work out loud as part of your editing process. If you find yourself saying something different than what’s written, consider rewording it accordingly. If it’s awkward when read aloud, it’s not the most natural wording. Even better, read it aloud into a recorder and then listen, especially if you’re an audio-type. This is very effective for catching redundancies.
Editing is essential, but it’s extremely difficult to edit your own work. Letting your work rest as long as possible before revising and/or editing helps view it more objectively. If you absolutely can’t afford an editor, arrange a beta exchange with another author, preferably one who’s seasoned, not just someone who will praise your work. Make sure both of you are skilled enough to do the job and clarify your expectations.
Read a variety of books and genres, including those written by writers more skilled than yourself as well as those less skilled. This allows you to see how far you’ve progressed. You can learn from both. To paraphrase a favorite quote, “No book is ever wasted. You can always serve as a bad example.” Often someone else’s glaring faux pas is something you do as well.
Feed your inner editor by reading others’ work with a critical eye. Often what jumps out as a glaring faux pas is something you’re guilty of as well. Authors tend to be blind to their own weaknesses or justify them. To continually improve as a writer should be your ongoing goal.