Hello, fellow readers and writers! I hope all of you are well.
Back in August, if were following me on Twitter, I asked if there were any specific posts you wanted me to discuss about my writing and reading life. This Tweet, and the poll attached to it, will be familiar to you:
— Mystical Authoress (@MysticalAuthor) August 9, 2020
One of the options I put on that poll was aptly named “The terrors of editing.”
I’ll be honest: That option was a joke suggestion, and I didn’t seriously think that anyone would vote for it. However, the people have spoken (or voted) otherwise, and so I present to you the Top 5 Terrors of Editing!
These aptly-named “terrors” are all mistakes I encountered while I revised and edited my own fanfics, short stories, poetry and novels. I’ve laughed at them, cringed at them, and internally wailed in agony during the process of editing. These are also mistakes I saw in final, published works of writing by other authors before, and it pans me to see them. Without further ado, these top five mistakes I see are the following:
5. Finding little spelling mistakes like “the” misspelled as “hte,” “eth,” or any other variation of the mistake.
It honestly hurts me to see small, simple words like this clearly misspelled. I’ve seen it in reading published books, poetry and fanfics, but I’ve also seen this in non-fiction works, articles, etc. It’s a common mistake that I also find when editing my own fiction, poetry and book reviews, and so I warn all of you reading: Please, please try to make sure you don’t have these mistakes when you have your own work published, especially if that work of yours is a published fiction book.
How to remedy this: Look through your work at least once to make sure you find all of these mistakes and weed them out. This is the least you can do, especially if you plan to submit it to a literary magazine. I’ve made that mistake before, and it’s unfortunate when it happens.
4. You used passive voice instead of active voice in your sentences.
Using the passive voice in your sentences, instead of the active voice, hurts your writing. Much of my early writing suffered from my overuse of passive voice. For those that don’t know what the difference between active and passive voices are, you can check out this article by the Purdue Online Writing Lab and this article by the University of Wisconsin’s Writing Center for information.
How to remedy this: Inspect every sentence in your written pieces for active and/or passive voices. Read them out loud. If you find out that the sentences you read are passive when they should be active, rewrite those sentences to be active. (Again, read the articles I linked here. They give some really good examples for changing sentences to have an active voice, rather than passive.)
3. You changed a character’s first/last name halfway through writing, and now you have to choose which last name is better.
This is a less common mistake I see in published books, though it still happens occasionally. This is also something I’ve read before, while editing my own writing. Granted, this is easily fixable when you have the find and replace functions in whatever word processor you use, so when it does get overlooked, it hurts the piece’s final version. Fellow fiction writers, I know all of you have been guilty of this, at some point, when getting your own works edited or editing it yourselves. I know I’m guilty. Let’s try to make sure this doesn’t show up in our finally-published stories!
How to remedy this: Choose which first/last name you prefer best. Go with your gut instinct. After that, read through your work several more times after fixing these name changes, to make sure the names are consistent.
2. You wrote a character’s name in two different spellings, and now you have to choose which one you prefer, for consistency.
This is just like the earlier point, except at least they were different names. This time, it’s the same name…at least, in how you pronounce it. Having inconsistent spellings of one person’s own name will confuse the reader. It’s happened to me before when I first published my own fanfics, and I dearly hope it doesn’t happen to you when you publish your own works.
How to remedy this: Choose which name you prefer best. Go with your gut instinct. After that, make sure you read through your work several more times after fixing these changes, to check if the permanent name change is consistent.
1. Publishing something online with still obvious spelling and/or grammar errors present in your piece of writing afterwards.
This is the worst thing that can happen for me, when it comes to reading published works, but I’m also equally guilty of this as a writer when posting my own fanfics online. People make mistakes. Errors can happen, even if we think all of them were already gone after countless rounds of editing.
How to remedy this: If it’s a fanfic that you posted online, re-upload it with the fixed errors as soon as you can. If you don’t want to, that’s likely also fine; a few minor errors won’t be too jarring, and if you’re writing on a casual basis, you can probably get away with it. However, it never hurts to use the opportunity to fix your mistakes when you can. Self-publishing may be similar in this respect, though being someone who has yet to self-publish a book at this time of writing, I may or may not be wrong on this one. (Fellow authors that have self-published novels, what have you done if you realized there were still spelling and grammar errors in your work after initial publishing? Let me know in the comments!)
If this is in a literary journal or a publishing house, though, you may need to take it up with the editors themselves, especially if they were the ones that were supposed to fix these mistakes for you prior to publication. This may depend on what guidelines they had for the writers prior to submitting works (especially for literary journals, as far as I’ve experienced so far), so read those guidelines carefully before submitting.
Those are my Top 5 Terrors of Editing! I hope you enjoyed reading my insights on all the terrrors I faced while editing my own works, as well as reading others’ works.
What spelling/grammar/punctuation mistakes have you read and seen? Are there any mistakes that are common to you? Let me know in the comments!
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