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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Great Editing Project. With markers! A Guest Post

Guest Blogger Abby Rustad aka "Merc"

Merc is the zombie queen who blogs on Fire, Guns and Zombies and at Merc Rants. She's the author of numerous published short stories and several killer (literally) novels.

As she says: I'm an avid writer and reader, the fantasy, horror, sci-fi genres being my favorites.

I enjoy mutilating fairy tales, bashing chosen ones, ranting about anything that ticks me off, shredding stuff, tormenting my characters, giving long, rambling crits in which much sarcasm can occur, and generally being very weird.

I loved her editing idea so much I stole it, with permission, for the Editing Warfare series.

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So! This is what I've been doing all day--editing a short story, "One With the Monsters".

Begin: 2:00 pm (2/3/10)

To start, I’ve printed off the story (9k, 30 pages), I have a list of suggestions and critique, colored markers, a notebook to jot things down in (like notes—margins are notoriously too small for me to write in properly and still be able to read what I wrote later).

the sacrifice is prepared...

Next step: balk at the amount of work this will be. After that’s over, grab soda and head out to the patio (it’s a lovely 63F degrees and sunny with a slight breeze—in other words, near perfect weather). I’ve made a playlist of instrumental music so I can focus on my words.

What I plan to do is read through the story once (I haven’t looked at it in months), note anything that immediately jumps out at me, and get back into the voice/character.

OWTM is heavy on character voice and a specific style, which include slang and word choices that are not always grammatically correct. ;) One concern is that it’s a bit too heavy—it makes the story difficult to read in places.

So! Clarity and smoothing out the prose is the biggest issue. Including making fight scenes clearer and lightening up some of the description so it doesn’t detract from the story.

3 pm
Read-through one completed (interrupted by the dogs several times)—I’m back in the brainspace of wolf-girl narrator, and I have an overall sense of what needs to to be fixed.

1.) Too many varied names for the same characters, which is confusing. (This was pointed out in comments.) The reason I did that initially is because only one character is ever given a proper name; the rest go by descriptors/handles (the butcher, bitch, bull-king, etc). I was trying (clearly not very well) to avoid too much repetition, but instead, it’s just confusing when someone has three different names without warning.
2.) Keep track of how many people are in one scene, so we don’t end up with extra dead bodies (with no explanation). Especially in fight scenes.
3.) Trim down the slang and some description.

Next step: break. (Reading The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay. Quite enjoying it.)

Okay. It’s 4pm, I’m nearly out of soda, and so I’m heading inside to mark up the hard copy. Along with fixing the problems I saw and had pointed out to me, I want to try and get this down to 8.5k, and 8k would be marvelous. [ETA: that should not be a problem, given how much red ink I spilled in marking stuff to cut.]

Puttered about with email and LJ, then dove into the next read-through-edit, this time with a red marker to highlight deletions. Took about 40 mins, and the pages are blood-soaked. Er, ink-soaked, anyway. ;)

After supper and a few crits, I tackled yet another (fourth?) read-through, with green and blue markers: green for marking up inconsistencies in titles and names; blue to highlight description (especially hyphenated words) so I can visually see where it might be too much.

*falls over* I think that covers all the obvious in-your-face things I wanted to fix and smooth over. One I incorporate the hard-copy edits into the computer, I can read it through again tomorrow and snug up other lose ends, then tackle the very beginning and see how I can smooth it out. For now, I’ve fried my brain and need a break so that’ll be for tomorrow.

Wrap up: 8:30 pm


Bonus: random tweets on the process while working.

@Merc_hyn_di: Today is the day of the Great Editing Project. Step one: get soda.

@Merc_hyn_di: Bleh. Eyeing this paragraph and both want to keep it and think it might be too much. *sigh* *cuts it down without mercy* #editing

@Merc_hyn_di: I seem to have lost track of how many minotaurs are being slaughtered in this scene. That's awkward. #editing


And dudes? The sheer amount of work just in line editing? I’m in so much trouble when I get to that stage for novels…


  1. Hehe, thanks for sharing this, Liana! B-)

    If anyone wants to see the rest:

    The Great Editing Project Day 2

    The Great Editing Project Day 3



  2. Sounds like a long hard day, but your work will be better for it!

  3. This was great to see your process, Merc. And I love the idea of using different pens to highlight different types of revision needs.

  4. pauling--yup, I hope so!

    Angela--thanks! :) I'll definitely be playing with markers more in the future. ;)