Thursday, March 18, 2010

Does Your Manuscript Have Lice?

A woman in one of my critique groups once told me that editing and revising a manuscript is like combing out the tangles in your hair. You keep combing and combing through, until all the kinks are worked out and it's silky smooth.

Well, once I really dug in to the revision stage of my MS, I realized I didn't have tangles... I had lice. Little passive bugs, bugs that have eaten all correct forms of punctuation, repetitive bugs, bugs that said the most hokey things!, bugs that dug their little teeth into sentences they didn't belong in. Time to pull out that head lice comb! (I looked for a picture to display, but they were nasty... )

At first, I thought my comb savior was the find and replace tool, but with a 250+ page MS, searching for the word "was"... well, I don't even want to know how long that would have taken me to finish. That's when I had the brilliant idea of going through one chapter at a time. Comb, comb, comb, goodbye litte bugs. Send to critique group for them to use their combs. They found a few little bugs I missed! Lather, rinse, and repeat if necessary, and that's a darn clean head of hair... I mean, manuscript!

What's the process like for you? Do you take it a chapter at a time? One lice, I mean line at a time? One particular error at a time?

22 comments:

  1. It did turn into a post!!! A fabulous one at that! I love this thought process and certainly plan to put it to use within hopefully the next month or two!

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  2. Okay, Kristin Rae, I can't think in terms of lice. I had a run-in with them a long time ago, and I'm still traumatized at the mere mention of their name. I can do tangles, though. I love detangling because it let's you get to the root of the problem. (Sorry for the tangle-root pun.) I have an entirely different book after getting the tangles out, and thank heavens for my critique group. They make all the difference. Happy Revising!

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  3. i, too, go one scene or chapter at a time. Otherwise it's just too overwhelming.
    Once all the bugs are gone, i'll give it one more comb through, just to be safe, and that will be a whole head sort of deal, not just one chapter at a time

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  4. Ewww - not a great visual image, but surprisingly perfect! Great post title, too.
    I love the analogy. :-)

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  5. Eww, lice. Glad you didn't post a pic! I do go line-by-line, chapter-by-chapter. If there were any sweepingly huge continuity errors, I'll usually go in first to fix those, then buckle down for the nitty-gritty.

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  6. This from the same person who compared a type of easter candy to snot. Whew...the way your mind works. :) But the analogy works. I'm a line by line de-licer, that's why it takes me such a long time.

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  7. First of all, kinda gross... ^_^ But, yeah, I do a find and replace for my crutch words like back and moment. Then I go chapter by chapter, inch by inch, looking for was's and slow bits and such.

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  8. Great analogy. I have lice too, ahem, I mean my MS does. I have to go chapter by chapter. FIrst looking for passive voice, then repetition, etc, etc.

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  9. hahaha. I didn't mean to dig up sour memories or gross anyone out! lol. But I thought it was a fitting analogy, for sure.

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  10. So that's what we've been doing? Combing lice? EWww... when I'm reading BTL tomorrow that's all I'm going to be able to think about. LOL. YUCK!! ; )

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  11. That is an amazing way to look at it! Quite gross though i might add & i am VERY thankful that you didnt post pictures! Ew... lol

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  12. hahahaha. I was going to post a picture of just the lice comb... but I couldn't find any good ones, and I saw way too many heads with bug problems. (further driving home why I always wear my hoodie to the movies. yes, yes I do.)

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  13. This is totally cracking me up!!! I think the lice analogy is hilarious...well, if I don't think about the real little critters anyway.

    Now I may have to start wearing hoodies to the movies!

    Thanks goodness I have some good lice experts to help me get rid of my bugs...I'll never catch them all myself!

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  14. I'm a chapter by chapter girl, as well. I have to have organization, or there's no way I'll finish anything. I tried the search and destroy method, and it didn't work for me, but I've definitely done the look-for-one-problem-and-fix-it technique.

    Lice always makes me laugh, because a friend of mine got in on a mission trip we went on. She was traumatized, and I was a good friend and washed her hair with lice shampoo...all the while, laughing hysterically. Classic. ;)

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  15. I tend to edit in waves. Usually on my first sweep I'll be looking for the big picture stuff: gaping plot holes, continuity issues, structural problems. After that I'll begin to narrow down my focus: looking for passive language, refining word choice, adding in things like foreshadowing, etc. Still, even in those first, broader sweeps I tend to comb through for those little bugs. Great post. :-)

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  16. Lice is a great way to describe it. I'm picking bugs out of my MS too. Some days it really makes me itchy.

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  17. Great post (and now, my skin is crawling). One of my crit partners has a checklist, and she goes through, scene by scene, checking for different elements.

    I'm about to reach that stage with my WIP, and I'm dreading it...

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  18. Great post! The heading had me captured...My first few years of teaching I would go to my hairdresser once a week for a head check...I hope you get all your bugs out soon. :)

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  19. Tag your it! Come check out my blog!

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  20. The second half of my novel has an infestation of looks and glances and gazes. It's like I stopped remembering how to characterize other than telling what people are looking at! Gah. I'm going to try combing through chapter by chapter.

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  21. Thank you so much for not including a picture. I love you for that.

    I try to fix major things first and focus on the nit-picky stuff later. And I usually do this in bulk. I just keep going until I'm tired of working on it for the time being. Not the most sensible way to do things but it works. :o)

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  22. hahah lice in hair that's a great one.

    it depends on when i see an opening paragraph- I once advised someone to scrap a story and start again based on the opening

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