The Lucky 7 gift: backing into editing

I have finally decided to participate in a blogging game/chain (thanks to Carrie Rubin of “The Write Transition” for passing it on to me). It’s the Lucky 7 Meme, which turned out to be luckier than I might have thought.

Upon receiving a Lucky 7 designation, writers are asked to do the following:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.*
4. Tag 7 writers and let them know.

*My 7 sentences are at the bottom of this post; if you must read them this instant, go ahead.

As soon as I saw what was involved—before I had even decided to participate—I opened my novel in progress and went to page 77. I was just too curious about what I would find.

What I read did not particularly impress me. I thought to myself: “The sentences don’t sound all that interesting. Playing with the idea of rectangularity as it relates to Sean’s character might be intriguing… but I’ve overused the word ‘rectangular.’ And the sentences are way too long and convoluted, and–”

I decided to cut myself a little slack because, after all, this is a work in progress, not a work in bookstores.

Then I had a revelation.

While I had read these sentences several times before, I had never noticed how pedestrian they were because I had always read them from beginning to end, as part of the chapter they appear in.

Mix it up

Normally, when editing for style, one starts at the beginning of a section or a chapter and reads through to the end (at least, I do), noting stylistic glitches, overuse of adjectives, or whatever else one might be on the lookout for. This seems to make sense because it’s the way a reader reads.

It’s not, however, the way I was taught to proofread. The best way to proofread thoroughly is to go through a document backwards. You don’t necessarily read individual sentences backwards, but you might start at the bottom of a page and work your way up, sentence by sentence.

Here’s the important thing: in proofreading backwards, the altered context does not allow your eye to skip over things your brain thinks it already knows.

Book header/footer

Book header/footer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s apply this to stylistic editing. Pulling seven sentences at random and reading them out of context gave my mind the kind of editorial clarity I couldn’t achieve by reading a scene from beginning to end, a practice that lulls brain with the anticipation of the expected.

I’m excited to apply this method on my next editing round. So thank you, Carrie and the originator of the Lucky 7 Meme, for giving me a new editing approach to try.

The 7 writers

Here are my lucky seven writer picks, with, of course, no obligation on the part of the recipients to continue the chain:

Cynthia Robertson
Sarah Allen
Joanne Phillips
Danielle deValera
Lena Roy
Carrie Nyman
The Life of a Moomin

The 7 sentences

And now: the excerpt. Want to try your hand at the “editing backwards” game on this excerpt? Go ahead (but be kind).

Everything in the apartment was rectangular and occupied its space as if it had been placed there with a 3-D rendering program. I sat on the beige leather couch with brushed nickel feet. He served me Kir from a rectangular black lacquered tray and salted nuts from a rectangular dish. I felt as if I were at a hotel.

Not until weeks later, when I had spent many nights in Sean’s rectangular platform bed and eaten many meals perched on rectangular bar stools before the polished marble counter top that separated kitchen from living room did I learn that he had spent much of his childhood in San Francisco, moving here from the east coast after his parents divorced. That revelation did not come easily, nor did the admission that his mother lived scarcely 30 miles away. Since the night at the beach when I had babbled on about everything, including my parents, Sean had not asked again about my family and I hadn’t asked about his.

P.S./Clarification

Literature and Latte, which I referenced in my last post for its list of writing software, is actually the producer of Scrivener software. That’s what I get for zeroing in on a search result that seemed to have exactly what I wanted without examining the context. (On the other hand, their site is useful and the name is clever, so one might be forgiven for mistaking it for a regular old blog.) And they do have Scrivener for PC, of which I have downloaded a trial version. I’ll let you know what I think.

11 thoughts on “The Lucky 7 gift: backing into editing

  1. Even though you are probably years younger than me, I think of you as a wise big (in a nice way) sister–always giving me new ways to look at things. I’ll be going through an editing process soon (when I ever DO hear from my assigned editor), and I’m going to keep this technique in mind. Makes good sense.

    Enjoyed your excerpt!

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  2. Hi Audrey,
    Thanks for making me one of your lucky 7 – I’m going to take a look at my ms in little while and I’m quite anxious of what I might find! It’s very timely, actually, as I’ve been trying to think of a new post today 🙂 Plus I really need to get on with my own editing…
    I found your excerpt fascinating! Maybe you’re too close to it to see how good it is – I would read on from here to find out more if this were the beginning, so that’s got to be a good thing.
    Best wishes, and thanks again, Jo

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    • Thanks for the kind words. I can’t promise when, but eventually this book will be done and people WILL have a chance to read it.

      I find my biggest problem with editing my own work is that I either love it and can’t find anything to change or hate it and want to chuck everything. Anything that helps me take a more realistic view should be helpful.

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