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The Editing Games, part 2

In my previous post introducing The Editing Games, I blogged about how I turned my most recent editing experience into a series of games to keep myself motivated.

Below are two more games I play to keep myself amused and on track. I hope you find them useful:

Game # 3: The Verb Game

After I’m done editing for story and characterization–when I think I’ve got the words in the right order on the page–I play the verb game. I take a chapter at a time (doing this while on the treadmill or elliptical machine is a great way to multi-task) and highlight each and every verb. Then I look at each highlighted word to see if there’s a better, stronger or more precise verb that I could use.

This game will do two things: 1) help make your story stronger and 2) train your brain for the future. If you really do this, you’ll be surprised at how your brain will begin to come up with stronger verbs the first time around.

Game # 4: The Repetition Game

I have a running outline of my chapters to keep track of certain things like plot, themes, character traits, and symbols or objects. If I’m repeating something for a reason–say a character trait like one character’s nervous goat laugh or an object like another character’s jet black toupee–I list this in my outline and make sure that I repeat this trait or object several times during the course of the story. I may even change the trait or object slightly to show growth of the character or a change of mood.

These repetitions can become threads to keep your story cohesive or lend resonance to your manuscript. Just remember: too many repetitions make the reader feel like they’re being harangued and too few repetitions will leave the reader in the dark. In my 300-page manuscript I typically repeat my threads a minimum of three times and usually more like five to six times as long as it doesn’t feel overdone.

What editing techniques or tricks do you use to keep yourself on target?

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