Do the easy stuff first, is my byword. I check for grammar, typos, words that spell-check didn’t catch. If a word is in the computer memory it won’t be highlighted, but it could be one that doesn’t fit. Do you know how to right well? Is it write or wrong? You know what I mean. I look at sentence beginnings. Do several in a row start the same way? How about sentence length? I think of the writing I like to read and use it for a pattern. I don’t count each word in the sentences except for some young children’s stories, but vary the length and substance. All big words? All small? I mix them up so they appeal to the eye before they’re even read.
I read my story or chapter aloud. Does it flow? Does it make sense? Over the years I have used this editing technique and found untold numbers of spots needing correction. I used to subject my husband to being my audience, and if he laughed or got tears in his eyes I felt I had it made. If he looked bored or had a puzzled look on his face I ended up with complete rewrites or dumped the project in the wastebasket.
Getting into the details takes more work. Dialog, checking words to see if better choices can be made, cutting the fluff—all time-consuming, but very important. More on these things next time.
-Contributed by Shirley Shibley