Tuesday, November 01, 2011

A new (to me) trick for line editing

I'm deep into the first major edit of my WIP. This is meant to be a macro edit, where I make sure I've developed my characters well, given them strong goals and believable and conflicting motivations. I'm making sure I've used my settings to full advantage, that they aren't stagnant or repetitive or lackluster. I'm adding in a few chapters of a third point of view character. I'm paying attention to things like pacing, tension, and character arcs.

But I've learned over the years that no matter what my focus is on any given editing pass, I can't pass up the opportunity to line edit along the way. There's something hardwired into my brain that won't let me read over a clunky sentence without rewriting it, or delete a redundant phrase, or snip off an unnecessary dialogue tag or bit of stage business creating a hiccup in the rhythm of the prose, or beef up a weak, lackluster word or phrase that could be made vivid and precise. And I've found a new way in which to smooth out these rough patches. New to me, at least.

Several months back I upgraded my computer. Along with it came a new version of Word (2010), the program I use for writing. Most likely this little trick I've just "discovered" was available in some of Word's former incarnations, but being the non computer savvy person that I am, I never noticed it until I began to muddle my way around this strikingly new Word layout (grumbling through the first week of it, let me tell you).

It's the nifty little option down at the bottom right of the screen (when you have a document open) called Full Screen Reading. When you click on it, your document is displayed very much as it would look as a published book, with two pages side by side on the screen. When I clicked on this the first time, something magic happened. Loads of awkward prose sprang out at me as if it had been highlighted--this, after having read that very page in hard copy, then on the screen as I typed in all my changes, then again out loud to catch the rough spots I still missed after all that editing.

This Full Screen Reading feature might not have made a difference but for one crucial change it makes in the document. It changes the layout of the page, making it slightly narrower than it appears in the standard 1 inch margin document in which I normally work. The lines are shorter, the paragraphs longer. Perhaps I'm more visually oriented than most, but this makes a huge difference for me, seeing these by now familiar words arranged differently on the page. I really SEE them. It's even better than changing the font style or size for catching those rough edges that still need smoothing over even after so many passes.

So, there you have it. Full Screen Reading. One more weapon I've added to my editing arsenal.

Writers, do you already use Full Screen Reading for line by line editing? Have you found it helpful too?


  1. Good tip, Lori. I'd never tried that before. It works with Word 2007 as well.

  2. Brenda, I guess it pays to learn our software programs. :)

  3. OK, that's very cool. When I first clicked on Full Screen Reading, it showed me only one page, but I discovered a drop-down in the upper right corner that allowed me choose either the two-page view or the two-page print view, which was fortunately larger and easier to read.

    Took me a bit to figure out how to get out of it, though. [g]

  4. Beth, I'm using it to polish every chapter as I go along. It's a fun extra step that continues to help me catch rough spots. Glad you got it figured. Hope it helps in your process too.