Today, I want to talk to you about how I edit my work— and more specifically, purple prose. I thought it was a great time to discuss this topic and share it, seeing as I have just gone into the editing stage of writing and publishing my book. It’s also great timing due to NaNoWriMo finishing, so there are lots of other authors out there getting stuck into editing right now as well.
How I Handled a Clashing Opinion With An Editor
A few months ago, I finished writing the 18th draft of my book Lanterns in the Sky, and started pitching it to publishers. Recently, I received feedback from an interested publishing house, but they had criticism and advised me to make changes before resubmitting the book.
This has happened to me in the past. When I submitted this book previously and got a contract for it, they wanted me to improve the description. But this time around, they felt there was too much description, resulting in what is called purple prose.
It’s interesting how different people have different opinions of the same work, and my own opinion was on the fence about making changes to the manuscript.
Now, I want to make this very clear— I am not an editor. Grammar and typos are my downfalls, and I dabble in developmental editing, but ultimately can’t copyedit to save my damn life. And it wasn’t that I didn’t expect to have my book edited and prodded at— it was more that I really love the description in my book, and feel that it creates my writing style.
I know I’m biased as the author, but a lot of my readers agreed with my opinion. So I took it upon myself to approach ten random beta readers, in different age groups, and ask for their individual thoughts. I received a very large scale of feedback, with the minority of people leaning towards the publisher’s opinion, and the majority leaning towards mine. But there were even people who thought purple prose wasn’t the problem at all— that parts of the manuscript could do with changing and rewriting altogether. Which led me to making my decision on how to proceed.
My Editing Process:
I’m aware that the book needs editing (I mean, it’s still a draft) but my main focus at the time wasn’t other aspects of the book. It was whether there was an issue with purple prose, and from the combined research I did, I decided that… yes, there was a lot of purple prose, but it wasn’t necessarily a problem.
So how could I work to meet this publishing house halfway? How could I appease them, and yet, still maintain the style of my work?
This is where I switched my focus to making the book readable, rather than straightforward and purple prose-less. Instead of removing all the descriptive language, I created four tags and highlighted different sections of my work, focusing on the following things:
1 // Switching passive voice to active voice
I have a habit of speaking passively when I describe settings, so doing a search for passive words helps me locate description in my manuscript and rewrite these sections. When writing in active voice, I get to my point faster, which reduces my description but still maintains the style of my voice.
2 // Removing problematic/unnecessary words (e.g. very, really, like)
I know that I try and write in a poetic way when describing things, and that causes an abundance of unnecessary words to make my prose longer. My sentences can exist without these words, and removing them helps me cut down on description, as I am able to quickly locate where I have needlessly rambled on.
3 // Taking note of repetition
Obviously, if I have described something once, I don’t need to do it three or four more times. But sometimes, I do *shrugs indifferently* so removing these unnecessary descriptions improves the pacing of my plot, and cuts down on purple prose.
4 // Rewriting confusing phrases
In The Chicago Manual of Style, there is a section that talks about misleading connective words, and false attraction to predicative nominative. To put it simply, it’s a misleading or confusing sentence that is difficult to read due to your word choice, and can cause the reader to disconnect from the story and re-read the sentence until they understand it. While you can switch some words to make the sentence good, you should actually rewrite the sentence completely until it simply reads better. Usually, this rewrite shortens the sentence, making it clear and straight to the point.
I then created a checklist for every chapter, and ticked off each of the tags, before ticking off the chapter as edited, to keep me on track.
How do you edit your books? Leave a comment below and let me know!