Tag s | Editing

Editing 101 – My Turn


Thanks for all the great comments and conversation on what needed to be edited in the text I posted in my last blog (Editing 101 – Y0ur Turn). You all made some great observations!

Below you’ll find the edited text. I tried doing it in Track Changes, which is what I usually use to edit a manuscript, but the blog server didn’t like that much. So I’ve made the edits red (think the dreaded red pen), and highlighted my comments for the author (who happens to be me, so I don’t say in my comments what I always say to my authors: feel free to change as you wish! It’s imperative the author knows my edits are suggestions, not mandates). The comments follow the section they refer to.

Sorry if this is confusing. Ah, the joys of finding programs that play nice together.

See if you agree with what I felt were the main editing issues.


Sammy said it was a long time since he seen Rufus. Said the ol’ dog shoulda been home long time ago. Said somethin’ musta happened to the mutt and said it was my fault fer bein’ so stupid and not tyin’ him up when I shoulda.

EdNote: Dialect works well to give us a sense of place and characters, but be careful not to overuse it. It can become a speed bump for the readers, and the last thing you want to do is bump the reader out of the story while he tries to figure out what you’re saying. Also, best to stick with usual spelling, especially with small words like sew/so and wh’n/when. With those words, the readers eye just blips over them. You don’t want to make the reader stop and have to figure out what the word is.

“Gilly, you no good” he said to me. Like he was so good and special.

EdNote: Shift in tense here. You started out in past tense, this is present tense. Need to stay consistent.

We lived on the coast, but I hardly ever saw the ocean. We lived deep in the woods, in this rundown shack Sammy called a house. We didn’t go to town much. Just to buy food. I hated going to town. People always gave me

EdNote: Nice bit of info and characterization here, but you changed from first person POV to third. Need to stay consistent.

that curledupnose look. One time a fancy-dressed lady called me “little white trash.” Didn’t know what that meant, so I asked Sammy.

EdNote: Missing punctuation with the adjective. Also structure was confusing. Most people know what that kind of look means, so no need for the “bad smell” explanation.  

Means stupid.” Now he had that curled-up-nose look. “Means you’re stupid. Like when you don’t tie up the dog.”

EdNote: Missing punctuation with dialogue. Also, inserted a beat to add texture.  

But I didn’t like tying up the dog. The rope was too short. He couldn’t move around. I wouldn’t wanna tied up like that. “Don’t want to tie him up.”

EdNote: Shift in character voice. She’s suddenly sounding educated. Let’s keep her voice consistent.

“What I care what you want?”

Sammy snarls the words. Like a dog with a bone warnin’ another dog to stand clear.

I telled you to tie ol’ Rufus up last night, and you didn’t. Again. So guess what? Ol’ Rufus is off somewhere, visiting garbage cans and makin’ hisself sick. No good girl.” Sammy looks at the ceiling, like someone up there is listenin’ to him.If Id had a son, he woulda listened. But no. I got this no-good girl of a daughter. She never listens to me. Darned girl.

Ed Note: POV shift from Gilly to Sammy. You need to stay in one POV in the scene. Head-hopping just confuses the reader.

He looks back at me, then, and I wish he hadn’t.

EdNote: Use a beat here to show he’s talking to her now rather than the ceiling.

“Ifn that dog dies, I’m gonna make you wish you’d gone with him!”

He’s yellin’ again. Doesn’t bother me much. Sammy always yells. At me. At Rufus. At the ceiling. “I already wish I’d gone with him. Anythin’s better than bein’ here with you.” I choked on the last words. Don’t know why. Just did.

He didn’t answer, but I knew what he was thinkin’.  What he always thought, and said, when he looked at me like that.

How much he wished I hadn’t been born.

Well, that’s fine.

I didn’t think all that much of him, either.

EdNote: Edits here to add texture, to get us inside Gilly’s head. We need to see what she’s thinking and feeling—to feel it ourselves. If you keep us distant from her, we won’t care what happens to her.


In the next few weeks we’ll talk about the specific issues I addressed, why they matter, and how we writers can create a “self-editing” checklist to use on our own work. We’ll also discuss putting together a style sheet that you can send with your manuscript to an editor to ensure your preferences and writing style are understood and honored.

But for right now, I’d love to know:

Anything you think I shouldn’t have changed?

Anything I missed?

Any questions?


Let me hear your thoughts.

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Today is a Great Day to (re)Write

by Steve Laube

James Michener, the bestselling novelist, once said, “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” And today is your day to follow suit.

No one knows your work or what you are trying to accomplish better than you. In that sense you can be your own best editor.

In a 1958 interview with The Paris Review Ernest Hemingway was asked,

“How much rewriting do you do?”

Hemingway replied, “It depends. I rewrote the ending to Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.”

The stunned interviewer asked, “Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?”

Hemingway said simply, “Getting the words right.”

Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, said, ““By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.”

It is the same for both fiction and non-fiction since the principles are similar.

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Editing 101 – Your Turn

I’ve had a number of writers ask me if I can show an edited page from a manuscript, so they can learn from it. So that seems a fun way to start out the New Year. But what I want to do is let YOU take a turn as an editor first. So here, for your editing pleasure, is something I wrote just for this occasion. Print this out, put on your editing hat, and go for it. I’ll post the edited text next week, so we can compare and discuss!


Sammy said it was a long time since he seen Rufus. Said the ol’ dawg shoulda been home long time ago. Said somethin’ musta happent to the mutt and said it was my fault fer bein’ sew stupid and not tyin’ him up wh’n I shoulda. “Gilly, you no good” he says to me. Like he’s so good and special.

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My Editor Made Me Look Fat!

by Steve Laube

You just received a 15 page single spaced editorial letter from your publisher. They want you to rewrite most of the book. But you disagree with the letter and are spitting mad. What do you do?

Or your agent took a look at your manuscript and told you to cut it in half to make it sellable. What do you do?

Both examples are true stories and illustrate the universal challenge of refining your manuscript to make it the best it can be.

In the first example there was great “gnashing of teeth” but eventually my client, the long time veteran author, and the long time veteran editor saw eye-to-eye and made the book great.

In the second example my client Peyton Jones said, “Okay, let’s see what I can do.” He did the necessary work and we sold it to David C. Cook. The revised manuscript is being published in April under the title of Church Zero: Raising 1st Century Churches out of the Ashes of the 21st Century Church.

Calvin Miller once told me that he appreciated a firm editorial hand. He described it as flint striking a rock. Only when they clash is a spark created. I think he was right.

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News You Can Use – May 29, 2012

Self-Publishing: Under 10% Earn a Living – An article out of Australia makes a bold claim. I would claim, however, that only 10% of traditionally published writers earn a living too. Of course that depends on your definition of “a living.”

100 Best First Lines from Novels – In honor of the last two weeks where we talked about “first lines” I found this article from the American Book Review that chooses the top 100.

Stephen King’s 20 Tips for Becoming a Frighteningly Good Writer – Jon Morrow extracts the best parts from King’s book on writing and then applies it to the blogger.

Six Ways Copyeditors Make Your Book Better – Linda Jay Geldens makes an excellent point. Never skip this step before putting your work out in the public.

The No-Tears Guide to Podcasting – There are many who say podcasting is an excellent way to extend your platform and engage your readers.

Two Excellent Articles about Commas: Their use and misuse – written by Ben Yagoda
Fanfare for the Comma Man
The Most Comma Mistakes

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News You Can Use – May 15, 2012

J.A. Konrath Responds – [Warning: There is some coarse language in the post.] Konrath’s response to my blog post from yesterday.

Vetting a Freelance Editor – Victoria Strauss writes an incredible article on how to pick the best independent editor for your project.

Icons that Make No Sense to the New Generation of Readers – A tremendous article about words that could “date” your writing if you aren’t careful.

25 Ways to use Twitter the Wrong Way – Very educational for those who are casual users

Bible App Exceeds 50 Million Downloads – YouVersion Bible App from LifeChurch.TV. Link includes a video interview with the co-founder.

Songwriter Wins Lawsuit – If you plan on still being in the publishing game 30 years from now or if your heirs will need advice on your literary estate, read this article and see what a loophole in the copyright law can mean for you.

Enjoy this pretty cool video called “The Bible in 50 Words”
[tentblogger-vimeo 36765988]

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Are We Speaking the Same Language?

by Karen Ball

I love languages. I started studying French in the 7th grade (“Bonjour, Monsieur DuPree. Comment-allez vous?), and by the time I had my double college degree in multiple-languages and journalism, I’d studied French (12 years), Spanish (5 years), and Russian (1 year). But I confess, I never expected to have to learn a new language when I entered the publishing world.


I remember the first time I realized words and terms had very different meanings in publishing. As a PK and PGK (preacher’s kid and preacher’s grandkid), I knew my duty to widow and orphans. It was right there in the Bible. So you imagine my astonishment when I discovered it was now my goal to kill the widows and orphans. Then I learned that bleeding in the gutters had nothing to do with murder, that picas weren’t fuzzy little forest animals, leading wasn’t something done to stained glass, fonts weren’t receptacles for baptismal water, a kill fee wasn’t about hiring a hitman, and a galley wasn’t the kitchen on a ship.

It all reminded me of a line from a poster I had up in my college dorm room: I know you believe you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure that what you heard is what I really meant to say. Or the poster in a friend’s room that said, “I’m not as drunk as some thinkle peep I am.” (Okay, it has absolutely nothing to do with that last one. I just put it in because it makes me laugh…)

It’s taken years of study and practice, but I’m finally fluent in Pub-Speak. Or so I thought until a few days ago when I had a discussion of editing terms with the illustrious Steve Laube. It went something like this:

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It’s A Brave New World

I’ve been in publishing for lo, these many years (over 30), so you’d think the work would be pretty much second nature for me. No so! In fact, just this last week I did something completely new!

I edited a book, in four days, using Skype and Dropbox.

The amazing thing about this isn’t that the author and I got the book done so quickly, but that it was SO MUCH FUN! We parked on Skype for hours, so that if I had questions as I edited a chapter, I could just ask him, and if he had questions about the editing, he could just ask me. It was like being in the same room together, but without the expense or stress of travel. And I discovered that doing the edit this way gave me a fresher understanding of what the author wanted to say. It also enabled us to do a bit of arm wrestling when we disagreed on something, but to do so with humor and kindness. When you deal with issues over the phone or in email, you always run the risk of misunderstanding because folks can’t see your expressions or body language, or hear the tone of your voice. With Skype, those risks were gone, so we handled a couple of sensitive issues without frustration or misunderstanding.

And that, my friends, is a miracle!

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