The Editing Process

Editing a manuscript is a critical stage in the writing process. In an earlier post, I discussed the Five Stages of Writing. Currently, I’m in the editing or revisions phase with one book and the production phase of another. This often happens, because finishing the first draft of a book doesn’t mean you’re done. It’s only the start of more work.

The Editing Process

After my draft is complete, I begin an intense round of line editing. This means reading the printed pages word-by-word through the manuscript to tighten sentence structure, catch repetitions, fill in emotional reactions, add dialogue tags and more. Here is an example of what one page looks like from Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in The Bad Hair Day Mysteries.

I scribble changes on the printed page, then go back to the computer and make the fixes. Like this:

Easter Edits

Then I read through it again. Note one paragraph here has the same word, “staff”, three times. In the second round, I changed the middle one to “employee” entrance. This means another session at the computer and another printout.

Easter Page

I read it again and keep doing this process until each page is as perfect as I can make it. For revision tips, see my previous post here.

The next step is to send it to my freelance editor. She’ll return the file with remarks using Track Changes in Word. Here comes another round of corrections and one more read-through to make sure all is smooth and I didn’t miss anything. For traditionally published authors, they’ll get edits from their developmental editor and their copy editor.

Next round? For indie authors, that’s beta readers. These are ordinary readers like you who read the book the way they would any story. But they’re looking for flaws, misspellings, info dumps, inconsistencies, or anything that would give them pause. Their input is invaluable, and they always find new things for me to modify.

Is the book done yet? Nope. From here it goes to my formatter. Once she converts the file, I have to read through it again to look for conversion errors. This is akin to the advance reading copy that traditionally published authors receive. It’s the last chance for a final proofread.

This is why the editing process can take so long. I set myself a goal of 10 pages a day. For a 300 page manuscript, that’s 30 days with no time off. Sometimes after several rounds and numerous changes during one day, I still can’t finish those ten pages. I get too close to the material and have to put it aside until the next morning.

So please be patient, dear readers, if it takes longer for me to produce a book. I want it to be as perfect as possible by the time it reaches your hands. Or at least, the hands of my early reviewers. That’s a whole other topic.

Unfortunately, no matter how many passes we make through a book, including our editors and beta readers, some errors will slip by. It’s only diligent readers who can point them out to us. If you see them, please communicate in a kindly manner directly to the author via private email. Depending on our publishing status, we may or may not be able to fix these mistakes. Your eye for detail will be appreciated as long as you understand that most of us really do try our best.

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Do you get annoyed by occasional typos in the books you read, or do you accept them as inevitable and keep reading? Feel free to leave a comment below.

 

Editing Conundrums

Editing your novel always brings surprises. Here’s the latest one that I found upon doing a final read-through for Perish by Pedicure, one of my backlist titles that I’ve revised for an updated Author’s Edition.

editing your story

HANGAR OR HANGER? This one tripped me up, so I looked for a definition. Guess what? My word choice was wrong. A hangar is a shed or shelter especially for housing aircraft. A hanger is a shoulder-shaped frame with a hook at the top for hanging a garment when not in use.

Here’s the original excerpt from Perish by Pedicure (previously edited by Kensington). Oops, I’ve also started three sentences in this paragraph with “ing” phrases. I’ll change the second one for better grammar.

Old Version:
Imagining how she’d exact restitution, Marla showered, blew out her hair, did her makeup, then pulled on a pair of black slacks and a ruby knit top. Not knowing what to expect at the convention center, she snatched a black Ann Taylor jacket from its hangar in case she would need it later. One more thing. Picking up the telephone receiver, she dialed her salon and left a message that she’d be there that afternoon with the Luxor crew. Thank goodness Georgia had stayed overnight at the hotel, she thought, finishing with a spritz of perfume. Dealing with two houseguests already had her frazzled.

New Version:
Imagining how she’d exact restitution, Marla showered, blew out her hair, did her makeup, then pulled on a pair of black slacks and a ruby knit top. Not knowing what to expect at the convention center, she snatched a black Ann Taylor jacket from its hanger in case she would need it later. One more thing. She picked up the phone receiver, dialed her salon, and left a message that she’d be there that afternoon with the Luxor crew. Thank goodness Georgia had stayed overnight at the hotel, she thought, finishing with a spritz of perfume. Dealing with two houseguests already had her frazzled.

Watch for over usage of the word, “Just” like in this passage where I use it three times.

“And why was that?” Marla asked, noting Ron rushing around the corner. Spotting her, the master stylist halted, looking shocked, but then he just as quickly recovered himself. He must have gotten a look at Sampson’s disheveled appearance. Marla missed Miguel’s response, because just then the hostess called their group. “Wait, Georgia isn’t here yet.”

“She’ll find us inside,” Liesl said, looking very hip in an off-the-shoulder ribbed lavender top. “Let’s go, luv.”

Twenty minutes later, Marla got worried when Georgia hadn’t shown up. Her friend knew they were meeting everyone at eight o’clock. Had she gone to their room to change? Taking her cell phone from her purse, she punched in Georgia’s personal number. No answer.

After excusing herself, she found a hotel phone and dialed their room. The ringing tone persisted until Marla gave up. Now what? Could Georgia have met some guy at the marina and decided to chuck her plans? Possibly, but she would’ve told me, knowing that I’d worry. She’d wait a while longer just in case her fears were groundless.

Replacements:
Marla missed Miguel’s response, because the hostess chose that moment to call their group.

She’d wait a while longer in case her fears were groundless.

These are the latest! Something always pops up when you are editing your work. But it’s important to catch these problems to make your work as polished as possible. Don’t stint on proofreading for one final time. Chances are you’ll always catch something. Happy Writing!

What are mistakes writers make that bother you the most?

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Avoiding Word Repetitions

When editing your fiction manuscript, one thing you must watch out for are word repetitions. This might be a favorite word you overuse, or it might be a specific word or phrase that you use twice in one paragraph. You want to clean these up so they don’t pull your reader out of the story.
Word Repetitions
Here are a couple of examples:
Perish by Pedicure
The sergeant smirked, as though he knew all her secrets. “And then?”
Then she called to tell me about the job opening. I offered to put her up at my house, so we could visit while she was here.”
So she arrived on…?”
“Friday. I drove directly to the convention hotel so we could check in. That’s when I met Christine Parks for the first time. She brought down the rest of the staff for a preliminary meeting so we could go over the schedule.”
“How was her demeanor on this occasion?”
“Very much in charge.” Chris wore flashy clothes to attract attention, Marla wanted to add, but she bit her lower lip instead.
“Did her behavior seem off-kilter in any manner?”
“Not really, and she appeared to be perfectly healthy,” Marla said, anticipating his next question.
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In this passage, note how many times I use the word SO. It is a favorite word of mine in conversation, too. Currently, I’m revising my backlist titles. This book had already been through several rounds of edits at my former publishing house and through my own multiple read-throughs at the time. How come I picked up on this now? Maybe because I’m more aware of this word’s overuse. Whatever the reason, it popped out at me this time.
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Easter Hair Hunt (Work in Progress)
“This Fabergé egg belongs in that spot.” Lacey pointed a shaky finger at the case. “Someone must have stolen it and substituted a plastic pink Easter egg in its place.”
Marla saw what she meant. Her stomach sank as she realized the significance.
Somebody had taken the valuable Fabergé egg and substituted a fake one in its place.
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A software program that will help you pick up on word repetitions is Smart-Edit. Otherwise, you can do a search and find if you’re aware of your foibles in this regard. If not, a close edit of your manuscript may turn them up.
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Series Timelines

As your series grows in the number of books, it becomes critically important to keep track of your timelines. This came home to me recently when writing my latest work, tentatively titled Easter Hair Hunt. Hairstylist Marla Vail’s stepdaughter Brianna will be leaving for college soon. I wrote that she was a senior in high school but then realized I’d better check to make sure. The story takes place in March. The last one, Trimmed to Death, took place in October. Brianna was only in the eleventh grade in that story. She wouldn’t have graduated yet. Whoops. I went back and made her a junior for the current WIP.
Timelines
So what sorts of things do you need to keep track of from book to book? Here’s a handy list:
Character Ages
Character Birthdays
Grades for any school-age children
Notes on secondary characters regarding their current status
Dates for Holidays
For Easter Hair Hunt, I determined the holiday would take place in late March. I set Passover a week later. But was this plausible? I looked up dates on the Internet and found this:
Easter Sunday can fall between March 22 and April 25.
Easter is March 23 in 2008 but then Passover is April 20
Easter is March 27 in 2016 but then Passover is April 23
Easter is March 31 in 2024 but then Passover is April 23

Easter eggs2
I picked one of these dates for Easter in my story and had to remove Passover since it didn’t come until a month later.
Marla attends the egg hunt on a Saturday. She celebrates Easter with her interfaith family on Sunday. Monday is her day off, and that’s when she begins her snooping into the latest murder mystery. So for each individual book, you also need to know these factors:
Month your story takes place
Days of the week for each chapter or scene. Using one of those free calendars you get in the mail might be helpful.
Special events you mention in the story that will be coming up, such as a bridal shower for one of Marla’s friends.
calendar
Here’s an example of my timeline notes for Trimmed to Death:
Date: OCTOBER
Marla is 38 (BD Feb.). Royal Oaks, her housing development in southwest Palm Haven, is four years old.
Dalton is 46 (BD Nov.)
Brianna is 16, is in 11th grade as of Sept., and has her driver’s license (BD March). She takes acting classes to help with public speaking, belongs to the drama club and debate team at school. She’s aiming for college in Boston. Mentions a boy named Jason in Trimmed. Jason has an older brother who plays in a band.
Tally’s baby Luke is 14 months. (BD Aug. 3). Tally is 38 (BD Aug. 28)
Arnie, deli owner and Marla’s friend, is 42. Married to Jill.
Robyn, Marla’s neighbor and salon receptionist, is 36 (BD is August)
Nicole, a hairstylist at Marla’s salon, spends weekends at her boyfriend Kevin’s place. His parents and siblings live in Miami. Nicole meets them in Trimmed and then Kevin takes her to the Bahamas before Thanksgiving (Nov).
What you want to do with each installment is add to this list and then copy and paste it to your next book’s files. It’s easy to get lost unless you keep detailed notes regarding these timelines. You could say the same for family trees. Figuring out who is related to whom gets even more confusing if you don’t draw a diagram or make notes.
Generations
For the writers out there, what else do you include on these timeline lists?
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12 Steps for Revising Your Novel

Revisions on your novel can seem like a never-ending task. This seems especially true when you get a letter from a reader years later to tell you about a misspelled word. We’re never going to get it absolutely perfect, but we can do our best.

revision steps for your novel

In an earlier post, I’d mentioned the Five Stages of Writing. I’ve also talked in other posts about line editing and other techniques for improving your work. What comes next after you’ve sent the book in to your editor? Here’s a list of suggestions:

1. Make the corrections advised by your editor when she sends your story back with comments.

2. Check your formatting throughout the manuscript after making a series of changes. Be sure all chapter headings are consistent. Turn on the paragraph symbol in Word and look for misplaced sentences or extra spaces. Do a search for [space]^p and replace with ^p. Then do a search for ^p[space] and replace with ^p. This gets rid of extra spaces before and after a paragraph.

3. Review your editor’s comments to make sure you haven’t skipped anything.

4. Revise the synopsis and chapter outlines to reflect any changes to the story or the timeline.

5. Do a thorough read-through to make sure everything reads smoothly and to see if you caught all the changes. One change may lead to another, and you might miss some if they’re one or two lines here and there.

6. Do another read-through if these second round of changes were significant.

7. Consider using a software program like Smart-Edit to check for redundancies, repetitions, or clichés that your editor might have missed. (Or do this step before you turn in your manuscript for the first time.)

8. Send the book to beta readers for another round of critiques from the readers’ viewpoint and for proofreading. If you are traditionally published, this is when you send the book in for copy edits.

9. Follow-up with another round of revisions and a complete read-through again.

10. Send in the finalized book to your editorial house or to your formatter for production.

11. Read through the entire ARC (advance reading copy) for conversion errors and final tweaks.

12. Approve the final version.

What else do you do during the Revisions Stage?

TWEET THIS POST

 

Word Repetitions

When I’m editing my next novel, one of the things I look for are word repetitions. Here is a perfect example of what I mean:

Marla took the printout from Keri. They’d better head over to Liam’s house while the day was still young. Later, he’d be busy getting ready for his charity event. She fumbled inside her purse and took out her checkbook.

“I appreciate your getting this information for us,” she told Keri. “How much do I owe you?”

Keri gave her a warm smile. “My rate is discounted to twenty dollars an hour for new clients. This didn’t take me much time at all, even though Liam keeps his home address private. So let’s call this a complimentary visit. Any referrals you can make my way would be appreciated.”

“Are you sure? You gave up your free time to meet with us today.”

“No problem. I had a few things to catch up on this afternoon anyway.”

“I appreciate it. If you ever come to Palm Haven, stop by my salon. I’ll return the favor.” Marla put away her checkbook and rose.

What word did I repeat? I used “appreciate” three times. Here is the revised version:

“I appreciate your getting this information for us,” she told Keri. “How much do I owe you?”

Keri gave her a warm smile. “My discounted rate for new clients is twenty dollars an hour. This didn’t take me much time at all, even though Liam keeps his home address private. So let’s consider it a complimentary visit. Any future referrals you can send my way would be welcome.”

“Are you sure? You gave up your free time to meet with us today.”

“No problem. I had a few things to catch up on this afternoon anyway.”

“That’s generous of you. If you’re ever in Palm Haven, stop by my salon and I’ll return the favor.” Marla put away her checkbook and rose.

Look for these types of word repetitions when revising your work. This is separate from a read-through where you try to pick up snatches of dialogue that repeat conversations between your characters. Often when you’re writing chapter-to-chapter, you lose track of what’s been revealed. Your editing sweeps should help you cut through the clutter and expose these faults. So be diligent and comb through your work as a detective might comb through his list of suspects.

 

Revising Your Manuscript

I’m in the midst of edits for Facials Can Be Fatal, #13 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. A couple of the problems I’m fixing are things you should be looking for in your work, also. These include too many mentions of previous stories, info dumps, and extraneous material that doesn’t add to a scene. My own read-through has revealed inconsistencies that I didn’t catch during my prior rounds. Here are some examples.

editing

Excerpt One—Original Scene

“Was the other ship ever found?” Dalton’s rapt expression showed his fascination.

As a history buff, he must be soaking this in, Marla thought with fond affection.

Sam’s face folded into a frown. “The problem with that wreck site, unlike the deeper water where the Atocha sank, is that undercurrents cause shifting sand dunes. The Santa Margarita broke apart in a wide debris field. Through the years, people discovered a trail of artifacts, from gold chalices to silver coins, jewelry, and swords. Then in 1980, Mel Fisher’s company located a section of the ship’s wooden hull, along with items valued at forty million dollars. However, other portions of the ship remained elusive. Records showed eight hundred ounces of registered gold, one hundred and forty-five silver bars, more than eighty thousand silver coins, and millions of dollars in smuggled contraband still missing.” He ticked off each listing on his fingers.

“So that treasure remains unfound?” Dalton scratched his head as though the magnitude of value astounded him.

Sam got up to pace the room. “Another salvage firm from Key West discovered more relics. They contacted Mel Fisher’s company, since his group had the federal permit to explore those waters, and the two companies formed a partnership. Since then, they’ve recovered many more items. I like this one: sixteen thousand natural pearls in an oval leaden box. The largest weighs in at over fifty-two carats, one of the biggest known natural pearls in the world.”

“That’s amazing,” Marla said. “Those ships must have been heavy with all those coins and ingots aboard. No wonder they sank.” Gold jewelry and pearls, emeralds from Columbia, silver from Mexico . . . who wouldn’t kill to obtain such bounty? “How many more ships like those two remain undiscovered?”

“Quite a few.” Sam went on, his words rushing together in his enthusiasm. “In 1733, the Nuestra Espana fleet left Havana for home with three armed galleons and eighteen merchant ships. They encountered a hurricane off Marathon. The San Jose alone was carrying almost seven million pesos in gold when it sank. Many of these wreck sites are charted on maps and have been studied by archaeologists as part of the state’s historical preserves.”

“And yet, not all of the ships that sank have been found?” Marla imagined there must be records of missing cargo dating back in history.

He nodded. “As I said, some thirty to forty known ships have sunk in our coastal waters. There could be hundreds more.”

“What are the laws pertaining to these wrecks? Who owns them if found?”

“According to the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1988, any historic find becomes the property of its respective state.”

Excerpt One–Revised Scene

“Was the other ship ever found?” Dalton’s rapt expression showed his fascination.

Sam’s face folded into a frown. “The problem with that wreck site, unlike the deeper water where the Atocha sank, is that undercurrents cause shifting sand dunes. The Santa Margarita broke apart in a wide debris field. Through the years, people have discovered many of its relics, including a lead box filled with sixteen thousand pearls.”

“That’s amazing,” Marla said. “Those ships must have been heavy with all the gold coins, silver bars and jewels aboard. No wonder they sank. How many more ships like those two remain undiscovered?”

“Quite a few.” Sam got up to pace the room. “Most of the known wreck sites are charted on maps. They’re part of the state’s historical preserves.”

“Who owns the salvage rights to a sunken ship?” Marla asked, wondering about laws regarding lost treasure.

“According to the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1988, any historic find becomes the property of its respective state.”

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Excerpt Two—Original Scene

They’d requested a table outside at the rear but under the covered portion, not the lounge part that was just for drinks. Their table, covered with a white cloth, was already set with wine glasses, bread plates, and a glass-enclosed candle when they took their seats. Further out on the wooden deck, the drinkers had bare wood tables open to the sea breeze with some shade provided by green umbrellas. The tables and chairs had been bleached by the sun and looked more ashen in color.

They faced east and the Atlantic Ocean. A tree grew from under the deck, dropping the occasional debris when the wind blew. The view to the side enchanted her with its sandy beach and graceful coconut palms, but she couldn’t see the water stretching out to sea. The sky had darkened and there wasn’t enough illumination from the moon.

After the waitress uncorked their bottle of Chardonnay and they had sampled their first glass, Marla ordered the Boston lettuce salad with watercress, blue cheese, apples, and spiced pecans, while Dalton couldn’t pass up the conch chowder. They both had fish for their entrées; he got the soy glazed grilled tuna steak and she ordered pan-roasted salmon. Dalton, sitting next to a potted red croton plant, reached for a slice of crusty bread.

Excerpt Two– Revised Scene

They’d requested a table in the outside dining area at the rear of the house. Their white-clothed table held wine glasses, bread plates, and a glass-enclosed candle. They faced east and the Atlantic Ocean. The view to the side enchanted Marla with its sandy beach and graceful coconut palms, but she couldn’t see the water stretching out to sea. The sky had darkened, and the moon didn’t provide enough illumination.

After they had sampled their first glass of Chardonnay, they placed their orders. Dalton chose the soy-glazed grilled tuna steak and Marla ordered pan-roasted salmon. Dalton, sitting next to a potted red croton plant, reached for a slice of crusty bread.

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Excerpt Three—Original Scene

Howard lived in Mangrove Isles, a community of pricey homes bordered by canals in east Fort Lauderdale. Since they were already on A1A, it didn’t take them long to get there. His two-story house was well-maintained with iron grillwork on a second-story balcony, ceiling fans on a covered porch, and white outdoor wicker furniture. Majestic palms and other tropical greenery graced the front lawn. The driveway’s red pavers led to a detached three-car garage.

As Dalton parked along the curb, Marla looked up the house via a real estate site on her cell phone. “It’s worth over two million,” she said with a sense of awe, wondering if Howard had a yacht docked out back like many of his neighbors. “Would you believe he has five full bathrooms? The place is listed at nearly forty-three hundred square feet.”

“It must cost a lot of money to maintain.”

“Does he live alone, or is he married?” She didn’t recall his family status.

“He got divorced eight years ago. His kids live with the ex-wife.”

Excerpt Three–Revised Scene

Howard Cohn lived in Mangrove Isles, a community of pricey homes bordered by canals in east Fort Lauderdale. His Mediterranean-style villa had iron grillwork on a second-story balcony, ceiling fans on a covered porch, and hurricane impact windows facing the front lawn. Tropical greenery bordered a paved walkway to the door.

“Does Howard have a family?” Marla asked, unable to recall his marital status.

“He got divorced eight years ago. His kids live with the ex-wife.”

So what do you think? Are these revised versions better? What are your main weaknesses that you look for in revisions?

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Small Press Does Not Mean Small Editing

Small Press Does Not Mean Small Editing by Victoria Pinder

I started out my writing journey and went to RWA Nationals after finishing my first novel. I learned my writing sucked. I tried to fix it, but I’ve never sold those earlier books. To me, life is about growing and moving forward. I wrote more and decided that I had enough of waiting a few years with nothing happening. I decided to self-pub, and I chose a faux name writing as Greta Buckle. Victoria, my name, was reserved for traditional publishing. Then I discovered self-publishing wasn’t the only alternative path. Small press was another viable option.

It’s a relief to go small. And I’m glad I chose this route.   Mything You

I paid someone to edit Mything You. I love the story, but that editing wasn’t nearly as brutal as the Zoastra Affair. I rewrote that novel so many times my head spins. My editor corrected me on so much that my writing will never be the same. The growth and care I received from Soul Mate Publishing is something I’m grateful for experiencing. These were real editors who told me I needed to work on my craft, and I wasn’t paying for their services. If my editor said “rewrite,” I had no choice. I had to think deeper. Change. Say yes.

And I couldn’t ignore it.

Publishing is a business. Amazon is so profiting off indie authors, and Amazon cares more about Amazon than it does me. Play the game and play it well. But let’s not forget there are people out there also looking to make money WHILE publishing a good book that is not Amazon. I’ve learned more from editing than I did in a year of independent publishing. And I can focus on writing, not everything else it takes until the media giant takes 100% of all profits.

Small Publishers can answer the phone, and listen and help. Publishing is a business and it’s not all about you controlling everything. What are you willing to trade? I want my time to write. Don’t jump into one type of publishing because it’s easier than the other. There are pros and cons to everything. With publishers, there is time to write.

The Zoastra Affair
, December 2013, Soul Mate Publishing
Chaperoning Paris, 2014, Soul Mate Publishing
Borrowing the Doctor, 2014, Soul Mate Publishing
Mything the Throne, 2014, Double Dragon ebooks.
Electing Love, 2014, Soul Mate Publishing

And more books are out there at the moment.

I’ve created a list of small press and e-publishers from a variety of sources. I’ve put it on my site, as a tribute to Nancy’s awesomeness. Go here: http://victoriapinder.com/?page_id=1411

Oh, and special thanks to Nancy Cohen. She’s the newly elected President of Florida Chapter Mystery Writers of America as well as Vice President of Communications for Florida Romance Writers. I just chose to be Vice President of Programs for FRW, and I can’t imagine where she has the time. But besides all that, she’s a good person with a positive attitude. She’s one of the people I’m most thankful for in real life for knowing. She’s amazing.

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The Zoastra Affair by Victoria Pinder   The Zoastra Affair
Published by Soul Mate Publishing
Science Fiction Romance

YouTube Trailer:
http://youtu.be/Buah-LGT4tA

Blurb:

A hundred years from now, Earth is a trading partner with alien beings, mostly humanoid. However, going into space brought forth an unknown enemy who attacks Earth at will.

The Zoastra are part of the Earthseekers, an organization originally designed to go into space. Its new mission is to find Earth’s enemies.

Ariel is stuck on a Victorian planet and steals Grace’s body and life to get off the planet. Grace must get her body back before Ariel bonds with Grace’s husband, Peter. Then there is Cross, the man on a mission to find those who killed his family. Ariel is attracted to Cross, but she’s stolen someone’s life.

Excerpt:

 I’m going to have to steal someone else’s body to get out of here.

“Ariel, are you listening?”

Ariel Transcender stared dumbfounded at the mother superior of her prison, a/k/a Aulnale School for Orphans. “Yes, mistress.”

She had no idea what happened, though she pasted a fake simpering smile of appreciation on her face. Ms. Rochelle walked away.

A few minutes later, Ariel looked out the window again, tuning out Rochelle’s mind numbing lecture on what was proper behavior when near a man. The boarding home on this planet gave the stupidest lectures of the galaxy. Her lips curled into a sneer. Women were not excited to be bound to men.

Could I do this to someone else? Do I have any other choice?

Lenchena, the teenage girl who’d stolen her adult body and taken off on Ariel’s ship, needed to be found. And Ariel refused to listen to the daily drivel about always listening to a man.

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About the Author:

clip_image004Victoria Pinder grew up in Irish Catholic Boston before moving to the Miami sun. She’s worked in engineering, after passing many tests proving how easy Math came to her. Then hating her life at the age of twenty four, she decided to go to law school. Four years later, after passing the bar and practicing very little, she realized that she hates the practice of law. She refused to one day turn 50 and realize she had nothing but her career and hours at a desk. After realizing she needed change, she became a high school teacher. Teaching is rewarding, but writing is a passion.

During all this time, she always wrote stories to entertain herself or calm down. Her parents are practical minded people demanding a job, and Victoria spent too many years living other people’s dreams, but when she sat down to see what skill she had that matched what she enjoyed doing, writing became so obvious. The middle school year book when someone wrote in it that one day she’d be a writer made sense when she turned thirty.

When she woke up to what she wanted, the dream of writing became so obvious. She dreams of writing professionally, where her barista can make her coffee and a walk on the beach can motivate her tales. Contemporary romances are just fun to write. She’s always thinking who’s getting hurt and whose story is next on the list to fall in love. Victoria’s love of writing has kept her centered and focused through her many phases, and she’s motivated to write many stories.

Member of Florida Romance Writers; Contemporary Romance; Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter of RWA; and Savvy Authors.

Visit Victoria online at:

Website: http://www.victoriapinder.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Victoria-Pinder-also-writing-as-Greta-Buckle/294685373900979
Twitter: http://twitter.com/victoriapinder
Tumblr: victoriapinder.tumblr.com
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/victoriapinder/
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=200859737&trk=hb_tab_pro_top
Google+ https://plus.google.com/105161432419802350109/posts/p/pub

32 Self-Editing Tips for Writers

32 Self-Editing Tips for Writers by Nancy J. Cohen

Periodically, I’ll post these self-editing tips after updating them. I am involved in my own revisions at the moment for Warrior Lord, book #3 in my Drift Lords series. This means two read-throughs. The first round is for line editing and catching repetitions. The second round is to read for smoothness, final word tweaks, and consistency. Then I’ll send it in.
woman computer
When I get the marked up version from my editor back, I am always appalled at the number of things I still want to change. This proves revisions are never done. You have to call a halt when you feel you’ve done your best. So what should you do during your self-edits? Use these rules as a guideline.

Have an identifiable main character. With multiple viewpoints, you run the risk of detaching your reader unless you go into deep viewpoint with each switch. Have one main character with whom we can identify and cheer on, otherwise why should we care what happens?

Make your protagonist likeable. Have you watched TV shows where none of the people appeal to you? Would you continue watching it? Even if you employ an anti-hero in your story, give him a reason for his anti-social behavior. He has to be redeemable or sympathetic in some way.

Motivate your characters with clear goals. If they don’t care what’s happening, why should your reader? Make sure your character’s goals are obvious up front. Why is this important to him? What is he doing to make it happen? What’s stopping him? What stakes are involved?

Invest your characters with attitude to give them a distinctive personality.
NO: I’m fine, thanks. YES: You really wanna know? OR: It’s none of your business, dude.

Keep description within the viewpoint of your character
. Similes and metaphors should be within her frame of reference. Hairdresser: as limp as a strand of shampooed hair. Or: as tight as a newly permed curl.

When you’re in deep viewpoint, use pronouns rather than the character’s name. Keep viewpoints distinctive. Use a new paragraph with a space break when you switch heads.

Avoid flashbacks and backstory. This is probably the most common mistake of newbie writers. Leave the past in the past unless it’s important for your current story. Keep the action moving forward. Drop in backstory into dialogue or relate it in brief thoughts during action scenes. Less is better. There’s nothing faster that will disengage your reader and kill the pacing than long passages of backstory or flashbacks suddenly inserted into the middle of a scene.

Show, don’t tell.
Show me your character’s emotions. Don’t tell me about them, or I won’t be engaged as a reader. NO: She felt afraid. YES: Ice gripped her heart. NO: He was angry. YES: He slammed his fist into the door. Physical reactions and nonverbal clues indicate emotions. Without these, you’ve written a cardboard character who I can’t relate to as a reader. Also, don’t have the hero only perform action stunts and hold terse dialogues. Show me how he reacts internally. Introspection is important to helping us relate to him, although paragraph after paragraph of angst can get tiring. Just don’t leave it out or I won’t get a feel for him as a person.

Dialogue should have a purpose. Conversations should advance the plot or reveal character. Know going into a scene what you mean to reveal. If your characters are aimlessly yakking about their love lives or what they’re cooking for dinner, cut the conversation. Don’t ramble. Have a snappy conversation filled with innuendos and hidden meanings. And remember to include your protagonist’s emotional reactions. Also, don’t overuse dialects. Sprinkle in some foreign or slang terms to give the flavor without making sentences hard to pronounce.

Beware of talking heads.
Lines of dialogue need to be broken up by character tags, such as sensory descriptions or action. Remember to include emotional reactions and introspection so we can see what’s preying on your character’s mind.

Eliminate most substitutes for said along with adverbs that describes speech. NO: I love it, he chortled merrily. YES: I love it, he said with a chuckle.

Replace he/she said with character tags. Use action as an identifier and bring in the five senses whenever possible. NO: “I suppose you’re right,” she said. YES: “I agree.” Her nape prickled as though Grace’s words had prophetic power.

Avoid long paragraphs of exposition. Show us the scene unfolding from the character’s viewpoint. Otherwise, do these passages really need to be there? Make the reader feel what your hero feels. Don’t just tell us what’s going on.

Tighten your sentence structure by replacing phrases with precise words. NO: the light of the boat YES: the boat’s light NO: He ran down by the terrace and out toward the lake. YES: He sped past the terrace toward the lake.

Replace passive verbs with active tense. NO: The slaves were slain by lions. YES: Lions mauled the slaves. NO: His forehead was heated by the sun baking overhead. YES: The baking sun heated his brow.

Replace walked and went with a more visual word. She shuffled toward the door. He raced down the street. He sprinted across the yard.

Dangling Participles. Learn by example: NO: Glancing into the rearview mirror, her breath released upon noticing the coast was clear. YES: Glancing into the rearview mirror, she released a breath upon noticing the coast was clear.

Gerunds. Beware of ing phrases that are illogical. NO: Flinging the door wide, she stepped inside the darkened interior. YES: She flung the door wide and stepped inside the darkened interior.

Avoid weak phrases like seemed to, tried to, began to. NO: He seemed to want her input. YES: His smile encouraged her to speak. NO: She tried to tie the knot, but it slipped through her fingers. YES: As she fumbled with the knot, the rope slipped from her fingers. Also avoid unnecessary phrases such as she realized, she figured, he decided, he watched, he thought.

Be realistic about meal and work hours.

Avoid weak verbs: is, was, are, were, there was. NO: There was water on the window. YES: Water droplets beaded the window. NO: His pulse was racing. YES: His pulse raced.

Avoid negatives. NO: He would not wait any longer if she didn’t appear. YES: He’d leave if she failed to show up.

Delete redundancies. NO: sat down YES: sat NO: He thought to himself YES: He thought. BETTER: eliminate he thought if you’re in his viewpoint.

Check for repetitions: Most of us subconsciously overuse a favorite word. Be alert for these when you read through your manuscript. (I just counted how many times I use the word “just” here, and it’s 9 times. I’m guilty!) Avoid the same phrases or words in consecutive pages. Watch out for repeats of the same information in conversations or in a person’s thoughts.

Eliminate the word “that” where not needed.

Remove qualifiers that weaken your prose, such as: very, rather, quite, really, just, awfully. NO: I remembered that she was really nice. YES: I remembered how her smile lit the room. NO: It was very hot. YES: The heat made my skin itch.

Beware of flying body parts.NO: Her eyes flew across the room. YES: Her gaze flew across the room. NO: She threw her hands in the air. YES: She raised her arms.

Be specific: NO: She passed a clump of flowers. YES: She passed a clump of red tulips sprouting from the ground like supplicating hands. NO: It had been a hard day. YES: Her body sagged as though she’d run a marathon (cliché alert?).

Learn correct spelling and usage: their or they’re; it’s or its; lay or lie; you’re or your. This is fundamental, and there is no excuse for getting these wrong.

Use descriptive detail only when it enhances your story. Too much description can slow pacing and lose the reader’s interest. However, whenever you describe a scene, remember to use the five senses. If you want to engage the reader, include specific sensory details.

Avoid clichés like the plague. If you spot one during revisions, go back and replace it with something more original. NO: He wore a scowl like a cloak. YES: He wore a scowl like a seasoned samurai (and he’s Japanese, so this fits the frame of reference).

Go for strong endings at ends of sentences. Don’t end sentences on a preposition. NO: I didn’t know what he was waiting for. YES: I didn’t understand why he waited. NO: He stared in horrified dismay at her. YES: He stared at her in horrified dismay.

And speaking of strong endings, this concludes my self-editing tips. It helps if you put aside your work for several weeks after completing the initial draft. Coming back to it with a fresh perspective will allow you to catch things that might otherwise slip by. Working off a hard copy and reading dialogue aloud are other techniques to use. You want to polish your manuscript until it figuratively sparkles and then move on to the next story.

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When Are Revisions Done?

Newbie writers often ask, how do you know when to stop revising and send in the work? There’s no easy answer as each of us goes through our own self-editing process. Revisions are never done. Every time you read through your work, more things pop up to fix. So when should you quit? When the story is as good as you can make it for now, and you’ll plotz if you have to go through it one more time. But all is not lost. You’ll get another chance to make corrections and tweak your phrasing during the editing phase.

Finishing your manuscript and doing second or third drafts is only part of the equation. Once your story is finished for good, you need to go back to your synopsis. Why? The story probably branched out in new directions since you began, and you need to update this important marketing tool.

You should also check through the submission guidelines and format your work accordingly. Different publishers prefer different fonts and line spacing. So get it right before you submit anything.

Check your front and back end materials to make sure everything is there. Besides the title page, in the front may go any endorsements you’ve gathered, dedications and acknowledgements, world building details like maps or casts of characters. At the end go your biography, author’s note if any, and any bonus materials like recipes in a culinary cozy. Again, see if your publisher requires anything else.

Once you have accomplished all these tasks, then you are ready to submit. Does the publisher want you to attach any ancillary materials, like cover art sheets or permissions or cover copy blurbs? This may come before or after a sale. Be certain you have these forms filled out.

Then write your cover letter and send the submission.

Here’s a quick checklist:

· Proofread your final draft for timeline consistency, character continuity, repetitions, word choices, spelling.
· Verify any research as necessary.
· Check all loose ends to make sure you’ve solved them by the story’s finale. You may want to review your plotting notes to see if you have left anything out.
· If a series, include a hook for the next story.
· Write a reader discussion guide during your final draft.
· Jot down blog topics for your blog tour.
· Rewrite your synopsis to match the finished story.
· Format your manuscript according to publisher guidelines.
· Prepare requested ancillary materials to attach with your submission.
· Submit your work and cross your fingers.

I am in this phase now which is why I’m not blogging too often, posting on FB, etc. Getting the book done amidst the holiday frenzy is taking my total concentration. I’ve gone through the manuscript, so now I have to format it to the publisher’s guidelines and fill out the required forms. Then I’ll send my baby out into the world.

Is there anything you would add to this checklist?