Monday, April 18, 2011

Edit Me!

Confession: While I had many completed manuscripts under my bed before I sold, I have had a scatter-shot approach to editing until I sold and had to change my wanton ways.

The reality is that self-editing is a skill that sooner or later you must cultivate. Do yourself a favor and do it sooner.

The single most important thing is to know what your targeted editor or line or your current editor expects in your submission. After that it's all about you the writer. You must be aware of your particular issues or weaknesses so you can develop an editing plan.

I don't have a critique group and time is really an issue for me, so I've now fine tuned my editing process to an almost obsessive list. While I do basic editing as I go along, the true editing comes when the entire story is complete.

Before I share let me emphasize that we as writers should never underestimate the far reaching growth curve of excellent editorial feedback. Editing book two, Oklahoma Reunion, has been by far the most significant growth for me. I have really learned to dig deep as a writer. I now keep notes on the feedback I receive on the editorial level: what my editor likes and doesn't like, problematic areas with my writing, what the editorial staff expects and what the line expects. (Reader expectation is huge for category lines and for branding yourself as a writer.)

1. Breather! I take a breather from my story after I type "The End" and try to switch into editor mode with-

2. Clinical Evaluation. My next step is to review the manuscript page by page with a clinical eye searching for emotional response, POV issues, sensory detail lapses, and my personal issues. Tools used for this:

a. Camy Tang's Deep POV articles are excellent for deepening your character. If you are a character driven writer like me, they are indispensable.

b. I use Vince Mooney's Rewards-Per-Page articles to evaluate and then increase emotional response in my story. I've used this assessment tool for both The Rancher's Reunion and Oklahoma Reunion.

c. I keep an index card above my computer with my issue words: going, it, and, but, just, only, that, well, would, em dash. These are words I overuse and that need to be replaced whenever possible to strengthen my sentences.

d. This is also the point where I pull out that ever growing EDITOR LIST and check all those items I wrote down against my manuscript pages. You'll develop your own problem list from editor feedback, rejection letters or critiques.

3. The time line and plot line are evaluated next. I'm a visual learner so I keep lots of props next to my desk or open on my computer

a. Time line in Excel. For more information on the time line created in Excel see Putting Your Baby To Bed.

b. Plotting board. Check here for information on the plotting board. Mine is very basic, I use pink and blue index cards with Goal, Motivation and Conflict for the hero and heroine written on them. Each scene is also written on a pink or blue index card so I can move them around. Since I plot as I go, now I check to be sure I didn't miss anything.

c. I pencil my plot line on a template of Michael Hauge's Six Stage Plot Structure. Now I'll evaluate how well I kept to the plot line.

4. Final Step. I edit as I go and read aloud as I complete chapters so editing for me is not really first draft. The last step is to print and take those three hundreds some pages to the library or bookstore to read. I don't take anything else but a red pen and a pencil. The goal is to read it through in two sittings, writing notes in the margins. Then I go home and apply the edits or research the problems.

Here's are some of the self-editing practices of a few of the Seekers-

Mary Connealy:

I go through each scene multiple times. I edit out things that stop the pace and add things that speed the pace up, including using stronger word choices, that can be a TON of work in an action scene.

I revise dialogue tags, sometimes it's not clear who's talking after a first draft. I'll dump 'he said' for something more lively. An action beat.

I cut back story, but that goes back to stopping the pace of an action scene.

I add senses. Smells, tastes, etc. This really brings a scene to life and I have to DISCIPLINE myself to add these details.

And check to see if I've set the scene, described their clothing and hair...I'm really a minimalist...especially on a first draft...I go too far until I don't even mention where in the world my characters are standing. So that needs to be fixed.

I add comedy. I up the ante with jokes, sass, scene ending hooks. This builds on itself. You can't really tell a good joke the first time through. You add asides, reactions, and it gets better with each pass.

Glynna Kaye:

I'm currently writing 60,000 word contemporary inspirational romances for Harlequin Love Inspired, so like to reach a finished draft manuscript length somewhere in the range of 50,000 or 55,000 words before I launch into self- editing/revising.

I actually LOVE the editing and polishing stage. That's when the story comes alive for me. Really begins to come together and jump off the page. I'll print the whole thing and read it--red pen in hand--far away from my computer. That can take 8-10 hours and I like to do it in one sitting if possible.

Once I incorporate those changes into the electronic version, then I begin to further flesh it out, layer, clarify, deepen the emotion, weave in the five senses, cut out repetition and "lame" words, etc. By the time I've completed that round, I've usually overshot the 60K mark! Oops! So I go through it again to trim and tighten it up. Then if time allows, I like to throw it out to two or three willing souls for proof reading and feedback.

THEN I incorporate those modifications and sequester myself and my trusty red pen to go all the way through it once more before I send it to my agent!

Ruth Logan Herne:

Pantser here, with her guaranteed to make plotters cringe “100 page” edit technique. This procedure helps pantsers and plantsers avoid the “Oops, I just wrote myself into an immovable corner” syndrome.

First I strive toward daily word count of 1,000-1500K. Before I go on the next day, I re-read and do first edits on the previous day’s work. That refreshes my mind on scene progression and plot development. (And the color of someone’s eyes, always a biggie.) So that’s basic edit #1, and it seems minimal, but doing that creates a flow for me, a flow that transcends chapter breaks and “beats”. (Whatever they are.) When I get to 100 pages, I either go to 130% size on the laptop or I print the pages. And yes, I wait until a scene or chapter break so it might be 107 pages. Or 112. Do not lose yourself in the details. Pay attention here. And sit up straight! Sheesh.

Now I go through word by word, making sure the manuscript is concise, that it flows, that I haven’t lost any trains of thought, OR forgotten things that make readers scratch their heads… I add words, delete words, check for repetition, scour for timing by reading out loud. And I gauge my reaction. Do I smile when it’s funny? Scowl when appropriate? Get moist eyed when sad things happen? I incorporate those changes into the full document on the computer, but we still have a nice although basic story.

Then I layer that first 100 pages. I add in snippets of emotion. I check for pacing. I diminish snark because I’m always too snarky initially and I need to s-o-f-t-e-n that. And then I move on to the middle of the book and do the same thing, so while I don’t plot a book out, I work it strategically.

Before edits:
Cade had never seen eyes like hers before. They were pale gray, almost ivory, actually, with tiny points of white accenting a dark blue rim. Wolf-eyes, his grandma called them, and Grandma would know because she’d been around in the time of the horrors, when wolves ruled the land with snarling throats and bared teeth. Looking into Emelia’s eyes, Cade began to wonder if they’d returned. The way she returned his gaze made him think it might not matter all that much.

After edits:
Wolf’s eyes.
That’s what Grandma would have called them, thought Cade, meeting Emelia’s gaze head-on. Pale gray leached to ivory, surrounded by a dark blue rim. Her gaze sought his and clung, beseeching him to see beyond what others suspected.
But the elders had been around in the time of horrors, when wolves ruled the land with snarling throats and bared teeth, changelings that won trust before annihilating unsuspecting inhabitants.
They’re all dead, his conscience prodded. Gone, long before your time.
He held Emelia’s gaze, wanting to see her heart. Her soul. But all he saw was a frightened woman, ready to die for her cause if necessary, a woman dragged in because she had pale, unusual eyes. Eyes that tugged his breath, his heart. And maybe his soul.
Wolf’s eyes.
Were they?
As he stepped forward to unlock her cuffs, tiny mental protests rose within, spiking hairs along the nape of his neck, but Cade had been a cop for a while and not much scared him anymore. But his internal warning system said just maybe it should.

Camy Tang:

My self-editing style is strangely organic considering I'm such a die-hard plotter and very organized when writing the manuscript. I read through my manuscript and try to be aware of my gut reaction. If I read something and my gut tells me it's wrong or off, I'll stop and look at it again to see what I should fix. Sometimes I'll come across a note I left for myself, such as "Check back in chapter one to see if he has blue eyes or green," and then I'll fix the problem I flagged, but most of the time, I'm just going by "feel" when I self edit.

Julie Lessman:

If you think my 500-plus-page books are long, you should see them before I edit! A Passion Most Pure was originally 162,000+ words and more than 800 pages before I got it down to a manageable 480 pages, so you might say I tend to be verbose in my writing. Consequently, when I edit, one of my main objectives is to cut words in every single sentence, if possible, unless the longer sentence enhances rhythm and flow. Here are a few examples where the first paragraph is what I originally wrote (words eventually deleted are in bold), and the second is the final copy.

With a harsh gasp of air, she flew across the room and slammed the door shut before he could go, chest heaving and her body blocking his way. “No need to duke it out at the gym, McGee,” she snapped, “I’m more than willing to give you a good fight right here.”

With a harsh gasp, she flew across the room and slammed the door, chest heaving as she blocked his way. “No need to duke it out at the gym, McGee,” she snapped, “I’ll give you a good fight right here.”

Unless it enhances rhythm and flow, I try to delete unnecessary phrasing as in this example, where I went back twice to edit:

He drew her close, stroking her hair with the palm of his hand.
He drew her close, stroking her hair with his hand.
He drew her close, stroking her hair.

Missy Tippens:

I do some editing as I go, reading the previous day's work before moving on. However, if I'm getting behind on my word count goals, I often just plow ahead so I can get done. Once I type The End, I read through it once on the computer, making changes as I go. If there are a lot of changes, then I'll sometimes go through it again. Then I print it. I first read through looking for large scale problems: Do I get bored in places? (If I'm falling asleep while reading, not so good!) :) Does the romance move at a decent pace? Are all scenes necessary or do I have some dumb ones or partial ones? (I check to make sure my pov character has a goal, and that something changes during the scene.) Have I kept the conflict going? Do I start and end scenes with good hooks? Did I tie up all loose ends?

Since I'm not good with setting the scene and showing details the first time through, I try to add that as I go. I try to layer and fill it out. Then I send to my cp's. Once I get their feedback, I go through and make lots and lots of changes! :) Then I print again and read, making sure all the fixes work and that the voice still feels like mine. And also adding in things that I've jotted down as I've been reading. Then I type in those changes and print to send off!

Now it's your turn. Tell us about your self-editing process for a chance to win one of several giveaways:

1. To one writer who requests it, a first five page critique by moi'.

2. Thank you authors! We're giving away several of the Seeker books pictured above.

3. And I'm giving away an adorable...

It's Not Just Chocolate, It's My Life tote bag with a few surprises tucked inside.

And if you're a reader just say hi!

Winners announced in the Weekend Edition!


Erica Vetsch said...

Whoooeee! I'm deep in edits, so this is a timely post for me.

At the moment, I'm editing to ramp up the conflict and really put the squeeze on my characters.

I also tend to have a pet word for each manuscript. I rely on my sweet crit partner Georgiana to point those out for me. It tends to get a bit ridiculous sometimes, the word I choose and the frequency with which it appears. :)

Oh, and Caramel High Rise Lattes all around, and some yummy French Toast Muffins from Caribou Coffee!

Tina Radcliffe said...

I love Caribou coffee. It's yummy and no calories, unlike French Toast Muffins and Lattes.

However..can I have the recipe for the Muffins? Can I use it in a book? I am so serious. I'll give you an acknowledgment. Promise.

Helen Gray said...

Here's the coffee to go with Erica's goodies.

I do most of the things listed in these articles. The one I have the most trouble with is reading the ms aloud. I'm too self conscious to do that when anyone else is around, and I don't think to when I'm alone.

I just finished reworking and editing an 87,000 word ms Friday. I'm now staring at the unsavory task of writing the synopsis. Staring endlessly. Hopelessly. Help!!!


Tina Radcliffe said...

Unsavory, eh, Helen.

I like that.

Patty said...

Edits are SO MUCH FUN!!! I just love them because those are the moments in which the story really comes alive!

I generally write short, about 70K for a historical so that I can layer in the five senses, use stronger word choices and ramp up the conflict. I also write my first draft in longhand because it gives me the freedom to scribble/correct any obvious problems so that by the time I'm ready to type it into the computer, the chapters have had at least one edit.

When I type it into the computer, I start every day going over the pages I wrote the day before, correcting slight problems while easing into any new pages. Once I've written 'the end,' I give myself a couple of days then start at the beginning, reading the pages out loud, making notes in the margins then implementing the corrections.

By the end of this process, I'm pretty much done--I do run it by a very trusted critique partner who will point out any remaining problems. After looking over those suggestions and putting them into place, I hit the send button.

I've realized with this second book that I tend to overwrite in the first couple of chapters, just to get a feel for the characters. Then I do a lot of cutting, planning on new scenes where most of the information from those first two chapters can slowly be revealed--which helps with pacing.

I'm heading to bed now, but I made up a pan of strawberry muffins to put in the oven first thing in the morning.


Camy Tang said...

You guys are amazing. I HATE editing.

Erica, I have a pet word per manuscript, too. And it's always different!


KC Frantzen said...

So so timely. SUCH a "printer-offer to savor later" when I need a good reminder.

And food and coffee. YUM! Great way to start the week.

My first book is about to go to the book designer (yes!) and I would love to have known this good information earlier in the process.

Several mentioned reading aloud, and this has helped me tremendously. Working on dialog tags, structure... Overused words. Whoa. That tip awhile back about doing a word search. Yee-gads. That was an amazing discovery!

GREAT post today. All of it!

You covered what has made sense to me, and what has worked, though there are a few things mentioned here I'll try this next round.

Thanks again to all of Seekerville-dom (?) for a great education. :)

Jan Christiansen said...

After reading all the approaches to editing, I think Ruth Logan Herne's would suit me best. I have my first novel (a really rough manuscript - 50,036 words) hiding in a drawer that I wrote in 30 days. I wish I would have went back and edited as I wrote. As it is, I feel overwhelmed by the amount of editing it will take. Should I edit it or just write another? Wish I had someone who could read it and tell me whether it's worth editing.

Nancy said...

Timely for me as well!
I'm still working to complete my MS because I'm editing as I go. The more I learn about the methods of other writers in places like here on Seekerville the more my own is developing, and that works best for me. It also helps me excavate the later parts of the story when the rewrites and tweaking in earlier chapters firms up. (I'm a pantser!)

I like reading aloud, which I had never done before (behind a closed door Helen, I feel the same way!) but into a digital recorder. At the end of the chapter, I make my thoughts on overused words, things I had to stop and reread to articulate correctly, etc. and start at those points. But I get even more info when I play it back and can listen for the sound and tone of sentence structure, authentic dialogue, etc.
A great tip for fighting overused words I picked up here from the seekers... the Find feature of MS Word. My word is "realized" and I'm trying to limit it to one a page. It so happens it's a flag of telling, not showing, so that's a bonus to make it go away!

I would love to be considered for a 5 page critique by Tina. And if all this wonderful food described here would materialize here at the desk ;-)

ntrouble101 at hotmail dot com

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh my gosh, Teeeeena , what fun this was! Great lesson in what to do and how to do it! (Very Mike Rowe. Sans mud)

Helen, they're tedious, I know, but think of it as a timeline. And then stretch it out just a bit. I start mine with the background of hero, then heroine (or vice versa) then do a chronological paragraph on each chapter. Stay clipped and as short as possible. More like technical writing. And that's the hard part for me BECAUSE I LOOOOOONG TO IMPART EMOTION.... AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! So I put screwholds on the emotion-meter and step outside my Ruthy-zone and keep it to the point.

This has helped me write better, less rambling synopses and that's huge for a writer.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jan Christiansen:

I win! I win!!!!


It wasn't a contest???? Jan, I think that's because we were both from big families with LOTS OF BOYS... So we think alike.

Nature? Nurture? Frustration????? :)

Write another. And another. And another. I have an old book that I loved, but it needs to be re-written and I'll do that one of these days. Great book, but I'm so much stronger at what I do now that I was eight years ago.

And I bet you can re-write that baby in six weeks time. Maybe less. But yeah, try the quick-daily-edit thing. Margaret Daley and Dee Henderson both do similar things if memory serves me... whatever it takes to get the job done well. That's clutch.

MaryC said...

Wow! There's so much to read he today and I want to sit with my coffee and delve into it. Alas, the day job calls so I'll have to save it for later. Thanks so much for sharing so generously.

I'll second the request for the muffin recipe if there is one!

Renee Ann said...

I love all the suggestions and reminders I scoop up here! I can sometimes edit on the computer and sometimes have to print pages out to work with them. I make lists and charts to stare at and then on my 45-minute drive to school have eureka moments on how to fix the things I've been working on. (I don't write while I'm driving, though. Well, except maybe to jot down a few phrases.) I'm hoping that I'll develop a process and be able to say, "I do thus and so and it works every time!" LOL!

Dianna Shuford said...

Editing I don't mind so much, but I have learned that I hate revising.

Usually, once I'm finished with a chapter I'll re-read it then. I tend to be wordy too- flowery descriptions, unnecessary phrasing, etc- so I've learned to tighten my wording as I go. Once I'm finished with the manuscript, I do go back and read the whole thing. I actually like editing because I'm such a word person. I love finding just the right words to make a scene come to life.

I agree that it can be overwhelming when there is a lot of work to be done, but, then again, for me that's revising- not editing, often requiring scene rewrites. As a result, I've definitely learned to be a plotter.

As always ladies, I'm always open for a drawing. So...pick me, pick me! LOL

Laney4 said...

"Hi!" - said because I'm a reader and not a writer.

That being said, I type for a living - other people's reports, assignments, letters, books, etc. Even though THEY wrote it, I still feel that it is my job to edit/proofread as I go. I could have made a typo, of course, or perhaps the "author" used the same word several times in the same paragraph (like "also" or "she said", etc.). I don't get repeat business because I'm a quick typist (although it doesn't hurt when I charge an hourly rate) - I get repeat business because I make their work "look good". And my "secret"??? Just what you do: print it off and take it away from the computer to make changes, hopefully in one sitting. I find it SO MUCH better to find/make these changes when it is in print and I can go back and forth between the pages (instead of scrolling back and forth). I don't lose the "flow" as easily.

Sherrinda said...

Oh.My.Goodness! What an excellent post and so timely for me, as well. You have given me such a wealth of information all in one spot!


I'm going to bookmark this and go through it "line by line". :)

Lindi said...

Like Erica I'm way into the editing process. I have learned to enjoy it. I write such a rough draft editing is a given. I should probably say heavy editing!
The tips were great. I'm not sure I have my process down pat, but I'm working on it. One step at a time.

belindapeterson at tds dot net.

Cara said...

What great gifts, especially the first five pages critique. Please toss my name into the hat.

I,too, like editing, which means I do too much too soon. To be caught up in rewriting and polishing always derails my story's momentum.

With input from my critique partners, I've discovered that when I start writing a scene with dialogue and then go back, adding all the other necessary components, my writing is much fresher and tighter. My narrative is also under better control.

I'm new to your site and this is the first post I've read. I'm impressed with the tone, content, and the generosity of those responsible. Thank you.

Christine said...

I'm still trying to figure out how to self-edit. For the most part, I write it all out with very little editing until it's finished. Then I copy and paste it into Scrivner, separating the scenes in each chapter. Describing the scene on the virtual 3x5 cards helps me keep track of what happened. Then I read it scene by scene, tweaking words and sentences. My biggest challenge is making major changes in one scene that causes a domino affect in several others.

On my next book, I'm going to try editing as I go and see if that works better. Thank you for all the information in this post. I'd love to win a critique or any of the other prizes offered.

Kirsten Arnold said...

Great post, Tina!

I didn't think I'd like the editing process, but I've found out it can be a lot of fun adding more depth to characters and tightening up the story.

After writing the first draft I read the whole thing straight through. It's during this reading I find repeated story lines and also repeated phrases (i.e. she's laughing all the time and he's scowling every other paragraph). But mainly I'm reading it for my gut reaction. Is that beautifully poignant scene really beautiful and poignant?

Then, as mentioned, I print it out and go over with a fine tooth comb and red pen.

Better stop talking about it and get to it. Back to the edits.


Glynna Kaye said...

Great post, Tina! Like you, I keep a list of overused words that I search out and destroy. Also keep a story time line and an overall Canyon Springs series time line so I can double-check. I have a calendar for the length of the story mapped out as well so I can make sure I don't say a scene that FOLLOWS a certain Sunday scene occurred isn't mentioned as happening on the previous Friday.

Like some of you, I also read aloud. Not only does it help me with the rhythm of the writing and getting down dialogue that sounds more realistic, but it also slows me down so I catch typos or skipped words that I may otherwise have read right over the top of.

Patsy said...

I'm an avid reader. Read everyday. My habit of reading is to lay down early and take a book with me. That's my unwinding time.

Going to get coffee and ceral. Busy day!


Kav said...

Oh mercy...I sooooooooo needed this right now. I've written myself into a verbose vortex and I wasn't sure how to extract myself...along with a slimlined WIP.

This long weekend coming up is my edit or die weekend so I'll have to study this all very carefully and then cut cut cut!!!!! Dare I admit that I have...gulp...200,000 words. Confession is the first step towards change, right?

Anne Barton said...

I'm editing now, and these tips are coming in handy already.

I have to do multiple passes through my story, focusing on a different aspect each time. One time I might try to heighten emotion, another pass I'll vary sentence structure, and then I'll add in fresh description.

If I try to fix several things at once, I don't do a very good job with any of them.

karenk said...

HI....i learn so much from your postings...have a great day =)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Tina Radcliffe said...

I like the fact that all you have to do around here is leave the door open, put on the pot and the food and everyone has their own party.

Tina Radcliffe said...

KAV???? 200,000 words? You have book one and its sequel or 4 category romances. That's the good news.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I like hearing all your editing techniques. It will help me the newbie published author, fine tune mine.

Missy Tippens said...

Oh, man. Ruthy thinks she won, and how her head will swell!! :)

I should point out also that the edits, even though it doesn't sound like much the way I wrote it, takes me about a month. But I'm always so much happier with the book when I'm done! Then even happier after my editor gets hold of it and I make those changes. :)

Sandy Ardoin said...

Like so many have said, this is very timely for me, Tina.

I can get bogged down in line-by-line editing as I go. I'll write a paragraph or a page and work on it several times before moving on. In some ways that's good for me, because when I go back through the chapters, when the whole thing is finished, I can start to get lost in the story as a whole and forget to check the details.

I'm always up for a drawing!

Missy Tippens said...

Oh, and I also keep a timeline/calendar. I found several things that were off when I through it on my last mss! Missing days and too many Sunday at church! LOL

Tina Radcliffe said...

There's a certain comfort in knowing that there are other people out there obsessively editing right along with you.

I find that almost as nice as chocolate.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Jan!Stop that immediately. We never tell Runty how wonderful she is. EVER!

Our daily lives would be torturous.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Freudian slip. LOL, fell out of my chair laughing.

Runty!! I love it. New nickname.

Hey, Mary, do you like it???

Keli Gwyn said...

I'm with Glynna. I LOVE editing. Like Ruthy, I do a quick editing of the previous scene before beginning the next one. When I complete a story, it's generally too long because I'm wordy, er, prolific like Julie. Cutting unnecessary words is one of the tasks I perform on my multiple editing passes, because, like Mary I go through the story several times with my focus on different elements.

CarolM said...

I do a quick edit like Ruthy does - reread the last bit - at least the stuff from the day before, sometimes more, depending. Reread/edit.

Trying to do some edits now. First 3 chapters and query letter. Need to send that out soon. Or cry. One of the two.

I'm very much a pantser. And I hate editing overall. I print out and read and make notes that way. I've done that for critique partners too. Especially if it's the whole MS. Print it off and scribble. Works better for me.

I also never remember to use taste and smell. I try to remember to add those later.

I read Missy's A Family for Faith yesterday. I noticed where she did that. And how inadequate I feel about it. At least I know I'm not the only one who doesn't get it all right the first time.

I'm in for any of the drawings.

carol at carolmoncado dot com

Julie Lessman said...

TINA!!! I'm with Sherrinda on this -- absolutely "BRILLIANT"!! What a keeper, my friend, and definitely a blog to be printed off and dissected at editing time.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Hey, girls!!!! We fooled Cara! She thinks we're nice!!!!


Cara, welcome! Laney, I'm so much better with printed pages. My final edit is always on print because I flow better that way. I can pick repetitive things, or missing plurals, or mis-matched words from earlier edits.

I want that manuscript squeaky clean when it hits Melissa's desk.

With chocolate, of course. ;)

Casey said...

What an AWESOME post for me right now. I'm seeing Erica's comment across from mine and agree, I'm into edits too and because I have so little experience, I tend to agonize and go on waaay to long with one sentence, one paragraph until it takes two hours to get through a page! So I'm trying to figure out my editing schedule and not make it so hard. Today I'm going to try editing to a timer. Just working on getting it done. :)

Casey said...

Oh oops, forgot I would like to entered for any of those lovely prizes. Thanks for being so generous! :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Editing with a timer? Oooh, there's a thought. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kav, I did the same thing back in the day.

It was a tome.

Ulysses had nothing on Logan Herne.

It then became two books. Much better.

Then I narrowed the two books down to 70K each.

Better yet.

Ruth Logan Herne said...


Could my head swell more?



Ruth Logan Herne said...


I cannot write what I MIGHT be thinking....


The little ones call me "Roofie"...

Just don't call me late for dinner!

Tina Radcliffe said...

LOL!! This is why Runty is so prolific. Each of her series began as one book.

You should see under HER bed.

Janet Dean said...

Thanks, Tina, for an excellent post! And the cute picture of you and that eraser. Makes me wish I could edit myself as easily!

I love hearing some of the Seekers' approaches to editing. I'm blown away by Camy's gut feeling approach. Yet isn't that what makes our story's our own?


Katie Ganshert said...

I'm book-marking this post!! It'll be great once I finish my current rough draft.

I often edit in stages. I'll read it through and fix big-story things - like combining two characters or changing the character's arc, etc. Then I go through again to do line edits. And then I usually go through it one more time and read the whole thing out loud.

Virginia said...

Yay! Editing is awesome and I think for every 20K words I write I keep about 8K. Painfulll.... But Chekhov said if you cut a good story anywhere it 'will bleed'. I try to hold on to that. Edit until the story has all the extra junk stripped away.
I would LOVE a critique by toi! A new WIP, historical setting turn of the century...

Tina Radcliffe said...

Careful, Virginia. You know toi is moi.

And I love the Chekhov quote. Love it, love it, love it.

KC Frantzen said...

speaking of recipes...

My Dad made this for him and Mom to take to a church picnic Saturday. They had to make another batch because they tested it with some friends Friday night and most of it was gone.

Sounds pretty tasty!

Banana Split Salad is…

1 large container Original Cool whip

I lg can cherry pie filling

1 lg can crushed pineapple (drained)

1 can Eagle Brand Milk

3 sliced bananas

½ lb chopped pecans

Mix and chill before serving

Melissa Jagears said...

I write talking heads with a few stage directions basically in the rough draft. But I have to zoom through it or I "lose" it even though I'm a plotter.

So, after intitial write, I write in scenes I skipped or need to be added.

Then I read through and just layer in anything and everything that catches me as I write, usually speaker tags, sensory detail and interior monologue. Then I'm ready to move to chapter edits.

Then I use the search function for passive constructions, telling verbs, useless words, time words, repeated words and then pronouns to make sure I don't have a million "she"s in one paragraph or starting every paragraph with "she" etc. I fix all that.

Then I read aloud.

Then I send to crit partners.

Then I read the comments and let it sit and stew in my subconcious.

Move onto editing next chapter. When whole book is done, I'll go back to crit partner crits, work though entire book.

Then read through quickly, aloud entire MS.

Then maybe a beta reader, fix beta reader comments.

Then I'm done.

The more I've done this (and crit others), the more I'm able to not write things in the first place that need cleaned up later. So, I'll catch myself using a million "she"s in the first draft now, so the editing isn't as bad as it used to be.

Tina Radcliffe said...

KC!!! Yummmmmm!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

This is a beautiful process, Melissa. I like the talking heads rough draft.

The problem comes when your production time is cut in half because they want your finished book..YESTERDAY. Bleh. Then you have to find a way to get the editing done without a cp.

Linnette R Mullin said...

Happy morning, all! The books offered that I don't have on my shelf yet are
"Sharp Shooters in Petticoats"
"Second Chance Courtship"
"Single Sashimi"
"A Family For Faith"

I'd love to win any of them.

Some things I edit as I go. They usually have more to do with story content or the way I write the content. I have to get the first part of the book down and know where I'm going with the story before I can move on. You might think I'm a pantser, but really I'm a percolator. Percolaters incorporate both pantsing and plotting. I never did claim to be normal. ;-)

Now that I've typed "The End," I'm doing a line by line edit, looking for all the telling and working toward better showing. I also look for unnecessary words. I'm doing a little layering - adding emotion and details that are missing. I'm taking out the 'he saids' 'she saids' unless they're absolutely necessary. I'm sharpening the pov's. Like Mary, I'm adding descriptions that are missing. I tend to either go over-board on describing things or I totally lack them because I get caught up in whatever is going on between the characters. Someday, I'll know how to incorporate the five senses better, but I'm in the learning curve right now and striving to add them in during my major edit.

BTW, I did print off the manuscript for these major revisions, but I use a pencil and yellow highlighter. I can erase any edits I don't like. I tend to have to see the rewrite before I know if it will work or not and sometimes I rewrite it a few different ways. Pencil and eraser works best for me. Then I highlight the change in yellow so it's easy for me to see once I'm ready to add the changes into the electronic wip. Also, I do this in sections - a chapter or two at a time. I get too overwhelmed when I try to get through the whole thing at once.

Once I'm finished with all these major revisions, I'll read through it one more time to see if anything is missing or needs to be missing. I might even print it off again because I tend to see the mistakes better on paper. Then, I'll send it in to my hopefully soon to be agent.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

EXCELLENT POST, Tina! LOVE all of those resource books you mentioned. Thanks for putting this together. Really loved hearing about your process.


Melanie said...

I'm a reader, so I'm saying hi.

Ruthy, are you writing paranormal now? That's what your excerpt reads like to me. Are werewolves roaming New York state? Inquiring readers want to know.

EC Spurlock said...

Thank you for this, all you Seeker Ladies! I'm in the middle of editing a story that started out as a lark that I had no intention of marketing -- until all my betas told me I had really found my voice with this one. So now I'm having to take it seriously, and do some serious edits! Thank you for all the various checklists, I will definitely be making use of them!

Erica Vetsch said...

Hi, Tina,

The muffins are from Caribou too, so I've never made them, but I did find a recipe at

:)I'm sitting at Caribou right now near the bakery case, and someone else must love these muffins too, because they're all out at the moment.

Joanne Sher said...

One of my sillyish things I do for editing is I post the whole manuscript in wordle and see what (ridiculous) words I'm using way too often - and I'll do it until I "like the pictures." - I also do several of the stuff mentioned (though I only have one completed novel-length MS - I've done LOTS of editing on it!).

Please enter me fora five-page crit!

Casey said...

Maybe...I'm hyperventilating at the thought...maybe just a close eye on the computer clock....

*wide eyes*

Pepper said...

Great post, Tina.
I'm going to go back and click on all those helpful links you placed in the post.
The Heroe's Two Journey's is fantastic, and I'm going to order Debra Dixon's book today - because I've heard it recommended so often.

I've enjoyed reading Break Into Fiction, because there are so many examples in it from movies. It goes along quite nicely with Michael Hague's DVD.

Mary Connealy said...

I read stuff like this and I always have this creeping terror that I don't really know what i'm doing.

I don't even recognize some of the words and techniques you guys use.

The dilemma is: Whether to go on my merry way or try and learn something.

(I think we all know what choice Mary will make)

Jackie S. said...

Hi from a reader (not a writer) in GA. Would love to be entered! Thanks. Enjoyed this post!!

travelingstacey said...

Wow...I feel like you were reading my mind with this post! I just finished my first ever first draft and I'm trying to go back and edit...and I honestly didn't really know what I was doing! I was able to have a 5 page critique a few weeks ago, and I've been using that as a springboard, but it's tough! One thing I've been trying to do is cut details that I tend to chunk together in a long paragraph and just spread them out as I go along, inserting them where it's appropriate. I've also looked at my "he said" and "she smiled" speaker attributions and tried to delete where I can and make some a little more interesting. This has been a good challenge for me! Again, thanks so much for all of these helpful tips! I'd love to be entered into the drawing! : ) Stacey
travelingstacey (at) bellsouth (dot) net

mbsteury said...

I too am knee deep in editing my first YA novel! I use the "read what I wrote yesterday" approach as I'm writing -- keeps me in the flow of the story as I tend to have short, choppy writing sessions! :) Since I wrote "the end", I've been through the whole manuscript several times, looking for specific things each time through--wordiness, passive vs. active, teenage vs. adult language & thinking, etc. Now I'm going through my guy's POV sections--skipping the other POV parts--making sure he sounds like a guy and making structure changes that will differentiate his POV from the girl's. Soon I should have it all memorized! :)

Chocolate... anything, everything...need I say more??

Michelle said...

I have never posted before, but I have to tell you how much I love this blog. I am an unpublished author and reading posts like this help me to realize that there is no wrong way of doing things! Everyone just needs to find their own way and sometimes other's suggestions help find that way. Thank you!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Melissa I like the let it sit in my subconscious part.

I do that. Now I've trained myself to do it constantly (like keeping a file live but minimizing it) so when something occurs to me to tweak or change or combine, I can 'store' it on a loose page of word so that when I get back to it, I'm on course. That speeds up my edit time big time.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Hey, thanks, Michelle. The 15 Seekers started on Unpubbed Island in 2005. All unpublished. Our goal was to team up to get us all off the island. Paying it forward is actually fun.

Thanks for commenting and we hope you will do it often.

Tina Radcliffe said...

You know Melanie, when Ruth sent me that snippet to post I was a little curious myself.

What do you say Ruffie?

Tina Radcliffe said...

THANK YOU, ERICA!!! Wonder if there is a Caribou in Denver??

Tina Radcliffe said...

Serendipity!!! All you folks editing right now.

I love it!!!!

Debby Giusti said...

Sounds as if all of us believe stories come alive in the editing phase.

I love to see how those first lines can be almost magically transformed into something much more interesting.

If I have to work too long and a thought still doesn't come together, I cut it from the story.

In the same way, if an idea seems to type itself onto the page, I keep it, knowing it comes from some spot deep within. Trusting that inner voice, that inspiration, usually pays off.

Missy Tippens said...

So Carol, now you know I have to add that stuff! You, too, can do this! :) One cp will make a note that says: Set this scene. I have no idea where they are or what it looks like.

So I add! And for some reason, I always want to add smells. I love scents and always notice them. If I've ever smelled a perfume before, I can usually recognize it on someone else. Of course, most people probably think I'm weird when I walk up and say something like, "Oh, you smell so good. I just love Jessica McClintock!" :)

Missy Tippens said...

Michelle, so glad you jumped in the conversation! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Jan, I'd suggest going ahead and editing it. That way you'll get a feel for what type work needs to be done. Once you get it edited to where you like it, then get feedback from someone you trust. Then submit it (contests or editors/agents). Then move on to the next one! :)

apple blossom said...

I wouldn't mind winning a tote bag with some surprises tucked inside. thanks

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Melanie Dickerson said...

Oh, my! I just sent my macro edits, which took me almost three weeks of slaving, to finish! I feel like I can rejoin the land of the living again!

How do I edit? It's been different with every book. I don't have any set checklist, although I probably should. I just do it. Sorry, I know, I'm not organized, or analytical, at all. But as I read through the book and edit for the big things, I make a list of words I seem to have overused, and make a list of other little things I will need to go back and address. And I love to get editing direction from my wonderful editor at Zondervan. She is so sharp and has such great advice and ideas. It's fun to add and subtract and strengthen the story. Fun fun fun. The first week, anyway. After that it gets harder to concentrate.

Anyway, now I feel like celebrating!!! Woohoo! I'm done! Until the second round.

Mary Connealy said...

It's a really cute effect, Tina, but I don't think you should erase your face like that.
It could be Freudian.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary's got creeping terror.


What else is new, honey????

Here, have a French Toast Muffin. Or come save me from whatever is lurking in my kitchen right now. Oh mylanta, there is really only supposed to be ME AND THE DOG...


And what kind of a legendary hunting dog is this Golden Retriever??? I don't think he realizes how close we are to possible annihilation.

Bury us together.

Nicole Zoltack said...

I'm deep in my editing/revising cave so I loved this post! What a great wealth of knowledge.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Melanie, I just saw this question!

I'm playing with the idea of writing a young adult series with a fantasy component, a good conquers evil faith-filled component.

This excerpt was done as a writing exercise for high-schoolers I was working with, but they were enthusiastic and I was a HUGE Ray Bradbury fan as a kid and teen. Love the idea of what could be...

And that things aren't always what they seem. ;)

Including wolf eyes.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Well, Nicole...

I don't like to brag... ;)

Tina Radcliffe said...

I'm with you, Melly. Getting direction from an editor is fun and it's exciting to see how much better your story can be.

Melissa Jagears said...

I know, Tina, I'm a bit afraid if I get published that the timing will take away my editing process. (Not that I'm going to say it results in perfect books or anything). I'm just praying editors are that darn good and help me fix it!

Faye said...

Great advice Tina and Seekers! I am actually editing my manuscript right now! And finding things that I am not happy that the spell check missed.

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Great post! I think I do most of what everyone else does. I like printing out my ms and reading it aloud, although after a while my voice gets a little scratchy :)

Linnette R Mullin said...

Is that Chocolate leaking from the pen?

Linnette R Mullin said...

Camy, editing is a love/hate relationship with me. Some days I love it, some days I hate it. Today, I hate it! ;-)

Preslaysa said...

What a timely post! I was in the stationary section of the grocery store today looking for material to make a plotting board. I like the one you featured much better. It looks sturdier.

CarolM said...

Missy -

I notice smells like perfume and stuff but I have a hard time getting them into prose. They always end up feeling forced.

Though right now I'm at Panera [yummy smells] and my newest heroine is getting out of her car in Amarillo [fresh cut grass and cows from all the stockyards nearby - at least that's how I remember it].

So I got that one...

Or will once I go back and tweak it [noticed it while rereading the last bit from today].

Then onto query letter edits. Will finding some sort of subtle chocolate email smell help with that? Nothing obvious of course... ;)

Rose said...


Thank you for the western surprise package!!! So much neat stuff!!

I do some editing as go, like Ruthy to get back into the writing from one day to the next. But I do two rounds of heavy editing to add layers of emotion and conflict. After that I try to read through to catch inconsistancies.

RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

Pam K. said...

I'm a reader, not a writer, so I'll "just say hi" as you suggested. I do find it interesting to read how different authors do their editing, resulting in the books I enjoy reading. Thanks for all your hard work.


Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome Pam K! Is this your first time coming out of lurkdom? Thrilled to have you!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Wow, Rose, that was fast. I mailed Saturday. Good night.

CatMom said...

WOW!! Thanks Tina---definitely another "Keeper post" from Seekerville! Lots of great tips here (some I already do, others I need to start doing, LOL).
Blessings, Patti Jo :)

p.s. Please enter me for "everything" teehee!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Preslaysa! Hi! I also use large cardboard that I take home from the shipping dept at work. They were going to toss it anyhow :) Works great also.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Mary, having an erasable face keeps me young. You're so jealous.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Patti Jo!!! Hi! Good to see you!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Linnette! A chocolate pen instead of a red one. Good idea.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Hi Faye! Glad you found it helpful

CarolM said...

Made it through the first two chapters of the MS I'm about to query.

Thanks to Casey I have fewer words. Thanks to Pepper I have a new opening. Thanks to Missy I have more smells. Thanks to Mary I have more cowboys.

No wait. That's not right. But thanks to this post I think it is better. We'll see if I get any responses in the next 8-12 weeks... :p

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...


Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Hahaha okay you know I can't just stop by and say hi I have to say something highly entertaining, amusing or really dumb. Since I'm not feeling particularly witty today I'll go with that blood ink in that pen? Gross. :-P

XOXO~ Renee

Loves 2 Read Romance - Laura said...

Thank you to all the authors who gave such great tips on editing. Even though it's evening French Toast Muffins sound really good!


Cathy Shouse said...

I'm sorry to come so late to the conversation! Reading all these comments after a long day is wearing me out.

Honestly, I don't know what my editing process is. I have a tendency to edit to death :(
All your examples are great. Ruthie's, especially, revealed a lot. I don't know how you keep track of all the before and after edits. Fascinating.

I'm into the second week of a great online class by editor Angela James called "Before You Hit Send" and have learned a lot. It's tricky. She talks about many small things to look for, while advising not to focus too much on the minute and cause yourself to miss something big.

Sigh! It's the old balance thing again. lol

I'd love to win any of the prizes!
cathy underscore shouse at yahoo dot com

Walt Mussell said...

I have to admit that I'm a Caribou coffee fan as well.

I'm editing one of my WIPS at the moment as well.

However, I'm with Camy in that I hate editing.

That said, I need to do better.

One of the things I do is eat a lot of chocolate as it helps with the editing process.

I do a lot of searches on words that I'm afraid I've re-used.


Tina Radcliffe said...

You night owls are a HOOOOOT!

Whitney said...

Sorry I’m so late today! Looks like there’s a lot to catch up on. I enjoyed reading several of the Seeker’s editing rituals. Sometimes editing is fun, and I add things that help fill out the scene. It’s hard for me to change original wording around sometimes because I like the first draft of it; I get concerned it won’t be as good if I change it despite the writer’s rule that it’s always better the second time. I like to edit some things as I go. I need enough description and pep that the scene feels alive. I usually have a mesh of scenes that vary between bare bones and fairly detailed because I go into writing some scenes knowing the mood, the place, the tone, the wit, the looks, etc. I want to use, and other scenes are very basic (dull) at times when they haven’t been “inspired.” I tend to be a really tight writer who lacks valid description (my weakness!) the first time around and have to add that in.

I would of course love to win any of the prizes listed, except the five page critique because I don’t currently have anything that falls under such guidelines! I usually have a few stories going at one time, but I’m currently working pretty consistently on a historical mystery romance of the “cozy” classification.

Thanks for the helpful post, ladies!



Tina Radcliffe said...

Well you must have five first pages, Miss Whitney. That's all it is the first five pages of any msc.

Thanks for stopping by no matter what time it is.

I'm tired!!!!!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Excellent post, Tina. I especially like that you asked other Seekers what kind of editing routine they use. And it's reassuring that everyone's answers were different.

One thing I've recently started is having my computer read my writing back to me. It's even better than reading it out loud to myself.

I've also started using my Windows 7 Sticky notes to write little things that come to mind but aren't worth opening a document for. One click and my notes are in front of me - handy when I can't remember if eastbound and upriver are 1 or 2 words.

Since I'm editing tomorrow, I'm going to try some of the things mentioned here today.

Thank you, Tina and Seekers for lighting the way and leaving the lamps lit for the rest of us. :)

Anita Mae.

Barbara White Daille said...

Thank you, Seekers, for the fabulous post! I've picked up a lot of good tips from this and found another new writing book to try.

As for me, when I edit, I follow a lot of the suggestions already mentioned.

Also, I tend to want to have something "perfect" before I move on. One trick I've learned that works for me is to keep a notebook next to the computer. Every time another idea for a change or edit occurs to me, I write it in the notebook.

That frees up my internal editor enough to let me move on. Then when I'm in the edit stage, I go back and weave everything in.


Tina Radcliffe said...

Anita Mae, you are so sweet.

So you have a talking computer. Like the voice in my husband's car?

Tina Radcliffe said...

Barbara, I do that as well. Full of scribbles and questions.

We are both brilliant.

Barbara White Daille said...

Tina wrote: << Barbara, I do that as well. Full of scribbles and questions.

We are both brilliant. >>

It does sound like it, doesn't it? ;-)


Ruth Logan Herne said...

I agree that Barbara and Teeeeena are brilliant.

I noticed Cathy Shouse voted me "especially"....


'Sall I'm sayin'.


Great thoughts on editing today. Oh mylanta, loving them. And I keep a notebook around too. Jot things in it. Then some urchin decides to play Blues Clues with it...

And it disappears.

And you've seen my office. Imagine finding one little, lost notebook. That's what inspired me to keep a word doc for scribbles minimized at the bottom of the screen. But I do carry old Krispy Kreme sacks in my purse in case of emergency brilliant ideas at stoplights.

Stupid wax paper outside makes things tricky, but I wax on...

Get it?

Wax on??????

I'm so sorry.

Cindy W. said...

Wow! Enjoyed the post today (as always)! At this stage I'm more reader then writer. But I do find as I write, I tend to edit as I go and unfortunately I don't get to far in word count. Then I tend to stagnate and get discouraged. Guess I need help in this area.

Thanks again for all the great tips!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.


Jackie said...

I definitely needed this post today. I'm editing my romantic suspense. I'm trying to tighten up and keep the action moving along and still work the romance into the story.
I'm so new at this, I don't have an exact process, so maybe I can figure out a system.

eskimo said...

What a great post. I don't have anything to edit right now (still in the writing stage of my first novel) but I'm definitely taking notes!

eskimo (eskimoinmyway @ yahoo . com -no spaces)

Julia said...

I tend to edit as I go along, rereading to see if the train of thought is complete and that the sentences make biggest challenge writing fiction is overcoming the "perfect English" that I learned in fifth grade!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome to Seekerville Eskimo and Julia. Hi there Jackie!!!

PatriciaW said...

I always enjoy a window in the writing processes of my writers I enjoy. I don't have an editing process since I'm still working on a first draft process that works for me from beginning to end.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Tina - sorry for not getting back sooner... I use the 'talk' feature on Word 7. It's a very computerized voice, but it does the trick. One of these days I'll train my Dragon, though. :D