Category Archives: Quick Editing Tips

Quick Editorial Tips VII – For Poetry!

Nash

Nash

I have edited and proofread some poetry, both for clients and as a favor for friends. Poetry is tough to critique honestly!You don’t want to crush the muse, you don’t want to offend (as poetry is so personal), but you do want the writer to reach a little, experiment with words and sounds, show true emotion.

I have a poetry collection coming together – hopefully I will publish this year with the help of editor Shawn MacKenzie Shawn MacKenzie and my book designer Elizabeth H. Cottrell.

I’d like to share some of my critique notes on poetry I have edited and proofread. Perhaps a few of you can refer to these notes when you beta read my poetry collection! Or perhaps you have decided to write or edit your own poetry.

Struggle for rhyme

Don’t struggle – it will be evident. Try to make the rhyme flow. Rhymes don’t necessarily have to be the same letters like in “ease” and “please.” Rhymes can come from similar vowel sounds. For instance – try “verse” with “search.” Or “son” with “become.”

Echo…echo

Look at your collection – does it use a lot of the same old common words?

Reach for it! Pull out the thesaurus and open up your vocabulary. Don’t use familiar words over and over (people reading your collection will notice).

Thoreau

Thoreau

Tickle a funny bone

How many collections have you read where all the poetry is the same – sadness, depression, lost love, loneliness. It’s depressing to read, too.

Try a little humor! What makes you laugh? Try to tap into this laughter with a light-hearted piece or two.

Does this comma make me look fat?

A comma adds a pause and changes the cadence; it changes the way a reader reads the lines and the piece. Along those same lines…

…Try reading your own work out loud

I do this for clients and friends, and I also do it while reading a “finished” piece or my own. I often change things around a bit after I’ve heard it out loud.

Have a friend read it aloud to you. You can hear where the reader stumbles and pauses.

Change the sequence of words

Instead of “I lost my love,” try “the love I lost.”

Instead of “the worm squiggles and wriggles,” try “the squiggly-wriggly worm.”

Auden

Auden

Caps or no caps?

The use of caps at the beginning of a line or a sentence within a poem is a personal choice. Sometimes we don’t want to use any caps, nor do we want to use any punctuation. But consider it both ways.

Would the piece be enhanced with a few caps along the way?

Would it read better with some additional (or less) punctuation?

Left justified all?

Consider lay-out and indents. Are all your poems left justified?

Experiment! Put a few lines left justified then poke the fourth or fifth line into right justified or indented.

Haiku anyone?

Look at your poems. Do they all look like blood relatives? Are they all laid out the same way? Few lines and a break, few lines and a break…

Throw in some haiku or a long-paragraph prose piece. Study and employ alternative poetry forms.

What have others written?

Read others’ poetry. Search for your favorite poets online.

I’m inspired by Ogden Nash (what a hoot), Auden, Poe, Thoreau, Thomas.

Poe

Poe

Is there a theme?

Some of my poems have a theme, like the sea and waves or art and canvas.

Put a theme into a few of your pieces; use of similes and metaphors can make it more real to a reader.

Smell is the strongest sense

When someone talks about warm apple pie or the lilac scent drifting through the bedroom window…do you remember? Can you smell it?

Darn tootin’ you can!

Interject some smells into your poetry to get the reader more involved.

In your comment

Feel free to include links to your favorite poets, one of your own poems, or a poetry site you especially like.

LET’S HAVE SOME FUN!

I’ll start a poem, you add to it. Poem stanzas will be in ALL CAPS.

If you don’t want to add to the poem, no problem (try it, you might like it!). You can still comment!

Here goes…

I THINK MY BONES HAVE GONE WEAK AND BRITTLE,

THEY’RE NOT AS BENDY AS WHEN I WAS LITTLE,

All photos from Wikipedia.com.

9 Comments

Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Prose & Poetry, Publishing, Quick Editing Tips

Quick Editorial Tips V – Grammar and vocabulary lessons from home

Mom

Part of my bio says …

Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword in a day.

Mom and Aunt Agnes – “Ang” – were always correcting our grammar. I’m so glad they were such sticklers.

Lay and lie

Chickens lay eggs; little girls aren’t chickens.

So if I told Mom I was going to lay down, Mom would say, “Lie down. Chickens lay eggs…”

Ang

Exact same

“I have the exact same sweater.”

“Wayne has the exact same eyes as his daddy.”

Mom and Ang explained that exact same is redundant and should not be used together.

Continue on

“Redundant,” said Mom and Ang.

Though I hear continue on a lot in conversation and in TV commercials and see it in the written word, I don’t use it.

Me or I?

Just take out the first name(s) to determine if you need Me or I, et voila! (Mom spoke French too.)

Tina and I are going shopping. (I am going shopping.)

Do you want to go shopping with Tina, Ted, and me? (Do you want to go shopping with me?)

Profanity

I’ve been known to curse like a Merchant Marine when I lose a game of Scrabble. I’ve been known to use “WTF?” or “WTH?” here and there on Facebook.

I certainly don’t advocate using only goodie-goodie words in a police thriller or horror novel or in your memoir or blog.

Mom and Ang said using profanity was proof of a lack of vocabulary. Yeah, well. Sometimes you need a good curse to get over dropping the entire package of blueberries on the floor.

If I want to use a curse when talking with friends or when I’m online, I stop and try to think of an intelligent word (this self-checking exercise does not always work).

Posture and elbows

Mom and Ang also taught me to sit up straight, stand up straight, and elbows off the table!

***

Stick around for next week’s Halloween Fright Week, featuring Mairi Gairns McCloud, Tonia Marie Harris, Linda Boulanger, Heather L. Reid, Shawn MacKenzie, and me!

I have a new Facebook Fan Page. On this new Fan Page, I’ll be sharing links, resources, and tips on editing, proofreading, writing, and social networking. Hope to see you on the Fan Page!

15 Comments

Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Quick Editing Tips

Quick Editorial Tips IV – Stop following my advice

A tool in the tool box

Struggling with advice overload?

I have a few friends who are struggling with “advice” – from other writers, publishers, agents, editors, critiquers, writing group members, bloggers, social networking gurus, marketing specialists…

Stop!

Don’t follow my advice

No, seriously.

I post Quick Editorial Tips as another tool for writers. I’m not the only tool, I’m not the last tool, and I may not be the best tool.

My editor                            

My editor, Shawn MacKenzie, gives me loads and loads (and loads) of comments, tips, suggestions.

A sharp tool

I consider all of Shawn’s editorial suggestions. I chew on them. I have arguments in my head. I may sleep poorly that night.

What Shawn said

I don’t simply delete the old stuff and insert “What Shawn said” stuff.

Sometimes (*gasp!*) I decide to not take Shawn’s advice. The same goes for any writer/editor exchange or relationship.

It’s not Shawn’s story, it’s my story

I pick and choose Shawn’s editorial and critique suggestions.

What feels right for me – for my poetry, my short story, my blog?

Is someone giving you advice that doesn’t feel right?

Just because some Super-Superwoman-Editor has been in publishing for 30 years doesn’t mean all her advice is good for you.

***

Check out Shawn MacKenzie‘s editor page.

Are you enjoying a good writer/editor relationship? Have you experienced a bad editorial experience? Are you confused by all the advice?

8 Comments

Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Quick Editing Tips

Quick Editorial Tips III

Photo by Angie Ledbetter

“Was” and “Were”

Y’all have heard about passive voice, but you are still using it. Stop that horse and dismount!

Here is one simple problem I see, over and over –

“Kathryn and Angie were eating gumbo in Baton Rouge.”

Try instead, “Kathryn and Angie ate gumbo in Baton Rouge.”

“Tracy was standing next to her horse.”

Photo courtesy Tracy Hinkel

Try instead, “Tracy stood next to her horse.”

“The writers were attacking the editor.”

Try instead, “The writers attacked the editor.”

Seemed, appeared (also show, don’t tell)

Tonia Marie seemed nervous. Blah. Shawn appeared bored. Blech.

Don’t use seemed or appeared or any similar wishy-washy words. Don’t tell us a character “seemed upset,” or “appeared bored” – show us how she is upset or how she is bored.

Show us the beads of sweat on her brow, her chewing on her bottom lip, her clenching fists.

Show us her slouchy posture in the chair, her wandering or rolling eyes, her picking at her nails.

Boring dialog vs. character-driven dialog

I recently edited J. J. Brown’s American Dream. All of J.J.’s characters have a personality that translated into the dialog.

One of J.J.’s characters is a Frenchman, and his English dialog has a French flair. He would often say, “Oui?” or “Yes?” or “No?” at the end of his bits of dialog.

Do you work on giving each character a distinctive voice?

A character clears his throat before speaking

A character has a Southern accent or a Jersey accent

A character uses a lot of similes or clichés

A character uses no contractions

A character quotes the Bible

Number of words in a sentence

All your sentences have the same number of words. There is no variety in your novel’s sentence structure. I am getting bored by your mundane sentence structure. I beg you to give me some sentence variety.

All the sentences in the above paragraph have the same number of words. Boring, right? Though it is never exactly like this in the projects I edit and proofread, some sentence structure is hauntingly similar.

Giddy up! Some sentences go directly to the barn door. Other sentences take a wandering path around the side of the barn, meander behind the barn, and come out at the corral.

Photo by Jink Willis

See also Quick Editorial Tips I and Quick Editorial Tips II.

Photos courtesy of Angie Ledbetter, Tracy Hinkel, and Jink Willis.

Karen and son Kenton

Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com.

23 Comments

Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Quick Editing Tips

Quick Editorial Tips II

These Quick Editorial Tips are like the Jaws series, only better. More teeth.

See Quick Editorial Tips – the prequel! – here.

“Just” and “that” 

It’s just that I want to slug my editor.

OR

I want to slug my editor.

See the difference?

Overuse of adverbs

Yeah, I’ve heard it all about adverbs, repeatedly. Some writers use them responsibly.  Some writers overuse them, continuously.

A few adverbs aren’t so bad, here and there, sparingly.

White space

Extra long paragraphs in any book – e- or print – make me cringe (and fast forward).

Add white space. Either chop up your paragraphs or put more dialog in your prose. Make it easy on us readers (and editors).

Echo … echo … echo

Above I used “make me cringe.” If I used “make me cringe” on Page 12 and then again on Page 13, you would notice, right?

Even simple words, like “black,” “tired,” “strong,” “hard” – when repeated – create an “echo.”

Roget’s Thesaurus works wonders.

I answered, she expressed, he questioned

Hmmm. Mostly, I’d have to say stick with the tried and true.

Use, “he said,” “she said.”

Once in a teensy while, you can use the other schtuff – but not every dang time a character says something.

***

See Quick Editorial Tips I  

Are you writing mundanely? Do your paragraphs have an echo, echo? Do you have enough white space

in

your

novel?

***

Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday NYT crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen reads punctuation and grammar manuals for fun.

Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. She edits fiction and non-fiction including: sci-fi, fantasy, children’s, mystery, paranormal, western, horror, literary, historical, and journalism. Karen completed her writing coursework through UCLA and University of New Mexico, and was the winner of the SouthWest Writers 2009 Writing Contest – The Best Hook. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com. She is currently working on collections of short stories and poetry.

Featured shark picture by Shawn MacKenzie.

16 Comments

Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Quick Editing Tips

Quick Editorial Tips

For nearly every client – especially those for whom I am doing a beta-read or full edit – I write an Editorial Letter. In that Editorial Letter, I note (among other things):

Writing Problems

Repeated Bad Habits

Recurrent Punctuation Snafus

For those of you about to send your manuscript to an editor, here are a few things to check and/or avoid:

Overuse of pronouns

If you have more than one SHE and more than one HE in a scene, chapter, whatever, and all you use is he/she throughout. I’m confused. Your readers will be confused too.

List of Chapters

You have a list of chapters at the beginning of the book, say 30 chapters. But the book has 31 chapters. Oops.

If you are going to list chapters at the beginning of your novel, check and double check that the chapters in the Contents agree with the number of chapters in the novel.

If you name your chapters, make sure they translate from Contents to text.

Michael or Mike?

Throughout the book you call a dude “Michael.” Then in one chapter you use “Mike.”

I’m thinking, “Who’s Mike?”

Or you spell a character’s name Karen and then later you call her Karin.

Ellipsis …

A mark used to indicate that something has been omitted from a text.

Why are so many writers using these … on every dang page?

Or in one place you have…. and then you have ……. and then in another place you have …and then in another place…

If you must use the dot-dot-dot, then make them the same throughout the manuscript. Type them with a space before/space after or no space before/no space after. And the same number of dot-dot-dots.

Consistency. That’s the ticket!

Moving on …

Continue on

This is one of those things my Mother would chide me about. Continue ON is redundant. Or lift UP. Or drop DOWN. Or jump OVER.

Learn to use commas

And then you can break the rules – if you want to.

Good resources –

Diane Hacker, Rules for Writers

Strunk & White, The Elements of Style

Adjectives

He sat in a dark, red velvet, plush, antique chair with a heavy, green, cable-knit sweater around his shoulders with a well-worn, old, leather-bound book on his lap.

Okay, this is an exaggeration. But still. Some of y’all are using way too many adjectives.

I’m reminded of Anton Chekhov: Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

Show, don’t tell.

***

Stayed tuned for more Quick Editorial Tips. A special Thank You to editor Shawn MacKenzie for her beta-read on this blog post.

See her Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photos from pb_homepage, BryBuy8, and lenakhalid – Photobucket.

***

Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday NYT crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen reads punctuation and grammar manuals for fun.

Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. She edits fiction and non-fiction including: sci-fi, fantasy, children’s, mystery, paranormal, western, horror, literary, historical, and journalism. Karen completed her writing coursework through UCLA and University of New Mexico, and was the winner of the SouthWest Writers 2009 Writing Contest – The Best Hook. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com. She is currently working on collections of short stories and poetry.

16 Comments

Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Quick Editing Tips

Proofreading Tid-Bit

Read the piece backwards. For short stories and magazine articles this is relatively easy. Read backward line by line. If you are pressed for time, read backward paragraph by paragraph. You will be surprised what you discover!

Leave a comment

Filed under E-books & E-publishing, Quick Editing Tips