Tag Archives: Quick Editorial 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?

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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.

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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.

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Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Quick Editing Tips