Category Archives: Editing


I’m sure you’ve heard the biggest challenge to getting your book drafted is to actually get fingers to keyboard and get it out of your head. But did you know that this applies to revisions and editing as well? 

And sometimes it can be even harder to get back to work because you convince yourself that you’re “letting it rest” or “letting it ferment” or whatever catchphrase you prefer.

To avoid this, don’t just set it aside for some arbitrary amount of time or until you feel like getting back to it. Set a specific rest time, whether it’s one day, one week, one month, or one year. And then schedule your revision and/or editing time on your calendar.

I have been reminded of this recently while revising my latest book. During NaNoWriMo, I wrote horrible, disjointed chunks of my original draft, so since then, I’ve been working on rearranging the scenes I’d written and filling in the huge holes. It kind of feels like I’m still drafting, but it’s really just a horrifically large revision.

A couple of weeks ago, I got tough with myself and decided I was going to create a schedule to get this thing DONE. And do you know what? Once I got my butt in my chair and started working, I finished what I set out to do in HALF THE TIME I envisioned.

At this point, all of my big gaps are filled, so I just need to fill in small gaps, plug any research holes, and do a couple of copy edits before sending my book to beta readers.

So, remember, “butt in chair” doesn’t just apply to drafting. It also applies to pretty much everything else, too. Resistance is the author’s biggest enemy. Tweet This


I have been using Grammarly for a full five months now. For the most part, I have found it useful. I’ve used it the most as the Chrome extension when editing short articles for my local school district’s e-newsletter and social media. It has helped me to catch many, many mistakes I likely would’ve otherwise missed. I also used the Word add-on to do the last check of my book, Versed in Nature: Hiking Northwest Illinois and East Iowa State Parks. This helped me to produce a totally clean manuscript (I believe).

I also have used the Outlook Add-in, but find myself disabling it quite a bit because it slows down the program. I haven’t used the feature where you upload your file to Grammarly.

I have the premium version of Grammarly which cost me $6.56 per month billed annually. As a premium user, I not only get grammar errors flagged with a red dot with the number of errors (or a green “refresh” icon if everything is fine), but I also get notification of lesser errors, denoted by a small yellow dot. When I have expanded the menu and clicked to see the “yellow dot” errors, I have almost never (if ever) chosen to accept those suggestions. Though I agree those suggestions would make my writing technically immaculate, it seems like they would also take my voice and interest out of my writing.

In summary, I recommend the Chrome Extension and Word Add-in but would disable the Outlook Add-in except on the most important emails just because of how it slows Outlook. I will also consider dropping my premium subscription when my period ends because I simply don’t use the expanded grammar suggestions.

Have you used Grammarly? What do you think? Any hints or tips you’d like to offer. If so, please comment.

Save Cash with Beta Readers

Occasionally, someone will ask me if I can read their work and “tell them what I think.” Though I love writers and readers, unfortunately, I don’t have time to read everything that’s put in front of me. Plus, I realize that what they are usually asking for is a developmental edit (well, sometimes they’re just after validation that their work has value). 

This is a whole different request, but it is a service I offer. However, I think developmental “editing” is a misnomer. I think developmental “consulting” is more accurate. On the few developmental projects I’ve done for hire (you’ll see why just a “few” shortly), I’m essentially asking questions, pointing out areas that may need clarification, suggesting areas where they could show instead of tell, or directing them to resources that might help them (such as The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson), along with my thoughts about the characters, plot, setting, etc. I don’t actually make any changes.

What I usually suggest (and the reason I’ve only had a few developmental projects) is to save their money for copy/line editing and instead get beta/test readers. The more beta readers, the merrier, but I think at least six to eight is a good number. They need to be people you trust, who are thoughtful readers, and who will be honest with you (albeit kind) in their feedback. Give them the manuscript as a PDF (or print if you can afford it and they insist) and at least one to two months to read. You can receive the feedback in written form, during one-on-one meetings, or in a focus group format.

People seem to have the most trouble finding beta readers. First, look to your family and friends; you are bound to have a couple who don’t mind providing honest feedback. This is also where networking comes in (maybe you thought you didn’t have to worry about networking as an author – sorry). Attend writer gatherings, workshops, and conferences to meet and develop relationships with other writers with whom you may be able to trade beta reading in the future. You can also participate in Facebook groups and get to know people on other social media sites so that you may get responses when you post to ask for beta readers. If you really can’t find any beta readers, this is where paying for a developmental edit (or consult) might be worth it.

When you get beta readers and they are helpful, treat them right. Make sure to thank them personally and in your book acknowledgments. Sending them a finished copy of the book is also a good practice, and they are likely to share about how they helped to shape it, which will help sales.

Do you have any tips for getting or working with beta readers? Feel free to share in the comments section.


Some of my editing clients have loved starting sentences with gerunds, or words ending in “ing.” This is not terrible in itself, but as it is in writing as in everything else, balance is important.  And sometimes starting a sentence with a gerund phrase just doesn’t make sense. Consider these two examples:

  • Walking out the door, she spat expletives about his behavior.
  • Driving into the garage, I pressed the button to close the garage door.

A good way to test if a sentence is beginning with a gerund well is to think about the word “while.” If you can put “while” in front of the sentence and it’s logical, the gerund is fine. If, instead, the sentence becomes nonsensical because whatever is in the second clause would have logically taken place before, after, or separate from the first clause, the gerund needs to go.

In our above examples, the first gerund works because it’s logical for someone to be swearing while walking. In the second example, if you push the button to close the garage while driving into the garage, you’re likely to damage your garage door, vehicle, or both.

Let me reiterate, though, that balance is important. Even if your gerund-beginning sentences make sense, your reader is still going to be bothered with repeating them too much. Balance.

If you have any examples of bad gerund-beginning sentences you’ve come across, I’d love to see them. Just put them in the comments section (anonymously, please – no naming names.)

Editing Advice Update – Get New Eyes for Each Level

blue-eyeA while back I wrote a blog post about the different levels of editing: developmental, copy or line, and proofreading. I would now like to refine that advice a bit.

I serve as the official editor for the selective subsidized publishing company, 918studio press, that I run with my business partner, Lori Perkins. We are in the process of finalizing our first two publications. I copy/line edited one of the books, submitted it to the author, who reviewed it, and sent it back for proofreading. I proofread it, returned it, and then he and a friend he had review it found additional changes. This has led me to the conclusion that I am a good editor, I am a good proofreader, but I’m not good at doing both.

It seems that after copy/line editing a piece, my brain is trained just as if it was my own work (for which I know I can neither completely edit or proofread myself). My brain remembers what I read before and causes me to see what should be there instead of what actually is there, so I miss a lot.

So, to refine my advice about the three editing/revision levels, I’m now recommending that you get different people to do each of the three levels. If that’s not possible, at the very least, make sure the person’s eyes have a significant break between the first and next editing levels.


punctuation-spaceMy typical editing client is someone my age or older and likely 90% of the time, the first correction I need to make is to change all of the sentence endings to contain one space after the final punctuation mark instead of two. I grew up during the typewriter days, too, so this was a habit I had to break as well.

Don’t take my word for it. If you don’t believe me, check out this article by a true writing authority, Writer’s Digest. Thanks to having computers, please save yourself the extra keystroke and your editor an extra step by just including one space at the end of your sentences.

If you forget, it’s easy to fix; simply use the find and replace function in Word, typing “.  ” (period-space-space) in the find field and “. ” (period-space) in the replace field. Repeat for question marks and exclamation points.

Truly, this will shave years off your perceived age better than any face lift or tummy tuck ever could.


Photo by Matt Hampel, Flickr creative commons:
Photo by Matt Hampel, Flickr creative commons:

Your book is finished and you’ve done all you can with it, so it’s time to get an editor. But it can be sooo expensive. You wonder, could I do it myself? You could, maybe, but you’re likely to have a much better result if you hire someone else to edit for you.

Our brains are trained to read what should be there rather than what is actually there when reading our own stuff. For example, I do a great job editing and proofreading others’ work, but I’m terrible at doing it on my own work. The only way to possibly do an adequate job on your own work is if you read every word out loud. Something about saying it triggers your brain better, allowing you to catch more errors.

If you don’t feel like reading the entire thing out loud to yourself or you doubt your ability to craft a high enough quality product that way, it is almost always going to be a solid investment to hire an editor. (To learn about the different levels/types of revision/editing, read this post here.)

But you don’t want to just hire any editor. Like anything, you get what you pay for in editing, but even paying a high price might not get the result you expected. I recommend you request a potential editor edit a two to three page sample for you. I insist on doing a sample edit for all of my new potential editing clients.

When I get an inquiry or request, I ask the author to send me two to three representative pages from the manuscript. Usually the first pages aren’t the best to send, because those are usually the ones you’ve worked on and polished the most. Send the worst two to three pages (the ones that need the most help) or those that are typical of the whole manuscript. If you send your two to three best pages, either the editor will come back and ask for more compensation, or they will not be too happy with you, refusing to work with you or overcharging in the future.

Along with the sample, send the total page count of the manuscript formatted the same way as the sample pages. In other words, if you send the sample in double-spaced, 8.5″ x 11″, with 1″ margins, send the total page count for the whole manuscript based on double-spaced, 8.5″ x 11″, with 1″ margins. If your book is already formatted, send pages from the already-formatted book, whether 6″x9″, 5″x8″, etc.

I ask for the sample pages (and entire manuscript if hired) in Word format (electronic is most efficient; if you’re a technophobe, get some training, as your editor options will be much more vast if you can provide an electronic copy, plus you’ll need electronic copies for submitting and/or publishing anyway). Once I get them, I edit or proofread them (whichever the potential client desires) with tracked changes turned on. This allows the potential client to see exactly what changes I would make and evaluate whether my editing would be a good fit for the manuscript.

Things to pay attention to are whether or not the editor preserved your author voice. Did he or she pick up when some kind of quirk in language was a character trait or stylistic choice? Did the editor make it better? Did he or she improve the flow, mechanics, and readability? Did he or she ask questions when appropriate? Were any things changed incorrectly or do you not agree with some of the grammar/punctuation changes? Don’t automatically get turned off by lots of suggested changes, though, because you always have the option to reject them if you don’t agree.

Be especially wary if there are very few changes. Chances are your manuscript isn’t that clean. As an author, I’d rather see lots of suggested changes and then reject the ones I don’t want than to have an editor come back to tell me it’s all good. (The exception is for strictly proofreading, since proofreading is basically looking for typos.)

An idea I don’t know if any of my potential clients has tried would be to include two or three glaring, obvious mistakes and see if the editor catches them. This should tell you how carefully they are reviewing a manuscript.

Remember it’s not necessary that the editor has experience with your genre or even enjoys it (although as an editor, I like to work with the types of stories I enjoy, though I don’t require it) if all they are doing is line/copy editing or proofreading. If the editor is not evaluating your story arc, characters, or other big-picture issues, he or she doesn’t need to be an expert in your genre.

Doing the sample also allows me to provide an accurate quote for the project. I time myself as I edit the sample and, using my hourly rate and page count, I calculate the price. So far, all of my clients have been happy with this process.

Do you have any additional tips for hiring an editor? If so, please share as a comment below.

For more help, be sure to grab my marketing reports or resource guide (or both) by clicking the cover images to the right (or below or elsewhere on mobile).



A Word Trick for Creating Active Sentences

pink magnifying glassUsing the Find and Replace function in Word can help a ton when revising and editing a manuscript. It helps to ensure that you stay consistent and don’t miss correcting a frequently made error. I use it a lot to replace “.  ” (period, two spaces) to “. ” (period, one space), when editing manuscripts by people who haven’t overcome the typewriter habit yet.

You can also use the Find function in Word to write more active sentences.

How? you ask…

Use Find to hunt out all “of the” occurrences in your manuscript and then evaluate each one to see if the sentence can be rearranged to activate it. Often, it can be changed into a possessive. For example, writing, “It was the king’s opinion to hang the criminal,” is more active than writing, “It was the opinion of the king to hang the criminal.”  Of course, this may not be the best example. An even more active way would be to write, “The king’s opinion was to hang the criminal,” and even MORE active to write, “The king decided to hang the criminal.” But you get the point.

Search out “of the” and rearranging the sentence to get rid of it can go along way to making your writing more actively. Have you tried it? How did it work out? Feel free to comment.


Pair of pearsIn my continuing series about using the correct words in correct situations, today we tackle lay/lie and stationary/stationery.

Lie vs. Lay

During my final proof of Missing Emily: Croatian Life Letters, I had the hardest time with the words lie, lay, and all of their counterparts. To address this problem, I avoided using the word wherever possible such as in “curled on the floor” or “she was perpendicular on the bed.” But sometimes, I just couldn’t avoid it. So I got out my handy A Pocket Style Manual, 5th Ed., by Diana Hacker.

Every time I came across some derivative of lie or lay, I had to think critically about what I was trying to say. Was I trying to say to “recline or rest on a surface” as defined by Hacker in A Pocket Style Manual in which case a form of lie was appropriate (p.26)? Or was I trying to put something or someone in a place in which case lay would be correct?

And it gets even more confusing. After I figured out which of lie or lay was appropriate, I had to figure out which word was correct for the tense I was using. If the correct word was a form of lie, then the correct past tense word was lay (yes, the same as the root word for place/put something) and the present participle was lying as in “is lying down” which is the same as if someone is being untruthful. The past participle of lie is lain which I avoided totally. For lay, past tense and past participle is laid while the present participle is laying as in “she is laying the book in the trash.”

Even after all of the studying I did comparing my lays or lies to the guidelines in A Pocket Style Manual, all of these lies, lays, laids, lains, lyings, and layings are swimming around in my head. So it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to turn my page away from this section any time soon. I just hope I made the right choices in my proof.

Stationary vs. Stationery

One little letter that does so much! Here, switch E for A or vice-versa, and you’ve got two totally different things. The one with an E, stationery, is the paper or other materials used to write letters including not only the paper but envelopes, pencil, and pens. (See’s definition by clicking here.)

On the other hand, stationary, means something quite different and unrelated to letter-writing. Stationary refers more to a speed or spatial position. According to, to be stationary means to not be moving, to be standing still, unmovable, or remaining in the same condition. (Click here for definition.)

There is really no easy way – that I can think of anyway – to keep the two straight other than to remember the writing tools are spelled with an E and the others with an A. If you can’t remember, just flip-flop them and you’ll get half of them right.

Just kidding … don’t do that. Get a dictionary or go to and look it up to be sure.

What word pairs to have trouble keeping straight? Share them in the comment section below and I may tackle them on a future post.