Tag: editing


The Art of the Rewrite

 “The only kind of writing is rewriting.”  This oh-so-famous Ernest Hemingway quote has been on my mind lately. You write, polish, revise, and edit. Then, you pass on your manuscript to another human being. The moment of truth. If you have a publisher, this is when you get your comments. If you’re breaking into the business, it’s when you hear back from your beta-reader, freelance editor, or agent. No matter where you are in your writing journey, it’s the time when you see your book in the harsh light of day through someone else’s eyes. Why am I obsessing about the Hemingway quote right now? Because I just got comments back for Abish Taylor #2. I have exactly twenty-six (26!) days to incorporate my editor’s thoughtful critique into my manuscript. There aren’t any shortcuts. No app. No Ted Talk. No podcast. Just me, her critique, and my computer.  As I’ve been contemplating the art of the rewrite, I realized I do indeed have something resembling a process. It’s not perfect, and it certainly may not be for everyone, but because I’m in the middle of crunch time, I’ll share what helps me not only get through rewriting, but actually helps me (pretty much) enjoy the process. Feel free to take what resonates and leave what doesn’t. For those of you who are […]

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Storage disaster day. And a few solutions.

 TRACEE: Let’s get the facts out there first. It shouldn’t be difficult: You write or type words on paper. There they are! Ready to be manipulated, changed, read aloud, or published. At least that’s what I used to think. When I was in junior high school I had a long obsession with James Michener’s books. I won’t claim to have read them all, but I made my way through quite a few. Some more than once. I then read in an interview that Michener had a near final manuscript on a book set in Russia. For an adolescent Russophile, this was pure joy for me. Then…. the bad news. The manuscript was lost in a suitcase and he simply couldn’t imagine trying to re-create it. This may have been when we parted ways. Was he lazy? It was written! Flash-forward years later and not only do I empathize but I can’t imagine how he ever wrote anything again. Needless to say, now I fully understand that the re-creation of a sentence or phrase is difficult enough. The re-creation of an entire chapter is impossible. The rewriting of an entire book…. What’s the word beyond impossible? I’m going to create a new word for this level […]

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Writing is editing. Right?

 Writing is about editing. We all know that. However, that doesn’t answer the question when to edit. There are a few basic options. Write a draft straight through, perhaps making notes on things to be changed, but use a one directional process. Don’t second guess yourself. Write a good chunk of the manuscript and then revise. This level of revision may involve deleting parts, adding parts, re-ordering scenes, and, of course, fiddling with words. Revise each page as you go. Perfect the page then move on.  Pros and cons can be argued for each process. Write straight through and you risk going far down a path you later eliminate entirely. On the other hand, no time was lost in detailed revisions prior to scrapping entire sections. If you revise section by section too much time can be put into the earlier sections and less into the end. Sometimes it shows! Aim for perfection and prevent yourself from moving on. What happens when those perfect sentences end up not belonging in the manuscript at all?   I suspect that authors evolve. For example, the more experience you gain the more confidence you might have in a story arc (and therefore revise each page […]

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The final edit. Why stress?

 TRACEE: This is KillerNashville weekend and I’m thrilled to be here! I was looking through the schedule and thinking about the different panels (and doing a bit of prep for the ones I’m on) and it occurred to me that getting a book ready to submit will be a big theme for many people here. Some are planning to submit to an agent, others are submitting final manuscripts to their editor. I wanted to turn this question over to you all. What is your tidbit of advice for the final edit? Some authors have a list of words they check for overuse (often highly personal as we are all idiosyncratic in our word usage). Others do an ‘ly’ check, or read the verbs (are they the strongest possible). What is your advice to writers for a final check beyond looking for typos; one meant to raise the bar overall? PAULA: I do what my editor tells me to do: Make sure that I’m breaking all the chapters at a compelling point, and if not, fix it. This often means adding chapters.  As Hallie Ephron would advise: Make every chapter end with a hook, and the succeeding chapter grab that hook and run with it.  MICHELE: […]

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The Developmental Edit

Today is my birthday. It was also the initial due date for my developmental edit. As a birthday/Christmas present to myself and my family, I finished the second draft a week early. And, it was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life.  Novel writing is the long distance running of careers. You have to maintain a pace and get to the finish line, which is typically months, if not years, away.  People take a year or more to pen a first novel. It then takes months–if not a year–to secure an agent and several months to secure a publisher. (Obviously, some books never do. But I learned from the experience of NOT getting an agent for a few novels in drawers that it takes about a year to give up on them too and start something else). If you have a publisher and a contract for a next book, you still have six to eight months or so from the publication of the last novel to the delivery of the next one.  However, writing becomes a sprint during the editing process.  I got back my latest novel from my editors on December 3rd. I had until today to add fifteen to twenty thousand words to it (some […]

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Copy Edits

    This is my week for going over the copy-edited version of my new novel, Maggie Dove’s Detective Agency (which will be coming out on November 8.)  It’s my last chance to make changes before it goes into publication, which means it’s my last chance to get everything right. On every page of the draft, there are notes from the copy-editor. Sometimes he just wants me to think about a word. Other times it’s more substantive.  Here are some sample questions: 1. Timing is very important in mysteries, as you can imagine. At one point I say that something happened two weeks ago, but actually it happened 20 days ago. Fix that! 2. Early in the novel I refer to a cat as having green eyes, but later on he has yellow eyes. Fix that! 3. I keep misusing “further” and “farther.” 4. Maggie has a conversation with her nemesis, Walter Campbell, and she feels badly for him. But soon thereafter she loses her temper. Take more time, the copy editor cautions. Wait a beat before she yells. 5. I tend to use the word “dumbfounded” a lot. Which I frequently am. But I shouldn’t use it too much. 6. I refer to a book of magic spells. (There are witches […]

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