Writing Wednesday: Kill Your Darlings, Darling

Writing WednesdayPlease excuse me for being late posting, but I’ve been trying to figure out where to go next on this winding writing journey. After coming to grips with the receipt of an R&R, I decided it was time to go on and read my full manuscript. After all six weeks is a good amount of time to really get some distance between me and my writing. I was dreading getting to chapter four. Apparently, chapter four is where things really went to pot for this story. The editor said one solution she didn’t recommend was SCRAPPING THE ENTIRE CHAPTER. The one she suggested involves some major cutting and rewriting. Either way, I knew chapter four was going to be dreadful. What sort of awful things were waiting for me when I got to this much defamed chapter?

Here’s the thing, though: I LOVE chapter four. Actually, I’m pretty happy with everything up to chapter four. That doesn’t mean that I don’t see things to change, places to strengthen, etc. It means that I see what an awesome story with intriguing characters I set on those pages. And chapter four has some of the best prose I’ve ever written. The dialogue is good and fast moving. I love what it shows the reader about my hero’s character and the kind of person he is under all his bluster about duty and responsibility, and I love the kid he’s talking to in it. But some of that really great stuff has got to go on the cutting room floor, never to be seen again outside a blog post or newsletter post publication.

It’s very easy to get chuck awkward prose in the digital trash bin. It’s easy to rewrite an area that just isn’t working. But what about truly good writing that just doesn’t belong in the story. What do you do with your orphaned darlings? Do you save them in hopes of using them in another story? Do you relegate them to file thirteen? Do you give them new life as bonus content on WattPad, your website or in newsletters? Do you have any strategies to make it easier/more bearable to get rid of those creative gems that just don’t fit in your current masterpiece?

XOXO,

Erica

Advertisements

Writing Wednesday: Destroying Doubt & Soldiering On with Your Manuscript

The official doubt crow, courtesy of @doubt_crow

The official doubt crow, courtesy of @doubt_crow

With a little more than a month and half a manuscript left to go before my Book to Blurb final is turned in, I’ve found myself in a strange place. I’m getting to my word count goal (though now I think I need to up it a bit to give myself a better cushion) and finding that I have great revision plans for the manuscript that will make it even stronger (I’m not revising much while getting the first draft to take shape). I’ve been really consistent with my writing, getting up when I don’t feel like it and always getting something on the page. Yet, something has been dogging my every step: doubt.

Writers tend to be very familiar with doubt, particularly those who seek publication. There’s always something you can second guess. Second guessing and trying things a different way isn’t bad; it’s when our questioning of our choices renders us unable to move forward, meet deadlines, or even submit our work that it becomes troublesome.

At the moment, I have a myriad of doubts that are difficult to combat:

  • deadline doubt. Sometimes it seems as if the deadline is coming faster and my word count is climbing slower. It seems like I’ll never have the first draft done in time, let alone have time to revise and send in my best quality work. Many other participants have told me about family vacations, births, conferences, and other events standing between them and the deadline that causes them to feel as if they aren’t getting enough done now to compensate for losing that time. No one wants to miss the deadline or feel like they didn’t turn in their best book.
  • balance doubt. Is there enough conflict? Have I shown enough of their budding romance? Is the faith element present enough? Is there enough plot to this story? Did I show enough emotion? Will readers like/relate to/fall in love with my hero & heroine? I always feel as if I haven’t done enough somewhere.
  • word choice doubt. How many times did I say gaze in two paragraphs? Five. Seriously. And I had both my characters think “No, this isn’t happening” ON THE SAME PAGE.If my characters don’t stop looking, staring, gazing, flicking glances, or locking eyes, someone may be arrested for stalking. Finding fresh ways to say things can get stale if you let it, and it will drive you crazy trying to find just the right word all the time.
  • revision doubt. Did I change this enough to address the editor’s concerns? Will changing the hero’s motivation from this to that strengthen or hurt the story? I know I said I was cutting this scene, but maybe I should keep it? Is this scene really advancing the romance like I want it to? Is this subplot adding to things or detracting from them? Should I dial back the faith element here? How do I tie this subplot into the main plot to make it all make sense?
  • doubt scrapping. Maybe I should chuck the whole darn thing and start over.

So what do you do to combat doubt? I keep writing. I skip scenes that aren’t working to work on a scene where the words are coming fast and furious. I type things I know I’m not saying write but also know I can change later if I get the general gist down. I keep myself accountable by posting my word counts each day. I reach out to my critique buddies and writer friends when only a kick in the pants or a good brainstorming session will do. I make revision notes while they are fresh in my mind and plan out how I will address them. And I pray. A LOT.

Your two cents: How do you deal with doubt, in writing or any area of life?

Writing Wednesday: The Whole She-Bang!

Bernardo Velasco--my hero inspiration for Always the Last to Know

Bernardo Velasco–my hero inspiration for Always the Last to Know

As many of you already know, I was one of the thirty people lucky enough to move on to stage 3, the final stage, in the Blurb to Book contest sponsored by Harlequin’s Love Inspired line editors. To say that I’m gobsmacked and “chuffed” as my friends across the pond say is an understatement. To say that I’m terrified of messing up such a golden opportunity also goes without saying. When I entered, I had a vague notion that this could lead to “the call,” but that seemed ludicrous since I hadn’t made it past the first stage of a contest before (though I came close with the Valerie Parv Award contest). My only conscious goal was to make stage 2 and get that most precious and rare golden egg in publishing–feedback. I knew no matter what, if I made stage 2, I’d finally know what’s not working. So when stage 3 was announced and Always the Last to Know was there, yes, chuffed, gobsmacked, deliriously happy…but also paralyzed with fear and petrified off “stuffing up” a golden opportunity. I should also mention here that while I’m a zealous writer, I’ve only finished *mumbles*…fine…I’ve only finished one manuscript before. So now I’ve got to finish my second manuscript in about two months. How am I going to get from a proposal to the whole shebang?

*Synopsis. The best thing about submitting a proposal was the synopsis. (You will never hear me say THAT again, so take a screenshot of this). It forced me to think about the story as a whole and come up with a framework for the story. I now have more than a vague notion of where I’m going. I know what the black moment is and how it’s resolved. Now I just have to write it.

*Feedback. That promised feedback? It. Was. GOLDEN. The editors zeroed in on a few things for me to consider going forward that have already made the story much stronger. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to address everything in the feedback, but the suggestions flow well with the story and there aren’t many of them. I know I can use what the editors said to make the story better. And the editors also pop in on the boards to answer questions.

* The Harlequin Boards. Speaking of the boards, there has been a craft discussion on motivation that I’ve gotten a lot of useful information out of, and there’s a back to basics bootcamp coming up through the SOLD! blog. Harlequin has a lot of resources for writers to help us write our best books, and I’m going to utilize them.

*My awesome co-workers/resources. I’ve already tapped coworkers for baby knowledge and advice on all the legal stuff I need to incorporate in this story, and everyone is still willing to be pumped for information.

*Writing routine. The way I completed my other romance was simple: I wrote in the morning, I edited at lunch (and maybe added some words if I was in the zone) and reread the previous days work in the morning before going at it again. I made no major revisions during the first draft. I had fun with the story. I tried not to worry too much about what I was putting on the page in the morning so long as I got something on the page. When I finished the first draft, I read it through once like a reader and just made notes. The second time through I revise. If I was successful using this approach, I can be successful using it again. Right? Right!

*Critique Buddies. Having someone to send pages to and get an honest opinion is something I don’t take for granted. Turning over my writing daily to a co-worker was a big part of what made me accountable during the writing of DJ. Not only that, but it made it fun. Seeing how invested someone was in the story and the characters was great motivation to finish the story (and start the next one).

Lastly,

*the story. This is a story I really want to tell, and I feel like I’m at a place in life where I can tell it. There’s just something about this fictitious town and its cast of characters that has just grown on me. I have a few of the other stories started on my computer, and I will finish them, even if I don’t sell Always the Last to Know. I’m writing the kind of stories I want to read, with characters I care about. I want other people to get to read these stories, too. They can’t do that if they remain buried on my hard drive. As I’ve said repeatedly, I’ve never had an opportunity like this before; far be it from me to waste it being too scared to try.

What tricks and tips do you have for writing until you reach The End? Share your advice and stories in the comments section.

Writing Wednesday: Revising the Life into Your Story

Welcome to Writing Wednesday!  This is my little corner where I update you on my writing and discussions going on in the writing world of interest, share call stories of fellow writers, and generally geek out over all things writing. I hope you enjoy this installment!

word count

My current word count on my #Blurb2Book entry, Always the Last to Know

If you follow me on social media,  you’re more than aware that I  was one of 75 people selected to  move to stage 2 of the  #Blurb2Book competition hosted by Harlequin’s Love Inspired Editors for all three lines. A record 326 people entered! Needless to say I was ecstatic when they picked my first page and hundred word blurb to move on to the next round.

I’ve been working on the proposal due May 1st, which consists of a cover letter, synopsis, and the first three chapters of my story. This is a new process for me. I’ve only written two synopses, and only one of them was written before the book was finished. I usually edit the previous day’s work before I start the next day, but now I’m having to revise as I go, a completely different prospect. I need to have three complete chapters that balance depicting what’s going on now with hinting about things that won’t happen for chapters without seeming ham fisted and amateurish without having the benefit of having written the story and knowing exactly how it ends on the page.

Revising as I go has me thinking a lot about my revision process. I think I’d make an excellent editor because I think writing revision notes is my super power. My critique partners think my drafts are really good, but that’s because I revise much better than I write. So what do I do in my revision process to make my manuscript sparkle?

  • I print out the section I’m working on. I can do some light editing on the screen, but for proofreading and revising, I need to print the pages. Sorry trees! I do recycle when I no longer need them.
  • I read through the pages and make notes in the margins, usually first thing in the morning. I go with my gut. Sometimes this means I write “fix” or “make this better” because I don’t know how to fix it yet. I may write “add in emotion” or “show he’s upset by his actions.” Sometimes this is me highlighting a phrase I want to change or circle words that I repeat too close together so I know to find a different way to say something.
  • Unless it’s a proofreading correction, I don’t make any of the changes right away to the saved manuscript.
  • I make sure I know why something isn’t working and indicate it in my notes. There may be more than one way to fix it, so I need a way to determine which changes address the underlying issue.
  • I edit in red. It’s a psychological thing. I feel like my manuscript has been attacked and is bleeding; it’s my job to heal it. I have to treat each nick and cut. (See? That wasn’t as morbid as you thought going in, was it?)
  • The biggest secret to my revision process? I revise as a reader, not a writer, in the first pass. I don’t read for structure, check word count, or check items off the story arc checklist consciously when I make revision notes. I’m a reader first. I’ve read more than enough of these books to know what works for me in a book. If this were a book I bought at Wal-Mart and I read this, what would I think? Is there something missing I should know? Is there something here I’d skim or skip altogether? Did the end of that sentence, paragraph, scene or chapter make me turn the page or would I put my bookmark here and put a load of clothes in?
  • Bonus: My best kept secret? I make a “cutting room floor” document for every story I start. I put everything I cut out into that folder. That way if I need to add that backstory in later, I can. I can make a newsletter containing a deleted scene or something if the book is published. No matter what I do or don’t do with these words, I never truly lose any of them. This makes me feel better about deleting them from the manuscript, and the manuscript gets to be better without all the dead weight.

Revising as you go is a hard thing to do. But knowing my characters and the big plot points makes it easy to decide what to put in and what can be left out or added to a later scene. So far this process has worked for me. Let’s all pray it continues to for a long time.

Your Two Cents: How do you tackle revisions?
XOXO,

Erica

Good Bones

DSCF1953 (2)

One of the discarded choices for my book cover. I took this photo at a friends wedding.

You may have missed all of the hoopla about the fact that I received my book cover from the graphic designer this week, but I didn’t want you to miss anything else in this publication process. You are all my writer friends, so I can’t leave you out of the writerly aspects of getting this book baby out there. If you want to read my feels about the process, you can head on over to http://www.aseriousseason.com and see those. But today I want to talk about revising my non-fiction book.

My name is Erica Denise Hearns, and I am a perfectionist. I’ve been a perfectionist for years. I would quit for a while but sooner or later, the old each keeps coming back and I give in. It was bad at the beginning of this week when I tweaked almost every element of my book cover, but now that I’m reading the book after a couple weeks’ hiatus, it has become supercharged.

When I opened the Word document a few days ago, I thought I’d just be finishing the sections that weren’t finished. I was convinced that I’d done all the revision/editing I needed to do for what was written. I would go over the most recent additions, then move on to filling in the missing areas. Not so. I’ve notice some major things out of whack in the beginning. It makes me want to throw my laptop because I already gave the book to beta readers to look over. In the first four sections/chapters, I’ve moved one section up, one down, and extensively revised another. About 75% of what I read has been moved or changed. I’ve removed chunks of useless words, large and small. I’ve nipped, tucked and tightened all over the place. I feel like a plastic surgeon on Botched: this manuscript has been disfigured and now I have to fix it.

It’s not all bad, though. Other than one chapter that needed major revisions (the chapter that everything else flows from, so it has to be perfect), the rest has just been finding the flow and deleting unneccesary words. It’s like the hero’s comments about a run down house in a book I’m reading: the house has good bones; most of the work to be done is cosmetic. I’m adding subheadings and cleaning up copy in most sections. I’m checking and adding references. I’m adding quotes. I’m prettying up the place, so to speak.

How is revising non-fiction different from revising fiction? For me, I spot repetition and junk words a lot easier. I’m good at making sure the paragraphs are organized well and paragraphs are broken in the correct places. It’s easier to spot derivations and asides in my non-fiction voice. I have a better grasp on how to tweak my words to wring out the emotions.

On the more difficult side, I have to make sure that my tone is working well. It’s hard to know how someone will read something. I’m trying to season my words while being clear, which can be hard to balance when you’re taking a stance or position that may be unpopular. I have to check that everything I present as a fact is corroborated, and that I clearly state when something is an opinion. I have to balance how much information I am giving all at once and use things like enumeration, bullet points and subsections to break it up into manageable chunks. It’s like writing a really long college essay.

The hardest part about self-publishing this book, to me, remains the marketing. I think I creating a cover that will draw the eye. What else can I do to build interest in the book? What marketing tips do you guys have for non-fiction Christian books?

Natural Talent: A Blessing and A Curse

*Note: As you are reading this, I’m frantically getting ready for the Love Inspired Luncheon taking place in Tampa, Florida today. I’ll be meeting with several Love Inspired authors (and hopefully an editor or two), taking pictures and collecting swag. I leave this post to tide you all over while I’m gone. Stay tuned for more book reviews, interviews, and more insight into my writing journey!

It was clear at a very early age that I was something of a prodigy. Unlike most prodigies who can solve pie up to eight digits in their heads or play Chopin at three, I was an English language and literature prodigy. I could read and comprehend things far beyond my years. I read at a college level before I was firmly in Middle School. I excelled in grammar classes despite my southern family and their horrendous dialect. Most importantly, I could write anything I wanted to: poetry, creative non-fiction, literary fiction, genre fiction. I was one smart cookie.

Here’s the thing about being a literary prodigy that no one ever tells you: natural talent isn’t enough. In fact, sometimes natural talent can hinder more than it can help. As Adrian Monk loves to say, it’s a blessing and a curse. For me, the curse of natural talent has always been the arrogance of the first take tantrum.

If I were a musical prodigy, I’d probably be one of those artists who liked to step into the studio, lay the track down one time, and move on. I’d be a real one-take wonder. That’s not to say that every take would be perfect, or that I’d be happy with it. It would just be. At least, that’s what I think I’d do since it was what I did as a writer. I never revised. I proofread but I never revised. This is a horrible habit to get into for any writer, no matter how much talent you have, but I was resting on the laurels of natural talent. Most of my first drafts are better than other people’s second drafts and blah blah. Arrogance at its finest.

The only problem with my logic was that second drafts are rarely, if ever, publication worthy. If I want to do my best writing, if I want to take my writing to the next level, I need to revise. Revision is where you put some meat on the bones of an idea. It’s where you make sure the characters are fully formed, the plot is strong enough, the descriptions flow well. It’s where you round the edges and add the icing to a literary cake. It’s where you polish it to a streak free shine. It’s where I run out of horrible metaphors and clichés and run into solid prose.

I’ve been struggling with revisions on Delivering Justice because of the natural talent curse. I was convinced that DJ was ready to publish almost immediately after I finished NaNoWriMo. I’d edited, added in detail, and proofread as I went, so I just knew it would be perfect. I read through the entire thing and thought it was the greatest romantic suspense since they invented the genre. But deep down, there was a niggling feeling that I could do more with this or that. I ignored it and set a hard deadline, but then the revisions stalled a bit.

Thank God for critique partners and time away. When my critique partners pointed out the same areas I had misgivings about, I knew I was on the right track. Reading more about the genre and soaking in advice has really helped me to develop a plan to get the revisions done. I will be able to take this book to the next level–the publication level.

I’m learning with each year of writing that natural talent isn’t enough. Revision is important. Knowing how to connect with readers is important. Continuing to learn about the craft is important. Feedback is important. There’s always room for improvement.

That’s my two cents, anyway. What hard writing lessons have you had to learn?

XOXO

Erica

If I Could Offer One Critique…

GAH!!

Whenever something is that weird mixture of exciting yet scary, you’ll hear me (or, rather, read me) going GAH! So what’s going on that’s exciting/scary at the moment? I am putting a couple chapters of my baby, Delivering Justice, out there for feedback. GAH!

I’ve polished the first chapter to a spit free shine, and now I’m working on the second chapter. I sent the first chapter to a woman who is in a writing group that I’m a part of on Facebook. She also participated in So You Think You Can Write, and her entry received an R&R (revise and resubmit letter), which means Harlequin is interested in her work. We are swapping first chapters. I just pressed send on my chapter.

Within the larger writing group of So You Think You Can Write participants, we were broken into smaller critique groups. The leader of my critique group of three just sent out an email that we will be swapping about two chapters a week starting today. GAH!

This is usually the part where I crack up, if I haven’t already. Writing is hard enough. Revision drives me up a wall. Having someone read my work always knots my stomach. But having someone critique my writing? GAH!!

I know that this is an important step in my journey for two reasons:

1) sharing my work with someone always makes it better. When I took my words to my coworker each day, it made me aware of the quality of what I was writing. This wasn’t just a book for me to write and put in a drawer; it was a guarantee that someone would read it, so it needed to be good. Aside from this, every time I have had a writing workshop class with critique, the revision of the assignment has been so much better than the original. No matter how well I write, I can’t see my every weakness and fill in all the holes.

2) It forces me to slow down and do this write. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know my first inclination is to hit send as soon as possible. I just want to get it out of my hands and have my part over with. But you only get one chance to make a first impression. I want the editor’s first impression of my work to be amazing. Amazing takes some time. It means not pantsing and leaving time for revisions. It means actually doing revisions. It means seeking other’s opinions on how to make the writing stronger and getting comfortable with feedback. GAH!

So I am having a very difficult time deciding if I’m more excited or scared by having pressed send once and having to do so again before this day is over. Is the story  the best I can make it? Should I have waited? Are these the right people to critique my writing? Is this a step closer to publication? I can’t allow myself to obsess over all of the anxiety involved in this. I must celebrate the victory I’ve just achieved–I sent a chapter of my story out for someone’s opinion on it! Not on the spur of the moment and without revision like with SYTYCW, but something I had the opportunity to polish. That’s something I can be proud of, no matter what happens next.

Do you have a critique partner/group? How do you handle feedback on your writing?

The Writing Show Must Go On…

Sorry for missing my usual Wednesday morning post, but I was out sick from work this week and couldn’t stand staring at the computer typing my life away.

So now that the madness of NaNoWriMo has been over for a week (ten days for me), what do I focus on, writing-wise? How do I move forward from a great accomplishment instead of getting stuck right here and not seeing it through? I’ll tell you how–I keep on writing.

I’ve flirted a little bit with the marriage kit book (which is almost finished), reading through a large portion of it and researching some of the holes I still need to fill. I found all the material I had written for Some College, my memoir about the year I spent in between my junior and senior year of college, and I contacted a good high school friend for his help with an area of the book that involves some things from our high school days. Going back to my high school reunion really opened that door wide for me. I’ve even started writing out some “treatments” for “scenes” in the other story I outlined before NaNoWriMo, and began trying to develop an outline for my next book in the series that this year’s NaNoWriMo book starts.

What I’ve managed to do is to stay far away from my NaNoWriMo manuscript, Delivering Justice. I’ve given myself ten days away from it, and I am chomping at the bit to start revising it. I said I wouldn’t look at it again until the 10th, but I think it’s time to get back into it. I know a few of the issues that I’ll need to address from the beginning–passive voice, weak verbs, an adverb explosion–and I’m sure I’ll discover a plethora of other problems that I’ll need to tackle, but I’m ready to dive back into it.

I spent some time on the boards for Harlequin and discovered that Delivering Justice should  be targeted toward the Intrigue line and not the Romantic Suspense line, at least from what I’ve read and been told. I’m glad, not only because the word count is lower, meaning I don’t have to find a subplot or fluff my story out of recognition, but because it means I don’t have to tone down the suspense and play up the romance as much as I initially thought. My story doesn’t have to be contorted into something unrecognizable to fit the mold, and that makes me feel even more certain that this story is exactly what it should be.

I never heard anything back from my So You Think You Can Write entry, but I’ve reworked the beginning and I think I’ve written some really good material since the opening chapter. I’m not sure exactly where the story will fit, but I would love to finish it sometime next year.

I’ve thought of at least three other books in the series DJ starts, with two possibles. Once I have eyeballs back on the story, I’ll get an excerpt up for some critique.

How’s everyone else’s writing coming along? Anyone close to submitting/publishing? Anyone revising?

XOXO,

Erica

Taking Myself Seriously

Personal Photo. Where they kept powder for the cannons in the Castillo de San Marcos, a fort never taken in battle. St. Augustine.

It’s been such a long time, friends! I’ve been working so hard on my book and feeling like I have nowhere in the world to talk about all the stress, struggles, triumphs and decisions I have to make. Then I remembered I do have somewhere to talk about these things to people who might get it; here!

I worked up the courage to approach the man about the book from my last entry. A while ago, I sent an email, but I never got a response back. I felt a little crushed. I really wanted his perspective on publishing and help with this book. But what I realized is this is my vision and my book, and it’s up to me to get it out there to the world. I wasn’t even close to being ready to share anything that I’d written of the book; I wasn’t even done writing it! I didn’t have a completed chapter yet. I was a mess. I should know better than to reach out before I have anything to send if someone should be interested. It was a rookie mistake.

Since I’ve gone back to the drawing board, I have discovered an interesting thing about my book: I can tie nearly every chapter to the story of Adam and Eve without stretching too much and overselling it. Everything else I want to talk about flows easily out of this pivotal beginning. What I decided to do is to make the Adam & Eve chapter my introductory chapter, to introduce each topic that will be in other chapters as well as to say something of its own. The way that the organization of the book is coming together is really a blessing.

The second inspiring thing happened when I was speaking to my minister a couple of weeks ago. He mentioned that he had read some of the things I had given him to read from my book and he really enjoyed it. It was so encouraging that he had actually read it and took the time to let me know he enjoyed it. There’s nothing like having someone come up to you and give unsolicited praise of your work. When I was in high school, this happened to me a few times and I remember feeling so pleased, especially because of who it was that was speaking. It opens you up like a flower to sunshine. It makes you want to write even more and let’s you know that no matter how fruitless it can seem while sitting with your butt in the chair, it really is worth it. I love when my writing touches people, causes them to look at something a different way, takes them to another place. It’s the best feeling in the world.

What I’m learning with this book is that there is so much depth to writing that I hadn’t touched. By not doing all of the rewriting and extensive proofreading before, I missed out on these stunning revelations and connections that make my writing so much better. I don’t have to read a published piece and regret that I didn’t do more with it or dig deeper now, because I have. I am learning to concisely convey what my book is about, to pitch it to someone and get them excited about it. I am learning that I don’t have to be a one take writer and that I CAN market myself and my work. I am learning to get my butt in the chair even when I don’t feel like it. I’m learning to enjoy the hard work as well as the moments when lightning strikes.

In the coming days, I hope to share many more things about this book and writing with anyone who’s still reading me, or begins to read for the first time.

Happy Writing,

2blu2btru

The Ten Commandments of Editing Self-Help, Relationship Books

During the course of time that it took me to edit my father’s book, I developed many different “rules” for the editing process. Here, I attempt to share these insights and techniques with you. These are all my opinion and should not be taken as gospel. It is written specifically about the self-help genre, as this is the type of book I edited.

X. Thou shalt remove/correct typical grammar mistakes. This is a commandment of editing any type of fiction, with the exception of dialect/vernacular passages in fiction written to emulate a pattern of speech.

IX. Thou shalt be ambivalent to statistics. The interpretation of statistics, as put forward by the author, will be allowed to stand unless there is a gross error in logic or feasibility. It is not the editor’s job to posit their opinion of the spin the author puts on the data unless they are specifically asked to do so.

VIII. Thou shalt handle humor with care. Written humor can be tricky to navigate. It can be hard to convey without vocal inflection or visual clues. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that any humor present in the work is as humorous read as it is said.

VII. Thou shalt competently execute tie-ins/tie-backs to other chapters. Be sure to refer to the chapter by name when referencing it. Also, be sure to indicate whether you are reminding the reader of a concept from a previous chapter (ex. “As previously stated in “Heartbreak Hotel…”) or are introducing a concept to be expounded upon later ( ex. “This concept will be discussed in depth in “Conversations and Conversions”).

VI. Thous shalt fina a way to say the same thing a thousand different ways. Self-help jargon can get repetitive, especially as the same characteristics may be  highlighted in different chapters for different reasons. Make sure that you find effective synonyms and similar phrases to avoid using the same words over and over again.

V. Thou shalt strengthen wishy washy propositions with assertive language. No one likes to take advice from someone who sounds unsure of their own message. Wherever only one solution is offered, avoid using soft language. For example, instead of saying, “It is quite probable that all men are dogs,” say “All men are dogs.” (Of course, this is a rough example, but hopefully you get what I mean) The point is to present your solutions and ideas with conviction, support the argument, and move on as if everyone can agree with your conclusion.

IV. Thou shalt learn the basic chapter structure and flow and ensure adherence to it. For example, in my dad’s book every chapter started with a brief story that introduces the central relationship issue(s) dealth with in this chapter. He goes on to expound on the issues presenting by this brief story before giving a solution or a strategy to deal with them. One or two chapters did not offer any solutions or strategies, and I brought this to his attention. Did he want to offer solutions? Should the person seek professional help? If the purpose is to address problems in relationships, you should offer ways to address them in each chapter.

III. Thou shalt keep the voice of the author despite changes. Each author has a unique style and voice in which they write. While you are editing, it is important to do so working within the author’s unique style and voice. Otherwise, the sections you have corrected will seem out of place with the rest of the manuscript. Even if you have to tell the author what’s not working and have him or her correct it, it’s preferable to an inconsistent voice.

II. Thous shalt read at least once for enjoyment. We can get so caught up in trying to make sure that things are said clearly and the grammar is correct, we can lose sight of the story that’s being told and the advice that is being given. Make sure you read the work at least once with no aim other than to enjoy the work and try to see the author’s point of view. This helped me greatly in the editing process.

I. Thoul shalt remember this is not your book. No one should be able to see where you’ve changed and tweaked things except the author. Your job as an editor is not to write the book as you see fit, but to display the author’s work in the best light possible. You are cleaning it up, mending a few frayed edges, but it’s not your handiwork.

Do you agree with this list? Would you add anything to it?