Editing Essentials

Do you enjoy editing? Or is the task one that brings as much excitement as washing windows?

Editing and revising my stories is an aspect of writing I approach with almost as much eagerness as I do creating the rough draft. I’m a detail person for whom ousting adverbs, pruning excess proper nouns and removing redundancies is fun.

I’m currently revising a manuscript. Because many romance writers are at RWA® Nationals in Washington D.C. now, I didn’t schedule guests for three of my usual spots. Instead, I’m taking a blogging break and working on a rewrite of one of my historicals.


Miss EdithThat won’t be necessary, Keli, dear. I’d be happy to step in and fill your spots.

Oh, Miss Edith! How nice to have you drop by. But I couldn’t ask you to take time from your busy schedule.

Fiddlesticks. I miss my days in the classroom reading my students’ creations. You’d be doing me a favor.

I know you’re an editing pro, but, the truth is, I’ve never turned my blog over to anyone.

You do have that take charge, oldest sister streak, don’t you? But, while you’re off editing, I could fill your spots and have a bit of fun with your visitors. Do say yes, and make an old lady’s day.

Please don’t call yourself old, Miss Edith. You’re as bright as ever and have more energy than I do most days.

What a charmer you are, child. Might I remind you, though, that I wrote my first manuscript on my trusty manual typewriter that dinged when I reached the end of a line. I’d like to help, so what do you say?

If you’re sure–

Perfectly sure. So, scoot along and leave things to me.

Bye, then. I’ll be back to post Tessa Dare’s July 27th interview.


Phew. Thought I’d never get that gal to skedaddle. She holds onto her projects more tightly than my thrifty Horace did a penny.

SnickerdoodlesSo, ladies and gentlemen, let’s have ourselves a “write” good time while Keli’s away. For starters, here are some treats. Help yourself to my plate of snickerdoodles fresh from the oven. Can’t you just smell the cinnamon?

Good. Now we’ll get down to business. But don’t you worry your pretty, young heads. I may have snowy hair on top of mine, but I know how to have a good time.

I understand many of you are romance writers. I’ve read stacks of those delightful stories in my day and have critiqued the work of several former pupils who have long since moved on to have brilliant careers in the genre. And, no, I’m not into name-dropping; so, don’t be asking me who they are.

Since I’m tickled whenever I can help a writer make a story shine, I’ll use my time here on Keli’s blog to share what I call my editing essentials. I don’t think she’ll have a problem with that, since we’re often of the same mind.

Let’s start with a couple of the basics.

Turn in a clean manuscript free of typographical errors. With the fancy computers we have nowadays, there’s just no excuse for misspelled words. I know you’ve heard this many times, but one or two students in each of my classes needed the reminder: don’t rely on your spell-check program. It doesn’t catch everything, such as those nasty little buggers known as homonyms. For example, by, buy and bye. There’s just no getting around it. You have to read the text.

I’ll never forget the day I sat at the table grading papers and came across this line in a student’s review of an inspirational romance: “My favorite scene took place when the hero gazed lovingly at his heroin and said, ‘You mean everything to me. I don’t know what I’d do without you.’” I laughed myself silly. My dearly departed Horace came into the dining room to see what was so funny. And let me tell you, getting that man of mine to leave his La-Z-Boy when The Rockford Files was on TV was a feat.

I told you earlier I’m not into name-dropping, but I taught one young woman who was. Sweet little Nancy had two characters in a scene, the hero and heroine, and here’s how one of her paragraphs looked before I took my blue pencil to it.

Joan stood on the front porch and gazed into John’s eyes, John’s face illuminated by the soft glow of the light Mother had left burning. Joan’s heart hammered against her ribs at the interest in the warm brown depths. No man had ever had such an effect on Joan. Joan couldn’t slow her racing pulse if she tried. If only John would give Joan the kiss Joan had dreamed of so many times, Joan’s evening would be complete.

And here’s what Nancy turned in as her second draft.

Joan stood on the front porch and gazed into John’s eyes, his face illuminated by the soft glow of the light Mother had left burning. Joan’s heart hammered against her ribs at the interest in the warm brown depths. No man had ever had such an effect on her. She couldn’t slow her racing pulse if she tried. If only he would give her the kiss she’d dreamed of so many times, her evening would be complete.

Too many proper names can be distracting. Your reader isn’t going to forget that Joan is the heroine and John the hero. So, replace many of the names with pronouns. Some of the names will need to stay, of course. I didn’t circle the one at the beginning of the second sentence in Allie’s first draft because the last person she’d mentioned was Joan’s considerate mother. Since a pronoun refers to the preceding noun, it was important we know that Joan’s heart was hammering–not her mother’s. (Although, if Joan is a young girl and this would be her first kiss, her mama’s heart may well pound too, especially if she doesn’t think John is good enough for her precious Joanie.)

For my final point of the day, I’ll mention something I told Nancy about character’s names. It’s best if they begin with different letters, because that helps the reader keep them straight. John and Joan look very much alike. Nancy agreed with me, and Joan became Carol. (And yes, I know the names are a bit old-fashioned, but I taught students who are now old enough to be some of your parents.)

I meant to keep things interesting, but my post has become as dry as dust bunnies, so let me wrap this up. You’ve got better things to do than listen to an old schoolmarm drone on.

Keli will be away from her blog next week, so I’ll take some time over the weekend and think about what I want to share with you. Come Monday, I’ll return prepared. And if you have a particular editing question you’d like me to answer, just leave a comment for me, Miss Edith. And you have a chance to win one of Keli’s prizes if you do, although I have no use for a bikini bag at my age. I’ll see about finding a prize of my own to offer next week.

It’s been a pleasure spending a few minutes with you today. Help yourself to another cookie as you leave, and enjoy your weekend, my dears. Toodle-oo!


Leave a Comment for Two Chances to Win

Keli’s Regular Drawing

My next drawing will take place July 20th.

The winner will receive a vinyl lined bikini bag, which is just the thing to toss in your tote for a trip to the pool, beach or seaside resort.


Bikini Bag.

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by July 20th and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On July 21st, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.


You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!

If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by me, your blog hostess Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and July 31st. Be sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.

On August 1st, I will choose one person who will have her/his choice of several covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your debut novel in your hands.

(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)

About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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16 Responses to Editing Essentials

  1. Sherrinda says:

    Great tips on the editing, especially since that is what I am doing now too!

    Happy editing!

  2. Miss Edith says:

    Sherrinda, dear, thanks for taking time out of your day to pay me a visit. I hope you’re making good progress on your edit and that you’re seeing your story go from good to great before your very eyes. I trust you helped yourself to a snickerdoodle. I’ve put out a pitcher of cold milk to go with them.

  3. Very timely. I’m always editing. It never ends with me. Thanks for the pointers and reminders. Can always use being reminded.

  4. Susan Mason says:

    Miss Edith,

    What a charming post! Thanks for filling in while dear Keli gets a break.

    Your tips were very helpful. Looking forward to more!

    Till next time,


  5. Miss Edith says:

    Eileen, your persistence in polishing your manuscripts is sure to be rewarded. As I used to tell my students, if your story is nice and clean, agents and editors will be better able to focus on your story.

  6. Miss Edith says:

    Susan, dearie, what kind words. I’m happy to give Keli a little break. She tends to be a bit of a perfectionist and needs to take life less seriously on occasion.

    I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed my tips and that you’re looking forward to more. Editing isn’t the most exciting subject, but I try to make it as painless as possible. Even so, I did catch a pupil nodding off from time to time.

  7. Quilt Lady says:

    Miss Edith, great tips on editing. Are you a perfectionist with you editing?

  8. anne barton says:

    LOLOL! Oh my gosh, Miss Edith, you are such a doll. Your cookies and your hat are to die for. Tell Keli I said hi.

  9. Miss Edith says:

    Quilt Lady, how lovely to have you stop by. My dear mama made lovely quilts. I have several of her creations. What’s your favorite pattern?

    In answer to your question, I would say no, I’m not a perfectionist in regards to editing. I’ve lived long enough to know that no matter how many times a writer edits her/his manuscript, there comes a time to let go. Some of my students have difficulty finding that point, though, and I remind them of an old saying my granddaddy used to say, “Perfect is overrated.”

    Are you a perfectionist when it comes to your quilts?

  10. Miss Edith says:

    Anne, darling, what a delightful surprise to have you stop by. I’ve heard such wonderful things about you from Keli and understood you’re attending the big RWA conference this week, so the fact that you took time out of your schedule to visit with an old lady made my day.

    Keli also tells me what a blessing you’ve been to her when it comes to editing. Thank you for giving her such a special gift. Your support and encouragement have meant a great deal to her. Why, she got teary-eyed talking about how much you’ve helped her.

    Thank you kindly for the compliment on my hat. I’m of the old school and like to keep the sun off my face. And I’m glad you enjoyed the cookies. I’m busy baking this weekend and will have a nice little treat for everyone come Monday.

  11. Quilt Lady says:

    Miss Edith,

    To answer your questions. The Lone Star quilt is my favorite pattern. As far as being a perfectionist with quilts I would love to be one but they just want come out perfect, no matter how hard you try. With a quilt you can only do the best that you can do and you do have to let some things slide.

  12. Miss Edith says:

    Quilt Lady, the Lone Star is a lovely pattern. Do you tend to put six or eight points on your stars? I have a lovely handmade quilt from my grandmother in the Log Cabin pattern, which I count as one my greatest treasures.

    I like your outlook regarding perfectionism. If a body has done her best, she can be proud of her accomplishment. I’m sure your quilts are a beautiful reflection of you.

  13. Miss Edith, I sure would love to win one of your prizes in this blog and you are a hoot…….


  14. Quilt Lady says:

    Miss Edith, I use the eight point pattern. I made a Log Cabin quilt about two years ago for my younger sister’s bed. I piece by maching and my older sister has a quilting machine in her house and she does the quilting on her machine for me.

  15. Miss Edith says:

    Edna, your comment made me laugh so hard I got a stitch in my side. Although I’ve been called a number of things in my day, a hoot was never one of them.

    I sashayed into my classroom one day early in my teaching career full of vim and vinegar, and a rather rowdy young gent rolled his eyes and said, “Here comes Miss Edict of the Punctuation Patrol.” That was the first inkling I had that not everyone enjoys editing as much as I. 🙂

  16. Miss Edith says:

    Quilt Lady, how nice that you and your sister share a hobby. I’m sure you two have produced some lovely quilts.

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