Editing Advice: You Can’t Do It All At Once!

Editing Advice: You Can’t Do It All At Once!

Earlier, I talked about the importance of just banging out your story to get the whole story done, and that is critical. If you’re someone who’s finished writing a novel, I’m of the opinion that you’re already in a certain rare area.

But, if you’re like me, and you’re invested in getting that story out into the world, that finished draft is only a draft.

Now is the time to start looking at that puppy. But here’s the oddest thing. As a teacher, I see students do this. They want to agonize over every word they type, as I mentioned in that post. Then, when it comes time to revise, they want to stare at that paper, hoping the mistakes jump up and volunteer themselves.

My time in the military wasn’t an action movie by any standards. But, one usually gets some combat training. Without going into too much detail, my point is simple. You tend to hit targets you aim at.

What does this mean? Well, instead of looking at your manuscript one time, trying to find every error, you should look at your book many times, each for a distinctly different type of mistake.

This is why I do a minimum of six drafts (and that number gets up to 14 depending on how you count a draft). Each time I do a set of revisions, I’m looking for very specific things. It’s much easier to look for a specific issue like lack of description or talking heads than it is to look at a chapter and trying to do it all. In fact, I don’t know that anyone can do it. If you’re an author who asserts you can, I’d honestly be interested to hear about your methodology. Regardless of how many drafts an author may do, I promise it isn’t one.

I can’t stand editing. I feel foolish for some of the mistakes I make. I’m frustrated when I feel like I haven’t developed in a particular area the way I wish I would. But I take solace knowing I’m making the story better. I’ve actually articulated my drafts by title, but I don’t think I’ve ever explained what I do in each draft, so to give you an idea on how many drafts I really do and how I use this technique, I’m going to elaborate on that.

The discovery draft has only one goal: Finish the manuscript. Get it done. Get it typed. If I am struggling to remember something or I know I’m going to need to do something, I’ll leave a note for myself. I’ll be typing and then do something like this (GO BACK AND ELABORATE ON THIS), or (CHECK THE NUMBERS TO MAKE SURE THEY LINE UP!)

All caps in writing isn’t something I do often, so using them as notes to myself, I know I’ll notice.

Once I finish that, I take a break. When I come back, I start my first draft. The first thing I do is go and check for those notes. Whatever I tell myself to do, I go and do it. I’m obedient that way. Then, I go back and read the chapter, looking for areas that lack description. One way I do this is to look for talking heads. Another way I do it is to look for action verbs. Those usually provide great spots for useful adjectives or sense activation. I sometimes have to add chapters or change POV, so I do that. But I don’t do it all at once per chapter. I review the notes. Then I look for description. Then I check to see if the POV lines up.

Then it’s time for another break. The first draft is done. I have to send it off to the Alpha Readers. While I wait, I work on another project to keep my mind fresh. Once I get the feedback, usually about a month later, I apply their notes. I do this by chapter. I apply the notes. Then I look again at description (because I feel this is a weakness of mine) and the visuals of the story.

Then I take another break, sending the book off to Sara for developmental edits. About here, I feel pretty good about the story as a whole. I work on something else during the month (give or take) Sara has it, and jump at it when I get it back. I apply her notes by chapter. Then I start looking at the structure and word usage. Can I trip that down? Can I replace “said” with a descriptive beat.

Then the book is off to beta readers. Rinse and repeat. I apply that feedback. Once I apply the feedback for the chapter, I look again at the word usage and start hunting down adverbs to replace with more clear action verbs.

Then the book is back over to Sara for line edits. Even that has a process. I don’t look for “all the mechanical issues.” I look at punctuation (rule by rule). I look at grammar. And all this is after I review the manuscript for Sara’s notes. Then I read it out loud. If I find another error, I finish the chapter, but then I go back and do it again. I do this until I can read the chapter out loud all the way through without finding an error.

This might seem daunting. Based on my observation of my students and other people, it certainly seems anti-productive. But it actually isn’t. Staring at your book for hours at a time just leaves you with strained eyes and errors you can’t believe you missed. This way is actually much faster. I say again, it’s. much. faster. For starters, each time you finish a look, you feel like you’re moving and accomplishing more, so you’re more motivated and willing to look again. Also, it’s more effective, so you’re not caught off guard by those mistakes you glazed over.

Give it a try and see how your beta or gamma readers (I don’t use gamma readers, but some do) feel about the book when you’re done.

Thanks for reading,


Book Review: Pull by Stephen Landry

Book Review: Pull by Stephen Landry

Cover image for the book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Pull by Stephen Landry is the first book in the Deep Darkness saga. Sev, a user who can travel through time by going into the minds of people from the past or future (think Quantum Leap only he can’t change anything), is raised in a world where an alien race is seeking to eradicate humanity along with any species dumb enough to help the humans. The three ships that carry the bulk of humanity also cary it’s most dangerous enemy: humanity.  As Sev learns more about his prophesied existence, he  learns more about the origins of humanity’s last ships and society. If they find a planet on which to settle, will there be anything left worth saving?

Character:  Sev is an interesting character. This book has sort of a Martial Arts quest feel to it where the character gets trained in the use of the time travel and combat (think Matrix). His sympathy shows in some areas. He’s compelling in his zealousness. He’s proactive and driven. His emotional journey is solid to as he continues to look for companionship even while he knows he’s already fawning over “the one who got away.” Sev is a plus for Landry.

Exposition: This was pretty solid as I remember. I did feel a bit info-dumped on at times, but, for the most part, the story’s pace seemed solid. He did a good job of mixing in the action with the exposition, but there was a lot of room for improvement.

This image of Landry was taken from his Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Dialogue: There was still some exposition in there I didn’t need, and some of it seemed a bit forced and random. I think it was improved from Sleepers, the last book from him I reviewed. The only conversations I remember are the ones in which I got plot information, which is how I know it’s wasn’t very crisp or memorable.

Description:  This is something Landry shows skill in and it is improved from the last book of his I read. He’s got a great eye for putting in nice details that bring the scene to mind. I’d be interested to see if Landry is working on TV or movie scripts. If his dialogue improved, he might have a lot going for him in that medium.

World Building: This is where Landry shines. His worlds and plots are just plain awesome. His creative ideas are fantastic. His outlining and plot points are fun. His visual style has a lot of potential, but the worlds he creates are his best assets. If this book were just edited more thoroughly, it’d be one of the best I’ve read this year; however, those issues really hurt the quality of the book overall.

Another Note on Proof Reading:  As with the last book I read from Landry, I had to post a special segment discussing the proofreading of his book. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any improvement whatsoever in this book. It’s honestly sad to see such great ideas marred by such poor editing and proofreading. I honestly couldn’t help but start counting the number of errors per page, and I got into the teens on some pages. These issues just ripped my attention away from what is honestly a fantastic story.

Overall: This concept is really cool. This story has love, tragedy, fighting, and time travel. However, it was riddled with typos and homophones. The paragraphs were sometimes a full page long, which was pretty demanding on the eye. A good copy editor could make this ok book great.

Thanks for reading


Proofing of Caught is finished!

Proofing of Caught is finished!

front-coverSo when I wasn’t moving or drafting Sojourn in Despair, I received the digital proof of Caught. This gave me the chance to read it over yet again and catch any last minutes errors.  This was important for me because I wish I’d taken one more read with The Journals of Bob Drifter. I did look at the digital proof of Bob, but I rushed, and I was impatient.

Not so this time. I read the book two more times, making corrections and tweaks as I found them. No book is ever perfect, but I’m very confident this book is better written than Bob. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the book. It’s still an awesome story, but I want every book I write to be better than the last book. One way I knew I could do that was to take an extra pass of the digital proof.

I finished that process Monday night, and I’m waiting to make sure everything is in order. Ben (my brother in law) is working to put all those wonderful review quotes on the cover so we can upload that to CreateSpace. Then it’s all over but the waiting.

I simply can’t tell you how excited I am for this book. I’ll be celebrating it’s release with the HMS Slush Brain Book Bash. I’ll also be all over this blog, Twitter, and my own Facebook accounts. A lot of work and effort goes into every book, and I’m proud of this result. Once I hear about an official release date, I’ll be sure to announce that. I’ll also be dropping a few chapters on this blog just to teas you all a bit.

Thank you all for taking this journey with me. I hope you find Caught worth the wait!

Thanks for reading,