My Guest Blogger today is Andrea Merrell, my awesome editor. Her words of wisdom can help any writer improve their manuscripts.
Writing—at least for most people—is not a solitary venture. Most of us are members of critique groups, attend writers’ conferences on a regular basis, and have writing buddies who love to get together to brainstorm ideas. Some of us even have wives, husbands, children, aunts, uncles, neighbors, and friends that love to read and can give us valuable feedback on our stories.
But there is another person who plays a vital role in the quality and success of your project: your editor.
Whether you plan to self-publish and hire a freelance editor, or have one assigned to you through your publishing company, this person can become your greatest ally and even a valued friend. The partnership between writer and editor is a key factor in the process.
Editors find our blind spots
Whether you’re a new writer or an experienced author, an editor’s input is invaluable. Once we write, rewrite, edit, proof—and then start the process all over again—we can become “blind” to our own mistakes. As writers, we know what is supposed to be on that page. We know our story and characters so well we dream about them and have conversations with them in our head. But after we’ve read through our manuscript a number of times, our eyes begin to skip over obvious mistakes. That’s why we all need help. As I like to say, even the best editor needs an editor. J
So, what can you as a writer expect from your relationship with your editor? Let’s look at a few things to prepare you for working as a team to polish your prose.
A good editor will look for:
- Your writing style and never try to change your voice. After all, this is your
- Glaring mistakes like typos, misspelled words, mixing or using the wrong tense, and punctuation. The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) and Christian Writers Manual of Style (CWMS) are considered industry standard.
- Redundant words and phrases. Sometimes we tend to overuse words (especially I, he, and she). Watch for these redundancies, along with pet words such as: that, just, quickly, quietly, slowly, began to, as if, etc., and however … just to name a few.
- Pet phrases that are overused. Here are a few examples:
- He laughed.
- She cried.
- He coughed.
- She sighed.
- He shrugged his shoulders.
- She bit her lip.
- He raked his hand through his hair.
- She dropped her head in her hands.
- He clenched his jaw.
None of these are wrong or bad, but when used over and over throughout a story, they wear on the reader. Be aware of your pet phrases and do a word search in your manuscript. You just might be surprised. I recently edited a manuscript where the phrase “he nodded” was used over forty times. This is where you have to get creative and do some rewriting.
- Strong hooks.
- Setting the scene.
- POV (point of view) issues.
- Formatting issues.
- Dialogue issues (especially speaker beats and tags).
- Showing, not telling. If you look at the examples I gave you for pet phrases, most of those are simply telling the reader what’s going on. Get creative and show the reader what’s happening. Put your reader in the scene and even inside the character’s head by showing their external and internal conflict. Here is an example: She cried. Doesn’t tell us much, right? What about changing that to: Tears rolled down her cheeks as she fought to keep her angry words inside—where they needed to stay. This paints a more accurate picture of what your character is feeling.
- Too much backstory.
- Syntax (the rhythm and flow of your sentence and paragraphs).
There are many other elements involved in the process, but this will give you a better idea of what to expect. When you and your editor are working together as a team, I truly believe you can learn more about the writing process than in a workshop or conference, because this is doing and not just hearing.
Bottom line: trust your editor. Work with him or her and learn from the process. If you have questions and suggestions, don’t be afraid to voice them. Your editor is there to make you look good and help your words shine.
Andrea Merrell is Associate Editor for Christian Devotions Ministries and Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (LPC). She is also a professional freelance editor and has been a faculty member at various writers’ conferences, including: Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, The Asheville Christian Writers Conference (Writers Boot Camp), the CLASS Christian Writers Conference, and Write2Ignite. Andrea has been published in numerous anthologies and online venues. She is a graduate of Christian Communicators and a finalist in the 2015 USA Best Book Awards. Andrea is the author of Murder of a Manuscript: Writing and Editing Tips to Keep Your Book Out of the Editorial Graveyard, Praying for the Prodigal, and The Gift. Andrea has a passion to help writers sharpen their skills and polish their prose. To learn more, visit www.AndreaMerrell.com or www.TheWriteEditing.com.
If you’d like to hire Andrea to edit your manuscript, you can contact her through her website: www.AndreaMerrell.com or e-mail her at AndreaMerrell 7 @ gmail (dot) com.