Tag Archives: editing


Hello everyone!

“Yes” is a pretty important word, but it can also be rather pesky from a spelling standpoint.  If you’ve ever wondered how to pluralize “yes” or how to spell it’s less formal form “yeah,” check out Erin Servais’ blog posts: “What is the plural of ‘no’ and ‘yes’?” and “Yea, yeah, yay.”  I hope they leave you saying, “Oh, yes!”


Happy writing!



Honest Goal Assessment

Hello everyone!

As a writer, and as a person in general, it is important to self-evaluate to see what we are doing well and where we need to improve.  One way I do this is by setting goals and then reviewing them to see how well I met them.

This year, I had three writing related goals:

  1. Complete the re-write of The Four Crystals.
  2. Write at least the first book in my chapter book mystery series.
  3. Stack of BooksRead 50 books.

When I created my goals for 2019, I thought they were achievable.  And, for the most part, they were.

Goal #3: I’ve read or listened to over 70 books.

Goal #2: I got Book 1 of my chapter book mystery series to a polished state and completed a rough draft of Book 2.

Goal #1: Although I made progress, I will not complete the re-write of The Four Crystals this year.

Archery TargetMeeting two out of three goals is not bad, and I have to remind myself of that, but my failure to complete my number one goal bothered me.  When I reflected over why I had failed to achieve what seemed like a perfectly reasonable goal at the beginning of 2019, I came up with the following list of reasons I had not succeeded.

  1. I was in a musical during the summer, and between my day job and rehearsals, I did not have time to write.
  2. Instead of treating the re-write like the creation of a new rough draft, I attempted to create a first draft, which is a little more polished and takes more time to write.  (My definition of a rough draft is the same as Allison K. Williams’ vomit draft, and my first draft is a hybrid between her story and character drafts.  See “Optimal Editing.”)
  3. I am part of two writer’s groups and teach a weekly German class, so some of my free time is devoted to participating in and preparing for those activities.

Once I gave myself that reality check, I had to decide what to do with my discoveries so that I would meet my future goals.

  1. Summer Musical: I enjoy acting.  Theater has been a big part of my life, but at this stage, writing has become more important to me than performing.  I decided that unless a local theater was putting on one of my dream shows, I would take a break from acting until at least autumn 2020.
  2. Binder with Marked-up ManuscriptRough Draft versus First Draft: Although writing a first draft instead of a rough draft would not be time efficient for a new project, it is the right choice for The Four Crystals.  I have a very clear idea of what I want the story to be, and I need to see whether or not my vision for the book is working.  A rough draft would not help me to determine that, but a first draft would.  I need to adjust my timeline for the re-write.
  3. Writer’s Groups and Teaching: Being involved in writer’s groups exposes me to genres I would not choose to read on my own, which benefits me as a writer.  The feedback I get from the groups is beneficial and helps me to hone my craft.  At this point, I think that staying active in both groups is the right choice.  As for teaching, I made a commitment for the 2019-20 school year, but come 2020-21, I need to consider if offering a weekly language class is in the best interest of my writing career.

What I took away from my goal evaluation is that I still have room for improvement when it comes to time management and that I need to be even more selective when committing to different activities.  At least my 2019 goals were more realistic than the ones I set for 2018.  I am learning and improving!

As 2019 comes to a close, I highly encourage you to look over your own goals for 2019 and determined what worked, what didn’t, and why.  Then, apply what you learned when creating your 2020 goals.

Happy writing!


What’s the Big Deal with Dashes?

Hello everyone!

I was recently editing a chapter book, and I needed one character to interrupt another.  I knew I should use a dash, but which one?  Below is a summary of what each type of dash does.  I threw in the hyphen for good measure.

Primary Uses

hyphen and dashesHyphen

  • Compound nouns, verbs, and adjectives

En Dash

  • Date, time, and number ranges
  • Scores
  • Shows conflict or connection between two things or ideas

emphatic (3)Em Dash

  • Interruptions
  • Instead of commas, parentheses, or colons (Em dashes are more emphatic and less formal than the other forms of punctuation.)
  • Two em dashes replace missing or omitted letters or words

For a more comprehensive list of uses and examples of how each type of punctuation is used, read the articles below.  (They are the ones I found most helpful when deciding which form of punctuation to use.)

“Hyphens, En Dashes, Em Dashes” by The Chicago Manual of Style Online

“Hyphen” by The Punctuation Guide

“En dash” by The Punctuation Guide

“Em dash” by The Punctuation Guide

Happy writing!


What Does It Add to the Story?

Hello everyone!

Have you ever heard the phrase, “kill your darlings”?  I have, and I used to resent it with every fiber of my creative being.  Why would I eliminate a favorite character, scene, or line?  That question is one I’ve recently had to answer.

My project for 2018 has been editing my novel, “The Four Crystals.”  After making some changes to the main characters’ personalities and motivations, which strengthened the plot and intensified the conflict, I arrived at one of my favorite conversations between two characters.  It no longer worked.

I tried valiantly to save the conversation, but eventually, I had to re-write it.  Cutting the original version of that conversation hurt.  But I was super proud of myself for putting my story’s needs before my own desires.  Then I kept going.

short cutIn a travel sequence, I had an issue fester between two characters over the course of 48 hours and finally culminate in a confrontation.  I had so much fun writing the sequence.  When I looked over it, I realized that those scenes and even the confrontation didn’t move the plot along.  I could tell my reader how long it took my party to go from point A to point B and summarize the main difficulties they faced in one paragraph.  I tried to justify keeping the sequence on the grounds that it contributed to my characters’ development, but the reader already knew there was hostility between those two characters from earlier scenes.  And the mini-confrontation didn’t grow the tension between them enough to justify keeping the sequence.  I had to cut it, and yes, cutting it was painful.

When it comes to editing, I’ve concluded that anything that does not advance the story and/or the characters’ development should be cut.  It makes the story more interesting to read.

My challenge to all of you is when you look at your own work, don’t ask yourself, “How do I feel about this character, scene, or line?”  Instead, ask yourself, “What does it add to the story?”  If the answer is nothing, cut it.

Happy writing, and be bold in your editing!


Optimal Editing

Hello everyone!

When you set out to be a writer, the thing they don’t tell you is that you will spend most of your time editing.  And, whether you like it or not, editing is a time-consuming process.

This year, I have been focusing on editing my novel, “The Four Crystals,” but I began the editing process two or three years ago.  The biggest mistake I’ve made during those years was trying to take my novel from a rough draft to a final draft in one edit.


It didn’t end well.

What I have learned from reading other writers’ advice is to focus on one thing per edit.

I really liked the way Allison K. Williams broke down the writing and editing process in her article “Seven Drafts.”

The names of Allison K. Williams’ seven drafts are:

  1. The Vomit Draft
  2. The Story Draft
  3. The Character Draft
  4. The Technical Draft
  5. The Personal Copy Edit
  6. The Friend/Beta Read
  7. The Editor Read

I hope you find “Seven Drafts” by Allison K. Williams as helpful as I did.

Happy writing!


Word of the Day

Hello everyone!

I love words!  Word choice is crucial to my enjoyment of a song, movie, or book.  The perfect words and references make the experience rapturous while poorly chosen ones make it painful.

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to build a story using one or more words as your foundation.

  1. Go to merriamwebster.com and write a story using the word of the day.  The word of the day can be used in your story or be the theme of your story.
  2. For something even more challenging, go to merriamwebster.com 5-7 days in a row and use all 5-7 words in your story.  Make sure there’s a plot!

revising 1*Remember, this is a writing exercise.  If you like the story and the words don’t work, cut them during the revision phase.  (Considering I’ve never edited something just once, I should probably say “phases.”)

Happy writing!


NaNoWriMo and Beyond

Hello everyone!

Happy National Novel Writing Month!  I was looking around for advice on how to get the most out of NaNoWriMo and found “41 Insider Tips for Winning NaNoWriMo 2017.”

What I love about this article is that it gives advice about post November editing as well as ideas for how to prep for writing your novel and how to meet your NaNoWriMo goals.  A lot of the tips can be applied to novel writing in general, not just to NaNoWriMo.

quoteWhether your goal is to write 50,000 words before December 1st or to strengthen a novel you’re currently editing, I hope you find “41 Insider Tips for Winning NaNoWriMo 2017” to be helpful.

Happy writing!


Brutal Editing

Hello everyone!

So, you’ve written something and are ready to get it published. You have read and re-read your piece and are sure it’s worthy of being seen by readers, but is it?

Back in January, I entered WritersWeekly’s Winter 2017 24-Hour Short Story Contest. There were a lot of submission guidelines and a list of common themes to avoid; themes the judges had seen in so many submissions that they had become groan worthy. I read the submission guidelines and the list of common themes three times: before the prompt was posted, the day the prompt was released, and right before I submitted my short story. I was 100% certain that I had followed all of their instructions. I had worked hard and done research to make sure that my take on the prompt would be too original for anyone else to duplicate. It sounds vain, but I expected to win or at least get an honorable mention because the idea was so unlikely to be replicated. When the winners and honorable mentions were announced, my story was not listed. I was disappointed, but I have been to too many acting auditions to let it crush me. Competitions, like auditions, are subjective. You can do everything right and still not be chosen.

I read the list of common themes seen in the stories submitted for the Winter 2017 contest and was satisfied to see that my story did not contain any of those repeated themes. In that respect, my research paid off.

My thought was to post my short story on my blog so that others could see what I had done and get a feel for my writing style. I e-mailed my brother a copy of my short story and asked for his feedback. I know many people say you should never ask your family or friends to critique your writing; because, they will tell you it is wonderful to save your feelings, but my family is not like that. My family tells me what I did well, but they also tell me what confused them, where I have plot holes, or where they got bored. Then, they offer suggestions on how to make the weak parts stronger.

After he read my short story, my brother called me. When I asked if he thought it was ready for publication, he countered with, “What do you think of your story?” That made me stop and evaluate my story differently than I previously had. Up until my brother asked me that question, I had only focused on the originality of the idea, the accuracy of my research, and making sure that the ending wrapped things up nicely. When I started listing to my brother the things I was proud of, it suddenly struck me that the plot itself was not very compelling. The protagonist made a decision at the end of the story, but up until that point, she had passively let life happen to her. It is very boring to read about a passive rather than a proactive protagonist.

I was so focused on being different that I ignored perhaps the most crucial part of any story: the plot. My brother made some suggestions for how to rewrite the story so that the protagonist was taking a more active role in outside events or so that the conflict was all internal.

After our talk, I understood why my story had not been chosen. I also became more conscious of a tendency which I need to watch out for as a writer: I become so focused on details that I forget about the big picture.

When it comes to editing your own work, I have four pieces of advice:

  1. Unless you are participating in a 24-hour short story competition, put your writing away for a few days before you edit it. This break from your work will give you a fresh perspective on what you’ve written.
  2. Find someone to read over your work who you know will be honest with you. This person should be good at pointing out what you did well and at explaining why something needs to be improved.
  3.  Do not be defensive about your work. If you want to write something that is worthy of publication, you need to be willing to demolish and rebuild your story multiple times. Kick your ego to the curb and put your story’s interests before your own.
  4.  You can’t please everyone, so at least make sure you like what you wrote. Remember that writing is an art and, therefore, subjective. Have the wisdom to know when the feedback you receive reveals an issue with the plot, characters, or writing style and when the feedback is just the reader’s personal preference. I am part of a writing group and my rule is if half the group has the same question or issue, I need to make a change. If only one person has an issue, it is probably personal preference; I can use my own discretion and either reject the advice or make a change.

Good luck editing and happy writing!