Monday, February 14, 2011

Finding the Editor in YOU!

Today I'm really excited to introduce you to one of my good friends in the writing industry - Andrea Merrell. Andrea taught a workshop I attended recently at Christian Devotion's Writer's Advance Bootcamp and I invited her to give you the Cliff's Notes version here. Pay close attention, because tomorrow I'll be posting an Editing Exercise she also wrote to test our editing knowledge!
Don't forget to join the conversation -

Finding the Editor in YOU!
by Andrea Merrell

As a writer, your ability to catch pesky typos, make sure your usage is correct, and have your grammar up to par can make all the difference in a manuscript being accepted or rejected. Even if you plan to hire a professional editor, you’ll save time and money by eliminating common errors.

Both writing and editing should be done with resources at hand such as a good online dictionary, Bible software, and appropriate reference books. A good rule of thumb is: When in doubt…look it up! Hundreds of reliable resources are at your disposal on the Web, and you can Google just about anything.

Writing is the easy part. Writing for publication is the hard part, but it can be done with time, study, and determination. Getting your words on paper is the first step. In the movie Finding Forrester, Sean Connery gives this advice:  “You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is . . . to write, not to think!”  That being said, the second key to writing should be “to think!”

If you’re a natural editor, resist the urge to constantly go back and make corrections. If proofreading and editing don’t come easy for you, go back over your material and read it out loud, or have someone else read it to you. Read it slowly. Chances are, you’ve read it so many times, your eyes will skip over obvious errors. This will also help you get a better feel for syntax and sentence structure.

Even the best editor needs an editor, but we can all learn to catch the “biggies” and make our manuscripts as clean and professional as possible.

Some of the most common errors to look for:

§  Italics
ü  Italicize book titles, inner dialogue, and words you are trying to emphasize, but don’t overuse them.
§  Punctuation
ü  Watch out for comma usage.
ü  Placement of quotation marks.
ü  Don’t overuse exclamation points.
§  Verb tense
ü  Don’t mix present and past tense.
§  Overuse of certain words – He, and, that, just, really, or whatever your pet word might be.
§  POV (point of view)
§  Spelling – DON”T depend on “spell check” and watch out for words like:
ü  its vs. it’s
ü  their vs. there vs. they’re
ü  whose vs. who’s
ü  your vs. you’re
ü  Mom vs. mom
ü  Terms of endearment (honey, sweetheart, etc.) are always lowercased, as well as biblical, scriptural, and heaven.
§  Know how to use:
ü  ellipses ( . . . )
ü  en dash (Show – don’t tell.)
ü  em dash (Show—don’t tell.)

Two space or not two space—that is the question.
In the publishing industry, everything is subject to change. Two spaces are no longer acceptable. You can use “Replace” on your toolbar to correct this problem in your manuscript.

Show—don’t tell
Telling your story is not good enough—you must show it by making it come alive. Allow your readers to experience your story. Use all the senses. Help them see your scene as it plays out in their mind. Are there sounds causing them anxiety or fear? What does it smell like?  Is the meal described in such a way they can almost taste it?  Do objects seem so real they could touch them? Don’t just relate the facts. Help your readers connect with your characters and get lost in your plot. Even if you’re writing a simple devotion or article, pull on your readers’ emotions. They may not remember exactly what they read, but they will remember how you made them feel.

Reference material for editing
Andrea Merrell is Associate Editor for and Copy Editor for She is published in Spirit & HEART: A Devotional Journey, Faith & Finances: In God We Trust, and Closer to God: True Stories of Extraordinary Answers to Prayer by Guideposts. For writing or editing services, or for more information, contact her at or visit her website:


    1. Great post, Andrea! What a joy it has been to watch you on this writing journey. You've worked hard, and it has paid off! Just look at you!

      Thanks for sharing your knowledge and wisdom with us.

    2. Great points on editing, Andrea. It's obvious you take your own advice since your writing is so clean. Keep up the good work.

    3. I love hearing what other editors have to say about writing and editing. Thanks for a great post!

    4. "If you’re a natural editor, resist the urge to constantly go back and make corrections."
      This is my favorite quote from this post. I'm still stuck in chapter one of the novel I'm working on, because I can't pull my editor away from looking it over...and because I'm trying to lengthen it.
      Thanks for sharing with us, Andrea! And thanks for having her guest post, Edie!
      I'm off to keep writing and tune out my inner editor for awhile!