Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Quick, Down & Dirty Edits

by Lisa Carter @LisaCarter27

I'm excited to have author Lisa Carter guest blogging today. Her newest novel, Beneath the Navajo Moon released just yesterday. She's a fantastic writer, but beyond that, she's able to explain how she does it. If you ever get a chance to take one of her workshops, don't even hesitate. Today, she's sharing her checklist for edits.
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Okay—you wrote this article/blog post/novel.

And like the writing mentors recommend, you allowed your “baby” to take a little nap before you returned with fresh eyes and ever-evolving writer-ly skill to complete your edits. It’s on the back burner for a while due to too many items on your plate.

Proceed at your own risk, because I’m throwing cliché rules out the window with this one, folks.

You had the best intentions in the world to return to this “darling” in a few weeks/months—ahem, coughing—years. But life intervened—like you had a real baby; your aging parents required more care; other writing projects took precedence or . . . You fill in the blanks.

Then out of the blue, an agent/editor is interested in this rough draft of yours. It’s very, very rough, you stammer. But as the proverbial saying goes, they want it yesterday.

You can’t let such a marvelous opportunity pass. But what’s writer to do? I’m a brutal self-editor of my first drafts. Often I comb through multiple revisions before my editor insists enough is enough and pries the manuscript from my cold, write-sore fingers.

Yet still, I crave one more look-see, one more run-through. Just to be sure. Just to be thorough. This is similar to the quick cleanup I utilize for those occasions when last minute guests are en route. When you’ve only enough time for a spit and polish. Only time to clear the deck. Remove the heavy debris. Wipe down the counters and toilets. Take out the trash. You get the picture.

Here is my own down and dirty checklist for chapter edits—

1. Scan scenes for white space. Too much narrative? Too little dialogue? Are you telling or showing?
2. Did every scene portray emotive conflict between the characters?
3. Does the dialogue follow FAS—feeling, action and then speech?
4. To bring each scene to life, how many of the 5 senses have you included?
5. Have you varied each paragraph opening or do they each—three paragraphs in a row—begin with the letter “A” or “T”, etc . . .?
6. Have you varied your sentence structure/opening sentence/closing hook? Can you simplify and avoid any complex compound sentence structures?
7. Have you searched and replaced all redundant, weak weasel words?
8. Did you maintain deep POV? And maintain POV realism? A cop will never use words like, “beauteous fragility” to describe his love interest or a Southern character mouth, “You guys.”
9. Did you spell check?
Bet you can guess my final piece of advice— 
10. Last but not least, did you eliminate all clichéd phrases and untangle mixed metaphors?

Work at changing your mindset regarding editing to that of a sculptor. By chipping away at this ungainly lump of clay, your editing chisel slowly releases the beauty hidden therein.


Secrets and danger deep in the canyons and arroyos of the Navajo Nation

When Aaron Matthews is assigned to protect the only witness to a drug cartel execution, he hides Kailyn Eudailey in the safest place he knows—the vast, untamed wilderness of the Navajo Nation.

On the run from Charlotte to Shiprock, sparks fly between a no-nonsense federal agent and a high-maintenance Southern belle who brings her frou-frou pooch along for company. “That dog's coyote food,” Aaron warns Kailyn.

He warns her about a lot of things that could get the both of them killed if she doesn’t follow WITSEC protocol to the letter. Problem is—nobody warned him to guard his heart.

Now Aaron’s broken past and Kailyn’s explosive present are on a fast-paced, collision course in this brilliant plot-twisting suspense about murder and mercy, great loss and greater love under a turquoise sky.

DiAnn Mills, author of Firewall—“Only lightning can strike faster than the action in this thrilling romantic suspense.”

Blending Southern and Native American fiction, Lisa Carter writes “Sweet Tea with a Slice of Murder”. Her latest release is Under a Turquoise Sky. She is the author of two previous romantic suspense novels, Carolina Reckoning and Beneath A Navajo Moon; and Aloha Rose, a contemporary romance in the Quilts of Love series. She and her family make their home in North Carolina. When she isn’t writing, Lisa enjoys traveling to romantic locales, teaching writing workshops, and researching her next exotic adventure. She has strong opinions on barbecue and ACC basketball. Connect with Lisa on FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.


  1. Do you have specific suggestions for "weasel words" you mentioned in #7? Is this adverbs instead of stronger verbs, or does it include something else?

  2. Hi Ellen—Here is the weasel word list I created— You may have your own pet words you need to add for yourself. I find myself in love with—and later editing out—"all".
    Thanks for stopping by.

    1. Just FYI, I have links disabled in the comments section (to keep spammers out) but you can copy and paste the link in your browser window and it will work fine. I know, I checked! Thanks Lisa! Blessings, E

  3. I'm not sure I've heard of FAS--feeling, action, speech. Do you have that on your website?

    1. I don't have info specifically on my website about that. It's something I always check in dialogue. Angela Hunt at BRMCWC was the writer who introduced me to it. Google and see what you find.

  4. Lisa, I love your list. I think it's a copy and paste one for me. :) And the picture of being a sculptor? Great visual. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

    1. Thanks for stopping by today, Jeanne. Happy writing—and editing—this week.

  5. These tips come at a perfect time. My 4th book is almost ready for edits. :)

    I was privileged to read Beneath a Navajo Moon and loved it! I'm going to check out Under A Turquoise Sky. Tweeted and shared on Pinterest.

  6. Thanks so much Susan. I'm glad these tips were helpful. Hope your edits go well. Godspeed to you and your writing.

  7. Thanks so much for hosting me—and Under a Turquoise Sky—today, Edie. Hope this quick, down and dirty editing checklist will be beneficial to other writers when they're up against a tough deadline.

  8. Great suggestions, Lisa! I like having a quick go-to list. :-) Congrats on ANOTHER new book!