Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Editing Basics

Four girls from Markham Middle (our Riley on the right) ready for All-State Chorus in Tampa.


Just when we were hoping we were done with natural disasters, another catastrophe. Late last fall, the "Thomas" fire, the largest wildfire in California history, denuded the steep hillsides in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, north of Los Angeles. So when 5" of rain fell this week, there was no vegetation to stabilize the steep hillsides, resulting in mud slides that have devastated the region with huge rock falls as well as mud. Whole houses were swept away, the death toll still rising. Blizzards and unusually low temperatures elsewhere in the country. Just the way the ball bounces? Or climate change? Whichever, it ain't good!

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As many of you know, every once in a while I offer concrete examples of what I mean by "editing." Naturally, I have to use my own work, as I don't want to offend any of my fellow writers by playing with theirs! So even if you hate Regency, Gothic, Medieval, Suspense, Mystery, SciFi, or Steampunk, hang in there. Hopefully you'll get the message even if you dislike the medium. [Except - oops - I spent so much time introducing the subject that the examples will have to wait a couple of weeks. (Next week I'll be introducing my latest tale of Suspense, Hidden Danger, Hidden Heart.) So I've changed the name of this week's blog from "Editing Examples" to "Editing Basics."]

Grace note:  For a list of my many detailed posts on editing since January 2011, please see the most recent "Index to Grace's Writing and Editing Posts" (which clearly needs a new edition!). The following is merely a bare bones outline.
For the August 2017 index, click here.

Introduction to Editing:

Editing is multi-faceted. It is on-going. It never stops until you click "Send" to an Agent or Editor. Or "Publish" at the end of an online vendor's upload form. But what do I mean by editing, and why should you do it? Your words are perfection, unassailable. Dictates straight from your brain to your computer, using the sacred medium of a keyboard. Bow down before them, world, and wonder at their greatness!

Oops! I'm beginning to sound like . . .

Alternative facts aside, you may be that rare author who gets every word right the first time around, but the bald truth is, most of us don't. And you're strongly advised to consider yourself among the 99.9 percent who need to edit, rather than have the arrogance to believe you belong in the .1 percent who don't.

For the sake of those who joined us after the last time I explained the two basic types of editing . . .

CONTENT EDITING. This is the really important one. Have you identified your characters? Given enough description to make them interesting? Have you created in-depth characters, made the plot clear? Have you alternated light and dark, action, reaction, recovery? Have you been too cryptic in your sentences, or perhaps your sentences run on and on into infinity. (As they do in a certain bombshell book that came out this week.) Upon re-reading, do your sentences say what you thought they said? In other words, Content Editing is everything BUT the nitty gritty of copy editing.

COPY EDITING. This is the tedious job of checking spelling, grammar, continuity, making sure the facts are straight. It's line by line torture, but it's an absolute necessity to keep your book from looking like Amateur Night in Dixie (if you'll pardon the use of a very old saying).

"I'm submitting my book to an agent with a New York publishing house in mind. They have all sorts of staff, so why should I bother to edit?"

First of all, your pride should demand that you submit the best possible presentation of your work. Secondly, if the editor or agent has two manuscripts of equal quality and he/she can accept only one, which gets the nod? The manuscript that's going to take up hours and hours of the editor's time? The one they're going to have to pay a copy editor overtime to correct? Or the manuscript that will require minimal time and effort? Nuff said.


1.  Run Spell Check! Pay attention. Don't let the program make changes you don't want. CONTROL the flow. (I recommend running Spell Check at the end of each chapter. Just as you should be saving to some type of back-up device at the end of each writing session.)

2.  Read! At the end of each chapter (at the most, two), read over every word. (I recommend doing this on hardcopy, but perhaps that's because I was editing long before word processing existed.) In any event, you need to "discover" what you've actually said. You likely need to add color, clarification (etc.) - or perhaps you "ran off at the keyboard" and need to pare your sentences down to something more concise. Change a word, revise sentences, revise paragraphs, insert descriptions, etc., as necessary. Basically, this is where you begin to make your work better. Make it come alive.

3.  While doing Edit One . . . look for typos, missing words, repeated words, unintentional bad grammar, unchecked facts, phrases that just don't make sense. (That's COPY editing.)

Grace note:   Now that you've made your manuscript more "meaty," perhaps even adding or deleting a character here and there, you are finally ready to move on to next chapter. Editing early allows you to catch mistakes that can escalate into an almost insurmountable fix.

4.  Second Edit. Choose a certain number of chapters (I use five.) At the end of that number of chapters, do a second meticulous edit. You'll still find copy edit problems, but this second edit should be more for the flow of your story. Do the chapters move well from one to another? Do you have a hook or two that keeps readers moving forward? This is when you find yourself saying, Oh wow, I never really made it clear why she did that. Or woops! That's a lousy transition from Chapter 4 to 5, more a "Huh?" than fun to read. (And yes, I do this edit on hardcopy as well. Which means I have to take the time to type in my revisions, but that's what works for me. If you can get the "feel" of what needs to be done from on-screen copy, that's fine.)

Don't forget to run Spell Check after every chapter!
5.  Third Edit.  When each 5-chapter section of my book has been edited twice from Chapter 1 to "The End," and every last revision inserted in the proper place, I print out the entire book and go through it a third time for both polishing the prose and copy editing. (FYI, I type in the revisions at the end of each 5-chapter section. The whole idea of working in sections is so you don't feel overwhelmed by an entire book's worth of edits.)

6. Fourth Edit. I remember the days when I felt my books didn't need a fourth edit. Those days are long gone. This edit, however, is optional. It's possible you really did get the result you wanted by the third edit. In recent years, however, I've been repeating the whole process one more time to make sure all the inserts, deletions, and revisions I made in Edit Three read smoothly.

7.  Final Edit (for indie authors only).  This is the one featured in last week's blog - where you're doing a final run-through of single-spaced, justified copy just prior to upload. Even at this point, it is still possible to find mistakes, or think of a better word, or realize you left some vital motivation out. It's not too late. This is when even I edit "on screen." (And never, even at this point, forget to save to a flash drive or wherever you save your backup copy.)

SUMMARY.  As anyone who reads Mosaic Moments regularly knows, I only give advice. I never say, "My way or the highway." (Too many so-called experts are already guilty of that.) Each author is an individual and must devise his/her own approach to editing. Which is all right, as long as you do it, and do it meticulously and well. Or hire someone to do it for you.

Never, ever, simply enter a Required Page End at the end of a chapter, 
heave a great sigh, and think you're done!

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For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here. 

To request a brochure from Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, please use the link to Blair's website above.

Thanks for stopping by,




  1. I agree 100%. I edit for a publisher and you would NOT believe the "clean" manuscripts I get.

  2. Good to know about these basics, thanks for sharing.
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