Do you ever look into the deep green shadows of a primeval forest and wonder what those secret depths hold? Do you like to write about your new and inventive discoveries while sipping a glass of fragrant wine? Do you enjoy the creative process? Then I hope you will stop a spell, enjoy the adventure, and travel with me as we imagine the possibilities...

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

“It’s Time to Kill Your Baby” – or – “It’s better to edit your own novel as much as possible before you send it to an Editor.”

Not you, Dipster Cat, you're safe. I'm talking about some of the words in my novel!

So you’ve written the great American Novel and are ready to submit it to a publisher, an agent, or even publish it yourself. STOP! First, YOU MUST HIRE A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR! Please do not assume your friends, critique group, mom, dad, or even you can properly edit your novel. They can’t. You can’t.

Most professional editors ask for a sample of your novel before quoting their price for editing. This is the norm. They are not out to milk you of money. What they are doing is charging you according to how much time they will need to invest in working on your book. You can bring this price down by editing on your own as much as possible.  Below are some common things that we can fix before we send our Magnus Opus to be edited.

-ly – Words ending in ly should be used like pepper flakes – only in small quantities. You are a tremendous author. Rewrite. I used ly words like sand on the beach in my first novel. Took me forever to get those buggers out.

-ing – Same as ly words. These things breed – I’m just saying…

Was – Nope, don’t need it. This is passive voice. Again, rewrite. You can do better.

Pronouns – Be careful when using pronouns. Particularly when you have two characters of the same gender. The reader should not have to struggle to understand which individual you are speaking of.

That – Nine times out of ten, this word is just not necessary. Take it out!

Read your book aloud. With feeling. Fix what doesn’t flow, or highlight the section with a bright color so you can go back and take care of the rough spots. A novel is like a symphony, your words should crescendo and ebb with the mood you want to impart. I like to say read it to the cat, not the dog. Your dog will think you are William Shakespeare, J.K. Rowling, Ilona Andrews, or Steve Berry. The cat won’t put up with any crap – read it like a cat! If you have a Kindle, or a Kindle app, you can send it to your Kindle and read your writing like you’d read a published novel. Believe me when I say that it makes a difference.

Do not be afraid to cut sections out of your novel – extended backstory – too much exposition. I know you love a certain character. However, is this character forwarding the plot? If not take the sucker out! Think of excess characters or words as vampires – if they don’t have a stake in the plot – stake them and throw them in a separate document of bits and pieces. Maybe you can use this character in a different novel or short story. In other words – kill that baby!

There are many more things you can do to improve your writing. Google writing tips – everyone has an opinion. Find the ones that you need to use, and go for it.

Do as much editing as you can before sending to an editor. This will improve your writing skills, and cut down on costs for the editing we all need.

The Tallahassee Writers Association has a plethora of professional editors. Check our webpage at, and give them a call. Or check your local writers association. I'm sure they want to help you become a better writer.


  1. I love ALL these tips! And why is it we all start out using so many ly adverbs? I know why we stop, by why start? There has to be an answer to this somewhere.

  2. I feel that ly adverbs are easy to use, and when first putting down your words, they fall off the fingers in quick succession. So long as when we/me as writers go back and clarify what we meant by, say, "quickly," then we are okay.

    For instance "quickly" to me might mean in a day or so, but to someone else could mean two minutes.

    That's my theory, and I'm sticking to it!