Monday, November 29, 2010

The Dreaded Editing Process

hi everyone - hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving. I got some requests to talk about the editing process. This is a great topic because we all want our manuscripts to be the best they can be before sending it out to a publishing house. The less work an editor has to do, the higher our chances of getting picked up.

I will be using the book, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. I recommend buying this book to keep in your library so you can refer to it often. You can find it on

Writing and editing are two different skills. You actually use different sides of the brain for them. I've heard it called the Critic and the Creative. The Critic is stronger than the Creative, most of the time. And the older you get, the stronger it gets, unless you work to rev up the Creative. The Critic settles down when you are sleeping or doing something that doesn't require concentration, like taking a shower, running the vacuum cleaner or washing the dishes. Do you ever notice you get good ideas when doing things like that?

So, it's best not to edit while you are writing. At least, that's what I've been taught. But I find it almost impossible to do that until I'm down to the wire and simply HAVE to get something finished. Then I bust through, get it down and play with it when I'm done.

We focus on fantasy here, but the editing process is the same no matter the genre.

Chapter One of the book is called "Show and Tell." You may have heard it another way - "Show, Don't Tell." There are times, of course, when you simply need to tell something, but the reader would rather be shown. Here's an example:

Verilla was mad. (telling)

How would you change this to show the reader Verilla is mad? Would it look different if Verilla was a man?

Do you have anything in your WIP that you need help with showing instead of telling? Share it with us, and we'll work on it together. Have fun!


  1. Showing: Turning red in the face, Verilla grit her teeth, biting back a round of invectives.

    Meh, that's terrible. Anyway, there's my hasty attempt.

    I was tying my shoes once, while the History Channel played in the background and got the idea for a novella that was picked up by Silver Blade. The best ideas come around like that.

    Thanks for posting this!

  2. Showing: Verilla glared at her brother.
    Glaring's a little overused. She could throw something.

  3. Good - you have the idea. When we "show" something, we often use more words. That's why we need to discern what we show and what we tell.

    Court Ellen, another thing to look for is "ing" words. They can make a sentence awkward. Here's how I would change your suggestion: Verilla felt her face flush. She grit her teeth and bit back a round of invectives.

    Invectives is a great word. :)

    Keep in mind, Verilla can't SEE her face turn red, unless she's looking in a mirror. But she can FEEL it. That's another thing we need to keep in mind.

    Jadi - glared is a little overused, but it's a strong verb and leaves no doubt. And you can use it because we can FEEL ourselves glare. After all, we're in control of our facial expressions. It's okay to use "glared."

    It really depends on the character. In Fairyeater, my witch, Tzmet, glares when angry. She also slams the table with her fist, throws things and spews insults. Kind of typical, but she's so funny when she does it that those who have read the manuscript don't seem to mind. It really comes down to knowing your characters.

  4. You girls are so lucky. Writing about fairies, fantasy and the like. Me I'm just a boring old technical writer (just retired) and have found a new world of fantasy. I arrived at your site while checking on my site links. How lucky is that! Pam, I look forward to continue reading your tips and know that I will certainly learn something worthwhile.

  5. hey Mike - welcome to FFF! My favorite fantasy writer is a guy: Terry Brooks. I just finished The Elfstones of Shannara and the Wishsong of Shannara for the countless time. :) Be sure to check the archives. I went through The Hero's Journey last year and it was great.

    I'll be posting the next step in the editing process next week.