A few months ago, shortly after my first experience working with a real editor from a real publisher, I wrote a blog post about the experience. It was (aptly) called Crazy Ideas Like… My Publisher Made Me A Better Writer. If you’re curious, the post is here. That particular post, by far, has had the most views of anything else on my website. Which I figure means, people enjoyed it. And since time is running out and I have a deadline, I figured… Why not bring you Crazy Ideas… Part II.
If you’re worried, relax. While it certainly can’t hurt to read Crazy Ideas Part I (and heck, I’d love it if you checked out my author website), each can be read as a stand alone. Now, let’s talk editing….
- Gazes travel, eyes don’t.
A gaze can travel, it can shift to the side, it can even sweep the room. But eyes, well, they’re just green with gold flecks or brown like molten chocolate or (if you’re writing paranormal) they shift and swirl like liquid mercury. And they do all of this from the safety of your face, without ever going anywhere.
- It’s okay to use he/she.
Dan said this. Dan did that. Dan screamed. Dan cried. Dan ran. Dan found his happily ever after. Dan did all of this with Sheila. Are you sick of Dan yet? My editor was, during first round edits of Naked Truth. Actually, it was Jack she was sick of, because I was afraid to use “he,” especially in scenes and conversations involving Jack and his FBI partner, Cullen. Don’t be like me. Don’t be afraid. Use he/she fluently. Your readers will appreciate it. And so will your editor.
- Make sure the participants are undressed before they have sex.
I’m not talking about the strappy red heels. By all means, leave those on. I’m talking about the jeans, and the undergarments. Think about that last sex scene you wrote. They kissed. A hand stroked a back. She took off his shirt. He unbuttoned hers, unclasped her bra. Things were getting seriously hot and heavy. And then suddenly, they’re having sex.
But I could have sworn when they started, she was wearing a skirt, which truthfully, could be forgiven. What romance novel heroine hasn’t had sex while still wearing her skirt? But his jeans? I’ve never met a pair that allowed a man to have sex unless they were at the very least unsnapped and unzipped. (And as an aside, if, when they’re done, he disposes of a condom, you sure as hell better make sure he puts it on in the first place. Or she does. Your readers won’t be picky. Just as long as someone does.)
Go ahead, give us every detail. Keep going. I know you’re getting hot and bothered, but that’s why you’re writing it, isn’t it? Trust me, your readers will appreciate it. So will their partners. So will the guy in your sex scene, because, really, having sex with your jeans up around your waist just seems uncomfortable.
- Make sure your characters are still in the same location at the end of a long scene.
If our hero is seated at the dining room table when he starts talking, and then at the end of the conversation he’s lounging in the living room, you need to explain the shift in scenery at some point, or else you’ll confuse your readers. They’ll re-read the scene a couple times, just to make sure they read it right. They might get annoyed, or frustrated. And if you make this mistake more than once, it will show up in reviews, and you’ll never, ever be able to delete those reviews, even if you go back and edit the book (assuming it’s an e-book) and re-upload it. I know you’re picturing the scene in your head. Write down exactly what you’re thinking. Don’t skimp. Readers like details, such as the fact that Joe wandered from the kitchen into the living room and flopped onto the recliner. Give them what they want, and they’ll thank you in their reviews.
- –ly is meant to be used sparingly. (Yes, that was on purpose.)
The stone sank quickly. Is “quickly” really necessary in that sentence? Isn’t it implied? Wouldn’t those extra words be put to better use undressing your hunky hero? Sometimes, less is enough. Often, when using adverbs, this is the case. Recognize the words, and delete them when you start self-editing. Now, go back and re-read and then agree with me: Less is enough.
6. For the love of my personal sanity, know the difference between “your” and “you’re.”
I know you know this one, but I feel inclined to include it anyway. This is my singularly biggest pet peeve. Ask anyone in my family. They deliberately send me text messages with this word used improperly because they know it is like nails on a chalkboard to me and for some reason they are all a bunch of sadist freaks. Do not ruin that scene by leaving out the apostrophe and that extra e. Go ahead and turn on grammar check in that Word document. It’s annoying as hell, but it will catch the misuse of your. Which, in my opinion, is worth the annoyance.
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