Quick, Down & Dirty Edits

by Lisa Carter, @LisaCarter27

So here’s the thing—

You’ve written this article/blog post/novel. And like 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 been 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.)

You had the best intentions 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 they want it yesterday.You can’t let such a marvelous opportunity slip through your fingers. But what’s a writer to do?

Some of you dread the editing process. And at the risk of sounding masochistic and weird, I’ll admit I actually enjoy editing. 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 I crave one more look-see, one more run-through. Just to be sure. Just to be thorough.

But for those situations where speed is essential, I’ve come up with a last minute editing checklist. This approach is similar to the quick cleanup I utilize for occasions when unexpected guests are en route to my house.As in—you’ve only enough time for a spit and polish. Only time to clear the deck.To remove the heavy debris. To wipe down 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 five senses have you included?
  5. Have you varied each paragraph opening or do they each—three paragraphs in a row—begin with the same 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 say, “You guys.”
  9. Did you spell check?
    You can guess my final piece of advice—
  10. Last but not least, did you eliminate all clichéd phrases and untangle mixed metaphors?

I liken the editing process to that of a sculptor. By chipping away at this ungainly lump of stone, your editing chisel slowly releases the beauty hidden within the pages of your novel.

Happy editing,


The Christmas Baby

Mistletoe Mommy

Anna Reyes is pregnant and widowed, and a Christmas homecoming isn’t so simple. Reuniting with her best friend, Ryan Savage, makes it easier—even though she knows he’ll soon be leaving their small coastal hometown. After putting his career on hold for his family’s business, Ryan’s finally ready to pursue his goals. But as he and Anna work to make the holidays special for a group of at-risk kids, Ryan wonders if he can give up one dream for another. They’re determined to make this a Christmas to remember, but can Ryan and Anna also make their holiday family last forever?

Lisa Carter is the bestselling author of seven romantic suspense novels, four historical novellas and a contemporary Coast Guard series. The Stronghold won the 2017 Daphne du Maurier. Under a Turquoise Sky won the 2015 Carol Award for Romantic Suspense. Beyond the Cherokee Trail was a 4 1/2 star Romantic Times Top Pick. Lisa enjoys traveling to romantic locales and researching her next exotic adventure. When not writing, she loves spending time with her family and teaching writing workshops. A native North Carolinian, she has strong opinions on barbecue and ACC basketball. http://www.lisacarterauthor.com

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