Don't do it alone.
Yes, writing is a solitary effort. With fingers poised above the keyboard—pen or pencil in hand—you work alone to get what you want to say into words. But if you're writing is meant to be published, working with an editor is an important, and necessary, step in making it the best it can be.
As you write you'll make changes to each of the sentences you write. You might find a sentence works better at the end of a paragraph than in the middle. You may decide you don’t need that sentence at all. You'll reorder chapters and paragraphs. You'll fix things, changes things, and you'll miss things. Even if you’re a highly organized, detailed writer.
It can also be difficult to see your writing or manuscript as others might.
An editor can help.
Four levels of editing:
1) developmental editing
2) line editing
Depending on your writing ability and where you are with your book, you may need all, or at least one of the first three levels of editing listed.
Proofreading is last on the list, and it should not be ignored. Every book needs to be proofread. And it's best to hire someone who'll be seeing the book for the first time. You (and your editor) have been reading, correcting, and modifying your book for weeks, months, years maybe. It will be difficult to see typos and small mistakes at this stage.
Here's what each level brings to your writing:
1) Developmental Editing
This is done early on. If you’re questioning the direction of your book or struggling with how to pull it all together, a developmental editor can help. Here, the editor can help you plan and organize what you want to write. If you've already done a bit of writing, a developmental editor will look for gaps. They'll note cumbersome transitions ... maybe suggest a chapter placed early in the book would work better toward the end. Or suggest you cut it altogether and replace it with something else.
Developmental editing considers the book as a whole.
2) Line Editing
Line editing focuses on the style and flow of your writing. A line edit will tighten awkward phrases, eliminate jargon, and optimize flow. Have you used clichés where your own writing would be more effective?
Line editing brings out the best in your writing style.
Copyediting focuses on the technical side of your writing with a close look at grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and formatting issues.
Copyediting puts the polish on your writing.
This is the final step before you publish. Here, the proofreader checks for spelling errors, missing punctuation, and minor errors.
Ideally, there will be few corrections at this stage.
Writing and rewriting can be rewarding, tiring ,and frustrating. But when you arrange that troublesome sentence into something concise, something that says exactly what you’re trying to say, you know it was worth all the back and forth.
A thoughtful editor can help you become a better writer.
Reviewing the changes an editor suggests will help you look more closely at what you’ve written. Oftentimes an editor might make a comment about something you might have caught on your own with a more focused reading, but that can be difficult.
Working with an editor is like an athlete working with a trainer. It's a learning experience that will sharpen your skill, make you a better writer, and help you write the best book possible.
What is your book about?
There are lots of things to consider before you start writing your book. One of the most important is answering the question: what is your book about?
It may seem obvious to you, but the real test is whether or not you can explain it to someone else—in just a sentence or two.
It's a good way, too, to help you focus your efforts and writing.
To answer the question, consider what you’re trying to accomplish with your book. Do you have insights and experience that might be helpful to others? Are you eager to share your knowledge? Is it a guide or handbook? Will your book recount the history of an event or company?
It can be difficult to distill what your book is about in one sentence, but the process can help you define what you're writing about ... and why.
What's the point?
When I started my book A Snail Mail Guide to Cursive Writing Practice, it started as a book about cursive writing. Why cursive? Schools across the country have cut cursive writing instruction from the curriculum and friends and family have recounted stories of their children not being able to read cursive.
Writing is an important part of my life and I wondered: does it matter that children aren't being taught cursive. That they can't read cursive? I think so.
Studies show writing by hand can help us learn and retain more information. And if we’re worried or struggling with something, writing about it by hand can help us make sense of things.
Making a connection
I decided to write an instruction book for cursive writing, but also understood I needed to give people a reason to write by hand. I had to find a reason for them to write.
The answer came through letter writing. As an avid letter writer, I know letters, cards and notes build connections. Letters can help us reach out, in a tangible way, to the people we care about. And someone’s handwriting on the envelope and letter inside? It brings them closer. Your handwriting is a reflection of your personality and is as unique as you are. It's part of what makes the letters we send so special. When I get letters, I don't even need to read the return address ... I know who it's from just by looking at the handwriting.
And now, as we navigate the isolation and social distancing of the pandemic, more people are writing letters.
Years ago my grandfather wrote to me and I saved one of his letters.
The broad stroke of the capital "H" that begins his first name reflects his strength and wisdom; the big loop on his letter "y" at the end of my name, his warmth and open kindness.
When I talk about writing letters, so many people tell me they worry about their handwriting. Say they’re embarrassed by it. I want to change that. I want people to use their handwriting as a tool, not to shy away from it.
I knew I wanted to write about cursive writing and letter writing, but I had to figure out what I was trying to say. I needed a hook, an emotional connection. Here's what I came up with:
Spend more time with the people you love and like and improve your handwriting at the same time.
Reducing your book to one sentence may be a challenge, but when you do, you’ll find the clarity and purpose you need to move forward.
Need help clarifying what your book is about? Reach out, maybe I can help.
Spelling is complicated ... and easier than ever. Spell-check is a great tool, even if it's always correcting me, fixing my mistakes, and schooling me on the proper spelling of this word ... and that one.
But, despite its know-all application, I know it's not perfect.
Do the spell-check double check
Spell-check catches a lot, but a regular check on spell-check is good practice.
Proofread your writing
Your book, ebooks, essays, and emails could all use a good proofing before being shared.
Give your writing (no matter the format) a good review; eyeballs on each and every word.
Read your writing out loud
When you've got your final draft, read your writing out loud. It's one of the best ways to catch awkward phrases and confusing sentences.
This simple infographic was designed to help you visualize three words that spell-check, and your memory bank, might struggle with: their, they're, and there.
The first clue: they all start with the same three letters: t-h-e.
It's a good tip. Especially when you're trying to remember how to spell their. Is it "i" before "e"? Not this time.
Wondering if it's their or they're? Just remember their is possessive. The clue here is the possessive "i" tucked in there, just right of center.
What about they're? Break it apart and look at the two words it represents to get your answer: they're = they are. Is that what you're trying to say? It's a good tip for figuring out if it's its or it's, too. Separate the words and you'll know.
And finally, there. It, too, holds a clue, it's got the word "here" nestled comfortably inside itself. Remember that and you'll know if it's here or there where you want to be.
If you need help with words, let's exchange a few. Maybe I can help.
I write words, edit words, and arrange words, online and on paper. Helping you look like the professional you are.
Call 207-252-9757 today, or write.
p.s. I did the spell-check double check on this email and my fingers are crossed I didn't miss anything. But let me know if I did.
Much of my work revolves around words: arranging words, writing words, and editing words.
Last week I considered the word racism. And then the opposite, respect: to show regard or consideration for.
As I considered the words, I imagined editing them, replacing one with the other. Then illustrating the idea with red line editing; crossing out the unwanted word, writing in the new one.
Spell-check and track changes in word processing documents have replaced red line edits done by hand. A hand-drawn line through a word with a loop at the end indicates the word should be taken out. Removed. The arrow indicates what it should be replaced with.
If only it were that easy to edit and change behavior. To replace racism with respect and acknowledge that Black Lives Matter.
Flipping the switch was flipping me out. Last week's storm left us without power.
It was Thursday morning and I was up early. Not because the alarm went off. No, it was the rain lashing against the bedroom window that woke me.
Fifteen minutes later the power went out.
It was a blackout: no power, no lights, no heat, no opening the refrigerator, and no computer.
A day and a half later (37 hours, but really, who's counting) we still didn't have power.
But I was still flipping switches.
It wasn't that I was hoping the power was back, it was utterly clear that it wasn't. It was habit. An especially bad habit in light of things. At least a dozen times I flipped a wall switch.
And each time it was the same thing. Nothing.
It was worse than nothing. I was ready to scream. Well, I did scream. It was so frustrating.
Flipping the switch was flipping me out.
So I put my headlamp on.
The headlamp gave me what I needed: a beam of light.
I stopped flipping switches.
The point is to see it fresh.
Sometimes a fresh approach to a nagging problem can help you move forward. If you've been struggling with your marketing, a book, or your website, maybe I can help:
• blog posts
• email marketing
Call 207-252-9757 or write today for a free consultation and a fresh start.
It was the third round of editing on a piece I was writing about the autumn harvest. It was all about kale, collards, squash, and Brussels sprouts. The problem was, I had it all wrong.
Instead of Brussels sprouts, I was writing brussel sprouts. No capital B at the beginning, no s on the end of Brussels.
I'd cooked and eaten lots of Brussels sprouts, but clearly I'd never written about them.
Lesson #1: Proper names have proper spellings.
When a red line appeared below the misspelled "brussel," I was surprised. So I checked the dictionary.
I found the correct spelling: A capital B? A bit more digging revealed the name comes from the city of Brussels, in Belgium.
Unless you're certain about the correct spelling of a product, a city, a town, someone's name, title, or product, look it up.
That was last year. This year, I have another editing tip courtesy of the Brussels sprout.
Last week I was watching a cooking show when the chef introduced a new segment by saying, "Today we're making Brussels sprouts."
Lesson #2: Ask yourself, "Is that what's really going on?"
Of course the chef wouldn't be "making" Brussels sprouts, as in constructing or creating them. He would be cooking them. Or, maybe he'd be roasting them.
In the context of the show, it didn't matter much. It was a live taping and viewers could watch and listen.
But his word choice caught my ear. I've been writing a lot and that means I'm rewriting and editing a lot.
I wanted to edit the script, to rewind the tape and have the chef say, "Today we're roasting Brussels sprouts."
Roasting is a more descriptive word. Making is vague and in this example, inaccurate.
Every word has a purpose.
Lesson #3: Just because you're familiar with something doesn't mean you know all you need to know.
It turns out eating Brussels sprouts didn't make me an expert. From misspellings to context and relevance, it's important to know what you're writing about. Do some research. Dig around. What you find may not only surprise you, it could add a new dimension to your project.
Get Your Cabbage On
Are you a fan? Brussels sprouts with a capital B offer a boost of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. And they're good for gut health, too.
The only question is, how will you cook them?
Feeling the heat?
If you don't like to write, are feeling overwhelmed, or just need a fresh set of eyes to read through what you written, let me know. I can help with:
Notes on illustrations:
The title illustration with the Brussels sprouts images was created for this post. The letter is hand-drawn using Ledge, a lettering style I developed for my Riddle Me Mail project. If you're interested, here's a how-to lettering guide for Ledge.
The autumn collage was also created for Riddle Me Mail. You can learn more about my collage process here.
Call 207-252-9757 or write today for a free consultation.
Love It or Hate It
Whether or not you like to write, it seems most of us have to do some sort of writing at some point.
Email is ever-present, websites are all about content, content, content, and blogs can challenge the best of us.
When I'm struggling to begin a new writing project, big or small, I remind myself that getting something down on paper is a good first step. It can be an outline, a summary, or a list. Something, anything to get me started.
When Things Get Fuzzy
After two, three, or four rounds of writing, editing, and rewriting, things can get fuzzy. Overwhelm sets in and I'm burdened by the order of things. I worry about what it is I'm trying say, how much to say, and how to say it.
That's when I revisit one of these books:
• Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
• Writing Well, William Zinsser
• Words Fail Me, Patricia T. O'Conner
Revisiting them reminds me what it takes to write well.
• In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott, reminds me that I just need to start. Forget about word choice and form. Just write.
• On Writing Well by William Zinsser reminds me that good writing is all about rewriting and clearing the clutter.
• Words Fail Me is funny. Patricia T. O'Conner reminds me that each sentence has a job to do, that clarity is paramount, and it's OK to lighten up a bit.
I've read each one of these books cover to cover, many times. But it's hard to remember it all. When my writing gets the best of me, I grab one, read a chapter or two, take a deep breath, and get back to writing.
Writing Is Hard
If you don't like to write, are feeling overwhelmed, or just need a fresh set of eyes to read through what you've written, I can help:
• content development
If I can help, call 207-252-9757 or write today for a free consultation.
And stay tuned. I've got a new book in the works. Here's a hint:
Boost your credibility.
Writing a book can boost your credibility as an expert in your field and it serves as a permanent record of your achievements, ideas, and expertise.
Make it the best it can be.
If your book is hard to read or lacks a professional presentation, you'll lose readers before they get to the last sentence in the first chapter.
Let's make your book real page turner.
Together, we'll make your book read well and look good. From creative page designs to illustrations, photos, and sidebars, we'll make it a real page turner.
• illustrated biographies
• reference books
• corporate histories
Get the 5 Compelling Reasons to Write That Book
Call, text (207.252.9757), or write today, for a free consultation to see how I can help make you look good in print and online.
Letters from Camp
It happens every summer. One publication or another runs an article about camp letters. Missives from home-sick, bug-swatting campers who have been cut-off from smart phones and social media.
Most include funny stories about how good or bad the food is, how infrequently someone may or may not be brushing their teeth, or how often they're changing their underwear. But a lot of them begin or end with some commentary about how kids these days don't know the basics of writing a letter, let alone how to address an envelope.
I write a lot of letters and have been for a long time. I know how to address an envelope, where to put my return address, and where to put the stamp. I thought most everyone else did, too.
Not so much.
I'm sure it's a problem that extends beyond campers stationed in remote woodlands, reduced to pen and paper, so I created an infographic to address the issue. The Elements of a Letter offers a rundown of the basics: gathering supplies, writing a letter, addressing an envelope, and where to put the stamp.
If you're interested in reading more about writing letters, visit, Postmark1206, where all things letter writing can be found. Letter writing, it turns out is good for campers, their parents, and rest of us, too.