Wednesday, April 13, 2011

TrAuSt Tour #3: Amy Davis Rose

Hello again fellow webcrawlers. It's Wednesday, and I'm sure you know what that means - TrAuSt is here with another guest author to have some speaks at ya!

Our guest today is the author of three current titles: Ravenmarked, Silver Thaw and Bloodbonded. The titles will be available from the TrAuSt widget shortly. Please browse accordingly :)

Rather than an interview, she has some practical advice and knowledge to paint your brains. Without further ridiculous imagery - here is Amy!

Becoming a Good Self Editor

One of the toughest skill sets writers must develop is being a good self editor. As an independent author, I’m very aware of how thoroughly my work should be edited to compete with traditionally published work, so I strive to be a very good self editor. However, it’s becoming increasingly important for authors pursuing traditional publishing deals to be good self editors as well. More and more, I hear about how agents and editors are looking for manuscripts that need little more than a copyedit. There just aren’t as many editors in legacy publishing today, and the ones that are still around are overloaded.

Editing your own work isn’t complicated. It just takes practice. Here are a few things that help me edit myself so that my stories are as polished as possible when I send them off for feedback:

1)Fly high, fly low. This is a concept shared by Hallie Ephron at the last Willamette Writers Conference I attended. It’s somewhat intuitive, and yet… It isn’t. Too many writers get caught up in editing little sentences or paragraphs that they cut later because of major storyline changes. If you start at the top level and work your way down, you’ll save a lot of time and make more intelligent changes to your manuscript. At the high level, edit for plot, structure, and character. In the middle, edit for character voice, setting, point of view, and chapter and scene consistency and flow. When you get to the low level, you can concern yourself with the flow of the language within each scene and work your way down to doing just a copy edit or proofread.

2)Learn to use “search” and “find” intelligently. The “search” feature in whatever word processing application you use is your friend—but only if you use it wisely! Don’t hurt yourself by searching for every instance of “as” or “was.” Rather, search for the phrases you know are your tics—those things that you keep saying over and over. Maybe you say “almost as if” a lot—search for the whole phrase. Or if you know you have an adverb addiction, search for “ly” with a space afterward and then with a period after. You’ll catch most of the egregious ones without making yourself crazy. Also, search for some key passive or weak phrases that fall into a lot of first drafts. A few to start with: there was, there were, he/she saw, he/she felt, was being, were being.

3)Find your tics. Every writer has them. You know—those phrases you say over and over? Maybe it’s a particular phrase you use with one of your characters, or maybe it’s just a thing you do as a writer. I have an eye tic. If there’s a way for eyes to do something, I’ve found it. People are always glancing, looking, staring, gazing, narrowing, darting, closing, etc. Plus, I tend to describe eyes a lot. It’s just what I do. Now that I know it, I search for it and try to find ways to tone it down.

4)Look at things a new way. Reading your manuscript aloud is useful. So is reading it on your e-reader rather than on your computer screen. A hard copy with a red pen works wonders for me. I actually used up an entire red pen on edits for my novel Ravenmarked! Another tip at the low, low level of editing—use a text-to-speech function or application on your e-reader or word processing application. One free TTS app for Word is WordTalk. The advantage of having the computer read it is that it doesn’t make mistakes or glance over errors. You’ll find things that don’t show up in spell check!

5)Use the common tools, too! Which reminds me… Don’t forget spell check and grammar check! Yes, it’s a pain, because in fiction we purposely break the rules all the time. But it’s a good final step—just run the spell and grammar check one more time and be prepared to use the “ignore” button a lot.

6)Be ruthless… To your manuscript. It’s not just about “killing your darlings,” because some of your darlings are probably fine. Rather, you need to look at your story from every angle with the critical eye of an unforgiving reader. Do you see clichés? Inconsistencies? Plot holes? Can you change them? This ruthless mindset should be present at every level of your editing.

7)But, also be kind… To yourself, that is. Don’t berate yourself for mistakes, no matter how big. When you are in creative mode, you use a different part of your brain than when you’re in editing mode. Be kind to your creative brain—you’ll want to use it again someday! And you may need it if you find a plot hole or a visible seam in your writing. Don’t beat yourself up and then expect to have the creative energy to fill in a hole—you’ll just perpetuate the cycle.

Being a good self editor is not a substitute for feedback from beta readers, critique partners, and other editors, but it will get you a long way toward making their feedback count. A very well-edited manuscript will help your readers focus on the story, not the issues that you can catch by being a good self editor. And when readers focus on the story, they can give a more valuable critique of issues you may have missed.

Ultimately, your goal is to let your end user sink fully into the story. A well-edited, thoroughly critiqued manuscript will put you well on the path to that goal.

So, there you have it! I think it was very informative. Tell me, did you learn anything? I recently have been using search and replace more often. It's easier than skimming 40 pages, for sure!

Please feel free to leave comments below. If you wish to contact Amy, here is her info:

Author Website:


  1. Thanks for having me today, J. E.! :)

  2. My pleasure, thanks for joining us! You've been popular, if the hits on the page are any indication ;)

  3. Great post Amy! I love reading your writer suggestions. I swear, I'm a better writer because of the knowledge you share. I'm tweeting this blog post now ;)

    Angeline Kace

  4. Nice blog! Editing is probably one of the most boring tasks we writers have to learn, and I think it makes it that much more difficult to actually do it.

    There is no such thing as a publishable first draft. Everything ever written could benefit from at least one go over -- and at the same time, you have to know when to just let it ride and say good night.

    Thanks for the advice, Amy! And thanks also to J.E. who made this post happen. :-)


    One More Day: A Modern Ghost Story

  5. Hi

    Thanks so much for the advice. Just finished the first draft of my story and have never really got to the editing stage before. Will definitely use your advice when doing so.


  6. Amy, it feels like you're in my brain!
    Great ideas and even better putting them together to help us. I will try to increase my use of 'search and destroy' -- Oops, that wasn't quite it, was it?

    I think Nicolas makes a good point also: not only does everything need this attention, but we have to stop, too. Now, if there was a magic formula to tell us when the sledge had been dragged far enough...
    Mnay thanks to JE for hosting.

  7. One thing I forgot to mention. If you are hard over against using Word (good for you!) the techniques Amy points out work as well in Open Office, which is free.

  8. Wow, thanks so much for the comments, everyone! And I'm really glad this was so helpful! :)

    @Angeline, thanks for the very kind compliment and the tweet. :)

    @Nick, you do make a great point about knowing when to stop. It's tough. The thing I've had to realize is that I'll kill myself trying to get from 95% or 98% to 100%, because it'll never be perfect. And truly, most people who read my work won't even notice those few little niggling things that I might obsess over. There comes a point when you just have to say, "It's done!"

    @Gayle, congratulations on finishing a first draft! That's a huge accomplishment in itself! I hope these techniques help you as you work through the draft. :)

    @Tony, LOL re: "search and destroy." When it comes to adverbs, you may not be wrong... ;-) Glad you found it helpful. I'll try to stay out of your brain. ;-)

    Thanks, everyone!