Calle J. Brookes

Romance Novelist & Freelance Editor

For Writers

First Steps in the Revision Process:

Posted by [email protected] on July 22, 2011 at 2:10 PM

Contrary to a growing belief, editors are not supposed to fix a story or rewrite it. I see this myth perpetuated by beginning writers on freelance boards and writing forums all the time. Editors are not book doctors. Book doctors are those who are paid by writers to fix a book’s problems such as story structure, characterization,and plot. Editors and book doctors—two different things.

Editors are most often hired by publishers to ‘clean up’ books and give author’s guidance in ensuring their work meets the house’s guidelines, and that the story is as strong as it can be. Editors don’t rewrite the book; they make minor changes such as punctuation gaffes or inappropriate word usage. They don’t add scenes or merge characters. They tell the author what needs done and the author is responsible for making those changes, while preserving the integrity of the story.

But many new writers think that once they have a decent story finished they can just send it out to publishers, who may accept it. After all, as long as the story’s good it will get accepted.

Wrong. The competition for book slots is fierce and overworked editors may spend less than five minutes reading through a story with significant problems or issues before they send it back to the author. And if the problems are so significant that the editor (be it an acquisitions, copy, or content editor) rejects it that quickly, chances are good a second story won’t be picked up by that publisher.Or that the first story will even make it to acceptance, let alone publication.

So how do you ensure your work doesn’t contain fatal errors? Errors that will get you tossed out of the writing game before you fully get on the court?

By editing.

Set your work aside for at least one month then start the editing process. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Plot: Read the book as if you were a reader reading it for the very first time. Does it flow? Make sense? Does anything stand out as being illogical? Is there a clear story arc? Make notes of anything that you question. Is the storyline as unique as you can make it?


2.Characterization: Are your characters realistic? Are they too larger than life? Do they possess characteristics that your readers can relate to? Are they all physically perfect or do they have body traits that are normal? Are they named names that start with different letters?


3. Pacing: Is the story active? Does it move from plot point to plot point in a balanced way? (Some reasonable slow points countered by points of high energy or movement?) Is the timeline realistic? (No having characters doing 48 hours worth of actions in less than 12?) Does every scene, paragraph, dialogue, etc. move the story forward?


4.Dialogue: Is each character’s voice unique to the character? Realistic for the setting? Punctuated correctly? Is it clear who is speaking? Are the dialogue’s tagged appropriately, with action rather than generic ‘uttered’ or ‘countered’ type tags?


5. Writing/Structure: Is every sentence strong and effective? Is the punctuation correct? Are the paragraphs of varying length and composition? Are transitions between paragraphs, scenes, and POV’s clear? Is the document formatted correctly? Most publishers expect 10-12pt fonts, in Courier New or Times New Roman, and double-spaced.


Before you submit your story to anyone, ensure that it is the strongest and cleanest story you can make it. You will only be doing yourself a favor in the long run—and from us overworked, word-overloaded editors everywhere…we’ll say “Thank you!” in advance!


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