Monday, November 15, 2010

On the Chopping Block with Guest Blogger Alison Henderson

The Book Boost Welcomes Guest Author Alison Henderson who is here to discuss the Importance of Self Editing.

Here's what she had to say...

We all know publishers have limited resources to devote to editing these days. Many editors are overburdened and under appreciated. They lack the time to spend with individual authors tightening scenes and strengthening story arcs. And copy editing is becoming a lost art. I don’t believe I’ve read a book by a top author in the past year that didn’t contain at least three glaring copy edit errors. Now, more than ever, writers are responsible for the product that ultimately reaches the reader.

I had a wonderful experience with my first book, Harvest of Dreams, released last month by The Wild Rose Press. My editor was gentle and patient, guiding me through three rounds of edits until we had a satisfying final version. I soon realized an objective editor is worth her weight in gold. I thought I knew how to write, but during the process she taught me to recognize and remove redundancies, energize passive writing, and beat down my proclivity to stuff sentences with adverbs.

Unfortunately, we can’t always rely on someone else to point out the flaws in our work and suggest corrections. If we want to get published and stay published, we have to nourish our inner self-editor.

I’m not talking about the little voice of self-doubt that criticizes every word choice and threatens to strangle your muse during the first or second draft. I’m talking about a critic who can review the almost-final product and see mistakes with detached clarity.

Every writer should develop a self-editing checklist based on his or her weaknesses. The process requires self-knowledge, but isn’t that one of the ultimate goals and rewards of writing?

Here’s a short version of mine. Perhaps some of these will strike a chord with you, too.

1. Watch those #%$&* adverbs!
2. Remove unnecessary “that”s.
3. Watch for word echoes (words repeated too close together).
4. Keep verbs active (within reason). I once had to give up on a mystery after three chapters because the author had amped up every single verb. The result was unnatural and exhausting.
5. Show, don’t tell.
6. Balance dialogue tags and beats. Too few and the reader won’t know who’s talking. Too many and you interrupt the flow.
7. Use repetitive words or elements with caution.
8. Maintain consistent point of view. This is partly a matter of style, but I prefer deep third person POV and try to catch myself if I start drifting father away.

There are many more pitfalls in writing, so find your own, and happy editing!

A Note from the Book Boost: Yep, I'm world famous for using too many "thats" in my writing. The good old Ctrl F feature on Word is my best friend when it comes to editing. Thanks for sharing your editing tips with us. Please tell us more about your new release.


Alone on her farm in the middle of a blizzard, young widow Lisa McAllister labors to give birth to her first child. Help arrives in the strong hands of a stranger wearing a six-gun. Lisa has no reason to trust this man who makes a living by violence, even if he is on the right side of the law. Men and their guns have already claimed the lives of her father, brother, and husband, and she’s determined to protect her son at any cost.

Jared Tanner, a security agent for the stagecoach, has been on his own since he was twelve. Against his better judgment, his feelings of protectiveness toward Lisa and her baby turn to something deeper, and he is tempted by the possibility of a family of his own. Can their tender new love survive when an act of ultimate violence threatens to tear them apart?


Jared was the first to speak. "I'm not sorry."

She remained silent.

"This doesn't change anything," he said.

Lisa pulled back and looked up, shaking her head. "It changes everything."

"No, it doesn't. The feelings were there before, and they'll still be there whether we act on them or not."

She didn't try to deny it. "But we can’t, and it will be so much harder now."

"That's true. Now you know how much I want you, and I know you want me, too. I don’t know where this is going, but we have to find out.”

“I don’t want to find out.” But a small voice inside denied the words. Part of her had to know.

“I think you do, and I know I do. I'm not going to offer to leave, even though it might make some things easier, not unless you can convince me you really want me to go." He cupped her face in both hands and searched her eyes. "Do you?"

Lisa knew she should say yes and remove the unbearable

temptation of his presence, but she couldn't bring herself to speak the lie. She shook her head.


Jared's lips moved in a tiny smile, then his serious expression returned. "I can't tell you I'll never kiss you again, or touch you, or that I won't want to get even closer to you, but I promise I won't press you for anything you don't want to give. I'd never do anything to hurt you. You know that, don't you?"

She nodded.

"Good. Now it's time for you to get some sleep." He led her to the bed and tucked her in, his hands lingering as he smoothed the quilt across her. Then he leaned over her, his expression rigid and deadly serious. "I want you to know leaving you tonight is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. But I want more from you than one night in your bed."

Want More Alison?

Visit her website here:

Pick up your copy of her book today. Click here!


Jannine Gallant said...

Some great editing tips, Alison. Another one I learned from my editor - name dropping. Use he/she instead of names whenever possible to help with the flow of your writing.

Alison Henderson said...

I agree. It sounds unnatural to use proper names too often.

Margaret Tanner said...

Great blog Alison. Very helpful tips. I am the queen of head hopping, but I am trying to keep it under control.



LizbethSelvig said...

Hi Alison,
I'm late to your party today, you know why? Because I've been in editing-land doing, you guessed it, self editing! I loved your checklist. I have a 2-page list of words that I check for. Some of mine are odd: turned, slouch/slump (my characters seem to have fairly poor posture), tugged, well, grin/smile, so, just, even, felt ... anyhow--makes for long editing sessions!

My worst habit is starting sentences with conjunctions: and, but, and so. My characters are also kind of lazy speakers :-)

Fun topic, Alison!

Alison Henderson said...

Hi Margaret! Isn't it frustrating when you think you've got them all, only to have a few subtle POV errors slip through?

Hi Liz. Two pages? You're so thorough. I'm impressed!

P.L. Parker said...

I am also a head hopper - I guess I like to know what everyone is thinking. My busybody self stepping out.

Mary Ricksen said...

Thanks for the wonderful suggestions!
Good luck Alison!