My Most Common Self-Edits

This summer marks eleven years in the publishing and writing industry and I spent some time looking at older samples of my writing. After reading through some older pieces, it was encouraging to see how my writing has grown, but also eye-opening to see some of the same “struggle areas” that are still present in my writing, but that I’m better equipped to fix these days.

As a quick overview, I was a journalism major and worked on the campus newspaper (staff writer, copy editor, then editor-in-chief) so my college years were filled to the brim with writing and studying writing and relevant theories. It was also a unique time to be a journalism major (2008-2012) as journalism programs across the country were already beginning to incorporate the necessary tools and techniques necessary to train writers for a digital landscape. Opening a Twitter account, learning how to create QR codes and shoot video to accompany a story were all things I learned in college…and even from my freshman year to my senior year, there were large leaps in how the news was presented and further leaps continued to happen after I graduated.

Right after graduating, I interned at a local publishing house as a copy editor and gained exposure to the book publishing world, which I fell in love with. I got married later that year and started an office job, so apart from my personal blog, writing and editing took a backseat for a while.

In 2015, I began writing my devotional series for preteen girls so since then, I have been involved with a mix of writing non-fiction, copy editing, line editing, and copywriting. At times writing has taken a front seat and at other times, editing has. Currently, editing is in the front seat.

So in looking at my writing and editing arc over the last decade, what are my most common self-edits?

More Focus/More Specificity

A lot of my early writing, while it might have contained a good idea, skimmed the surface…and stayed there, which is a fairly common problem in young writers. I spoke in vague generalities and shied away from making specific applications because I was either afraid to or simply didn’t see the opportunities. Now I’m better at seeing opportunities to go deeper or to be more specific when providing examples or illustrating concepts (since so much of my writing is non-ficiton, this is how it shows up). It’s also one of the most common things I point out to new authors when editing their work.

One of the ways you can catch this in your own writing is to re-read a section that introduces a new character, plot line, or concept. Try and read it from your reader’s perspective with no background knowledge of the story or piece. Do any questions come to mind? Any points of confusion? Answer those questions then in the text.

Improving Transitions

I hate a jolting lane change while in the car, especially while pregnant! I also dislike such a jolt in writing. This is one area that I’m constantly working to improve in my writing because I want my reader to have a great experience when reading my piece. I want to eliminate distractions and confusion, and smooth, logical transitions help with that.

In Lisa McClendon’s “The Perfect English Grammar Workbook” (a great resource for writers at all stages) she breaks down the types of transitions into a few categories:

  • Addition/similarity
  • Contrast/opposition
  • Examples/emphasis
  • Results/effects
  • Time/sequence
  • Conclusion/summary

All of these (and more) help your reader tie a previous concept to the one you are now introducing. Sometimes a transition just needs to be a sentence or two, sometimes it could need a paragraph. Regardless of the form it takes, don’t give your reader whiplash with your writing. Lead them down a smooth road with clearly marked exit and entrance ramps to your ideas!

My audience has changed

One of the biggest adjustments my writing has gone through has been a change in audiences.

  • In school, I was mainly writing to other students
  • My books are geared toward preteens and teens
  • My current blog material is geared toward aspiring writers

Each shift in my audience has required changes in my content, and each one has challenged me in different ways. It’s forced me think about the needs and desires of really different demographics and how my writing can serve each of them. Have you put in the legwork to really understand your audience? Targeting your audience is not a one-and-done chore, but a facet you’ll need to check in with periodically.

One of the most helpful exercises I did was to build profiles of audience members and outline their needs, wants, and interests. I even had pictures of these audience members. While that may seem strange, it was so helpful to put a face to the person I was writing to.

These areas are common areas that all writers address from time to time. So pull out your WIP and look for areas that lack focus or having a jolting transition. Also take some time to evaluate if your reading is targeted to the right audience.

Your readers, and your future writer self, will thank you.

Need another set of eyes on your writing? Looking for an editor for your finished manuscript? I can help! Click on the “Work with Me” tab and tell me about your project.

How to Interview a Copy Editor

If you are a writer who has ever been confused by the jargon surrounding types of editing, you are not alone. You’ve poured your heart and soul into a project but apparently, you’re not done. You’ve been told your manuscript needs editing, but what kind? And does it matter what order they go in? How do you know how to pick a good editor?

If you’re not familiar with the editing process, there are multiple phases, which can vary depending on if you are pursuing indie publishing or if you are being published with a traditional house. If you are working with a traditional press, often the timeline will be much longer, and multiple editors will work on your manuscript. If you are choosing indie publishing, your timeline will be shorter, but due to finances or other constraints, you may choose to work with just one editor through one phase of editing. But in general, the phases a manuscript will move through are:

  • DevelopmentalCompleted before the first draft is done, provides direction for the entire manuscript and vetting for ideas and concepts.
  • SubstantiveAlso called line editing. This is the macro editing phase of the finished first draft and ensures overall flow, cohesiveness, plot holes are addressed, etc.
  • Copy EditingMicro editing which focuses on grammar, typos, formatting, consistencyAnswers the question “Do I have spinach in the teeth of my manuscript?”
  • ProofreadingA final read-through after the book has been formatted. Author may choose to do this step themselves.

In my opinion, for indie authors, copy editing should be the bare minimum editing that a MS goes through. So if you are looking at copy editors, here’s what to look for and ask about:

  • Appropriate experience: Have they edited something similar to your project before? How long have they been editing? Where else have they worked?
  • Good fit/flow of communication: Even if they have had an illustrious editing career, they may not be a good fit for you and your manuscript. It’s worth it to keep hunting for a good fit, even if it may mean the editor you choose has slightly less experience. If they seem to care about your project and are organized and prompt with communication, chances are you will enjoy that author/editor relationship.
  • Timeline on the project: Every editor is different, so be sure and ask when they think they could start working on your project and how long each phase of editing should take. They should be able to give you a ballpark figure.
  • Payment/contract methods: It is fairly standard to pay a deposit when beginning an editing project. Editing projects unfold over at least four weeks (potentially longer) and it’s unfair to ask an editor to wait that long to receive any payment for the hours and hours they have already put into your work. Be sure the terms of payment and other details are clearly detailed from the start, preferable in contract form because that protects both parties.
  • Delivery of edits: This will likely be spelled out in the contract, but make sure you understand how they will be editing your work and how you will need to respond to edits.

A good copy editor, or really any editor, should be a guide, not an overlord, though you have to understand the unique tension they face in their work. This article from Chicago Manual of Style explains it well! Editors are aiming for all that enhances clarity within a manuscript: consistency, correctness, conciseness. Yet they also make room for how language evolves and the needs of individual authors. The bible of the publishing industry, the Chicago Manual of Style, embraces this by using the word “usually” in many of their rules. Publishing houses and publications operate off their own “style guides” for certain word treatments, and you as an indie author can ask to create your own style guide when working with your editor.

I know the editing process can feel intimidating, but that’s why I’m here editing away in my own corner of the internet: I want to guide you through that editing process and provide you with quality editing so that your writing stands out in the crowd.

Don’t live in the fog of the editing process any longer. I offer a free discovery call for all potential clients to see if we would be a good author + editor fit. Now that you have a list of questions to ask me, send me a message, and let’s get your call scheduled!

How Do I Put My Reader First? Part 2

In part 1 of putting your reader first, we discussed three questions you can ask yourself to help keep your readers’ needs top of mind during the writing process. But the truth is, you need to carry that mindset into the editing process as well, which is what we will cover here in part 2. During the writing process, it’s just you and the keyboard, banging out beautiful words and maybe you found it simple to adjust your mindset. But in the editing process, you are inviting other people to help get your manuscript to the next level. Which means you now have other people’s opinions and ideas surrounding your newborn piece of art. Nervous? That’s understandable. But don’t let nerves paralyze you from receiving and acting on crucial feedback to make your manuscript shine.

Where I find that authors get into trouble is thinking that sending their MS off to the editor is like leaving an apple pie on their doorstep, perfect and ready to be eaten. What you are really doing is inviting them into your kitchen so they can critique your crust and adjust the spices in your filling. Sending your manuscript to the editor is not the end of the process for you; it’s really the beginning. Keep in mind though, there are different types of editing and each one serves a different purpose. I talk about the purposes of each type of editing here.

So prepare yourself mentally: can you be willing to take their suggestions? Can you humble yourself enough to at least listen to their professional opinion, even if you end up going a different direction with character development, the arrangement of chapters, or “darling” details that are special to you?

As you prepare yourself mentally for the editing process, here are three things to consider to help shape a “Reader First” mindset.

1. Stay humble about your message

I edit quite a bit of material in the faith-based space and one of the disappointing things I see with new Christian authors is an arrogance about their message “because God gave it to them.” If you are a faith-based writer, the phrase “God gave me this book” is not a free pass on receiving feedback and edits on your manuscript. Trust me, God believes in editing. Specifically, if you are a Christian author, I would encourage you to recognize that you are being used as a channel to encourage and edify the body of Christ with a message from God; you are not the one being praised.

It can be tough to keep that in perspective though when you’re in the midst of writing and editing your book. To keep me grounded in my own work, I return to my “mission verse” often:

The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away.

Isaiah 50:4–5

The Sovereign Lord gives…He awakens me…He opens my ears…All of this language speaks of a great Initiator other than myself. Instead, my part is to listen and to obey; to receive and not turn away; to share what God has laid on my heart yes, but to do so humbly and to receive the help and guidance of other writers and editors that God has gifted with insight that I need. There may be one name on the front of the book, but a whole team of people stands behind that name. It’s a group effort.

Whether you write in the faith-based space or not, the truth is that most of the books that you love as a reader have undergone significant changes because of the “group effort.” You just may not realize it.

2. Stay humble about your edits

In her book The Art of Slow Writing, author Louise DeSalvo makes this observation:

None of my books and none of my friends’ books have been published without considerable changes. So, if seasoned writers take editorial advice, and beginning writers seem less willing, I think one reason is because beginning writers don’t know many changes published writers must make to their work because of editorial input. After meeting with their editors, I’ve often heard well-known writers say, “I have to rewrite the whole thing,” or “I have to rethink the way I present the central character,” or “I realize the structure of the book isn’t working.” These writers listen and make fundamental, large-scale changes in the works they’ve labored over for years. What they thought was the end of the process was, in fact, the beginning of yet another round of work.

The Art of Slow Writing, Chapter 26 “Writing as Collaboration”

In the editing process, you’ll probably be asked to reexamine tough points of your book, even things you hold strongly to because of feedback from your editor(s) and/or beta readers. I would encourage you to stay humble and keep your ears open.

Author Krissi Dallas shares how she did just that after listening to her beta readers:

Contrary to many popular authors who write in the teen and young adult genre, I actually consider my teen audience first in everything that I write. While I know a lot of adults read teen books and are comfortable with varying levels of romantic or violent content, they are not my primary audience. I want my teen readers to connect to my stories FIRST in safe and healthy ways. It’s also hugely important to me that teachers, librarians, parents (and other adults who have responsibility or influence in young people’s lives) have books they are comfortable recommending to others without feeling like they have to disclaim content. That’s why I always let my books go through both teenage beta readers and parents-of-teens beta readers and I really listen to their feedback.

In FIRETRAP, the fifth book of my Phantom Island series releasing this month, I made some important changes after consulting with some teen girls between the ages of 13 and 16…one of them was over a curse word. To be clear, there are no curse words in my books. But in this new installment, the characters are older and there was a particularly major event that occurred. As a writer, I felt like in a real situation like that, a very strong word would have slipped out of an 18-year-old character’s mouth. It was the ONLY curse word in five books, but I just couldn’t decide if it should stay or go. I tested it out first on my teen girls and they very honestly said that it was a little jolting and even though it was probably true to life, they liked having a series they could recommend to their friends and their younger siblings without worrying over language. I agreed and changed it. Of course, then it took us a while to find the RIGHT true-to-life reaction from that character, but we eventually did, and I think it works even better! Avoiding curse words makes me try harder at creative dialogue and storytelling.

All in all, I feel very strongly that one of the most important revision steps I follow before I finalize a book is to go back through and read specifically with my audience in mind and then consult a selection of beta readers from that audience. I ALWAYS end up making changes from that step of the process and I’m so glad I do!

3. Communicate with your editor

But let’s be real. At some point, a beta reader or editor will make a suggested edit that you. do. not. like. For whatever reason, it crosses an internal boundary and you have a choice to make. Do you stick with your original version? Maybe. Or do you trust the professional instinct of your editor? Maybe. Whichever you choose, if a proposed change is producing that much inner turmoil, open a dialogue with your editor. Ask what prompted that suggestion. Ask them to share similar changes in other manuscripts. Ask if you can have some time to think about it. Ask for a compromise. But whatever you do, do not ignore a big suggested edit, or a comment that relates to providing more clarity or context for your reader and do not change it back without first dialoguing with your editor. It’s unprofessional to ignore the time and effort your editor put in. Yes, you can probably make the final call as the author, but remember it’s a team effort.

Keeping your reader first is a journey that all authors are on and each project will present different challenges on this front. But stick with it. Keep your ears open and stay humble about your work. Changes and edits can seem scary, but you just may be surprised at the improvements they lead to in your work. Like I said in the first post, writing a book is HARD WORK. Editing a book is HARD WORK. But your readers will thank you by not putting your down your book until they’ve finished it.

Worth the effort? I think so.

Missed part 1? Click here to read it.

Before You Hit Send: 4 Editing Tips

You’ve typed “The End” on your manuscript. You’re about to send it off to your editor. But is your manuscript actually ready to send to your editor? In today’s post, I’ll be sharing four common areas of editing problems that authors can easily review before sending their beloved manuscript off to the editor.

A little background first on industry standards for editing and formatting. The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) is the industry standard for book publishing and it has been around for almost 115 years (click here for a PDF of the very first version), serving as the quintessential guide for those in the writing and publishing fields. The current edition is over 1,000 pages long and it’s intimidating even for those of us familiar with the contours of the guide. But even with this comprehensive guide, publishing houses also operate with their own house style that’s been curated based on the type of manuscripts they publish. You can ask your editor if there are any house style rules that you need to be aware of.

To help navigate some of those confusing rules, today I am providing four helpful editing tips. This won’t cover everything that will come up in your manuscript, but it will provide guidance in common areas of editing that produce the most confusion. The reason this matters is because a manuscript is such a large document with potentially a lot of people working on it. Unnecessary errors or incorrect formatting can make the document behave badly and distract from the task of writing your amazing new book. And it’s great because these are all simple items you can actually address before sending your manuscript off to the editor.

And why is that something you should even attempt? Aren’t editors supposed to like, fix all that? While editors are going to catch the mistakes that your subjective eye didn’t catch, I want to encourage authors to not be lazy. You don’t (or at least I hope you don’t!) put off brushing your teeth a month or a week before your regular cleaning because “it’s the dentist’s job to catch all that.” No, that’s called being lazy, and no matter what your job is, you shouldn’t be lazy.

So let’s dive in! I’ll be providing a reference number for specific CMOS rules so if you decide to investigate the guide, you’ll know where these rules came from!


Do you spell them out? Do you use numerals? This is often the area that produces the most confusion. CMOS states that numbers 0-100 should be spelled out, but for 101+ you can use numerals. However, for large, even numbers, you can spell them out. This includes ages, amounts, numbers on addresses, etc. (CMOS 9.2)

Common errors on time:

  • 10:00 a.m./ 3:30 p.m. There should be a space between the time and the a.m./p.m. designator. Letters should be lowercased with a period in between each letter. (CMOS 9.37)
  • 60 BC but AD 33: BC comes AFTER the year, AD comes BEFORE. (CMOS 9.34)


CMOS prefers “down-style,” meaning capitals are used sparingly. (CMOS 8.1) Degrees, unofficial titles, or references NOT PRECEEDING a name don’t need to be capitalized.

But pronoun references to God/Jesus are capitalized.

Examples: a master’s degree, a bachelor’s in science, The president stated; but President Lincoln said. The pastor encouraged, but Pastor Billy Graham spoke. He gave us His son Jesus.


Formatting and layout come AFTER the manuscript has been fully edited. Do not waste your time manually putting in a table of contents before an editor has even looked at your MS because those page numbers are going to change. If you do insert a TOC using Word, it can be updated as you go, but it’s still best to leave page numbers, TOC, headers, etc. until the last stage.

Do not use the spacebar to make new paragraphs or to align things. Use the enter button, tab button, and the actual left/middle/right align buttons. You would be shocked at what I have to correct: (One author actually hit the space bar to center align subtitles…on every subtitle…in a 100+ page MS)

If you are a Christian author and plan to reference scripture, these are generally good examples to follow, but always check if there is a house style to adhere to when it comes to scripture.

  • (Ruth 2:12) Short book names don’t need to be abbreviated, space between the name of book and chapter/verse, but no spaces around the colon.
  • (Prov. 31:30) Abbreviate longer book names.
  • (Phil. 2:3–4) When showing a range of verses, use the en dash, not a hyphen.

You can’t go wrong with double-spaced (it’s SO hard to edit single-spaced docs) 12-pt. Times New Roman. You can bold chapter titles or subtitles, but don’t get fancy. Now is not the time for that.


Don’t make it weird. Don’t double up the punctuation, don’t put spaces between the last letter of the sentence and the punctuation, and commas and periods ALWAYS go inside quotation marks. If you have an item that’s going to be repeated a bunch and you’re just not sure how to punctuate it, send your editor a message ahead of time, or can you leave me a message on Twitter!

And, as always, you will bless your editor if you can show you know how to use their/there/they’re and your/you’re.

Now get to editing!

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

CMOS Home Page