Slicing and Dicing (or what writers grudgingly call “Book Editing”)

Devour a Book

While contemplating and writing about my 7 New Year Revelations,  I’ve been trying not to think about the redlining, scratchy margin comments, strikethroughs and all the nasty little markings that a few no-nonsense editors are doing to my manuscript. 

As any writer will attest, it’s important to give your completed manuscript a thorough and objective (that’s the hard part) edit yourself first, but then you must hand it over to an editor who will have no qualms about ripping it to shreds,  if need be.   As a person who uses the numbers 3 and 7 all the time (it’s a spiritual thing, perhaps even a bit O.C.D.),  I always like to choose 3 editors (a professional editor, a person who has personal  experience with the subject, and a scholar/professional who is a specialist on the subject).  This gives me a nice cross-section of expertise from people whose commentary I respect and will take to heart, when producing the final copy for publication.  

I give them a timeframe and my own set of  guidelines (for them to keep in mind, while editing)  …  with the expectation that, on the end date, I will receive all their edits and comments. Some prefer to edit on a hard copy manuscript, others edit on my PDF  text. I usually give them three weeks , although it may extend further – depending upon the length of the manuscript.

My manuscript-specific  “guidelines”  vary from book to book. These include a list of questions or points that relate to specific characters or story lines that I want to receive objective feedback on.

However,  the general guidelines simply follow the standard editing process which, in turn, involves multiple read-throughs or “passes.”

1. First Pass:       A READ-THROUGH  (no editing)

It’s important for the editor to get a feel for the book first, before grabbing that red pencil!


This is the heavy, line editing phase. Sentence structure, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all addressed here.  At this stage, the editor will also look at whether the book  reads  well and whether  or not a story, character, or setting may need readjustment.

3. Third Pass —  CONTENT  EDITING

This may include substantive editing (above) but focuses on the quality of the writing, the use of words, and the strength/continuity of the author’s voice.  The content editing process points its high beam on clarity and conciseness.  This is where a lot of the dreaded snippity-snip-snip comes into play. Conciseness …  the bane of my existence.

4. Fourth Pass —  COPY  EDITING

Once more, punctuation and grammar are reviewed, as well as whether or not the use of words and tense is consistent throughout the manuscript. The copy editing process serves to catch any minor or major mistakes and whether or not the perceived errors were intentional (i.e. stylistic) or not.

5. Fifth Pass —  PROOFREADING*

A final review of  grammar, punctuation and spelling. This is the polishing stage.

*CAVEAT:  Once the writer incorporates all the edits into the final manuscript, the writer must (himself/herself) do another round of proofreading — it is very important to do this carefully. Hasty proofreading will result in unwanted errors.  In the world of home renovation, the do-it-yourself folks are told, time and time again, “measure twice, cut once.”  Well, the same applies in the writing world.  Proofread, proofread, and proofread again!

Furthermore, if the writer is self-publishing, it is important to do yet another round of proofreading upon receiving the printer’s proofs (always request  to have a sign-off on the printer’s proof, prior to printing).  This is not only important for catching any errors within the text, but also to ensure that the formatting and graphics are perfect. Similarly, if using a company like CreateSpace or to publish the book, follow the same proofing/sign-off procedure as with the printer. 

By the 21st, I should be receiving all of my edits back, for my manuscript (Casualties of the Recession Depression) — redlines, scratchy margin comments, strikethroughs and nasty little markings.

I can hardly wait.


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heatherfromthegrove: A Wrap-up of My 7 New Year Revelations


As I said before (on this very same day, last year):  

“For those of you who have been following, reading and enjoying each of my seven New Year revelations …. Thank You.

I would like to point out that they are not New Year Resolutions. I don’t make New Year Resolutions anymore. They are my own personal revelations. Epiphanies. Discoveries. In the past decade, I’ve faced some daunting challenges and heart-wrenching events. I’d like to think that I’ve handled them with dignity, compassion, grace, and humor. Always humor. It helps take the edge off.

So, the lessons that these “life tests” have taught me are my “revelations.” As I move forward with my life, I will use them as my guide. Wisdom has to be earned. For me, it’s a work in progress. I hope that they have inspired and even amused you. I hope that they have made you think long and hard.”

Here’s a synopsis (the numbers have a hyperlink back to each revelation post):





Revelation No. 5: NEVER, NEVER ASSUME!



And the journey continues.  I believe that 2013 will be a renaissance of sorts. I know that I’m looking forward to tying up some loose ends in my life,  having my book launched at the end of February,  and taking time out to read, sharing precious moments with the creatures (two-legged and four-legged!) I love most, and … of course … dancing in the rain!

I wish you all a blessed, healthy and happy  2013 and may your own personal journey bring you deep fulfillment and wisdom. Remember, we are all — each of us — a work in progress!


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New Year’s Revelation No. 3 of 7: Resist the Mañana Syndrome


“Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it.  No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination: never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
~ Lord Chesterfield 

In theory, I completely concur with Lord Chesterfield.  In practice, however, I’ve been known to occasionally follow Scarlett O’Hara’s logic (from Gone with the Wind):  “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow …… After all, tomorrow is another day.” 

Putting things off until tomorrow — or, as I like to call it, The Mañana Syndrome …. has been a challenge for me throughout my life — not because I’m lazy, but because I always have so many concurrent projects and so many lists-upon-lists-upon-lists, that it becomes overwhelming sometimes.  And then I completely detach.  But, something changed for me last summer.  It wasn’t any specific event or drama.  I was just sitting at my computer, with Janis Joplin rasping in the background.  The song was Ball and Chain and the lyrics that spoke to me were:

“That’s what it is, man. If you got it today you don’t wear it tomorrow, man. ‘Cause you don’t need it. ‘Cause as a matter of fact, as we discovered on the train, tomorrow never happens, man. It’s all the same fxxxxxx day, man.”

And, right there and then, I thought to myself  “What if tomorrow never happens?”  I would not want to leave this world without having done the things I needed and wanted to do.  Now, I know that I’m taking the meaning of Janis’ lyrics out of context … but it just triggered something in my head.  So, then I thought “How can I complete what I need to complete?”   And the answers came to me in short staccato words and phrases:  You’re not Superwoman.  Be reasonable.  Prioritize.   Compartmentalize.  Streamline.  Keep it simple.  Stop writing lists.  Take a breath. 

Let’s be real, here.  This is not a Mensa puzzle.  I just needed to tweak my thinking and my process of multitasking.  And so I did. 

It worked. My book, Casualties of the Recession Depression, is written and currently in the editing phase.  The launch is set for the 26th of February, barring any glitches. And, I’ll soon pick up where I left off on my next book, When the Child Becomes the Parent. Everything is on track and on schedule. 

Yet, each day I make time to read a book while enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of my garden.

Speaking of thought processes, I’ll leave you with another very loosely related anecdote.  One evening, my husband and I were gazing up at the stars.  I asked him “What do you see when you look up in the sky?”  He looked at me quizzically and said “Well, there’s Orion’s Belt   ….”   He saw the starry sky in a structured, compartmentalized way.  I said, “When I look up, I see a sea of stars in an endless array of different sizes and formations …. too many to count, or even discern.  I just love to soak in the beauty of it all.”  And so I wondered whether the stark difference in the way we saw the night sky was a function of gender (i.e. ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’) or  was it simply that our personalities are such that he see things in black and white and I, in every shade of grey in between.

Which is why I tended  (note the past tense) to bite off more than I could chew. 

Lesson learned.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” 
Mother Teresa

Image via (Photo credit:  Inga Ivanova)

Book launching soon … but not before the editors have their merry way with it


Book Update:  The manuscript for  “Casualties of the Recession Depression”  is now in the editing stage!  The anticipated book launch date is February 26, 2013!  I’ll keep you posted …

If I could physically do cartwheels, I would ….  Cartwheels

You’ve seen it before, but here it is (again) … the book cover:


Image (editing, top of page) by Nic’s events, (cartwheel sketch) by

Madness and Manuscripts



“I am a great believer in luck, and I find the  harder I work, the more I have of it.”

—  Stephen Leacock

Despite my hacking cough, scratchy throat and broken voice …. the manuscript for  “Casualties of the Recession Depression”  is (amazingly) still on schedule for completion on December 21st!!!

ISBN numbers, bar codes, and copyright registration are all in the works.  Sales/marketing/distribution channels are waiting the “go ahead” signal.  Book launch date will be in February 2013 (exact date TBD).

I am very tired, but beyond thrilled.

And, as always, I am one loop away from being totally loopy.

Stay tuned …

Coming soon …


While all my neighbors have beautifully decorated their homes with festive Christmas lights and wreaths, my house remains in darkness.  This is very uncharacteristic of me, since I am usually seen — precariously standing up on a ladder (with whimsical outdoor tree ornaments strewn everywhere)  — the day after Thanksgiving.  Not this year.  My neighbors have been glancing quizzically at me, wondering if something is terribly wrong.  They don’t know that I’m spending most of my time on my book —which I will  finish by the 21st.  So, if I need to look like Ebenezer Scrooge for a few weeks, so be it.

When the book is done, my neighbors will be stunned.  My house will be lit like the Las Vegas strip!  I will be singing the Hallelujah Chorus at the top of my lungs!  That is, if  I get my voice back.

Until then ….

Never underestimate a turtle

“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”
Gloria Steinem 

Except maybe home reno projects.

One would think that working on a number of book projects in tandem would accomplish less than simply focusing on one piece at a time. Not so.  Although, I speak only for myself.  Allocating time for each book actually helps me to be more productive. By alternating between manuscripts, I am able to resume work on each one — with fresh (and critical) eyes.  Nothing gets stale. And the manuscripts continually get refined, which streamlines the final editing stage.

That is my usual writing process. However, for the past few weeks, I’ve veered away from the regular routine, since becoming completely immersed in my book of short stories — Casualties of the Recession Depression.  I am so passionate and excited about this piece, that I can’t seem to switch gears.  The result of all this writing enthusiasm is that I will have a completely finished manuscript imminently.  By year’s end (think Mayan).

Yes, the turtle is reaching the finish line!  (If my chronic bronchitis doesn’t kill me first).  My desk is a sea of kleenex tissues and cough drops. My husband is worried that I may be coughing up my own vocal cords, but I reminded him that there are benefits losing my voice:  Silence.  See, the cup is always half full, never half empty!

Although —between you, me and the lamp post — he’ll probably miss the constant yapping.

Stay tuned …