Southern belle with a story to tell. Refreshing iced tea served after literary punches thrown.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Manuscript Taming Tips From the Editress of Awesome!

Whip?  Check.  Chair?  Check.
This writer 's ready to tame his unruly manuscript!

Today I'm thrilled to welcome to my virtual front porch T.J. Loveless, whom I call "The Editress of Awesome", and I'm pouring her a glass of sweet tea because she's about to answer a big question.  A really, really big question. But she doesn't know it just yet.

T.J. is a great friend of mine and an amazing writer, but also has a super-secret life as an editor, having put the finishing touches on the works of a few well-known authors.  And she also loves sweet tea!

I hope you'll really take notice of her tips, as I think they're incredible. And make sure to check out the deets at the end of our interview about the awesome contest going on over at Cliffhanger Editing.

Big contest to help tame your little manuscript!  Check out Cliffhanger Editing!
So T.J., I've got a question for you.  As an editor, what are the five most common mistakes writers make?  And I'm not talking just newbie writers, but published writers too.

She grins. 

I pour her more sweet tea. 

T.J. drinks, but I can tell she's thinking about this question.  I can't wait to hear what's coming next, and I know it's gonna be good.

She puts down her tea glass.  

T.J. Loveless:  I could go on all day, but here are the big ones.

 1.) Redundancy

This is the biggest issue I see in every MS - including my own. When we self edit, we have a tendency to overlook the filler, which is what it is. By redundancy, I mean to him, at him, with him, they both, we both, etc. Delete. Take it out and don't look back.

2.) Pronouns

Yup, I'm guilty here too. He/she/it/them/I, whether 3rd, 2nd or 1st POV, we use them and have a tendency to overuse them. I can almost guarantee a writer can wipe out 30% of pronouns right out of the editing gate and the MS will make sense and read a lot faster. The reader understands who is on stage at that particular moment. 

3.) Passive writing

*Raises hand* It was, for most of my writings, a huge problem. Had/has/that/this/have been, etc. Most of us write pretty action packed stuff. Using the passive makes it ... meh in feeling. The more active you write, the more you'll keep the reader hooked and turning the pages. 

Other words which can be removed and should be watched closely for constant use: than, then, that, this, there, before, slowly, just, suddenly, barely, etc. Yes, we write on an 8th grade level, but that doesn't mean your readers are stupid. If a change is made without warning, well, it's sudden, isn't it? You don't have to tell them.

4.) Beginnings

Oh dear, one of my biggest weaknesses. I usually start a MS eight or nine times before I figure out the real place to start. For many, many years, writers started their stories way back, trying to give background info to help a reader understand the players in their stories. In the past twenty years or so, that has changed. Most readers want to be closer to when the plot actually occurs. A writer should start close to the real action, and weave in the past. And as the one listening to the voices, only you can decide where that is. 

The other side of that coin is starting too late. When asked to start with action, many believe it is the middle of a fight. I've seen some that yes, it is where it starts. But by action they mean the characters are doing something - getting off a train in the town where it all happens. Taking a fated road trip. Dropping the egg that was supposed to be for breakfast but helps the MC see something strange in their home setting ... you get the idea. 

If you read your MS after allowing it to sit for a few weeks, you'll get a feel for where the story truly begins. Starting too early causes a very slow beginning.

5.) Tense/Point Of View

I always write past tense. It is becoming popular to write in present tense. This is, by far, the hardest to write successfully. We don't truly think in present tense, nor do we talk in present. A majority of the time, it is past tense. If your story is present tense, be very very careful. I mean watch every single sentence. Many authors inadvertently switch between past and present, and it makes for a very confusing MS.

Watch POV - without realizing it, many switch POV among characters in half sentences. Even when doing 3rd Omniscent - seeing everyone's POV - don't switch from one headspace to another without some kind of transition. If you are in character A's head, they aren't going to know why another character does something - unless they are highly psychic and you've established this from the very beginning. 

Think about POV as a camera in an action movie. Even in fast scenes, one character is taking the camera time, everyone else is in the background. If you switch from character to character, back and forth, over and over, without ensuring your audience understands, you're going to make them dizzy. They won't have enough time to reengage with any of the characters. And that, my friends, will make them put your book down. 


The five things listed are the biggest issues I see in every MS. It's almost universal. The Find function of your document is a good friend. Use it. Put in the phrases and words above, simply delete them, and then go to work on editing. It will help create a much better, faster read, one your audience is more than willing to pick up, time and again.

Many thanks to my good friend T.J., who is also a copy/content editor at Curiosity Quills Press and freelances at Cliffhanger Editing

She lives with one Editor Kitty, two Muses, a Hubby who prefers her mood when writing and a teenager who loves to tells stories of her mother on the floor trying to visualize “legs all akimbo” and how Writing Momma has long, often yelling, conversations with the computer screen.
You can find T.J., usually with a tall glass of cold iced tea, on

The Padded Room (her amazing blog)

Now shhh!  There's an awesome contest happening over at Cliffhanger's - where you can win a full comprehensive edit, a comprehensive partial or a beta read! All you need to do is email two paragraphs of the worst writing you can come up with - and be funny!  Seriously, she wants you to send her your best/worst scribblings ever!


Now memorize her suggestions!  Go!  Do it now! For if you do, you won't make these mistakes again while pounding away on the keyboard trying to create your opus.

And Happy Memorial Day friends.  Let us not forget the true meaning, which is to honor the fallen men and women who sacrificed their lives so that we may live free.  That's what this day is about.  Not barbecue, not burgers, not pool parties, but those who fought for the freedom we take for granted.
We're the land of the free because of the brave.


Jean Oram said...

Those are killer tips. And SOOOOO common!

Thanks for sharing them TJ!


T.J. said...

Thanks, Jean :) Even oft-published writers make them in every. single. MS. LOL And that includes me!

Thank you, Joey, for hosting me on your blog! *Ahem* I stole the gallon of iced tea. Yummy!

SC Author said...

This is awesome! Love these tips -- will keep them in mind when I edit. Happy you're blogging again, Joey :)

Joey Francisco said...

Hey my good friend SC! Alas, this is not a new post, but wanted to get things rolling again somewhat before I write the next new one. :)

Hugs to you and thank you so so much for just being a wonderful friend.