Tag Archives: Editing

The Incredible World of Editing!

Guest Blog by Genevieve Graham-Sawchyn

I wrote the most beautiful book ever written. I did. The plot, the characters, and the words … oh, I have always loved words. And here was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate just how many I knew. After almost a year of writing, it was complete, and made up of approximately 165,000 gorgeous words. Publishers were going to bid for the opportunity to represent it. For sure.

But I decided maybe I’d show it to someone else first. Maybe someone who had a little experience in that realm. Through a “Writer In Residence” programme, I met author Rona Altrows. She accepted, I think, fifty manuscripts, then sat down with those writers and gave them her opinion. When I showed up for my appointment I felt … what, nervous? Nah. My book was beyond question, wasn’t it?

Rona was wonderful. She told me up front that I had a gift for writing, and that my book had great potential. *ugh* Potential. What a scary word. The first pangs of fear clutched my gut. That was when she introduced me to the Incredible World of Editing.

She started by going through a brutal battle scene at the beginning of my book. She said, “This character is amazing. How did he ever survive all these adjectives?”

And so I embarked on an amazing voyage, learning about adjectives and adverbs (and the need to avoid most of them), Point of View (which was impossible to understand, until all at once I could see it, and I’ll never be able to ignore it again), tense … there were so many aspects to writing I had never considered. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry too much about spelling and grammar. I have always had a natural propensity for those, which I believe stems from both the vats and vats of books I ingested as a child, and from natural genetics. Both my mother and her mother taught high school English and nary an early sentence went by that wasn’t quickly corrected (“Me and Brian went out” “That’s Brian and I, sweetheart.”).

All right. Done. All those things fixed, I cast my net a little further and joined Scribophile.com, along with thousands of other writers. These folks were less gentle. Their hi-liters and strikeouts were everywhere. More lines than words, I thought.

But they were right. I took a little time and looked at my favourite books, then compared them to mine, trying to find just what separated the two. Then I went through every single word of my novel and ran through it on my laptop three times. I read it out loud twice – once to myself and once to my ever-patient husband. I printed it out and scribbled all over it. About six months later, it was 75,000 words shorter. I felt cautiously optimistic. I posted the first half of the book on Authonomy.com – and it shot to the top.

So what is editing, exactly? We’re all writers here, so let’s look at some metaphors. Editing is like sandpaper on rough wood, revealing the shining oak within. Editing is cutting back on too much salt so that the meal is delicious (and healthier). Editing is folding clothes neatly instead of dumping them on the floor.

Writing is not editing, but writing cannot happen without at least a modicum of editing. Some of it is natural, obviously. For instance, your brain automatically changes:

“Riting storeez iz the thing I luv to do”    to     “I love writing stories.”

But when you write something a little more complicated, how do you know what goes where? That is the editing experience.

The first step is to write your story as well as you can. Read it over just one more time so you see any glaring error, like killing off a character then having him reappear in the next chapter. Fix those. Now put your story away. Seriously. Find a cabinet with a lock on it and do not look at it for three months.

Pshaw, I hear. But it’s true. Distance may make the heart grow fonder, but it also sharpens perspective. You are too close to your story. I know, I know. You are finally done. Let’s get it out there! But really, what’s the rush? The world has existed without your story, as have you. Take the time to do it right. Put it away. Write something new, or read a different book. Take up macramé. Anything but that book.

*Ding! * (That’s the sound of your calendar alarm saying three months is up.)

Take a deep breath and start to read. If you are fortunate, you will find yourself sinking into your chair, wondering where all these words came from. Did I actually write these? Wow! I don’t remember doing that. It’s not half bad!

Roll up your sleeves. Here we go. We will now edit. Here are the main aspects of editing, as I see them.

1) Please tell me you have spell-check on your computer. Please. Being Canadian, I have the added chore of deciding between British and American spelling, but that’s easily fixable by Search/Replace. I just have to ensure I’m being consistent.

2) Read out loud – preferably in a monotone. Do your sentences sound like sentences? Or are they just words? Do they go on forever, winding poetically through infinite descriptive, albeit beautiful words? Stop right there. Picture your character pulling up to a stop sign. Here are two ways for that character to see it:

Option 1: The sign emerging from the distant horizon is a thin sheet of metal, approximately 75cm across, with a matte background painted a bright, highly visible cherry red broken only by a 20cm white border and clear, easily distinguishable white lettering sending its message from atop a sturdy pole intended to reach the most unaware, recalcitrant, ignorant, distracted of drivers.

Option 2: The stop sign is red and octagonal, on a post, with white print.

Read those two contrasting sentences again. The first gives you terrific information. Were you bored? Amazed at the detail (unless of course you are researching stop signs, in which case it would be fabulous information, and I recommend Wikipedia)? Did you have to look up any of the words? Did you skip ahead? Of course you did. No one would ever realistically spend so much time describing something simple. Not even your character. If you did, your reader would probably have to put the book down just so they could grab something to treat their impending headache.

Here’s the trick: Go through your first page. Remove every adjective/adverb until the remaining words are “naked”. Can you improve any of those “naked” words with something better, something that negates the use of adjectives/adverbs? Do that wherever possible. Then add the necessary descriptive words and no more. Keep it simple.

3) Sentence Length: While it is good to vary sentence length, anything written non-stop is just plain annoying and amateur. It may seem beautiful to describe a sunset as:

The inevitable rays of the setting sun cast awe-inspiring parting glories in an amalgamation of pure and omnipotent expressions of the gods who have chosen to enliven their palette with the glorious scatterings of aureate golds and bittersweet oranges silhouetted against an endless heliotrope sky.

Too much? I’d say. How about:

The sunset’s stunning array of golds and oranges faded into the purple sky. Or: Evening was heralded by the majestic golds of the sunset.

Well, those aren’t the best examples, but I hope you understand my meaning.

4) Paragraph length: Same as sentences. The reader’s eye is automatically drawn to white space – more particularly to dialogue. Keep paragraphs relatively short.

5) Point Of View: If you’re writing third person from Mary’s perspective throughout most of the novel, then you can’t say what John is thinking. That’s like: Mary had been wondering how John was feeling. “How are you feeling, John?” she asked. John was happy she asked. No no no. Maybe John appeared pleased that she had asked, but it’s impossible for Mary to know if John was really happy or not. See? Complicated, but that’s Point of View. Trust me. Once you get it, you’ll never go back.

6) Tense: You don’t want unnecessary words, and you don’t want the story to stall. Keep verbs as up to date as possible, so the book moves forward. Instead of Mary was forgetting to tie her shoes, use Mary forgot to tie her shoes. Be consistent.

7) Redundancies: John stood on his feet. Where else would he stand? Mary saw the smile on his face. Where else would his smile be?

6) Dialogue/Dialog: This is a sticky point for me because I have yet to edit a book in which all aspects are done correctly.

“Hello,” said Mary. (See how the comma is inside the quotations?)

“Hello,” said Mary. (See how I used the word “said”? Though they have their place, it’s not necessary to always use “exclaimed” “responded” “declared” “replied”. “Said” is just fine.)

“Hello.” (Sometimes you don’t need to tag who is saying what. Especially if the dialogue only goes on for about four or five lines. Too many episodes of “she said/he said” sounds robotic.)

“Hello,” Mary said with a grin. (See how I didn’t say “Hello,” Mary grinned. That’s because she can’t “grin” a word. She can’t “sigh” it or “frown it” or “attempt” it.)

In the time it took to take my book apart and sew it back up again (then take away any evidence of seams), I read a lot of other books. And I have been humbled. There is some amazing writing going on out there, published or not.

I no longer believe my story will change any aspect of the world, but at least I know it’s something worthy of a reader’s time. At last, an amazing agent decided my book was what he had been seeking. He wasn’t through with me, though. He had me re-write the ending three times. When he finally emailed back and said “Yes, I think we’ll go with that,” I felt dizzy with relief. In very little time he called to say Berkley Publishing (a division of PenguinUSA) wanted not only to publish my book, but wanted a companion novel to go with it. That was one of the greatest moments of my life. But then came another one. He said, “The editor said there was virtually no editing to be done.” So those years of writing, re-writing, nit-picking, agonizing, deleting … it was all worthwhile.

It took a long time to get that right. It took a ton of practice. My subsequent novels started to emerge with less need for re-writes. Editing had become a natural process for me (though nothing is perfect the first / second / third time round!). I started editing for other authors and found it was easy for me to sink into the “voice” of the author. They loved my work, and I loved doing it.

So now, along with my writing, editing is my business. If you have done all you can for your beloved manuscript and are ready for a professional touch, please check out my website:


I look forward to reading your work someday!

Genevieve Graham-Sawchyn

Recipes for Every Writing Project: The OMG it Happened Salsa!

Today I’m shouting on the mountain stops – well the tops of the Hollywood Hills – because something I’ve worked six long years to see has finally happened! To me! ME!

Last week I told you all that a literary agent had requested the full manuscript for my Paranormal Romance, Cold in California. I just got off the phone with that agent and he offered representation!

I have a champion! A knight in shining armor taking my book through doors I can’t get into! I have an agent!

THIS calls for something special and spicy and ubber celebratory! This is a wonderful recipe for those with a quirky sense of humor and adventurous pallet. It works beautifully with unsalted blue corn chips, a great dip for chilled large cooked shrimp and one of my favorite ways to enjoy this Grilled Grape Salsa, is to serve it warm over pan seared scallops or tilapia. Deeeeelish!

Grilled Grape Salsa

1 C Green Grapes, sliced in half long ways

1 C Red Grapes, sliced in half long ways

1 tsp. Olive Oil

½ C Pecans, rough chopped

3 Tbs. Cilantro, rough chopped

½ Large Red Onion, small diced

½ Large Red Bell Pepper, small diced

1-2 Jalapeño Peppers, seeded and small diced

1 Clove Garlic, minced

¼ tsp. Cumin

1 tsp. Sugar

2 Tbs. Cider Vinegar

1 Tbs. Lemon Juice

S&P to taste

Toss sliced grapes in olive oil and grill over medium heat on stove top grill or griddle (or in a large heavy pan) until skins are marked but grapes are still firm.

Place grapes in large mixing bowl and add all remaining ingredients. Mix and chill. Serve cold with chips or chilled cooked shrimp or heated over grilled chicken, pork or pan seared scallops or fish.


  • Substitute small chunks of grilled, fresh pineapple instead of grapes
  • Toss in ½ can black beans and ½ cup thawed frozen corn kernels
  • Add 1 cup shredded fresh carrots

Have some friends over and celebrate, because as they tell me … the real waiting starts now, LOL.

Recipes for Every Writing Project: Happy Dance Bites

You’ve sent out your queries and enjoyed the satisfaction of meeting a goal then BAMMM, an agent pops into your email box asks to see your full manuscript!

There are few words for how to describe the feeling. Hopeful? Excited? Validated? Ecstatic? Terrified? Well, maybe there are a lot of words to describe it, but the overall emotion is pretty darn good!

My suggestion? Invite your loyal supportive friends and readers over for a tiny celebration. It’s not winning the Super Bowl but it’s a milestone that deserves recognition. There’s nothing like a few snacks and glasses of wine or beer to get yourself ready to hunker down for the nail-biting wait ahead.

This recipe comes from a snack so old I can hardly remember the first time I tasted it. A friend’s great-grandmother used to make these in the old country (someplace in Europe, I honestly don’t think I ever knew but havarti is such a luscious Danish cheese, I suspect she was from somewhere in the Netherlands). My friend’s mother never cooked so when he became a chef, he liked to whip up Havarti Bacon Bites for the staff every now and again. Really delicious in an indulging yourself and gotta get to the gym that evening kinda way … but hey, getting a request for a full manuscript deserves a few unhealthy calories in my book!

Cheesy Havarti and Bacon Bites

1 Fresh Baguette

1 Onion, Diced

½ lb. Sliced Smoked Bacon (5-6 slices)

1 lb. Havarti Cheese

1 tsp. Fresh Rosemary, minced

Black Pepper to taste

1 T butter

Melt butter in sauté pan. Sauté onions until soft. Slice Baguette in half, long ways. Spread sautéd onions and slices of havarti cheese then sprinkle with black pepper and minced rosemary. Replace top of bread and place loaded loaf on baking sheet. Drape bacon slices at an angel over the top and around the sides of the baguette. Place in oven under medium broiler until bacon is crispy and cheese is melted.

Slice into 2” pieces and serve with a nice white wine!

Cheesy Bites Variations

  • Toss ½ lb salad shrimp inside with the Havardi before broiling and substitute Old Bay seasoning for the minced rosemary
  • Use Cheddar instead of Havardi
  • Try Swiss instead of Havardi and add ½ diced red pepper to the sautéd onions then wrap the baguettes in Pastrami instead of bacon


Now, return to the keyboard and start writing your next book because something truly wonderful just may happen very soon!

Recipes for Every Writing Project: The Query Dance Empanadas

Query time! And here we all are, our faces shiny, big smiles, proud as peacocks and showing our stuff! It’s a tough process, getting ready to query. You have to rock out a fantastic book and rock it really well. You have to do all your homework to find not only the right agency to query for your particular genre or non-fic proposal, but the perfect agent to approach. You have to craft a flawless query letter, prepare all the variations of your pitch/synopsis imaginable then read every single agent’s submission requirements.

Whew, lots to think about, but when you’ve done it all, prepared everything perfectly and actually completed the process … there’s no way you won’t be starving.

You’ve done the dance, now reward yourself with a wonderful Mexican Empanada or three. Go sweet or go savory. Both are easy, quick to make and bake. I like short cuts occasionally, especially when a store bought product meets top standards, so I don’t make pastry crust dough, I buy it.

Now, appreciate your courage at taking the query step and enjoy something muy delicioso!

Sweet Cherry Banana Empanadas

2 pkg Pillsbury Pie Crust Dough (in the refrigerated section of the grocery store)

½ C Dried Cherries

½ C Chopped Pecans

4 Large Ripe Bananas

½ tsp ground cardamom

1 egg white plus 1 tsp cold water, whisked

Rest pie dough at room temperature for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Unroll pie crust on floured surface. Mix together mashed bananas, cherries, pecans and cardamom.

Cut pie dough into 4” rounds (use large round cookie cutter or a glass tumbler, whatever works). Place 2 T mixture onto each dough circle, fold dough over into half moon shape then seal by pressing fork tines at the edges. Place empanadas on baking sheet, brush lightly with egg/water mixture and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown

Cheesy Chicken Empanadas

2 pkg Pillsbury Pie Crust Dough (in the refrigerated section of the grocery store)

1 C Mexican Blend Shredded Cheese

1 C Shredded and Chopped Cooked Chicken

1 T Chopped Green Chilis

½ tsp Minced Garlic

1 T Minced Onion

½ tsp Ground Cumin

S&P to taste

1 egg white plus 1 tsp cold water, whisked

Rest pie dough at room temperature for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Unroll pie crust on floured surface. Mix together cheese, chicken, chilis, garlic, onions, cumin, S&P.

Cut pie dough into 4” rounds (use large round cookie cutter or a glass tumbler, whatever works). Place 2 T mixture onto each dough circle, fold dough over into half moon shape then seal by pressing fork tines at the edges. Place empanadas on baking sheet, brush lightly with egg/water mixture and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown


Now, return to the keyboard and start writing your next book.

Snacks for Every Writing Project: “Sweet Success” Balls!

The trials and tribulations of going from visionary to writer to author are daunting at best but along the way, there are oh-so-many reasons to celebrate. Small successes lead to big ones and taking a moment to recognize and shout out a success, even just to yourself and the computer monitor, is very important.

You must celebrate the successes that mark your journey!

  • Realizing that you have developed a unique approach for a unique story
  • Creating a wonderful plot outline
  • Finishing your first draft
  • The ah-hah moment that comes during the critique
  • Starting your rewrite with enthusiasm and promise
  • Getting half way through the hated rewrite
  • Finishing your WIP
  • Writing the perfect query letter
  • Getting your first request for more
  • Signing with an agent
  • Signing with the perfect publisher
  • Getting your book deal
  • Selling your first international rights
  • Realizing that you’ve just developed a unique approach for a story
  • And so it goes …

There are a thousand reasons to celebrate this blessed life of a writer! And I suggest you enjoy them with a tiny sweet taste of “Sweet Success” balls! Quick and easy to make, no baking and they last as long as you can keep from scarfing them all down. Don’t miss the variations on this recipe. Oh, and don’t get drunk. It may hinder the road to your next success, LOL.

“Sweet Success” Balls (Amaretto Version)

1# Vanilla Wafers ( most boxes hold 12 oz. so you may need 2 boxes)

1 C Fine Chopped Walnuts

3 tsp Cocoa

½ C Lt Corn Syrup

¼ C Amaretto

1 C Powdered Sugar

Using a food processor, fine chop the Vanilla Wafers and pour into large bowl. Fine chop the walnuts, then add to the same bowl with the Cocoa, Corn Syrup and Amaretto. Mix by hand until completely blended and tight enough to roll into a 1” ball (if not wet enough, add a little corn syrup and/or amaretto at a time until nice balls will form. Roll each ball in powder sugar and place them into a container that seals tightly.

The “Sweet Success” balls are delicious right away but oh-so-much better if left to sit, sealed in the container for a day or two.


“Sweet Success” Rum Balls – substitute dark, Spiced Rum for amaretto

“Sweet Success” Orange Balls – substitute Grand Marnier for amaretto

“Sweet Success” Mint Balls – substitute Crème de Mint for amaretto

“Sweet Success” Hazelnut Balls – substitute Frangelico for amaretto

“Sweet Success” Mexican Balls – substitute Kahlua for amaretto

“Sweet Success” Peanut Butter Balls – substitute Peanut Butter for amaretto

“Sweet Success” Raspberry Balls – substitute Raspberry Jam for amaretto

Enjoy! Next week: Comfort food snacks to survive the rejections.

Snacks for Every Writing Project: “Rewriting” Balls

I’ve just gone through a serious rewrite, a rewrite that taught me more about writing than any brand-new-original project or how-to book ever has. It started with a mentor (wait, let me adjust that, I started with AN AMAZING MENTOR), several honest, outspoken readers and a crapload of determination. It ended in a four month struggle to open my eyes. It seemed hopeless and more than once I thought about just giving up on the book. Then suddenly, like pixie dust had sprinkled from the heavens onto my thick head … it all clicked … leading me into a frenzied re-rewrite that has truly helped this writer turn the corner. My novel now has powerful plot and character development, several twists, and a writer who actually feels completely great about it.

And if you’re a writer, you know exactly what I mean by that. We’ve all felt good about a piece of writing, we’ve even felt real good about it, but how often can you honestly say you felt completely great about it? Completely great doesn’t mean I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I’ll be discovered, fought over by several agents and catapulted into the upper echelon of successful authors. I mean, sure, it could happen, but when I say I feel completely great about this final rewrite, I mean that my personal best has jumped the wire, and that wire was set higher then ever before. I succeeded and know that this book, or the next (which by the way, I’ve already excitedly begun), or the one after that has a much higher chance of success.

The next steps? “Cold in California” will be entered into the 2010 ABNA competition next Monday, and I will be querying the novel and series over the next few weeks. Scary stuff but you know what? I really do feel completely great about it.

YAY FOR ME! I had the balls to face my writing, plotting and character development demons and during it all, I did what all writers do when they write. I ate to keep up my strength.

This blog is about snacks for every writing project, so today’s recipe is savory, to reflect the aromatic experience facing the rewrite dragons in your closet. Time to bring the tropics to your desk!

Caribbean Langostino Balls

1 lb. Cooked, Cleaned Langostinos (at the grocery store, frozen case or seafood counter)

½ C Red Peppers, small diced

1 T Scallions, thin sliced

¼ C Mayonnaise

½ tsp Jamaican Jerk Seasoning (more if you like spicy/sweet)

S&P to taste

2 Eggs, whisked with 1 T water

1 C Breadcrumbs, dry, unseasoned

Preeheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop langostinos and combine with diced red peppers, sliced scallions, mayo and Jerk seasoning. Mixture should be tight enough to form into small (1”) balls. If not, add a little dried unseasoned breadcrumbs to tighten – if mixture is not wet enough, add a little mayo. Roll balls in breadcrumbs, then egg mixture and then breadcrumbs again until well coated. Set balls on baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until golden brown, 15-20 minutes.

Langostino balls can be refrigerated and reheated for munching later. Yummy hot or cold.

Pirate Trunk Dipping Sauce

½ C Apricot Preserves

1 T Dark Rum

¼ tsp Dry Mustard

Mix and heat


Substitute lump crab meat for langostinos.

Substitute ¼ t dried mustard, ¼ t Old Bay seasoning and a dash of cayenne pepper for Jerk Seasoning.

For even more spicy Caribbean Langostino Balls, add another ½ t jerk seasoning to the breadcrumbs for coating.

A variation on the dipping sauce is to mix equal parts Raspberry Jam with Dijon Mustard.

Enjoy! Next week: Sweet balls, for that sweet feeling of success after reaching your writing goals. After all, it’s common knowledge that it takes a lot of balls to do the job well.

Snacks for Every Writing Project: Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut …

Over the past few days, as I chatted in my favorite distraction place on earth, Twitter, I noticed a trend among January writers, editors and authors. This may be something that happens all year round, but after the Holidays it seems a little more prevalent. After all, snacks have been readily available, from Christmas cookies to candy and cheese balls with crackers, so having a bowl of munchies on your desk as you work is a natural. In fact, even without the festive goodies, I’m thinking it’s probably a really good idea to keep nutrition close at hand during long writing projects. One must keep up ones strength, right? Serving our “hunter and gatherer” nature, I’ve seen people tweet about potato chips and cold pizza, cheese cake and tim tams … and the desperate need to run out and get some if the cupboard is bare of such delicacies. They chatter about the aroma of dinner cooking in the crock pot and the excitement of grilling steaks outside in the snow. There’s no escaping it and I’m certainly one of the biggest culprits.

No, this isn’t a blog about gaining weight (I say as I look over my shoulder at my widening behind). This is a blog about staying sharp and alert while coping with that major rewrite, edit, new novel plotting, or non-fic computer research ahead. Euell Gibbons was right about one thing, it’s natural and important for humans to snack regularly, but what Euell Gibbons used to eat, I hardly recognize as food.

Writing is a creative process, so I propose we feed our bodies and minds with creative food … snacks that are easy to prepare ahead of time and perfect for refueling the mental and physical machine … refreshments that won’t make the keyboard sticky or require assembly attention. Simple, yummy, energy designed tidbits to keep your momentum high and reach your deadlines!

So, I’ve decided to do a Thursday blog to address this issue of “Writer’s Munchie Mania” and share a few of my culinary skills along the way. I promise the recipes will take little time to prepare and be ubber satisfying too. Here goes!

I thought we’d start with Caramel Coffee Nuts, as most of us are still suffering the Holiday Saber Sweet Tooth. What else does a writer need? Caramel because it’s luscious, coffee because it’s vital, and nuts because … well, just because. I see these nuts as a delicious way to remind us to put a little sweetness and humor into those antagonists, keep the bad guy interesting and then, of course, be creative. At the end of every recipe will be suggestions on how to pump it up and make it a little different.

Caramel Coffee Walnuts

1 C Brown Sugar

½ C White Sugar

½ C Sour Cream

1 T Instant Coffee

Combine and cook all above ingredients to 260 degrees or until a drop of mixture, dripped into a glass of cold water, creates a soft ball.

Remove mixture from heat and add 1 tsp. Vanilla

Fold 2 ½ C Whole Walnuts into hot mixture then distribute individual coated nuts on wax paper. Let dry for 24 hours. Store in sealed container. Caramel Coffee Walnuts will last as long as your willpower to avoid them lasts and not a minute longer.


For Spicy version, add ½ tsp. Red Pepper Flakes before cooking mixture

For Apple Pie version, add ¼ tsp. Cinnamon before cooking mixture

For Tea version, substitute Powdered Chai Mix for the instant coffee

For texture variations, use mixed nuts or your favorite nuts. Note: cashews create a unique flavor profile and pecans add even more sweetness.


Next week: balls, a yummy variety of finger food for facing the dreaded rewriting projects. After all, it’s common knowledge that it takes a lot of balls to do the job well.

In the meantime, if you have a great recipe or favorite snack that gets you through a long day at the keyboard, please share. We’re all starving to hear about it!