I’ve been editing the first draft of my new novel, and I became aware of some changes I consistently make—for the better. I’ll share them here, in case you find them useful.

1. I get rid of the word “it” and replace it with the specific thing that I’m referring to, even if I just named that thing in the previous sentence. “Jackson reached for his Glock. The weapon felt heavy in his hand” is better than “Jackson reached for his Glock. It felt heavy in his hand.” In verbal communication, repetitive use of “it” may be acceptable, but in narrative writing such lack of clarity is ineffective and often confusing.

2. The same is true of overuse of pronouns. So I’ve also consistently replaced “she,” “he,” and “they” with the specific name of the character(s). Sometimes it feels too formal to use the character’s name three times in a paragraph, but if the character, say, a guy named Jack, is talking about the suspect, a guy named Vinnie, then referring to either of these guys as “he” can be confusing to the reader. This is a point that Stephen King makes in his great book On Writing.

3. The third most consistent edit I make is to tweak individual scenes so that they read like mini-stories, with mounting tension, a climax, and a conclusion. The exception to that structure are scenes at the end of chapters, which I often leave with a revelation, a hint of a revelation, or a great deal of uncertainty (aka, cliffhangers).

  1. Great tips, LJ — which is why writers keep coming to you for editing!

  2. Yup, I’m keeping you in mind as an editor, LJ! Jess Lourey uses an editor before she sends anything to a publisher and she is a big convert to it. Even if the editor leaves Jess’s manuscript in bloody shreds… 🙂

  3. Start getting your posts ready for the September 1 launch of The Blood Red Pencil blog. This is a good one if you want to add it, along with others. Let’s get all these great tips in one place!

    Now here’s a question on pricing for a good edit. Another blog post for someone. Does $2.50 per page sound average across the board? That’s what my research is finding. I’m thinking that’s about 10 pages an hour at $25/hour with average editing speed. What say you all, editors?


  4. Great tips, LJ. You are magnificent. I’ve learned more from you by just casually browsing over here than through the gazillion books I’ve read over and over again.

  5. Thanks for sharing LJ. I’d add just one – the hunt and destruction of verbs of being. I can usually find a much stronger verb.

    Zhadi – I’ve benefited from LJs editing talents and can recommend her highly. Not only did she do an incredible job on the edits, she beat every deadline promised! I highly recommend her services.

  6. $2.50 per page is what most editors are charging. I charge $2.25 per page (trying to attract business) or $25 an hour with a maximum cap that equals $2.25 per page. It feels pretty reasonable.

  7. Helpful tips – I’m saving them. I agree with them all, and sometimes need a reminder to implement them. Thanks!

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