Molten Fire of Refinement

The editing process is a sticky mire of catching the stupid craft mistakes, plugging story holes and refining the vision I’ve worked so hard on.

I ran across a great check list for self-editing, here is my version of the list:

  1. Synonyms: Expand your horizons, be bold in your word choice. Buy the best thesaurus you can buy.  I personally have a hard-copy Thesaurus and I subscribe to the VisualThesaurus by Thinkmap.  This site maps the words so that you can see the relationships of definitions.
  2. Similes & Metaphors: Make sure the metaphor you are using is helping move the story along.  Too broad a metaphor or flashy a simile can distract from what you are saying.
  3. Dictionary Check:  Make sure your word choice is correct.  To often words are used frequently that have a completely different meaning than the intent.  Dictionaries are our friends!
  4. Read Aloud:  You might look like you’re talking to yourself, but hearing the project read out loud can reveal pacing, structural and wording issues.  Be brave.
  5. Action and Active Voice: I’ll admit it, this is my downfall.  I have a tendency to ‘tell’ not ‘show’.  Idea, theme and story clarity will emerge when you structure the sentence as subject-verb-object.  The post says, “Use your word processor to search for words ending in “-ed” — if you preceded this word by “is” or “was” (or similar verbs) the phrase would be better rewritten. Also check for the word “there” followed by “is” or “are” (or similar verbs).” 
  6. Kill the Commas:  Over usage of comma’s can change your intent.  As the bestselling book “Eat, Shoots & Leaves: A Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” illustrates, comma placement is everything.  If done incorrectly the entire meaning of your sentence changes.
  7. Kill your Darlings:  William Faulkner said it well, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” Take a hard look at the parts of the project you ‘absolutely’ love.  Do they actually do anything for the story or should you kill it off?  I recently killed the entire first chapter of my manuscript.  Despite my love of it, the chapter did nothing to move the story along.
  8. Spell and Grammar check:  Duh!  A misspelled word or poorly constructed sentence can demolish all your hard work.
The act of refining my craft, my storytelling technique and my attention to detail makes me a better writer.


  • This is a really great post. Onward and upward! I am wondering from your comments up above… did you have beta readers? if so, were they people you didn’t know? I had many of these problems, and by beta partners quickly curbed me of them.

    • Thanks for reading and posting a comment. I do have beta readers. They all adhere strictly to my ‘code of honesty’ – pull no punches, tell me if I’ve lost my mind, and help identify story holes. They are people who have no fear of making me feel bad. How can I feel bad when they are trying to help me. They all make me a better writer.

      • That’s the best way to take creative criticism. Sometimes, as a writer, we get too close and we can read right over things. Goodness knows I’ve done it!

  • Pingback: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine? « Jennifer M Eaton

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