Most editing manuals are like geography books. They give great information, but don’t show how to get from place to place. Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave is a GPS that leads you through the writing jungle to solve your specific writing problems.
Most editing manuals are like dictionaries from which you’re asked to select words to write the Great American Novel. This book shows what words to use and what words NOT to use.
Most editing manuals are loaded with mind-numbing theory. This one presents knowledge a step at a time and asks you to apply what you learned—a step at a time—to your manuscript’s first chapter. Along the way you’ll also edit a nine-chapter melodrama and check your editing against the author’s. When you finish, you’ll have an editor-proofed first chapter and will be ready to edit the rest of your book.
This system was proven to work in three years of weekend and online classes, titled Editor-Proof That Chapter and Twenty-One Steps to Fog-Free Writing. They are parts One and Two of this book. Part Three discusses finding and working with critique partners, professional editors, publishers, and agents. The students loved the concept!
This book is perfect for use in classrooms. The information is presented in bite-sized lessons which can be assigned daily. See what students say about their classroom experiences on the back page.
Unpublished writer “Barbara Stevens” asked me to critique and edit her newest unpublished novel’s first chapter. “I’ve written twelve other manuscripts,” she said, “and they’ve been rejected a lot of times. I hope you can figure out what’s wrong.”
Well, I did figure it out, and quickly. This lady was basically a good writer. Her blogs sparkled, she dreamed up creative plots, and her heart was certainly in her work. But she’d made a major craft mistake in that chapter and, presumably, in all twelve of those manuscripts. It was a mistake that almost guaranteed she’d never be published.
We discussed her problem (we’ll get back to that later), and the light bulb over her head glowed brilliantly. She rewrote that first chapter and I edited it again, and, as if by magic, it became publishable. Barbara used her new-found knowledge to revise the rest of that manuscript, followed by her twelve other novels. Within two months she sold one, and she’s now been published many times. She’s on her way.
The point? Barbara’s breakthrough came directly from correcting that one craft mistake. She’d made it time and time again and was destined to repeat it again and again, until someone told her what it was.
You may be making that same mistake. Or perhaps you’re making another equally deadly one—mistakes we’ll identify and resolve in this book—and are not aware of it. But there’s hope.
I decided to ask Don a few questions and see what he had to say. As having worked as an editor myself, I always find the process interesting.
JS: Your book's entitled, "Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave." What is the biggest mistake writers make attempting to edit their own work?
DM: That's an easy one. They really don't know how to do it. Since writers put down the words they think they should, how can we assume the know how to change them?
The fact is, they must go through a learning process. Many buy books that tell them how to write and edit, and that's a good thing, except for one problem. While many discuss things writers in general should do, they don't tell them what they're doing wrong. Using them is something like trying to drive from Point A to Point b by studying a geography book. Knowing what a mountain looks like, or how big a lake is, is of little help, unless they also learn how to drive over and around them.
JS: Why did you write this book?
DM Because I realized the above was true. Finding knowledge wasn't the problem; hundreds of books contain knowledge. But what of that knowledge does one need? Don't we have to know what our problems are first?
That's the promise of my book. Through many hours of research I learned the kinds of problems most writers faced--there were 21--and presented solutions to those problems. Writers need only to go form Step to Step to Step as they review their manuscript and apply the solutions to those problems the book identifies. When they're done they'll have a clean manuscript to send to a publisher or agent.
JS: Without giving away too much, what is one of the most important things a writer must do to ready their work for the editor?
DM: Again, to simply go from Step to Step to Step. A writer may have issues with only five or six of the problems the Steps resolve, but which ones are they? while teaching my classes I learned many students aren't even aware they face certain problems, and they are ecstatic to find not only the problem, but the solution. By the way: writing generally becomes clearer from taking words out, not by adding them. This book shows which words to take out and why.
JS: What do you think of today's writers?
DM: There are many fine writers out there. Unfortunately, most won't be published. That's because publication editors reject their work after only glancing at the first page of their manuscripts.
Unfair, you say? Think about it. Isn't that what we all do when we buy a book? We go to a book store, pick up a book with an interesting cover, then read the back-page blurb. We finally go to that first page. If we aren't hooked in the first paragraph we reshelf the book and move on
"Editor-Proof Your Writing" shows how to catch that editor's attention.
JS: Any words of wisdom?
DM: All writers should have their books edited before sending them out. As an editor, I see many manuscripts, and most need moderate to heavy editing. But remember, these are from writers who recognize editing's importance. Think about those publisher's editors who see those raw, unedited manuscripts sent to them. Is it any wonder more than 95% are rejected?
Thanks Don! It's always nice to get the perspective of something as important as editing from an expert. I fully intend to invest in a copy of your book.
Don McNair spent his working life editing magazines (eleven years), producing public relations materials for an international PR company (six years), and heading his own marketing communications firm, McNair Marketing Communications (twenty-one years). His creativity has won him three Golden Trumpets for best industrial relations programs from the Publicity Club of Chicago, a certificate of merit award for a quarterly magazine he wrote and produced, and the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil. The latter is comparable to the Emmy and Oscar in other industries.
McNair has written and placed hundreds of trade magazine articles and four published non-fiction how-to books. He considers his latest, Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave, (published April 1, 2013 by Quill Driver Books) to be the cap of his forty-year writing and editing career. It’s an easy-to-use editing manual that helps writers edit, step by step, their first chapter, then use the knowledge gained to edit the rest of their work.
McNair has also written six novels; two young adults (Attack of the Killer Prom Dresses and The Long Hunter), three romantic suspenses (Mystery on Firefly Knob, Mystery at Magnolia Mansion, and co-authored Waiting for Backup!), and a romantic comedy (BJ, Milo, and the Hairdo from Heck). All are published internationally, and are available at his website, http://DonMcNair.com .
McNair, a member of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and the Editorial Freelancers Association, now concentrates on editing novels for others. He teaches two online editing classes.