MBM: 8 Editing Tips with Cassie Mae

(marching)



Today is day #4 of March Book Madness! If you don’t know what March Book Madness is, check it out here. The gist is that I get to have some awesome authors here, talking to me and you about writing, editing, querying, and all that jazz. Fun, awesome stuff. Fun, awesome people. The schedule is:

          

          Lynn Wiese Sneyd: Thurs, March 8, Querying 
          Tobi Summers: Tues, March 13, Plotting vs. Plodding
          JoLynne Lyon: Thurs, March 15, Marketing
          Cassie Mae: Tues, March 20, Editing
          Jessica Khoury: Thurs, March 22, Editing
          Tricia Pease: Tues, March 27th, Reading
          Sharon Belknap: Thurs, March 29Reading 
          (Click on the blue to go to that post) 


That means today I have the hilarious and very sweet Cassie Mae sharing her thoughts on editing. I’m up to my eyeballs in editing right now, so I’m very thrilled to have some ideas. With that short intro, I’m going to let her take over. Especially since the more I write here, the more chance I have of breaking her rules in front of y’alls (no, I’m not southern). Take it away Cassie.  


Cassie: Okay, before I dive in, I have to say THANK YOU to my idol, Rebecca for asking me to guest post! I love you girl! And also, a disclaimer: I have no filter. Pretty funny considering the topic I chose to post about, lol.

 
Editing that sucker of a manuscript!
 
Gosh, editing is my favorite part. (Wut?? You crazy!) But really, it is. Know why??? Cuz I get to read through my book again, knowing all the stuff is already there, just needs to be polished.
 
All right, so here’s a list from what I’ve gathered about agents, and what they look for.

 

 
1) Voice
 
Voice. Voice. VOICE!
 
Do you know what voice is? Or how to achieve it in your book? Okay, I’m no expert, I’ll be the first to say, but here’s my advice. Put yourself into the character’s head. (Duh, we’re already there.) I know, but really think about it. What would your character say in response to something that surprised them?
 
Example: My eyebrows shot upward.
 
Ya, I guess that’s fine. But is that what you would think when something surprised you?
 
Whoa! So did not expect that! How the heck do I respond?
 
If you are first person, this totally works. Even in third, italicize this baby and it works too.


2) Show, don’t tell
 
Gosh, first draft Cassie tries real hard not to tell, but you know what? She tells a lot. So you know what editing Cassie does? She does a search and find. On what words do you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. (haha! No pun intended.)
 
*Felt, Feel, Feeling. (Oh gosh, please get rid of these. You don’t need them ever.)
*Saw, seen, see.
*Notice, realize, wonder. (You don’t need these either. When you are inside the mc’s head, the reader knows they notice, realize, or wonder something simply by stating it.
Example: I realize I’m drooling.
To: (I’m adding voice here too) Holy crap! I’m drooling. Gross.
*Hear, heard.
*Any and all adverbs.

 

3) Active voice
 
Make things active in your book. The characters need to be doing the thing, not starting to do the thing, or even was doing the thing.
 
More examples? Okay :)
 
Passive sentence: I started to cross the room.
Active: I crossed the room.
 
Passive: He was waiting by the car.
Active: He waited by the car.
 




4) Tense

Pick a tense. Stick with it. The whole way through your book. I’m a present tenser, so when I edit, I look for whenever past tense slips in. And it does.
 
Past: Did
Present: Do, Does
 
Past: Was, were
Present: Is, are
 
Ya, you get it. :)




5) Grammar/spelling
 
Word is great for most things, but it doesn’t catch everything. Trust me! The most common grammar mistake I come across is for dialog tags.
 
Example:
 
Wrong: “Do you ever stop talking?” She asked.
Right: “Do you ever stop talking?” she asked.
 
Wrong: “No. It’s not possible,” I laughed.
Right: “No. It’s not possible.” I laughed. (Okay, do you know why this is the correct way? Because laugh isn’t a dialog tag. It’s an action. If I used said, then the first version would be the correct way. Laugh, sigh, smile are all actions. So a period it is!)
 
Wrong: “You should really try to shut your mouth,” she said, rolling her eyes, “it could get you into trouble.”
Right: “You should really try to shut your mouth,” she said, rolling her eyes. “It could get you into trouble.” (Because these are two separate sentences, a period is used. Think of it as if the dialog tag wasn’t there at all. Would you use a period or a comma?)
 

6) Speaking of dialog tags…
 
Edit them out when you don’t need them. The voices of your characters should be enough anyway to know who’s talking. If you read this:
 
“Dude, you smell,” I said.
 
“Sorry, ran out of deodorant,” he responded.
 
“Go to the store, man,” I said.
 
“Can’t. I got practice,” he said.
 
“Your team is gonna hate you,” I said, laughing.
 
Now, some people don’t like what they call ‘floating heads’ but this is too many dialog tags IMO. Maybe adding action will help here.
 
“Dude, you smell.” I plug my nose and take a step back
 
“Sorry,” he says as he sniffs his pit. “I ran out of deodorant.”
 
“Go to the store, man.”
 
He shrugs. “Can’t. I got practice.”
 
“Your team is gonna hate you.”
 
Not the best, but better, right? One dialog tag used there.


7) Redundancies
 
Do your characters nod their head? Shrug their shoulders? Squint their eyes? Now, think about these active words here. What else would you shrug? Nothing right? When someone says “I shrug” what do you picture?
 
So no need to put the modifier. I shrug, I nod, I squint, works just fine.
 
Okay, so this post is getting way long! But wanted to mention one more thing.

8) Are you a ‘that’ fan?
 
That word will pop up in manuscripts left and right, when it can just be taken out completely.
 
“I worried that she’d see the empty fast food bag in the garbage.”
 
“I worried she’d see the empty fast food bag in the garbage.”
 
Same meaning, right?
 
Advice? If you can read the sentence without the ‘that’, then take it out!
 
Okay, I’m done spewing now, lol. Editing is long, but it is fun! Trust me! You’ll see how much more this stuff will help you and with each new first draft, you’ll notice the less amount of stuff you have to fix when it comes to this stuff. There’s always pacing, and plot lines and stuff like that, but I’m not going to dive into it because that would be a whole other post, lol.
 
Thanks again to Rebecca, and I hope this has been somewhat helpful!



Bio (written by Cassie’s hubby): Cassie doesn’t like to talk about herself (she’s lying about that btw) so she asked me to come up with a few things to introduce her to you. Her mouth doesn’t ever stop running. Even in her sleep. She laughs all the time. At nothing. I’ve stopped asking her what is so funny. When she writes, the only words I can say to grab her attention are, “Harry Potter.” She’s a nerd, but the most beautiful nerd. And she won’t believe I said that either. 


You can find Cassie over at readingwritingandlovinit.blogspot.com. Her posts will make you laugh. Plus, she’s a super nice person. Back when I was a dorky, first-time author (all of 3 months ago–and I still am btw), I had my very first book signing in a land far, far away (Salt Lake City). Cassie came to see me. Twice. How awesome is that? Love her.

As far as my thoughts on editing, I need all the help I can get, so THANK YOU, Cassie! :) Like Cassie, I actually love to edit. I love reliving the story, tweaking the plot, and enhancing the setting. The book I’m working on has been in the editing stage for three years (off and on), so yeah. Good thing I love editing. It’s great to have some new ideas. Cassie’s tips are awesome and I will be using them as soon as I’m done typing here. :) I’m sure you can, too. 

So what about you? Do you love or hate editing? What editing tricks have you used?

PS – Be sure to check back Thursday when Jessica Khoury will be adding her thoughts on editing. (Seriously a great timed week for me! I have a goal to be done with these edits next week. It must be luck or Karma or something. Awesome!) See you then!

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Author: Rebecca Belliston @rlbelliston

Hopeless romantic and author of CITIZENS OF LOGAN POND, SADIE and AUGUSTINA. Music nerd and composer of RELIGIOUS and CLASSICAL-STYLE music. I live in Michigan with my husband and five kids.

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