Common Errors

Thought I’d post about some of the most common errors I’ve seen while I’ve been editing lately. Keep these in mind when you’re self-editing before you submit your manuscript to an editor, agent or publisher. For those of you who make them, just be aware. I am not making any judgments about these; I just want writers to be aware of them.

Chocked instead of choked
I’ve seen this a lot lately in several different manuscripts by different authors.

Periods before dialogue attributions
Lots of this in many different manuscripts. When you place an attribution, end the dialogue with a comma, a question mark or an exclamation mark, as appropriate.

Hyphens instead of dashes
When you want to use a dash, use one. Don’t substitute a hyphen instead. They are not the same thing. You can make an en dash by pushing the Ctrl button and the minus button at the same time. You can make an em dash by pushing the Ctrl button, the Alt button and the minus button at the same time.

Ellipses only have three dots
Ellipses have three dots, not four, and not a long string of dots. To make an ellipse in Word that acts as a single character so it won’t get split from one line to the next, hold down the Alt button while you put in the numbers 0133.

Ending punctuation
If you’re in the USA, place your periods and commas inside the quotation marks. Don’t leave them dangling.

Shuttered instead of shuddered
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this over the past few months. If your character is creeped out and shuddering, say so. If your character’s house is shuttered up to protect the windows, so be it.

Breath and breathe
Boy, do these two get mixed up a lot! If your character needs to breathe, add the e. If they are taking a breath, leave it off.

Could of, Should of, Would of
Don’t do this. It is could have, should have and would have. If you want the words to sound like of, use could’ve, should’ve or would’ve.

Bear and Bare
Yes, they sound alike, but they are two different things! Bear is either a large, wild animal or your character is having to carry a heavy burden. Bare is, well, you know, without clothing. Even worse is a local exercise place that uses bare in their name and a teddy bear in their logo. 😛

Boarder and Border

A border is a line, an edge or barrier. The yard had a border of marigolds. The excited couple gazed over the border into Mexico. A boarder is someone renting a room.

Well, that’s about it for now. I’m sure I’ll have more to add in another post on another day.

Metaphors & Similes

Admit it. We’ve all written them. Those elaborate metaphors and similes just seem to flow onto the page, don’t they? Sometimes, we get so enamored of them that they are very hard to let go. But do they really help?

Take a quick read of a few of your very favorite novels. Are they full of elaborate similes? How many poetic metaphors are there? Probably not very many. Why? Because they don’t usually further the story. Instead, these elaborate phrases tend to bog the reader down.

They also tend to remove the character from their immediate situation. If you are tempted to use one, take an objective look at the scene. What is happening? If your character is taking a moment to compare the huge battle he is facing with something totally unrelated, is that realistic? If you were using all of your energy fighting, would you be able to construct something like this in your mind and still be an effective fighter? Probably not. The only thing going through your mind would probably be how to block their next hit or where you could strike them most effectively.

And for love scenes… has your significant other ever spent time elaborating on how your eyes are limpid pools (or have you done this for your partner)? Probably not. Is it poetic? Maybe. Is it right for the scene? Maybe. It depends on your style, your characters and what is happening in the scene.

Before you go overboard, take an objective view of the scene that contains the phrase. Does it further the story? Does it provide insight into the character that we must have? Does it fit in the ongoing action? If you can’t answer yes to these questions, you probably don’t need it.

Editing for Publication – Guest Post

Today we are lucky to be hosting a guest post by author Liz Borino. (Loud applause.) She has two books published now. She also edits and does publicity for other authors. See the links at the bottom of this post to get your hands on her books.

Thank you for having me here today, Toni. I’m a two time author published by Lazy Day, a digital first publishing company. I’m here to impart a little secret on you: the writing life doesn’t get (much) easier once you have that publishing contact. Yes, there’s no more stress about querying. I have to ask, does anyone enjoy doing that, if so, please tell me in the comments. Even without that stress, there’s something you might not have thought of: editing. Now, I expect one of two reactions: a.) “But I’ve already edited! It’s perfect!” or b.) “Isn’t that what editors are for?”

To the former group, your baby isn’t perfect, I’m sorry to tell you. It’s good, it may even be great, but it’s not perfect. You know what’s funny about that? It won’t be perfect even when it’s published. Ask Toni, she’s going over my first book, Expectations, six months after publication. Before it even gets to publication, though, there will be at least two editing stages. Once the publisher acquires your manuscript their editors do ‘revision suggestions.’ These are the ‘big’ things which need to be corrected: character inconsistencies, plot holes, and scenes which can be deleted, to name a few.

Here’s one more, the one I struggled with, point of view. See, Expectations and What Money Can’t Buy are both told in third person omniscient POV. For non-writers, if they’d even be reading this, that means you’re in every character’s head constantly. Lazy Day said it was hard to follow in What Money Can’t Buy. They wanted me to only be in one character’s head in each scene. I’m going to be honest with you, that was hard for me to take. I learned a lot from writing and editing Expectations and I believed, even in my first draft, What Money Can’t Buy showed that. Lazy Day and I ended up coming to a compromise with the POV issue because I couldn’t limit to one character per scene. It just wouldn’t work with the book. A good publisher will listen to you and respect your opinion, if you feel strongly enough. And Lazy Day is great about that. However, it’s just as important for you, the author, to get off the ‘my story is perfect’ stick.

And to the group who chose option b? No. I’d say more, but as an editor, the thought of that group makes me want to reach through the computer let loose with a curling iron.

Expectations Amazon:
Fan page: