Friday, 8 April 2011

All About Editing - Jamie Debree

Do you love editing, or hate it, or somewhere in the middle?

It kind of depends on what day you catch me. For the most part, I don’t mind line-edits, but I’m not fond of revisions. It’s too much like real work. ;-) When I’m close to finishing edits on a novel-length work, I hate them with a passion, because I’m completely sick of the whole project by then and just want it to be over so I can move on.

Do you edit as you go? Or do you start only after the first draft?

As far as storyline and plot points go, I try to edit as I go. I try to make the first draft as free of plot holes and things that might need major revisions as possible. I’ve even gone so far as to move the plot in a different direction if it’s heading for something that will require major revisions to earlier scenes. As for line editing, I have to be able to read it without cringing too badly so I do pay attention to basic spelling and grammar, but I’ll leave that at “good enough” until the draft is done and I can get some space from it, and have other eyes helping me spot problems.

Do you have a definite method for editing? If so, would you like to share something from it?

After I finish a draft, I send it out to beta readers and ask for revision notes. While I’m waiting for those to come back, I have the story on my kindle and do a read-through, making my own revision notes. Betas are welcome to send line edits too, but I’m really after big-picture stuff at that point...does the story work, did I leave any gaping holes, are the characters in need of “whatever”. Once I get those back, I go through and revise all the big picture stuff, fixing whatever line-edit level items I come across as well. Then I send it to my editor, and she marks all the nit-picky grammar/typo/technical stuff (and deletes a ton of commas), as well as any final problems with continuity or plot she sees. Then I go through again and finish the edits from that. I do a final proofread as I’m formatting the books for publication, and I send out reader copies to friends for proofreading as well.

Any tips you've learned from your experience?

It’s pretty much pointless to line-edit before revisions, in my opinion. It’s inefficient to work on prose at the sentence level if those sentences could be cut in the revision process.

I absolutely cannot edit my own work to a polished form - I need other eyes on it to catch everything I simply don’t see. There are people out there who claim to self-edit, but I wouldn’t, personally.

No matter how much you revise and edit, there will always be a mistake or two that makes it into the finished book. It doesn’t matter how you publish either - odds are very good something will be overlooked. That’s just how it is.

Anything else you would like to add - pet peeves, things that make you want to pull your hair out (editing related), joys and wonders of the process?

My biggest pet peeve is that my comma splices aren’t considered proper grammar. LOL I love the sentence structure involving comma splice (ie... “She raised her glass, then looked at him over the rim.”), and hate that I either have to take the comma out, or add an “and” to make it correct. And I rant about it every chance I get - because dang it, I want to use that structure! But I change it anyway, because the prose needs to be transparent to the reader if possible, and most readers get hung up on the lack of “and”. I do try to draft without them now, but they still slip in...a habit that is extremely hard for me to break.

My greatest joy is when I’m line editing, and I actually hit on the *perfect* wording and structure for the emotion I want to convey at that point. Most sentences are just...well...sentences, but every once in awhile there’s just that perfect turn of phrase that I can’t believe I wrote. I love that. :-)

Thanks so much for inviting me to participate, Dolly - this was fun!

A full-time webmistress by day, Jamie DeBree writes steamy, action-packed romantic suspense late into the night. She resides in Billings, MT with her husband and two over-sized lap dogs. Her latest book is Desert Heat, available at , Amazon and Barnes & Noble. For more information and to connect with her via social media or email, please visit


  1. Nice post about editing. I'd almost rather juggle broken glass than edit. Jamie you make it sound more fluid than it seems to be for me. I will have to work harder at enjoying the process. BTW, I love my comma splices too but then I am sure you know that after reading many of my posts and comments.

    Dolly, thanks for having Jamie drop in!



  2. Thanks for stopping in, Ardee-ann. It may sound fluid now, but it took me over 6 months to develop what worked for me. Much floundering before that, to be sure. ;-)

    Ah, comma splices. If I were a lot more popular, I'd be working to get them the recognition as a poetic form of prose they deserve...

  3. I'm an edit-as-I-go girl too. Doing so makes those first drafts so much cleaner... comparatively cleaner, that is. As I'm facing down the first round of edits for my WIP, I'm trying not to cringe at all the work that still needs to be done!

  4. Jamie,

    Thank you for your wonderful contribution. I tried editing as I write, but that just doesn't work for me. So I am sticking to first draft as quick as possible, or even if it's page a day due to other commitments, but without looking back. Story seems to flow more naturally that way. But you never processes change all the time.

  5. Ugh! I know exactly what you mean, K.M. When I edit as I go, at least I can brave the revisions (obviously there are still revisions & editing to be done). The drafts I did without any editing the first time through are still in the trunk, because I just can't face the revision work.

    Dolly - thanks for inviting me. I actually think a lot of writers draft without's what you learn to do first (just to get things finished), so I'm sure for many, it's just more natural. I know a lot of writers who really enjoy the revision process too...but all things being equal, I'd rather be drafting. ;-)

  6. Dang it, I commented on this last night and it looks like it didn't go through! And now I can't remember what I said! I think those sentences could work better if you either cut the comma or kill the "then." That's all I remember.

  7. See, that's the thing. I *like* the comma splice. I *like* how it sounds with a comma (pause), then. It sounds poetic and flowing to my ear. So I don't *want* to fix it, because I don't feel it needs fixing. ;-)

    But yes, to be correct, I have to either remove the comma, or add an "and" before "then". Or take out "then" (which I think sounds sterile in a lot of cases, and kills my voice).

    And like I said, I do fix them before publishing. Even though I don't want to. *sigh*