Friday, June 22, 2012

A List to Focus on While Line Editing

My back is killing me. We need a new computer chair, because apparently ours isn't good for sitting in for five hours like I did today.

On a slightly related topic, I have good news; I'm now line editing Sacred Fire! No more adding, cutting, and rearranging scenes, fact checking, making characters and plot lines consistent. It's time to read it through to see if it all works.

Editing line-by-line is difficult because there are so many issues a writer needs to focus on. It feels like juggling. To help, I made a list of all the things I need to pay attention to as I do my edits. Maybe it could help you too when you get to editing your work.

If you can think of anything I've missed, please let me know!

  1. Vary the first word in each sentence (don’t start each one with “he” or “she”).
  2. Vary the length of each sentence.
  3. Don’t make any sentence so long or wordy that it wouldn’t be comfortable to say out loud.
  4. Do not use the same word twice in one paragraph if you can help it.
  5. Do not end sentences with the same word too close together.
  6. Describe the surroundings and the character’s sensations.
  7. Avoid clichés.
  8. Pay attention to grammar, punctuation, and typos.
  9. Don’t use the word “said” too much in dialogue, but don't let the words you use instead distract from the dialogue.
  10. Instead of using adverbs, use stronger verbs.
  11. Instead of using adjectives, use stronger nouns.
  12. Don’t use the word “that” when you don’t need to.
  13. If you start sentences with “but” or “and,” do so sparingly
  14. Don’t italicize everything (or anything, if you can help it).
  15. Whenever you use “he” or “she,” make sure readers can tell to whom it refers
  16. Mix up your use of “he” or “she” with the character’s name (don’t use either too much).
  17. Don’t describe gestures or feelings the same way twice in one book, if possible.
  18. Don’t use the same metaphor or simile twice in one book.
  19. Watch out for words you use too much (smile, nod, gasp, shrug, stuff like that).
  20. For the love of all that's good, stop using the word "look." If you describe something, we can assume the character saw it without always telling us he looked at it!
It's a tad overwhelming. At least I can line edit more than once.
This has nothing to do with anything, but it made me crack up:


  1. I had to pry open my wallet and get a new computer chair last NaNoWriMo. The old one was a torture rack and the new one is like sitting on a cloud.

  2. That is great that you are at the line edit phase! Super exciting! Thank you for these tips, definitely useful for my editing process.

  3. EXCELLENT LIST! I'm bookmarking for future reference. Best of luck with those line edits!

  4. That's a great lists. I too am bookmarking, because I'm sure I always forget something! Good luck!

  5. I actually enjoy line editing. It's my favourite part of the process that comes after writing the first draft. Much less scary than revisions. But even I'll admit it can get tedious after a long time, especially when your body starts to hurt. Especially especially when your eyes do.


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