On Editing, part II; guest post by Carlie Cullen

Today we continue with the second half of Carlie M.A. Cullen’s absolute gem of a post on Editing.

Here is where the principle she expressed in Monday’s Post are put into action.

Her Comments will be in Red and my response will be in Blue!


When I edit a manuscript, I always request it in Word. I use the Review tab and insert comments which appear on the right of the document. If there are too many comments to fit on the page, the comment box will show ‘. . .’ in a small box; clicking on this will bring the comment up in full on the left of the document. By selecting the word or phrase and highlighting with the cursor, then pressing ‘New Comment’ it allows me to show the author the exact part they need to look at (see the screen print of the document I have edited for this post).

I always try to gently guide my authors. They have spent countless hours and poured a great deal of themselves into their work and I’m not in the business of trashing their self-esteem. In addition, I fully recognize they have the final say and I can only make recommendations.

The content of the comments made depend on what the problem is with the manuscript. Some comments are only one or two words long, i.e. ‘delete’ or ‘insert comma’, while others are much longer. Let’s take a moment to look at the comments on the screen print.


Comment C1 – just says remove comma”. This comma has been placed in a position where it is not needed and therefore incorrect. An author wouldn’t expect a ten line explanation of why the comma needs removing so it’s quite acceptable to have remove comma”  (done)

Comment C2 – this is a longer comment and showcases my point about realistic dialogue. The comment says Do you mean for the dialogue to be so precise here? You’ve used contractions in other places so I would suggest you change this to ‘They’re’ (done)

Comments C3, C4 and C5 – these also refer to comment C2 and the author, having read comment C2, will not expect an editor to type out the whole message for each case therefore, for these three comments I ask the author to Consider it’s / they’re / I’m(done)

Comment C6 – this comment has been showcased above when I spoke about inconsistencies. My message to the author here is If Wynn has seen a firedrake, surely he knows whether they look fiery or not. I suggest you reconsider this question.” This gives the author an opportunity to re-think and re-word. (Wynn has not seen a fire-drake.  The point of the exercise was to get him acquainted with beasts he had not encountered before.  However, Carlie has only seen this excerpt and doesn’t know this.)

Comment C7 – this relates directly to C6 as it answers the question which I believe to be inconsistent. Depending on how you handle comment C6, this may have to change or be deleted.” (left it in)

Comment C8 – in this case, I have a small issue with sentence structure. My comment, This doesn’t flow very smoothly. I suggest you consider changing the order to ‘put out the flames on its skin’”, tells the author what the problem is and gives a suggestion of how to fix it. (done)

Comment C9 – Consider changing to ‘she’s’”. This again is a dialogue issue and use of contractions. C10 – See comment C9”. There is no need for me to go into long explanations when I can refer the author to a previous point made. (done)

Comment C11 – sentence structure and the flow of it is the problem here. My comment, Having ‘healer’ and ‘healing’ in the same sentence doesn’t sound right. Consider changing ‘healing’ to something like curing/restoring, shows the author what I consider is wrong and suggests alternative words they can use. (done)

Comment C12 – deals with repetition of a phrase. You’ve used this type of phrasing above when talking about how tired Wynn was, so the repetition doesn’t work very well. If you want to emphasize how Jules looks and feels, I suggest re-wording or changing this around. Consider something like ‘Jules felt really out-of-sorts and looked quite rough’”. Using phrase repetitions, especially on the same page, annoys some readers and it doesn’t show the authors grasp of vocabulary as well as it might. By rephrasing, it removes the repetition and makes the story flow better and my suggestion gives the author another way of looking at it. (done)

Comment C13 – is to do with contractions in dialogue again. However, I can see there might be a reason why the author would not want to do so. Therefore, my comment, Consider contracting to ‘I’m’ unless you want to emphasize the ‘am’ in which case it should be in italics”, provides two possible solutions. (changed to italics)

Comment C14 – sentence structure and flow is the problem here so the comment, This is clunky and doesn’t flow at all well. Consider changing to something like ‘Shouldn’t they have challenged us with something we’ll actually be facing…?’ or similar”, explains the issue and suggests an alternative. (done)

Comment C15 – repetition. You’ve used ‘facing’ on the previous line. I suggest replacing with something like confronting / tackling / meeting”. This identifies the problem and offers a solution. (done)

Comments C16 and C17 – using contractions in dialogue. C 16, As this is dialogue, consider contracting to ‘it’ll’”. C17, “See comment C16”. (done)

Comment C18 – this comment covers two problems; repetitions and contractions in dialogue. It’s difficult for an editor (unless they are very familiar with an author’s work) to suggest changes to dialogue other than use of contractions as each author has their own ‘voice’. To get around this, I point out the problem and leave it for the author to fix, like so, You’ve used ‘it will’ 3 times in this paragraph. Consider rewording at least one of them (see also comment C16/17)”. (done)

Comments C19, C22, C23, C25, C30, C32, C34 and C35 – these again deal with use of contractions in dialogue and the comments made are almost identical to those used above. (done)

Comments C20 and C21 – both of these deal with repetitions &/or sentence structure/flow. As you can see, both comments offer suggestions for alternatives. C20, Repetition – you’ve just used ‘irritating in the previous sentence. Consider changing to something like annoying / infuriating / aggravating”. C21, “You’ve used ‘bored’ on the 1st line so this is like a repetition & doesn’t sound right. Consider replacing with tedious / monotonous / tiresome / repetitive, or similar”.  (done)

Comment C24 – because of the dialogue used, I feel there is a need for the author to show emotion in the speaker’s voice. The comment reads What inflection is in his voice? Annoyance? Exasperation?”.  (done)

Comment C26 – this is another emotive section where the character needs to come alive for the reader. I prompt the author thus, Consider what expression is on Devyn’s face and the inflection in his voice. You need to show a little something here”. (done)

Comments C27 and C36 – extraneous words have been used so a simple delete suffices. (done)

Comment C28 – You have 6 repetitions of ‘rules’ in this one paragraph. Delete this Pretty self-explanatory, I think. Comments C29, C31 and C33 deal with the other instances of the repetition within the paragraph. C29 states Delete”, C31 reads Change to ‘their directions / conventions / instructions / decrees’ or similar”, and C33, “Consider either removing this bit or changing to something like ‘… about what they want…’”.  (done)

Comment C37 – Repetition from previous paragraph. I would switch things around and remove ‘both’”, identifies the problem and offers a solution. (done)

Comment C38 – sentence structure and flow. Using ‘level’ and ‘leveling’ in the same line spoils the flow. Consider changing to flattening / razing / demolishing”. (done)

Comments C39 and C40 – incorrect punctuation. C39 states, “Remove comma and C40 reads, Insert comma”.  (done)

Comments C41, C42 and C43 – using contractions in dialogue. Comments are as previously shown.(done)

Comment C44 – showing. The reader needs to connect not only to the character in this part, but also the scene. The comment recommends, Is there a smug smile on his face? A hint of devilment in his eyes? What inflection is in his voice? Is there an aura of amusement around him? Your readers need to ‘see’ the scene”.  (I will work on it.  I don’t really do ‘devilment’, lol)

Comment C45 – punctuation can be over-used just like words can and this is a perfect example. The comment, “Too many exclamation marks – 3 in 3 sentences! Replace 1st exclamation with comma, change ‘O’ to lowercase and replace last exclamation with period”, shows how to rectify this. (What!!! er… Done)

Comment C46 – inappropriate descriptive word. This particular example was covered in the first section of this post. My comment is, Would the smiles be grim? Also, grim smiles wouldn’t light up their faces. This is payback as far as they are concerned so I would have thought there would be excitement / devilment or similar in their smiles. I suggest you look at this again and change this word to something more appropriate to the occasion”. (I will work on it)

The above comments show how I try to guide my author by posing questions and offering solutions to the identified problems.

Editing is a very time-consuming yet rewarding job; taking a raw manuscript and honing it until it shines is as much as labour of love for the editor as it is for the author. They have to work closely together for a prolonged period of time to achieve a common goal. The end result, the published book, gives an editor as much joy and satisfaction as the author.

I hope you have found the foregoing informative and interesting. As Connie’s editor, I have to say she is a consummate professional throughout the editing process and wonderful to work with. It makes a huge difference to an editor when their client approaches editing with an open mind and a positive attitude; it results in a wonderful piece of literature both parties can be proud to put their name to.


 Carlie, thank you for your long hours of work doing the edit of this segment.  I know you took time away from your own work to do this, and it means more to me than you know!

And for those of you who are wondering why a proper editing is so very expensive, there were only 836 words in this snippet, and it took her every bit as long to edit it as it did for me to write it, perhaps longer.  A good editor is very much worth the price – but I warn you absolutely must be able to work closely with your editor and you must be willing to consider and act on the changes they suggest. Your manuscript is the child of your creativity, and as such you must be very careful who you allow to care for it. If you have a contract with a publisher, be sure you have final say on all changes before publication.  It doesn’t matter how much you pay, if your editor is not willing to allow you to make the changes on your own ms. It is only through making these changes and thinking outside of your normal mindset that you will really grow as an author.


Filed under Adventure, Books, Humor, Literature, Uncategorized, writer, writing

6 responses to “On Editing, part II; guest post by Carlie Cullen

  1. Pingback: On Editing part 2 | Carlie M A Cullen

  2. This was absolutely terrific ladies. I’ve learned a lot and have two questions. I notice this snippet is single spaced; in researching manuscript format for NaNoWriMo, I was under the impression that a novel ms should be double-spaced. Also, I noticed your image of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, which I have on my desk. I asked an expert only the other day if this book was still relevant, do you both use it Connie and Carlie?


    • Hi Donna! When submitting a MS to an agent or a publishing house your manuscript should indeed be double-spaced. Each publisher has a website which will tell you what the parameters for submissions are, and they are very specific.

      We have chosen to go the indie route and are published by Myrddin Publishing Group, which is a private consortium. We share the costs of in-house services provided for each our member authors. Each author has a working relationship with an editor, and the editor decides how they want the ms spaced. Carlie perfers them single-spaced and no line-numbers on submissions when she is editing. I prefer double-spaced with numbered lines. With the use of word-processing programs it is easy to make that adjustment as needed.

      And we all refer to Strunk and White regularly! Half the time I forget what I’ve read there when I am in the throes of creativity, but Elements of Style is as relevant as it ever was and rightfully so! The purpose of editing is to make a story read seamlessly and to remove ‘speed-bumps’ which an author no longer sees. Strunk and White is the Bible in that area!


      • Thanks Connie; got it on formatting. I am so glad to hear that Elements of Style is still relevant because I had used it years ago, and refer to it all the time now, but I was one of the last people to learn that there was only one space after a period instead of two, so I wanted to be sure! Someone had recommended using the Chicago Manual of Style yet I’d prefer my handy- dandy little book! Thanks again.


  3. Pingback: On Editing, part II; guest post by Carlie Cullen | Cubbys Corner

  4. Pingback: Editing, Carlie Cullen, repost, D.G. Kaye