Author Topic: Ma's Editing List  (Read 19572 times)


  • Guest
Ma's Editing List
« on: August 04, 2008, 07:52:40 PM »

Ma's 100 editing list             Develop a thick skin now


Point of view. 
Make sure you have a point of view for every scene.   
You must be clear of whose head you are in as soon as possible.

Check you are in the right tense.
Check the tense you have chosen is consistent throughout.

Over use of the following:
Was – were – had – it – that – there – ly's

Avoid gerunds (ing) and as clauses.

Weak nouns and verbs.
A good check if you have added  adverbs or adjective to each.  If so, see if you can make the two words into one powerful one. 

Word or phrase that can be removed without altering the meaning of sentence.  That, just, actually, more or less for example.


The exclamation mark.
Do not over use.  This weakens its use, a mistake new writers make all the time.

Thoughts punctuation.
Publishers frown on thoughts being in italics. Also it seems the single quote mark. The best way is no punctuation to distinguish the thought.
eg: I wonder how you punctuate a thought. Stands on it's own if you are in third or first pov.

Song titles or parts of lyrics.
It is acceptable to use italics without quote mark.

Should only be used sparingly for emphasis.

Don't use a comma, question mark or exclamation mark after an ellipsis.
Use an ellipse to indicate missing words.
No spacing needed after an ellipsis.

Publishers feel this mark throws the reader out of the story.  Use sparingly.
Is viewed as near as damn a period.

Show don't tell.

Make sure you have described your character.  The short, fat...does not show.
If you give your character mannerisms, be consistent.
Make sure he/she connects with the reader.
If your character uses dialect or slang make sure you are consistent so not to throw readers.
Give your character something to do.  A gesture or an action.
Describe your characters surroundings.

Involve the reader with the senses.
Make the words a vivid picture for the reader to taste, smell, see...

Cause and effect
When something happens, there must be a reaction.  If your character is hurt what do they do.

What is happening in the scene?

Spell-check Ignores.

They're, there and their.
The house is over there.
What happened to their cat?
They're feeling the effects of sunburn.

Your and you're.
You're always on that computer.
Your friends will get you into trouble.

It's and Its.
It's about time you left for work.
The farmer wrung its neck with deft wrist action.

Loose and Lose.
The tiles on the roof are loose.
Don't lose your way in the fog.

The writing of the story.

Avoid, they are looked on as weak writing.

Back story.     
Check you have tied up all loose ends e.g.  If you fight a character earlier in your work make sure there is reference to why and how.

Dialogue Tags.    
Remember, said is not the enemy.   Use action beats to discourage 'spit-fire' dialogue.

Every scene must have this present.   Yes, every one of them.   Not all to the same degree, mind, but a scene without conflict somewhere is window dressing.   Cut it.   Use oblique dialogue to create conflict by getting your character to refuse to answer a question directly.

Stellar hooks.
A reader goes no further if the opening sequence opens like a sack of wet hair—lifeless and dumb.   Make certain it opens with a bullet, not a blank.   In fact, make every opening sentence stellar.   Yes, every one of them.   What?  You think writing is easy?

Cliff-hanger endings.    
On the opposite end, every scene must end with the reader wanting to know what happens next.   If you end it without a cliffhanger or question, revise it.   The only ending that doesn't have this is the last one in your novel.   Yes, I'm serious.

Melodrama vs.  drama. 
Did you go over-the-top in a scene?  Exclamation points are good signs.   Bolding, italics, CAPS ALL, etc.  are also good markers.   Amateurs need these like training wheels.  Professionals know that less is more.

The big picture.    
What message do you want to give the reader?  In almost all cases, you want the ending message to be positive.   Give the reader hope.   The message doesn't have to slap the reader in the face with each scene, but the overall message must be clear.   No, entertaining the reader isn't enough of a message.   Check the overall work to make sure the message sings.

Cold eyes.    
Once you've finished writing do not start editing!  I give myself six weeks to let the manuscript sit in a freeze without thinking about it.   You want detachment to your work before you review.   Errors you won't catch riding the high or a finished piece will bash you in the head when you read it cold.

Get to the point quickly.

Keep it simple stupid (KISS).

Content matters more than craft.

Don't overuse negatives.

The Golden Triangle is king (The Rule of Three).

Setting establishes mood.

Write scenes like you're working a camera with shifting focus closer, closer, closer.

Tension must not let up until the end.

Can you sum up the entire plot in one sentence of 25-words or less?
If not, you need more focus
Don't give the protagonist a break until the end.

Give the protagonist a break
A bit of good news to make him/her believe everything is going to be okay...  then pull the rug making the situation worse.

Makes sure the reader always wants to know what evil the antagonist will do next.

Give everyone flaws and character tics.

The protagonist must change through the story!

Write for yourself.   If you don't like it, no one else will.


Can you tell who is speaking in dialogue with no dialogue tags.  If you can, the character is unique and stands out.   If you can't he or she is cardboard.  Refine it.
Keep dialogue to three sentences or less.  If speech is long break with some action.

Make sure it's not hard to follow.  Check the overall pace and progression is fine.

Cut Unnecessary story that doesn't move the story along.

Number pages.

Frowning publishers.
Don't start a novel with flashbacks, back story or dreams.  Use a prologue if you must.
Living limbs are a no no...  His hand reached for the gun etc.

Personal Errors to look for.

Repetition and waffle.
Don't over describe an image.  Once is enough.
Don't repeat words or phrases close together.
Don't assume the reader can read your mind, make it clear.
Proofread to make sure it says what you think it says.
Don't go off at a tangent.  The reader knows he's drinking coffee, they don't need to know  where the coffee was bought.

In the first group we have words which cause your fingers to stutter.   
You will usually recognise these whilst proofing but if they're persistent  - and consistent - then you can do a simple find and replace on a whole chapter to find them.   

In the second group, the non-sticky spellings.
Things like deperate/desperate, separate/seperate.   If the correct spelling won't stick then write it along the sticky top section of a post-it, trim off the surplus, and stick your aide-memoir on a handy nearby surface.  The lower or top rim of the monitor, the top edge of the keyboard, or the unused surfaces of the printer/scanner. 

After a while some of them will stick in your mind after all, but if in doubt you can just glance down and there's the answer.   It saves breaking out the dictionary - either paper or on-line - and possibly your thread of thought.

Look for and remove "Coffee Breaks."
(Points in the story where there is no action, but where the characters sit down/rest/eat/etc to hash over the events of the story or introduce info dumps).  Death to Coffee Breaks! Characters should always be doing something that moves the story forward or reveals something about a character.

Info dumps Similar to the coffee break.
Try to avoid 'Thinking scenes' where the character is alone for too long.  Sometimes these scenes are necessary, but keep them tight and full of action that push the story forward. 

Examine all metaphors and similes.
Make sure that they are relevant, cliché free and not overdone.  Similes and metaphors are seasoning, but like salt, too many can ruin your prose.

Consider creating a Central Metaphor.
 (Recurring imagery woven throughout the book to highlight a specific idea that is important to the story. (Coming of age, a transition (death, a failing marriage, a new career), trust, redemption, finding one's strength, etc.) This can be done through the setting that is observed, making it relevant (coming of age: noting spring shoots peeking through the soil, ripening tomatoes, a stream strengthening into a river, etc) or mirroring a circumstance (IE: a character with trust issues is brought face to face with circumstances where trust occurs (a mother guiding a child across the street, a father handing the car keys to a son, A street performer who opens himself up to feedback from the crowd, etc.) Just make sure that if you choose recurring imagery, that it's relevant to the type of story your writing, and mood and atmosphere is taken into consideration, too.

With thanks to Wolfe, Orpheus, Gyppo, Mustang, Symphony and Momzillo who were kind enough to add to my list.  Their contribution is greatly appreciated.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2009, 06:09:47 PM by ma100 »

Offline bailish

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3580
Re: Ma's Editing List
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2018, 10:27:01 AM »
Ma's  Editing List  covers so much to do with editing.             jt

Avoid gerunds (ing) and as clauses.

Really? I often use gerund clauses. I avoid -ing verbs. Am I wrong?

Offline nosuchmember

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1067
    • Heartsong's Poetry  Diary
Re: Ma's Editing List
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2018, 11:25:47 AM »
Really? I often use gerund clauses. I avoid -ing verbs. Am I wrong?

Bailish, Hopefully, the answer can be found here.    jt

Comparing Gerunds, Participles, and Infinitives


This handout provides a detailed overview (including descriptions and examples) of gerunds, participles, and infinitives.

Comparing Gerunds and Participles

Look at the pair of sentences below. In the first, the use of a gerund (functioning as a noun) allows the meaning to be expressed more precisely than in the second. In the first sentence, the interrupting, a specific behavior, is precisely indicated as the cause of the speaker's irritation. In the second, the cause of the irritation is identified less precisely as Bill, who just happens to have been interrupting. (In the second sentence, interrupting is actually a participle, not a gerund, since it functions as an adjective modifying Bill.)

I was irritated by Bill's constant interrupting.
 I was irritated by Bill, constantly interrupting.

The same pattern is shown in these other example pairs below: in the first of each pair, a gerund (noun-function) is used; in the second, a participle (adjective-function). Notice the subtle change in meaning between the two sentences in each pair.


The guitarist's finger-picking was extraordinary.
 (The technique was extraordinary.)
 The guitarist, finger-picking, was extraordinary.
 (The person was extraordinary, demonstrating the technique.)

He was not impressed with their competing.
 (The competing did not impress him.)
 He was not impressed with them competing.
 (They did not impress him as they competed.)

Grandpa enjoyed his grandchildren's running and laughing.
 Grandpa enjoyed his grandchildren, running and laughing.* (Ambiguous: who is running and laughing?)

Comparing Gerunds and Infinitives

The difference in the form of gerunds and infinitives is quite clear just from comparing the following lists:
•Gerunds: swimming, hoping, telling, eating, dreaming
•Infinitives: to swim, to hope, to tell, to eat, to dream

Their functions, however, overlap. Gerunds always function as nouns, but infinitives often also serve as nouns. Deciding which to use can be confusing in many situations, especially for people whose first language is not English.

Confusion between gerunds and infinitives occurs primarily in cases in which one or the other functions as the direct object in a sentence. In English, some verbs take gerunds as verbal direct objects exclusively while other verbs take only infinitives and still others can take either. Many such verbs are listed below, organized according to which kind of verbal direct object they take.

Verbs that take only infinitives as verbal direct objects

agree decide expect hesitate
learn need promise neglect
hope want plan attempt
propose intend pretend 


I hope to go on a vacation soon.
 (not: I hope going on a vacation soon.*)

He promised to go on a diet.
 (not: He promised going on a diet. *)

They agreed to sign the treaty.
 (not: They agreed signing the treaty.*)

Because she was nervous, she hesitated to speak.
 (not: Because she was nervous, she hesitated speaking.*)

They will attempt to resuscitate the victim
 (not: They will attempt resuscitating the victim.*)

Verbs that take only gerunds as verbal direct objects

deny risk delay consider
can't help keep give up be fond of
finish quit put off practice
postpone tolerate suggest stop (quit)
regret enjoy keep (on) dislike
admit avoid recall mind
miss detest appreciate recommend
get/be through get/be tired of get/be accustomed to get/be used to


They always avoid drinking before driving.
 (not: They always avoid to drink before driving.*)

I recall asking her that question.
 (not: I recall to ask her that question.*)

She put off buying a new jacket.
 (not: She put off to buy a new jacket.*)

Mr. Allen enjoys cooking.
 (not: Mr. Allen enjoys to cook.*)

Charles keeps calling her.
 (not: Charles keeps to call her.*)

Verbs that take gerunds or infinitives as verbal direct objects

start begin continue hate
prefer like love try


She has continued to work at the store.
 She has continued working at the store.

They like to go to the movies.
 They like going to the movies.

Brent started to walk home.
 Brent started walking home.

Forget and remember

These two verbs change meaning depending on whether a gerund or infinitive is used as the object.


Jack forgets to take out the cat.
 (He regularly forgets.)
 Jack forgets taking out the cat.
 (He did it, but he doesn't remember now.)

Jack forgot to take out the cat.
 (He never did it.)
 Jack forgot taking out the cat.
 (He did it, but he didn't remember sometime later.)

Jack remembers to take out the cat.
 (He regularly remembers.)
 Jack remembers taking out the cat.
 (He did it, and he remembers now.)

Jack remembered to take out the cat.
 (He did it.)
 Jack remembered taking out the cat.
 (He did it, and he remembered sometime later.)

In the second of each pair of example sentences above, the past progressive gerund form having taken can be used in place of taking to avoid any possible confusion.

Sense verbs that take an object plus a gerund or a simple verb

Certain sense verbs take an object followed by either a gerund or a simple verb (infinitive form minus the word to). With many of the verbs that follow the object, the use of the gerund indicates continuous action while the use of the simple verb indicates a one-time action. Still, sometimes the simple verb can indicate continuous action if one-time action wouldn't make sense in the context.

feel hear notice watch
see smell observe 


We watched him playing basketball. (continuous action)
 We watched him play basketball. (continuous action)

I felt my heart pumping vigorously. (continuous action)
 I felt my heart pump vigorously. (continuous action)

She saw them jumping on the bed. (continuous action)
 She saw them jump on the bed. (one-time action)

Tom heard the victim shouting for help. (continuous action)
 Tom heard the victim shout for help. (one-time action)

The detective noticed the suspect biting his nails. (continuous action)
 The detective noticed the suspect bite his nails. (one-time action)

We could smell the pie baking in the kitchen. (continuous action)
 We could smell the pie bake in the kitchen. (continuous action)

Sometimes the simple-verb version might seem unconventional, so it's safer in most cases to use the gerund version.

Offline bailish

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3580
Re: Ma's Editing List
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2018, 12:56:01 PM »
Actually, Jan, your answer is about nuance of meaning, whereas the original from Ma was that gerunds should be avoided.

here are a couple of examples from my writing.

     Driving alone across the Texas desert without air conditioning on a clear summer day is exhausting.

     I slash his neck, covering with a towel I conveniently keep under the driver’s seat.

Ma's  comment sounds like these should be avoided. Are these bad sentences?

Offline nosuchmember

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1067
    • Heartsong's Poetry  Diary
Re: Ma's Editing List
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2019, 11:35:44 PM »
Actually, Jan, your answer is about nuance of meaning, whereas the original from Ma was that gerunds should be avoided.

here are a couple of examples from my writing.

     Driving alone across the Texas desert without air conditioning on a clear summer day is exhausting.

     I slash his neck, covering with a towel I conveniently keep under the driver’s seat.

Ma's  comment sounds like these should be avoided. Are these bad sentences?

[Sorry, bailish. I just found this post.]

Sometimes you will be unsure if you need to use an infinitive or a gerund in a sentence. In this situation, try changing the sentence and saying what you want to say in a different way.

1.  Driving alone across the Texas desert without air conditioning on a clear summer day is exhausting.

Examples of saying the same thing in different ways:

The drive across the Texas desert without an air conditioner was exhausting.

I was exhausted after the long drive across the Texas desert  without an air conditioner.

2.  I slash his neck, covering with a towel I conveniently keep under the driver’s seat.

Your second sentence should make sense if the two parts are put in reverse order.

Covering with a towel I conveniently keep under the driver’s seat, I slash his neck .

Offline DC

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3469
Re: Ma's Editing List
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2019, 04:18:07 PM »
How about:

1) Without air conditioning the drive across the Texas desert is exhausting.

2) I slash his neck, covering it with a towel I keep under the driver's seat.

For (2) the convenience is implied, you don't need to point it out.
Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of
arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to
skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one hand - open throttle in the other -
body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming : "Woo Hoo, what
a ride!"