Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Guest Post by an Editor

Since announcing my book deal, a lot of people have asked me if I had an editor help me with my manuscript, KILLING RUBY ROSE, before I landed my agent and signed with Amazon Children's Publishing. The answer is YES.

Over a year ago, I met Natascha Jaffa at a writers conference. After talking for awhile, I discovered that 1) we live very near each other in Henderson, Nevada and 2) we needed to be friends because of her awesome editing skills. She seriously caught things that twelve others before her had missed. Things that would have made me look like a total rookie-idiot. Basically, she's the shiz. (See, I still need her help because I make up stupid words).

Without further ado, here's Natascha:

Revising Your MS in 10 Steps
Natascha Jaffa
Thank you, Jessie! I’m honored to be a guest on your blog today.

So a little bit about me. Aside from being married, having a new baby and being allergic to chocolate (gasp!), I have two careers; editing and writing. Luckily, they go hand in hand. In both worlds I’ve been through so many manuscripts, I’ve discovered two reactions when it comes to revising from authors.

Some forge onward through suggestion after suggestion from their beta readers and critique partners while others go into panic mode and shut down (we all know critiques can hurt). I’ve seen both. Many, many times.

Either way, you’re ready to revise and I’m here to help you avoid that major meltdown of, “I’m crap. My writing is crap. And this book is crap.”, by taking baby steps. Ten baby steps, in fact.

1.     Print out your manuscript. Easy peasy. Anyone can do this. And for those, like me, who HATE paper (seriously, I hate the feel of paper), working on paper is much easier on your brain and your eyes during revisions. You’ll see what I mean further down the list.
2.     Set your manuscript aside for a minimum of two weeks. I personally prefer one month, but that is usually because I have several projects going at one time and have scheduled them in one-month periods. Go work on another project and let this one stew. The reason you need to do this is to get perspective on your work. It is almost impossible to self-edit and this is coming from an editor AND a writer. You need to take a step back and take a deep breath to clear your head, making this possibly the most important step throughout the process. With a clear head you will see things/mistakes you didn’t before.
3.     Read your manuscript. Get a notepad, a separate document opened on your computer, sticky notes or however else you want keep track of ideas and make notes along the way. You are NOT going to make any changes to your manuscript at this time. By approaching your manuscript as a reader and not a writer, you can make sure the story flows, you have enough detail or too much and fix any major holes.
4.     Go ahead. Make the changes. Incorporate all of those notes you’ve taken. Maybe you’ve had to replace some scenes, add characters, or get rid of them. Make sure tension, flow, goals, motivations and conflicts are all present. Clean up your dialogue because you don’t want it to sound like the dialogue from Abduction (did anyone else see that movie?). For me, this is the most difficult part; making the story make sense because I tend to write chapters out of order. To get a better handle on this step, check out this great list:
5.     Justify every scene. My clients have such a hard time with this. It’s hard, but you have to cut the fat. Deborah Coonts, author of Wanna Get Lucky?, once told my RWA chapter that she knows why every word, sentence, paragraph, page and scene is in her novel. You need to too. Take a look at each scene in your book. Does it progress the plot forward? What importance does this scene bring to the whole of the novel? Is it developing character? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, neither will a reader and it needs to go. Sometimes, that means cutting whole chapters, which I’ve had to do. Ouch.
6.     Tighten your writing. A reader does not want to read, “he said/she said” at the end of every piece of dialogue. Editors don’t want adverbs or a sentence you’ve written in twenty words that could have been said in ten. Your story is set. Now, make it sound better. Use conjunctions, get rid of “that” when it’s used as a filler and avoid repetitive words, phrases and actions. The more succinct your writing, the better. Consequently, this cuts down your overall word count, but an agent, editor or publisher will appreciate it more than having 1,000 more words.
7.     Copyedit. You’re in my world now! The best piece of advice I’ve ever put into practice is to play 52 card pick-up with your manuscript. No, you’re not going to throw it up in the air and dance beneath them. Although, that would be fun. With this step, mix up every page of your MS. Separate those pages into 10 random piles then draw one page at a time and correct those mistakes. Grammar, spelling, typos, sentence structure, etc. With this technique, you’re getting a better perspective because you’re not getting caught up in the story.
8.     Submit to your critique group. The best way to see if your manuscript is ready for an agent/editor/publisher is to get multiple perspectives on your work. Others will catch what you haven’t and give different insight. Don’t have one? Start your research in your local area, your writing groups or even hire a freelance editor (umm, like me).
9.     Make the changes. Now, you have some, at least what I hope is, great feedback. Your critique group, beta reader or your editor has helped you tighten your writing, fix grammar and spelling mistakes, clarify POV and much more. Contemplate each suggestion. Does it work for the tone you’re trying to accomplish in a particular scene or chapter? Will it strengthen the plot or character or take away? Make sure the changes you make are ones you can live with and believe in.


10.  Celebrate! You’ve reached the end! Reward yourself for a job well done with a well-deserved break. And maybe some chocolate.

Natascha Jaffa established SPJ Editing in 2011. With a degree in psychology from Utah Valley University and a bachelors from Nevada State College, she considers herself a teacher rather than solely an editor and strives to help new and veteran authors reach their publishing goals.

Her recent projects include books placed with SirenBookstrand, Evernight Publishing, The Wild Rose Press, Secret Cravings Publishing, Ellora's Cave, Beyond the Page Publishing and Melange Books. She continues to actively build her client list and is currently seeking work in the following genres: Romance (historical, romantic suspense, paranormal, category, contemporary, erotic), urban fantasy, women’s fiction, mystery, thrillers, science fiction, fantasy and young adult.

Published in romantic suspense, she writes under the pen name Nichole Severn and can be reached through her website,, email:, Twitter @spjediting or Facebook (SPJ Editing).


  1. Thanks for sharing the great advice! I've already incorporated many of them into my revising routine--especially the bit about chocolate. :)

  2. Awesome post! I especially love the 52 card pick-up method. :D

  3. What a great post. I love all the tips Natascha gave here! :-)

  4. Thank you so much for having me, Jessie!

  5. These tips are great. I might hire you in the future. Thanks for this post Jess.

  6. Now I truly thought shiz was a real word.

    Excellent tips from Natascha. I have been mixing my pages up for I thought I was clever ;)

    Definitely deserves a tweet!

  7. What an awesome post. Loved the tips. I will try the 52 card pick up method. Will definitely keep Natascha in mind for future.

  8. Wise tips!
    And you is ever so perdylicious in your profile pic, Jessie, dear :)

  9. Great tips. I'm going to have to try the 52 card pickup because copy edits are not a strong point. Maybe that will help.

  10. Ecellent tips! Sometimes it feels like the editing never ends, but it's all worth it when you get that deal in your inbox :D

  11. Excellent advice, Natascha! Now if only I could execute it just as well. :D

  12. Love the idea of copyediting out of order! Great post.

  13. Thanks for the advice! These tips definitely make sense. Revision's always been difficult for me, particularly editing, because I write too much and I want to keep everything. But I know that revision is important, which is why this list of tips will help.

  14. Thanks for the tips. I like the 52 pickup and will try that one next week (because next week will be four weeks since I really looked at my MS). My son also HATES the touch of paper!

  15. I thinking printing out the novel really helps. I am learning with each new project I start. These are solid tips, thanks!