Don’t Forget to Line Edit!

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“Too wordy.”

“Paragraphs too long.”

“Sentences too long.”

These are the kinds of things I hear from agents and publishers at writers conferences and behind authors’ backs.

“Can’t figure out what it says.”

“Style/tone is too flat.”

“Booorrrrring.”

No, you don’t need to rewrite or go back to school for more creative-writing or composition techniques.

You need to line edit.

Line editing is the vital but often overlooked pass that adds music, drive, energy, and rhythm to a finished manuscript.

It’s an intermediate edit, between your last rewrite and sending the manuscript to a copy editor. Line editing is all about internal-paragraph Slinky Flow.

  • It challenges every passive-voice line for power, invisibility, and convertibility.
  • It revises static and awkward phrasings.
  • It punches up the drives, smoothes out the pacing, and adds impact to the words already on the page.
  • It brings out the hidden rhythm and music in your writing.

Psst! Don’t Tell Anyone, but-

…you already have the editing skills you need to make this happen —  you just never thought to apply them! So here’s a fast tutorial for doing this essential tweak:

  1. Convert passive voice to active prose unless it’s powerful, invisible, or unavoidable.
  2. Eliminate static phrasings and extraneous articles whenever possible.
  3. Use one set of descriptors per incident. This may mean having to choose which is the most vibrant or effective modifer, but good writing is, after all, about making decisions.
  4. Break up long paragraph blocks for easier reading and visual esthetics.
  5. Brighten or “punch” important points with the judicious use of stand-alone non-sentences. I can’t emphasize this enough. Avoid diluting the impact of your ideas by burying it in excessive verbiage–like I just did!
  6. Let every speaker have their own paragraph.
  7. Reduce extraneous editorial wherever possible by “showing” or demonstrating what you want to say–but not so much that it obscures your point, confuses the reader, or disrupts the pacing.

Try it. It’s fun, it’s easy, and it’ll boost your book’s appeal to both the industry and your reading audience.

Line editing can flip a “Nice Read” into “Wow! What a page turner!”

FYI, I’m holding two 4-week line-editing workshops this October, one for nonfiction and one for fiction. Check them out at http://goo.gl/0amDX3.

Happy editing!

Your Fast Track to a Bestseller

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(with apologies and thanks to Steve Harrison)

If you’d like your title to be a bestseller — maybe even a New York Times Bestseller — then this post is for you.

An author emailed me after one of my recent panels on ghostwriting. She said, “Claudia, you know so much about the book business. What do I have to do to make my book into a bestseller?”

She had been writing all her life and had a Creative Writing degree from an impressive school. Her teachers loved her book. Her friends and family raved about it. She got 4 and 5-star reviews on Amazon.

But when it came to actual sales — those just trickled in.

I suspected the reason her book wasn’t selling well had nothing to do with her ability to spin a tale, create wonderful characters, or bounce nouns off verbs.

She obviously had good writing skills.

What she didn’t have was a formula for taking her ideas from concept to bestseller status.

So I sent her the seven simple questions below.

(If you’d also like your book to be a bestseller, ask yourself these questions and see if you can answer “YES” to each one.)

Question #1 — Do you have a strong first draft, AND a well-structured second draft, punchy lined-edited third draft, and carefully copy-edited fourth draft?

Question #2 — Do you have the three strongest, most diverse BISAC Subject Headings attached to your nonfiction ISBN? Do you have the best-niche BISAC Subject Heading attached to your fiction ISBN? Do you have the three best Amazon.com categories and 10 top keywords to position your book as a bestseller?

Question #3 — Do you have honest reviews from total strangers who you haveNOT paid but who have actually read your entire book?

Question #4 — Do you have a list of high-volume buyers AND a one-sheet that gets them to say, “Wow, this is great! We need your title”?

Question #5 — Do you have a marketing kit that connects your title to a current, hot, or “sexy” news topic?

Question #6 — Do you have a business plan for online AND offline marketing and promotion? Do you have a list of organizations and groups that need to hear about your book AND a one-sheet that gets them to call you to speak?

Question #7 — Do you have a ready supply of physical books to sign and sell at the back of the room?

My new pen pal responded “NO” to most of the questions. (She had written a strong first draft and she had a supply — a large supply, in fact — of physical books to sell.)

So I wrote back, “That’s wonderful–now you know the missing pieces you need.”

This is the Point Where I’m Supposed to Pitch My Services-

…but I really meant to write more of a post than an advertorial, so let’s leave it here:

If you answered “NO” to any of the questions and would like my help filling in the gaps of your “bestseller plan,” email me at claudiasuzanne@gmail.com or call me at 1-800-641-3936 (USA) or 1-714-954-0580 (International).

If you want to do the heavy lifting yourself and need a coach or a guide, I’m here for you.

If you want referrals to other great people who can help you, here’s my short list:

Flo Selfman’s copy editing
Devon Blaine’s book publicity
Penny Sansevieri’s online marketing
And (of course) Steve Harrison’s publicity and speaking programs

I look forward to seeing your bestseller!