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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

One Author's Trek to Inspired Editing

Janice Lynne Lundy is a guest blogger today, an author who--it seems to me--has taken the right approach to editing. She is an inspirational speaker, interfaith spiritual director, syndicated magazine columnist, and the author of four self-help/spiritual growth books for women. Her newest is book, Your Truest Self: Embracing the Woman You Are Meant to Be. You go, Janice!

Enjoyable Editing

By Janice Lynne Lundy

I have self-published three books and sold one to a publisher. I am not a perfect writer, nor a consummate editor, but over time I have become more confident and competent in my editing. Simply put, I know what works for me and I stick to it. Carolyn suggested that I might like to share with you some of what I’ve learned along the way. What I have to offer are not “textbook” editing tips, rather, a road map for more enjoyable editing. I hope you find it helpful.

Set the Stage

Prepare your work environment to be conducive to calm. It is much more enjoyable to engage in the editing process as “your truest self”—-a person who is naturally serene—-rather than someone who is stressed. Take time to center yourself before your workday begins. Light a candle, meditate, or listen to ambient music. Do anything that helps you launch the day with ease.

Don’t rush the editing process. Give yourself as much “clean up” time as you need. Spaciousness around deadlines allows you to actually enjoy the “tweaking” process. Remember when you used to love to play with words? Consider returning to that halcyon place—at least on occasion!

A Multi-Sensory Experience

Print out your drafts. Editing on paper, versus plasma, is more reliable for locating errors. Read the piece in its entirety, and then reread some more. With each read-through, you will inevitably find errors that you missed the last time around.

Read your draft aloud. Listen for the timbre and tone of the work. Listen for the interplay of words and how they flow together—-or not. Notice when something feels “sticky” or disruptive to the flow. Likely, there is a change that needs to be made if your thoughts tumble or your tongue trips. Listen for the “weight” of a particular word. Note if one feels too light or too heavy in relation to the point you are trying to make.

“Feel” your work in its entirety. This, to me, is the most important aspect of editing: allowing yourself to feel your way through the piece. Grant your wise, intuitive-self permission to be present, to give advice when needed. Trust your heart’s wisdom.

Give your piece “simmering time.” Take time away from it, a day or two, if possible. When you return, you will see it through clear lenses, with greater insight.

Down to the Nitty Gritty

Use a thesaurus to determine the best use of key words, as well as to expand your writing vocabulary. My favorite is the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus. Challenge and stretch your ability to express yourself in exciting, new ways.

Read the paragraphs out of sequence to seek out errors. Then do the same for each sentence in each paragraph— out of sequence. This allows you to perceive the material in a fresh, non-habituated way.

Take a bird’s eye view. Scan each paragraph from “on high” to note general (layout) errors. Do the same for the entire piece to ensure structural integrity.

The Home Stretch

Ask for the opinions of trusted others. Have a good writing buddy-—or two—-proof your work. Multiple sets of eyes can be more reliable than your own, especially if you have been working on a piece for quite some time.

Trust your editor. If you have areas of weakness, let him or her know what those vulnerabilities are. We all have blind spots and it is helpful when supportive others can offer gentle instruction, or kindly point out the error of our ways. Competent writers want to be more competent. I know I do. And because I do, I do not hesitate to raise my hand and holler, “Help!” Let the “pros” help.

When the piece feels right, stop tweaking it. Over-correcting, over-editing, can take the luster out of our creations. Enough is enough, already! Be satisfied with a job well done—not perfect—but well made.

Blessings to you on your writing journey. And don’t forget to enjoy yourself along the way!

Lundy is the author of Your Truest Self: Embracing the Woman You Are Meant to Be (Sorin Books). She says, "Within every woman there is an essential Truth waiting to be claimed, a Truth that will empower her to claim a spiritual life that is real and authentic, one that will nourish and sustain her every day." This book guides readers toward finding that essential truth for themselves. Drawing from her personal encounters with twelve spiritual mentors—-Frances Moore LappĂ©, Daphne Rose Kingma, Iyanla Vanzant, Naomi Judd, and more-—Lundy has created twelve Transformational Truths to guide and enable women to live more peaceful, confident, and open-hearted lives. It is available in bookstores nationwide or at

Register for her newsletter and she’ll send you her inspirational 90-page e-book, The Awakened Woman’s Guide to Life. She also blogs.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success at Learn more about her other authors' aids at, where writes will find lists and other helps on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog.


Jan said...

Hello Carolyn and All,

I am happy to be here with you today, eager to answer questions about how to edit your work with inner calm, clarity, and wisdom. Or to just chat about what it takes to live as your truest self in a very challenging world. I look forward to our conversation.

Blessings of well-being,

Anonymous said...


I noticed your advice to take a day or two away from your work before editing or during the editing process. Have you ever worried that taking time away will ake you lose your connection with the piece?

Jan said...

HI there,
No, in fact, I found the opposite to be true. It reconnects me to the piece with greater clarity. After stepping away, I often see I was going down the wrong road with the piece, or that I should be putting my energies in a different direction.

I believe that time away can bring insight, and that insight is a direct result of getting calm and clear. At least that has been my experience.

My magic formula for my work--in fact, for all aspects of my life--is this:
"Inner calm brings clarity, and clarity brings wisdom." It works, and who wouldn't want more of those?

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness I have always had my own work place even if it is next to the door to the bathroom. ha ha When I hear the toliet running, I pretend I am sitting next to a babbling brook!!! All in your attitude!
Jo Ann Hernandez

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