Editing Checklist

 

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This checklist is based on one we prepared for one of our editorial interns. It does not cover everything, and different writers and editors will disagree with some points. Also, you may be familiar with many of these points, but even an experienced writer may benefit from an occasional reminder. No guideline applies to every situation; but we hope you find these useful. (Let us know!)
(minor revisions October 28, 1997)

This page includes the following sections:

  1. The importance of overall reactions
  2. Structure
  3. Style
  4. Special Considerations
  5. Suggestions from successful poets

    Note: Many of these points are written in terms of stories, but most of the same principles also apply to poetry.

      

Overall reactions

Before trying to analyze the details of structure and writing style, take a minute to review your overall impressions of the story or poem. A writer needs to find a way to read his or her work with the same open mind they might find if they handed it to someone who didn't know them and had never seen it before -- after all that is exactly who will be reading it if it is published!.

Structure

Style

SPELIN ERRER

The editor read, with his brow in a furrow,
the poem that wrote of a donkey as "burrow".
Rejecting this error of spelling and fact,
he asked if the author would clean up his act.
"OK, OK, so I added a W.
Tell me, O Editor -- why should that trouble you?"
The editor's answer made echoes resound:
"You don't know your ass from a hole in the ground." J.H.J.

Special considerations

Suggestions from successful poets . . .

"First of all, read the above editing suggestions -- I think they all apply to poetry too!"

"Avoid abstractions. Use words with tangible meaning for your readers. For example, 'The morning was dark and gloomy' would be more forceful if rewritten as 'The sunrise was muted by storm clouds/each one surging layers of black.' "

"Make the language rich with metaphors, similes, and personification."

"Use language that is appropriate to the subject."

"Beware of those favorite phrases. People (including me) become infatuated by phrases they think make a good point or just 'sound poetic.' I try to read my poetry with the eye of a first-time reader to see if it makes sense, and I encourage others to do the same."

"Thematic consistency is more important than metrical or rhyming consistency. The poem must tell a story or bring a moment to life, and it must make sense."


Our thanks to the following writers for contributing their tips and suggestions on the art of writing:

Jerry H. Jenkins
Bert Moore
Dana Rae Pomeroy
Jack Slattery
Jack Welch

Do you have a tip that might help other writers? Let us know and we may be able to include it in a future update. Send an e-mail message with "Writer tips" as the subject, and be sure to include your name, address, and biographical information. (We will not be able to acknowledge each suggestion individually.)


We also recommend Victory Crane's How to Critique Fiction.

 

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