Sunday, September 24, 2023

Polishing the Pages: The Art of Editing and Common Authorial Pitfalls


Editing a book is akin to sculpting from stone; it's the meticulous process of chipping away the unnecessary until a masterpiece emerges. However, the intricacies of editing often lead authors down a path filled with common pitfalls. Recognizing and understanding these will elevate your work from good to great.

Understanding the Layers of Editing:

Before we delve into common errors, let's understand the layers of editing:

  1. Developmental Editing: This is a macro-level assessment of your book. It examines plot arcs, character development, pacing, and thematic issues.

  2. Line Editing: Here, the focus is on crafting better sentences, ensuring clarity, and maintaining consistency in the narrative.

  3. Copy Editing: This stage hones in on grammar, punctuation, and factual accuracy.
  4. Proofreading: The final sweep, targeting overlooked typos or formatting inconsistencies.

Most Frequent Errors Authors Make:

1. Overusing Adverbs:

One of Stephen King's famous writing quotes is: "The adverb is not your friend." Overreliance on adverbs can weaken prose.

Before Editing: "He ran quickly to catch the bus that was moving swiftly." After Editing: "He sprinted to catch the bus."

2. Telling Instead of Showing:

Novice authors often summarize emotions or events rather than painting a vivid picture.

Before: "Lisa was angry at Tom." After: "Lisa's face reddened, her hands clenching into fists as she glared at Tom."

3. Dialogue Inconsistencies:

Ensure your characters maintain a consistent voice unless their speaking style changes the plot.

Before: "Dude, why's this ancient manuscript in our crib? It's like, really old!" After: "Why's this old manuscript here, man? It looks ancient!"

4. Overuse of Flashbacks:

While flashbacks can add depth, too many can disrupt the narrative flow.

Before: Mid-chapter breaks detailing every character's backstory. After: Seamlessly weaving relevant backstory into the main narrative.

5. Inconsistent Point of View (POV):

Switching POVs can disorient readers if not done intentionally.

Before: "She thought his joke was in bad taste. He knew he nailed it with that joke." After: "She thought his joke was in bad taste, but he seemed pleased with himself."

6. Clichés and Redundancies:

Avoid clichéd phrases and redundant words.

Before: "Each and every person in the packed room at the crack of dawn knew the early bird catches the worm." After: "Everyone in the room knew the value of an early start."

7. Ignoring Pacing:

Dense chapters with no breaks can be exhausting. Similarly, rapid, unexplained events can leave readers bewildered.

Before: Ten consecutive pages of dense war strategy. After: Breaking the strategy with moments of character interaction or introspection.

Engaging the Reader: The Power of Editing

Remember, your first draft is just the beginning. Margaret Atwood famously said, "A word after a word after a word is power." Editing harnesses that power, ensuring each word serves a purpose. Here's how:

  1. Empathy: Good editing immerses readers, making them feel, rather than observe, the events.
  2. Clarity: It eliminates confusion, ensuring your message isn't lost in the intricacies of language.
  3. Enhanced Imagery: Descriptive edits evoke vivid imagery, transporting readers into your world.

Checklist for Authors:


  • Does the plot have a clear beginning, middle, and end?
  • Are characters well-developed and their motives clear?
  • Are any subplots left unresolved?

Line Editing:

  • Is the language engaging and varied?
  • Are there overused phrases or crutch words?
  • Does every scene contribute to character growth or plot advancement?

Copy Editing:

  • Are there any grammatical or punctuation errors?
  • Is the formatting consistent (e.g., dialogue, paragraph spacing)?
  • Are facts, dates, or references accurate?


  • Are there overlooked typos or misspellings?
  • Is the layout consistent (chapter headings, page numbers)?
  • Are any graphics or images correctly placed and captioned?


Editing is the bridge between the solitary act of writing and the communal act of reading. It refines the raw passion of your first draft into a polished piece, ready to captivate readers. Avoiding common pitfalls and understanding the depth of the editing process ensures that your words resonate, linger, and inspire.