Quick-Tip Tuesday: Learning From Inexperience

Not so long ago, I posted here about revising my early work. I’m preparing for the re-release of my first series, the LonTobyn Chronicle (more on that later) and so have been editing the books: cutting adverbs, strengthening my prose with more forceful verb constructions, and making the writing more concise and direct. You can find the post I wrote about this here. And you can also read Joshua Palmatier’s post from June 28, because he’s been doing much the same thing with his work.

I want to return to the process in this post, because I’m now almost finished editing The Outlanders, the second LonTobyn book. The Outlanders has long been among my favorites of all my books, not because I think it’s the best I’ve written, or even one of the top two or three. It’s not. Rather, I’ve always loved this book because it exceeded my expectations […]

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Quick-Tip Tuesday: Joshua Palmatier on “The Mighty Red Pen”

For today’s Quick-Tip Tuesday post, I welcome Joshua Palmatier, writer and editor par excellence, and a frequent contributor to Magical Words.


We’re coming up on the release of my second “Ley” novel, THREADING THE NEEDLE, and David B. Coe asked me to stop by and give you all a Quick Tip for Quick Tip Tuesday. So my quick tip for this Tuesday is: How to Cut a Significant Number of Words from Your Manuscript that You Thought Was Done.

Here’s the situation: THREADING THE NEEDLE had already undergone three revisions—my own personal revision, a revision prompted by my agent, and a revision prompted by my editor. That’s generally the last revision before the book hits copy edits and page proofs, where nothing really significant is changing (for the most part), just typos, smoothing out sentences, continuity error corrections, etc. So imagine my surprise when I get an email from […]

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On Writing: Little Things that Yield Big Results

WARNING: This post contains math.

We’re going to file the inspiration for this post under the heading, David has too much time on his hands . . .

The other day I was brushing my teeth. This is not an unusual occurrence. I brush my teeth everyday. But while I was brushing my teeth, I was also thinking, and that is somewhat rare. My wife and I have one of those Sonicare toothbrushes that work for a set amount of time — 2 minutes — and then shut off. (Bear with me: this really is going somewhere.) So, it occurred to me that I brush my teeth for almost exactly four minutes every day, which doesn’t seem like a lot at first. But if I brush my teeth for 4 minutes a day, that’s 28 minutes per week and 1,456 minutes per year. Or just slightly over 24 hours. So, […]

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The Discard Pile. Or, Learning by Doing

In 2001 I wrote what I thought was going to be my break out book, a wry coming of age novel with what I thought was a sharp, witty voice and a rich core story. After years of struggling to attract agents my first five queries led to three requests for the full manuscript, followed by two offers of representation. I accepted one and am still with her.

But she couldn’t sell the book. We had lots of near misses and flashes of genuine interest, even enthusiasm, but in the end, no one wanted to buy it. At the time I put this down to the book’s generic oddness and the idea that it was never going to be a mainstream hit. It didn’t really occur to me that the book just wasn’t very good.

But that, it turns out, was the case.

This week, taking a break between a […]

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A Year in the Life: Week 15

Goodness, we’re a little more than halfway through A Year In The Life. Where does the time go?

Well, in the past two weeks, it’s gone to 1. jetlag, 2. a Bruce Springsteen concert (yes, this is relevant to the post), and 3. agonizing revisions. We’ll start with that last…

Writing: I’m working on a novel for my nephew. It’s the second one, after the first was a GREAT hit. This kind of puts the pressure on, and I’ve been working on this all month. Well, you know. In between vacationing and jet lag and The Boss, but anyway.

The thing is that, as discussed in my *last* YitL post, something felt Wrong about it. Two weeks ago I’d struck out about a thousand words and thought I was happier with it, but when I came back to it I was still unhappy with the pacing. The first book’s pacing […]

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On Writing: Revisions and Editors

On Saturday, Kalayna wrote a terrific post that described her revision process and offered tips for improving the way we approach the inevitable rewrites on our manuscripts. As she was the first to point out, her process might not work perfectly for everyone — she and I have very different approaches to writing drafts, and so her editorial process and mine are dissimilar in many ways. But still, much of what she suggests in her post are things I do, too, things that will prove useful to any writer. I urge you to read it.

Her post was especially timely for me, because I’m in the middle of a second round of revisions on Thieftaker, and have also been working on rewrites for a couple of other projects. I would guess that these days, given that I write faster than I used to, I spent at least 40% of my […]

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Basics of Writing, part IX: How to Revise a Manuscript or Story

It’s been a few weeks since my last “Basics” post, and with Ed’s post on Saturday about responding to rejections and working on rewrites, I thought that a post on revisions might be in order.

In recent discussions on self-publishing, both here on MW and also at ConCarolinas, I made a point of saying again and again, that writers cannot edit their own work. That, of course, is a ridiculous statement that I should have clarified. Yes, we can edit our own work. We can revise and cut and polish and make our work read better. What we can’t do is be our own sole editor. We can’t possibly catch everything that is wrong with our own manuscripts. We’re too close to them, we know them too well, and more to the point, we know too well what we meant to write even if that’s not actually what found it’s […]

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