Wednesday, February 29, 2012

LTUE Recap: Self-Editing

Tristi Pinkston is an amazing lady. I don't know how well-known she is nationally, but she seems to keep cropping up in all the circles (and writer's conferences) I frequent. She's published oodles of books, sets up blog tours (the book tours of the future, folks), and has her own editing service.

So, of course, it was awesome that she taught us how to self-edit.

Here's just a few of the highlights (I missed the first part--sorry!)

  • Big Words: Only use big words once per book 
    • Also "there were myriad colors on the wall" NOT "there were a myriad of colors on the wall"
    • After that you can't use myriad EVER again
    • Synonyms are fine: epiphany on page 5, realization on page 57, discovery on page 134...
  • Punctuation: if you don't know how to use punctuation properly, Google it: they'll give you examples
  • Pronoun confusion: when you say he/she, reader needs to make sure you know what you’re talking about. Can’t just use "he" if there are two men in the scene. Any ambiguity = spell it out
  • Speech tags
    • “Said” is NOT invisible when it’s used every line 
    • Use beats instead of speech tags . . . but not every time: characters shouldn't move that much
    • Avoid hissed, grunted, moaned: don’t use hyper substitute speech tags without very good reason 
    • Make sure whatever you put in there is physically possible 
    • Put the action in between dialogue instead of using it as a speech tag: “There’s a spider!” She gagged. “Kill it!” 
    • Mix them up 
    • Use "Replied" after a question. 
    • Use “Asked” if she just asked a question—not "Said"
    • Be creative [My note: but not too creative. I read a story once where the MC, in a tense moment, "ejaculated" one of his statements.]
    • “Mark said,” not “said Mark” 
  • -LY adverbs 
    • If you need to use one and you can’t think of another way to explain it, go ahead and use one 
    • Don’t use two sentences to convey what a single LY word can do 
  • Sentence structure
    • Don’t use repetitive sentence structure (boring) 
    • Patterns of speech shut brains down 
    • Don’t start every sentence with speech 
    • Don’t do action-action-action-description of action 
  • Establishing POV 
    • Whenever you start a new sentence or chapter, make sure the reader knows whose POV you’re in 
    • Most easily: use character name in first sentence 
    • Not: “Betty put the groceries in the car. Bob wondered what she bought.” 
    • If we are vague about whose head we’re in, our readers will be confused 
  • Transitions 
    • Often authors will change subjects without indicating that they are doing it 
    • Bad: Sara wondered what to do.  “I need lettuce.” 
    • Fine: Sara wondered what to do. She decided to change the subject. “I need lettuce.” 
    • [My note: I have a whole blog post on this one, though I wasn't smart enough to call it transitions.]
  • BUT: Almost always but not always need a comma before the word "but"
    • No one but you would think that = exception
  • THAT: Don’t need the word “that” as much as you think you do: search and destroy (unless it changes the meaning) 
  • OF: Avoid useless uses of "Of": she stepped off of the porch 
  • Active/passive – sometimes passive is more accurate 
    • She was standing by the window when he came into the room = she was already at the window when she came in 
    • She stood by the window when he came into the room = she stood up when he came in 
  • On to vs Onto 
    • She climbed on to the stage = Climbed on is the verb, so two words 
    • She is holding on to the past = holding on is the verb 
    • She lifted the box onto the table = lifted is the verb 
  • Awhile = “for-a-while” so don’t say “for awhile” = redundant: Can say “Sit for a while” or “Sit awhile” 
  • Character arcs: Need to see some growth in the character from the beginning to the end: Learn something, progress 
  • Plot Arc – the ending should be satisfying, the reader should want to recommend it, read the next one, etc 
    • Need problem, resolve the problem 
    • Problems should be solved by the MC, not a flaming dragon (unless the dragon is the hero or is well set-up): don’t rely on coincidence 
  • Don’t waste work – put it in a separate file and use it later 
  • Betas: Take what betas have to say with salt – only use it if it will improve the book 
  • 'S: Mostly: James’s not James’ (this goes back and forth: just write it like you’d say it) 
Admit it: you love her too, now, right?


  1. WOW! This is great stuff, Robin! I've bookmarked this for future reference. :D

  2. Hi Robin! I loved Tristi's address at the LTUE conference. It really broke it down for me, but I didn't take that great of notes and your post really helps out. Thanks so much! I love your blog.

  3. Great feedback. Thanks for the recap!

  4. Isn't Tristi awesome. Such a great resource and a fun person besides.

  5. Very helpful information Robin. Thanks for posting. I sent the link to this article to my wife to help us in editing the book we are writing.

  6. These are great tips. Especially about the word use of "said". I think I may have to go back and make sure I don't overuse it.

  7. Sooooooo helpful, Robin! I'm so glad that I can use an -ly word sometimes instead of writing two sentences, lol. Many other good tips, too!

  8. thanks for passing this on! i'm printing it! (it's worth the paper!)

  9. wow! this is amazing! thanks for sharing!

  10. I was in the same class and tried to take notes, but you retained so much more than me! You must be a speedy note-taker. Thanks for sharing these great tips!