Pointers from the Pros: Editor Marilyn Brigham Offers Insight into the Editor’s Eye

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.*

I attended the 2011 SCBWI MD/DE/WV’s Spring into Action conference in Buckeystown, Md., with some of my favorite-evers. As usual, I took a ton of notes at all the faboo sessions I was lucky enough to attend—and I’m sharing some of those tips with my lovely blog readers. (Thanks for being so fabulous, BTW!)

Here are some of Marshall Cavendish editor Marilyn Brigham’s tips from her session, “The Editor’s Eye: Powerful Word Choice & Sentence Structure”:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN REVISING

  • Repetition
    • Of words or phrases (betas & crit partners can be of great help with this)
    • Single word repeated on the same page or in the same paragraph (this is what she finds to be the most common)
    • Search for these words in particular, which she says tend to be repeated a lot:
      • just
      • then
      • so
      • anyway
      • even
      • but
      • really
      • very
    • “Echoed” words can be a repetitive too:
      • unfair, unfairness
      • though, although
      • like, dislike
    • Other tired phrases:
      • of course
      • I was like
      • I couldn’t help but wonder
    • You can repeat ideas as well—remember: don’t hit your readers over the head with it
  • Adult language
    • It depends what is appropriate for the book, age group, story, etc.
    • Be on the lookout for out-of-date language/stuff that makes it sound like an adult writing for kids (i.e., HUNK vs. HOTTIE or “Being with Mike is WONDERFUL” = meh—find a more kid-friendly way to say it)
    • Sometimes you should bring it down & sometimes you should elevate it
  • Clichés
    • Just don’t!
  • Clutter
    • Adverbs!  (most are unnecessary—if you choose a stronger verb, you render the adverbs redundant)
    • Here’s why:

“The radio blared loudly.”

Blared is strong enough a verb on its own.  It’s redundant with the adverb loudly.

  • Too many adjectives!
    • This is what we call “purple prose”
    • It speaks down to the reader
  • Unnecessary prepositions:

“Slowed down traffic”

When you’re slowing something, the “down” is implied.

WHAT CAN YOU ADD TO MAKE YOUR WRITING STRONGER?

  • Take cues from the genre
    • In a book about soccer, use a metaphor that relates to soccer—it adds flavor:

“I danced around like I won the World Cup.”

  • Take cues from the narrator
    • What would the narrator notice?
    • How would he or she say it?
  • Use parallel structure in some sentences—it can add extra punch:

I came. I saw. I conquered.

  • Use active voice:

Passive: The letter way mailed by dad.

Active: Dad mailed the letter.

WHAT IS MARKETABLE RIGHT NOW?

  • In YA: dystopian
  • In picture books: “Going to sleep” books”
  • In all of juvenile lit: perennial subjects

For a complete recap of the conference, see author Laura Bowers’s post here.

 

The Making of a Printz-Winner

I’ve been locked in my fortress of edit-tude, trying to finish before my trip this week, so I’m kind of saving all my brilliance for that. Heh. 🙂

But, in between scenes, I’ve been catching up on blogs from the week, and I ran across the below video blog from one of my absolute faves, made of awesome young adult author John Green.

In it, he discusses the evolution of his Printz-Award-winning debut novel, Looking for Alaska—and how many of the best-loved parts of the book came out in revisions. *After* being accepted by an editor.  So interesting!! He also talks about all the ways a ton of people helped give him ideas for the book. Even the title (which is something I’ve been struggling with)!

Makes me feel like I’m on the right track with my own writing—and a little less intimidated as I finish my pre-query revisions.

Maybe I’ve got a Printz-winner on my hands after all!  😉

Where Else Am I? Inky Fresh Press Guest Post #4 on Formatting

This month, I’m Inky Fresh Press’s guest blogger, and I’m doing a series on editing (for post NaNoWriters and those looking to polish their non-NaNo manuscripts alike).

Last week, Inky Fresh Press posted the third in the series: Editfication: Revision Tips for Getting Your Work Read & Represented.

The final post is on formatting.  Check it out!

I hope you enjoyed the series!

The rest in the series:

Where Else Am I? Inky Fresh Press Guest Post #3 on Grammar

This month, I’m Inky Fresh Press’s guest blogger, and I’m doing a series on editing (for post NaNoWriters and those looking to polish their non-NaNo manuscripts alike).

Last week, Inky Fresh Press posted the third in the series: Editfication: Revision Tips for Getting Your Work Read & Represented.

The latest one is on grammar.  Check it out!

Where Else Am I? Inky Fresh Press Guest Post #2 on Editing/Revision

This month, I’m Inky Fresh Press’s guest blogger, and I’m doing a series on editing (for post NaNoWriters and those looking to polish their non-NaNo manuscripts alike).

Today, Inky Fresh Press posted the second in the series: Editfication: Revision Tips for Getting Your Work Read & Represented.

This one’s on style.  Check it out!

The rest in the series:

Where Else Am I? My Guest Post Series on Editing (at Inky Fresh Press)

This month, I’m Inky Fresh Press’s guest blogger, and I’m doing a series on editing (for post NaNoWriters and those looking to polish their non-NaNo manuscripts alike).

Today, Inky Fresh Press posted the first in the series: Editfication: Revision Tips for Getting Your Work Read & Represented.

Check it out!

The rest in the series:

In the Blogosphere: 9/20-10/15

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m admittedly behind with my Blogosphere posts—I have about 50 links saved, dating all the way back to May/June-ish (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’ll catch up eventually, right?

AGENT STUFF

Author and D4EO agent Mandy Hubbard gives a bit of unorthodox advice . . . about how one line can change your career.

Here, another agent-turned-author, the fabulous Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown, Ltd., talks about “undercooking” a novel.

Here, Bookends, LLC, agent Jessica Faust offers some query don’ts.


CRAFT & MANUSCRIPT PREP

Over at Write Anything, Annie Evett did a nice little series on voice and dialogue.  Here’s the last of those posts, that contains links to the others in the series.

At League of Extraordinary Writers, Angie Smibert discusses handling readers’ baggage and creating the appearance of truth that readers can find believable.

At Novel Matters, Patti Hill demonstrates how to weed your manuscript.

One of my favorite features over at YA Highway, Amanda Hannah talks about passive sentences one “Sentence Strengthening Sunday” (you don’t have to be a YA writer to appreciate the fabulosity of this) right here.

Confused about manuscript formatting?  Author Louise Wise gives you a crash course here.

Here, YA author Jamie Harrington talks about constructive criticism.  Can you handle it?

Middle-grade author Janice Hardy discusses a subject near and dear to my heart—grammar.  Just what are the basics everyone needs to know?

PEP TALKS

We all need a good writerly pep talk now and again.

Here’s one from YA author Elana Johnson.

Here’s another from freelancer Heather Trese, for good measure.

EXTRAS

You’ve got just over a week left to enter my scary story contest—freak me out in 1,000 words of less!

Over at Savvy B2B Marketing, Wendy Thomas discusses a subject that fascinates me these days: online writing vs. old school journalism (being that I used to teach journalism . . . and now I do a good bit of online writing!).

Here, Writer’s Digest Books’ own Robert Lee Brewer offers a Twitter cheat sheet for those not “hip” to all the “lingo” (hehe) or not quite sure how to optimize your use.