10 Simple Edits for Critique Partners

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Zoe has developed a guiding resource for beginning writers. Her method is designed for brainstorming, shaping, and revising an early draft of a manuscript. General and specific tips are offered for applying rules of writing to enhance one’s story for a workable second draft. By exploring the plot line of Love Comes Softly writers may examine their own work for stronger plot and characterization. Valuable tools are offered that enable the writer to develop a workable draft in 30 days! —Yvonne Lehman, award-winning, best-selling author of 48 novels

Learn more at the end of the post.

Besides looking for heavier story problems, you can look below for simple errors that crop up in your critique partners’ submissions. 

Simple Edits 

1. Then. Place a comma before “then” in sentences.

Incorrect: Elmo raised his eyebrows then smiled.

Correct: Elmo raised his eyebrows, then smiled.

2. Was going to or am going to. Shorten to “would” or “will.”

Wordy: Amy was going to hate her gift. “I’m going to buy you something else,” Elmo said.

Better: Amy would hate her gift. “I’ll buy you something else,” Elmo said.

3. So that. Can often delete “that.” No comma before “so that.”

Incorrect and Wordy: Elmo donated fifty dollars, so that Amy would think he cared.

Correct: Elmo donated fifty dollars so Amy would think he cared.

4. Already. The word is often unnecessary.

Wordy: Elmo already had the five dollars he needed. By now, Amy should have already arrived at the store.

Better: Elmo had the five dollars he needed. By now, Amy should have arrived at the store.

5. That. Can often delete “that.”

Wordy: Elmo feared that Amy liked Barry. He hoped that she’d change her mind.

Better: Elmo feared Amy liked Barry. He hoped she’d change her mind.

 

6. Just. Can often delete “just.”

Wordy: Amy turned to a group just entering the building.

Better: Amy turned to a group entering the building.

7. Suddenly. Should delete most occurrences of “suddenly.”

Wordy: Elmo calmed, then suddenly a policeman appeared.

Better: Elmo calmed, then a policeman appeared.

8. Began to or started to. Can often delete these phrases, especially when the character is not stopped.

 

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Wordy: When Amy began to open her mouth to speak, the bus arrived. Elmo stood and started to walk to the bus.

Better: When Amy opened her mouth to speak, the bus arrived. Elmo stood and walked to the bus.

9. Into, in, or in to. “Into” is used with actions. “In” is used to show position. “In to” is used when the “to” belongs with a verb that follows “to.”

Correct: Elmo drove to the library. With a book in his hand and planning to walk in toreturn a library book, Elmo opened the door. He stepped into the library, returned the book, then strolled into the aisle labeled Mysteries, where he stumbled into Amy.

  10. There was or wasn’tIt was or wasn’t. Rewrite sentences using “there was,” “there wasn’t,” “it was,” or “it wasn’t.”

Wordy and passive: Because there was no sign of a struggle, it was believed the perpetrator attacked her by surprise.

Better: Because authorities found no sign of a struggle, they believed the perpetrator attacked her by surprise.

What other quick fixes would you recommend to critique partners?

Buy Page

I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.

—Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  

—Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! 

—Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan.

—Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling cozy mystery author of the “Myrtle Clover Mysteries,” the “Southern Quilting Mysteries,” and the “Memphis Barbeque Mysteries,” http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/  

Zoe’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

—Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is chock-full of practical techniques. Numerous examples clarify problem areas and provide workable solutions. The action steps and blah busters McCarthy suggests will help you improve every sentence, every paragraph of your novel. If you follow her advice and implement her strategies, a publisher will be much more likely to issue you a contract.

—Denise K. Loock, freelance editor, lightningeditingservices.com

A concise, detailed, step by step resource for all writers. 

— Jamie West, editor coordinator, Pelican Book Group

Zoe’s writing blog has always intrigued me. As a high school English teacher, I can attest that her tips on good grammar and her hints for excellent sentence and paragraph structure are spot on. But as an author, I also appreciate her ever-present advice that excellent skills are not enough: you must tell a good story, too. This book clearly shows how to do it all.

—Tanya Hanson, “Writing the Trails to Tenderness,” author of Christmas Lights, Outlaw Heart, Hearts Crossing Ranch anthology, and coming in 2019, Tainted Lady, Heart of Hope, and Angel Heart. www.tanyahanson.com

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools.

–Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

8 Smart Questions to Ask as You Start, Alter, or Join a Critique Group

The process of critiquing other writers’ work thoughtfully and intelligently will help you strengthen your own writing.— Melissa Donovan

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by ClkerFreeVectorImages

Critiquing is valuable to success…unless you find yourself in the wrong critique group.

Use the following questionnaire to:

  • Revamp your floundering group
  • Start a new compatible group
  • Join the right existing group

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by ClkerFreeVectorImages

 

Questionnaire

 

  1. What help do you need? Be honest. Don’t leave off tasks because you want to avoid criticism of your weak areas. Possible tasks are:
  • Punctuation, spelling, & grammar
  • Word choices
  • Paragraph & sentence construction
  • Plot & characters
  • Scene goals & hooks
  • Conflict & believability
  • Prayer
  1. What’s the feedback style you’re willing to give and receive? Some are:
  • Frank honesty (“This paragraph is too melodramatic.”)
  • Soft honesty (“You may want to tone down this paragraph.”)
  • High on encouragement; low on criticism (“I like this word choice.”)
  • Combination (“This paragraph is too melodramatic. You may want to tone down what Mark says to Melanie. I like your use of ‘grandiose’ in the last sentence.”)

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by nile

  1. How much time are you willing to spend critiquing a chapter? If group members commit to more than the first two tasks under Question 1, you may spend two or more hours on a chapter. Also, the levels of writing ability will determine how much needs to be addressed.

 

 

 

  1. How many critique partners can you realistically handle? And:

°  progress your own manuscript

°  perform an effective job on others’ chapters

In a 6-member group, depending on tasks chosen in Question 1, you could spend 6 to 18 hours a week critiquing.

In a past large group, some marked punctuation, spelling, and grammar only, while others performed in-depth critiques. Another member and I split off to form a 2-member group of frank, in-depth partners. That worked better for us.

Maybe it’s time to break your large critique group into smaller groups.

  1. by PublicDomainPictures
    by PublicDomainPictures
    What rules do you expect so the group functions fairly? No one wants to feel imposed upon by members not pulling their load. Rules might address:
  • Number of critiques performed to earn a critique
  • Expected tasks to be performed (Question 1)
  • Style of feedback (Question 4)
  1. What mix of writing-skill levels do you desire? Writers who:
  • are writing their first book
  • have completed a novel
  • have submitted for publication at least two books
  • have one or more published novels

Writers are readers, so all levels can add value.

  1. What craft development do you expect from members? A group may fail if some are learning the writing craft and others aren’t.

Activities members could choose from:

  • Attend writing workshops
  • Join local and online writing groups
  • Read craft books from a recommended list
  • Take online courses
  • Subscribe to writing blogs

 

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by appraisal2day

8.  How important is it to critique in your genre?

In one group, a woman wrote Regency. Not having read Regency, I was ill-equipped to critique her work in some aspects. In another group, we had to, at least, read Amish novels. I read them and could give all-around feedback.

 

Join the right critique group, revamp a failing one, or start an effective one. Click to tweet.

What’s most important to you in a critique group?

 

8 Ways You Can Grow Your Creative Work While Helping Others

“Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.” — Les Brown

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You want to help others, but you’re drowning in getting everything done for your own creative work.

I experienced this early in my writing career. Then one day, I knew the answer to an author’s research question she’d asked on an author email loop. I answered her, and from her gracious thanks, I realized when my research failed, I could ask authors on the loop to help me.

Here are 8 ways helping others boosted my creative work. I hope you can adapt them to your creative work.

8 Ways I Helped Others and Grew My Creative WorkBusiness Discussion

1. I joined critique groups. Thinking critically about another’s writing and story teaches me what works and what doesn’t. I can heed these things in my work. Also, I want to give others correct suggestions. So, I look up what I question in their work, and learn. As I mature in critiquing, I discern what’s important to suggest and what’s better left alone. I’ve developed lasting relationships.

2. I accepted an author’s search for “influencers,” people who help spread the word about an author’s upcoming novel. Although a novice then, I interested some people in her book. I read several of her novels and kept in touch with her. Now years later, she’s agreed to read my upcoming book as a potential endorser.

bookstore3. I volunteered at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference bookstore a few times. Working among a well-populated cross section of Christian fiction, I discovered the many genres, which helped me select a genre that fit me. This year I’ve volunteered to be a reporter for the ACFW publication. I’ll report on one conference workshop. Another skill I’ll learn.

4. I joined local writers groups and have given presentations and worked on their boards. Besides absorbing much while developing the content of presentations, I’ve honed the skill of speaking. This will help in promoting my novel. Working on the boards has provided me closer relationships with other authors. And I’ve picked up much about the business of being an author.

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5. I created a blog to help others use their creativity and perform the tasks related to their creative work. Writing the posts has given me a greater appreciation for the creativity God has given others and me. I recognize how creativity has sustained me in everything over the years.

6. I started writing book reviews for the books I’ve enjoyed. Collecting the aspects that engaged me in the stories, directs me to what I want to emulate in my stories.

Image courtesy of phanlop88 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of phanlop88 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

7. I promote other authors. This has forced me to become adequate in using Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, and guest blogging in both directions. In joining an author’s promotion team, I’m learning the tasks and how such a team works.

8. I pray for authors, editors, and agents. I understand much about the challenges and joys of a writing career, especially from Gods perspective.

After helping in these ways over the years, I’ve discovered an unexpected bonus to my career. People have learned who I am. That can only help in a career where exposure is crucial.

What examples do you have in which helping others has helped in your creative work?