Book editing tips
Idioms are a colloquial way of phrasing something.
‘An idiom is a common word or phrase with a culturally understood meaning that differs from what its composite words' denotations would suggest.’
Here are some examples of idioms:
‘Sick as a dog’
‘Out of the blue’
‘Barking up the wrong tree’
When writing memoir, it’s wise to limit your use of idioms. Although this really does depend on your intended readership and what language they use.
Using a lot of idioms takes away from the specificity of your stories if overused. And one of the keys to really interesting writing (both fiction and non fiction) is specificity, especially when it comes to including the details.
It also limits your audience and may make it difficult for those who have English as an additional language and speaks purely to Australian readers if your idioms are Australian. This can exclude a lot of readers.
The expression ‘show, don’t tell’ would be useful to learn more about to help you write the specifics. You may have included a lot of great statements about what you think and feel in certain situations but without any real “showing” how you got there.
Here are some helpful articles on show, don’t tell:
Show don't tell
Show don't tell mantra
Write practice: show don't tell
This is quite a common writing mistake that I see when I am copyediting clients’ books.
Be extra careful of repetition – often, in sentences, you can be predisposed to saying the same thing but in slightly different wording. Or multiple sentences or paragraphs can have the same essence. Take care to eliminate any repetition in your writing and be cautious about using a sentence that can be reduced down to much fewer words.
Here are a few ways that you can reduce repetition:
Be sure to add credibility to your story. Just because it’s a personal recount of something that happened or an overview of your life, doesn’t mean that it has to be devoid of credibility and authority. Here’s how to write with authority.
Often contradiction can occur when writing memoir, which happens when you are writing everything through a very personal lens. The best way to avoid this is by sticking to the facts of what really happened and then adding the emotive aspects over the top. For example,
‘I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster,’Jeanette Walls, The Glass Castle.
The facts are that she was sitting in a tax in the evening and saw her mum going through a dumpster. She didn’t say, ‘It was such a sad sight to see my mum being a homeless person and her life falling apart.’
You can also add credibility by using the term ‘I think.’ For example, ‘I think there were five people at my party,’ reads much better as ‘The five people at my party were…’
Removing those two small words adds more assurance to what you’re telling your readers and gives confidence that the memories you are providing are as reliable as they can be. No one wants to read a “wishy washy” recount of an occurrence.
Furthermore, be sure to back up any bold statements with statistics, resources or research especially if it’s medical or science based. For example, ‘Many people die from…’ is much more powerful when you write ‘According to Credible Journal, three people die each day from…’
If you want your memoir or autobiography to be publication ready, it's well worth investing the time in editing and then editing it again. In all seriousness, you should be considering editing your entire manuscript at least three to eight times!
Read to write your book? Book writing coaching services.
Here’s a collection of things that I have personally used that make my professional life easier and more productive.
I can often be found muttering to myself ‘geesh, I love technology’, because really, how great is it? That we can do our best work and have so many useful tools and programs to help us achieve great results and outcomes. Just so you know, I am an affiliate of Harpoon and Scrivener, which means that I get a minimal kickback if you purchase by clicking on the links below. I genuinely love and use these products, however, so feel free to ask any questions you have.
Harpoon is my “one stop shop” business running app. It invoices my clients (and sends automatic reminders should their payment be late), it stores all my clients’ data, helps me to budget and forecast my income and most importantly for me, it tracks my time so I can accurately keep track of how long it takes me to write something and if I am charging my clients correctly.
LiveChat is a plugin for my website that runs an automatic chat bot for anyone who visits. You can outsource to consultants but I prefer to be the one chatting to potential clients/site visitors, even if that means I miss out on some opportunities. Fortunately, I can access chat via both my phone and laptop and I am alerted as soon as someone has questions. This week, I had the opportunity to encourage someone to buy my book, book into my ecourse and let a potential client know about the extra services that I offer (we’d originally discussed some product brochures but he was also interested in getting some media releases written).
This is a great tool for anyone in a customer or client facing business that wants to add another layer to their customer service.
Boomerang for Gmail
Boomerang is an add on to your Gmail platform that performs a few handy actions including scheduling your email to be sent at a specified time, triggered reminders in XX number of days if the person hasn’t replied and has a tracking option to not only show you when someone has opened your email but what links they have clicked on in the email.
This is a handy instrument for those people working with less than desirable clients who claim to have never seen an invoice (thankfully I am yet to have one of those, touch wood).
So, we all struggle with being distracted by the internet. Anyone who says they don’t is probably lying or in a place with really bad WiFi. Sometimes you just need that extra kick up the butt and Freedom is just that. It blocks out the internet or designated apps or social media sites for a predetermined amount of time so you can explicitly focus on your task at hand. As a writer, this is such a key factor in being super efficient.
IFTTT – which stands for If This, Then That – is one of the most incredible automation tools of the new world. It is a collection of applets (conditional statements) that bring together your existing apps and online services using a myriad of “recipes” to basically make your life easier and make the absolute most of almost everything that exists in this glorious world of tech. For example, I have set up recipes to guide my iPhone to repost every one of my Instagram pics as native posts on Twitter (this saves the hassle of those ugly links that Insta sharing creates). I also get a message an hour before it rains, when I need to put sunscreen on and more.
It can even get you out of bad dates, automatically unlock your front door when you arrive home.
As an avid reader and collector of information, Pocket has been an app that I have used consistently for years, both in a professional and personal context. There’s always so much content (articles, videos, listicles, slideshows) floating about that there is barely enough time to read it all and the chances of you stumbling across an interesting link during a busy work day or just as you are about to fall asleep is highly likely. For these occasions you can simply send a link to Pocket and review later when you have half an hour to wait at a doctor’s appointment or are doing some research for a client.
I know I have mentioned it before but CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer [sic] is really a worthwhile tool, particularly in my line of business.
If you write a lot of longform stuff, such as ebooks or books or even courses, then you definitely need Scrivener. It has a simple yet effective visual layout that can help you see what you've written and what you need to write to finish the project. Plus it has handy features such as a project target counter and can help compile and format your book to sell it.
Would love to hear about your favourites!
How Scrivener looks:
Writing effective headlines
You can write the most epic blog content that could set off a bunch of life changing insights for your readership but without a tantalising headline, few people will bother to click through and read it.
Ensure you have a compelling heading for each blog post. Make sure it’s a bit of a tease and that people will want to click on it and read more. Include why someone absolutely must read this post; explain why it will change their life/business/mind etc. The headline must be about the reader and how it can benefit them. For example, How garlic will make you lose weight.
‘With [blog post] titles, it's best to under promise and over deliver. So if you're choosing between uber-compelling and accurate, choose accuracy every time,’ Corey Eridon, Hubspot Marketing Blog.
Here are some things to add that will create punch for an effective headline:
An effective headline should make a reader curious and want more. Here are some types of headlines that have proven themselves to work time and time again:
'Most people will share content based on the headline alone.'
How many words should your headline be?
There's been many different discoveries when it comes to the ultimate headline length for maximum readers. The platform you are sharing on does make a difference but to summarise, Outbrain has found that seven words is an ideal length.
Coschedule similarly suggests that 60-100 characters is ideal.
Do you want to know whether your headline hits the mark? This is my favourite tool when deciding between headlines to use. Try this headline analyser.
Here's how I decided on the headline for this post:
You may also like... How to write great subject lines
If you want to enhance the power of your written message, it's better to have great grammar and make it an easier read for your audience, whether you're writing web copy, content articles, emails or blog posts. Here’s a quick grammar guide for your content:
Grammar tip: bullet points
Bullet points are saved for when you want to list things. The trick with bullet points, when it comes to grammar, are that they should comprise a complete continuous sentence, so only the last point should end with a full stop and each point should begin with a lower case letter.
The start of the sentence (preceding your bullet points) should end with a colon. I've supplied you with an example for your reading pleasure.
I love writing blog posts on:
Do you need a proofreader?
Don't capitalise your title entirely and make sure you bold your sub headings. Read up on how to write great headlines here.
Italics are reserved for titles of things such as books, movies, art etc and NOT for emphasising words as commonly mistaken. Cities, towns, companies and people’s names don’t require italics as it’s more reserved for artworks, such as my favourite movie Great Expectations.
Grammar: quotation marks
I use single quotation marks for quoting someone or referencing speech. I use double quotation marks for words that require emphasis or a word that is a colloquialism or made up.
Doing the opposite of this is still technically correct grammar in Australia but a lot more people are erring towards the way above. As long as you are pedantically consistent, then you will be okay.
When it comes to grammar, numbers under ten should be written in full and numbers from ten above can be written as numerals. However, if you have a number below ten and one from ten upwards in the same sentence, they both need to be written in full. Because I prefer consistency, I tend to write all my numbers in full unless they are specific to a title or name of something. For example, 911.
Grammar: cleaning up formatting
If you are like me (and probably most of the world) and you create your blog content initially in some kind of word processor (such as Word), there is an important step you must commit to memory! When you cut and paste your text from Word into your blog, you need to remember to strip all the formatting that Word automatically creates because it messes with the magic of the internets. I’ll be honest here and say that I have no idea why and being a web coder is for people who are far more intelligent and patient than I am. All I know is that it is quite important. So make sure you press the button that usually has a T on it in your toolbar. Don’t forget that you’ll have to manually add the formatting (bold, italics etc) once you’ve pasted the content into the blog post. Or you can use this to clean up your formatting.