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Editing: Your Own Worst Enemy – Line Edits

A session with John Yarrow

Everyone loves my novel! Really? Could you define everyone? “well my family and my friends. They all left great reviews on Amazon.” Anyone else? “Well, no, not yet.”

Does that sound familiar? My next question would be who edited your work? “Ummm… my friends and family.”

Sound familiar? LOL… me too. I think our family and friends mean well, but they are not trained editors. They see through rose colored glasses because they love us and want us to do well. Nothing wrong with that. So, who should edit our manuscripts? You can’t rely on yourself to dig into the details. You’re too close to your story. Your eye is trained to miss those tiny typos, etc. Trust me. I know. I have that same problem myself. When it involves editing, I am my own worst enemy.

Should you publish your work without a professional edit? A lot of writers do that when they go the self-publishing route. For the vast majority of books like this, they have a lot of errors, typos, spelling, grammar, story inconsistencies, etc. If you’ve ever downloaded a free or 99 cent book, you know what I’m talking about.

I’ve read a lot of these type of books, so many of them could be so much better if they’d gone through a professional editing process.

Interested? Start with a line edit. That title is a little misleading. While a line edit focuses on your work at a line and paragraph level, it also reviews your writing style, content, sentence structure, etc. For example, over used words or phrases. Nothing kills flow like boring repetition. A line edit looks for confusing action in the scene or if the dialogue doesn’t match the character’s usual tone or phrasing.

A line edit will point out passive voice and info dumps. If you spent six paragraphs explaining something, you’ve probably done an info dump. A line edit will point out if the text is incomplete in the thought it is trying to portray.

Here is an example from my line edit for the novel, The Future’s Dark Past.

The months of intense preparation and simulations were nothing compared to the real deal. Mesmerized, Kristen blinked at the fast snaps of blinding light shooting from the raging tornadic time anomaly. It did look like an enormous, seething worm. Oddly-shaped snippets of history quickly appeared and disappeared in the undulating jetties that coursed along its length. Two giant magnetic rings harnessed both ends of the worm, spaced about thirty yards apart. They connected to vast generators that disappeared back into darkness. With her senses on overload, Kristen felt like the trapped beast was trying to send her subliminal messages.

The line editor suggested using the word pulsing or flashing instead of shooting. But more importantly, they pointed out that I’m vague on what the time anomaly looks like and what is flowing across it. They said it was a weak paragraph. Ugggh… We changed it to this.

The months of intense preparation and simulations were nothing compared to the real deal. Kristen gazed through the viewing window, mesmerized. From her standpoint, she could see the spinning tornadic anomaly straight on, viewing the full length of it. The Worm was aptly named. It writhed and seethed between two giant magnetic rings that somehow invisibly harnessed the tapered ends. These sat spaced about thirty yards apart, and were connected to vast generators that disappeared back into darkness. From its ends, the anomaly fattened out into a constantly contorting cylindrical shape, the breadth of several grown men stacked vertically, head to toe. Snaps of light emanated from the depths of its core to the outer layer, yet Kristen could not see all the way through the gyrating depths.

Flows a little better now and we get a full picture of the anomaly. Then we focused on the snippets of history going across it. We needed to have a better visualization of what was happening. By breaking it out to its own paragraph, we could spend a little more time describing it, and it allowed me to have Kristen react to it.

She gasped, amazed at the oddly shaped snippets of history that appeared at random, backlit in the larger flashes of energy. Iconic events forever embedded throughout the generations glowed to life, initially appearing spherical in shape, then distorting as they swirled away, ebbing and flowing along the undulating jetties. They morphed into faces and places and times she didn’t recognize, fading into the collective cache of incidents in time.

By adding a little more depth, I’ve created an illusion of a real time-anomaly. We also made the decision to capitalize “The Worm” as it is a focal point for the novel. Notice we took out the last line about Kristen feeling “trapped.” It didn’t belong there. We moved it down to the next paragraph where Kristen speaks.

With her senses on overload, Kristen felt as if the trapped behemoth was trying to send her subliminal messages. She leaned her forehead against the window. “It’s so beautiful,” she said, her breath fogging the glass. “I can’t believe this works.”

With the help of the line editor, we took one vague paragraph and expanded it into three well thought out, detailed, and high impact paragraphs. Every page of my line edit had suggestions like this, a massive amount of redlining. At first, it was overwhelming, but I discovered their suggestions really helped my story.

And yes, you have to put on your big boy/girl pants to work through a line edit. Some say you must have a thick skin because of the painstaking way the editor points out your short comings as a writer. I thought of it as a college course on my novel. I learned so much from it and, more importantly, it helped make me a better writer.

Good luck with your book!


About the Author…

JOHN YARROW, a lifelong Texan, dreams as big as he writes. LEANNE YARROW is her husband's collaborative partner. Their fascination with what could be imbues the couple's storytelling with fast-paced, futuristic worlds in which witty compelling characters struggle for an enduring humanity. John's background includes degrees in English, Education, and a MS in Cognitive Systems. He honed his skills in The Creation Factory Writer's Workshop, adapted a novella for National Public Radio, and published articles in educational and technology journals. Leanne draws from her careers in education and program development to help bring fresh insights, incredible imagery, and clarifying details to their work.

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