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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Line by Line

It's amazing what a few lines on the page can do. You can draw a picture, or write a story, or turn something beautiful into a hideous mash.

That's why you need line editing. You need to nitpick every word. You need to know that everything on your page is pulling it's weight.

So we use the old formula my friend taught me for clearing clutter from the house: Do I need it? Do I love? Can I not live without it?


Do I need it? Yes! - Leave it for now.

No...not really. - Circle in red pen

Do I love it? -or- Am I overusing this phrase?
Yes! - Cross it out and try again

No! - Leave it for now.

Can I not live without it? -or- If I cut this out will I create a plot hole?
Yes! - Leave it for now.

No... - Slash it.

Pretty simple, right? Here are a few more questions to ask yourself....

Does this advance my plot?

Is this a divergent tangent?

Would this phrase/scene/tid-bit of information serve me better somewhere else in the book?

Is this line in character?

Does this description fit the POV character's personality?

Does this line sustain the pacing I need?

Is this inside joke going to make sense to anyone besides me and my best friend?

Can I use a better word here?

Can I sum this up in a shorter, better, way?

Is this the best of all possible choices?

Photo courtesy of and copyright to alizz.net and Google Images for the poppy (Okeefe maybe?)


  1. Great post. Only thing I'd add is not to line edit the voice out of the story. Word choice also reflects the voice as it tells the story. :)

  2. Liana

    I'm sorry I didn't get back to you about guest blogging about self-publishing, but I would still like to share my experience.

    Just please let me know where on your blog to do so.


  3. Nice to see the process you go through as you edit :)

  4. I like to do this, but first I have I to get everything down...otherwise, I edit the same page for a week...result is one great page per week, but that gets old. It's funny how everybody in the blogosphere has their individual quirks.

  5. I save line editing for the later drafts. I can't line edit until I have the under-structure right. Before that, it's wasted time. :o)

  6. Ugh. Line editing. How I hate thee.

    Good post!