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Welcome back, my fearless readers! Today I’m thrilled to introduce Bonnie Hearn Hill and Christopher Allen Poe. Two extremely talented authors who have some vitally important advice to share on the one aspect most writers dread facing…editing.  Don’t mind the shuffling corpses wandering outside, I’ve made sure to have the shack sprayed by our local Zombie Pest Control service to keep them under control.  I think Dreamer Dwarf brought some lovely pasteries, and Eerie’s supplied the beverages.  Have a seat and give an enthusastic welcome to Bonnie and Chris! Don’t forget to pipe up at the end for your chance at winning DIGITAL INK!


Bonnie Hearn Hill & Christopher Allan Poe

BHH: Thanks for hanging out with us today, Jami. We appreciate it. As a fiction writer yourself, I’m sure you’ll agree that one of the most difficult jobs for a writer is being your own editor. We all need an editing genie, but before our manuscripts even make it to our publishers, they have to be clean.

CAP: That means you need to be your own editing genie. We’ve each picked a few of our favorite tips from DIGITAL INK to discuss today. Here’s a basic one. Know the difference between your and you’re. Their, there, and they’re. To, two, and too. If you don’t know the difference, look it up. The Internet is for more than just online stalking and porn.

BHH: Obviously, most authors know the difference. That’s why they’re called typos, but that doesn’t matter to the reader. They’ll forgive your first mistake, maybe even your second.

CAP: Soon, though, you’ll start to sound like a black-toothed hillbilly, spinning tales of pig grease.

BHH: I think I hear a banjo in the distance, Chris.

CAP: That’s right, you do. And the reader will too.

WICKED: Actually I think that’s the Swamp Thing’s cousin…or maybe the Prankster Duo is practicing, either way, I get it!

CAP: The easiest way to spot these errors immediately on the page is to learn to interpret you’re as you are while reading. They’re as they are. Too should be read as well. You’d be surprised how easy it is to retrain your brain, and this alone will knock out 90 percent of the minor typos.

BHH: Absolutely, and did you know that 57 percent of statistics are made up on the spot?

CAP: I did not know that. Thank you.

BHH: Here’s one that I see in my own work as well as my clients’ work. Words and phrases that belong in The Old Words Home.

CAP: You mean words and phrases like commenced, ace in the hole, forthwith, bump in the night, toiled—

BHH: Exactly. Commenced was fine when Saroyan used it, but there are less clunky ways to get your point across now. Check your manuscript. Ask yourself if the language is fresh. If you spot a tired word or phrase, send it to the Old Words Home. Don’t worry. They’ll have nurses and shuffleboard, and you won’t have to deal with those words in your writing.

CAP: That’s not the same as The Word Spa. I actually have a file for that on my computer, and I know you do. That’s where you send your wonderful scenes and speeches that really don’t belong where you put them. They may not even belong in the book you are writing, but they are wonderful enough that you know you can use them one day. Send them to the Word Spa. They’ll get massages and pedicures and be perfect as ever when you’re ready for them.

WICKED:  Hmmm…a day at the spa…maybe I need to become one of those words…think of the pampering…

BHH: When editing, don’t forget to always focus on to-be verbs as well. Is, was, were. Usually, when you see these gems in your manuscript, you’ve probably created a weak sentence construction, which forces you to use a dreaded ING verb. For example:

Jenna was trying to behave.

Now look at the alternative.

Jenna tried to behave.

CAP: See the difference. Fewer words, more flavor. Problem solved.

BHH: Each time you see the dreaded was word, ask yourself if you can replace it with a power verb. I think this brings us to our overall point. I was an editor for many years, and even the best of us miss typos sometimes. So how can you be expected to catch everything and be objective when you wrote the manuscript?

CAP: We’re not saying that it’s easy, but it’s necessary. If you self-publish, and most modern writers probably will at some point, you have the added burden of dozens of jobs that publishers used to take care of. Hell, even if you land a deal with one of the big six publishers, you’ll soon learn that they’re not tolerant of sloppy work. Neither are agents. You have to learn to edit yourself. Plain and simple.

BHH: That still doesn’t cover one of the biggest problems authors face. Mental fatigue. It occurs when we’ve read certain passages in our work too many times, and our brains start filling in ghost words and punctuation that isn’t there.

CAP: Or when our minds cover up garbage that is there, and we read it differently than it actually appears on the page.

BHH: Here are some old tricks, and some new ones, that we use to keep a fresh eye. Hands down, the best ways to catch typos is to read out loud because it forces you to use different parts of your brain. Not only will you see more errors, but troublesome sentences become obvious when you speak them.

CAP: Another excellent way to catch typos is to print your book out and read from that. Or if you have an e-reader, convert your Word document and do a sweep on your Kindle or Nook. That will also change the way the type appears in front of you and force you to see things differently.

BHH: That way, your reader can focus on your killer story, instead of the errors in your punctuation. One of my students tells me she actually has the creepy Kindle robot voice read her story back to her. She says that makes it easy to pick out the awful stuff.

What about you? Tell us your favorite editing tips, and that will enter you into a drawing for a copy of DIGITAL INK.

WICKED:  Huge thanks to Bonnie and Chris for this post! I know many *cough—Eerie* will benefit from this advice.  Remember—‘Let’s eat Grandpa’ and ‘Let’s eat, Grandpa’ have two very different results!

    Bonnie Hearn Hill is the author of six thrillers and four young adult books as well a nonfiction title. www.bonniehhill.com.

Christopher Allan Poe, a Los Angeles-based touring musician, is the author of THE PORTAL, a paranormal thriller, and co-author, with Bonnie, of DIGITAL INK: WRITING KILLER FICTION IN THE E-BOOK AGE. www.christopherallanpoe.com. Their website is www.digitalinkbooks.com, and they welcome questions from readers.

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  1. Bonnie and Chris, thank you so much for stopping in today and taking on the dreaded editing subject! DIGITAL INK sounds like a new addition to a writer’s toolbox! I hope you find the Swamp to your liking!

  2. GREAT reminders, thanks! I also seek out and destroy “that.” That she saw, that she was seeing (multiple crime of “is” and “that”) That stops my eye when reading. Again, first time not so bad, but every paragraph??? And then you have the flashback with “was” in every sentence.
    I suffered through someone reading my story out loud…they weren’t great readers, so every overblown phrase, every repeated description, grated on my ear. Ripped that opening to shreds and sold.

    • Mona–that’s quite a story. That reader did you a favor in a way. When we read our own material, we can make it sound great, to our own ears at least. Sometimes in our critique group, I’ll ask someone else to read my chapter.

  3. Hey Mona,
    Yep! Don’t you love it? We had a the great Baba Yaya stop by and help. We just love the more misty atmosphere!

  4. Where was Eerie when they were talking about him????

  5. livrancourt

     /  July 5, 2012

    Love the new background, Jami, and I LOVED the book. Digital Ink is a straight-up gold mine of information on how to improve your writing.

  6. Thanks Liv–and Jamie. It’s the book I wish I’d had when I wrote my first (unpublished, thank goodness) novels.

  7. Jami, I mean. My spell check has a mind of its own.

  8. Great post Bonnie and Chris. Yes self editing is important but sometimes we can’t catch ALL of the mistakes. The mistakes between your, you’re, two, to, too their, there, they’re are good examples not to relay on Word’s spell checks. Also then and than. Therefore it is important to have a “fresh pair of eyes” look at you ms. Now, having to say that, I’ve read self published books as well as those published by a publishing house, with countless errors, the kind you mentioned in your post. And it truly makes me wonder how could an editor not see them. I understand they are busy and they read all day long for living, but at the end of the day, the readers, too will wonder the same.

    • You are so right, Zrinka. It’s happened to me with big houses. Now I run everything past my critique group (which includes Chris) and my agent before I as much as submit. The problem is what we writers see on the page is what we *think* we wrote, not necessarily what is there.

  9. What good reminders. Why don’t you two come visit me on my blog? Bonnie, you know how to reach me.

  10. Commenced was pretty swell when Jed Clampett used it, too. Terrific advice all around. And I know that the later I write, the more my eyeballs play tricks on me, and when I mean to write “if” it sometimes comes out as “it” and I really have to find the proverbial needle in the letter haystack when I’m self-editing. What works for me is to read my work aloud. It’s much easier to catch mistakes or awkward structure that way.

  11. Thanks guys! This post was great!!!!

  12. Very useful advice. I totally second reading your work out loud (or having your e-reader or computer read it in that awful mechanical voice) to catch errors. Thanks Bonnie and Christopher for giving us these helpful reminders 🙂

  13. I loved reading the tip on not using “was” too much. I am definitely guilty of this, but your example helped me to see how to correct this mistake. Thanks!

  14. Great editing tips. I like having the computer read it.

  15. Great post! I suffered from mental fatigue when I was writing TORN and it wasn’t until my first editor began to point things out that the sky cleared and the sun began to shed some light on a few errors. I did cringe a bit but it’s so nice to have someone else look at your writing.
    I also read passages aloud to my husband and fix errors that have me pausing and faltering a bit.
    My beta readers have caught a few things too. I have one, in particular, to whom I send the unedited manuscript and she has eyes like a hawk! Love her!
    Another issue is it’s and its….I find those errors in almost every book I read and I am constantly fixing them as I go..I don’t know what it is about that damn rogue apostrophe…
    Thanks for the post! I think I’ll give you my writing guru award and pick up Digital Ink!

  16. Wow! You guys rock! Thanks so much for the support! Thank you for showing Bonnie and Chris that you guys are not just voices in my head =0) Huge thank you to Bonnie and Chris for such awesome info. Don’t forget, if you feel the need for a repeat performance, they’ll be stopping by my place (jamigray.com) on Saturday, 7/7. Feel free to swing by and say “hi”!

  17. Thanks, Jami–and everyone. Chris flew to New York today, and he asked me to say thanks for him as well. We’ll let you pick the recipient for the free book, Jami.

    It’s hot in Central California today. Makes your swamp look downright appealing.

  18. Thanks, Bonnie! I’ll email you! Yeah, the Swamp is great, so long as you can keep the humidity and Eerie’s Zombies out. At least for now you can duck the burning rays of heat here in the mists!

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