Notes by Carol Brennan King

Final Edits: Well, at least our last lesson on how to edit your own work before you pay a professional..

Look and Listen!

  1. Listen to your work. Have someone else read it to you, so you have a sense of how it sounds, the flow and the rhythm of the work. When you read it yourself, you miss these things. So make time to do both.

2. Look at your work. Not just close to see the words, but how does it look on the page? Believe it or not, you do want white space on the page.

A. Pay special attention to paragraphs that run for a half page or more. That length could be off-putting for readers.

B. Don’t give your characters long speeches or use long paragraphs of narrative. The reader may feel lectured to.

C. Paragraphing adds tension to the scene. Use the length of your paragraphs as another communication tool. Follow a longer paragraph with a punchy one line.

 D. A page without white space is uninviting, except to the most dedicated of readers. A writer like Marilynne Robinson uses this style but she built a reputation for excellence, so she can get away with it. But as a new writer, it is dangerous to just write, on and on, on and on, without breaks.

3. Run spell check or use an automated editing program. Remember spell checks miss words that though misspelled make up a new word. So don’t relax assuming that the spell check caught it all. Form and from are both words. Was and saw are both words, but you can imagine the difference in meaning.

4. Check your format. Use 12 pt. TNR as the font. This is the professional standard, so use it to submit your manuscript unless you know your publisher wants something else.

A. Send your document as a Word document – (.doc or .docx)

B. Use double-spaced line spacing.

C. Use single space following periods or any end punctuation.

5. The first paragraph of every chapter, after a sub-header if you use it, or the paragraph following a bulleted or numbered list should not be indented.

6. Don’t hit tab to indent paragraphs. In Word, select all of your text, then set indentation using Format>Paragraph. Under “Indentation” and by “left,” type .5. Under “Special,” choose “First line” from the drop down menu. (Note: Nonfiction authors may opt for no indention, but if they do so they must use full paragraph breaks between every paragraph.)

7. Use page breaks between chapters. In Word, place the cursor at the end of the chapter, then click “Insert>Break>Page Break” in Word’s menu.


  1. The Chicago Manual of Style Available cheapest on Amazon used

They also have an on-line presence. About $35 a year. There is a 30 day free trial.  You might want to use this when you are doing final edits.

The key to writing any manuscript is to be consistent—in other words, no matter what style you are using (Chicago, AP-style, your sixth-grade English teacher’s rulebook), stick with it.

2. The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master by Martha Alderson.

Alderson teaches how to create suspense filled stories, reveal character and win and keep readers – one scene at a time.

Though it is cheaper as kindle version, you lose the charts and graphs because they don’t transfer well to the electronic format.

The book has templates for helping writers use both left and right sides of the brain for more complete and balanced approach to their work.

D. One writer says the following, “-it is very accessible and combines the BEST from Gardner, Brande, Forster, Campbell and others I have read. Wonderfully grounded, highly pragmatic presentation and yet with soul.”

3. Owl at Purdue: free resources for all things related to writing. This is the online writing lab for Purdue University, but it is open to the public and is a great resource for all questions related to writing.

4. Grammarly is an online took that helps you write mistake-free whether it is in your g-mail, facebook or other aps as well as in your writing. If you get Grammarly, I encourage you to note the mistakes it points out repeatedly and be mindful about changing your own bad habits.

You can find a helpful review and a discount here:

5. We also talked about Strunk and White so I won’t talk more about it here – just look it op on Amazon.

There are many other resources available to you as writers but these will get you started.

I am looking forward to meeting you all again in September when, again via Zoom, we will be having our weekly Wednesday classes starting September 9: Creative Writing from 10-12 noon and Nonfiction/Memoir in the afternoon from 1-3pm. If you are interested, you can register with Linde Maurer at the Abington Community Library in Clarks Summit.

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