Monday, March 4, 2013


Hey Everyone!

I wear two very distinct hats: Instructor of English and Author. The “Instructor of English” in me has been called “harsh” and “critical,” but I can spot a run-on a mile away, and I won’t let that comma before the coordinating conjunction go missing (Oxford Commas Forever!). The “Author” in me loves fragments. I use them religiously. And sometimes I start sentences with a coordinating conjunction. And I eliminate articles (a, an, the) for voice purposes.

So . . . I’m working with two completely different mindsets during any given day. Grammar Nazi vs. Creative Freewriter.

I’m pretty good at keeping the two from crossing. The exception to this?

The editing process. I tend to edit as I go anyway, re-reading over passages written the day before and tweaking as necessary. . . .

I also read and re-read and re-read and read aloud—again and again and again.

The problem with reading straight through an ms is that I get sucked into the story and lose track of pages—I already know what I’m going to say, so my eyes just gloss over—I’ve read the page so much it loses all meaning. . . .

Sound like you? Yeah. I hear ya.

So, to combat this, there is always one editing strategy I undertake soon after I have what I feel is my final “story” draft (no more changes to plot/character, etc.).

I edit line by line.

I edit line by line in a non-linear fashion.

All this means is that I open my MS Word document, scroll to a chapter (four, maybe?), and I read a sentence. If that sentence sounds okay—if it’s structured the right way or I can’t embellish or find a better word for what I’m trying to say, I highlight it yellow. And then I scroll to chapter nine (Eleven? One?) and find a new sentence to look at. If I like it, I highlight it yellow. If I think it could be better, I tweak and adjust. Then I highlight it and move on.

The next day, I open my document and read all of the yellow passages. If they sound okay, I highlight them blue. If not, I tweak. Sometimes they stay yellow—to be read the next day.

What I’ve found is that this forces me to really look at what I write—what I’m trying to say—and this is the most effective way to do it. Notice I didn’t say “fastest.” For each manuscript I write, this can take anywhere from 2-4 months (depending on my work schedule. Nope. Can’t write full time, yet.).

All this to say: if you struggle with the editing process or tend to “rush” through your ms, try highlighting as you go—and don’t read the sentences in order.

Go line by line, word by word. Highlight yellow. Come back later, re-read. Highlight blue. All the way to The. End.

Slow and steady wins the race.  Always.


Katie Klein is a diehard romantic with a penchant for protagonists who kick butt. Her YA contemporary romance, Cross My Heart, is an Amazon Teen Top 100 Bestseller and was a 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee for Best YA Fiction.

She doesn’t really think you only have to highlight in yellow or blue. You can use purple. Or green. Or pink. Or….

You can find her on the web at,, or!/katiekleinbooks.


  1. Thanks, Katie, for the great suggestions. I've also read my ms backwards to catch errors.

  2. That's a great idea, Katie! I usually read my book in different formats to help retrain my eye to look at the words--i.e., printing it out versus reading on screen, reading on my Kindle versus my laptop, or even just changing the font. I'd never thought about jumping around and highlighting the text I'd read, but now I'll have to try it! :)

  3. Great tips. I guess there never is a fast way to get edits done.

  4. Wonderful tip. I will definitely try this. Thanks!

  5. These are all great suggestions! In fact, in one of my weekly lectures, I give my students these editing tips:

    Read the essay backward, starting with the last sentence and moving to the beginning. This helps you catch sentence structure errors (fragments/run-ons/comma splices), b/c each sentence (in academic writing, at least) should be able to stand on its own). (Thanks, Stina!!)

    Read the essay out loud. This helps you "hear" what you are saying. It's easy to catch awkwardly worded/unclear sentences or phrases this way.

    Print your essay out. You have no idea how easy it is to miss errors when you're reading on a screen. Always print a copy out. And, yes! Changing the font helps, too! (Thanks, Shana!!)

    Now if only I could get my students to actually listen and apply. . . . *eye roll*

  6. Interesting strategy. Thanks for sharing!

  7. What an interesting process! Thanks for the share.

  8. WOW! That is some method of editing! Crazy interesting. I like it! :D I'm the same way, you know. Ex-editor, English teacher, now writer... so the two are always battling in my brain. I've gotten to where I can switch #1 off when I'm drafting, though. #thankgoodness <3

  9. I admire your method, though I would fail miserably at it. LOL! I'm a linear thinker and do everything in order.

  10. Thanks for the advice. I will definitely try this method next time. But I like to read from start to end while editing-so not sure if your method would work for me.


  11. Here's to colorful manuscripts! Great idea. I often just highlight passages that I want to sleep on, but you've taken this to a much more sophisticated level.

  12. Great approach! Thanks for sharing.

    I'm actually nearing the end of drafting my current WIP and have been struggling with just how to revise. I was considering following certain concept threads through (review everything with this character, review all references to this location). I wasn't sure how I was going to keep track of what I had already covered since I wasn't going linearly by page... hilighting! How did I miss that?

    Hmm I now have this vision of my WIP as a color coded rainbow.