Self Editing Tip: Extra Spaces

This is another easy one. One of my clients does this pretty religiously. Do a search in your manuscript document for every instance of two spaces back to back. Just search for space space. Back in the day, in typing classes, folks were taught to use two spaces between sentences. But this is not the standard anymore. It takes up a phenomenal amount of space. It could add two or three pages to your book, just for extra spaces that don’t add to the value of your book. It’s a little thing. But it will save you time, and make your manuscript look better.


Self-Editing Tip: Weak Modifiers

Before you submit your freshly-written book to your editor or proofreader, do a search through the document and locate every instance of the words very, a bit, slightly, lightly, kind of, sort of, really and maybe. Delete them. Then read through those sections to see if they need those weak modifiers. On rare occasions they might. Some dialog works better with them. But most of the time, they aren’t needed. Not even slightly. Really.

Amazing New Rates

You need your book edited, proofread, or you need help developing your characters or plot. But the investment required to get professional help seems steep.

Dickinson Copy Editing to the rescue! My new lower rates may dazzle you, so please wear eye protection when viewing them.

I have edited or proofread for romance writers, fantasy authors, murder mystery writers, self-help gurus, human rights advocates, attorneys, and I would be excited to proofread or edit for you!

Contact me at, and let’s talk about how your book deserves an extra dose of awesome.

Writing and Editing Paranormal Romance

Strategically, from an author’s perspective, paranormal, science fiction and fantasy are all very similar genres to work on. In addition to strong character development and plot structure, these genres all require intriguing and careful world-building. While it’s true that a world of witches or ghosts is different from one involving aliens, robots, trolls or elves, I still think the environment has to be subtly but deftly imagined and described.

Many decades ago I began writing a fantasy novel set on a remote island in the distant future, where a young character was tasked with locating a certain number of mystic artifacts. I was 16 then, and no idea about the rules of myth or legend writing, coming of age stories, or the Three-Act structure. I just wrote. And while the story rambled on with no clear plot, I knew what the lay of the land was, what kind of obstacles my hero would face, and at least vaguely what the monster looked like.

I drew a map.

Astoundingly, I still have that story and the map, which are both still inside the 32 year-old notebook.

The point is not that the story was good. It wasn’t. But I could pick it up today and start it over again, and the world I imagined is still right there, ready to be described and shared.

Sympathetic characters in my paranormal stories all share a common trait. They have certain types of connections with ghosts. The rules of engagement in my ghost stories are consistent throughout my stories, even if the characters change from story to story.

So as you write paranormal, science fiction or fantasy stories, feel free to jot down your rules. You don’t have to follow established rules from films or literature regarding what zombies or Martians can or cannot do. But you need to consistently adhere to your own rules.

I can help you brainstorm descriptions for your world, or solidify your plot structure, help you develop characters, and, of course, copy edit or proofread your drafts. Contact me at, because your book deserves an extra dose of awesome!

Editing Self-Help Books

Nonfiction can be about many things. It can be biographical or auto-biographical; like a documentary, it can be mostly exposition–informative and educational. But self-help books need to have more of a directive, a purpose specific to the reader. The author is giving advise, telling the reader what to do, how to solve a problem.

There are a number of ways to organize a self-help book. One way is to construct the book in three acts: Where you are; How you got there; and How you can get to a better place. Another is to take a chronological approach, with the author sharing her or his own story in order of how the events unfolded. And still another strategy is to attack the most powerful aspects of the problem first, and the smaller issues later.

I recently edited a book that set out to define the self-help process scientifically: What is holding you back? Do you really need those things in your life? What do you want your life to look like? What people or activities do you need in your life? And so on, like a flow chart.

One thing that is different about editing nonfiction, especially self-help, is that the editor has to be diligent in fact-checking. There are so many urban myths and bits of misinformation floating around, especially on the web; it’s easy for a writer to forget to check the veracity of every single claim he or she makes.

Here is a minor example: I remember being told years ago that Andrew Jackson and Jimmy Carter were the only two presidents not to earn a college degree. But if I included that in a story or article, I’d have to look into it deeper. It turns out that Jimmy Carter has a Bachelor of Science from the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Jackson was educated, but may not have earned a degree. Still, he passed the bar and practiced law, and this was in a time before there were universities on every street corner, like coffee shops. So, as an editor, if my client was claiming that these two failed to earn degrees, I’d provide him or her with the appropriate information about Carter and Jackson. I would also be curious how common college degrees were in the early days of the fledgling United States. Were apprenticeships more the fashion then? How formal was the education?

An editor doesn’t have to be the expert on a broad range of subjects. My clients are! But I get to make sure everything they claim is backed up in solid research of the facts.

If you want to make your self-help or other nonfiction book sing, contact me at

Your book deserves an extra dose of awesome!

Editing Science Fiction

Some say science fiction is a slowly dying genre. But I think there is still a market for it. The challenge with sci-fi is that a lot of writers invest so much mental bandwidth developing a compelling environment, or intriguing fictional technology, that they neglect the two most important aspects of story-telling—character development and story development.

It’s great to come up with an original setting, or the next kind of phaser or light saber, or special super powers that no one has thought of before. But the characters still need to have flaws, they need plausible motivation, and they need to have realistic relationships with each other, bad or good. Good guys need to have a little darkness, and bad guys need a tiny spark of humanity.

Dialog needs to be crisp, sometimes amusing, but always realistic and appropriate for the setting. Too much yippee ki yay and the reader starts to feel like they’ve already read this story. But a lack of humor can also turn away a reader.

The story still needs to follow the Three-Act structure, and a little romance goes a long way in sci-fi. But in this genre, more explosions and fewer smooches are usually a good idea.

I can help you develop your story, brainstorm ideas—outlandish or realistic—and help you keep your characters and dialog sharp and engaging. Contact me at, because your book deserves an extra dose of awesome!

How to Do It All

Linda Formichelli recently released a fabulous self-help book about making the most of your time, choosing your destiny, and leaving behind the stuff that slows you down. It’s called How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life – While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out With a Sharpie.

It’s logical, fun, moves quickly, and her plan is attainable.

And I proofread it.

Buy it, you’ll like it!