QUESTION: Don, welcome to my blog. Tell us a little bit about your new book, “Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave.”
ANSWER: Let’s start with this premise. Writers know they should self-edit, but most have no clue what their editing problems are. And if they don’t know them, how can they solve them?
I learned this from forty years of editing and writing: as a magazine editor for eleven years, a PR professional for six, and head of my own PR firm for twenty-one. I always wished my writers could self-edit, but that seemed impossible.
There’s a lot of advice out there, of course—hefty editing manuals, style manuals, and so on—but little of it is of practical value to the beginning writer. Most editing manuals are like geography books that give great information but don’t show how to get from place to place. They’re like dictionaries from which one is asked to select words to write the Great American Novel. Again: if you don’t know what your writing problems are, how do you know what in those big books you should apply? “Editor-Proof Your Writing” helps them learn that, since it helps them identify their personal problem areas.
QUESTION: How did you come to write this particular book?
ANSWER: The idea hit me as I read a fog-filled paperback on a flight from Chicago to Atlanta. I was intrigued that editing problems kept repeating themselves. A pattern emerged, and I became excited. Had I discovered the writer’s Rosetta Stone?
I spent hundreds of hours after that, recording offending sentences of many other writers and sorting them by problem type. I eventually identified 21 distinct problems and today call their solutions the “21 Steps to Fog-Free Writing.” Those problems are actually tips of bad-writing icebergs, and eliminating them resolves otherwise complicated editing problems.
QUESTION: What is the one part of your book that you believe everyone should read?
ANSWER: Actually, since the book shows writers what they’re doing wrong before it offers solutions, they should start on page one and work through. They’ll find problems they never knew they had.
Here’s how the system works. Writers apply the 21 Steps, one at a time, to their manuscript’s first chapter. Then they use that total experience to finish the manuscript.
Let’s look at Step 3, for example, which involves changing passive voice to active voice. It’s a problem many writers have and often don’t recognize.
The writers learn why this is a problem, see examples of it, read a “Fog Alert!” sidebar that shows more before-after examples, then edit ten problem sentences. After every two or three Steps, they edit a mini-chapter of “Sarah’s Perils,” a tongue-in-cheek melodrama, to find and fix the problems they’ve just studied.
Finally, they search their own manuscript’s first chapter for passive sentences (they now know what to look for) and change them to active. With many Steps, they’ll learn how to use their word processor’s “search” function to find the problems.
QUESTION: Who have been your cheerleaders during your writing career?
ANSWER: I’d have to say my students. I taught this method for three years to online classes, and got rave reviews. I show some on my website (http://DonMcNair.com ) and in the front pages of the book.
QUESTION: What projects are you currently working on?
ANSWER: To date I’ve written six novels and four non-fiction books, along with my client work. I now mostly edit novels for others.
Don McNair is a professional editor and the author of ten published novels and non-fiction books. His latest, “Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave,” can be reviewed and ordered at his website, http://DonMcNair.com.
HOW TO EDITOR-PROOF YOUR WRITING
Most editing manuals are like geography books. They give great information, but don’t show how to get from place to place. Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave is a GPS that leads you through the writing jungle to solve your specific writing problems.
Most editing manuals are like dictionaries from which you’re asked to select words to write the Great American Novel. This book shows what words to use and what words NOT to use.
Most editing manuals are loaded with mind-numbing theory. This one presents knowledge a step at a time and asks you to apply what you learned—a step at a time—to your manuscript’s first chapter. Along the way you’ll also edit a nine-chapter melodrama and check your editing against the author’s. When you finish, you’ll have an editor-proofed first chapter and will be ready to edit the rest of your book.
This system was proven to work in three years of weekend and online classes, titled Editor-Proof That Chapter and Twenty-One Steps to Fog-Free Writing. They are parts One and Two of this book. Part Three discusses finding and working with critique partners, professional editors, publishers, and agents. The students loved the concept!
This book is perfect for use in classrooms. The information is presented in bite-sized lessons which can be assigned daily. See what students say about their classroom experiences on the back page.
If you’ve never been published, there’s both bad news and good news.
The bad news is that most unpublished writers will never be published. Editors receive hundreds of manuscripts each week and ultimately buy fewer than one percent. We’ve all heard of hapless writers who have wallpapered their home or office walls with rejections. Perhaps you’re one.
The reason is basic. Many writers send problem-riddled manuscripts to editor after editor, as Barbara did, believing they are perfect. In the meantime they blithely build the same flaws into their next manuscript. They simply don’t know they’re making those mistakes. Unless someone tells them or they somehow learn on their own, their manuscripts will be rejected the rest of their lives.
Note, however, that someone does recognize their problems. Those editors! They quickly spot them in a manuscript’s first chapter—often on the first page—and reject the submission without reading further. They know the rest of the manuscript contains the same mistakes, just as we know an iceberg’s submerged part is made up of more of the same ice seen on top. But editors simply don’t have the time or inclination to teach authors writing skills. So they send out “sorry, it’s not for us” letters and move on to the next manuscript in their bulging “in” baskets.
Don McNair spent his working life editing magazines (eleven years), producing public relations materials for an international PR company (six years), and heading his own marketing communications firm, McNair Marketing Communications (twenty-one years). His creativity has won him three Golden Trumpets for best industrial relations programs from the Publicity Club of Chicago, a certificate of merit award for a quarterly magazine he wrote and produced, and the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil. The latter is comparable to the Emmy and Oscar in other industries.
McNair has written and placed hundreds of trade magazine articles and four published non-fiction how-to books. He considers his latest, Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave, (published April 1, 2013 by Quill Driver Books) to be the cap of his forty-year writing and editing career. It’s an easy-to-use editing manual that helps writers edit, step by step, their first chapter, then use the knowledge gained to edit the rest of their work.
McNair has also written six novels; two young adults (Attack of the Killer Prom Dresses and The Long Hunter), three romantic suspenses (Mystery on Firefly Knob, Mystery at Magnolia Mansion, and co-authored Waiting for Backup!), and a romantic comedy (BJ, Milo, and the Hairdo from Heck). All are published internationally, and are available at his website, http://DonMcNair.com .
McNair, a member of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and the Editorial Freelancers Association, now concentrates on editing novels for others. He teaches two online editing classes.