Oct 1, 2010

Friendly Friday - Elizabeth Mueller

Elizabeth Mueller

On Self-Critiquing

Howdy bloggie friends!

My name is Elizabeth Mueller and I love to write! I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. I do it for pure escapism. I love creating new worlds and people and telling them what to do, though they don’t always obey.

I decided to share with you my editing secrets—I’ve had friends tell me that it’s crazy, but it works for me! It’s a process I’ve picked up from classes, workshops, self-help books, critique groups and books on writing.

A friend introduced me to a wonderful lady who studies human behavior. She has degrees on psychiatry, and psychology. Her name? Margie Lawson. She has the COOLEST online classes that teach how to empower your writing. I’ve been blown away with her techniques!

Here’s my method:
First, after writing the book from beginning to end, I set it aside for a few good weeks. Maybe a month. When I’m no longer desensitized, I pull it back out. I’m no longer attached to my scenes, and it’s so much easier to whip out my word-shearers.

There are 5 different categories I look for as I begin my editing process:

First is dialogue.
Second is emotion.
Third internalization.
Fourth description (setting or character).
Fifth, any kind of action.

After using a color code to set each apart, I study the pages far away and notice the unevenness of colors. After that, I balance the colors. (I once read on someone’s blog long ago, and I wish I remembered whose it was, that after she printed her entire manuscript (MS), she highlighted every single scene that was exciting. Then she lined it up across the room and studied it. It revealed much if you can imagine the intervals of white space between.)

Wouldn’t it boring if we read a book where all you read was dialogue? Or just internalization? What about having no emotional value? And not enough excitement?

As I do this, I power-up my words. Walk to trudge. Look to peek. Sharp to razor. Anger to roil. Can you feel the difference? How it invokes a certain emotion deep inside you without realizing it?

Next I take notes on echo words. I’ve read books where authors favor certain words like seep. It pulls me out of the story every time I come across it. My favorite words vary from book to book. Eyes, hair, with and –ing (verbing) are my problem words right now for Rock star.

I bring all them varmints out to light by using the “find” option. I select the “highlight all items found” and then go up to my highlighter and click! All my problem words are lit until I change them.

As I edit, I also keep in mind the writing rules I’ve learned.

The last thing I do is make sure each sentence has a pleasant cadence. It rolls off my tongue smoothly without twisting or tripping. This usually tightens the sentence, eliminating empty calorie words.

I finally print up my MS and read it out loud as I edit with pencil. I seem to find tons of mistakes this way. Ugh . . .

That’s about 7 passes altogether. I then send my freshly obsessed MS to all my beta readers and then go over it for the last time.

That’s how I edit my novels. I hope that you find something here that you can use for your own works. Thanks, Christine, for letting me be your guest!

What’s your process?

***Christine says: Thanks for being my guest today, Elizabeth. I love this process you've described. It's much like mine, except for the whole color coding thing in the beginning. I need to try that. It sounds like fun. 


  1. I love Margie's method. But I've found it's not something I can apply to an early draft. While EDITS (the name of her system) can help point to scene-level problems, I have to make sure the book-level problems are fixed before I can worry about scene-level problems.

    I think the next time around, I'm actually going to do a specific round of edits looking for low tension scenes (this is the sixth thing Margie actually has you look for—conflict and tension).

    But for me so far, EDITS has most helpful in the very last round of editing, the word- and sentence-level stuff. If I do it before, I start getting attached to words and sentences and feeling like they're PERMANENT now that they're FIXED when really the entire scene never belonged in this book in the first place.

  2. Hi, Christine, thank you for the pleasure of being your guest!

    Hi Jordan! I know what you mean. I've found that I've had to cut out sentences to create snappy dialogue, and this is after backloading, but it still sounds terrific.
    I'm glad you've found your way of apply Margie's stuff to your work. Thanks for the comment. <3

  3. This sounds like such a cool process! I am not to that part yet, as I am hammering plot into place--and I think I do a pretty decent job with the pop words, but I will have to think about that highlighting bit--I love the idea of balance.

  4. Great editing tips, Elizabeth! Thanks! I, too, loved the Deep Edits class I took from Margie.

  5. Never heard of the color-coding before. I do read scenes out loud, though.

  6. @Alex. Oh, yes, reading out loud is very import! :D

  7. first comment got deleted after I typed it hit enter, and closed the window... right as I saw the CAPTCHA letters pop up. GRRR!

    Anyway Elizabeth is also wonderful at critiquing other people's books! She's got a great eye!

  8. Aw, Tamara, you're so sweet, thank you! *Hugs*

  9. Thanks for being my guest today, Lizzie. You're the best. HUGS

  10. Awesome ideas, Liz! Glad to see you here. :)

  11. Thanks, Christine. *hugs* Any time! :D

    Rachelle--thank you! :)

  12. Thanks, Elizabeth, for the timely advice. This is helpful to me now as I'm doing final edits. Enjoyed the post.

  13. this is an interesting process. I enjoyed reading about it :)

  14. Oh wow!! I am so so so impressed with your very disciplined and focused editing method, Elizabeth Mueller! Thank you for sharing them here - I'm sort of with you to the point of writing the full ms, leaving it for a month or so and then starting the editing process. You then do this incredible and amazing proper editing thing. Me I just sort of wing it! LOL!!! GOOD LUCK with your novels and all the best with your writing, take care

  15. Renae, you're welcome! I hope it helps some. <3

    Julie, thank you! I'd really love to know yours. ;)

    Jennifer, thank you so much. I will need the luck once I start the submission process. Have a great weekend! (Say hi to Charlie for me, too!) :D

  16. I don't really have a set system because everything I've edited has very different requirements.

    But this seems like a great idea to try. thanks!

  17. Eeleenlee, I'm curious to they kind of requirements they are! :) Thank you, too! ;)