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His new book, Editor-Proof Your Writing, published by Quill Driver Books, is an excellent education on how to improve our written work. The latter is comparable to the Emmy and Oscar in other industries. McNair has written and placed hundreds of trade magazine articles and three published non-fiction how-to books. All are available in e-book format from amazon. Not long ago, when I was asked how writing has changed in my forty years of writing and editing, I immediately recalled reading Peyton Place.

It came out the year I graduated high school in That was fine writing! It grasped the attention of the nation, which loved to debate its bringing sex out of the bedroom into full public view. Copycat books followed, as did a TV show and who knows what else.

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Well, I found a copy of it at a garage sale a month or so ago, and tried re-reading it. I soon stopped. I was hit by how slowly the writer had started it. Editors demand it.

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Is that fair? Well, yes, it is. Then she informs us that Indian summer came to a town called Peyton Place one year, in early October. She tells us about the sky, the leaves on the sidewalks, and so on. She finally focusses in on Elm Street, with its shop awnings, the churches on each end which act as bookends to the town. Then she….

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I stopped reading. You get the idea. They could never do that today. Look at the opening of your own Work in Progress. Does it start with action? Or do you keep readers on hold as you provide information you think they need to understand the story?


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I edited a story recently that had exactly that problem. She thinks about it for twenty-six long pages.

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The girl got up from her computer, drove home, and entered her apartment. I suggested she start her story two years before when the action happened, and she did.


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The lesson? Start with meaningful action. Use a hook in the first paragraph that asks readers and editors questions they want answered, and keep them engaged. As always, we welcome your comments below. Let Don know if you agree or disagree with his comments and your experiences with editing and editors.

Books by Don McNair (Author of Editor-Proof Your Writing)

Sunday, August 18, Teens on Writing. YOLO, zits. After reading each chapter, which is stuffed with bad writing and corrected examples, the reader is encouraged first to fix some sample sentences, then to apply what he or she has learned to the first chapter of his or her own manuscript. By running through all 21 steps, writers can become aware of their own writing problems, avoid them in the future and apply the lessons learned to the rest of their manuscript.

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McNair ended up editing that book himself. Readers will spot problems and write bad reviews, so those authors are just hurting themselves. Dale McGarrigle is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Maine. He has reviewed books, music, theater and pop culture. Many newbies use strange fonts, single spacing, and other visual tricks, unknowingly guaranteeing that editors will spot them as neophytes. So your first assignment is to present your work in a professional manner.

While there are slight variations, the format I describe below is universally accepted. The rest of the pages will be automatically numbered.


  • Silo Nine;
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  • If you want, select boldface for both this and the page number which is now on the same line, at the right margin. Do these instructions seem fussy? A manuscript boasting clean, competent formatting assures an editor that at the very least the writer knows the basics about how the publishing industry works. Put your name, address, phone number, and email address on separate, single-spaced lines in the upper left corner of a blank page, much as you would list your contact information in a business letter.

    The writer spins essays and poems by observing the world around him and questioning his relationship to it. He is delighted by what he sees.