Category Archives: Author/Editor Relationships

Common Comma Issues

A lot of people seemed to like my post on how to use past perfect tense, so I wanted to continue today with another grammar rundown. I’m going to go through some common comma issues I see in manuscripts. I know we are getting into the weeds a little with grammar, but it’s amazing how some small tweaks to your manuscript will help sentence structure, story understanding, and an overall better reading experience for your reader. Misplacing or misusing a comma can alter the meaning of a sentence, so yeah, they’re pretty important.

Comma Splice: Use commas to separate independent clauses when they are joined by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet). A comma splice is when a comma without a conjunction joins two separate sentences. A comma splice is incorrect. There are a few ways to correct a comma splice. One way is to use a semicolon to connect the two clauses without using a conjunction. You can also break the sentence into two separate sentences.

Examples that are all correct:

  • My favorite book releases soon, and I am so excited.
  • My favorite book releases soon; I am so excited.
  • My favorite book releases soon. I am so excited.

Serial Comma: Use commas to separate words and groups of words with a series of three or more.


  • This book has awesome dialogue, plot, and characterization.
  • Sebastian, Biggie, and Loki are my four legged babies.

Using commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun: This is a big one all writers should pay attention to. Use a comma to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun. Be careful not to add a comma before the final adjective and the noun or between non-coordinate adjectives. Here’s a helpful hint: if the word and can be inserted between the two adjectives, use a comma. If you can swap the adjectives around and they still make sense, use a comma. A coordinate adjective separately modifies the noun that follows it. Cumulative adjectives do not modify the noun that directly follows it.


  • This is a strong, funny manuscript.
  • He wrapped me in an amazing power hug.  *You do not use a comma here because they are non-coordinate, and you can’t say, “He wrapped me in an amazing and power hug.

Comma to separate essential phrases and clauses: An essential phrase or clause is used to modify the noun. It also adds critical information to the sentence. You do not set essential phrases or clauses off with commas.


  • The people who work in publishing are awesome.

A nonessential phrase or clause adds extra information to the sentence. The phrase or clause can be eliminated without changing the meaning of the sentence. You should always set nonessential phrases or clauses off with commas.


  • Hugs and Chocolate, an awesome blog, is a great community. *Hugs and Chocolate is named, so the description is nonessential.

I could go on and on. There is so much information out there, but this is a good start. Let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll answer them in the comments.


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Editing, Proofreading, And A Contest With Karen S. Elliott

Happy Hump Day, Tribe. We’re happy to host Karen S. Elliott once again. This post bookends DIY Editing and Proofreading Part I. Karen shares tips for finding the right editor/proofreader and offers an amazing treat for one lucky commentator. Following the post, you’ll find the rules and prize choices for a H&C winner. (Of course, in our book, you’re all winners.)  Many thanks to Karen for her insight and willingness to share a few lessons to ease our revision pains.

Hiring an editor or proofreader – don’t get stung! 

Planning – Start looking for an editor or proofreader the minute you start your book or soon thereafter. Don’t decide you need a proofreader on Monday and hire one on Tuesday. Shop around. Ask other successful writers for recommendations. Ask the editor/proofreader for a sample.

Ask for specifics – Ask the proofreader to outline exactly what they consider “editing” and “proofreading.” These standards differ significantly throughout the industry.

Put away the hatchet, please – When I edit and proofread for a client, I suggest changes; I do not make edits for the writer. What will your editor/proofreader do?

Research online – Look at the proofreader’s website, Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, and blog. Are they positive? Do they share tips and links? Are their online pages clean?

Stylebooks, references – Ask them what style book(s) and references they use. If they hem and haw or say, “Oh, I don’t use those things,” run away.

Testimonials – Get testimonials or references and then look at the publications of the testimonials. Contact the people who have provided these testimonials.

Turn-around – Look at the proofreader’s turn-around time. If a proofreader says she’ll have your 100,000-word work of art back to you in two days, that’s just not gonna happen. Have realistic expectations.

Contract – Sign a contract. I would caution that if the proofreader doesn’t use contracts, again, run away. Be sure you can accept the contract payment terms, turn-around time, cancellation terms, additional cost for phone consultations, etc.

NDA – Ask the proofreader to sign an NDA – non-disclosure agreement. You don’t want your hard work to end up in the proofreader’s e-book!

Can’t afford a proofreader? Jump in with all eight legs! 

Even with more-than-reasonable proofreading rates, I’ve had several writers say they just can’t afford it. I can dig it!

There are other options available for getting your manuscript proofread and edited.

Writer’s group – If you feel you can’t afford a proofreader, join a critique group in your area. A good group is invaluable. If you can’t find one, start one!

Exchange services – With other professionals – I’ll read yours if you read mine. Or trade one service for another. I proofread a monthly newsletter for Anne Hillerman and her Wordharvest workshops and in turn got a free ad in her newsletter. This exchange was a benefit to us both.

Join Linked In – This is a great way to find other professionals in the publishing industry. There are hundreds of groups for writers broken down by genre, e-book vs. print, and just about everything in-between.

Online exchange – Join an online exchange group or forum like Fictionaut, Dropbox,, or Yahoo groups for writers.

Join Facebook groups – On Facebook, there are pages and groups galore!

Proofreading sites and blogs – Search for sites and blogs that share proofreading and editing tips.

Dictionary Plus – It’s not enough to have a dictionary (or to use an online dictionary). You should have a couple other desk references for grammar and punctuation like The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus, Diane Hacker’s Rules for Writers, or the ever-popular Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.

Subscribe – Pick one or two magazines that are geared toward writers like Writer’s Digest, Writers’ Journal, or The Writer. If you don’t want to fork over the subscription price, ask for them at your local library.

Start saving – Perhaps you could afford a proofreader if you did a little belt-tightening. Do you really need a five-dollar peppermint mocha every morning?


Make a comment on this blog post by Friday, October 5, and be entered 
in a random drawing to win one of the following (your choice) from 
Karen: 1) Free six-page edit/proofread, any project, double-spaced 
text, 2) Free website review and critique, or 3) Free FB Fan Page 
review and critique.

Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine,, and Connect with Karen on her website, blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Photos from this Proofreading Two-Pack are courtesy of Gwen Dubeau. Please stop by and see some of her fabulous work at Gwen Dubeau.


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Riding the Revision Coaster: Completing My 30 Day Deadline

Time’s up!

 Exactly 30 days ago I received my editorial package from my editor complete with editorial letter, manuscript filled with comments, and a 30 day deadline. Let the challenge begin.





This is how I felt on Day 1:

This is how I feel today:

And this is how I survived:

Despite the late nights, the hair pulling, and the stress, I have loved every minute of it. It’s my calling, my passion and even when it’s hard, even when I want to call it quits and scream out the window into the raging storm “I can’t do this anymore!”  deep down, I wouldn’t trade one minute of it for all the chocolate in Switzerland.

Here are some things I learned along the way.

Mistakes, I’ve made a few:

1) Do not, I repeat, do not read through the entire manuscript and comments before you start revisions. That’s what the editorial letter is for; it gives you the breakdown on what to concentrate on and how the changes work for the overall arc of the story. Reading through the manuscript and picking apart every comment, like I did, is not helpful, and in my case, only overwhelmed me and set me into a state of panic before I had even begun. Lesson learned. I won’t be doing that again.

2)  Don’t panic. I admit that after reading through the comments and the editorial letter, the thirty day deadline freaked me right out. To battle that fear factor, I had to ride my dragon, as Tonia so elegantly puts it, take a deep breath and take that leap of faith. I’m a professional now, dammit and it’s time to stop saying it and started believing it because it’s true. This is not a dream, this is reality.

3) Don’t jump around. I started in chapter one, but as I went through reading the comments, I would stop to correct things here and there, losing focus and making it harder to know what I’d changed and what I hadn’t. I only did this for an hour or so and found out it wasn’t working for me.

What I learned: (Can be applied to revisions from critiques and used for self imposed deadlines)

1) Read the editorial letter first, in its entirety, let it simmer for a day, think through the suggestions in your head as you think through your story, but don’t open the manuscript and start working. The next day, read through the editorial letter again. Take a deep breath and then open the manuscript and look through the comments, but don’t dwell on them, look for themes, or big issues that you want to keep in your head as you work through the revisions. Don’t start changing anything yet. Again, let things settle into your brain before starting.

2) Schedule a call or meeting with your editor right away. You’re not alone. Your editor is there to help. Make sure you let them know how you’re feeling.  Write a list of questions as you go through the editorial letter and track changes comments. Include anything you’re unclear about and everything you disagree with and why. You will need to justify your reason for not changing something, but don’t be defensive. You both have one goal, to make your book the best it can possibly be. You might disagree on some things, but building trust and learning to listen and negotiate is important.

3) Set a revision schedule. Think about how many chapters you need to revise, how many days you have to do it, and what other commitments you have in your life that you have to fit in along with your writing.  How many chapters do you need to average a day in order to make the deadline? Simple, right? Breaking it down helps the task seem less overwhelming. It’s easier to think about revising an average of 1.3 chapters a day than it does 39 chapters in less than 30 days.

4) Use a calendar to schedule your time and set a goal for each day depending on your commitments. Some days you might be able to get more than 1.3 chapters done while other days you won’t. Developing a plan for the entire month helps keep the balance.

5) Be flexible. Your schedule isn’t set in stone. Things come up that take your time away, other days you might have more free time than you thought, use it to your advantage, but keep your average up. Re-evaluate your schedule daily. Some days I would do over and above my goal and some days not, depending on how difficult the changes were for that chapter.

4) Take it Bird by Bird.  (If you haven’t heard of the book Bird by Bird: Instructions for Writing and Life by Anne Lemont, I highly recommend it.) Ann Lemont explains how her ten year old brother was trying to get a report on birds written which was due the next day. He was frustrated and overwhelmed, close to tears when their father sat down and told him ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’ Best advice ever and this became my mantra.

5) Give yourself a deadline before your deadline so that you finish early and can complete a full read-through and clean up before sending it to your editor.

6) Ask for support. I explained to my hubby that this month was going to be difficult and I would need him to make dinner and do the laundry and that I wouldn’t be able to go out on the weekends as much because I had a deadline. I couldn’t have made it through the month without him.

7) Most importantly, reward yourself daily. Work for something good. A piece of chocolate? Reading? Playing a video game? Watching your favourite tv show? You put in the work, you get the reward.

In the end, I finished the revisions a full 5 days ahead of schedule, leaving me time to read-through, tweak, and clean up. Now I’m anxious to see what my editor has to say about the changes. Have I done enough? *bites nails*

On to round two!

What have each of you been up to in your writing journey? Are you drafting, plotting, revising? I would love to know more about each of your projects.