Career changing Publishing

Writing Needs Editing Part 2

Editing Part 2

More Editing

Editing Part 2!

So last time, we looked at some general issues surrounding editing. Although the process may seem daunting, it still must be done. For this post, I will assume you have done the tasks outlined in the first part.

If not, then this methodology will still work. But I think you’ll find you will need to do the preliminary steps anyway. Hence you might as well get them done now. Then it’s on to Editing Part 2.

Spell Check

Maybe it sounds dumb. Perhaps it’s obvious. But you still need to run a spell checker. Don’t have one? Then try a free spell checker online. But if you have a spellchecker in your application, use it.

Understand that certain typos will be a problem. If you type ‘that’ for ‘this’, it will not show up, as those are both real words. Hence your spellchecker provides only a preliminary solution. Have the program ignore names, in order to eliminate them from contention.

Find and Replace

Your find feature is a godsend; use it! Furthermore, if you use names which might have typical typos, try searching for them with ctrl-F. For example, the main character in my 2015 NaNoWriMo novel was named Marnie. Hence I searched for the word ‘Marine’. But I made sure to check on usage before hitting ‘replace’.

This feature also works when you change a character’s name.

Find and Count

Do you overuse some expressions? Repetitive language isn’t bad. But too much of it is dull. Consider usage, and adjust repeated sentences accordingly.

That Attack

My good friend D. R. Perry taught me this one, and I love it.  Have your program count how often you use the word ‘that’. Of course, it’s not a bad word outright. But overusing anything can be dull. By counting this particular word, you get a handle on your use of certain idiomatic phrases. E. g. ‘he thought that’, ‘she said that’, ‘they felt that that was funny’. In all three of these instances, the word ‘that’ can be cut without losing any sense.

Synonym Sweep

This time, search for the word ‘very’. As with ‘that’, the word is perfectly fine, despite what Stephen King says. However, he is right (as was Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society) insofar as it’s a not so precise use of language. What’s better: ‘very big’ or ‘gigantic’? For a children’s book, probably the former. For any other kind of book, it may be the latter.

If you can clip the adverb and instead enhance the adjective with a better synonym, your writing will be more interesting. Stay away from obscure adjectives (e. g. ‘Brobdingnagian’). Also, your characters can use all the adverbs they like when speaking. But try to cut them in your scene setting, your transitions, and your exposition.

That’s the first half of Editing Part 2. Now onto the second half.

Fat Cutter

You’ve been doing this all along, with ‘that attack’ and ‘synonym sweep’. The idea is to excise unnecessary words. Unlike the former two methods, this one will require some reading. Up until now, everything has been done programmatically. Now you need to do some digging. But first check how long your chapters are. There is no hard and fast rule for chapter length, but if all of your chapters are 20 – 35 pages and one is 63, then that one might have some fat you can cut. Or maybe you can just split it into two or even three chapters.

Consider descriptive text and exposition. You need it, but how long does it have to be? Familiar places in the current time period probably just need a few words: downtown Detroit, the Great Barrier Reef, etc. Or familiar places in the past need more but can still be pretty spare, such as Victorian-era London, or ancient Rome during Claudius Caesar’s reign. Familiar places in the future need more but you can build on today: 2023 Berlin maybe has taller buildings, 3116 Istanbul might be enclosed in a geodesic dome. Unfamiliar places will need more lavish attention to detail. But metaphors and similes are your friends. The new planet might be as big as Saturn but without rings, and smell like wet dog.

Scene Shifts and Plot Changes

These are much bigger and will take up a lot more of your time. Before you do either, you might want to consider whether your story can be understood by beta readers without doing either. If so, then keep this in mind (maybe take some notes) but don’t do it. See what beta readers say. Maybe you won’t need to make such drastic changes at all.

Final Read-Through Before Betas

Give it one last read-through. Look for the right words in the wrong places (e. g. a typo which turned out to be a correctly spelled word, so spellchecker missed it). Look for sense and ease of understanding. Make sure your plot makes sense.

Then kiss your manuscript good-bye (for the time being) and send it off to beta readers.

Post-Beta Readings and Editing Part 2

After betas, Editing Part 2 should be followed by a kind of Editing Part 3. Consider your betas’ advice. You don’t need to take it all, but listen with an open mind. Do one last read-through and then send your work to a professional editor, if you can afford one. Why should you, if you’ve done all this? Because you (or I) may have missed something. In addition, all this preliminary work was free. Your edited work will come back a lot faster and cleaner.

Then, and only then, can you consider querying.

Career changing Publishing

Writing Needs Editing Part 1

Editing Part 1

What’s this All About? Editing in a Nutshell

Check out editing part 1. If you don’t do any editing, don’t expect people to read your work.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Editing Tips

Unless you normally write six-word horror stories, you are going to need an editor. Everybody needs this service. However, you should edit your work before handing it over to a professional. In particular, if you are just coming off NaNoWriMo, you need to trim the fat. Because we all pad in order to make word count for NaNoWriMo. Don’t be ashamed of this! And a lot of it might turn out to be the good kind of fat. In particular, if it helps you introduce a new and interesting character, or set a new scene, or transition a story line properly, it can be terrific. But you still need to go through it with a fine-toothed comb. Everybody needs to do this. And there are no exceptions.

Adding Words

Sometimes, you actually add words in order to edit a story. And that is perfectly fine. If a description was rushed, or a scene feels forced, you may need to add words. In particular, if you wrote your story with placeholders such as: fix this later or add transition here, you must address those problems!

Getting Started

Are you wondering why this post was not added in November? It’s because editing requires some ‘leave it alone’ time. Frankly, this is too early. Because I highly recommend leaving your work for a full month before tackling editing. Just, find something else to do during the month of December. Between the holidays and the end of the quarter and the end of the tax year (and up here in New England, you might get some snow to shovel), I’m sure you can think of something.

Okay, Now We’ll Really Get Started With Editing Part 1

So you’ve set your work aside for a month. Your first job is to read your manuscript through from start to finish. Want to take notes? Sure. Or not. This is your show. But read all 50,000 or 100,000 or whatever words.

In the next post, I’ll show you where to go from here.

Career changing Inspiration

Getting Inspiration from Education

Getting Inspiration from Education


JR Gershen-Siegel Adventures in Career Changing - Getting inspiration from education

Education is of course something anyone in a wealthier country, who is over than the age of five, has in common with everyone else.

But what does it have to do with writing?

The Process

Consider the process you go through, and even the rituals which accompanying schooling. You get up in the morning. Then you often eat something and you usually leave the premises, although not always. You read a lot, and answer questions. Plus you might perform mathematical operations. Some of these tasks may be simple. Others may be grindingly difficult.

Then at some point you knock off for the day. You might have assigned homework. And then you go to sleep so that you can do it all over again. It’s a little different if you’re homeschooled. But a lot of the activities are the same.

The Subjects

After primary classes, you start to see variations. French instead of Spanish. Physics instead of advanced Biology. College-bound students tend to track one way. Those who are going to stop with a High School diploma or GED tend to track another.


There are some interactions with homeschooling, but not as many as when you leave your domicile and go to a school. There may be bullying. Students may self-divide into cliques. Some join clubs or teams.

There may be divisions made based upon athletic ability. Or academic ability. Another group might be artists, or musicians. Some students know what they want to study. E. g. they know what they want to be when they ‘grow up’. Others take longer to find themselves.

Education, Inspiration, and Takeaways

If your characters are in school, what is it like? Both Harry Potter and The Lord of the Flies allude to scholastic pursuits. Are your characters failing? Teacher’s pets? In trouble? Coasting?

Career changing Publishing

Bechdel Test in Writing

A Look at the Bechdel test

What is the Bechdel test?

Bechdel test
Bechdel test

The Bechdel test is best defined by the Bechdel site:

… sometimes called the Mo Movie Measure or Bechdel Rule is a simple test which names the following three criteria: (1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man. The test was popularized by Alison Bechdel‘s comic Dykes to Watch Out For, in a 1985 strip called The Rule. For a nice video introduction to the subject please check out The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies on

Okay, But What Does it Really Mean?

Films have shortchanged women for decades. The test is not necessary for cinema, and it is certainly not necessary for prose. However, it’s still a helpful gauge.

Walking the Walk

Consider the following. These are bits of my prose. These are the points where my three (so far) NaNoWriMo novels passed. First off is a sentence from Untrustworthy, and it is the first dialogue spoken. It is in the first chapter, page 1.

“Good morning, Ixalla,” Tathrelle said…

And the second one is from The Obolonk Murders. It is in the first chapter, page 3. Selkhet (who is a female robot) is speaking to the main character, Peri Martin.

“Oh, that’s nothing,” said Selkhet…

Finally, the third is from The Enigman Cave. It is in the first chapter, page 3. The speaker is the main character, Mariana Shapiro.

“Yeah, Astrid? Can you patch me through to Jazzie and Trixie?”

The Point of the Bechdel Test

I don’t pretend to always write stellar prose. Yet all three of these works pass the test. And all they do so within chapter one. Rather than making the reader dig, I lay it all out quickly.

For other writers, though, it may be more difficult. Lewis Carroll takes longer to bring Alice together with someone named. And even then, the name is ‘The Red Queen’. But does that count? Beyond the name question, does it count because Alice is a child and therefore probably would not be talking about men?

And what happens if the piece is about lesbians? If they discuss the objects of their affections, does it count?

The Bar is Set Low

Talk about setting a low bar! The two women don’t need to be strong. They do not need to be intelligent. A film or book can pass the test if two named women discuss crocheting. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

However, my point is, passing the test doesn’t automatically turn anyone smart. Or kick ass. Or anything else. Instead, it just means two named female characters spoke, however briefly. And their subject, however briefly, was not a man.

Return to Prose

Let’s go back to my three examples. The speakers in Untrustworthy are married to each other. The ones in The Obolonk Murders and The Enigman Cave are colleagues. While Selkhet is subordinate to Peri, and Astrid is to Mariana, they are still addressed respectfully. Especially relevant, the interactions are professional ones. However, Mariana is more informal than Selkhet.

Do the interactions have to be meaningful? Not really. Ixalla and Tathrelle could be beating each other for all the reader knows. At least, given the one sentence, above. Maybe Peri smashes Selkhet to bits right after the above statement. Maybe Mariana fires Astrid.

So the test doesn’t ‘fix’ any of that. It doesn’t guarantee heroic characters. It just guarantees names and the power of speech. And they, at least one time, don’t talk about a man.

More Issues with the Bechdel Test

The test is imperfect. It’s very hard to pass it when writing historical fiction. Of course women of the past could be named. They could speak of something other than men. But the time and place dictate something else. In the 1880s (for example), men drive most of the action outside the home. That’s not sexism; it’s reality. Still, since Scarlett O’Hara and Prissy discuss Melanie Hamilton Wilkes’s baby, then yes, Gone With the Wind passes. So it’s not impossible. It’s just tougher.

Book Reviews Writing

Self-Review – The Badge of Humanity

Review – The Badge of Humanity

The Badge of Humanity is the upshot conclusion story in the Obolonks trilogy. It moves the action into more of the Peri-Dave romance. But it also follows to showing how she, Dave, and Tommy finally solve the murders.
The Badge of Humanity
Just like that universe’s society is tripartite, so are the three novels. So the first one, The Obolonk Murders, is devoted to the aliens, and the second work, The Polymer Beat, is dedicated to the semi-sentient and more than semi-sentient robots. Hence the third is all about humanity.

The second and third novels also have somewhat punny titles. They both play off the police props of badges and walking a beat.

Background for The Badge of Humanity

When I first started to write The Obolonk Murders, I had no plan and no idea it would turn into three books. At this point, I knew I really needed to finish up already. One thing Untrustworthy has proven, over and over again, is the value of an outline.

I knew the end had to happen, so the two biggest parts were solving the murders and, in some way, dealing with the Peri-Dave romance.


Peri has to solve the last of the puzzle as more Obolonks are threatened. She senses they are the key to humanity’s future as the human population has swollen so much that it will soon overrun every inhabitable orb in the solar system. As Tommy continues to seek what is essentially humanness – the badge of humanity – Peri and Dave’s relationship heats up. There are too many distractions and the president of the solar system also seems to have something to hide.


The main character (as before) is Detective Sergeant Peri Martin. Secondary characters of note are Tommy 2000 (with a Tommy McFarland alias so as to cover up his robot identity), Dave Shepherd, Greg Shapiro, Akanksha Kondapalli, and the president of the solar system, Ms. Fankald Williams. The scenes shift from the Boston Megalopolis on Earth, to Venus, Callisto, and Eris.

Memorable Quotes

“What’s that?” Peri asked a woman sitting nearby, who was an octogenarian like her parents were. The woman had on a knit suit in mint green. Mrs. Franklin? Fredericks? Francis?

“I asked you where you live.”

“Oh, I’m in the Boston Meg, right downtown in a high rise.”

“Back on Earth? That seems so old-fashioned. Don’t you want to grow eggplants with your parents?”

“Uh, no, that’s okay,” Peri tried to be polite about things, but she could scarcely conceive of anything more boring than supervising a far less sophisticated robot than Tommy – the kind known as a Jack or Lumberjackbot – as it tended to the care and feeding of umpteen eggplants for sale to markets as far away as Venus or the Neptunian System. “Someone’s got to haul in the undesirables, Mrs. – er, Ma’am.” Nice save, she congratulated herself wryly.

“Oh, yes, Earth has so much more crime than we have out here,” the woman observed.

“No, thank you, Mrs. Martin,” Tommy remained polite but was getting a little bit insistent, adding just a touch of emphasis to his surprisingly lifelike tenor voice.

“Well, there’s crime everywhere, Mrs., er, Ma’am,” Peri countered, adding, “Ma, he’s not interested in the food, okay? Don’t push.”

“Perdy, honestly! Now, Thomas,” Peri’s mother addressed Tommy, “I can’t understand why you’d be fasting on a day like today. Is it for a religious reason? Do you need to keep kosher, or halal, or vegan? Because I don’t think you need to lose any weight.”

“I need to,” the sophisticated robot’s bluish-greenish-grayish eyes moved rapidly, horizontally, a few times. Peri knew that he was checking his long-term memory for a suitable response, “watch.”


The book has a T rating. It’s not quite enough for MA, but there are sex scenes and they can be a touch explicit at times.

The Badge of Humanity: Upshot

The quoted portion comes from the first scene in the first chapter. I think the series ends pretty well. But it really needs beta readers! Because the last thing that I want is for the story to end on a less than perfect note. Any volunteers for the beta reader badge?

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Book Reviews Writing

Self-Review – The Polymer Beat

Review – The Polymer Beat

The Polymer Beat moves the Obolonk action toward not just the robots which have an overall story line – it also explores main character Peri Martin’s romance with spy Dave Shepherd.
The Polymer Beat
Just like that universe’s society is tripartite, so are the three novels. So the first one, The Obolonk Murders, is all about the aliens. And this, the second work, The Polymer Beat, is dedicated to the semi-sentient and more than semi-sentient robots. Hence the third is all about humans and is called The Badge of Humanity.

The second and third novels also have somewhat punny titles, with both playing off the police props of badges and walking a beat. The reference to polymer is because of robots. These books all have themes; this one is robots although I will admit it’s subtle.


After I picked The Obolonk Murders back up again in 2014, I realized I had the makings of a trilogy on my hands. Hence The Polymer Beat became my 2014 NaNoWriMo project.


As Peri and Tommy work on the Obolonk cases, Peri and Dave Shepherd get closer. Peri knows this is a bad idea, but she goes along with it anyway. And, as she and Tommy continue to try to find the killers, she notices Tommy’s simplistic robotic feelings are taking a turn. Could Tommy become jealous?


The main character (as before) is Detective Sergeant Peri Martin. The scenes shift from the Boston Megalopolis to various places in the Solar System, including Ganymede. Other characters include Tommy, Dave, They Say This is the One, Sally Bowles AKA They Say This One Tiles Bathrooms Adequately, and lawyer Akanksha Kondapalli.

Memorable Quotes

“Were you programmed to be an optimist?”

He considered the question briefly. “I cannot tell.”

“That’s okay. You know I’m gonna have dinner with Shepherd tonight, right?”

“Yes,” he mumbled as she hoisted her bag onto the room’s sole bed.

Peri stopped what she was doing and came close to the robot. “What is it?”

“It is nothing.”

She looked at him closely. “If I didn’t know any better, Tom, I’d swear you were upset.” He stood there stoically, although she did see him scan once, briefly.

Peri returned to her bag and began unpacking it, stuffing most of her clothing into the top drawer of the room’s sole bureau. “I’m not even so sure why I’m going out with him, truth be told.”

“I do not understand.”

“Heh, I would explain it if I could. It’s not like my mini-phone’s been chiming all day with offers since Charlie died.”

“Is this,” the robot paused, maybe to select the proper words, “your first such offer since that event?”

“Event,” she echoed, taking a shimmering silver dress out of her bag, “that makes it sound as if there were engraved invitations, or something.”

“I did not intend that definition.”

“I know you didn’t. But you gotta understand, Tom, or at least just, just try to. I saw Charlie mortally wounded by a scrubbed hot gun. It happened right in front of me.”

“That is what your psychiatric evaluation said.”

Trembling, she looked daggers at him. “What else do you know about me that’s private?”


The book has a T rating. There are no really violent scenes but there is an explicit sex scene. Occasional bad language, but not much.

The Polymer Beat: Upshot

Middle books in trilogies tend to drag, and this one is no exception. I need to improve it! In addition, beta readers would be helpful – hello!

It would be great to get some developmental editing help with the dragging parts in the middle to last third.

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Book Reviews Writing

Self-Review – The Obolonk Murders

Review – The Obolonk Murders

The Obolonk Murders was started several years ago (2002, to be exact) and I pulled it. But I loved the concept behind it. So I dusted it off and it became a trilogy.

Just like that universe’s society is tripartite, so are the three novels. So this, the first one, The Obolonk Murders, is devoted to the aliens, and the second work, The Polymer Beat, is dedicated to the semi-sentient and more than semi-sentient robots. Hence the third is all about humans and is called The Badge of Humanity.

The second and third novels also have somewhat punny titles, with both playing off the police props of badges and walking a beat. But the first title is just really straightforward.


The Obolonk Murders started off life as a completely seat of my pants story which put online as postings. I had no plot, no plans, nothing. At the time, I wrote the first three chapters. I then got stuck. I didn’t pick it up again until 12 years had gone by. No lie!


Society breaks into three parts: humans, robots, and Obolonks. An Obolonk is a hermaphrodite alien (a little similar to the Untrustworthy aliens, the Cabossians), orange in color. They are of about equal intelligence to us, but with interstellar space travel. The robots are of varying levels of sophistication. However, the most sophisticated are the creations of Dr. J. Carter Tinerrian. One of these robots is now the new partner to Detective Sergeant Peri Martin, who needs to start solving the mystery of who is killing Obolonks.


The main character is Detective Sergeant Peri Martin. Her main motivations are to find the perpetrators and to work with her new partner, Tommy McFarland. The scenes shift from the New York Megalopolis to the Boston Megalopolis to Callisto and back. Other characters include Tommy (as a robot, he goes by the identity Tommy 2000), Dr. Tinerrian, and the head of the Obolonks, who only name is They Say This is the One.

Memorable Quotes

“Through that door,” motioned the robot.

“Thanks,” Peri smiled the half-smile she usually used when addressing robots.

“Your gratitude is unnecessary. I am merely performing my function,” replied the robot before turning and gliding away.

The door slid open after Peri underwent the same security protocols as at the front door. “Ah, come in, come in! I’m J. Carter Tinerrian. This lovely woman is Selkhet and this is your new partner.” Dr. Tinerrian was a nerdy sort of a fellow. He indicated a man in a suit sitting at a desk. The seated man was maybe 40, 45, seemingly younger than 50-year-old Peri, with a bit of salt to his brown peppery hair, and hazel eyes that varied in shade. He was well-built, too, although his nose looked like it might have been broken some time in his youth.

“Hi, there,” said Peri, shaking hands with the doctor and Selkhet and making her way to the man at the desk. He failed to respond. “Is he deaf? The department’s relaxed almost all physical rules but I don’t think total deafness is one of them.”

“Oh, he’s not deaf. He just needs to be activated,” explained Selkhet. Then, addressing the robot, she commanded sharply, “Tommy 2000, it is time.”

“A robot?” Peri asked. The doctor nodded but said nothing. “What the –?”


The book has a T rating. There are no sex scenes and maybe one or two stray swear words. The real issue is one act of terrorism.

The Obolonk Murders: Upshot

The plot is … okay. I like the idea of cops and robbers in space, and in November 2019 for NaNoWriMo, I’m writing a successor trilogy. There are parts where this book could be better. But I have to admit it. I have come a long, long way since I first started writing it. It could use more beta readers!

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