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Don’t Miss These Editing Tips

Tips from LDSPMA presenters to make editing your next book a breeze.

You’ve finally finished your first draft. Now what? Two accomplished editors shared their top editing tips at the 2022 Latter-day Saints in Publishing, Media & the Arts (LDSPMA) Annual Conference.

Style versus Rule

Annette Lyon, bestselling author of Band of Sisters and accomplished editor, broke down the difference between style choices and rules in her class, “Self-Editing and Revision: Fixing All the Language Stuff—Glaring and Nit-Picky—to Make the Best Impression.” Style choices vary based on the publisher and genre, but rules are universally accepted guidelines regarding grammar and punctuation. Some examples of style choices are the use of italics to mark thoughts, letters, or flashbacks; end-of-line hyphenation; and whether or not to use the Oxford comma. Rules are things like a comma should precede a conjunction in a sentence with two independent clauses, only one space should follow a period, and underlining should not be used in place of italics. In the end, the most important thing is to make an educated decision and stay consistent.

Lyon advised that attendees purchase the appropriate style guide (and the most updated one) for the genre they want to write in. If authors aren’t sure which style guide to use, Lyon suggested using the Chicago Manual of Style and the online version of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

Capitalization and Consistency

In another LDSPMA class, Kristy Gilbert, founder and executive editor at Looseleaf Editorial & Production, offered tips to aspiring science fiction and fantasy writers and editors. Gilbert has edited multiple popular sci-fi and fantasy novels, including The Paper Magician and Powder Mage trilogies. Her two-part class, “Copyediting for Science Fiction & Fantasy,” explained how editors and writers can immerse readers in the world of the story by using capitalization and consistency in magic or technology systems.

Capitalization problems tend to be the most prevalent in books with new storyworlds. Gilbert clarified that nouns such as titles, races, and professions should only be capitalized if their real-world equivalents would be. For example, king should only be capitalized when it precedes a name or if it is used as the character’s only name in the story. When authors overuse a tool like capitalization, readers can be pulled out of the story because the storyworld becomes foreign instead of familiar.

Authors can also help readers stay immersed in their story by establishing and using consistent fictional rules for the magic or technology in the book. While all magic and technology systems are different, authors should still maintain the internal logic of the system throughout the book (or series), and characters should follow any clearly defined rules or limits. Take Hermione Granger’s Time-Turner in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, for example. If she had broken one of the rules, such as being seen in the past, the magic system would seem less believable, and readers wouldn’t be as immersed in the story.

Editing can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Remembering these tips will help during your next revision process. Check out the LDSPMA website to stay up to date on future conferences, events, and other opportunities.