Friday, April 5, 2013

Editor-Proof Your Writing with Don McNair #GuestPost #Review & More

Welcome Don McNair, author of Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave, a self-editing manual available April 1 from Quill Driver Books. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy to review. You can see my thoughts below Don's post. 

Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question. Don will award one randomly chosen commenter their choice of books from his backlist. The books can be seen at his website.

And now, here's Don...

Is This Why You’re Not Published?

Unpublished writer “Barbara Stevens” asked me to critique and edit her newest unpublished novel’s first chapter.  “I’ve written twelve other manuscripts,” she said, “and they’ve been rejected a lot of times.  I hope you can figure out what’s wrong.” 

Well, I did figure it out, and quickly.  This lady was basically a good writer.  Her blogs sparkled, she dreamed up creative plots, and her heart was certainly in her work.   But she’d made a major craft mistake in that chapter and, presumably, in all twelve of those manuscripts.  It was a mistake that almost guaranteed she’d never be published.  

We discussed her problem—that first chapter was basically an “info dump”—and the light bulb over her head glowed brilliantly.  She rewrote that first chapter and I edited it again, and, as if by magic, it became publishable.  Barbara used her new-found knowledge to revise the rest of that manuscript, followed by her twelve other novels.  Within two months she sold one, and she’s now been published many times.  She’s on her way. 

The point?  Barbara’s breakthrough came directly from correcting that one craft mistake.  She’d made it time and time again and was destined to repeat it again and again, until someone told her what it was. 
You may be making that same mistake.  Or perhaps you’re making another equally deadly one—mistakes we’ll identify and resolve in this book—and are not aware of it.  But there’s hope.  

The good news?  That can change!

It’s time for someone to tell these writers what they’re doing wrong.  And that, of course, is the purpose of my book, titled “Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave.”  If you apply what you learn here to your current and future manuscripts, they’ll be tremendously improved.   Improved enough, perhaps, to entice that next editor to take you on. 
I’ve seen your problems many times.  I edited trade magazines for twelve years, supervised writers while writing for a major PR firm’s national clients for six, and headed my own company (McNair Marketing Communications) for twenty-two years.  For the last five years I’ve run my own editing firm ( where I polish other writers’ work.

Believe me, I know firsthand the problems many writers build into their manuscripts. In my position of working through an editing network, I see hundreds of raw manuscripts, and most need heavy editing. What I see is what those experienced publication editors and agents see, so I know why they reject ninety-nine percent of the manuscripts offered.   

In those forty-plus years I learned that most writers, particularly unpublished ones, need heavy editing. Unfortunately, most don’t know they do.   They haven’t a clue.  Their inappropriate and extra words seemed to act as a fog that slows car drivers down, or hides dangerous rocks from ship captains. The reader tries to navigate through the book, and if it’s filled with unnecessary words and confusing information, she’ll likely give up. 

Although I enjoy the editing process, for years I secretly wished I could teach my writers to defog their own work.  That, of course, seemed impossible.  
But wait.  I was wrong! That was before I discovered something that changed my own writing forever, and ultimately that of my clients.  I’m betting it will change yours.

That personal revelation took place several years ago on a flight from Chicago to Atlanta, where I was to research an article for a client.  Out of boredom I was editing a fog-filled paperback, when I realized the same mistakes appeared over and over.  I was intrigued.  I bought another paperback at the Atlanta airport and edited it on the way home.  A pattern emerged, and I became excited.  Had I discovered the writer’s Rosetta stone?

Over the next several months I edited many other paperback novels.  I joined critique groups and aggressively edited other writers’ fiction.  I plowed through all those manuscripts from pre-published authors and the marked-up paperback books I’d tossed into a dresser drawer, and painstakingly sorted thousands of offending sentences and other problems by type.  I eventually identified twenty-one distinct problems.  Today I call their solutions, appropriately enough, the “Twenty-One Steps to Fog-Free Writing.”

The inference staggered me.  Just as there’s a specific number of elements in chemistry’s Periodic Table and letters in the alphabet, there’s also a specific number of fog problems in writing.  I realized many unnecessary words are actually tips of bad-writing icebergs, and that eliminating those words resolves otherwise complicated editing problems.  In fact, almost half the Steps actually strengthen action while shortening sentences.  You can see it happen right before your eyes.  

So, here’s the good news.  You don’t have to be an English major to achieve this writing miracle.  You don’t have to diagram sentences or study verb declensions, whatever they are.  You don’t have to learn complicated rules, wade through thick manuals of style, or immerse yourself in the technical mumbo-jumbo of a book on editing.  Applying what you learn here will make you a better writer than would struggling with any of those.  

That’s a pretty big claim, I realize.  Just how do I expect you to accomplish that miracle?  

First, consider your Work-In-Progress’s first chapter—or the first chapter of that manuscript that constantly comes back from editors unwanted—as your battlefield.  Incorporate what you learn in this book into that chapter, step by step, and it will become almost editor-proof. 
You’ll be surprised.  Delighted.  When you later apply the techniques to your whole manuscript, you’ll watch it sparkle.  And every manuscript you write from now on will be clearer and more compelling than any you’ve ever written, for two reasons: You won’t make most of those mistakes in the first place, and you’ll know exactly what to look for when you self-edit. You can find many of the problems simply by using your word processor’s “find” function.

I’ve divided this book into three parts: Part One: Putting Words In, Part Two: Taking Words Out, and Part Three: Sharing Your Words.  Part One deals with inserting information into the right place and in the right form as you write.  Part Two deals with removing words that fog up your writing.  That’s where we put those twenty-one Steps to work.  Part Three, of course, is where all your work pays off.

So consider this book as your doorway to better writing.  Remember this old saying?  “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day, but teach him to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.”  Apply what you learn in this book, and you’ll learn how to fish!

Don McNair


Most editing manuals are like geography books. They give great information, but don’t show how to get from place to place.  Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave is a GPS that leads you through the writing jungle to solve your specific writing problems.
Most editing manuals are like dictionaries from which you’re asked to select words to write the Great American Novel. This book shows what words to use and what words NOT to use. 
Most editing manuals are loaded with mind-numbing theoryThis one presents knowledge a step at a time and asks you to apply what you learned—a step at a time—to your manuscript’s first chapter.  Along the way you’ll also edit a nine-chapter melodrama and check your editing against the author’s.  When you finish, you’ll have an editor-proofed first chapter and will be ready to edit the rest of your book. 
This system was proven to work in three years of weekend and online classes, titled Editor-Proof That Chapter and Twenty-One Steps to Fog-Free Writing. They are parts One and Two of this book. Part Three discusses finding and working with critique partners, professional editors, publishers, and agents.  The students loved the concept
This book is perfect for use in classrooms. The information is presented in bite-sized lessons which can be assigned daily. See what students say about their classroom experiences on the back page. 


My Review

Some writers complain when they get their edits back. I'm not one of them. Well, maybe I groaned a bit when I saw all the blood on my first few books, but I've learned quite a bit since then, and the amount of red has gotten considerably less. I accept the comments and suggestions gratefully because I know the common goal is to produce a book that is the best it can be.

This is a great time to be a writer. There are so many opportunities we didn't have in the past. Small press, self-publishing… But those same opportunities make self-editing even more important. Before submitting and after, we need to refine our manuscripts as much as possible.  Don McNair's book makes that a lot easier. When I received my copy I was in the midst of edits and I worked through them using Editor-Proof Your Writing.

I like the way the material is presented. The lessons are interesting without being overloaded with a lot of theory. I made good use of the twenty-one steps to fog-free writing.  Steps such as – use fewer –ing words, change passive voice to active voice, eliminate double verbs and get rid of dialogue tags were very helpful. Do they work? Compare the before and after examples and see for yourself.

It’s not just about the grammar and spelling. There's also good information on critique partners, publishers, and writing the query letter and synopsis.  The book helped me produce a more polished story. I highly recommend it. Two thumbs up! 

Available at Amazon:


Don McNair spent his working life editing magazines (eleven years), producing public relations materials for an international PR company (six years), and heading his own marketing communications firm, McNair Marketing Communications (twenty-one years). His creativity has won him three Golden Trumpets for best industrial relations programs from the Publicity Club of Chicago, a certificate of merit award for a quarterly magazine he wrote and produced, and the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil. The latter is comparable to the Emmy and Oscar in other industries.  

McNair has written and placed hundreds of trade magazine articles and four published non-fiction how-to books. He considers his latest, Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave, (published April 1, 2013 by Quill Driver Books) to be the cap of his forty-year writing and editing career. It’s an easy-to-use editing manual that helps writers edit, step by step, their first chapter, then use the knowledge gained to edit the rest of their work.

McNair has also written six novels; two young adults (Attack of the Killer Prom Dresses and The Long Hunter), three romantic suspenses (Mystery on Firefly Knob, Mystery at Magnolia Mansion, and co-authored Waiting for Backup!), and a romantic comedy (BJ, Milo, and the Hairdo from Heck). All are published internationally, and are available at his website,

McNair, a member of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and the Editorial Freelancers Association, now concentrates on editing novels for others. He teaches two online editing classes. 

Here is a list of the other blogs participating in the blog tour
April 1 -   Teena in Toronto
April 2 -   Rogue's Angels
April 3 -   See Jane Publish
April 4 -   Fantasy Powered by Love
April 5 -   Wake Up Your Wild Side
April 8 -   Lisa Haselton's Reviews and Interviews
April 9 -   Jamie Salisbury and Sandra Bornstein
April 10 -  Uttley's Take
April 11 -  The Write to Read
April 12 -  TeacherWriter
April 15 -  Hywela Lyn - Romance That's 'Out Of this World'
April 16 -  Reader Girls
April 17 -  Hope. Dream. Life ... Love
April 18 -  Sharing Links and Wisdom
April 19 -  Wickedly Wanton Tales



Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting

Anonymous said...

Thanks for hosting me, and for your great review. Do you plan to put it up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble?

Gale Stanley said...

Good luck with the new book and thanks for sharing a copy! I just posted my review on Amazon, Goodreads and Barnes & Noble.

Pender Mackie said...

Hi, Gale. This book sounds like one that would be useful and not just a lot of theory. Thanks for the heads up.

Pat Brown said...

This sounds like just the book I've been fruitlessly looking for. Now I just have to get the money to buy it. :-) 1102 genedblj

Diane O'Key said...

Great, down-to-earth advice...and so accurate. Disturbing to see so many books out there, big or small publishers, that violate the basics.

Mona Karel said...

I had a manuscript beloved by literary writing coaches and rejected by editors. It took listening to someone reading it out loud to me to recognize all those lovely descriptions were B-O-R-I-N-G

Laura B said...

I'm sold, just ordered it and I'm looking very forward to using the wisdom within. Between the review here, and the half a page I looked at on Amazon, I realized that not only is it a must have, but a must have in print. Thank you so much for creating such a book!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for drawing this to my attention. It sounds like an invaluable book. 'Fog filled' sounds horribly familiar; one of my editors uses the diplomatic phrase 'complex sentences' when working on my manuscripts!

Rita Bay said...

I've attended Don's seminars and read his book. I use my notebook of things I personally need to watch for in my writing and use it for editing. I want hands-on, concrete info and Don's book is both. R

Lady Blade said...

Thanks for pointing this out. I will definitely give it a shot! Wonderful that Mr. McNair is willing to share his forty years of knowledge with the rest of us!