[Writing Tips] An Editing Example

Welcome to a Wombat's Writing Tips article. Check out the main page for more.

Today we detour deep into the editing process.

I've been following John Adamus's article series entitled Editing Out In The Open. If you haven't, click through immediately and go catch up. The two examples of editing he gives really open up the process and give a great overview of what to expect if you've never worked with an editor before.

His latest article gives an example of Game Flavor Text. We got to talking on G+ and he talked me into Line Editing the same manuscript to provide some contrast to his example of Developmental Editing. I'll explore the different types of editing in a future Writing Tips article, so you'll see links to his article and this one again when that article gets published. I'm not as eye-meltingly fast as John, but I managed to get this turned around in 8 hours (I was commuting and eating dinner and doing dishes and tucking in my daughter in that time as well).

A big thank you goes to Jeff Dougan for letting us both critique his manuscript in public. Be sure to check out the plans for A Holiday Feast of Gaming this November, and start working on articles for the blogfest now.

DISCLAIMER: I have a really hard time keeping my mouth shut when confronted with something I have the power to fix. I tried not to dig too deep into the developmental side, but I couldn't leave that first paragraph alone.

Per John's formatting inline edits are in crimson red, and comments are in blue.

At the end of the Dawn War, the gods sat back to observe the world they had created. Khala’s power was tied to the cold, but as the goddess of winter, she could observe wherever water traveled. (These 2 sentences set the stage, but they don't really tell the story of the mirror. A different intro mentioning the Dawn War and showing us Khala's decision to create the mirror would work much more effectively here.) Traveling to the largest glacier at the heart of the winter, she removed a sliceShe carved circle of ice as thick as her hand from the largest glacier in the Heart of Winter, bound it in silver, and polished it with snowflakes until it shone like a mirror. Laid on its side, it seemed to be looked like a frozen lake on the valley floor. (What valley? This sentence is redundant since we know it's polished and you can add a size reference in the previous sentence if needed. Consider deleting.) As Khala wove the words of power to enchant the mirror, a tendril reached outfrom she didn't notice the Chained God reaching out a lone tendril,unnoticed by the lady of winter. His touch on the magic caused the mirror to distort what she saw, perceiving and show her only the worst of anything reflected in the mirror., but iIalso amplified the spell beyond Khala’s intent, granting the mirror the power to bend control those anyone reflected in it to her will. (I'm missing the "Why?" here. If Khala can look through any water in the world, why did she make the mirror in the first place? Consider rewriting this whole paragraph.)

When forced to surrender her power to the usurping death goddess, Khala’s last act of spite was to break broke the great scrying crystalmirror out of spite, shattering the ice and sending shards flying off in all directions. Unknown to her, these shards still bore the taint of the Chained God. Magically connected to each other, (This phrase seems obvious, so I'd delete it.) the shards of the mirror make those who are touched byanyone touching them more vulnerable to the mirror’s power. Even worse, when under the mirror’s influence they are open to the Chained God’s may touch anyone under the mirror’s influence, if he should chance to reach out, and tThose who dare to use the mirror are make themselves even more vulnerable.

Greatest of Khala’s retainers, was the exarch known as the Snow Queen, who spread the snows as winter approached and guided their retreat as spring approachedreturned. When the Raven Queen assumed control of the winter snows, the Snow Queen herself refused to bow to the goddess she saw as a usurper. Absconding with the largest fragment of Khala’s Mirror, she retreated not to the Shadowfell where Nerull’s bride kept her abode, but instead to the coldest reaches of the Feywild. Some suspect her influence in transforming the Sun Prince into the mighty fey being known as the Prince of Frost. Certainly, hHer snowflake retainers can sometimes be seenvisit the Fortress of Frozen Tears as honored guests. inside the Fortress of Frozen Tears. (I see plenty of name-dropping here. I don't have a clear idea of who "Nerull's bride" is. I'd connect alternate names a little more explicitly here if you can.)

Hard of heart herself, (Were you going for alliteration here? Also this "hard of heart" reference totally comes out of left field.) the Snow Queen now roams the world and the Feywild, although her dislike of the Raven Queen keeps her far away from the walls of Letherna. She occasionally spots a mortal to whom she takes a capricious fancy to a mortal, and may transport that individual off to the Heart of Winter for a time, until that mortal freezes to death despite the gifts she bestows. She can otherwise be found visits any place where there is with water, for all water can has the potential to become snow and ice. When her ire is roused anger rises, expect a blizzard to ravage the area.

Only rarely does tThe Snow Queen rarely leaves her palace without being the accompanimented by of many of her retainers. ("Retainers" is used here and up above to describe the Snow Queen. I'd pick another term for one of these relationships to avoid confusion.) Often, they may be present frolic in lighter snowstorms, even when their monarch herself has not chosen to venture forth fromremain in the Heart of Winter. Serving as her eyes and ears, they are quick to advance dart to the attack, quick to retreat quickly, and ride the winds with unmatched skill. Bitter foes of the Sorrowsworn, they will often summon reinforcements and swarm the Raven Queen’s servants who fool enough to venture out of the realms of the Shadowfell.

At times, tThe Show Snow Queen appears to seekto reassemble all the lost fragments of Khala’s great mirror. If she did so, it is entirely possible that she could challenge the Raven Queen herself, especially ifwith the Prince of Frost were to rideriding forth at her side. (I changed the meaning here to remove the half-heartedness. Now I know what she's doing instead of what she appears to occasionally do.)


The cover email would go something like this:


I've attached the edited version of the Snow Queen flavor text. I like the feeling of it, but the story is hard to follow in spots. I’d ask you some deeper questions about what you’re going for here, but I don’t want to stray too far into development editor territory. I've added inline comments where appropriate, but here are some overall notes:

  1. You lost me in the first paragraph. It jumps around too much and doesn't tell a coherent story. It feels almost like you’re adding references without tying them solidly to the story, and it comes across as fragmented and confusing. I found myself wondering why Khala would make the mirror in the first place, and that uncertainty colored the way I read the rest of it. If you could rewrite the origin story with these things in mind, I think the whole piece would really catch my interest and flow much more easily from there.
  2. Watch your verb choice. Passive voice rears its ugly head in here, which makes it more preachy than showy. I'd use active verbs to fire the imagination wherever you can. Example: In the second paragraph I changed “...those who are touched by them...” to “...anyone touching them...” which conveys the same idea in half the words without people waiting around passively to be touched.
Let me know if you have any questions, and I look forward to working through the next version.



Note to self: Formatting edits from Word to display correctly in a blog post will leave a mark.

I feel like I've just been part of an Edit-Off. Going head-to-head with another editor on the same piece is a new experience for me, but the vulnerability and fear of not measuring up is more than worth the view into someone else's editing process. We edited with different intents so we looked for different things, but that doesn't make the insights any less powerful. This exercise was well worth the time investment.

I find it fascinating to read what John commented on that I would probably let go, and more fascinating to see what John skipped that just sets my teeth on edge. There's no right way to edit, and it's very much an art to spot the clunky bits and make suggestions. We each have very different styles in our editing.

And that's awesome.

If you've made it this far, please go take a look at John's GoFundMe Campaign. If you can spare a few bucks, he could use a hand making ends meet this summer.

And John, thank you. Anytime you want to do something like this again, please let me know. This experience rocked hard and taught me plenty.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment if you got something out of this experiment, and please let me know if want to see more things like this.


  1. LOVE this article! It's all about one thing: clarity. Whenever I write, edit or even roleplay at our D&D or Dragon Age games, that's what I'm after.

    Great stuff Wombat, love the raw redline example, really drives the post home.

    1. Clarity: That's the idea.

      Glad you like it. And thanks!