Thursday, April 18, 2013

Editor-Proof Your Writing VBT

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 theory.  This 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.

If you’ve never been published, there’s both bad news and good news.

The bad news is that most unpublished writers will never be published.  Editors receive hundreds of manuscripts each week and ultimately buy fewer than one percent.  We’ve all heard of hapless writers who have wallpapered their home or office walls with rejections. Perhaps you’re one.

The reason is basic.  Many writers send problem-riddled manuscripts to editor after editor, as Barbara did, believing they are perfect.  In the meantime they blithely build the same flaws into their next manuscript. They simply don’t know they’re making those mistakes.  Unless someone tells them or they somehow learn on their own, their manuscripts will be rejected the rest of their lives.

Note, however, that someone does recognize their problems.  Those editors!  They quickly spot them in a manuscript’s first chapter—often on the first page—and reject the submission without reading further. They know the rest of the manuscript contains the same mistakes, just as we know an iceberg’s submerged part is made up of more of the same ice seen on top.  But editors simply don’t have the time or inclination to teach authors writing skills.  So they send out “sorry, it’s not for us” letters and move on to the next manuscript in their bulging “in” baskets.

QUESTION:  How did you become an editor and writer?

ANSWER:  It started in grade school, when the teacher assigned us to write a story about Mother’s Day.  The next day she read mine to the class, and later a cute little girl approached me.  “I loved your story, Donnie,” she said.  At that moment I realized I loved writing, and feared cute little girls.

My first passion was to be the world’s greatest cartoonist, and I became my high school’s and college’s official cartoonist.  I loved the drawing, but especially the editing needed to make each strip sing, and as my drawing skills developed so did my writing and editing skills.  I finally realized cartooning was only for those who wished to starve, and at graduation time I took a job as a trade magazine editor.

I did that for eleven years, edited and wrote for a PR firm for the next six, then started my own writing and public relations business, McNair Marketing Communications.  Twenty-one years later I hung that robe up and did only the parts I especially loved.  Today, after writing four how-to books and six novels, I edit for others at .

QUESTION:  Is editing your passion?

ANSWER:  Yes, it definitely is.  I enjoyed it as a magazine editor, and then as a senior account
executive, where I oversaw the work of others.  I soon learned that even those “professional writers” making the big bucks needed heavy editing.  I often wished they could edit themselves, but of course that seemed impossible.  It seemed so, that is, until I took a fateful airplane ride from Chicago to Atlanta to interview for a story.

As I read a schlock paperback on board to pass the time, I realized I kept seeing the same editing mistake, over and over.  I got my pen out and marked them, and got a startling thought: There were a finite number of basic errors.  If writers knew what these were and studied them, they’d be much better writers.

For many months after that plane ride I read hundreds of manuscripts, circled the problems, and arranged them by category.  I came up with 21 different categories, and discovered an amazing truth.  If writers applied the solutions to those 21 problems to their manuscripts—solutions I now call Steps—their writing would improve dramatically.  That was the genesis of my book, “Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave.”

QUESTION:  So did you immediately write the book?

ANSWER:  No.  At first, I had no clue it would someday be a book.  I did all that research to improve my own writing.  My research turned up 250 “Foggy Phrase,” in those error-filled manuscripts, for example, and I organized them into a list for my own use.  As I did so, editing them out became second nature.  After several months I saw my writing had improved tremendously.  I still edited my own work, of course, but soon found myself having to do so less and less. And when I edited, I knew what to look for.  

Finally, I realized others could use the system to improve their writing as well, and set about pulling
everything I’d learned into an easy-to-follow guide.  I made a proposal to a well-known writing-book publisher and, after weeks had passed, they rejected it.  I called and asked the editor why, and he said:  “We’ve learned that our book buyers love to read the books, but don’t want to do any work.”  So I put the project away.

QUESTION:  Then how did you get it published?

ANSWER:  It was actually serendipity in action.  Years later I happened to read a book published by Quill Driver Books called “Damn! Why Didn’t I Write That?”  It seemed the author, Mark McCutcheon, was talking directly to me.  He told of many successful books written by professionals in their fields, and I thought of “Editor-Proof Your Writing” that now languished in my closet.   I finished it, sent it to Quill Driver Books, and—well, here we are.  I believe the authors who don’t do the work will find the writing compelling, and will have learned something.  But those who do the minimal work will make their work sparkle in the process.

QUESTION:  Do you have any final thoughts?

ANSWER:  Just this.  Manuscripts of thousands of unpublished writers out keep coming back from publishers and agents.  They don’t know why.  But in most cases they’re unknowingly making the same craft mistakes, time and again.   They don’t know it, but those editors do!  This book will help writers discover the mistakes that are holding them back, and correct them.  And who knows?  Maybe the next time that manuscript goes out, it will stay out.

Don's giving away any book from his backlist to one random commenter, so the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.

4/9 - SECOND STOP Sandra Bornstein
4/16 - Reader Girls

Author Bio:
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 andThe 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.


  1. Thanks for having me as a guest blogger!

  2. Missed this but it was interesting reading about editing. Thanks for stopping by =)