Self Editing

Jumping the Gun: Suicide by Submission

by John Robert Marlow


When it comes to writing, most mistakes are—in and of themselves—forgivable. No professional is going to round-file your manuscript or screenplay because of a few isolated mistakes. Unless, of course, they’re Really Big Mistakes. This post is about one of those Really Big Mistakes… Read more…

Opening with a Bang May Be Shooting Yourself in the Foot (or Head)

by John Robert Marlow


Many authors feel compelled to open their stories with a scene involving their hero in action and/or high drama. This is particularly true of those writing in the action/adventure and science fiction genres. But unless you know what to avoid here, this is almost always a mistake—and it can be a fatal one.

There are several films I like to cite as examples of this principle at work. Speed 2 is the first. We open with a SWAT cop on a motorcycle, pursuing a step van up a steep and twisting road. During the chase, the van’s rear doors pop open, and large boxes fall onto the road, threatening to crash the cop, who swerves this way and that to avoid the tumbling boxes. It’s meant to be exciting, but it’s not, and here’s why: we’ve never seen this guy before, we don’t know who he is, and—because of that—we don’t care what happens to him. Read more…

Apostrophe Now: Mechanical Errors in Writing (Part 2)

by John Robert Marlow

As mentioned in Part One, writing mechanics are dull, but essential—like checking the oil and brake fluid when you’d rather be cruising down the coast. You can’t do one without keeping an eye on the other. So let’s take a look at another batch of common mechanical errors…


Apostrophes are often misused. It’s hard to tell whether this results from inattention or misunderstanding, but here’s the rule: with few exceptions, apostrophes signify contractions and possessives—and nothing else.

Contractions are shortened words: that’s for that is, wouldn’t for would not, could’ve for could have, you’re for you are, that sort of thing. By far the most troublesome word in this category is it’s, a shortening of it is. The confusion likely stems from the fact that, unlike other contractions, it’s looks like a possessive.Read more…

Snucking Threw the Poring Reign: Mechanical Errors in Writing (Part 1)

by John Robert Marlow

“Mechanical errors” have to do with the nuts and bolts of writing. If concept is your flashy car, plot the engine, characters the driver and passengers—then story mechanics are the fasteners holding your engine together. They’re not exciting, glitzy, or personable, and no one pays them any mind. Until something goes wrong.

That’s when you hear an annoying clank, somewhere under the hood. Soon, it becomes difficult to hear the passengers or enjoy the scenery. Before too long, that clank-clank-clank is all you can think about. And if someone doesn’t climb under the hood and fix the damned thing, it will eventually stop your engine.

Let’s look at some common mechanical errors. Read more…