Posted by: nancyisanders | August 25, 2008

Put on Your Editor’s Hat

Hi My name is Humphrey. I’m a cat. You may already know that. But what you may not know is that I’m also a writer. And today, now that you’re writing your alphabet book (or whatever manuscript you’re working on), I want to tell you about putting on your editor’s hat.

Do you like to edit your own manuscripts? You know—self edit? Come on…really?

I don’t.

I mean, it’s just not the cat’s meow.

But I know I should. I know I’m supposed to. I know it’s what a cat’s gotta do to learn how to be a successful writer. So I decided to break my habit of neglecting this part of my writing life.

The first thing I did was get myself an editor’s hat. You know—first you wear the writer’s hat and then you take that off and put on your editor’s hat? Right? Well, I didn’t have an editor’s hat. So I went out and got one. Like it? It even has a little mouse at the top and this twirly thing to twirl around. It’s purrfect for a cat like me. You should get one, too!

After I finish my first draft of my manuscript, I set aside some time to edit. And now I make sure it isn’t the drudgery it used to be. I make sure it’s fun!

I put on my silly editor’s beanie. It gets me in the mood to have fun, dude. Then I get out my special highlighter pens. I splurged and bought some wa-ay cool ones that I can use to make neon colors and decorate all over my manuscript. (They don’t even have a cap to lose, but click like a ballpoint pen.) Since I have neon yellow and neon pink and neon orange, now I’m HOPING to find mistakes in my manuscript just so I can mark ‘em on my page and turn the boring black and white little marks on the paper into bright, fun, colorful pictures.

I know my weaknesses, too. So I made a list of ‘em. Here are the first three, for starters:
1. Don’t always use punctuation correctly.
2. Weak verbs.
3. Poorly constructed paragraphs without a clear beginning, middle, and end.

I also printed out some self-editing checklists from how-to-write books, and articles I found on the Internet. These lists remind me to check for realistic dialog, show don’t tell, and lots of other important stuff.

I take my highlighters and have some fun! First I look at every single sentence I wrote in my first paragraph. I highlight the capital letter at the beginning of the sentence in pink. I highlight the punctuation in that sentence in yellow. Then I make sure to check that I used that punctuation correctly.

If I’m not sure about the punctuation rule, I look it up in my reference books. But hey—my reference books aren’t bo-o-oring like yours might be. Oh no! First I made specially decorated book covers for each one of ‘em so they’re bright and colorful, not scary-looking or over-the-top academic. Then I got my highlighters out and really decorated the pages I use the most to remind me what the rules are that I most often forget. Plus, I got sticky notes in all shapes and sizes to stick on the pages I look up over and over again. I want to save my energy for chasing mice, not for flipping through the pages looking up the same rule I’ve used a zillion times before. Like I said—I want this self-editing thing to be as fun as a cat can have it.

So hey—how about you? Are you having fun when you self-edit your manuscript? If not, do something about it. Make it fun, like I did. Now editing’s my favorite part of writing. Not! But really, it’s way more fun than it used to be. Especially when I put on my editor’s hat. And nibble on tunafish…but that’s another story.

-contributed by Humphrey, Nancy’s writing buddy


  1. These are great ideas! I’m going to have to share this post with my own blog readers!

  2. Ha, ha! Glad you like the editor’s hat idea! It sure helps make editing much more fun.

  3. Humphrey, you are such a cool cat in your editor’s hat! And so wise. I wish you lived at my house!

  4. Thanks, Gloria! And you’ve got such a pretty house, too! It sounds like a fun idea. -Humphrey

  5. Hello Nancy,
    I came over from In our Write Minds. I’m looking for editing tips for my two fifth grade boys. This is a fun way of looking at editing. I’m also wondering if there is a method to the marking madness… color coding for spelling errors, certain standard editing marks… etc.

    • Glad to have you visit my site! What program are you using to teach your boys editing? Perhaps a self-checklist for them to cross off items they look for without having to use different colors or editing marks yet might help…just a thought. -Nancy

      • I’m using WriteShop… the checklist is great!! I’m just wondering if there is a standardized system for marks for on the paper itself… she mentions using colored pencils, but I didn’t know if there was a cheat sheet showing which colors for what or if that is totally individualized. I did ask the question over on Kim’s blog as well…

      • Yes, there is a standardized system for marks. It can be found in the Chicago Manual of Style. These marks are what editors use and therefore authors are expected to use, too. Most people learn them at a college level though, not in elementary school. And as far as I know, the color choice is just individualized, although WriteShop 1 does recommend some, so Kim will give you feedback on that, I’m sure. The key is to try to make it fun! -Nancy

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