Posted On December 11, 2015 by Print This Post

Editing for Pantsers with Terri L. Austin

Your manuscript might be the best thing you’ve ever written or upon closer inspection, a pile of words. Either way, editing is a crucial part of the process. Author Terri L. Austin’s last two books were released a month apart. She survived, sanity intact, and graciously agreed to share her editing tips with us.     

Hello, Romance University (and the fab Jennifer Tanner)! Thanks for having me back!

So I’ve taken it upon myself to dub 2015 The Year of Editing (editing, editing, editing *pretend my voice is doing that awesome reverb thing*). There are times when this happens because of production dates and deadlines. I’d much rather write than revise, but this year it just didn’t work out that way.

In light of that, and the fact that we’re in December and many of you have NaNoWriMo’d your way through November, I thought I’d walk you through my editing process. I hope some of these tips will help you.

First, and this is important, I finish the first draft. Not what you wanted to hear, is it? It’s that well-worn old chestnut, but it’s true—finish the book before you start editing or revising.

Next, I take a snapshot of the original draft. If you’re rolling your eyes and saying, “Duh,” I feel you, but you’d be surprised how Terri L. Austinmany people wish they’d done this step.

Then I read through the entire book. And it’s awful. My manuscript is full of typos and loose plotlines and multiple characters I’ve named XX because I can’t remember what I’d originally called them. It’s ugly, people.

As I read, I make notes to myself. Things like: what does this sentence mean? Why do these two people have five limbs between them? Is that sexual position physically possible? I write other useful notes, too—anything that comes to mind from places where I can strengthen my characters to pointing out sad, pathetic sentences that need work.

I’m also compiling a list called Story Problems. I jot down everything from small tweaks to larger plot holes. Anything and everything goes on this sheet, even if it’s just a question or a factoid I need to research more thoroughly. I find it invaluable and refer back to it over and over through my editing process.

I don’t do this next step for every book, but I find it works well with mysteries. I make a storyboard out of Post-it notes, writing every scene on a different piece of paper. Some of you have Scrivener or other amazing software that will do this for you. Some of us are old and use things called “pencils,” but to each their own. Actually, I like doing it on Post-it notes because I can stand back and study my book as a whole, then physically move scenes around. You kids stick to your computers. When the apocalypse comes, we’ll see who has the last laugh.

Then I make a Character Sheet. Because not everyone in the book can be called XX.

I also have a file for deleted scenes. Any clever or important snippet of dialog, a partial scene, or a full scene that I remove from the second draft goes into this folder. No exceptions. And if you highlight key words or name each deleted scene, it will save you time if you have to add back to your final manuscript.

Now, I sit back, rub my hands together, and dive in. I keep track of all the changes I’m about to make. I’m going to warn you now, the second draft is hell—at least for me. I think it’s because I’m a pantser, not a plotter. I sort of go through the first draft with giddy abandon. The real work comes with the second draft, where I have to tie up loose plot threads and decide if I’m going to twist the story to the left or the right.

Now onto the third draft, which I call the happiest draft of all. (Take a snapshot of the second draft. You’ll thank me, name your children after me, post cat memes on my Facebook page!) My manuscript has been cleaned up, and while it doesn’t sparkle yet, people have real names and the story is fleshed out. I read through it, editing and trimming as I go. Also, I’m reading through that Problem Sheet, making sure to tick off as many items as I can.

Draft four is my final draft. This is where I polish my manuscript. I may change font color or print it out to help my brain notice errors. Sometimes I’ll have the computer read it to me and listen for inconsistencies, typos, or missing words.

And there you have it. I hope you’ll find something here to help you. Good luck and happy editing!

What editing tricks do you have up your sleeve?


Diner Knock OutDiner Knock Out [A Rose Strickland Mystery Book 4 – Henery Press – October 2015]

Rose Strickland’s life is complicated. Besides her waitressing gig, she works part-time for Andre Thomas, a PI with no faith in Rose’s ability to investigate, her love life with Sullivan has stalled, and her BFF, Roxy, has found a new bestie, leaving Rose out in the cold.

Determined to prove herself, Rose takes a case on the sly. As she searches for a missing MMA fighter, Rose discovers an illegal fight club, a group of ruthless businessmen, dead bodies, and a trail of drugs.

Hunting down clues that lead too close to home, Rose finds herself in the fight of her life. Can she beat the killer to the punch before she gets knocked out for good?

Part of the Henery Press Mystery Series Collection, if you like one, you’ll probably like them all…

Available from Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.


His Kind of TroubleHis Kind of Trouble [Beauty and the Brit Book 3 – Sourcebooks Casablanca – November 2015]

“Oh, Miss Prim likes it rough, does she?”
“Yes.” With every twist of his fingers, a hot spark shot straight through her. It was almost unbearable. The desert wind whipped around the car, causing it to shudder. She shuddered right along with it.

Monica Campbell may have a history as a wild child, but she’s changed her ways. She’s respectable, responsible-and, most importantly, she’s sworn off bad boys. That is, until Callum Hughes roars back into her life with his sexy British accent and killer smile.

Cal remembers every steamy moment he shared with Monica, but he barely recognizes the straight-laced woman she’s become. Determined to lure Monica into letting go of her inhibitions, Cal will use every trick he knows to fire her blood and tempt her body…reminding her just how good it can feel to be bad-and his.

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google Play.


Bio: As a girl, Terri L. Austin thought she’d outgrow dreaming up stories and creating imaginary friends. Instead, she’s made a career of it. She met her own Prince Charming and together they live in Missouri. She loves to hear from readers.

To get the latest updates on Terri’s latest book releases, sign up for her newsletter and follow her blog. Need more on Terri? Visit her website or connect with her via Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

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12 Responses to “Editing for Pantsers with Terri L. Austin”

  1. Thanks for having me on today!

    Posted by Terri L. Austin | December 11, 2015, 2:51 am
  2. Great info! I love seeing what other pantsers do. And I always save deleted parts, but it’s more of a security blanket kind of thing. I know they’re in a document somewhere, but I rarely go back to find them (like I *could* find them if I ever needed them, right? LOL)

    Posted by Donna Cummings | December 11, 2015, 4:01 am
    • Thanks, Donna! And yes, you *could* go back. Sadly, I always find that I *need* to go back and use a paragraph or a page and spend too much time hunting it down. That’s why I start titling and highlighting keywords. To save my future self some trouble. 🙂

      Posted by Terri L. Austin | December 11, 2015, 9:12 am
  3. Hmm… You may have something here. I’m a pantser. Yet I’ve made character sketches, set outlines, and scene summaries with projects in the past. All of they sparse, but time has been spent on them. They made me feel productive but, to tell the truth, it was all just busy work. This time I’m just writing, making a few notes about details I shouldn’t forget (ages, geographical places, first and last names, etc.), just so I don’t have to backtrack to get it right. Doing the “busy work” after the first draft sounds as though it would make the second draft so much easier to write. It would be filling in the holes. I like this idea.

    Posted by Glynis Jolly | December 11, 2015, 8:23 am
  4. Hola Terri!

    I work on what I call the set up before the real writing begins. It’s usually fifty plus pages of character history, GMC, plot points, and timelines. It’s been invaluable because as I get deeper into the story, I often forget to include the little details.

    Last year, I compared the final draft to the first draft. The final was cleaner, but I discovered the first draft, despite some plot issues, had more spark (for lack of a better word), which left me wondering if I’d over edited.

    Great to have you back!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | December 11, 2015, 12:23 pm
  5. I’m not working hard enough. Thanks for these insights, Terri.

    Posted by gretchen archer | December 12, 2015, 3:00 pm
  6. I use all of Terri’s trips with two variants. Instead of waiting until the end to post-write the character sheets, I jot them down on a pad as I go along. It saves memory and hunting time at the end. And to avoid an abundance of XXX names and trying to remember who each is, each character gets a unique designation, AAA, BBB, CCC. The final spreadsheet goes into my novel notebook. I would like to echo the one tip: Backup… backup… backup. And remember to encode the filename with date or some other distinguishing point.

    Posted by Helen Henderson | December 12, 2015, 4:01 pm
  7. Terri, Thank you for the great article. I am in the middle of draft two of my third novel. It is really nice to know that other writers write like me. I find that no matter how much I “plan” my plot, things don’t go as expected. Secondary characters fizzle, and inspiring plot twists creep up on me from out of nowhere.

    I also find that it helps greatly to have someone read the first draft or two. My friend/editor/critique partner does a wonderful job of pointing me in the right direction when I lose my way.

    I discovered Scrivener this year and I highly recommend taking time to learn it. For pantsers, it can be a real game changer!

    Posted by Cynthia Tennent | December 13, 2015, 5:11 pm


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