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Effective Editing: How to Take Your Writing to the Next Level

Level up your writing skills by learning the key elements of self-editing. With expert guidance, you’ll be able to polish any rough draft into a finished piece worth sharing.
Effective Editing: How to Take Your Writing to the Next Level is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 65.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from So Far, So Helpful, So Empowering I am slowly working my way through the course (only on the second lesson) but I can see this is going to be just what I need. I have been published traditionally but as I now wish to publish independently, I really needed this help. Just to know what I have done so far is good but the clear guidelines for the way ahead is fantastic. Thank you so much, Molly.
Date published: 2024-02-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learned a Lot and Took Copious Notes I have a Ph.D. in English, have been a professional editor, and am working on my sixth book. I wasn't sure this course was going to teach me anything new, so I was pleasantly surprised at how much useful information was contained in this course. I will probably come back to it to refresh my memory on the main points made. The instructor is highly knowledgeable and an excellent communicator. I recommend this course, no matter what level you've achieved as a professional or amateur writer.
Date published: 2023-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Do you want to write better? Start here. I am a professional writer. I own shelves of dog-eared How To's by highly regarded writers, editors, and coaches. This course beats them all as a guide to editing your manuscript. It's not for the faint of heart or uncommitted. But if you mean business about excellence, you have come to right place.
Date published: 2023-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Practical, focused and entertaining Effective communicator and teacher, with direct, pragmatic content. She applied effective editing techniques to her own script, because she weeded out all the extraneous content. I learned something from almost every scene. I appreciated that her advice was content neutral and applies to all writing; she doesn't preach about what you should write about, but how to better write it (or better yet, show it).
Date published: 2023-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I thoroughly recommend it. The Effective Editing course is excellent, and I recommend it to all writers whatever their level of experience. There are, however, two of Molly McCowan’s recommendations that I have been unable to take on board, and one omission that I would have liked to have seen included. Info dumps MM recommends cutting away as much as possible from anything where the narrator explains technical detail or research. This view is not shared by any of the best-selling authors I read. Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan provides so much technical detail that I’m sure I could carry out a postmortem myself, Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti has walked me through the streets of Venice so many times that I’m thinking of applying for a Venetian Guide’s Blue Badge, and Lindsey Davis’s Falco has taught me more about ancient Rome that my history teacher ever did. In circumstances that are little or nothing to do with the plot, even Lee Child’s Jack Reacher takes time out from beating his adversaries to a pulp to explain the finer details of the Abrams Tank. If sales are anything to go by readers love all this. She smiled MM counsels against using dialogue tags such as ‘she smiled’, ‘she laughed’, ‘she chuckled’, on the basis that you can’t smile and talk at the same time. This is pedantic nonsense, of course you can. And even if you can’t every reader knows that ‘she smiled’ is simply shorthand for ‘she said it in a friendly manner that lacked aggression, and invited a similar response.’ Punctuation I would have liked to have seen a section covering punctuation, but perhaps this is too big a subject and belongs elsewhere, such as an ‘English Grammar’ course. Course Material The Guidebook and the Transcript Book are very professionally produced. If your strapped for cash you can probably do without the Transcript, but if you’re feeling flushed it’s worth having both of them. The discs come in a strong plastic box for easy storage, but I didn’t use them, I accessed the course via the download. In closing I repeat, the Course is excellent, and I thoroughly recommend it.
Date published: 2023-02-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous I watched the video after having written nearly 2/3 of my historical novel. I wish I had watched it before starting to write. The advice is wonderful. It’s my first historical fiction book. All my previous books have been scholarly legal tomes. I now realize that I have a ton of editing in my future. I wish I had listened to the course before I started my book. Much of the “editing” advice could be used to create an excellent course on “writing” effective fiction.
Date published: 2022-12-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good value Plenty of information and useful workbook. Very good value for the money.
Date published: 2022-12-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from more than you ever wanted to know about editing course definitely cleared up the editing process. she is very good. i enjoyed it and it helped me.
Date published: 2022-12-05
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Discover the crucial phase between drafting and publishing with writing coach and editor, Molly McCowan. With Molly’s guidance, we created Effective Editing: How to Take your Writing to the Next Level, which provides you with a step-by-step, self-editing process filled with tools and techniques that will help improve your narrative writing skills.


Molly McCowan

Effective editing will take your stories from good to unforgettable.

Molly McCowan is an accomplished developmental editor, copyeditor, and writing coach. As the founder and lead word nerd of the editorial agency Inkbot Editing, she helps authors make their work the best it can be and navigate the often-complicated waters of traditional publishing and self-publishing. She earned her BA in English from Colorado State University.

Molly has worked as an editor for renowned publishers like HarperCollins, Routledge, Psychology Press, Oxford University Press, and Taylor & Francis Group as well as for corporations, magazines, universities, and nonprofits. She teaches writing and self-editing at industry conferences, writers’ groups, and writing organizations throughout the United States, and she hosts collaborative critique groups for writers driven to improve their work and get published.

Molly is also an editorial business consultant who teaches workshops and multiweek courses for organizations like the Editorial Freelancers Association and ACES: The Society for Editing on how to operate a successful freelance editing business. She serves on the board of the Editorial Freelancers Association, and she’s the founder of the Fort Collins, Colorado, chapter of Shut Up & Write!, where she and her team of volunteers host free writing sprints every week. She is an active supporter of the writing community in Colorado and beyond.

By This Professor

Effective Editing: How to Take Your Writing to the Next Level
Effective Editing: How to Take Your Writing to the Next Level


Understanding the Four Levels of Editing

01: Understanding the Four Levels of Editing

In this introductory lesson, Molly McCowan breaks down the four levels of editing: developmental editing, line editing, copy editing, and proofreading. Each level has a different focus and uses different tools. By understanding how they work, you’ll be better equipped to plan and execute your edits more effectively.

26 min
Planning Your Edit

02: Planning Your Edit

Editing can be a daunting process, especially when you may be basing your decisions on common myths about revising your own work. Debunk these myths and discover the best methods to tackle your edits, after you’ve completed your rough draft. Along the way, Molly shows you how to hone your editor’s eye and look at your own work more clearly.

24 min
Editing for Plot and Structure

03: Editing for Plot and Structure

As you begin your big-picture revisions, it’s critical to first focus on how your story comes together and how it reflects what the protagonist wants. Here, Molly guides you to evaluate your story structure, pulling from examples like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter to demonstrate how story beats propel your narrative forward. Be prepared for a challenge, as this stage of editing can involve big changes.

25 min
Editing for Dynamic Characters

04: Editing for Dynamic Characters

Everything about narrative writing is centered on characters; so, it’s crucial to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals who drive your story. To help you gauge the strength of your characters, Molly leads you through the four-part Protagonist Test, which gives you a foundation for improving your characters’ motivations, flaws, and evolution throughout the story.

29 min
Tackling Point of View

05: Tackling Point of View

Who tells your story? Point of view (POV) is the lens through which your readers experience your narrative—you need to know who guides your readers and why. Here, you’ll assess how well your POV is working. You’ll learn how to determine what information to share and when to share it. You’ll also learn how to untangle any problems with multiple POVs, if you use this technique, and how to explore the most common POV issues and how to fix them.

26 min
Page-Turner Pacing: Scene versus Narration

06: Page-Turner Pacing: Scene versus Narration

In the middle of big-picture and little-picture editing lies the issue of pacing. When is a good time to include a descriptive passage? How much information is too much or too little? Why does the middle of a story often become a slog? Molly answers these questions and more, examining common pacing dilemmas and walking you through the narrative techniques you can apply to speed up or slow down scenes, chapters, or entire acts of your story.

27 min
Building Stronger Scenes

07: Building Stronger Scenes

The ability to write great scenes can be one of your greatest strengths as a writer. Learn how to delineate your individual scenes and adjust the narrative bridges that connect them—as well as how to eliminate unnecessary “infodumps” along the way. End this editing phase with an important comparison between your opening and closing scenes.

26 min
Showing versus Telling: Beyond the Basics

08: Showing versus Telling: Beyond the Basics

“Show, don’t tell” is popular writing advice doled out by professionals and amateurs alike. But what does it really mean to show rather than tell? And why is it important? Here, you’ll learn how to determine when to show—using tools like action and dialogue—and when it’s okay to simply tell the reader what they need to know.

14 min
Dialogue That Sparkles

09: Dialogue That Sparkles

Why does dialogue lifted directly from life sound so unrealistic and flat on the page? The truth is that dialogue is actually an extension of narrative action: It’s far more than simple conversation. Here, Molly explores common problems with dialogue and interior monologue and shows you how to use both to effectively move your story forward and to develop your characters.

27 min
Sentences That Sizzle

10: Sentences That Sizzle

Get into the nitty-gritty details of line editing as you look at your work at the paragraph and sentence levels. First, you’ll take a close look at your ideal reader, a crucial preparatory step before you can fine-tune your writing. Then, Molly shows you proven techniques to elevate your prose by considering three crucial elements: adverbs, adjectives, and verbs.

28 min
Pruning Your Prose

11: Pruning Your Prose

The number one rule of pruning your writing in the line editing process is to simplify it as much as possible. Discover how to whittle down your writing to its essential elements and remove extraneous words, qualifiers, and redundancy. See why a simple, clear style is superior to writing that’s weighed down by unnecessary flourishes and baggage.

29 min
When to Ignore the Grammar Rules

12: When to Ignore the Grammar Rules

What most people refer to as grammar rules are actually usage guidelines, which include everything from word choice to punctuation. Here, learn the difference between the two. See which common grammar and usage “rules” you can safely ignore, including those that say never to use the passive voice, write in sentence fragments, or start sentences with conjunctions.

12 min
Beyond the Red Pen: What Comes Next

13: Beyond the Red Pen: What Comes Next

How do you know when it’s time to stop revising? Once you’ve finished editing your work, what then? In this closing lesson, Molly discusses the possible next steps, including what to look for in a professional editor; whether to bring in beta readers, and how to handle their feedback; and how to determine which editorial services your manuscript may benefit from, as you move toward either self-publishing or traditional publishing.

26 min