Resource Review: Intuitive EditingJan 17, 2022
Post written by Katie Wall. This post contains an affiliate link. This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, we will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain our own.
If you've been looking for a resource on writing craft, look no further. Intuitive Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing, by developmental editor Tiffany Yates Martin, is a fabulous book on writing craft written with particular attention to the revision process. I underlined at least a third of this book, so I highly recommend purchasing your own copy that you can mark up, dog-ear, and otherwise make an easy reference for yourself.
Format and Intention
Before I dive into explaining what the meat of this resource is, I want to take a couple of paragraphs to explain something especially beautiful about this book as a resource for writers. Martin writes in the introduction that “Intuitive Editing is designed to help you find the most effective way to tell the story on the page that’s as true as possible to the dream of it in your head” (2). It’s nearly impossible to tell a story that matches what’s in your head in the first draft, so, as the saying goes, revisions are where the magic happens. And that’s where this book comes in.
Martin divided her book into four parts: macroedits, microedits, line edits, and getting feedback. But Martin doesn't just give her reader this information. Instead, in each chapter throughout she includes a “how to find it” section and a “how to fix it” section. In this way—and by moving from the big picture (macroedits) to the building blocks (microedits) to the polishing that will make your prose shine (line edits)—Martin has designed her book to help train the writer’s mind to think more like an editor… and thus revise more skillfully. Amazing!
Part 1: Macroedits
Here Martin covers character, stakes, and plot. These are three fundamental aspects of any story, and it's crucial that they work together. I love that Martin starts with character instead of plot, since plot is simply a series of events, while character (and the emotional level!) is what readers connect to.
In addition to character and plot, which most writers know to think explicitly about, Martin includes a chapter on stakes. Stakes are often the missing link between character and plot in stories that just aren't functioning as they should. By giving stakes its own chapter between the chapters on character and plot, Martin drives home the point that stakes are what melds character and plot together into a compelling mix.
I appreciate that Martin guides writers to evaluate their story fundamentals (story craft) before focusing on writing craft. Why? Because I see so many writers who get caught in the trap of thinking that their manuscript isn't working well because of microedit or line edit issues (discussed below) when it's really macroedits that need to happen first. Remember, there's no sense in putting a new coat of paint on a building that's about to fall down!
Part 2: Microedits
This is the largest section of the book. In it, Martin gives accessible, friendly, and expert explanations of the following aspects of writing craft:
- Suspense and tension
- Point of view
- Showing and telling
- Momentum and pace
Her explanation on showing and telling is the best I’ve ever seen, which—unlike a lot of writing advice out there—explains that the focus should not be on "show don't tell", but rather that showing and telling both have a place in writing—the key is that they need to be done with intention. (Honestly, I think the explanation of showing and telling alone was worth the book's price.)
Part 3: Line Edits
The third part of her book is about line editing. Writers are often confused about what line edits are. Martin defines line editing as, "an examination of your prose line by line" (209). In other words, line edits are focused on making your prose shine.
Unlike in the microedit section, Martin does not go concept to concept in this section. Instead, she walks writers through how to think about and evaluate their prose. Ultimately, she wants readers to consider whether their prose is clear, effective, and theirs. This section was a breath of fresh air for me because, instead of giving prescriptive rules like many writing craft books do, Martin encourages the reader to make the prose theirs—in other words, to allow their voice to shine through not only in the subject matter and larger writing craft elements, but also in word choice, sentence structure, dialogue tags, etc.
Part 4: Getting Feedback
The final section of Intuitive Editing focuses on getting feedback, but at the beginning Martin encourages writers that they can train their editor brains to help them revise, and gives some advice on how to do that. One of the chapters in this section is “The Frugal Author’s Guide to Getting Editorial Feedback”, which contains some great advice on how to save money while getting feedback. However, she does write that “with editing I’m a big believer that you generally get what you pay for” (260), which I would agree with, and so she also includes a chapter with helpful information about hiring a professional editor.
One of my favorite lines from her book is in this section: “If editors are midwives, book and story coaches are fertility clinics” (265). I laughed out loud! But, if you think about it, the analogy rings true. As a book coach I help people figure out what the true story they want to tell really is—whether they are at the beginning stages of planning or if they’re in the midst of revisions and realizing that their book really doesn’t ring true to what their dream for the story was. And, as an editor, I help them through the revision (labor) process to deliver their book baby into the world. *chef’s kiss*
So, are you ready to work with me in a fertility-clinic capacity? Are you ready for a midwife? Or are you not sure what you need? Schedule a free consultation call with me today so we can meet each other, chat about your project, and explore your goals. Let’s bring your book baby into the world!
Ready to pick up a copy of the book? Order it here!
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