What an Edited Page Looks Like

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, when I throw out a thread of something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life.

red pen
Fear the Red Pen

Do you remember submitting a paper to your English teacher and having it returned with her editing marks? Some teachers were gracious and made suggestions rather than commands to fix the problems, perhaps even including happy faces or exclamation points in those sections where your writing was particularly good. Other teachers were less merciful and told it like it was–marking up your pages with ink until they were covered like a tattoo-sleeved arm. The result was that you learned to Fear the Red Pen.

It can thus be difficult to make the transition to marking up your own writing like the hard-lined instructor with the red pen poised like a hatchet and ready to prune your pretty writing. But you must.

You can no longer fear the red pen. In fact, you must embrace it…and add some highlighters and/or other colored pens to the mix. When your nasty teacher corrected you, she seemed cruel. But you must be cruel to yourself…cruel to be kind. (Yes, of course, “in the right measure.”)

So for all of the beautiful talk of inspirational muses and writing flowing from our fingertips like fairy dust and weaving of the story plot like a crocheted blanket to warm us, it is time to discover what the editing process can look like. Without further ado, here’s a no-holds-barred, buck-stops-here, fix-it-til-it-works look at an edited page.


THAT is what writing looks like. What we often don’t see when we open the crisp spine and thumb through our favorite books–or download the ebook and scroll the pages across our screen–is that the author toiled to get those words in that order to convey the meaning she wanted.

I didn’t realize going into writing that I would actually welcome ink all over a page I’d written. The result of such toil is writing that flows effortlessly across that page and bids the reader to continue.

“If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn’t call it genius.”~Michelangelo

This is true of any writing–whether fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, advertising, your master’s thesis, your research paper, or the essay you’re writing for your high school English course. If you want to avoid the red pen of others, embrace it yourself. Force yourself to take the writing to a higher level.

What else have I done to take my writing to a higher level? Here’s my week’s check-in.

ROW Update


  • Complete full rewrite of SHARING HUNTER. Rewrote one chapter. I’m kicking this into gear this week. Hello, FAST DRAFT, starting Monday. If you want to join in, let me know. I’d be happy to give and receive encouragement!
  • Edit first short story. Deep edited last chapter. Letting it sit for a week, then I’ll polish it up.
  • Write second short story. First draft finished last week.
  • Write blog posts for Sundays (including ROW80 updates) and Wednesdays. Posted Music Covers and ROW80 on Sunday and The Language of 19th Century Spirit Mediums on Wednesday (with guest K.B. Owen) and Stepping Up and Stepping Out: The Mark of a Man on Friday.
  • Complete weekly lessons for Writing Body Language course. This week was lips/mouth, touch, and dialogue cues. Completed, with thanks to my fabulous class editing partner, Rachel Funk Heller.


  1. Hush Now, Don’t You Cry by Rhys Bowen (historical mystery)
  2. The Yard by Alex Grecian (historical mystery)
  3. Your Spiritual Personality by Marita Littauer (nonfiction)
  4. The Ruth Valley Missing by Amber West (mystery)
  5. The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen (historical mystery)
  6. Frosted by Wendy Sparrow (paranormal romance)
  7. Savage Cinderella by P.J. Sharon (YA contemporary)
  8. Blood Ties by Lori G. Armstrong (mystery)
  9. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (literary fiction)
  10. Tighter by Adele Griffin (YA contemporary)
  11. The Emerald Tablet by P.J. Hoover
  12. Shrilugh by Myndi Shafer – started

Non-writing goals

  • Exercise twice a week. Participated in the first yoga class on Monday. I couldn’t make Wednesday’s class, and Zumba was on hiatus. So half-done.
  • Take a true Sabbath–no working and time with God and family one day a week. Done.

Comment on whatever you want. Editing. ROW80. The annoying English teacher you had in 9th grade who red-inked everything you ever wrote. Your pick.

29 thoughts on “What an Edited Page Looks Like

    1. Indeed, you are not alone, Renee! Although it took me a while to admit that my writing needed that level of intense editing. It’s like the high school student in me hated to see editing marks…even if I made them myself. 🙂

    1. Exactly, Jennette! I get asked sometimes, “How long does it take to write a book?” I’ll say something like, “Probably 1-2 months for the first draft, but at least 6 months to finish.” And then they look at me like, “What are you doing for those extra four months???” LOL. Have a happy writing week!

  1. I sense a fellow Margie Lawson fan here 😉 . My edited pages look a lot like that right now, waiting for me to go back and type in all that blue pen. (I always use blue for notes! It won’t blend in with the black text or the red pen DABS.)

    Generally, I do that type of editing before I send it to critique partners. (I let my betas see it a bit rougher, but that’s it!)

    1. Yes, I’m a Margie student/convert/whatever. I don’t do quite as much highlighting on a novel, but this is a short story so it’s easier to sit down and highlight the whole thing. I love my blue pen, too! Best wishes, Jordan. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Hi Julie, thank you so much for the shout out. I have only just discovered Margie’s “path of the multiple highligher” but can’t wait to dive in. And I have to give you so much credit for helping me with my homework. Thanks for cheering me on, and cheering me up!

  3. When I pore through my returned critiqued pages at my monthly writing groups, I’m always looking for those marked up pages. I’m far more disappointed when someone writes very little, unless of course it’s to say the writing was phenomenal. 😀

    1. Sometimes I feel like we writers need Jack Nicholson shouting, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!” To which we should shout back, “Oh yes, we can! Or we can’t be good writers.” Like you, I’d rather get a full critique and make my writing shine.

      But of course, someone saying your writing is phenomenal? Well, that’s just awesome!

  4. Julie, thanks for the scarlet thread tossed out today! Loved seeing the “edited page.” It brings back memories of not only some of my own edited pages, but also some drafts of research papers in college. And the markups make the final product so much better. 🙂

  5. There is a reason why God did not see fit to inspire the pursuit of my love of writing until my old age! I needed that long to develop the thick skin (i.e., basic confidence) to endure a lot of criticism. I too welcome the marked up pages now. The beta readers who say “Nice story” do not get another manuscript to critique.

    My first book had 32 drafts before I was done! 🙂

    1. I can relate to that 32 drafts! I stopped counting drafts of my first book, but I always feel like it’s somewhere around 20. Now that I’ve learned more about editing, I think I could do it more quickly.

      I like your statement that beta readers who don’t really give feedback don’t get another critique opportunity with you. I recently had a beta reader who warned me about how honest she would be. I said, “Go ahead!” and got some of the best comments I’ve had! Yes, some things were tough, but SO helpful.

  6. Each time I finish a round of edits, the results are so rewarding that I have the guts to do it again and that is the only thing that keeps me going back for more, lol. When I was younger I focused on the marks, now I concentrate on the end game. Perspective 🙂
    You’re having a great round, Julie. Good for you!

  7. Julie, I love this post! I used to be one of those English teachers–my students dreaded my purple pen. 😀 Embrace the red pen and the purple pen and the highlighters. I love them all!

    Hope you have a great week!

  8. I see by your colorful page there that I haven’t quite embraced the red pen as much as I thought I had. From some of the comments this is a product of Maggie Lawson’s class? I’ve heard so much about her stuff, but this is great visible advertising.

    Great progress in so many areas, Julie. Good for you. I like that list of fiction books you have there.

    1. Yes, Margie Lawson teaches how to highlight different aspects of the novel so you can see if your dialogue, setting descriptions, internalizations, etc. are balanced. It’s been really helpful to see it that way.

      Best wishes, Eden!

  9. I love that you shared this. I don’t feel I’ve done a good job editing until a page looks like this. But it’s so much easier to be objective on other’s work. I work with struggling writers in our elementary school, and I’m always telling them that rewriting is what writing is really all about. (They say I’m too picky with my red pencil.)

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