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Self-Editing: Filter Out Those Filter Words!

Filters can be wonderfully useful tools in everyday life. Filters help keep our cars purring, our coffee percolating, and our pools from turning into sludgy sloughs of despond.

But when it comes to writing, filter words can screen out your reader’s connection with your characters.

What are filter words?

Filter words are perception verbs that tell your readers what the point-of-view character is experiencing rather than allowing them to experience events and feelings along with the character. They include such verbs as

  • Realize
  • Notice
  • See
  • Watch
  • Hear
  • Feel
  • Believe
  • Decide
  • Seem

These kinds of words can too often increase narrative, or psychic, distance, adding an unnecessary layer between your readers and the story. They can also lead to repetitiveness and wordiness, which can distract or even bore your readers. Ironically, using filter words can turn sparkling prose into narrative sludge.

Sludgy style:

Anna stumbled outside. Immediately, she could feel the cool evening breeze caressing her bare arms.  As she rubbed them, she watched the moon slipping through the ragged clouds overhead and wondered if a storm were coming. She heard the chirping of innumerable crickets filling the air as though mimicking the party conversation indoors and felt a bitter laugh crawl up her throat. It seemed that even out here she couldn’t be alone.

Find those filters!

Anna stumbled outside. Immediately, she could feel the cool evening breeze caressing her bare arms.  As she rubbed them, she watched the moon slipping through the ragged clouds overhead and wondered if a storm were coming. She heard the chirping of innumerable crickets filling the air as though mimicking the party conversation indoors and felt a bitter laugh crawl up her throat. It seemed that even out here she couldn’t be alone.

Filter free!

Anna stumbled outside. The cool evening breeze caressed her bare arms, and she rubbed them as the moon slipped through the ragged clouds overhead.  Was a storm coming? The chirping of innumerable crickets filled the air as though mimicking the party conversation indoors, and a bitter laugh crawled up her throat. Even out here she couldn’t be alone.

Instantly, your readers will dive deeper into Anna’s mind and emotions and therefore into your story. And isn’t that your goal—to invite your readers into a world you’ve created that’s so present and palpable that they never want to leave?

Filter words do have their place, adding distance or texture when needed. But when it comes to creating immersion and immediacy in story, going filter free is the route to reader connection 🙂 .


How to Query the Right Editor for Your Book

You’ve narrowed down your editor options for your manuscript. Excellent! Time to tap out a query to see if the editor will take on your project. How’s this?

Hello [Editor],

I’ve written a book and I’m looking for an editor. Please let me know how long it would take and how much it would cost.

Thank you,


That should catch the editor’s attention and get them fired up to work with you!


Well, maybe not. You’ll likely get a reply from the editor, but all you’re doing with this sort of query is stretching out the email exchange unnecessarily (and possibly securing a spot only at the end of the editor’s respond-to-inquiries queue  😉 ).

So how do you catch that editor’s attention?

Don’t worry—if you followed the steps in my posts about “How to Find the Right Editor for Your Book,” you’ve already done most of the work . You’ve figured out the following key details:

  • What genre your manuscript (MS) is
  • What level of editing your MS likely needs
  • What your timeline is
  • What your budget is

You also already know…

  • The word count of your MS
  • Whether you’re aiming for self-publishing or traditional publishing
  • The content of your MS
  • Where or how you found this particular editor

Now all you need to do is combine that information in your query:

  • Let the editor know where you found their name.
  • Tell the editor you think they would be good fit for your project because of the genre of your MS and the level of editing you’re seeking.
  • Add the word count of the MS, not the number of pages (different fonts and formatting styles can change how many words are on a page, so the industry standard is that one “page” = 250 words).
  • Alert the editor to any possible “trigger warnings” for your story.
  • Indicate your publishing goals (if you wish).
  • Finally—and perhaps most importantly—mention your timeline and, if you wish, your budget. There’s not much point getting excited in your email exchange about your plans to self-publish your picture book or explode onto the epic fantasy scene if the editor is out of reach in terms of scheduling or fees—you’ll both end up disappointed.

So how to gather all that info together in one clear and cogent package?

Example 1:

Hello [Editor],

I was referred to you by [Other Writer] whose book you edited last year. I recently completed a 68,000-word YA fantasy novel, which contains some battlefield violence but nothing excessively gory. I’m looking for a developmental edit. I’m hoping to get the DE completed by the end of the year so I can revise and aim for copy editing in the spring.

 If that would work with your schedule, I can send you some sample material from my manuscript so that you can provide me with a quote.

Thank you,


 Example 2:

Hi [Editor],

I’m looking for an editor to do a copy edit of my 518-word rhyming picture book, and I noticed in your Editors Canada directory listing that you specialize in rhyme and meter. I’ve already worked with a developmental editor, so I plan to submit my manuscript to some agents after the copy edit and a proofread in a couple of months. I hope that timeline will work for you. Would you be able to send me a quote if I email you my MS?

 I look forward to hearing back from you.

Thank you,


Of course, the editor might ask you to complete a questionnaire to find out more about your project and how they can support your goals for it, but an informative query will…

  • tell the editor you’ve done your research and have a realistic view of the editing process
  • tell the editor you are serious about your project
  • allow the editor to inform you immediately if they are available in terms of your timeline (and possibly content and budget)
  • open the channels of communication effectively

Including these key details in your first query of an editor will expedite your editing plans and get you closer to your publication goal 🙂 .





How to Find the Right Editor for Your Book, part 3/3


You’ve determined what variety and flavour of yogurt—or editor—you want. Just a couple more questions, and you’ll be ready to peel the lid off this project!

Question 3: What’s your shopping budget?

That bargain brand yogurt might seem appealing—but will it really satisfy you? Similarly, with editing, you might be tempted to go with the cheapest option available, especially if you know you’ll need more than one “variety” (or level) of editing for your project. After all, Great-Aunt Gertrude was an English teacher for thirty-five years—surely she knows what she’s talking about. And she’ll edit your book for free!

Consider the pros and cons of such a choice first, though. Great-Aunt Gertrude may mean well, but she likely has not kept abreast of the changes and developments in editing conventions over the years. She might even insist, for example, that punctuation must “always” or “never” be used in certain ways with no awareness of the importance of style guides (such as The Chicago Manual of Style) for making editing choices. Best, then, to thank Aunt Gertrude for her offer but seek out a trained professional who is current with editing guides and practices.

What about fees, then? Yes, often a newer editor will charge lower fees as they build up their business and experience, and you could still get a great job done. On the other hand, a more expensive editor likely has many more years’ experience under their editing belt and has developed a stronger sense of the nuances of editing that they can apply to your unique project. In either case, the editor may be bringing to bear knowledge and skills honed over a previous career that may be especially applicable to your work.

Ultimately, the decision is yours. Just be sure to set a realistic budget that takes into account a professional editor’s training and experience and avoid haggling. You wouldn’t head to the checkout with your yogurt and offer to pay fifty percent of the labelled price, would you? Some editors will reduce their fee for a reduced scope of work, but please keep in mind that editors need to earn a living wage too 🙂 .

Question 4: What’s your “best before” date?

Once you’ve settled on your variety, brand, and  flavor of yogurt, do you just grab the first container off the shelf? Or do you take a moment to check the expiry date to ensure it matches your plans for when you intend to eat it?

Editors are busy professionals, and often we’re booked out months in advance. Assuming that the editor you’re interested in is free to take on your project immediately may be unrealistic. One of the first questions to ask your potential editor is when they would be able to begin and complete your edit. If you have a hard “expiry date,” let them know; if you’re more flexible with your timeline, you’ll have a better chance of snagging your preferred editor. Remember that editors seldom work on just one project at a time, so their timeline may seem longer than you expect. Trust that your editor will deliver your freshly edited project on time—or even ahead of the “expiry date” if at all possible.

Congratulations! You’ve faced the “Great Wall of Editors” and prevailed! You’ve determined what variety, or level, of editing you need. You’ve considered what your right “flavour” of editor would be. And you’ve reviewed your editing budget and “expiry date” to narrow down to your best options. Take the time to work through these basic questions, and finding the right editor for your project will be simpler than picking the perfect yogurt 🙂 .




How to Find the Right Editor for Your Book, Part 2/3


So you’ve settled on a variety of yogurt—terrific! Time to head to the checkout? Not until you’ve considered a few more questions. What flavour would you like? Should you go with a cheaper brand or maybe pick a higher-end—and perhaps higher-quality—option? And what about expiry dates?

Just as with choosing a yogurt, choosing the right editor for your project involves a little more than just settling on a “variety” of editing—developmental editing, stylistic editing, copy editing, or proofreading. You may know your work is at the copy editing stage, for example, and can now exclude editors who specialize in developmental editing or proofreading, but you still need to pinpoint which copy editor—of all those available—would be the best choice for your project.

Asking yourself a few more specific questions will help.

Question 2: What “flavour” of editor are you seeking?

Just as yogurt comes in different flavours, editors specialize in different “flavours” of writing, or genres. Is your book an epic fantasy? A hardboiled detective story? A humourous romance? Look for an editor who focuses on the genre in which you’re writing and has experience editing in that area.

Consider also the target audience for your book. Adult? Middle grade? Preschool? If you’ve written a rhyming picture book with a STEM focus, it’s unlikely that an editor whose niche is psychological thrillers for adults would be your ideal choice. Similarly, if yours is a gritty urban fantasy, it would probably be a waste of both your and the editor’s time to contact one who works regularly on middle grade mysteries. Editors also work with different Englishes—British, Canadian, US, Australian—using different style guides.

Most editors will indicate the “flavour” of their specialties on their website, LinkedIn page, or directory entry on an editing organization’s website. Review their experience, training, and credentials as you browse the editing “shelves.”

And editors come in “flavours” too when it comes to communication style 🙂 . If they prefer to communicate with clients entirely through email (as most do), then they might not be a good fit if you want to connect via Zoom. If they prefer to work quietly—that is, with little contact unless they have specific queries about your book—and you like weekly check-ins, you both might need to compromise on communication. Be sure to let your editor know if you have any special needs or requests regarding communication—most will be happy to oblige.

Considering these questions will bring you one step closer to your “editorial checkout”  🙂 .


Next up: Part 3: What’s Your Budget and “Best Before” Date?






How to Find the Right Editor for Your Book, part 1/3

Greek-style yogurt. Swiss-style yogurt. Soy-based lactose- and sugar-free yogurt.

Ever stared helplessly at the dairy shelves, stumped over what variety to select?

Choosing an editor can seem just as daunting as facing the Great Wall of Yogurts. With so many editors available, how can you decide who is right for you and your project?

Asking yourself a few simple questions will help you make your selection.

Question 1: What “variety” of editing do you need?

Just as with yogurt, editing comes in many varieties. Knowing what type of editing your project needs will help you whittle down the number of editors to choose from. Although different editors and editing organizations can name these editing varieties differently, for fiction, they come down to four basic types:

  • Developmental editing:
    • comes after you’ve finished a draft (or dozen) of your manuscript and either before or after you’ve test-run it on beta readers
    • focuses on the “big picture” issues of fiction—structure, plot, characterization, point of view, dialogue, world building, setting, pacing, themes, overall expression
    • entails in-text comments using Track Changes (in Word) and an editorial report
    • helps you revise your manuscript so you’ll be ready to move on to the next  “varieties” of editing
  • Stylistic (or line) editing:
    • addresses matters of expression at the sentence level—clarity, coherence, and flow
    • maintains your style and voice
    • ensures your ideas aren’t lost amid awkward syntax or misused idioms, improving readability to keep your audience engaged
  • Copy editing:
    • addresses all those pesky mechanical issues, ensuring that your writing adheres to standard conventions of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and word usage (while noting when alternatives are appropriate for context or the voice of the narrator or characters)
    • ensures accuracy and consistency
    • ensures that your manuscript follows the selected style guide (in North America, most often The Chicago Manual of Style [CMOS] for fiction)
    • creates a customized style sheet (useful for the proofreader) to note any selections among alternatives or authorial choices that deviate from the norm
  • Proofreading:
    • examines material in its final format just before printing/ publishing (usually in Adobe PDF)
    • corrects typos, design problems (such a bad syllable breaks at the ends of lines), and any errors that slipped past the copy edit stage or were accidentally introduced during typesetting/design

So relax! Knowing where you are in your manuscript-writing journey and what areas you could use help with will allow you to home in on the right variety of editing. And if you’re still uncertain, a good copy editor can evaluate a sample of your material and point you in the right direction. That “Great Wall of Editors” isn’t so daunting after all. 🙂


Next up: Part 2: What “flavour” of editor do you need?