Editing Your Manuscript

Editing styles vary as much as people are different. But I have to say, the best advice I ever got on editing was from a very smart man named Michael Stearns, my editor on Mabel the Tooth Fairy and How She Got Her Job, Kindergarten Rocks! and other picture books I pubbed with Harcourt. He told me something really simple, but not obvious to everyone. He said “rekey the text.”
It works like this: I write my first draft, put it away for a few weeks. Or years, depending how good I am at procrastinating. When I take the file out, I print, then read it, marking it up wherever I see fit. If I see a section that needs more rewriting than I can fit in the margin, I just write FIX THIS and deal with it later. Then I sit myself down at the typewriter, aka laptop, and start from the beginning, typing, or “rekeying”, as Michael said, the whole manuscript.
Yes. I retype the whole thing. I’ve been surprised to hear the shock over this. I guess it seems like a lot of unnecessary typing. But it’s not mere typing. And it’s definitely not unnecessary. No. I’m rewriting as I go. New passages spill forth, unbound by first draft fears. It’s actually quite freeing. New dialog appears where in earlier drafts there was nothing. This draft goes deeper. It’s better every time. I can’t recommend it enough.
If you are trying to rewrite something. “Rekey” it. You will be thrilled at the results. Thanks Michael.

Recent Comments

  • Jill Corcoran
    August 20, 2008 - 11:28 pm · Reply

    Great advice. Thank you so much for sharing. BTW, my kids love your books so please keep writing, and rekeying 🙂

  • Jacqui
    September 6, 2008 - 6:38 pm · Reply

    You’re the first other person I’ve met who does this; my critique group teases me, but I re-key everything I write a few times.

    thanks for sharing!

  • Katie Davis
    September 6, 2008 - 7:45 pm · Reply


    They may make you feel like the one crazy person who does this, but don’t let ’em get to you! I’m rewriting a YA mss I’ve been working on that I thought was as tight as it could get. Now that I”m rekeying it, it’s getting better. It’s always a surprise to me!


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