My blog has moved!

You will be automatically redirected to the new address. If that does not occur, visit
and update your bookmarks.




Sometimes a writer needs a fresh set of eyeballs to look at her work. But many manuscripts can benefit first from a step-by-step approach to look at things the way a copy editor would. Before seeking professional copy-editing, go through your manuscript with the following in mind. Maybe this checklist will be what you need to take your project to publication. Good luck!



Once you have revised your manuscript until it is the best it can be, it’s time for a final copy edit. Copy editing means finding those tiny pinpoint typos and pesky grammatical and punctuation errors. It means formatting the text and the layout for consistency. It means checking facts and making sure that when you send someone to page 47 it’s actually where you want them to go.

Here are my suggestions for how to complete your own copy edit like a professional. It’s tedious work, so just take it step by step. You can do this. Really, you can. The secret to successful copyediting is detailed focus. When you copy edit, go through your manuscript looking only at one of the following basic copyediting issues on each pass. Each time through your manuscript, focus on one single point. If you try to look at all aspects of copy editing at the same time, you’re bound to miss something. Think focus but with a global view.

1. First time through: Using Microsoft Word, go to each and every word underlined in red or green. Don’t skim over them, saying, "oh, that’s OK. I know I’m right." If it is underlined in red, Word is questioning its spelling or specific use in that instance. Look up the word if you have to. Is it really, really, really the word you want to use? For example, if I talk about a numbering system: i, ii, iii—Word wants to turn that first i into a capital I. Since I won’t let it, it underlines it in red to ask me if I really, really mean to write it that way. Look carefully for those little red and green lines; pay attention to them.

If you made the word up on purpose, place the word in a "style sheet" so the publisher will know it was intentional and not a typo. Then "add" your made-up word to Microsoft Word’s internal dictionary and move on. But if you didn’t make the word up on purpose, make the word right, on purpose.

If the word is underlined in green, it means Word is questioning its use or suggesting alternative wording. Often green underlying points out the use of passive voice. An example of passive voice is: "The final exam was finished by the students." In writing, active voice is more easily understood by the reader and more pleasing, such as, "The students finished the final exam." The difference is action. In the first sentence, the exam was acted upon. In the second sentence, the students took the action. It’s a subtle difference, but truly helps create clarity for the reader. Note all uses of passive voice and think objectively if active voice would be a better choice.

Other uses of green underlying in Word indicate verb/noun disagreement. For example, "he look at the picture," would be underlined in green in Word, indicating that the "he" (singular) does not agree with the plural verb form of "look." Rather it should read, "he looks at the picture."

You may not like the way Word tries to correct you at times, but when it comes to copyediting, paying attention to the red and green hints is a good way to catch many typos and writing errors you might otherwise pass over.

2. Second time through: Go through your manuscript again, looking only at punctuation. Use exclamation marks sparingly. Let the words you select elicit a response from your reader, rather than using exclamation marks that yell at him. Know and understand the proper use of periods, commas and semicolons and other punctuation marks. Often Microsoft Word will place a tiny green line underneath an incorrectly used punctuation mark. Pay attention to them. Increase the size of your text on the screen if you need to, so you can see these helpful red and green underlines.

3. Go through a third time to assure consistency of text throughout the manuscript. "Select" the entire manuscript by using "control" and scrolling from beginning to end to shade the entire manuscript. Then select a single font style and size. Now the entire manuscript has one uniform font style and size.

With the entire manuscript still "selected," check your paragraph formatting. Make sure it is consistent in double spacing and paragraph spacing under the "format" tab.

4. Once the formatting is consistent, go back through a fourth time and adjust heading font styles and sizing, bolding, italics, etc. One caveat though is that if your manuscript is heading to a publisher, the publisher will most likely want to do this book formatting (bolding, header sizes, etc.) according to the house’s specific guidelines. But for your personal copyediting purposes, go through the manuscript a separate time and format the headings and subheadings for consistency.

5. Go through a fifth time and check consistency of numbering—chapters, headings, alphabetical, chronological, numerical order in all things. Do you have more than one "Chapter 14"? Is Part I correctly followed by Part II or did Part 2 sneak in there by mistake? Make sure that when you cite a chapter, table or other illustration, you cite it correctly. If referring to page numbers within the text (which is difficult to do before final pagination during layout), make sure you check and double check the accuracy of the page numbers cited.

6. Once more. Go through your manuscript at least one more time as dispassionately as you can. Look at the text from the point of view of not just your reader but also a potential editor or agent. Will it make sense not just to you but to someone without your background, knowledge or understanding? If possible, read the entire manuscript out loud. Sometimes our ears hear things that our mind doesn’t hear or sees gaps that our mind fills in on its own from information only we have.

7. If needed, go through a final time to create an index and style sheet. You can use the search function to help create the index or low cost or free software is available to help create one. A style sheet is simply a list of unusual words—such as foreign words, technical words or phrases used in a specific industry or science or odd name spellings or made up names. The publisher uses this style sheet during final copy editing to make sure the spellings are correct and that any foreign words are italicized properly.


If you still need professional copyediting, I would be happy to help. I offer FINAL COPYEDITING at an extremely affordable price. A description of services provided and price based on number of pages follows at the end of this page.


Let me know if I can help. Carol Peterson:


+ + + + + + + + + + + +


Developmental Editing looks at a book project from the point of view not only of the eventual reader (such as her needs, expectations, and demographics) but also from the point of view of a publishing house editor, agent and book packager. It looks at what is included in the book, what is missing and what might be added. It looks at ways to present information, facts and arguments to best achieve what the writer intends. It looks at the book’s physical structure—chapter organization, subchapters, topics, sub-points, previews, chapter summaries, end-of-chapter questions and topics for discussion. It also looks at voice, tone, pacing and other elements in the craft of writing that could be used to further the book’s ultimate purpose.

While many of these points of focus are related to personal preference, they are nonetheless valuable tools in writing. Sometimes personal preference, emotion, or gap in knowledge or understanding between the writer and her reader is not recognizable during the writing. Sometimes a non-fiction book needs to be seen from the outside, by an objective person who is also skilled in the tools available in a writer’s toolbox and who can point out places that may need explanation, further discussion, or simply reorganization for better effect. That is the job of a developmental editor.

You may not yet be at the point where you need developmental editing for your book. Maybe you just need help getting started. To assist you in developing your project, I have created a checklist of things to get you moving forward. Think through your project with each of the questions in mind. Try to develop your project as deeply and as clearly as you can before you begin writing.

NOTE: If you intend to pursue traditional publishing for your non-fiction writing, be aware that most non-fiction books are sold based on a proposal and sample chapters. In other words, you sell an idea; not a manuscript.

Each traditional publishing house and/or agent will most likely have very specific guidelines for what they want to see. The proposal will generally include:

  • A description of the idea
  • A table of contents (sometimes with a paragraph or short description of each chapter)
  • An analysis of the market for the book
  • Book titles already published that may compete with your book and how your idea is unique
  • Your background
  • One to three sample chapters.

Although the above are generally included in all non-fiction book proposals, you should thoroughly research the publishing house and agent you intend to query and follow their specific submission guidelines. Those submission guidelines are commonly found on the publisher/agency web site.

Although most non-fiction books are sold on a proposal, some authors prefer to write the complete book to help solidify the concept before pursuing publication. However you decide to work on your project, here are some points to help you take your project from idea to book.


What is the purpose of your writing?
  • To teach a skill
  • To share an experience/teach a lesson
  • To inform
  • To question
  • To persuade

What is the tone?
  • Impartial
  • Passionate
  • Humorous
  • Solemn
  • Folksy
  • Educated
  • Worldly
  • Friendly

What is the end result you hope to achieve?

  • Convince someone of your belief
  • Motivate reader to take action
  • Elicit empathy
  • Give the reader knowledge, skill or understanding

How do you plan to lead your reader to your intended result?

  • Step by step argument
  • Emotional appeal
  • Causeà effect
  • Various chapters loosely organized around a single theme

How can you best organize the information? Look at book structure.

  • Least to most important or vice versa
  • Chronological
  • First, next, then, finally
  • Or "I got here; now let’s find out how…"

Create an outline of the major points/steps/arguments you plan to cover.

Create transitional chapters/paragraphs/sentences/sections to lead reader from one point made, taught or shared to the next point.
Brainstorm subchapters and sub-points: What new questions, points, concerns, understandings need to be addressed once you’ve presented your main point? How will you address those?
Consider tying the structure to an outside influence: e.g., days of the weeks; 1 month’s reading; months of the year.

Brainstorm your audience and ultimate market. For example, my bible study about the relationship between spiritual and physical health, my audience is:

  • Women
  • Christian women
  • Christian women over 50
  • Christian women over 50 looking to better their health
  • Christian women over 50 looking to better their health and be an example to their children/grandchildren
  • Market to women, Christian women, retired women, women interested in health, church women’s ministry small groups, mothers groups, grandparents groups
  • Think about demographics and what you know about your potential readers.
  • Research and read competing book titles in your book proposal. Understand how your book will fit with what’s already there; understand how your book will stand out; how it fills a need in the market.

If you have gone through the above questions and still feel you need the help of a developmental editor, I offer help in planning the organization, features, and other aspects of the work, and preparing developmental reviews or analyses of your non-fiction work in progress. This includes:

  • Rewriting and restructuring text to fit the desired format; best use of structure to relay information or achieve the desired result/conclusion.
  • Moving sentences, paragraphs and/or chapters to improve flow.
  • Suggesting ideas for images, tables, graphs, diagrams, and other illustrations
  • Adding, deleting or revising headings for consistent structure.
  • Identifying gaps in content, and supplying or describing text wording or ideas for the author to resolve.
  • Brainstorming additional content or structural flow.
  • Developmental editing is separate from medium or heavy copyediting and does not include duties listed in those topics.
  • Assistance in creating a book proposal.

After you have gone through the above questions and brainstorming, if you still need my help, please let me know. Prices and details for developmental editing follow at the end of this page.

+ + + + + + + + + +



Before submitting a picture book manuscript for critique or editing, I suggest you go through your story, looking closely at the following. Give yourself plenty of time to really look at your story through the objective eyes of a potential publishing house editor or agent. As much as you love your story, try to stay dispassionate. Book publishing is a business. Your story—in order to sell—must be marketable and "marketable" has a very specific meaning in the world of children’s picture books.

I suggest you go through the following points and think carefully about your story:



Picture books are most generally written for children 2-5 years of age. That means, not only must the protagonist (main character) generally be between 2-5 years old, but the problem, resolution, theme, and wording must also have that age group in mind.

Look at the problem in the story. Is it something a child that age would face in the real world? If not, how might you tweak your theme to make it more relevant?

Look at the words you use. Are they appropriate for the child’s age? Recognize that a 4-year old child would not be reading this book himself. An adult will read it to the child. However, the words must be understandable by the child. Are they? If not, what other word could you use that the child would better understand?

Read your story out loud. Better yet, have someone unfamiliar with your story to read it out loud to you. Are there places where she stumbles over words or phrases? An adult will be reading this story to their child. An adult who stumbles each time he reads it, might decide to select a different story at bedtime. Worse, if an adult regularly stumbles over reading the book, a child might select a different story. You want your story to be loved. In other words: The text must sound good out loud—both to the reader and the audience.

Listen to the words. Pay attention to the rhythm of the wording; the beats and how the words flow together. Look also at creating sounds with words—using alliteration, assonance and onomatopoeia. If you don’t know those writing terms, learn what they are and how to use them. Most picture books are read aloud. The sound of words is therefore important.

Note: Some picture books are written for ages younger and older than 2-5 years. Board books (for babies) have their own set of guidelines. Picture books written for older children (up to ages 7-8) will generally be books the child reads himself and will require more complex story building elements and certainly must be age-appropriate in interest level. For example, an 8-year old boy will be more interested in a book about a car than a book about a pink bunny (unless the pink bunny turns into a car!). The guidelines here are geared to the more typical 2-5 year old picture book audience.



Who is your main character? Is he age appropriate for the child hearing the story? If your character is an animal or inanimate object, is it appealing to the child? Will the child care about the character and its problem?

Just as with adult fiction, the character must have a conflict or problem he must solve by the end of the story. There must be something learned or some growth or understanding on the part of the main character. Have you accomplished that in a way that isn’t just you—the adult author—preaching to the child? Remember your own 4-year old self. You didn’t like to be preached to. Kids today don’t either.


Look at your setting. Is it real or will it feel real to a child? Might there be a better setting for your story? For example, editors often complain about the number of stories they receive that take place on a farm. Could you place your story in a unique setting to make your book stand out? For example, could your lost duckling, instead be a rhino lost in a muddy African river? Could your pesky goat be a woodland porcupine?

In a world where the sheer number of picture book manuscripts overwhelm publishers, strive to find a way for yours to pop out as unique.


Theme is the underlying cohesion that keeps your story together and provides a satisfying ending. Do you have a theme clearly in mind? If you have no theme, is perhaps your story just a cute snapshot, rather than a book? Sometimes theme is hard to determine. Theme is harder to create if your story is already fleshed out. But true story will be better and more memorable if theme is the foundation of your story.

In picture books, the theme need not be life changing or complex. It can be as simple as, kindness is better than bullying; I can try to do it myself; there’s no place like home. Theme should also be age appropriate. A 5-year old child is more interested in trying new things than creating world peace.


Jot down your character’s number one problem, conflict or character trait that needs to be addressed in the story. If you don’t know what that is, you may need to rethink your story and make sure you give him one.

How does the character resolve his problem, solve the conflict or grow? If he doesn’t, rethink your story and have him do so.

In children’s writing, the child is the one who must solve his own problem. That means, the child gorilla, the child bumblebee or the human child. There can be adults in the story. The adults can even provide advice or examples. But it is the child main character that ultimately must do the solving and growing.

A child’s life is filled with adults telling him what to do. Books provide a way for children to step out of their own adult-filled world and see how other children (even fictional children) deal with everyday problems. Seeing how fictional children deal with similar problems gives real children the understanding and confidence to face real-life problems successfully. It can’t be stressed too strongly that your child protagonist must solve his own problem.



We’ve touched on word selection, word sound and rhythm, but the number of words in the manuscript is very important.

Picture books today generally are under 600 words. Editors at a recent conference stated that the "sweet spot" they look for is about 300-350 words. If an editor receives a picture book manuscript over 1000 words, her skepticism that the writer knows what she’s doing may prevent the editor from even reading the first line.

Three hundred words is not a lot of words. But in those words, the author must develop a character, create a setting, expand a theme, create a conflict and resolve it with character growth—all with a pleasing and satisfying ending.

Then, when the writer has accomplished that, she needs to make sure half of the story is left for the illustrator to tell.

Picture books are a beautiful and powerful form of art and literature. Because picture books are read out loud, the illustrations give the child something visual to explore while listening to the words that develop the story. BUT, the illustrations should also tell part of the story.

Therefore, for example, the text need not describe in detail the appearance of a shirt, the color of a flower or even the expression on the character’s face. Nearly everything that can be shown in an illustration can (and usually should) be left out of the text and left to the illustrator.


Often times, an illustrator’s interpretation of the text will not just supplement the story. Often the illustrations will take the story into a deeper or entirely new direction. Often an illustrator can tell a unique, opposite or ironic story with illustrations. Too many written descriptions can hinder the creativity that an illustrator brings to the finished picture book.

I suggest therefore, that you go through your text. Highlight everything that "could" be told through illustrations—facial expressions, colors, actions (such as "he walked to the corner"; "he sat down"), detailed descriptions. Then go back and thoughtfully determine if those are absolutely necessary to the story. If not, hit the "delete" key and move on.

If, of course, you intend illustrations to show something different than what your text says, make sure to add a short illustration note in the text, so an editor or agent will "get" what you intend. Use illustration notes sparsely and only where necessary.

Go through your manuscript and look also at the number of scenes you have created. A picture book is generally 24 pages (sometimes 32; always divisible by 4 because of how they’re assembled). You need to make sure there is enough action and scenes to fill the pages of the book. Illustrations need to show scenes. Each one should be different. A book filled with 24 pages of the child looking sad and 1 page looking happy doesn’t make for an interesting visual set. Does your story have enough change, scenes and action to create 12-24 different, exciting and varied illustrations?

Many picture book writers create "dummies." This is a way of sketching out the story to assure adequate illustration possibilities. It also helps authors look for places for appropriate page turns and where a full spread illustration might occur to slow the pace or provide a transition or where multiple, smaller illustrations grouped on one page could affect pacing, either to speed up or slow down the story.

Although you can find samples of picture book dummies online, a simple thing to do is to just fold 6 sheets of paper into quarters to give you 24 "boxes." Then write out your text, spreading it across the boxes as you see it. Note (or draw) what you envision for illustrations (keeping in mind that they will be up to the editor and illustrator to determine). Do you have large chunks of text on some pages and very little on others? Does that work or would it be better if text were more evenly split. How do the "page turns" land?

Familiarize yourself with how other picture books are created. Note the page turns. Note where the illustrator has developed a full spread over 2 pages or has continued an illustration over a page turn. Look at perspective, color, tone, and detail. Understand what goes into the illustration half of picture book storytelling. If you do, your own half of the telling will be richer because of it.

Now, you’ve gone through all of these points, have answered everything to your satisfaction, and have revised and rested and then revised some more. Do you still need help? Give me a shout out.

I will be happy to provide you with a critique (analysis based on the above but specific to your story and with brainstorming ideas where helpful) and full edit.

Please let me know if I can help:

+ + + + + + + + + +

I have been writing non-fiction books for children and teachers for 12 years and have been editing books and articles for published colleagues for over 10 years. Please check out my published books at


I have a unique ability to help people develop book projects and make their revision process less painful and more productive. It would be a privilege to help make your project the book it is meant to be.

I offer three types of editing services: Final Copyediting, Developmental Editing, and Picture Book Analysis and Editing. Each are described below and followed by the cost of my services. Let me know how I can help.


Final Copyediting includes the following:

  • Correcting spelling, grammar, and punctuation and consistency of spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, font, numerals (spelling vs. numerals; Roman numerals, i, ii, iii, etc.).
  • Correcting incorrect usage (can/ may, insure/ensure).
  • Checking cross-references (for example, "As we saw in Chapter 4…").
  • Checking for proper sequencing (such as alphabetical, numerical, chronological order).
  • Changing text and headings (including font style/size/bolding) to achieve consistent structure.
  • Ensuring that key terms are handled consistently and that vocabulary lists and meet criteria specified by the publisher.
  • Ensuring that previews, summaries, and end-of-chapter questions reflect the chapter content.
  • Changing passive voice to active voice, if requested.
  • Noting ambiguous, questionable or incorrect statements or statements that may need further explanation or discussion.
  • Eliminating wordiness and jargon.
  • Smoothing transitions and wording to improve readability.
  • Assuring that heads achieve logical structure, including new heads, where needed.
  • Suggesting additions and deletions at the sentence and paragraph level.
  • Creation of style sheet for publisher.
  • Creation of index, if needed.
  • Noting places where tone or function have changed; suggesting changes to assure consistency.

I will provide Final Copyediting for standard manuscript pages (double-spaced, 12-point font, 1" margins) as follows:

UP TO 200 MS PAGES $100

UP TO 300 MS PAGES $150

UP TO 500 MS PAGES $250



Developmental Editing will take your project to the next level. Often a new set of eyeballs will see your manuscript in a different light; can notice gaps you don’t see; can brainstorm ideas for expansion and direction. Developmental Editing will include the following elements applied to your work in progress:

  • Rewriting sections and restructuring text to fit the desired format;
  • Help determining best use of structure to present information or achieve the desired result/conclusion.
  • Moving sentences, paragraphs and/or chapters to improve flow.
  • Suggesting ideas for images, tables, graphs, diagrams, and other illustrations
  • Adding, deleting or revising headings for consistent structure.
  • Identifying gaps in content, and supplying or describing text wording or ideas for the author to resolve.
  • Brainstorming additional content or structural flow.
  • Developmental editing is separate from medium or heavy copyediting and does not include duties listed in those topics.
  • Assistance in creating a solid book proposal.

I will provide the above-described developmental services as follows (based on standard manuscript pages—double spaced; size 12 font; 1" margins):

UP TO 200 MS PAGES $100

UP TO 300 MS PAGES $125

UP TO 500 MS PAGES $150



I will analyze and critique your picture book manuscript from the point of view of a publishing house editor or agent, looking at:

  • Age appropriateness of the theme, character, plot and language
  • Main character’s problem/solving; conflict/resolution; personal growth or lesson learned
  • Setting: can it be made more unique? Does it fit and enhance the theme adequately?
  • Theme: what is it? Is it apparent? How can it be enhanced?
  • Words: language, ability to read aloud, word count, what to leave to an illustrator
  • Illustration potential: scenes, visual variety, pages
  • Brainstorming possibilities that might include increased character depth; places to tighten writing; ways to market or promote; creating teacher guides based on your book

Plus: A full copy edit for grammar, punctuation and spelling.

$50 for a picture book manuscript (under 1500 words).


No comments: