This morning a college friend posted on Facebook that he had never seen The Princess Bride. Inconceivable, yes? It’s the only movie I’ve ever seen in a movie theater more than once, and the second time I went by myself. So I started streaming it on Netflix as I stared at this blank blog page, trying to figure out what to write today. I got to this exchange between Vizzini and Inigo, as the Man in Black is climbing the Cliffs of Insanity:

V: “He didn’t fall? Inconceivable!”
I: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

You can see the whole clip here, just because it’s awesome.

Anyway, it got me thinking. As writers, words are everything to us. Large and small, we agonize over every one we write. As an author of historical fiction, I not only have to agonize over every word and what it means, I need to think about whether the word actually existed in the time period of the book.  I keep a bunch of reference books on my desk and on my Kindle which help me find just the right word, and I have the OED, available online through my public library, bookmarked.


If there’s even the slightest question a word might not mean what I think it means, I look it up. If there’s the slightest question a word didn’t exist in the 19th century, I look it up. And if I have used ‘smile’ 100 times (yes, it’s possible), I look for other words to replace them. And my editor takes out 90% of my ‘thats.’

So, what about you? What are your go-to sources for finding just the right word? And how many times have you seen The Princess Bride? 🙂


About Marin McGinnis

Marin McGinnis has been a voracious reader ever since she could make sense of words on the page, but she came fairly late to writing. She dabbled with a mystery in her 20s, but didn’t start writing in earnest until after she discovered historical romance a decade or so later. While her very first manuscript will forever languish under the bed, the next one, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next three books, Secret Promise, Tempting Mr. Jordan, and Treasure Her Heart, were also published by The Wild Rose Press. Check out her Bookshelf for more info. Marin lives in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio with her family. She is represented by Margaret Bail of Fuse Literary.

Edit a New Draft — with Brianna St. James

Inspiring us to work through our manuscripts today is the Lemon Editing Group editor, Briana St. James. Briana is a former acquisitions editor and book reviewer. She has worked in various aspects of editing fiction for the last seventeen years. Briana’s rarely met a genre she didn’t want to try reading–or editing!

After an amazing time as a twenty-something working in various facets of the entertainment industry, including celebrity wrangling, the care and feeding of musicians, and as a semi-pro concert photographer. Briana has been a full-time editor since 1997 and a published author since 2007.

She spends her spare time attending concerts, being the minion to the most pampered cats in creation, and dodging the dramatically rolled eyes of her indulgent husband.
How would you define success as an editor?

A strong partnership between author and editor is the ultimate success as an editor. When a team works together, sharing trust in each other, to see a project to fruition, that is success.

What kinds of editing (or what part of editing) do you most (and least) enjoy? Why?

My ultimate favorite thing is early developmental editing, which often includes long brainstorming sessions. Seeing ideas gel is so rewarding!

When someone gives you something to edit, what do you do?

For content editing, I read the work several times, and then form some questions. My initial approach to editing is to read a work as if I’d discovered it on the open market, approaching the readability, characters, plot development, and pacing as a reader would. Only after I have that reader mindset established do I turn the technical editor on and begin to formulate an editorial approach.

When line editing or proofing, I do my first pass starting at the last page and working my way forward. It allows me to familiarize myself with the author’s writing style without getting lost in the fabulous story.

What made you choose editing?

I think I fell into it 😉 I was working in various facets of the entertainment world, and one of my clients would ask me to proofread his interview material for typos, etc. before faxing it onward. Eventually, friends would ask me to check out their work for readability, and I couldn’t help marking up changes for them.

What really gets your engine revving in a book? [in other words] What do you like to see in the submissions you get at Lemons Editing Group?

Passion! An author with passion in a work brings so much to the table. Like everyone else, I have pet favorite genres, but passion in a work and characters trumps everything for me! I’m a character geek and love discussing character arcs and motivation at length with authors.

What is one of your writing pet peeves?

Try and rather than try to. Borrowed him/her some money. Ministrations versus menstruation—yep this one exists! An excess of exclamation points. Any character who becomes a stereotype. Who versus that when referring to humans. Erotic scenes where the female anatomy is incorrectly presented.

Do you have a favorite author? If so, who is it and how have they influenced your career?

I have too many to name, but in the interests of answering your question, I’ll single one incredible lady out.

I first discovered Joey W. Hill when she submitted a science fiction story to a publisher I was doing submission evaluation for. This was circa ’98. The book was *incredible* and I enthusiastically suggested it for publication. Several years later, we both found ourselves at EC, and I became her editor.

Joey taught me a great deal about how *not* to get lost in beautiful prose. It can be hard to not get swept away, and working with her, and learning her writing style, was an invaluable lesson in stepping back from the beauty of the words and diving into the technical aspects. We worked on over a dozen books together, and it has been a pleasure seeing both of us grow individually and as an editor/author team.

Leather or lace? Leather for sure
Black or red? Black, with red accents 😉
Satin sheets or Egyptian cotton? Microfiber!
Ocean or mountains? Both. Ocean in summer, mountains in fall. Oh, the colors.
City life or country life? City.
Hunky heroes or average Joe? Average Joes are often not so average.
Party life or quiet dinner for two? Quite dinner, preferably at a foodie-type restaurant. Maybe a party every third dinner.
Dogs or cats? Cats. I’m ruled and overruled by my feline overlords.


About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

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