First issue a non-issue

This weblog is about editing novels, so most posts will feature the dry, dry stuff of characterization, setting, plot, rising action, theme, climax, and dénouement.

Even drier are mechanics of spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

So for this first issue, I’ll pick a non-issue, the serial or Oxford comma.

In The Colorado Kid, how did Stephen King punctuate the following?

This ninety-year-old man with the thin white hair, narrow face and piercing blue eyes was not one of them.


This ninety-year-old man with the thin white hair, narrow face, and piercing blue eyes was not one of them.

If I were lucky enough to be his editor, what would be my comment? To Steve or to you, I’d say, “You’re the boss. Choose the one you like and be consistent.” Any good teacher of creative writing and editor worth a chewed blue pencil would advise the same.

In effect, pick a style and stick with it for the entire novel. Stephen King employed the serial comma in The Colorado Kid. You can be the king—or queen—and decree to use it or lose it.


Is your novel ready to edit? After your first draft, did you carefully review narrative style, characterization, plot and setting, spelling, punctuation, and grammar from rising actions through climaxes to dénouement? What a long sentence, but it’s a long process. Has a trusted first-reader or two provide feedback? To the best of your abilities, did you tweak and polish your book once more?

If so, your manuscript is probably ready for a professional edit. Here’s my try-and-see offer:

Attach your first 3,000 words to an e-mail. I’ll return a free sample edit to you within three days. If we both agree to continue, you may send a chapter at a time or your complete manuscript. Clients usually choose for me to return an edited chapter or prearranged section at a time; however, it’s your choice. You pay 3/4 cent (¾¢) per word upon satisfaction. If not satisfied, you may stop at any time for no charges beyond the edits you have already approved.

Payments are usually by your personal check or PayPal. Other arrangements are at your request.