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Effective Editing: How to Take Your Writing to the Next Level

Level up your writing skills by learning the key elements of self-editing. With expert guidance, you’ll be able to polish any rough draft into a finished piece worth sharing.
Effective Editing: How to Take Your Writing to the Next Level is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 41.
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Rated 3 out of 5 by from affective writing My initial reaction wasn't great, but after reviewing the course topics I have a better opinion moving forward. I am still not sure that this is what I am looking for. Time will tell.
Date published: 2021-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Courses does it Again! This course gave exactly what I wanted. Aside from how to self edit insights, it also gave me a better idea of how to write better.
Date published: 2021-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Wonderful New Experience I was looking for a course that would just give me examples of editing my emails and short papers. However I found much more. Molly, has brought me into a world of the publishing unknown. Anyone looking on how to objectively edit their novels and other works, will get more benefits than they can imagine.
Date published: 2021-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Facts of the Matter McCowan gives us the simple unadorned, unobfuscated facts about not only editing a narrative, but designing it in the first place! Be sure to watch her lectures before beginning assembling your narrative.
Date published: 2021-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Remarkable Applications As an academic non-fiction writer, I was impressed with how helpful the lectures were as applications for all manner of writing. As an example, a fiction character can be seen as a non-fiction theme and developed in a similar manner - ensuring consistency throughout a manuscript. On all counts, an interesting, informative course on writing well - lots to think about and apply.
Date published: 2021-12-15
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Wish I could write a review I ordered the DVD version. I got a note advising that USPS could not deliver it (?) and it was being returned to sender. That's the last I heard of it.
Date published: 2021-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent course I'm half way through this course and I think it's very useful. The lecturer is clear and the lessons well structured. A good reminder for me and some new content too.
Date published: 2021-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course Very complete information, well organized and well presented by a good lecturer. I have taken many online courses but this one stands out. Highly recommended. I truly learned much more than I expected from this course, and I enjoyed the experience..
Date published: 2021-11-14
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Discover the crucial phase between drafting and publishing with writing coach and editor, Molly McCowan. With Molly’s guidance, we created Effective Editing: How to Take your Writing to the Next Level, which provides you with a step-by-step, self-editing process filled with tools and techniques that will help improve your narrative writing skills.


Molly McCowan
Molly McCowan

Effective editing will take your stories from good to unforgettable.

Molly McCowan is an accomplished developmental editor, copyeditor, and writing coach. As the founder and lead word nerd of the editorial agency Inkbot Editing, she helps authors make their work the best it can be and navigate the often-complicated waters of traditional publishing and self-publishing. She earned her BA in English from Colorado State University.

Molly has worked as an editor for renowned publishers like HarperCollins, Routledge, Psychology Press, Oxford University Press, and Taylor & Francis Group as well as for corporations, magazines, universities, and nonprofits. She teaches writing and self-editing at industry conferences, writers’ groups, and writing organizations throughout the United States, and she hosts collaborative critique groups for writers driven to improve their work and get published.

Molly is also an editorial business consultant who teaches workshops and multiweek courses for organizations like the Editorial Freelancers Association and ACES: The Society for Editing on how to operate a successful freelance editing business. She serves on the board of the Editorial Freelancers Association, and she’s the founder of the Fort Collins, Colorado, chapter of Shut Up & Write!, where she and her team of volunteers host free writing sprints every week. She is an active supporter of the writing community in Colorado and beyond.

By This Professor

Effective Editing: How to Take Your Writing to the Next Level
Effective Editing: How to Take Your Writing to the Next Level


Understanding the Four Levels of Editing

01: Understanding the Four Levels of Editing

In this introductory lesson, Molly McCowan breaks down the four levels of editing: developmental editing, line editing, copy editing, and proofreading. Each level has a different focus and uses different tools. By understanding how they work, you’ll be better equipped to plan and execute your edits more effectively.

21 min
Planning Your Edit

02: Planning Your Edit

Editing can be a daunting process, especially when you may be basing your decisions on common myths about revising your own work. Debunk these myths and discover the best methods to tackle your edits, after you’ve completed your rough draft. Along the way, Molly shows you how to hone your editor’s eye and look at your own work more clearly.

24 min
Editing for Plot and Structure

03: Editing for Plot and Structure

As you begin your big-picture revisions, it’s critical to first focus on how your story comes together and how it reflects what the protagonist wants. Here, Molly guides you to evaluate your story structure, pulling from examples like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter to demonstrate how story beats propel your narrative forward. Be prepared for a challenge, as this stage of editing can involve big changes.

25 min
Editing for Dynamic Characters

04: Editing for Dynamic Characters

Everything about narrative writing is centered on characters; so, it’s crucial to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals who drive your story. To help you gauge the strength of your characters, Molly leads you through the four-part Protagonist Test, which gives you a foundation for improving your characters’ motivations, flaws, and evolution throughout the story.

29 min
Tackling Point of View

05: Tackling Point of View

Who tells your story? Point of view (POV) is the lens through which your readers experience your narrative—you need to know who guides your readers and why. Here, you’ll assess how well your POV is working. You’ll learn how to determine what information to share and when to share it. You’ll also learn how to untangle any problems with multiple POVs, if you use this technique, and how to explore the most common POV issues and how to fix them.

26 min
Page-Turner Pacing: Scene versus Narration

06: Page-Turner Pacing: Scene versus Narration

In the middle of big-picture and little-picture editing lies the issue of pacing. When is a good time to include a descriptive passage? How much information is too much or too little? Why does the middle of a story often become a slog? Molly answers these questions and more, examining common pacing dilemmas and walking you through the narrative techniques you can apply to speed up or slow down scenes, chapters, or entire acts of your story.

27 min
Building Stronger Scenes

07: Building Stronger Scenes

The ability to write great scenes can be one of your greatest strengths as a writer. Learn how to delineate your individual scenes and adjust the narrative bridges that connect them—as well as how to eliminate unnecessary “infodumps” along the way. End this editing phase with an important comparison between your opening and closing scenes.

26 min
Showing versus Telling: Beyond the Basics

08: Showing versus Telling: Beyond the Basics

“Show, don’t tell” is popular writing advice doled out by professionals and amateurs alike. But what does it really mean to show rather than tell? And why is it important? Here, you’ll learn how to determine when to show—using tools like action and dialogue—and when it’s okay to simply tell the reader what they need to know.

14 min
Dialogue That Sparkles

09: Dialogue That Sparkles

Why does dialogue lifted directly from life sound so unrealistic and flat on the page? The truth is that dialogue is actually an extension of narrative action: It’s far more than simple conversation. Here, Molly explores common problems with dialogue and interior monologue and shows you how to use both to effectively move your story forward and to develop your characters.

27 min
Sentences That Sizzle

10: Sentences That Sizzle

Get into the nitty-gritty details of line editing as you look at your work at the paragraph and sentence levels. First, you’ll take a close look at your ideal reader, a crucial preparatory step before you can fine-tune your writing. Then, Molly shows you proven techniques to elevate your prose by considering three crucial elements: adverbs, adjectives, and verbs.

27 min
Pruning Your Prose

11: Pruning Your Prose

The number one rule of pruning your writing in the line editing process is to simplify it as much as possible. Discover how to whittle down your writing to its essential elements and remove extraneous words, qualifiers, and redundancy. See why a simple, clear style is superior to writing that’s weighed down by unnecessary flourishes and baggage.

29 min
When to Ignore the Grammar Rules

12: When to Ignore the Grammar Rules

What most people refer to as grammar rules are actually usage guidelines, which include everything from word choice to punctuation. Here, learn the difference between the two. See which common grammar and usage “rules” you can safely ignore, including those that say never to use the passive voice, write in sentence fragments, or start sentences with conjunctions.

12 min
Beyond the Red Pen: What Comes Next

13: Beyond the Red Pen: What Comes Next

How do you know when it’s time to stop revising? Once you’ve finished editing your work, what then? In this closing lesson, Molly discusses the possible next steps, including what to look for in a professional editor; whether to bring in beta readers, and how to handle their feedback; and how to determine which editorial services your manuscript may benefit from, as you move toward either self-publishing or traditional publishing.

24 min