The Perfect Edit?

Caution – red pen at work. (Also Spoiler Alert – don’t read manuscript if you don’t want spoilers).


As of a week and a half ago, I have written three books in the Wil Clarey Series. Books two and three are in rough draft form –

very rough.

Book One – The Impossible Summer is in much better shape. It is as thoroughly self-edited as possible. It is completely ready for professional editors.

So I thought.

In preparation for editing book two, School of Hard Knocks, I read through Book one with an eye toward maintaining continuity through the series. I even made a spreadsheet to list all the named characters and details about them (There are 34 named characters in The Impossible Summer at last count).

Of course, I read my paper manuscript with red pen in hand.

The red pen has a mind of its own. It found several poorly worded sentences, a few unneeded lines, and a handful of typos.

So much for “ready for professional edit.”

If you are a casual reader, you might not realize how many times most books are edited before publishing. I used to think that someone would proofread a manuscript and then it would be printed. That’s just the final step.

Here’s a few of the possible edits a manuscript will go through:

  • Developmental edit – This one can be painful. This type of edit may lead to major restructuring of the story.
  • Structural Edit – May be included with developmental edit. Looks at the flow of the presentation to make sure the reader can follow along.
  • Continuity edit (or fact checking) – I just did a bit of that with Book one. For instance, I realized that July 4th needed to fall on a Tuesday to stay consistent with the calendar I chose for books two and three. It can also include checking for consistency in character names and ages, layout of settings, etc.
  • Copy edit – checks for errors in grammar and spelling.
  • Proofread – checks for typos.

Some edits may be combined or split to suit the publisher and the book. I’ve seen about as many interpretations of editing as I’ve seen articles on the process.

The bottom line is, a good book is the work of the author and several others.

Just like a lawyer representing himself has a fool for a client, the author who self-edits beyond the first couple of edits has a fool for an editor.

As I don’t have the cash to lay out for a series of professional edits, I am praying for a traditional publisher. In the meantime, realize that any excerpts you may see here or at may not be as they get published.

I promise you that I will not publish whole books without completing the editing process. I’m not that cruel.

Okay, maybe I’m a little cruel.

These blogs and my Christmas stories are self edited.

I hope you enjoy them anyway!

Moments that Move

Bob Wiley (bobble head) is excited to see the end of the book.

One day last week, I was typing along, trying to wrap up the rough draft of Wil Clarey: The Mystery at the Mill, when I got to the end of a paragraph and tears threatened to spill from my eyes.

No, it wasn’t some emotional scene.

It just hit me, as the last few words hit the page, that it was the end of the book.

With my busy schedule, it has taken me over a year and a half to write it.

It was a momentous occasion!

I was brought up to stuff emotions inside.

“If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about”

was heard around my childhood home more than once.

Later in life, even my father realized how destructive that phrase was.

Now I’m a big softy.

My kids like watching emotional movies with me so they can see me cry. Of course, I use the “I’m just stuffed up” excuse every time but they know better.

The same thing happens to me at a powerful worship service – especially if we sing songs that hold nostalgic significance to me.

Brant Hansen writes about having experienced emotional envy. (Blessed are the Misfits c. 2017, Brant Hansen). Being on the autism spectrum, situations that would be emotional to others didn’t faze him. He makes the point that those experiences and the faith that goes with them are not dependent on emotion.

When I lived in Arizona, I attended a church where the worship leader got so emotional every week that it distracted me from the worship experience. After a couple of months there, I ended up going to a different church because of it.

Worship can be an emotional experience.

So, what am I trying to say?

Is emotion good or not?

Anyone who has experienced tears of joy should be able to tell you that emotion is good. I agree. But,

Emotion should never take the place of faith.

Faith will produce an emotional response in most people. But faith based on emotional experiences has an unstable foundation.

In preparing for this blog, I tried to think of experiences I’ve had that were emotional. There were many. But it wasn’t the emotional response, but the situation and the faith involved in it that were life changing.

I could go on and on about emotions. There are so many negative emotions that can make people feel trapped.

I’ve been there.

I can offer no easy escape, but I can say that positive emotions help.

So, next time that song has you in tears, that unexpected blessing brings tears of joy, or that leap of faith brings release from anxiety, savor the emotional experience without basing your life on it.

You may just find those flashes of joy help light the way to an emotionally and spiritually healthy life based on

truth and faith.

Love in the Middle of the Hard Knocks

Excerpt from Wil Clarey – School of Hard Knocks (rough draft)

In the midst of the attack, my mind retreated. I curled into a ball and isolated my mind from anything outside of that ball. The kicks and punches kept coming. I felt severe pain. And I felt something I had never felt before – rage!

Outside of my protective ball, I heard tires squealing, a horn honking, and a man yelling.

The attack stopped.

A distant voice asked, “Are you okay?”

There was a touch on my shoulder, painful though half numb.

Sirens and voices tried to penetrate my shield.

Someone tried to pull me out of my ball, so I rolled tighter.

“Wil,” Mrs. Brewer’s voice penetrated my shell. “It’s okay. These people are here to help you.”

I went slack and unconscious.

I came to as I was being loaded into an ambulance.

On the ride to hospital, I imagined the police holding Todd while I hit him.  I imagined him in jail.  Anger fueled the darker side of my imagination.  My face and ribs burned with pain and my gut burned with hatred.

Mom arrived at the hospital just after I did. She tried to comfort me. When she spoke to an officer, I could see the fury in her face.

Doctors and nurses poked, prodded, x-rayed and scanned me all day. 

Through each procedure, the pain fueled my hatred toward Todd and his friends.

Late that evening, they finally decided I could go home. I had a couple of cracked ribs and a lot of bruises, but nothing too serious. I think I could have won a costume contest for most zombie-like face. 

They insisted I leave in a wheelchair.  Mom pushed me to the open door of the room and stopped. There were two cops bringing in a badly beaten boy. The boy was Todd.

Mom tried to pull me back.

“No!” I grabbed the door frame. I had to see this.

Tears streaked Todd’s face.

Shame filled mine.

Not shame for being his victim. Shame for having the same kind of hatred that filled his face.

Mom rushed me toward the waiting room.

We passed one of the cops talking to a nurse. “His dad beat him for getting caught.”

“Mom, stop!”

I touched the officer’s arm. “Is he gonna be okay?”

He looked me over and said, “Probably about the same as you, except he won’t be going home. He has a spot waiting for him at Juvie.”

“Can I talk to him?”

Mom tried to move me on. “No, Wil, that’s not a good idea.”

“I just want to say one thing. I don’t have to be close.”

The cop smiled. “Sure kid.” He turned to Mom. “I’ll take him, for his safety.”

I wonder if the officer thought I was going to yell at Todd. I wondered what I was going to say myself.

I was stopped at the threshold. A nurse was swabbing his face.

“Todd.” I started.

The nurse turned.

Todd’s face turned to pain and hate when he saw me.

“I, I just wanted to say that I forgive you.”

I turned to the officer. “That’s all.”

I glanced one more time in Todd’s direction. The nurse was dabbing her eyes. Todd’s expression was blank.


I have struggled over the past week with what I could write to illustrate the idea of loving God and loving people. I looked in Vine’s and Strong’s and the Bible and racked my brain for good stories and kept coming up blank.

I sat down today and this scene from Wil Clarey – School of Hard Knocks came to mind. I argued with myself because the book deals with forgiveness, not love.

Then it hit me. Forgiveness is one of the purest forms of love.

Too often we think of love in terms of affection. We love because we have an attachment to someone, or we share a common family or origin.

When Jesus illustrated who we should love, he told the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Through that he showed that we should extend our love beyond our definitions to those we would otherwise hate.

In the Wil Clarey story, no one would blame Wil for hating Todd. I left out the most brutal parts of the attack. Wil had every right to be angry. And he was!

When Wil saw Todd in the same condition as himself, full of pain and rage, it opened his eyes. He realized that, if he continued down the path of hate, he would become that which he hated. He decided that it needed to stop with him.

Right now, we live in a country divided. Each group sees the other as so irreconcilably different that they are not worthy of our attention, much less our love.

How often do we look at those who are different and want to avoid them? Do we look at those who cause pain in our lives and want to cause pain back?

What would happen if we flipped that around and repaid hurt with forgiveness, apathy with caring, pain with love?

I won’t spoil the Wil Clarey story with what happened next. I will say that it was a much better path for Wil to take.

How can you and I start down that path today?