Monday, September 19, 2011

Editing with Margie Lawson

Margie Lawson—psychotherapist, editor, and international presenter – developed psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques used by new writers to multi-award winning authors. She teaches writers how to add psychological power to create page turners.
In the last six years Margie presented over sixty full day Master Classes across the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Writers who have studied her material credit her innovative editing approaches with taking their writing several levels higher—to publication, awards, and bestseller lists.

A big THANK YOU to Lisa Tapp for inviting me to be her guest on YA Fusion!

Deep Edit Your Way to NYT Writing!

By Margie Lawson

If you’ve taken some of my editing courses on-line, you may recall I recommend adding NYT to your margin tracking list for your WIP. Why? Because when your writing is powerful, it gives you a boost toward the NYT Bestseller list.

Are you with me?

All writers want to learn how to make their writing stronger. Deep Editing provides you with the hands-on skills you need.

I’ll share examples from the YA I read a few weeks ago, FLAWLESS, by Lara Chapman. By the time I completed the first page of FLAWLESS, the video in my mind was rolling, and it kept rolling while I read the book straight through.

That video keeps surfacing. My mind craves book two. The story and the writing is that good. It’s that stellar.

Lara Chapman, FLAWLESS

I love the first day of school. There’s nothing like a new start. New clothes, new classes, new goals. And maybe, just maybe, the possibility of meeting a new guy.

Especially when you’re a senior in high school.

With a last glance at the ensemble I’ve put together for my last first day of high school and a mental kiss to the hair gods for my stunning naturally blond wavy hair, I close my bedroom door then dance downstairs.

Where I slam headfirst into reality.

Next to my “You Are Special Today” plate, a tradition my mother started on my first day of kindergarten, polished silverware sits on top of a rhinoplasty brochure.

No napkin. Just the brochure.

I ignore my mother’s watchful eyes. “Real subtle, Mom.” I move the silverware, then flick the glossy trifold with the tip of my finger, scoring a beautiful two-pointer as it lands in the silver and black trash can.

I totally hate the word rhinoplasty. How can you not think of a disgusting two-ton mammal when you hear that word?

Just call it what it is – a nose job.

Spatula in one hand, she pops the other onto her hip. “Just a suggestion, Sarah.”

“Yet still offensive. Couldn’t you have waited until, like, the second day of school to start in on me?” I stab the tasteless egg white omelet on my plate, wishing there were some crispy strips of bacon sitting next to it. It’s hard to believe I was actually born to this health-conscious runway-worthy woman. Being a Burke can be a serious pain in the butt.

“I only want what’s best for you. Now that you’re a senior, you’re old enough to make those changes we’ve always talked about.”

I drop the fork to my plate. “Not we, Mom. You. I don’t recall asking for the privilege of having some whack chop away at the nose you gave me. Just because you changed yours when you were eighteen doesn’t mean I have to.”

The honest truth is that I never would have requested this particular nose, but I’ve spent seventeen years learning to accept it.

“Sarah…” Mom stares at me, the wheels of her brain churning at top speed while her own omelet sizzles in the abandoned skillet. She doesn’t have to say what I know she’s thinking. How in the world will Beth Burke’s daughter ever follow in her news broadcasting footsteps with a honker the size of a Buick?

I nod at the smoking skillet. “You’re burning.”

Cursing under her breath, she drops the tiny pan into the sink just as a car horn beeps from the curb, officially signaling the end to our fight like a bell at the end of a boxing match.

BLOG GUESTS – Are you hooked?

When I read writing that smooth, I always think of a quote by Nathanial Hawthorne (The Scarlett Letter, 1850, House of the Seven Gables, 1851)

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”


What did Lara Chapman accomplish in that opening?

 Established “Yes Set” for reader with first-day-of-school associations

 Shared that POV character is a senior

 Shared two physical characteristics of POV character, blond wavy hair and big nose

 Showed that mom cares (special plate) but mom’s pushy, rhinoplasty

 Introduced conflict with mom and the story theme
 Showed POV character as assertive with mom, several times

 Slipped in some back story fast, fast, fast.

 Showed POV character facing her flaw: Just call it what it is – a nose job.

How did Lara Chapman deep edit to make the opening a smooth and compelling read?

 Two rhetorical devices in first paragraph: anaphora and asyndeton

I love the first day of school. There’s nothing like a new start. New clothes, new classes, new goals. And maybe, just maybe, the possibility of meeting a new guy.

 Anaphora: Starting three (or more) sentences or phrases in a row with the same word or phrase

 Asyndeton: Listing three (or more) words or phrases with no conjunctions.

Note: Anaphora and asyndeton are two of the 30 rhetorical devices I teach fiction writers where, why, and how to use in my Deep Editing course.

 Started a sentence with “And,” not just to irritate all high school English teachers. :-)
She started that sentence with “And,” to draw the reader in deeper.

 Intentional echo for impact: And maybe, just maybe . . .

 Power Words: new guy, slam, reality, “You Are Special Today” plate, ignore, rhinoplasty, trash can, rhinoplasty, disgusting, nose job, offensive, stab, pain in butt, honker, burning, cursing, fight, boxing match

 Backloaded: new guy, rhinoplasty brochure, nose job

 Fresh Writing

 Similes: honker/Buick, bell/boxing match

 Multiple Humor Hits!

 Used Parallelism Back-to-back, contributed to strong cadence

(A) . . . she drops the tiny pan into the sink (A) just as a car horn beeps from the curb

(B) . . . officially signaling the end to our fight (B) like a bell at the end of a boxing match.

 Varied Sentence Structure – Contributes to strong pacing. Supports the emotional tone of the sentence.

 White Space – Lots of White Space picks up pacing. Makes for a fast read.

 Cadence. Cadence. Cadence. Read the opening out loud. You’ll hear the compelling cadence drive you from the first word to the last.

On page eight, our POV character, Sarah, gets introduced to the new guy at school. An incredibly hot new guy.

“Rockford Conway. Everyone calls me Rock.”

I instantaneously think how much I’d love to be stuck between Rock and a hard place when he turns to acknowledge me. His gaze stops at the most obvious spot on my face.

Not my killer blue eyes.

Not my plump pouty lips.

Not even my precious little chin.

His eyes lock dead center on my face.

On my nose.

As he studies me silently, fire burns its way up my cheeks. There can be no doubt he’s taking in the beak-like quality I’ve learned to appreciate. Well, “appreciate” might be a stretch. You learn to appreciate fine art or classical music, and my nose is a long way from those things. I guess you could say I’ve learned to tolerate my nose.

Until now.

At this very second, I’d give anything to be sitting in the doctor’s office, taking “before” pictures and scheduling the blasted rhinoplasty.

“Nice to meet you, Rock,” I say, extending my hand for a shake. Anything to break the intensity of his eyes on my ginormous flaw.

Lots of good points in that passage too. I’ll leave the Deep Editing Analysis of that excerpt to you all.

Kudos to Lara Chapman for her stellar writing!

FYI: Lara Chapman took my online courses and attended a full day master class before she was contracted. Lara must love learning. She attended an Immersion Master Class at my home in Colorado in August.


You have four options:

1. Share an analysis point for the second excerpt.

2. Post an example of fresh writing from your WIP

3. Post an example of fresh writing from one of your favorite authors.

3. Post “Hi Margie!” :-))

If you’ve taken one of my courses, attended a one or two day Master Class, did four days with me on my Write At Sea Cruise, or you’re one of my 114 Immersion Master Class grads . . . let me know.

If you use your initials or just your first name, my psychic powers may fail me. I’d love to know you’re here.

Post a comment and you could WIN:

An online course (up to $40 value) I teach for Lawson Writer’s Academy!

Lawson Writer's Academy is growing. We now have 30 courses and 12 instructors, including C.J. Lyons, Sharon Mignerey, Vannetta Chapman, Jeanne Stein, and Shirley Jump. All LWA courses are taught in a cyber classroom from my website,

Tour the Lawson Writer's Academy campus. Drop by the LWA Coffeehouse, the Resource Center, and the Deep Editing Fitness Center.

Are you a Margie Grad? If you’ve taken at least one of my online courses (or reviewed a Lecture Packet) and you have a book coming out, I’ll feature you on my Pubbed Margie Grad Blog. Drop by my web site and check out the blogs. Lots of learning opps!

Lawson Writer’s Academy schedule for October – December:

The Triple Threat Behind Staging A Scene:
An Actor's Take On Writing Physicality, Choreography, and Action
Instructor: Tiffany Lawson Inman
October 2 - 30; Fee: $30

So You Want to Write Urban Fantasy
Instructor: Jeanne Stein
October 2 - 30, 2011; Fee: $30

Advanced EDITS System: Turning Troubled Scenes Into Winners
Instructor: Margie Lawson
October 2 - 30; Fee: $40; Three Prerequisites

Building Your Readership with Twitter, Facebook, and Blogging
Instructor: Tamela Buhrke
Nov. 1 – 30; Fee: $30

Fab 30: Advanced Deep Editing, A Master Class
Thirty Margie-grads. Thirty days. Thirty-plus pages. Digging deep. Empowering Scenes.
Instructor: Margie Lawson
November 1 - 30; Fee: $75; Four Prerequisites

To learn about Margie’s Immersion Master Classes in Colorado, Lawson Writer’s Academy, full day Master Classes, Lecture Packets, Pubbed Margie Grad Blog, and newsletter, visit:


Gloria Richard said...

Hi, Margie! WOW, Lara! I LOVE your voice. Okay, for the "analysis invitation." I know there are more, but these two stayed with me.

[String of Not my..]

White space, combined with Anaphora, SAPs and character description. I think the description of her chin came close to a Zeugma b/c of the words you chose. Talk about pulling your reader in. This is a girl most teens would love to hate, but she has THE FLAW. We HAVE to love her.

The cliche twist on Rock and a hard place? Great twist, but also shows she is not thinking about Calculus class. Forget raising the stakes. That one raised the steam.

NYT bound, IMHO. Can't wait to see more on Margie's PUBBED blog on Friday.

Kristin Lenz said...

I'm short on time this morning, so I'll just say Hi Margie! Hi Lisa! I love how you analyzed this excerpt to show us how/why it worked so well. Yep, I'm hooked. I'll check back later in the week to read more. Thanks for sharing!

Juliana said...

Hello Margie, hello Lisa *waves*

I've taken a Margie-course recently. It was Body language and Dialogue Cues and let me tell you: it was awesome!
Margie is incredible =)
Since then I've been watching closely to the next classes Margie offers.

Katie McGarry said...

Hi Margie!

I'm a huge fan of yours! I believe it was your classes that helped tip my writing from good to published. My first YA novel, PUSHING THE LIMITS, comes out with Harlequin Teen in August of 2012.

Because I learn something different every time, I plan on taking a class from you again soon!

Thanks for posting on our blog!


blueeyedadri said...

Thanks for the interesting post Katie, thoroughly enjoyed it!

Sherry Isaac said...

Hello, Margie! It's me, Sherry from IMC I II and II and a half!

Love Lara's short and powerful anaphora string. What a list.

My big challenge this week was to write a quarrel between my heroine and her hero after he has (a) jilted her then (b) followed thru on promise to teach her to line dance only to abandon her on the dance floor (yes, he has his reasons). From Homecoming:

I stepped closer. “Me? Playing games? What about you?”

Philip stepped to meet me. Toe to toe. Do-si-do. “I don’t play games.” His breath was sweet, like ginger ale.

“Oh, no? Fly out and spend the weekend, Hannah. I’ll teach you how to do-si-do, Hannah.”

I’ll break your heart, Hannah.

Kimberle said...

Hi Margie! ;) My daughter and I have read FLAWLESS and love, love, love it. The whole book is filled with fresh and fun writing. Thanks for sharing!

Lara Chapman said...

Sherry... love that little blip! Poor Hannah!


Lara Chapman said...


Thank you so much for the Flawless love! :-)


Margie Lawson said...

Gloria --

I loved the cliche twist on Rock's name and hard place. Fun!

Loved your play on cliche too: Forget raising the stakes. That one raised the steam. ;-)

Can't wait to see your books in print!

Margie Lawson said...

Hello Kristin!

Ah, your brain cells are craving more. Excellent.

You can read more deep editing analyses on my Pubbed Margie Grad Blog. Visit my home page,, click on the link, and you can read my analyses for Sherry Isaac, Maggie Jaimeson, Renee Ryan, Jeanne Adams, Jeanne Stein, and Darynda Jones.

If you're interested in learning more deep editing, check out my Lecture Packets for my BIG THREE:

1. Empowering Characters' Emotions

2. Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More

3. Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist.

If you have questions, ask!

Thanks for chiming in. :-)

Margie Lawson said...

Hello Juliana!

Great to see a Writing-Body-Language-and-Dialogue-Cues grad here. :-)

I teach advanced courses in October and November. Both have the prerequisites listed in the post above.

I offer Lecture Packets, so no one has to wait until I offer classes again. I teach my BIG THREE in Feb., March, and April.

Thanks for the kind words. I'm smiling. ;-))))))

The Jammie Girl said...

I am SO hooked. I just put Flawless on my Kindle "download soon" list, and if you haven't already done so please click over to Amazon and check out this book's cover - exceptionally clever given the excerpt here :) I'm not a Margie grad YET, but I'm slowly working my way through my Empowering Characters Emotions Lecture Packet - I don't want to rush and miss anything!

Margie Lawson said...

Katie --

Congratulations on all your contracts!

Thank you for letting me know what you learned in my deep editing courses helped you sell. Yay!

Other writers have shared that sentiment. It always gives me a visceral hit. :-)

I'm looking forward to featuring you on my Pubbed Margie Grad Blog in August, 2012. But I don't want to wait that long!

The Jammie Girl said...

Yes, I am hooked! I now have Flawless on my Kindle "download ASAP" list. And the cover is extremely clever - everyone should pull it up after reading this excerpt. I'm not a Margie grad yet, but am working my way through Empowering Characters Emotions

Lisa Tapp said...

Hi Margie! Huge thanks for sharing with us. I'll contribute some fresh writing from Gayle Forman's "Where She Went."
"When the lights come up after the concert, I feel drained, lugubrious, as though my blood has been secreted out of me and replaced with tar." I love that image.

Like Katie, I feel like your classes have lifted my writing several levels. I'm a Margie junkie!

Thanks for sharing.

Kelly Ethan said...

It's just before feeding time for the twins so I won't post an excerpt. But I want to say your analysis makes for very interesting reading. Heading to your website now to have a browse.

Thank you!

Kelly Ethan

Margie Lawson said...

Hello Blue Eye --

Glad you enjoyed my blog!

Thanks for chiming in.

Margie Lawson said...

Sherry --

Love your toe-to-toe do-si-do. Fabulous content and cadence.

Just what I'd expect from a multi-Immersion grad. :-)

Thanks for visiting YA Fusion!

Margie Lawson said...

Kimberle --

Ah -- a book that you and your daughter both loved. Very cool.

I'd love to have a pic of you and your daughter holding FLAWLESS. :-)

I bet you and your daughter will love Katie McGarry's August 2012, release, PUSHING THE LIMITS, too.

Margie Lawson said...

Hello Jammie Girl --

Ah -- You'll love FLAWLESS!

Have fun completing the Empowering Characters' Emotions lecture packet. More Deep Editing ahead.

Gee, that read like, Dangerous Curves Ahead. :-))

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm finishing off today the third package from Margie. I highly recommend her courses. You'll see a huge improvement in your writing if you take them.

Warning: some authors' books will seem dull after you've finished reading Margie's stuff. I'm reading one YA bestseller's book, and his stuff seems completely devoid of emotion.

Deleyna said...

Hi, Margie! Great examples. Now I have another book to read!

Margie Lawson said...

Lisa --

Ahh . . . Love that example.

The imagery and the content are so strong.

Reading it make me feel as though my blood had been secreted out of me and replaced with tar.

That's powerful writing!

Thank you again for inviting me to be your guest on YA Fusion. I enjoyed reading about all the YA Fusion'ers. Great group!

Margie Lawson said...

Kelly --

Feeding twins? Sounds like your life is always full. Hopefully it's loaded with lots of fun, not just lots of laundry.

If you have any questions about what anything you see on my web site, please feel free to email me.

margie @ margielawson . com


Margie Lawson said...

Hello Stina!

Kudos to you for reviewing three lecture packets from my courses. I load my courses with new concepts and tons of examples and explanations.

Deep Editing has 390 pages of lectures. You've given your brain a strong workout. :-)


Warning: some authors' books will seem dull after you've finished reading Margie's stuff.

Based on that comment, I'm confident you've learned how to empower your writing.

Some books have amazing stories, but they may not be presented on the page in the most compelling ways.

I trust that your books will have stellar stories and stellar writing craft. ;-)

Margie Lawson said...

Hello Deleyna --

Reading the examples from FLAWLESS, it would be tough to not want to read the whole book. ;-)

Thank you for chiming in!

Carole St-Laurent said...

Hi Margie! Lara received many high grades on those excerpt:

First, I love her new character's name, Rockford Conway. A name is important, it gives a clue to the reader of who that character is. In this case, I feel Rockford Conway will be a bad ass with a smooth inside.

Cliché Twist (Between Rock and a hard place)

Anaphora (Not my, Not my, Not even...)

The last 3 paragraphs are backloaded (nose, rhinoplasty, gignormous flaw.)

Good job, Lara!

Colette Ballard said...

Great post, Lisa! Great examples, Margie--I can't wait to check out your website and read FLAWLESS!

Colette Ballard said...

Great post, Lisa! Great examples, Margie--I can't wait to check out your website and read FLAWLESS!

Margie Lawson said...

Carole --

Strong analysis! Since you're an Immersion Master Class grad, I expect the best deep editing analyses, and you always deliver.

Cliche alert!

No one would know English is not your first language.

Thanks for sharing your brain. :-)

Margie Lawson said...

Colette -

Thank you! If you have any questions about my courses, lecture packets, Immersion Master Classes, whatever, please ask!

margie @ margielawson . com

I bet you'll love FLAWLESS!

RedPeril said...

Hi Margie! *frenzied waving* ;)

I was excited to see you dissecting a YA piece today! I've been gravitating more toward YA in both YA fiction and sci-fi in my writing as of late, and it's good to have a taste of some quality work.

Lara's voice captured my attention immediately. The snappy pacing and wry sense of humor are almost instantly endearing. And her main character isn't a pushover to subtle emotional abuse, either. Refreshing!

I also loved the sad irony of the "special" plate and the 'but not special enough' message of the accompanying pamphlet. That got an audible groan out of me. Any reaction you can elicit that extends beyond my mind is a great indicator of skill (and not just of the questionable condition of my mental faculties.) ;D

~Angela Blount

Margie Lawson said...

Angela --

Loved your review of Flawless. Glad Lara hooked you. :-)

Since I know you, and your cool humor, I bet you're YA voice would be as inimitable as it would be compelling.

Thank you for dropping by YA Fusion!

Bratty said...

Hi Margie. I'm not a student but would love to take one of your classes some day!

I am taking a class with your daughter in October. I'll be interested to see what it entails - I'm sure she's learned a lot from mom!

outredgeous at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Hi Margie. Great dissection--as usual. Gloria already mentioned a whole bunch of stuff, so I'm going to try to go beyond her list.

The anaphora in the Not, Not, Not sequence is also amplifying what IS true by showing what it is NOT. Then when she hits home with "On my nose" I'm wiggling in my seat hoping against hope that for some insane reason he actually LIKES it.

Visceral response "fire burns its way up my cheeks"

Power words: stuck, hard, stops, killer, dead center.

These power words then juxtaposed with the following power words which build to a great backloading: appreciate, tolerate, blasted, FLAW.

Pure genius writing, IMO. Is there a way I can channel that? Do you think Lara would mind if I suck a bit of her writing brain into mine? :)

L.A. Mitchell said...

Hi Lara, Hi Margie ~waves~

I love reading about what others have found in these two fabulous excerpts. What I noticed was the power in the paragraphing. I'm all into that right now (right, Margie?) so I can't help but notice how the second bit LOOKS on the page. This nose issue is front and center to this character and this WHAM moment where she sees the guy of her dreams staring at her nose was powerful not only because she used Litotes (NOTs) but they were each their own SAPS. It's a visual O.M.G. in this ultra-approachable YA. Love it, Lara. Great job!

Cindy Elliott said...

Lara, love love your writing! I feel like I'm in your POV character's skin. Every scene is NYT. :)

Hi Margie! You and your courses rock!

I took Margie's online class, Empowering Character Emotions. Believe me, it's top notch. Now I'm working through two additional lecture packets - Deep Editing and Writing Body Language. Both courses top notch.

If you haven't checked out Margie's courses yet - DO IT! You won't be sorry. With work and dedication, all your scenes can be NYT!