The Page a Day Writers Group

A Tad Bit of Deep Editing

Posted on: December 10, 2009

“The cat sat on the mat is not a story.  The cat sat on the other cat’s mat is a story.”  It’s funny how adding or subtracting a few words can totally change a sentence as seen here in a quote by John Le Carré.  Just think what the same concept could do for a story.  A fellow writer friend introduced me to a concept developed to “add psychological power to your writing.”  Deep Editing, a new technique created by Margie Lawson, is designed to help writers produce their best work possible.   

Deep editing takes you deeper into determining what you need to do to strengthen a sentence, a scene, and even a chapter.  As we all know it takes not only a good story to produce an outstanding book, but also excellent writing.  Have you ever read a scene that was so gripping you couldn’t wait to see what happened next?  It’s two o’clock in the morning and you know you have to get up in a few hours, but you keep saying, “One more chapter.  Just one more chapter.”  Has this ever happened to you?  I go through this every time with my favorite author, Brenda Jackson.  Whenever I read one of her books, there’s no skimming through her stories.  Her descriptive writing and engaging dialog pulls me in with every word and keeps me turning the pages to the very end!  I remember studying the writing of one of her books and couldn’t help but wonder if she uses the deep editing technique with her stories.

I know for a fact deep editing can be very involved, but worth the effort.  I’ve tried one aspect of the technique with a few scenes from my first manuscript, and was amazed at how well the process worked.  Lawson suggests you pick a scene from your work in progress (WIP), then go through the whole scene and highlight the story elements in different colors.  For example:

  • Back story, narrative, and internalization  – Highlight in yellow
  • Emotions (Character’s feelings) – Highlight in pink
  • Setting / Description –Highlight in green
  • Senses (Sight, taste, smell, touch and intuition) –Highlight in red
  • Body language / Facial expressions – Highlight in orange
  • Action/ Character movements/ Gestures – Highlight in purple
  • Dialogue – Highlight in blue

If your scenes are rich and fulfilling, you should notice an array of colors on the page.  If you see one color is dominating the scene, you might want to go back and tweak it some, with the goal of making it more colorful.  If you notice you only have one or two lines of “green,” go back and pump up the setting or description in the scene.  The purpose is to pull your readers into the story, allowing them to not only visualize the scene, but to also feel it. 

Give it a try and let me know your thoughts.

Please note:  This is only a very small example of what’s involved in deep editing.  To learn more about Margie Lawson’s techniques visit her at

Sharon C. Cooper


6 Responses to "A Tad Bit of Deep Editing"

When I first heard the concept of deep editing, I was really confused. You’ve broken it down so beautifully that I feel I can do this. I think I’ll visit Margie’s site. Sound like it’s really worth the effort. Thanks for posting this.

Actually, it is confusing – especially when you really dive into her concept. I just scratched the surface, using the part of her technique that clicked for me :).

I hear that her deep editing online class is excellent, but not easy. Hopefully I’ll be brave enough to take it…one day.

I’ve never read about this before, but it sounds fascinating and I just copied all the examples on her Margie’s web site so I can study them.

Thanks, Sharon!

That’s cool! I hope you find it useful! Maybe you can go deeper with the technique…then teach me :).

Sharon, the highlighting idea is fabulous! A wonderful tool on the journey toward rich and fulfilling scenes.

Hey Ondine,
I’m glad you think so. I’ve only tried it a few times and it was great. I plan to use it more when I start rewrites -2nd. manuscript.

If you decide to try it, let me know what you think.

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The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!


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