A Taste of the EDITS System by Margie Lawson

Programming note: Today is number three out of four of Margie Lawson’s special guest blogs. Oh boy, but here is just a glimpse of what you can learn from her. Get out your highlighters because your manuscript is about to get a workout. (Notice the RWA ladies in the picture below? Their highlighters are at the ready as Margie walks them through her EDITS system.) If this system is exactly what you’ve been needing, sign up for one of her classes or purchase a lecture packet. I took a class last spring and I’m hooked.

More Secrets to Writing Irresistible Fiction

A TASTE OF THE EDITS SYSTEM

By Margie Lawson

TODAY – I’ll share some components of my EDITS System.

San Francisco Area RWA, Applying the EDITS System!I’m taking a risk.

A HUMONGO RISK.

The Risk:  After you read this blog, some of you may think you know everything you need to know about analyzing your scenes with my EDITS System.

The truth is, you may know just enough to be dangerous.

Dangerous?  Ha!

I exaggerated. And I also used a cliché. Aack! Cliché alert!

The truth is, you may know enough to dissect your scenes and begin to analyze them, but not enough to dig deep into the analysis to add much psychological power.

I would need to blog for several hundred pages to share the full EDITS System here. Most of my courses have over 300 pages of lectures. I dig deep and use lots of examples to show hundreds of ways to add psychological power to your scenes.

Okay – Enough of my yammering. You all get it.

A TASTE OF THE EDITS SYSTEM

The EDITS System is a tool created for writers. A power tool.

The EDITS System shows writers where to add power. It shows writers how to analyze scene components. It shows writers what’s working, what’s not working, and what’s missing.

The EDITS System is the ultimate SHOW DON’T TELL power tool.

When writers use this highlighting system, patterns emerge for each scene. They may be surprised to see that in an emotionally-driven scene they wrote, they kept the POV character in their head, locked in internalizations. All thoughts, no visceral responses. If the writer slipped in a few visceral responses, they’d take the scene from the POV character’s head, and the reader’s head, to the reader’s heart.

The EDITS System helps writers find a compelling balance of emotion, dialogue, internalizations, tension, conflict, setting, description, action, senses, body language and more . . . that works for their specific scene dynamics.

A critical component of the EDITS System is highlighting EMOTION.

CAUTION!  CAUTION!  CAUTION!

Every component of a scene can carry emotion. Dialogue, thoughts, action, body language, dialogue cues, even setting can carry emotion.

Emotionally-connoted setting:  Show me a picture of a closed coffin surrounded by funereal flower arrangements, and I’ll have a visceral response. Guaranteed.

Writers have to know WHAT to highlight as EMOTION. If writers highlighted everything on every page that carried some emotion, their data would be diluted.

When I developed the EDITS System, I knew I had to be discriminating when highlighting emotion. To select only the strongest elements of emotion experienced by a Point of View character.

Readers identify with the POV character. Internally, readers rejoice when the POV character rejoices – and get anxious when the POV character gets anxious. If reading a well written novel, a reader’s heart rate increases when the POV character’s heart rate increases. That reader is so immersed in the story, they are viscerally engaged.

When creating the EDITS System, my goal was to determine what components of a scene set the strongest emotional hook. What made a book a page-turner.

Given that the story is compelling, the plot is strong, and the characters live in your heart or dreams or nightmares – what writing craft processes could make the difference between a skimmer and a winner?

What could writers do to keep the reader so committed to the read, that they’d rather finish your book, than sleep in, eat chocolate, or have sex?

The answer is the incontrovertible power of the VISCERAL RESPONSE – accelerated heart rate, sweaty palms, dry mouth, tight chest, clenched stomach, weak knees, blood rushing to chest, neck, and face, adrenaline pumping, heart pummeling rib cage . . . .

In the EDITS System, VISCERAL RESPONSES are the only things highlighted in PINK.

Got it?

Not a kick in the shins.

Not an expletive.

Not watching someone get shot.

If the writer neglects to have the POV character experience a visceral response after one of those emotionally-loaded stimuli -- NO PINK in that passage.

The EDITS System Consists of Six Parts:

1. Emotion – PINK Highlighter -  for Visceral Responses Only 
2. Dialogue – BLUE Highlighter 
3. Internalizations – YELLOW Highlighter   
4. Tension and Conflict  -- ORANGE Highlighter
5. Setting and Description – GREEN Highlighter  
6. Nonverbal Communication – RED Pen

BLOG GUESTS – If this is your first time reading about my EDITS System, you are probably experiencing a visceral response!

At first, it seems like a lot to learn – and a lot to do.

I PROMISE, if you study how to use one color at a time, it’s easy to learn.

AND – after you have learned the full system, and highlighted about five chapters, you have the highlighting system imprinted in your mind.

You see the colors in your mind while you write and edit. As you write, you add psychological power.

One of the coolest features of using the EDITS System — is that when a scene doesn’t work, you can figure out why.

Are you with me?

The EDITS System shows you what’s not working.  Cool!

When you analyze the components of your scene, determine why it’s not working, you know what to do to fix the scene, and make it stellar.

Way cool!

Let’s look at each color and what it covers.

DIALOGUE:  BLUE

Think – talked a blue streak – and you’ll remember BLUE is for DIALOGUE.

Always START with BLUE. Highlight what is between the quotes in blue.

Read the dialogue from one scene or chapter out loud. Read it straight through like it’s a script. You may catch twenty-plus critical dialogue-related flaws.

VISCERAL RESPONSES:  PINK

Use the pink highlighter for INVOLUNTARY PHYSICAL REACTIONS TO EMOTION, VISCERAL RESPONSES, including stomach lurching, heart pummelling chest, shallow respiration, tight throat, sweaty palms, shaky legs. Write it fresh, not tried and trite.

Writers need to embrace four points about visceral responses:

Placement in Scene

Placement in the Motivation Reaction Unit

Writing them Fresh

Level of Intensity of the Visceral Response

NOTE:  You won’t have as much PINK as you think. Use PINK when it counts.

SETTING & DESCRIPTION:  GREEN

GREEN – Think setting, green grass, then slide it over and cover character description too. Green covers every component of setting as well as physical features of characters and what they are wearing.

INTERNALIZATIONS & MORE:  YELLOW

YELLOW –Internalizations. Narrative, Exposition, Backstory, Flashbacks, Omniscient Narrator . . . It is ALL highlighted with YELLOW.

BEWARE:  If you have several lines or paragraphs of green or yellow, be sure they work. Readers have a tendency to skim sections of green and yellow. Agents and editors do too. Or worse, they quit reading.

TENSION & CONFLICT:  ORANGE.

USE ORANGE IN THE MARGIN. Use DOTS, SHORT DASHES, LONG DASHES, or SOLID LINES.

ORANGE WILL OVERLAP OTHER COLORS

Put dots of orange in the margin next to a few paragraphs where tension is picking up. You could put short then long dashes that become solid lines on the next page or pages as tension builds and builds.

When the orange drops off, you may notice that you pulled power with comic relief, or a character introduced another topic, or a distraction presented. Did you intentionally break the tension? Or did you inadvertently pull back on the power?

If you planned to break the tension there, good for you. If you didn’t realize the tension deflated, an unintended fizzle factor, you know what to do. Increase the tension.

UNDERLINE ALL NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION  with a RED PEN.

Nonverbal Communication covers several areas. Think DABS for dabs of nonverbal communication.

DABS:

D – Dialogue Cues  — how the dialogue is delivered

A – Action – choreography, movement

B – Body Language – facial expressions, posture, proximity

S – Senses – all six:  sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, intuition

Remember —  The RED Pen covers all DABS.

Overview of the EDITS System:

The EDITS System helps writers analyze patterns on the page as well as what’s missing. The overall read is enhanced, and the writer’s voice remains intact.

Applying the EDITS System to your Work In Progress breaks out the component parts of a scene and shows the writer what they need to do to improve that scene. Using the EDITS SYSTEM is one of the steps that can contribute to making your book a page turner.

YIKES!  I threw a lot at you . . . I hope some of it sticks.

I’m teaching Empowering Characters’ Emotions (ECE) on-line through PASIC in March.

You can read a course description for ECE on my web site under Lecture Packets. www.MargieLawson.com.

I’ll be back next Tuesday to share more secrets of writing irresistible fiction. Now it’s your turn.

PLEASE CHIME IN!

If you have used my EDITS System, please post one thing you learned that made a difference in a scene, or made a difference in your writing.

If you are not yet addicted to highlighters, have not yet used my EDITS System, please post how you think it could help you analyze your scenes. A general comment is fine. No deep analysis required. 🙂

If you post a comment to the loop by 9PM Mountain Time, you are entered in the drawing for a Lecture Packet ($22 value).

I will draw a name for a Lecture Packet at 9PM Mountain Time. Winners may choose a Lecture Packet from one of my six on-line courses. Lecture Packets are available for all my courses through Paypal from my website, www.MargieLawson.com.

1. Empowering Characters’ Emotions

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

3. Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist

4. Powering Up Body Language in Real Life:Projecting a Professional Persona When Pitching and Presenting

5. Digging Deep into the EDITS System

6. Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors

Margie Lawson —psychotherapist, writer, and international presenter—developed innovative editing systems and deep editing techniques for writers.

Her Deep Editing tools are used by all writers, from newbies to NYT Bestsellers. She teaches writers how to edit for psychological power, how to hook the reader viscerally, how to create a page-turner.

Over four thousand writers have learned Margie’s psychologically-based deep editing material. In the last five years, she presented fifty-two full day Master Classes for writers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Lectures from each of Margie’s on-line courses are offered as Lecture Packets through PayPal from her web site. For more information on courses, lecture packets, master classes, and 3-day Immersion Master Class sessions, visit:  www.MargieLawson.com .

Thank you for joining us today!

All smiles…………Margie

www.MargieLawson.com

65 thoughts on “A Taste of the EDITS System by Margie Lawson”

  1. Anna, happy you found Routines for Writer’s website. However, if you are looking for Margie to talk to your writing group, you’ll have to contact her on her website posted above. (She was only guest blogging with us.) Hope you enjoy using her EDITS system!

  2. I just found your site and EDITS System. I can’t wait to try it with my manuscript. It would be great if you’d be able to give a class for our writing group (PA) about the EDITS System.

  3. Margie, I just want to say thanks for sharing so much with us. I have a couple of your lecture packets and I’ve taken your Defeating Self-Defeating Behaviors class. You are a treasure trove of encouragement, instruction and inspiration. Thank you!

  4. Hi Margie,

    You have inspired my first blog post ever. I adore your edits system, and saw it make a step change in my writing when I started using it. Thank you for sharing your system and helping me to see the Power of Pink! (I’m a thinking girl, and the hook of visceral responses was an eye opener for me.)

    Thank you again,

    Lynn

  5. Thanks, Margie! You’ve been such a great guest. Who’d have thought revision and editing could be this much fun? We’ve enjoyed sharing your insight with our readers. We’ll miss you around here, come Feb!

  6. Margie,

    You are SUCH a SWEET woman! Thanks so much for your amazing generosity! To all of us!

    God bless you lots!!
    Love, Kitty 🙂

  7. PS from MARGIE —

    HMM — I said FOUR FYI’s in the post above.

    I listed three. Here’s #4. 🙂

    4. I introduce my EDITS System in Empowering Characters’ Emotions, which I teach on-line in March. For more information — click on my SCHEDULE on my web site.

    THANK YOU!

  8. HELLO AGAIN!

    FOUR FYI’s!

    1. My NEWSLETTER always includes a Deep Editing Analysis. To read some of my DEA’s, click on Deep Editing Analyses on my web site, http://www.MargieLawson.com. You can sign up for my newsletter on the home page of my web site.

    2. Don’t miss my Dare Devil Dachshund Contest!
    Check it out on my web site. You may win one hour of my Deep Editng brain.

    3. I host a monthly How-to Author Series on my web site on the last Wednesday of the month. The next one is Wednesday, January 27th. I hope you drop by on Jan. 27th. Post a comment and you could win a Lecture Packet!

    THANK YOU AGAIN TO SHONNA, STEPHANIE, AND KITTY from ROUTINES FOR WRITERS. I appreciate you three!

  9. HELLO!

    THE DRAWING:

    When I pulled out a strip of paper, I had two strips of paper hooked together.

    GEE — We’ll have to have two winners!

    The TWO WINNERS ARE: CHASSILY — AND JOAN SWAN!

    Chassily and Joan: Please e-mail me and let me know which of my six Lecture Packets you would like me to send you. I’ll send the lectures as e-mail attachments.

    I AM HONORED TO BE A GUEST ON THE ROUTINES FOR WRITERS BLOG. I’M SO IMPRESSED WITH SHONNA and STEPHANIE and KITTY. They have each earned a Lecture Packet too.

    S, S, and K — Please e-mail me with your choice of Lecture Packets too!

    YOU CAN ALL READ THE DESCRIPTIONS FOR MY SIX LECTURE PACKETS ON MY WEB SITE: http://www.MargieLawson.com

    I enjoyed every post to the blog. Thanks so much to all of you for joining me today. I appreciate you all!

    SEE YOU NEXT TUESDAY — FOR MY LAST GUEST BLOG ON REVISION.

    All smiles………….Margie

  10. HELLO TES —

    GREAT QUESTION!

    I find a higher percentage of GREEN in historicals, fantasy, paranormals – anything other-wordly. GREEN covers setting and character description. When sharing other worlds, writers need to provide more description.

    I find more RED PEN in suspense and thrillers that are loaded with action scenes.

    The BALANCE of EDITS System colors will vary somewhat due to voice, genre, style, scene.

    Thanks for asking! I hope to see you on-line again!

    teshilaire said in January 19th, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Margie,

    Do you find that different types of fiction (ie urban fantasy vs contemporary vs historical vs suspense) are weighted more with certain colors than others using your EDITS system? and if so, is this necessary and good? or should all genre’s strive for a particular balance?

    Thanks!
    Tes

  11. HELLO WHAT IF GIRL!

    Ah – You’re diving into my Deep Editing Lecture Packet. Enjoy!

    I’m sitting in front of a roaring fire now. One miniature dachshund on my lap (with my new Acer!) and the other miniature dachshund next to me in the rocking chair. Happy times!

    Hope you are having happy times too. 🙂

  12. HELLO BARBARA E —

    Good for you. You plan to try the EDITS System — and I always recommend starting with BLUE. Highlight only what is between the quotes. Read it outloud – and see if your characters are differentiated. Speech patterns. Word choice. Sentence structure. That’s a good start.

    Please remember my risk. :-))

  13. HELLO COURTNEY!

    Yay! I hope I get to see you in Empowering Characters’ Emotions in March. I always have fun teaching on-line and in person. I can promise you a month loaded with fun and brain-stretching. Oh, homework too. 🙂

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