Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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April 10, 2024

Writing Fast or Slow, Deep Editing is the Way to Go!

By Margie Lawson

Want to write four or more books per year?

You can still use many of my deep editing techniques!

Writing one book a year?

You can use more of my deep editing techniques!

Deep Editing

In this blog post I’ll share three of the 3749 deep edit goodies I teach writers to use. That may be hyperbole, or not.

  1. Use Power Words and Phrases
  2. Write Fresh, Avoid Overused Phrases
  3. Use Slip-ins for Backstory 

Let’s dive in!

1. Use Power Words and Phrases

These are words and phrases that carry psychological power. They carry a psychological message.

But they aren’t just active verbs. Most active verbs are not power words. They may work well, but they don’t carry a psychological message.

This Could Be Us, Kennedy Ryan, Immersion Grad, USA Today Bestseller

I turned to a random page, which was page 31. 

The power words and phrases are bolded.

I’ll show you what Kennedy Ryan COULD HAVE WRITTEN first.

We stare at each other in the awkward silence. Then Judah startles me with a soft touch over the bruise where Edward grabbed my wrist.

I snatch my arm away. 

I counted 8 power words and phrases in what Kennedy Ryan could have written.

I considered awkward and silence as separate power words. I considered Edward grabbed my wrist as one power phrase.

Here’s what Kennedy really wrote.

We stare at each other in the awkward silenceAwkward for me at least. He seems completely comfortable insulting my husband to my face. I’m still formulating an appropriate response and realizing there isn’t onewhen Judah startles me with a touch.

It’s a soft brush of long, strong fingers across my wrist. A dark bruise is already forming a small shackle whereEdward gripped me too tightly. I draw a sharp breath and snatch my arm away like his light touch was fire.

I counted 20 hits of power in that passage, compared to 8 in the tighter version.

Here’s another example from page 71.

The Set Up:  The wife is talking to her husband on the phone. He was taken to jail the night before. The FBI is accusing him of embezzling six million dollars.


“Edward,” I whisper. “What have you done?” 

Nothing they can prove.” 

He did it. He really did it. Oh, my God. 

Bits of his lies fly around in my head. I don’t know if he’s done everything Judah accused him of, but he’s done something. Until this moment I had held out hope that it was all a misunderstanding.

I counted 10 power words and phrases.

Here’s what Kennedy Ryan really wrote:

“Edward,” I whisper. “They mentioned offshore accounts and a summer houseWhat have you done?”

Nothing they can prove.”

He did it. He really did it. Oh, my God. 

The world as I knew it falls apart yet again, bits of his lies and deceptions flying around my head, projectile, sharp, cutting at everything I believed about life, about our past. About our future. Dread gathers in my belly and slithers up my throat while the silence elongates between us. I’m rendered speechless by his arrogance, by his recklessness. I don’t know if he’s done everything Judah accused him of, but he’s done something

Until this moment I had held out hope that it was the misunderstanding he had claimed, that they had the wrong guy. But Edward’s evasivenesshis refusal to assert his innocence confirms a horrible suspicion that’s been lurking in in the back of my mind since the FBI showed up on our front porch.

I counted 39 power words and phrases in that passage.

Your numbers may be different than mine. But the real version has almost four times as many power words and phrases.

Amplification adds power by sharing more content and deepening characterization, as well as providing a chance to add more power words and phrases.

When emotions run high, amplify! 

And be sure you load up on power words and phrases when you amplify.

2. Write Fresh, Avoid Overused Phrases

Sometimes writers forget to write fresh when it comes to faces and voices and visceral responses. But fresh writing carries more interest and power than phrases readers have read hundreds of times.

See how Becky Rawnsley and Laura Drake write fresh.

Demonseer, Merlin’s Children, Book One, R. P. Rawnsely, 3 Time Immersion Grad

  • My heart stutters, and the swirling heat in my stomach goes wild.
  • His grief rips open my heart. Shock, wonder, confusion, loss, pour into the wound. 

Look at all the emotions Becky Rawnsley packed into those two short sentences.

  • A rushing sound tears through my head. And the wild magic, my dheas, my deadly, dirty secret, surges fierce and furious deep inside my belly. 

Notice the triple alliteration in that example. D’s and S’s and F’s.

  • My belly twists like I swallowed a snake.
  • The hostility in his tone, the fury in his gaze pins me down, leaves me nowhere to hide.

Dialogue cue and facial expression -- followed by sharing impact on the POV character.

BTW – I have a webinar on that topic on my website:

Game-Changing Power: Sharing Impact on the POV Character.

Amazing Gracie, Laura Drake, 4 Time Immersion Grad

  • Her lungs tightened, laboring to pull in the molten air. Panic shot down her nerves, sending her heart into overdrive.
  • Her row was called and she followed the line to the stage, her stomach jumping like it was full of crickets.
  • She’d never seen a cow shot with a bolt gun to end its life, but she now knew the look. His eyes filled with confusion, then pain, before anger swept them away. “You came here. To tell me that?” His tone was low and deep, the warning in a wolf’s growl.

A fresh, big-time amplified look. And a fresh amplified dialogue cue too. 

  • “If you don’t have any dreams, I feel sorry for you—but you’re not killing mine.” Her words had sharp points and her closed face was as firm as a rock wall. 

Fresh dialogue cue and fresh facial expression!

      3. Use Slip-ins for Backstory 

Slip in facts readers need to know. Things like setting, who’s who, your POV character’s age or age range, and how something emotionally impacts them. When needed, amplify.

Let’s look at the first paragraph of Piper Huguley’s recent release.

American Daughters: A Novel, Piper Huguley, 5-Time Immersion Grad

Chapter 1, Portia 

New Haven, Connecticut

October 1901 

The egg I had for breakfast this morning didn’t taste rotten, but these days, it was not always easy to know about the state of the food one ate because of the many ways merchants could mask spoiled food. Dear God, please don’t let me be bilious in public. I swallowed hard, harder, not wanting to draw attention or suffer the humiliation of being ill in public. I could not leave the hotel mezzanine and miss Father as he greeted the president. I sat next to some large potted palms, enjoying, for once, the feeling of invisibility, of not being seen or noticed. Of not being in the spotlight as Booker T. Washington’s only daughter.

Love those slip-ins!

She’s in a hotel mezzanine.

She’s waiting to watch her father greet the president.

She’s used to being in the spotlight and enjoying not being noticed here.

Backloaded the first paragraph -- she’s Booker T. Washington’s only daughter. 

Plus, she opened the book with a universal truth that grabs readers. None of us want to throw up in public.

Skipped a few paragraphs. President Theodore Roosevelt invited her father to dine at the White House. He’d be the first Negro to be an invited guest.

America—or better said, white America—was not yet ready, more than thirty years after the emancipation of enslaved people, to have a Negro dine openly at the White House with the president. No one, not even the horrified press, could be soothed that Father, with those gray eyes of his, had half-white heritage. His father, my grandfather, whoever he was, was whispered to have been a member of the legendary First Families of Virginia, the FFV, those white people who had settled the Virginia wilderness in the wake of Jamestown in 1619. After all, Father’s middle name was Taliaferro—an FFV name. 

The problem came from his other half, from the bloodline of the Negro cook and washerwoman known simply as Janey, my dearly beloved and adoring grandmother whom I had never met.

Piper slipped in that history in such a smooth, beautiful, empowered way.

So now, it was wonderful happenstance that the schedules of these two famous men would overlap just one week later here at Yale. I leaned forward, staring down at my father fretting with the rim of his top hat, circling it in his hands, waiting, waiting, waiting on his new friend, the president of the United States, who was due to come through there on his way to the auditorium for his speech. 

Piper oriented us to the setting again. Slipping in Yale and her father waiting for the president. She used the rhetorical device epizeuxis – waiting, waiting, waiting.

Then, the whirlwind better known as President Theodore Roosevelt walked into the lobby, surrounded by a cadre of other white men, who all had very stern looks on their faces. Father stepped out toward his friend, hand extended, and . . . 

And . . . 



The president passed my father right by without any kind of look, acknowledgment, or awareness of him as a human being.

Piper gave the readers a visual of the president ,and the white men with stern looks, and her father, hand extended. Then she used more white space power. 

Notice the punctuation after each “And.” That clever punctuation gives us insight into Portia’s changing emotions. I’ve never seen that before. Love it!

Wrapping Up 

This was just a tiny taste of my deep editing. A miniscule morsel. 

Check your WIP for power words and phrases.

Give your readers fresh writing. It’s worth using a few more brain cells.

Slip-in backstory and keep your pacing going strong.

Look for places where the emotion in the scene warrants amplification. And do it!

I shared three things that work for writers who write one or multiple books per year. There are lots more deep edit tips and techniques that work for writing fast. Check them out in my online courses and webinars.

Thank you for being here today! 

Post a comment, or say Hi, and you’ll be in a drawing for a lecture packet from me! 

About Margie

Margie Presenting

Margie Lawson left a career in psychology to focus on another passion—helping writers make their writing bestseller strong. She teaches writers how to bring emotion to the page. Hundreds of Margie grads hit bestseller lists. 

A popular international presenter, Margie's taught over 200 full day master classes in the U.S., Canada, France, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as multi-day intensives on cruise ships in the Caribbean. She’s taught over 220 5-day intensive Immersion Master Classes across the U.S. and Canada, and in France, Scotland, and seven cities in Australia too. 

She also founded Lawson Writer's Academy where you’ll find over 30 instructors teaching online courses through her website. She developed 39 webinars that share her deep editing techniques and more! To sign up for Margie’s newsletter, visit www.margielawson.com.

Check out the online classes offered by Lawson Writer’s Academy in May!

  1. Giving Your Chapters a Pulse
  2. Conspiracy Theories in History and Writing
  3. Virtues, Vices, and Plots
  4. The Fiction Writer’s Future
  5. Deep Editing, Rhetorical Devices, and More
  6. Making Endings Pop, Deep Editing Style!

Don’t miss the 39 webinars in my Dig Deep Webinar Series!

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45 comments on “Writing Fast or Slow, Deep Editing is the Way to Go!”

  1. Seriously people, if you've never taken a Margie class, what are you waiting for? Look back over her posts here on WITS over the years (we'll wait)... That's only a tiny pinch of what her classes will give you.

    Seriously. Sign up.

  2. This was a very informative article. Definitely need to go back to manuscript and see where I can apply it to.

  3. Hello, Margie!
    This was a most excellent post. I plan to share it (and your website info) with my writing friends, who would be wise to check out your classes. -- And thank you much for being a lover of dachshunds! Those of us who own one (or more!) doxies all appreciate it!

    1. Hellooo Ginger --

      I see your name and think about sitting with you in Phoenix, chatting for hours, many many many years ago! Such fun memories!

      Love what you wrote:

      This mini-morsel of writing wisdom is worth its weight in platinum!

      I'm using that gem!

      Thanks for chiming in!

  4. Hi Margie! This post gave me some wonderful ideas, and I stopped reading a couple of times to go to my WIP to edit and insert something fresh. Thank you!

    1. Hello DL Willette --

      I love knowing that you're using the ideas from my blog.

      Keep in mind, it's a miniscule morsel of what I teach. You ought to check out my online courses and webinars. You'll learn how to add so much more power to your writing!

  5. I can't get enough of these Margie Lawson blogs with the excellent examples! I've taken her deep editing and visceral writing courses and many others. I agree with Laura Drake. Check out everything her website has to offer. You won't be sorry!

    1. Harley --

      Thank you! Glad my shiny gems caught your attention!

      Have fun applying what you learned. And don't forget this blog was a tiny taste, a miniscule morsel of my deep editing goodies. Consider my online courses, lecture packets, and webinars.

      The examples I use in blogs are from authors who have taken all my courses, watched lots of my webinars, and attended my 5-day intensive Immersion classes several times.

      I just want blog guests to know these authors are deep edit masters!

  6. Margie, I love to find your WITS posts in my inbox. You share such fabulous examples from your amazing students of strong, fresh, powerful writing. I love all your wise advice for writers. . . but this phrase in your post today is great. . . it's worth using a few more brain cells. Most definitely.

    1. Suzanne --

      I love finding you here!

      I know you use your brain cells and make deep editing magic happen on your pages. Which is why I asked you to teach my Big Three classes for me!

      I love, love, love your writing!

      Thanks so much for chiming in!

    1. Diane --

      Thank you. Sounds like you know what you need to do. Add lots more power to your writing.

      Gee... I know where you could learn how to make your writing as fresh and powerful as the examples in all my blogs!

      Bet you'd love what you learn!

  7. Don't you know I hang onto every word Margie Lawson shares. American Daughters is waiting it's turn on my Kindle. Amazing Gracie was read and loved a long time ago. Next up, a new book for me with great writing.

    Love you, Margie.


  8. Eeeep! A bucket list item checked off for me! It's SO hard to get historical information in and I try to stay aware that I'm not doing the dreaded info dump. Glad that it worked here! Thank you for reading and casting a spotlight on American Daughters and I hope to see you soon!

    1. Hellooo Piper!

      You did it! You slipped in history in concise, compelling ways. And you filtered it through Portia so beautifully.

      It seemed effortless, but we all know you used some of your pretty deep editing brain cells to make your writing flow and carry power.

      I hope to see you soon too!

    1. Hello Brenna Ash --

      Aw... Thank you!

      That's what I'm all about. I give writers tools they can use to add emotional power to their writing. Glad you're using what you learn from me!

  9. What a wonderful post Margie, and I'm honoured to be included among such stellar examples.

    And as Laura says - the Deep Editing points Margie shares here are like a sprinkling of gold dust. If you want to find the motherlode, Margie's classes are richer than the finest Klondike goldmine. So much writing wisdom and so many tools you can start using right from day one to add power and sparkle and magic to your work. Don't miss out!!

  10. I went through the Empowering Emotions lessons page by page with my latest, CRUEL CHARADE, coming out in August from The Wild Rose Press. So valuable every time. Thank you again for some of the most valuable writing instruction I ever received.

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