My Editing Process

redpenWhen you think about editing, I’m sure you imagine the proverbial red pen, bleeding all over the page. Right?

Although the red pen still, undoubtedly, has its place, things have changed quite a bit. I would say 99% of my editing is done on the computer.

I use a PC, so I use Microsoft Word. When I finish the draft of a manuscript, I let it sit for up to a week. (Honestly, usually it doesn’t sit that long, just a few days.) When I open the file to edit, I use the Track Changes feature.

For fiction and nonfiction, I start with the little things: spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Then I move on to continuity. I look at things like flow and transitions. For fiction, I look at character development, dialog, and story progression. I look for plot holes. (Sometimes I don’t see them, so I use beta readers to help me find those.)

I go over it more than once before I send it to either an editor if I’m self-publishing or an agent/publisher if I want to go a different route. Typically, I go over it at least four rounds. Each round consists of multiple passes checking everything I mentioned above. On my current novel that I’m working on with The Wild Rose Press, I have about five passes for each round. I’m on the second round with them, which is really about the sixth round for me.

If you want to count each pass as its own editing round, then you could say RealmWalker: New Beginnings is undergoing its 30th editing pass. Is this too much?


Each pass, each round is making the story better and the characters more developed and stronger. This is particularly important where BethAnne is concerned. She’s my primary point-of-view character. I don’t want her to come across as someone who needs to be saved by a hero.

When it’s time to get to work, I sit down at the computer, turn on some music, and open the file of the moment. It can’t be just any music, though. I get too caught up in the lyrics of contemporary music and traditional classical music doesn’t help. I listen to electronic music that specifically says it’s good for studying or concentrating. It has a good beat, good tempo, and very little or no lyrics.

It keeps me on track and I get into a good work flow with that kind of music playing in my headphones. (Earbuds. Whatever.)

Here’s my question for you: What does your editing process look like? Do you listen to any music or do you work in silence?

Guest Post: Throat Singing

Guest post by Neil Douglas Newton

In the decade leading to his death Richard Feynman, the famous physicist, challenged his friend Ralph Leighton to travel to a tiny republic that had become part of the Soviet Union. Tuva is a tiny country in Asia that is populated by what is known as Turkic people. During Feynman’s challenge, it was extremely difficult for Americans to travel to Tuva. It took years before Feynman and his friends got the requisite paper work to authorize their travel. In the end, Feynman succumbed to cancer just before he was scheduled to visit the country. His daughter took his place.

The prestige of Tuva took off after Feynman’s death. A unique and mostly rural country, Tuva has a mountainous and forbidding landscape . What dominates Tuvan culture is horses and religion. But what has been the greatest export of this tiny country is music. One of the traditions of Tuva is something that most westerners know little about. It’s called “throat singing” and most likely stems from musical prayer techniques in the Buddhist temples. By any standards, throat singing is fascinating. Also called “biphonic singing,” throat singing involves, by western standard, an odd technique that utilizes the vibrations of normal singing to create a second tone by manipulation of the vocal chords and the mouth. This produces what are called overtones which are tones related to the original tone sung by the singer.

While a technical description of throat singing could make the eyes glaze over, it’s more important to describe the actual sound of throat singing. One form of the art creates an eerie whistling sound that rises and falls as the singer manipulates lips and oral cavity. Another version creates odd low grating tones. All this sounds basically odd by western standard, but hearing throat singing is a treat.

My experience with throat singing began with a musical group called Huun Huur Tu, a group I saw three times in New York City. The group travels the world, bringing their unique style to audiences everywhere. What underlies much of the music is a compelling clip-clop rhythm that comes from their national love of horses. The instruments are also traditional with the exception of the occasional use of a guitar.

Since the allure of the music is in the hearing I’ll ask my readers to follow this link to music by Huun Huur Tu.  Shortly into the song you’ll hear what sounds like a whistling sound; this is throat singing:

Just north of Mongolia, Tuva has been annexed twice in thirty years by Russia without anyone being the wiser. A large part of the population of Tuva is Russian and  Russian is the official language of the country. Its ethnic makeup is complex, being made up a Mongols and other Turkic people.  The working popular language is a mix of Russian, Tuvan and Mongolian.

Along with the sound of the horse moving, Tuvan music is based on multiple layers of sound expressed simultaneously. The Alash Ensemble web page describes this musical phenomenon as follows:

The Tuvan way of making music is based on appreciation of complex sounds with multiple layers. Whereas the western cellist aims to produce a focused, pure tone, the Tuvan igil player enjoys breaking the tone into a spray of sounds and textures. Absolute pitch is less important than richness of texture. “Multiple sonorities are heard together as an inseparable whole. This idea may be illustrated by an anecdote about a respected Tuvan musician who was demonstrating the igil, a bowed instrument with two strings tuned a fifth apart. When asked to play each string separately, he refused, saying it wouldn’t make any sense. The only meaningful sound was the combination of the two pitches played together.”

Throat singing allows the singer to create two or three tones simultaneously. While seemingly magical to the west, where a singer only produces one tone, it is also natural  to the human body; this should expand the horizons of musical knowledge if studied correctly.

Keeping the traditions of multiple layers of tonality Hun Huur Tu has recently expanded their music to include more western instruments and even electronic music. Perhaps this small country may have a hand in the future of music both in Asia and the west.

Additional links:

Hun Huur Tu on KEXP:
Orphan’s Lament:
Altai Sayan Tandy-Uula [Full album]

Neil Douglas Newton was born and raised in New York City, growing up in Bayside, a small community in Queens. He began writing as a child, creating vivid characters to entertain friends and family. Neil is also a musician who can often be seen indulging his interest in the arcane art of finger picking guitar. He has written several songs which he has performed at local venues. The Railroad is Neil’s first novel. Like its main character Neil spent a life-changing half hour in the subway on 9/11 as the Twin Towers went down. He wears a vintage subway token on a chain to remind him of what happened to him, his city, and his country. He currently lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife, writer Elizabeth Horton-Newton, and an assortment of rescued dogs and cats. Parent to four and grandparent to five, he and his wife enjoy traveling worldwide.

For more content from Neil, visit his blog and check out his Amazon author page.

Guest Post: Interview with Musician Gaelynn Lea

Guest Post by Neil Douglas Newton

Gaelynn Lea Credit to EvrGlo Media
Gaelynn Lea Credit to EvrGlo Media

Gaelynn Lea is musician unique to her age group and her time. While most women engaged in acoustic music would be treading the singer songwriter path, Gaelynn weaves a fascinating tapestry of personal themes and clearly Celtic musical sensibilities. Her songs and her voice are haunting, her lyrics poetic and reminiscent of another time. Gaelynn plays the violin but there are times when she makes it more than an ensemble instrument; she can make it a powerful foundation of a song as powerful as full band.

For those with a passion for unique, personally fueled music, outside of the mainstream, Gaelynn is a find. Her playing as a violinist is impressive with a vibrato as sweet as a any classically trained musician. At the basic of her musical DNA is Celtic music, something she played consistently through college. What puts her farther outside the musical norm is an affinity for fiddle tunes, a body of work that is popular for aficionados of traditional folk music, something that is a bridge between the dance music of older Europe and the traditional mountain music of the United States. Listening to her music you can hear the eerie strains of Appalachia

Yet Gaelynn possesses a modern sensibility. Her song “Lost in the Woods” has the deep feeling of her other songs and is about the modern dilemma of maintaining one’s integrity amid the complexity and stress of modern life.

The following are several questions that Gaelynn was kind enough to answer:

Gaelynn Lea Credit Richard Carter
Gaelynn Lea Credit Richard Carter

NDN: Are you influenced by Celtic music since it seems to be within the sound of your music?

GL: Yes, I played in a Celtic musical group all the way through college. My first album is about 80% Celtic fiddle Tunes! I know that it has influenced my style over the years.

NDN: I am almost 60. The mixture of Celtic music and fiddle tunes was extremely popular. What brought you to what might be considered old school folk music?

GL: I really enjoyed learning them in a group setting. My very first exposure to fiddle tunes was through a jam at a local bar in our town. It was much more relaxed the classical music scene and music became a social activity for me in a way that it hadn’t been it before. I think that’s what drew me in initially!

NDN: I saw your video for “Lost in the Woods.” My experience tells me that while a musician’s message seems to be obvious, it’s always worth asking the musician themselves exactly what he or she meant. What does the song mean to you?

GL: That song is about holding onto your identity & your integrity no matter what. It’s harder and harder to do that when life is busy and you are traveling, so even though I wrote the song before I won the Tiny Desk Contest. It has even more meaning for me today.

NDN: Your voice is beautiful. Like any other instrument, you make decisions to develop your sound. What influences formed your vocal technique?

GL: To be honest my voice is just my voice. I haven’t had any vocal training, but I do think performing a lot has helped it to become a little more refined. I think what inspired me was hearing Iris DeMent sing “Our Town.” She has such a unique voice and it helped me to realize that you don’t have to have a stereotypically beautiful voice to have an impact.

NDN: Do you plan to stay in the musical area that you are currently in or are you interested in expanding to other genres and perhaps even mashups?

GL: I am releasing a new album in September and that will be with a full band. So the style is a bit more pop or indie rock, but I always love to experiment. I’m not sure where my career will go in terms of musical style, but I think one thing that keeps me interested in music is that there is always room to learn and grow and change.

NDN: What advice would you give to fledgling musicians who might take a non-mainstream route in terms of how they would form their voice.

GL: Just remember that your voice is a muscle and it gets stronger with time. I used to have a very limited vocal range but that has changed in the last couple years. It all comes down to using your voice as much as you can! And pushing the air out from your diaphragm instead of your throat so you don’t strain your vocal chords. 🙂

NDN: We’ve just seen severe financial issues for franchises like Guitar Center and a filing of chapter eleven by Gibson Guitars. Autotune and electronically processed music seems to be leaving acoustic and even standard electric music in the dust. Have you considered becoming more mainstream or will you stay with your standard musicianship?

GL: I love using old instruments like violins and I have a big interest in the harp. So I don’t think I will ever stray entirely from those sorts of traditional instruments. But what I think is really cool is how you can blend technology and ancient instruments to make something new. Even though my first album is almost all the traditional fiddle tunes, I used a modern looping pedal to layer up the sounds. That changes the game a lot. I think you have to be open to both sides! And of course do what you love. 🙂

For more information on Gaelynn Lea, visit her website.

Neil Douglas Newton was born and raised in New York City, growing up in Bayside, a small community in Queens. He began writing as a child, creating vivid characters to entertain friends and family. Neil is also a musician who can often be seen indulging his interest in the arcane art of finger picking guitar. He has written several songs which he has performed at local venues. The Railroad is Neil’s first novel. Like its main character Neil spent a life-changing half hour in the subway on 9/11 as the Twin Towers went down. He wears a vintage subway token on a chain to remind him of what happened to him, his city, and his country. He currently lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife, writer Elizabeth Horton-Newton, and an assortment of rescued dogs and cats. Parent to four and grandparent to five, he and his wife enjoy traveling worldwide.

For more content from Neil, visit his blog and check out his Amazon author page.


  • Neil will have another guest post coming up soon.
  • About his blog, he offers the caveat that some of the content may be controversial.
  • All links in this post will open in a new window, so be sure to disable your pop-up blockers or press the “ctrl” button (on PC) when you click the link.

Happy Easter & Future Plans

(c) 2017 Richard R. Barron
Used with permission

I am determined to make a go of this blogging thing. I don’t know why I’m so sporadic with it. Once again, I am participating in the Ultimate Blog Challenge. I feel like if I make it through an entire month of daily posting, I can then set a sustainable schedule and maintain the blog on a regular basis.

That’s the plan, anyway.

The end of 2017 was…difficult. I developed a double ear infection that left me deaf for most of December. That was challenging. For those who don’t know, I am legally blind, so I rely on my hearing a lot. All my life, I have been able to hear very well. To have problems hearing was a trial I did not want. I learned a lot from that experience. I used to think I would rather lose my hearing than my eyesight. I know now that is not true.

On Christmas morning, I was sitting in the living room. My Dad had the TV on a channel that was playing Christmas music. After a while, I realized I could hear it. I was kind of singing along with it. Mom and Dad had since gone to different parts of the house, so I went to where Mom was.

“Is the TV blaring?” I asked.

She nodded.

“I thought it had to be because I could hear it.”

That was pretty much the only Christmas music I heard until after New Year’s Day. I found a Christmas station on iHeart Radio and listened to it for a few hours.

It’s April and I still want a do-over on Christmas.

I wish I could say the ear saga is over, but it’s not. Later this month, if everything is cleared up, I will have a hearing test to see what lasting damage there might be.

But my absence from the blog isn’t filled with only bad news. I’ve been writing. Quite a lot. And I have a new book out, Journal Your Way to Creativity. It’s available in print and on Kindle. I will tell you more about that tomorrow, but I had to mention it today.

Something else I will be talking about soon is the writer’s notebook/workbook I’ve started using. I need something that will help me to keep track of what I’m doing, what I want to do, and what’s next. I think this will do that.

In the meantime, I’m debating on which project to do next. It will either be finishing a novel or re-releasing my first book that is out of print. Decisions, decisions.

That’s it for now. This is actually posting a lot later than I had intended, so instead of wishing you a happy Easter, I will just say I hope you had a happy Easter.

Happy creating.

Is It Better to Work in Silence or With Background Noise?

There was a time that I would say it is better to work with some background noise. Hands-down. I thought I got more done and it felt kind of more like an office-with-coworkers environment. I typically had the TV on Food Network. It wasn’t ever up loud, but enough that I knew there was something going on.

Sometimes I would work with music and often found myself singing along. Obviously that wasn’t very conducive to getting anything done.

Then the cable company made some changes and we could no longer get cable through just the TV connection and had to have a box. When we moved here, I misplaced my box, so I was basically forced to work in silence. (I have since found the cable box but still have not yet hooked it up.)

I was surprised at how much more I got done. I was surprised to notice that my creativity had apparently been dulled by the background noise. I had effectively made it where I couldn’t hear myself.

That’s not a good position to be in.

I’m torn. I don’t know if I want to connect the cable box or not. I’m afraid it would mean reverting back to bad habits. (At the same time, though, I miss Food Network.) Now, the lack of TV does not mean I always work in silence. I’ve found Evan Carmichael on YouTube and his productivity music playlists. They’re mostly dance music with little-to-no lyrics. When I have a lot of stuff to do and I really don’t want to do it or I have a short time to work, I turn on one of those videos. (They’re about an hour and a half each.) One day, I got more done than I thought possible.

I don’t listen to the music a lot, but I have discovered it can be an effective tool for getting me in the mood/mindset to get things done.

What do you think? Do you work better in silence or with background noise?

Kevin Welch at the Goddard Center

jenmomkevinwelchI just had an amazing weekend and I wanted to tell you about it.

My mom (that’s her on the right) went to a Kevin Welch concert at the Goddard Center in Ardmore, Oklahoma, on Friday. The concert was Kevin Welch, a country music singer and songwriter (that part will become important in a minute) and his son Dustin.

Kevin played his guitar. Dustin played two kinds of guitar and a banjo. They sang together and separately. Each sang backup for the other. They have a beautiful harmony. We had front row seats and didn’t miss a ting.

Remember the part about songwriting?

On Saturday, they had a songwriting workshop. Kevin said these workshops are normally 2-3 days. This one was fro 10:00 to 3:00 on Saturday. He said it was difficult to figure out what to include and what to leave out in such a short workshop.

It was pretty intense.

We talked about shapes, patterns, rhymes (or not rhymes) as they pertain to songs. We also talked about such things as a prechorus, chorus, and bridge. The use of metaphor and cinematic writing and so much more!

Several people brought their guitars. One man brought his mandola. He said it’s like a Chinese mandolin but with one extra string. We went around he table where participants played and sang what they were working on. Except me. I had two lines of a chorus that I didn’t know what to do with and I (currently) don’t play guitar. The woman beside me didn’t play either.

As the workshop was winding down, Kevin said we didn’t even touch on allegory or parables in songwriting. Honestly, I don’t know if my head could have handled much more. I was already on information overload and couldn’t even start processing everything until today. Thank goodness for taking notes!

It was a great workshop!

If you’re ever in Ardmore during business hours, be sure and go to the Goddard Center and check it out! I didn’t get to see near enough of it and can’t wait to go back!

Soundtracks for Writing

What do you have going in the background when you’re writing? Do you prefer silence or do you have the TV or radio/other music source on?

I can write in silence, but more often than not, I prefer to have something on in the background. If it’s not something that annoys me, I actually find that it helps me to focus better.


When I was growing up and doing homework, my mom was a babysitter. There was always something going on. I got used to working with background noise. That has actually served me well in various jobs. With writing, I tend to have to create my own background noise.

Often, I’ll have the TV on in the background. Sometimes I’ll pay attention to it, but usually it’s just there as white noise.

When I’m writing fiction, though, I will usually turn some music on. My musical preferences are dictated by the current project. For example, with my NaNoWriMo story, I’m listening to a lot of modern rock (especially Shinedown) and some classic country.

I know. Odd combination, right?

But it works for my characters. The heroine listens to modern rock. The hero listens to classic country. (And a couple days ago, I actually found his theme song when it comes to her. “Shameless” by Garth Brooks.)

Feel free to leave a comment. How do you prefer to work? In silence or something in the background? Why or why not?