Friday: Showcase

Publishing News

Dun-dun-dun-duuuuuuun! Published on 6 December 2013 and crafted for your reading pleasure, it’s the debut novel of Lexa Cain, Soul Cutter!

The Soul Cutter is hunting again. 

Soul Cutter #0

Seventeen-year-old Élan spends her free time videoing psychic scams and outing them online. Skepticism makes life safe—all the ghosts Élan encounters are fakes. When her estranged mother disappears from a film shoot in Egypt, Élan puts her medium-busting activities on hold and joins the search.

In Egypt, the superstitious film crew sucks at finding her mom. When a hotel guest is killed, whispers start—the locals think their legendary Soul Cutter has come back from the dead. Élan’s only ally is Ramsey, a film-crew intern, but he’s arrogant, stubborn—and hiding dangerous secrets.

When Élan discovers the Soul Cutter is no scam, she finds herself locked in a deadly battle against a supernatural killer with more than her mother’s life at stake.

Élan’s fighting for her very soul.

Previously mentioned here. If you haven’t picked it up yet, please do so here and now. It’s a thrilling read!

Wednesday: Editing Tricks

Editing Tricks

One thing that doesn’t get enough attention as an editing tool is the Style Sheet. (Yeah, I’m capitalizing it. What? It’s important.)

I’ve made many style sheets throughout the years, but I only just started making them for my own writing. It helps you (or your editor) keep all your proper nouns, stylistic quirks, and story details organized and, therefore, consistent. I organize all mine this way:

Author: If I didn’t write the piece in question, I need to know who did! This is where I list the author’s alias and name, their contact information, and what package they ordered, along with any notes they might have given me. I list each item as a bullet point for clarity.

Title: Only the title goes here, because the title has to reverberate throughout the piece, yes? The title has to make sense for the entire work you’re editing.

Type: This is where I list whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, a short story, novella, excerpt, novel, essay, article, research paper, or whatever. I also put the word count that the piece had when I received it, so after I finish editing it, I can compare the before count with the after count.

Characters: List every single character here, even if the character is mentioned one time on page thirty-six in passing. I organize them by role, then bullet-point their stats: age, appearance, skills, job, hobbies, nicknames, friends, enemies, goal, or anything that is relevant to the piece. If they own a car, I probably don’t have to mention it. If it’s a murder mystery involving a hit-and-run, it goes on there, with every reference to it marked (pages 1, 7-8, 24, and 51).

Locations: Like above, I list every location the piece mentions. The city, state, county, nation, continent—whatever the writer gives us. Mountain ranges, water bodies, roads, villages, nightclubs, ski resorts, ancient ruins, hotels—anything. Each location is bulleted under a parent regional location with the page numbers of the first mention preceding any other notes about it. Read that five times fast.

Numbers and Letters: Here is where I keep all the different forms of numbers and acronym- or letter-mentions. For example, I’d include the first mention of each: distance (length and height), money, chemicals, age and years, and then miscellaneous. Now, if the character goes to the gas station in chapter one and buys a candy bar for $1.04, then in chapter seven is paid $20 for baby-sitting a French poodle, I’d have to include only the first candy-bar instance and make sure that any time I run into a cash transaction, the format matches the one on my style sheet. Make sense?

Formatted Font: This is where I include all the italicized, boldfaced, or underlined things that are consistently italicized, boldfaced, or underlined. I would not, for example, bother to mention when something in dialogue is italicized for stress; that doesn’t have to be checked and re-checked throughout the piece. However, I would include the first instances of direct and indirect thought, onomatopoeia, non-English words, special characters (like the pi symbol), and media titles.

Punctuation: List the used punctuation; ask if the writer uses the serial comma, then include the earliest instance of your answer. What do they hyphenate, when do they use em- or en-dashes, do they use the apostrophe-S on a name like Boris, do they use single or double quotation marks for quoted items within and without dialogue? The list goes on. Whatever you encounter, keep it here as a reference or as a note to check the correct usage.

Word List: Oh, yay! The biggest, most grueling part of the Style Sheet and your piece—the list of all the words you had to check! This list will include words you didn’t know were supposed to be one word instead of two, or words from above (onomatopoeia, non-English words, etc.), or words you’ve just never heard before, or words you had to check the spelling for, or words the writer misuses and the words they meant to use and the words you suggested instead, or the name of a location, a culture, a class, a vehicle, a button, an operating system, a robot, a species, a spell, a breed, or a slang term, or a slur. The first novel I ever edited (about 80,000 words) had 188 words in the list, including the names of gadgetry and non-English words.

References: Finally, list the dictionary and encyclopedia you used to edit this work, and any other fact-checking resource you had to find (but make sure to mark what part of the work made you look at this).

I’ll use Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to show you guys how to format your style sheets on the next Editing Tricks Wednesday! Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

Friday: Promotion

Call To Write

Because I edit fiction for a living, writing first drafts (or first-drafting) can be difficult. First-drafting is when you stifle your inner editor and just write your scene(s). It doesn’t have to be interesting, pretty, or even comprehensible. Just get it out so you have something to expand and edit later.

Think what you want about NaNoWriMo (I know I will), but one thing participants do that seems to help me stop talking about writing and actually do it is a writing sprint. Set a time limit (I usually do 15 minutes), and refuse all distractions so you can write. Just spill it all onto the page!

I’d like to host a sprint challenge here: Open a comment, post your starting time, and WRITE for 15 minutes. Post your ending time and submit! The best “entry” will be featured with links to the author’s blog or online portfolio. Good luck!

What do you think of writing sprints, or NaNoWriMo? Post a comment below!

Wednesday: Before Editing and After

Before Editing and After

Are you on the fence about hiring an editor? That’s understandable; I write perfect prose, too. However, I’m going to make you look at this. Our new series, Before Editing and After, highlights writing that may not be bad originally, but that has improved after Cicero Grade’s suggestions.

For our debut BEA post, we thank writer Judi for sharing a bit of her short story. You’re awesome, Judi!


Many times I lie awake staring at the walls, and feel as if I’m waiting for the hush to fall so deep that Death will come at last and take me. I’ll just close my eyes and never wake up. He’ll take my hand and we’ll walk out the front door together.


Often I lie awake and stare at the walls, the silence so deep that Death could come at last and take me. I’ll just close my eyes and never wake up; he’ll take my hand and we’ll walk out the front door together.”

How would you have rewritten it? Put your answers in the comments below!

Would you like a free paragraph-edit? To be featured in Before Editing and After, send your passage of up to 150 words (along with your name and a link to your webspace) to Thanks!

Monday: Grammar Tidbit

Grammar Tidbit

I own three hundred and twenty-five Pokemon cards.

Why is twenty-five hyphenated? Why is “three hundred” left out? I don’t know. That’s just the rule. Numbers 21-99 are hyphenated, even if they’re preceded by a hundred, a thousand, or a million. So 571 is written as five hundred [and] seventy-one.

Oh, and the only Pokemon card I own now is a holographic BlastoiseI bought it at $20, and fifteen years later, it’s worth a whopping $9.99!

Win a Copy of Soul Cutter by Lexa Cain!

LogoHello, fellas and fellettes!

Sorry about the absence, but I’m working on restoring this blog to its former glory. Any “Find the Typo” photos you have would be helpful (send to Cutter #0

I’d like to direct some attention to the blog of Lexa Cain, author of Soul Cutter! She’s hosting a challenge to find the errors (rings a bell, huh?) on the freshly unveiled cover of her novel. You could even win a copy of Soul Cutter!

Ms. Cain’s novel was the first that Cicero Grade Editing has ever edited, and let me say, it was so fun to read, I kept having to pull myself out of the story! I’d get caught up in the action, the mystery, and especially the development of the characters. Now, it’s gone through the majority of the publishing process, and Ms. Cain even details some of that process on her blog, which I think is pretty cool.

Soul Cutter comes out on 6 December 2013. Way to go, Lexa!

If you’re into Young Adult fiction, the paranormal, a good mystery, ancient Egyptian history and mythology, or horror (and even if you aren’t), check out this challenge to win a free copy of Lexa Cain’s Soul Cutter!


*This challenge is no longer running. Winners posted here.*

Friday: Showcase—Shadows Express



Today’s the day! Submissions for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry are OPEN at the Shadows Express E-Zine. Yesterday, the Spring Issue released to some 1600 readers!

Shadows Express is run by volunteers and unfortunately cannot offer payment. What they can offer is a quality magazine for both readers and writers. Each submission is given consideration. Why shouldn’t your piece grace the tables of Shadows Express?


Thursday: Results

Call To Edit

We talked about redundancies within the same sentence yesterday, but I’d like to touch upon a hidden danger: redundant sentences.

Take a look at these lines:

Tech was a big man for his age and quite the gangbanger stereotype, except for his Computer Science degree. He was a gamer and computer wiz, hence the moniker.

How many of these do you have in your writing? Is there anything you find in editing that you think should be used for A Call to Edit? Post below!

Countdown to Submission Period: 1 day (!)