Powerful Women Plan for Retirement: Editing Sample

Powerful Women Plan for Retirement: Take Ownership of Your Financial Future by Debra K. Menke can be purchased here.

A very special thank you to Debbie Menke. Working with you was not just a joy; it was the pleasure of a lifetime. You helped me to become both a better editor and a better human. Plus, you lit a fire under me to get my retirement plans in order. If I’m your editor ninja, then you’re for sure my author ninja.


Included in this editing sample, you will find the following: 

  1. A summary of a portion of the high-level edits that were completed before the line editing stage.
  2. An excerpt of the line edits I returned to the author.
  3. The final version of the excerpt.

1. Summary of the First Two Rounds of High-Level Edits

Let’s be honest, finance can be boring. When I heard I had a book on planning for retirement, I kinda groaned a bit. Thankfully, the author of the book was Debbie Menke, an extraordinary human with exceptional charisma. She brought this incredible energy to the table—the kind of energy editors wet the bed over. Not only was her personal energy enough to float the project into a dream project, but the process she teaches is so incredibly unique and exhilarating. It’s a process that everyone needs to learn. Thus, my primary goal with Powerful Women Plan for Retirement was to make sure that it never became one of those boring finance books.

When people discuss information they know a lot about, it can be easy for them to start speaking in another language. They use jargon and speak in an elevated way that would be enough to confuse any novice. Debbie did an excellent job of holding the reader’s hand to explain the content in this book clearly and concisely, but after years of being a financial advisor, an outside eye was needed to help her toe the line. I found it to be an exciting challenge to push Debbie past her comfort level, to speak in a way that was kind to her reader, someone who most likely knows very little about finance, and certainly someone who cringes anytime they have to do any financial planning (hence why she needs help planning for retirement). It forced me to play the role of actor, to step into her reader’s shoes and quite literally predict the exact moments the reader would be confused.

Debbie is a talented storyteller. She’s the daughter of baseball icon Denis Menke, so she certainly has stories from her life that captivate and intrigue. I knew it would be more important than ever to find a balance between the classic “show, don’t tell,” since this story teaches lessons, while sharing real-life experiences. (In my professional opinion, that’s one of the reasons this book is pure magic.) Analyzing the text and predicting the reader’s reactions forced me to become one with the reader and essentially grow my editor skills. It was on this book that I realized that being an editor is one part fixing errors, one part predicting what reader’s will think. With Debbie’s input, we were able to craft a captivating narrative that shared the lessons Debbie taught, while allowing those lessons to breath by grounding them in reality with stories.

On top of this, Debbie is experienced beyond her years. She has worked for major corporations, run her own small business, and everything in between. The expertise she brought to the table was unmatched. Although this is everything an editor could ask for, it certainly created an interesting challenge of crafting her delivery. We wanted to avoid intimidating the reader (learning finance can already be daunting), yet also signify to the reader that Debbie is the expert in this field and that the reader should trust her completely. It was a delicate dance that pushed me to truly truly serve the reader as best as I could, and to allow Debbie’s brilliance to truly shine.

Books that present unique challenges are the books I strive to work on as an editor. They allow me to grow and push past my comfort zone. Working with Debbie on Powerful Women Plan for Retirement broadened horizons that I didn’t even know needed broadened. Debbie welcomed my expertise, and was open to the experimenting that we conducted. The result is a book that will truly make a difference in this world.

2. Excerpt from the Line Edits

3. Final Version of the Excerpt

Chapter 10: What to Do When Life Happens

You’ve figured out where you want to go and what it’s going to take to get to your dream destination, so now we need to discuss the importance of having a backup plan in place – a plan to fall back on when life happens. We are going to have the emergency fund discussion. Likely, this has been on your to-do list for about twenty years. If you already have an emergency fund in place – fantastic. However, I want you to read this chapter anyway because we’re also going to discuss the one thing I never want you to do to your future self.

It is essential to have an emergency fund in place, yet there are many excuses you can come up with for not having one. I will add in an element of fun to make it easier for you. Before this chapter is over, you will create your own emergency fund account. You are going to understand why you need one. You will have fun naming your account. And we will discuss the definition of a true emergency.

First and foremost, I believe the main reason you haven’t set money aside in an emergency fund already is that you think the task is too daunting. And, most likely, you never feel you have enough extra money available to put toward such a noble cause.

I give you permission to start small, but I ask you to start now.

Think about this for a minute. How did you accumulate money in your 401K or other employer plan at work? You put a small amount aside out of every paycheck, didn’t you?

Remember a couple chapters ago when we discussed paying yourself first? This is where the rubber meets the road.

Today – yes, that’s right, I said today – I want you to open a separate account, either at your bank or with your financial advisor. This cannot be combined with any current checking or savings account. It must be kept separate.

Now, I want you to decide on an amount that you will be able to set aside each month, or out of each paycheck. Can you afford to put away 10% of your paycheck? How much does that equate to? For Whatever it is, I want you to sit and think about what else you are spending that $200 on each month that you may be able to eliminate or go without until you’ve shown up for yourself and taken care of yourself in this way.

It bears repeating once more – if you have outstanding credit card debt, please work on eliminating that first. Once you eliminated your debt, you can add up all of the monthly minimum payments you pay on your credit cards and pay yourself in this new emergency fund account instead. Think how wonderful it will feel to pay yourself instead of your creditors.

You can set up an automatic transfer from your checking account into your new emergency account. It can be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. You decide.

In order to keep you accountable, it’s time to write down your commitment.

Emergency Fund

How much will you contribute weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, and on what date?

Now that you’ve made the incredible and monumental decision to show up for yourself in a beautiful new way, I want you to have a little fun with this. Remember, it’s all about the experience.

You get to name your new emergency fund account.

I named mine my F.R.E.E.D.O.M. Account.

How will you feel when you’ve accumulated six months of living expenses? My guess is that you’ll feel free, safe, secure, expansive, and overall proud of yourself.

Go ahead and give the fund a name.

Bam. You did it. That’s the most difficult part of starting an emergency fund. Just starting it.

Now what? Forget you have you the fund. Do not touch it. Pretend that there is a 100% penalty for touching that money. Because there is. Once you touch it, 100% of what you take out will be gone. And so will your safety net.

Let me define what an emergency may look like.

A major medical issue or crisis. The loss of your job or loss of income. A time where you cannot pay your bills for months at a time. Those are the only instances that constitute an emergency.

Here are a few tips to help you grow your new F.R.E.E.D.O.M. fund (doesn’t that sound good?).

  • Consider depositing your annual tax refund into this account until you have it built up.
  • Anytime you receive a bonus or some extra money flows into your experience, pop it into that account.

As always, you need a goal. Let’s create yours now. What is your net monthly (after tax) income?

Now, take your monthly income and multiply it by six months.

$_______ x 6 = (your F.R.E.E.D.O.M. fund goal)

Note: Ideally, I’d like for you to have eight months of living expenses saved up. You’re going to begin with six months as your initial goal.

Remember, you are now selfish, and you must put your own oxygen make on first. This money should never be used to give to a child, relative, or friend in need of bailing out. You are to pretend this money does not exist.

Still not convinced that you need this?

One of the most frustrating and heartbreaking things I have witnessed is people who take large sums of money from their 401K or IRA plan before they’ve reached the age of fifty-nine-and-a-half. Not only do they have to pay taxes on the money they withdraw, they also have to pay a 10% penalty for doing so before the age of fifty-nine-and-a-half.

In the past year, I’ve had three friends who have taken early withdrawals of money from their retirement accounts in order to pay off credit card debt after getting themselves into a bind.

Note: The following story is fictional in order to illustrate what happens when taking early withdrawals from retirement accounts.

Elizabeth had never been married. She lived on her own in downtown Chicago. She had a fantastic job as the head of HR at a local hospital (let’s call her Lizzy – she prefers that). Lizzy loved to go out with her girlfriends on the weekends and did a lot of damage shopping on Michigan Avenue. She allowed her spending to get out of control and ended up with approximately $40,000 in credit card debt. She then made the noble decision to turn over a new leaf and get herself out of debt. Great! Her decision to get out of debt was commendable. However, she decided to take from money she had accumulated in her retirement accounts in order to pay off her creditors. Lizzy stole from her future self. And I’m going to use her example to illustrate my point.

Lizzy took a $50,000 withdrawal from her IRA before age fifty-nine-and-a-half.

As a result, the following was withheld for taxes and penalties: Lizzy is in the 24% tax bracket – she may have paid 24% Federal tax, somewhere around 6% State tax, and a 10% penalty for early withdrawal.

Not only did Lizzy take $50,000 out of her retirement account – which will no longer be working for her and compounding over time – she took 40% off the top of that and handed it to Uncle Sam. In her case, $20,000 came right out of that money, leaving only $30,000 of her original $50,000 to use for paying off her credit card debt.

The other thing most people don’t think about when making the decision to take an early withdrawal is what happens to the potential future value of their money. In this case, we are illustrating the future value of $50,000.

Before Lizzy’s decision to liquidate her investments in order to pay off debt, she earned a 10% average rate of return in her 401K. In this example: $50,000 earning 10% for 10 years equals $129,704.

If you ever want to play around with this type of example, you can google Future Value of Money Calculators and plug in your own numbers.

Using Lizzy’s example, she withdrew $50,000 from her IRA, received $30,000 to pay off credit card debt, handed 40% of her hard-earned money to Uncle Sam (a whopping total of $20,000), and gave up the probability of having her money grow to almost $130,000 at the end of ten years.

Let’s take this one step further. How long did that $50,000 withdrawal set her back? Would she have been able to live an entire year on the future value of $130,000? How long did it take her to save up the $50,000 she used to pay off her debt? Is it possible that she may have to work a couple more years in retirement in order to make up for the loss of that money?

Of course, I wholeheartedly agree that paying off her credit card debt should have been her priority, but not at the expense of her future retirement. What would that have looked like? She would have had to cut back spending in other areas and create an aggressive plan to get herself out of debt instead of robbing from her future, happy, retired self in order to pay for the decision to spend outside her means. Unfortunately, it is likely that pulling money from her retirement savings was merely a short-term fix for her issue of overspending. Do you think she stopped spending? More than likely, her lifestyle hasn’t changed much, because she didn’t do the work required to make lasting changes.

Please make this promise to yourself right now. Repeat after me, “I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever take money out of my retirement accounts for anything other than living a comfortable retirement after I retire.”

If I stopped you from doing something you’ll regret for years to come, I’m a happy girl, and it was worth it.

Time for a five-minute visualization exercise.

I want you to go back to your sacred meditation space.

Take three deep breaths and close your eyes.

I’d like you to visualize your new emergency fund – the account that you gave a name to. I’m visualizing my F.R.E.E.D.O.M. fund. I also want you to visualize your retirement accounts as they look in the future.

What does it look like to have saved six months of living expenses? Visualize the dollar amount you’ve saved (whatever your goal for those accounts was). Visualize that you physically have that amount right now. Take a look at the numbers on your statement; it just arrived in the mail.

Pay attention to how it feels to have accumulated enough wealth to live a comfortable retirement. Do you feel free? Safe? Calm? Happy? Excited? Limitless? Powerful? Alive? Expansive? Whatever those feelings are, I want you to sit and relax in those feelings for five minutes.

Anything is possible in this space. Your life is limitless. You’re a powerful creator and a magnificent attractor. You have endless reserves available to you. You are free. You are alive. You are abundant. You are healthy. You are wealthy. You are wise. You are taken care of. The universe is abundant and expansive, and you have access to all that you’ve ever dreamed of.

In this chapter, you’ve learned the importance of having a backup plan for emergencies. You have a full understanding of what constitutes a true emergency and you’ve taken the crucial step of starting your emergency fund, which is key to owning your financial future and living a life of freedom. You’ve also learned the one thing you are neverto do to your future self. Remember to be easy with yourself as you begin.

Change is not always easy – but with the right mindset, you will be able to enjoy your new healthy financial decisions. Set the intention that you will enjoy the journey and have fun building up your account balance and watching it grow. Perhaps you can even make a game out of it. After all, don’t we play fun games to pass the time when we’re on a long road trip?


Your Life Matters: Editing Sample

Your Life Matters!: Learn to Write Your Memoir in 8 Easy Steps by Junie Swadron can be purchased here.

I must give many thanks to Junie Swadron. Junie, you taught me so much more about writing than I ever thought I knew. You taught me a deeper, more spiritual side of the craft, for which I am eternally grateful. We worked together on this book for a month, which doesn’t feel accurate. It felt like an entire lifetime, yet each day was always a heavenly day.


Included in this editing sample, you will find the following: 

  1. A summary of a portion of the high-level edits that were completed before the line editing stage.
  2. An excerpt of the line edits I returned to the author.
  3. The final version of the excerpt.

1. Summary of the First Two Rounds of High-Level Edits

When I was first assigned this book on writing, I must admit I had a bit of concern. If someone wrote a book on writing, then they certainly must think they know everything about it. How would this author handle working with an editor – someone who would correct their writing? I was nervous. But then I met Junie Swadron in person and my heart melted. I have never met someone as open-minded, eager, and willing as Junie is. Her aura is so radiant (a shade of blue, if I have to guess), and she gushes with enthusiasm and passion to help others feel fulfilled. She truly is a servant at heart, which made editing her book a joy. She brought to the table one of the highest calibers of writing I have ever had the honor of working with, which meant it would be a challenge to preserve her voice and the integrity of her writing, while trying to level-up her manuscript.

Junie is a writer at heart. When her manuscript arrived on my desk, she already had multiple publications under her belt. So what happens when a writer writes a how-to book about writing? Easy. The writer conflates him or herself with her reader. It can be so easy to, as the author, treat oneself the same as the reader. The fact of the matter is, however, that Junie wrote this book because she spent years becoming a seasoned writer. It was clear, though, that she didn’t see it that way because in the manuscript, she often said things like, “In this chapter, we will learn about…” When in reality, Junie wasn’t learning it at all. She had already learned it! To me, it was integral for Junie to make one slight shift in her verbiage to achieve a massive result. By simply switching the pronoun “we” to “you,” Junie separated herself from her reader. This tiny shift said to the reader, “I am your teacher. You are reading my book. I spent years learning this, so now you must trust me to teach it to you.” Readers don’t buy books because they want a passive author to teach them something. They buy books because they want someone with a firm hand to tell them what it is the author has to say. Junie internalized this advice that I gave her, and her manuscript elevated immeasurably.

I certainly felt a shift within me as an editor while working on Junie’s edits. I felt more emboldened than ever to rearrange Junie’s paragraphs. Her writing is larger-than-life in the greatest possible way. If reincarnation is real, it is clear that Junie has lived a thousand lives to end up the sage individual she is this lifetime. The first draft Junie submitted to me was just that – a first draft. I encouraged her to simply word vomit, in a sense, her wisdom onto a page, which would allow us to play with the words, almost like ceramicists with clay. With this method came quite a bit of play, as the words begged for structure. With Junie’s permission, I sorted through the manuscript during the first two rounds of high-level edits, suggesting major reorganizations. This forced me to keep my memory sharp, to recognize that a particular paragraph would be better suited following the paragraph that came several pages ago. I found myself jotting down notes on every piece of scrap paper I could find, sculpting Junie’s fabulous words into a manuscript that followed a clear and linear style. Thanks to Junie allowing me to become this intimate with her manuscript has allowed me to become as intimate with every piece of writing I touch, and I’m beyond grateful.

With multiple publications under her belt when I began work on her manuscript, I knew working with Junie would require not only her to be open-minded, but for me to be open-minded. This notion alone changed how I interacted with this project. It forced me to think more critically than ever, and to put myself not just in Junie’s shoes, but in her reader’s shoes as well. Working on Junie’s manuscript taught me that a good editor simply doesn’t just grow because he or she edits frequently. An editor grows by adapting to his or her writer, by adjusting edits based on the style of writing, the attitude of the author, the personality of the writer, and the content of which he or she edits. Junie’s project forced me to scrutinize my work to ensure I provided Junie’s exuberant style with the highest quality of edits. I had to break out of my comfort zone.

2. Excerpt from the Line Edits

3. Final Version of the Excerpt

Chapter 1: This Is Your Life

Hello, beautiful reader. My heart welcomes you here, ready and excited to teach you what I have come to know about how to write life stories – to be the scribe, the author of the adventures you have lived. You will look back in time with the eyes of a compassionate witness to all you have experienced in your life. As well as living your life fully in the moment, you will look back in time with a curious and compassionate heart, opening to what you remember, observing from a place of spaciousness, and from the loves and losses of your life.

It is a stunning experience to step back, breathe, and take a good look at this living masterpiece – your life, from the age you are today – and notice whom you have become and notice, too, the myriad of ways you became who you are.

This is you, honouring the magnificent life you have lived. You may feel trepidation, but my guess is that there is also exaltation because my words resonate with the truth of where you are right now. And because you are ready to write your memoir, even if you don’t know how to go about it or where to begin. You may be scared of the entire process or have thoughts that say, “Who am I to write a book? Who would read it and, if they did, what would they think of me then?” You may even have specific people in mind – people close to you –whose opinions still matter the most, and you cringe at the thought of being judged.

I once received a fortune cookie that said, “Look for the dream that keeps coming back. It’s your destiny.” I kept it on my vision board for a long time, and then I wrote my first book because it was a dream that kept coming back.

If you have a dream to write your memoir and it keeps coming back to you, it is not an accident. It is your destiny, and I know that you know in your heart the truth of this. Dreams of the heart are God’s first indication pointing you towards an open door where the manifestation of your dream awaits you. The door is never locked. In fact, it opens wide once you value yourself more than anyone else ever could. You do this by being caring and compassionate with the parts of you that don’t believe you are bright enough, smart enough, or have anything valuable to say. You must move beyond the voice of your inner-critic who tells you that you might say things that are wrong, that you would appear stupid, or that no one would listen to your words, thoughts, and opinions. By doing this, you will come to remember who you really are and that you are worthy – that you matter – simply because you are here.

And that God, the Universe, wouldn’t give you promptings to write your memoir if there wasn’t substance to it.

You wouldn’t sit up at night fretting over what you will do with your senior years. In fact, it frightens you as you approach the latter years of your life without knowing what you can do that will give it meaning – give you meaning. Who will you be without your career, a place to go to every day that not only gave you a routine but was also your identity?

Does this describe where you are right now? Your job, what you engaged in every day for years, is about to end or has already ended and you are troubled. Do you fall into bed at night feeling stressed because of the uncertainty that lies ahead? Perhaps you are concerned about your aging parents and imminent decisions about their fate or your adult children, praying they will make healthy choices so that their lives aren’t burdened. Yet the biggest worry of all is wondering just what you will do with the rest of your life. Who will you be without your career, without somewhere to go when you wake up in the morning? How will you still contribute and feel needed and valued?

And the truth is, no matter what your age – senior or not –you wouldn’t have an inner beckoning that doesn’t quit telling you to share the incredible stories you have already lived in the form of a book if you weren’t ready to do just that. Our inner promptings are not random. They are personal, a direct memo from the Universe into the inbox of our heart and soul, and they are meant for us to pay attention. Not someday; today.

Do you say things like, “I’ve always been a good writer, or at least, I like to write and words just flow out of me when I journal – and I have dozens of them – or when I write letters, which I still love to do. In fact, when I do write, I forget about everything and everyone else. Time goes by magically, and I’m shocked to see how quickly, in fact. Hours can slip by in minutes because I am fully present.”

You are not alone. I know how that felt for me. Geez, I was fifty years old before I was willing to go naked and tell my story. It was a huge leap, and I was willing to risk everything rather than continue to wear the masks that kept me in hiding. Yup, it was crazy – or was it?

If you are someone who wants to write your memoir and tell your stories because you would like to share what you have learned in order to make it just a wee bit easier for someone else who travels in the same moccasins that you have walked in, you know in your heart that you are meant to be reading these words right now. It’s your calling, and it can be your destiny.

As well, if you want to write your memoir to leave a legacy to your children and grandchildren of what you have lived, what you have come to know for sure, and what has mattered most to you then you are in the right place.

Whatever your reasons, as you look back, write and reflect, you will learn things about yourself that you had not consciously realized before. One cannot look back without finding true hidden gems.

And it is worth every bit of trepidation and fear you might be having at the same time. Everyone I know who has ever written a memoir with me will tell you it is a scary proposition. One client, Doris, said, “I feel like my mouth and my throat are constipated, I am so scared.” This changed as she continued to write fear-ward and forward. It always does.

When my clients move into the rhythm of their heart and stop listening to their harsh inner critic, they declare it was worth every word, every tear, every exhilaration. Why? Because they learn for themselves, through the process of scribing their stories, using my formula, the truth of these words: “The sweet whisperings of your soul meet you on the page and something shifts. You strengthen. You begin to stand taller and one day you notice that your voice on the page has become your voice in the world.”

Hasn’t every large transition in your life, as you stood at the precipice of change, frightened you? You wondered how you would get through it? You had sleepless nights? Yet you did get through it. Perhaps it is because you are stronger than you give yourself credit for.

Retirement doesn’t mean what it meant years ago. You got your gold watch and don’t have much now to look forward to or many years left to live past age sixty-five – the average retirement age. People are living ten, twenty, even thirty years longer these days and have the opportunity to make choices that truly matter to them.

At this stage, you are no longer burdened by what other people think you should do. You get to choose from your deepest truth. And when you do, there is nothing more liberating.

To not follow through on a dream that you secretly hold in your heart, to not stand up and learn to love and value your life when the opportunity knocks – especially when it’s a truth, a desire, a dream that keeps returning to you, again and again – is a travesty.

Seriously, life is not just a place to hang out between birth and death with a whole lot of movement or drama in between. It’s something to be valued, honoured, and cherished. Breath is life and to have life is to have the living, breathing essence of God within our cells. It is a privilege that we must not take for granted. And our gift back to God for giving us this life is to live the best life we can live.

We all are products of our environment; we all are until we become conscious of the choices we make. If you still behave out of beliefs you took on when you were a youngster, then it’s time to ask yourself how well they serve you. If you say, “not well,” then are you willing to become part of the club of awesome folk living life to the fullest?

There are so many things you have learned along life’s journey and if you don’t stop long enough to take stock of what they are, to truly find the courage to love yourself, there’s a good chance you could die with your songs still buried inside you. And until that final breath, you will feel unfulfilled, live in a place of longing and envy, resenting the passing of days and years going by without making your dreams come true.

And unfortunately, there are countless elders – and younger people, too – who feel that way right now. They feel old and used up. If you are of retirement age, are you afraid of being cast aside and becoming invisible to the eyes of the young? Feeling you no longer have anything to contribute? Do you believe society devalues the elderly? Is that true? It’s only true if you believe it because then your life will reflect just that. If you believe you are fabulous, then the world you will experience will see you that way, too.

It’s my aim to show you that you are. That you have a life worth celebrating and honouring and your dream to write your memoir is not simply possible and attainable – it’s also easy. I know it because I’ve written books about writing as well as re-writing your life in order to let go of the painful past. This overlaps with what I’m talking about here.

Your sixties and beyond could be absolutely fabulous. That’s what you can expect as you embrace your magnificence, know what you are capable of, and move into these next chapters of your life with confidence and verve.

It always excites me to show people how to write in such a way that their inner wisdom shows up on the page. You know your life, and you know what you have lived. You don’t need fancy language or anything other than the willingness to tell the truth as you remember it. To show up and allow the writing to come forth effortlessly, which it will, when you align with what it is you wish to say. You will start to have newfound energy that you haven’t seen in years – why? Because you are living your dream. You will put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. You will do it just like you have done so many other things in your life.

Begin to remember all the projects or ways you have chosen to show up in the world, that would advance your life and help others as well. Think about what your friends and family admire about you? Think about your life challenges and how you got through them. What are your resilient tools – the ones you can teach others through what you have learned? Don’t keep these to yourself. Just like the people who have been mentors to you along your life’s journey, you can be that for others by not keeping your secrets buried. Your life stories are a treasure trove for you to explore. You will learn things about yourself you may not even have ever known because writing has a way about it that reveals insights and truths unnoticed by you beforehand.

As humans, the one constant we can rely on is change. Sometimes we sail merrily, merrily, merrily down the stream and life is but a dream, and other times, we don’t know how we will survive the rapids. But dear reader, somehow, you did. And, somehow, I did too. And we meet here at this intersection because we have called each other in. The Universe brought us together so that you would be the answer to my dream – to write a book that melts your fears and doubts about writing your memoir by sharing what I have come to know about writing, about flow, about resistance, and about allowing.

Among the many directives of how to write a memoir, I have inserted some of my own life stories as examples that may inspire you; this book is not just a “how to,” falling into the “no-no” rule in writing that says, “Show, don’t tell.” Instead, I will show you some of my stories – some in their rawest form, because this is memoir and it is written the way I remember it, not glossed over to sound pretty and poetic so that you will like me better.

As you move through the pages of this book, I wish to be your invisible, kind, and loving witness while you revisit and embrace the milestones that have made your life rich with meaning, the challenging and painful times, as well as the exciting and joyful ones. You will bring new clarity and understanding to old circumstances, put closure on unfinished business, laugh and cry at the meanderings of your life, and bring to the present new respect and reverence for the blessings of every day.

If you stand on a precipice right now, but feel frozen, what will it cost you to make the decision to not write your memoir, to not bring you your dream come true?


Small Town Divorce: Editing Sample

Small Town Divorce: A Road Map through Devastation, Despair, and Drama by Denise Anderson can be purchased here.

A major thank you to the incredibly talented Denise Anderson for allowing me to accompany her on her book journey. Our time together was nothing short of magical. Can’t wait for book number two.


Included in this editing sample, you will find the following: 

  1. A summary of a portion of the high-level edits that were completed before the line editing stage.
  2. An excerpt of the line edits I returned to the author.
  3. The final version of the excerpt.

1. Summary of the First Two Rounds of High-Level Edits

My overall goal with Denise Anderson’s manuscript was to preserve her voice at all costs. Laden with hyperbole, metaphor, wit, and grace, Denise’s voice is one of the most eccentric and unique voices I have ever had the honor of working with. It’s obvious that she writes with her ear, which is the mark of a talented writer.

Verbal communication and written communication are vastly different, thus when an author writes with his or her ear, sometimes the writing can feel more as a verbal conversation, rather than a written one, which can negatively interfere with how the reader experiences the author’s words. Thus, the bulk of my edits focused on shifting Denise’s words from a verbal style to a written style.

My secondary goal with Denise’s manuscript was to establish a strict structure. Because the manuscript is a how-to guide, it only made sense to follow a simple problem/solution style. Explain the problem the reader may encounter when going through her divorce, then tell the reader the solution and process created to overcome that problem. What this meant for Denise was that, as she edited, she needed to ask herself if the current manuscript fit that structure. If it did not, she would need to rearrange the text until it did. One of the tricks I offered to her was to add in more subtitles. Subtitles are an excellent tool to not only keep the reader’s mind on track, but also to keep the author’s mind on track by ensuring all thoughts and ideas are correctly grouped together.

Denise wrote Small Town Divorce as a how-to guide to help women who struggle after a publicized divorce. Not only did Denise experience her own publicized divorce, but she has coached other women through divorce, as well. The first draft manuscript was more advice than it was stories. In other words, it was more tell than it was show. In order to truly connect with her reader, I encouraged Denise to add in more stories to correlate with the corresponding advice. During our two rounds of high-level edits, Denise implemented a vast amount of stories, all told from the heart, yet through her ear.

These are just a few of the high-level edits I gave to Denise during the first two rounds of edits. Denise’s keen attention to detail and trust in me as her editor resulted in a draft manuscript that was more than ready for a line edit.

2. Excerpt from the Line Edits

3. Final Version of the Excerpt

Chapter 9: That Change Will Do You Good

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a quick and sudden change.”

 — Mary W. Shelley

Divorce is certain to bring about an enormous amount of change in your life. Nothing will be the same. Your marital status has changed, obviously; you are no longer someone’s husband or wife. You don’t have the same friends, live in the same house, or see your children on a regular basis. You may encounter a different job or career, and your financial situation can become uncertain or unstable. Your in-laws may no longer be a part of your life – or certainly not like they used to be. Everything about your daily routine is different, new, and uncomfortable. Living with this change can be overwhelming, to say the least.

You desire to become more comfortable with the changes in your life and to feel more at ease as things continue to change around you. I will share stories that involve some changes that were brought about, and then other stories that speak about the changes in our lives that happen suddenly and unexpectedly. Your comfort will come from a perspective shift when you begin to shine a light on the parts of your life that light you up. I will explain that to you at the end of this chapter, so please stick with me, and let’s embrace these changes together.

I have witnessed the impact that such dramatic and quick changes can have both in the lives of my clients and in my own life. Divorce brings so many changes to your life and it can take time to adjust to your new way of living. Until I was able to accept the changes and stop going back to the way things used to be, I struggled and fought with finding a new way to do life. You, too, feel heartbroken for the way life used to be, and you miss some of the people who are no longer in your life. You feel scared about the uncertainty that lies ahead. You feel anxious and lost without the usual contact and routine that you were so accustomed to.

Divorce is not unlike experiencing death when it comes to changes and the alterations that occur in all areas of your life. Although, when you divorce it is treated differently by others, compared to how they respond when you experience a death in your family.

My father passed away several months ago, and I watch my mom adjust to all of the changes in her life. She misses having someone to talk to, and she has no one waiting for her when she comes home after completing her errands downtown. She was used to having someone there to tell her funny jokes and long stories. Her meal preparation has changed; she makes all of the decisions and Dad isn’t there to kiss her goodnight and enjoy some physical touch. Some furniture in the house changed, and his belongings are no longer there. These changes are difficult to adjust to, and she knows that each season brings even more changes. My mom is learning to do things on her own.

Overcoming how uncomfortable it feels to do things differently or to try new things you have never experienced before is a major hurdle for many people to jump over. Getting excited about new things and going to different places can help ease the hole you feel inside and help you to adjust to a new way of living. Change is difficult regardless of how it is brought about in your life. Your willingness has a lot to do with how quickly you will adjust and will determine the quality of your experiences.

Change can feel more manageable when you bring about that change deliberately. For example, you tell your hairdresser that you would like a drastic makeover. You cut, color, perm, puff, straighten, streak, braid, bun, shave, or extend your hair. It can take a bit of getting used to, but for the most part, this change is fun and exciting. It brings a new energy and some spunk to your step. You were happy to get rid of the old hairdo and update to a new one, and you love the results of that change and how you feel.

You can also decide to change the ambiance of your living space. You start by painting those dull and bland white walls with a warm and inviting grey tone. You replace the worn-out carpet with a wooden flooring and a cozy throw rug in the middle of the room. You take down the blinds and drape a gorgeous material over the windows. The furniture is outdated, and you are tired of the springs in the couch poking your butt every time you sit down to watch television. A new and updated set of furniture arrives, and you and your butt couldn’t be happier. You stand back and take a look at all of the changes that you made. It feels completely different and you love it. Remembering the times in your life when you invited change and loved it can help you to appreciate some of the changes you experience and struggle to adjust to.

I remember my client, Mindy, and how disorientated she was when she started her new job. She was excited to learn new skills and work in a new location with new people. However, that excitement didn’t last for long. All of the changes that took place in a short period of time overwhelmed her. She was unsure of where anything was located in the office, which did not sit well with her need to organize things. Her new required skills that she had not yet mastered caused her to feel a lot of anxiety and pressure.

The new location in the industrial side of the city meant that she commuted a longer distance than usual. Rather than being surrounded by restaurants and cozy places to get something to eat, she was forced to pack a lunch or go hungry. Not everyone in the office was warm and inviting, and she often felt like the outsider. Too many things had changed all at once, and she was having difficulty coping with it all. I suggested to Mindy to arrange a few things at work that would quickly become familiar to her. For example, I had her organize her desk the way she liked it, as this would help to settle her need for organization, and I also suggested that she make friends with one of her coworkers so she didn’t have to feel so out of sorts and unfamiliar with everything. Jumping in as she did, and arranging what she could, helped her to adjust to the changes that were out of her control. Although Mindy struggled with the changes at work, I am sure you can relate to the difficulty of her change as it relates to your divorce.

Although you find yourself amongst radical change, see if you can keep a routine that you are familiar with. It may seem insignificant, but holding on to a few familiar objects or ways of doing things can help to diminish fear as you look around your new environment. You can find comfort in the things that have stayed the same and the things you enjoy to help you embrace the things that have changed and the things you find less enjoyable.

Mark was not unlike Mindy, except for the fact that, on top of coping with the changes brought about from a new job, he also went through a divorce at the same time. He juggled his new work schedule with the scheduled time with his children. He had moved into a different home and needed to adjust to this new living space. His brother-in-law, who was once his best friend, was no longer there for moral support. His over-active social life was now non-existent as he spent more time on his own. He learned to cook for one when his children were not with him, and on top of everything, he missed his dog. He, too, was looking for some answers and ways of dealing with the changes in his life.

What I had both Mindy and Mark do was to take life one day at a time. Trying to figure it all out in one day was not going to happen, so they needed to give themselves time to adjust. Rather than focus on what life would look like in a year from then or how they would handle next week, they needed to focus on the day they were in and take it as it came. I asked them to take note of the positive things that happened in their lives, similar to the way a gratitude journal works. Place your attention on the people, places, and things you enjoy and that make you happy. What you focus on, you tend to create more of.

I have compassion for people experiencing such dramatic changes, as I know it is not an easy process and can bring with it a lot of uncomfortable and painful feelings. It is good to remind yourself that change is a natural and inevitable part of life. You haven’t done anything wrong and you are not being punished because your life has been shaken up. Often, changes are brought about in order for you to grow as you learn to navigate new environments and evolve into the person who can adapt, accept, and thrive in an ever-changing world. You have within you an innate ability to weather the storm, accept these changes as a natural part of life, and perceive these changes through a different set of eyes.

Remember, you are up against your mind, which wants to keep you safe and protected. The best way that it knows how to do this is to keep things the same. When things change, the mind has to constantly access the environment and look into its database for information on how to keep you alive. It will fight for you to keep the status quo – to do the same things that you did yesterday – and it will pull on the reins when any movement is made toward something new or different.

In order to combat all this change, let’s pull out that flashlight so we can shed some light on the beautiful things occurring in your life. Once again, let’s have some fun. This is my version of a gratitude journal. Rather than writing down what you are grateful for, I want you to take a flashlight and shine it on all of the things that make you smile, the things you appreciate, the things that you love, and the things that make you happy to be alive. Yes, I am serious. Actually use a flashlight. I encourage you to carry a small flashlight with you so you can do this regardless of where you are. Why am I asking you to use a flashlight? Because, once you are done carrying that flashlight around with you, you are going to replace that flashlight with your eyes. Yes, your eyes. You will come to associate appreciation and gratitude with everything you lay your eyes on.

A change in perception is a powerful way to walk through the changes in your life. Appreciating the positive things that are happening in your life now does not dismiss the positive and wonderful things that were occurring in your life before, but it does prevent you from remaining stuck on the “way things used to be,” and not enjoying or appreciating what you have now. It is also a great way to empower yourself. We are not often in control of the outer circumstances that occur around us or of what other people say or do. But you do have control of how you react and respond to these changes. One of my favourite movies is Pleasantville. It is such a great example of how drab, boring, dull, colorless, and predictable life would be without change. In the beginning, it appears to be so comfortable and “pleasant” to know how things will turn out, how your daily life will unfold and how nothing out of the ordinary will happen. It is amazing to watch what happens when things start to change, when something is done differently, when change becomes acceptable, and when some color is added to the scene. It’s as though the lives of these characters begin to transform, and life projects them into a colorful, passionate, and ever-changing 3D reality of life. I know that change is uncomfortable but there is a colorful, passionate 3D reality life waiting for you to embrace and enjoy, now go get it!