Meet Author and Editor Renee Gray-Wilburn

Tell us something about yourself?
I am married to Derrick, a personal trainer, and have three children–Conner, 13; Cayla, 9; and Chandler, 5.

We live in the foothills of the Rockies in Colorado Springs, with a view of Pikes Peak from my window.

I started writing when I left my job in Silicon Valley as a technical recruiter to be home with my first born. I haven’t had a “real” job since, and I love being able to do something meaningful, yet be home with my kids.

Who is your favorite author? Favorite book?
I honestly don’t have a favorite. It usually changes based on what I’m reading at the time!

What are you working on now?
Several projects: two different children’s curriculum projects, four magazine articles, finishing up sending out proposals for a book I’ve been writing, a small-group study guide to go in conjunction with a DVD series for Wallbuilders, polishing up a children’s book to start sending out, and working on clients’ proofing/editing projects as they come in.

How do you go about editing your work?

Since I am equally right and left brained, I have a difficult time not editing my work as I go. So, I’ll typically finish a section of whatever I’m doing then go back and review it. After the whole project is completed, I’ll edit for content first then do a final proof. Depending on what it is, I have editor friends who will review my work as well. I always recommend having someone else look at your work. It’s amazing how much you miss!

Do you have a set process?
I always start with a content edit so I can get a feel of the overall flow, organization, and structure. Otherwise I get too bogged down with the little stuff. After I’ve edited through the big picture, I’ll go line by line and look for sentence structure, passive voice, weak verbs, unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, and so forth, trying to tighten up the writing as much as possible. Lastly, I’ll proof the work. Here is where I’m checking for spelling, punctuation, proper capitalization, use of italics, etc.

If you’re editing your own stuff, how long do you “let it sit” before you start editing it?
It depends on what it is. If it’s something short, like an article, maybe just a day or two. If it’s a picture book or the curriculum I write, usually a few days. I’ll continually go back and forth between working on it and letting it rest. I always have so many projects going at once that I’m never at a loss for things to do while something else is sitting!

Any favorite books on editing? On grammar?
I have a book called Essentials of English, published by Barron’s that I refer to often. I also rely on the old-school standby, Elements of Style by Strunk and White. And, because so many publishers I work for prefer the Chicago Manual of Style, I keep it within arm’s length at all times!

Any tips for aspiring writers?

The only way to get better is to practice and then let others critique you. It’s great to go to conferences and take classes, but you have to put it into practice. Having a trusted critique group to turn to is invaluable, regardless of the type of writing you do.

Once you start getting published, look at the finished piece your editor used compared to the final draft you sent her. You can learn a lot by seeing what was changed and eliminated. I like to ask my editors why they made some of the changes they did, just so I can improve next time. They’ll love the fact that you are trying to grow as a writer and you can take constructive criticism.

Any last words?
If you’d like more detail about self-editing, please take a look at my blog ( under the category of “Self-Editing.” I have some articles that speak to this subject. If you need help with editing or proofing, you may contact me at I also provide critiquing services for picture books, children’s and adult short stories, articles, and books.

13 thoughts on “Meet Author and Editor Renee Gray-Wilburn

  1. Irene

    Hi Peggy,

    What a great interview! I think all of us need to be self-editors of our work. And I love your tips Renee. I have printed them off and will be following them from now on. Thanks so much for the tips!

    ~ Irene


  2. Beth Reinke

    Interesting interview, Peggy and Renee. I tend to edit as I go, too, but didn’t know that meant I’m equally right- and left-brained. Thanks for the tip! :o)

    Off to read Renee’s self-editing tips… :o)


  3. Karen Cioffi


    I am also equally right and left brained and have a difficult time with editing for the same reason.

    I find myself doing the same thing with critiques and editing – I can’t seem to read to the end before jumping in with comments/edits.

    Great interview, Peggy.


  4. Dennise

    This is a great interview. Thank you so much for your advice. I always tell the authors that come into my place that ‘our brains love us. They allow us to make mistakes. So always, always get your manuscript professionally critiqued before submitting.’

    Thanks for the link to your page. I’m looking forward to gleaning from your experience.


  5. Susanne Drazic

    Great interview. Enjoyed reading about Renee’s editing process. I’ll be sure to check out the link that was provided.


  6. Darcía Helle

    Renee, it was fun getting to know you. You offer some great tips. I’ll have to spend some time exploring your blog.

    Margaret, thanks for introducing us to Renee and sharing a great interview!


  7. Lorrie Unites-Struiff

    Hello Renee, so glad to hear you edit as you go. For the life of me, I can’t keep going on a story unless I start at the beginning and fix, edit, before I reach the end. And I agree. Critique partners are the best help of all.
    Thanks for a great post and your thoughts.



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