The Hills are Alive…With a Book’s Music

How Musical Line Editing could make your work sing

Most people have never heard the term “Musical Line Editing” (MLE), but it’s an amazing tool for successful book sales. It’s the proprietary, lift-every-author’s-voice-and-make-it-sing editing technique of Claudia Suzanne’s Ghostwriting Professional Designation Program (GPDP), the class our Certified Ghostwriters had to complete.

“Musical line editing uses an array of techniques to tighten, strengthen, and dynamize our clients’ second drafts,” says Claudia. “It’s kind of a real ghostwriter’s superpower.”

Finding true musicality

All line editors check punctuation, eliminate ineffective non-sentences, and ensure the copy flows. Simply cleaning up a book’s copy is okay—but it doesn’t make it sing.

Every manuscript should go through three drafts: the author’s first draft, the edited second draft for readers, and the third draft that conforms to industry formatting standards. Musical line editing uplifts a manuscript’s second draft by getting rid of stuff that makes the author’s voice pedantic, repetitive, or passive by increasing the weight, rhythm, speed, and energy of each and every line.

Check out this example of MLE’s transformative powers:

Pedantic voice: “Serious consequences have happened by not paying attention to the climate change indicators.”

MLE singing voice:  “Not addressing climate change indicators creates serious consequences.”

By deleting “to be” verb forms, the edit changes passive voice to active voice—a key skill for MLE professionals.

Though you may have to reword any piece a bit, you cannot—and must not— change your author’s message or voice. That is a skilled ghostwriter’s mission and focus.

Editing makes things active, but…

Claudia’s example below illustrates how editing for action can inadvertently shift an author’s intended focus:

Passive 1: “Molly was singing as she was hanging up the laundry.”

Passive 2: “I heard Molly singing as she was hanging up the laundry.”

MLE Active: “Molly sang as she hung up the laundry.”

Yes, #2 is more active, but suddenly we have a POV (point-of-view) shift where Molly is no longer the key character. Instead, “I” has become the narrator of the scene, thereby becoming the main character, and changing author intent.

Learning when to embrace passive voice

Even though it’s stated in passive voice, this famous line from Star Trek’s creator—the late, great Gene Roddenberry—exemplifies that to every rule there is an exception: “To boldly go where no one has gone before.”

Imagine if the show’s intro was: “The Federation must explore!”  Though it’s definitely active, it’s not nearly as evocative. Sometimes—but rarely— passive voice is the perfect one.

This post is a mere introduction to the Musical Line Editing ghostwriters learn toward the end of Wambtac’s Ghostwriting Professional Designation Program (GPDP).

When working on client manuscripts, our Certified Ghostwriters first use the many formatting, organizing, book industry, and ghostwriting skills for their first-draft manuscript before implementing musical line editing. It’s the secret tool that raises the quality of a second draft, and the tool most ghostwriters never use. MLE edits guarantee that readers never have cause to stop reading, never need to pull back and reread, and never put the book down because too many lines made their eyes cross. ###

Wambtac’s Certified Ghostwriters can aid your understanding of a more diverse market. They help you outline your ideas, mentor you through writing your book, and/or edit your manuscript to make it sing. Check out our blog posts on for more insights and support. We’re always here to help—feel free to call us when you need consults to get your passion project on the right track.