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Posts tagged with: editing

Freelance Editor Showcase

Welcome to the Ruby Sisterhood Editor Showcase.

Editing. The Rubies can’t stress enough how important it is you have your work edited by a professional. We all think our babies are without flaws, but others do see the flaws. You want to make sure your work the best it can be before readers get their eyes on it. The goal so to entertain and receive great reviews. Editors help you achieve just that.

There has been a lot of chatter on many loops lately concerning editors and sensitivity readers. Several indie publishing loops have file sections where anyone can list their name and contact information, but with so many names listed how can a writer know which editors are honest, reliable, and totally awesome to work with? With those questions in mind, we asked the free-lance editors that we work with if they’d be willing to post on our blog today and we had a great response. I asked each editor to tell you about themselves, their business, and to answer a few questions. Below are their responses.  Enjoy, and remember to join us tomorrow when we discuss Editor Etiquette. 

GINA BERNAL

Gina Bernal has 14 years of publishing experience, including editorial work for the Berkley Publishing Group; the Doubleday and Rhapsody Book Clubs; Harlequin’s Carina Press; as well freelance copywriting for Penguin Random House. She holds a degree in History and Literature from Harvard University. Her specialty is commercial genre fiction including, but not limited to: romance, urban fantasy, mystery/suspense, historical fiction, YA and women’s fiction. Editorial services offered are developmental/content editing, line editing, and copywriting. She is open to new clients, and rates will be discussed upon contact. Contact her at: ginabernaleditor@gmail.com

What is your best advice for authors in approaching an editor, Gina?

Come to an editor with a clear goal in mind, and don’t be afraid to ask questions, ask for a sample edit, etc. Be realistic about how much guidance you need before selecting an editorial service to contract. For example, are you the type of person that can take the suggestions of an editorial letter and run with them, or do you need a more detailed step-by-step breakdown?

Do you expect authors to have a certain level of skill, and how do you judge that? Or do you work with beginning writers who show promise?

I am always open to working with beginning authors who show promise. The most important thing to me, as an editor, in starting a new relationship with an author is feeling connected to their writing. I always ask myself, “Would I personally acquire this book for publication?”

How do you judge if you and the author are a good fit?

I look for a connection with their writing, whether that’s voice, story, or both. A lot of publishing is subjective, and I want to choose projects that I truly enjoy in order to provide the best editorial guidance I can to my clients.

How far in advance do you schedule clients? What is your expected turn-around time– You to author and author to you?

Depending on my schedule at the time an author approaches me, I have scheduled projects immediately or months in advance. Turnaround times are also often dependent on my schedule, the amount of work needed, or an author’s timeline, but a general estimate for developmental editing is approximately 2 weeks; line editing approximately 3 weeks.

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JENN BRAY-WEBER

I am an award-winning author of historical, urban fantasy, and erotic romance. I have been freelance editing for 5 1/2 years and have been a freelance editor for The Killion Group for more than 2 years. I’m happy to do developmental, line, and proof editing for most fiction and romance, preferring all subgenres of paranormal, historical, and suspense. Visit my website for more information at www.jbrayweber.com. Please note, my website says I am no longer taking new clients directly, but if you are interested in my services, email me and mention the Ruby blog!

Jenn, what is your best advice for authors in approaching an editor?

Be specific in what you expect from an editor.  At the same time, understand what you may think is a proofread might actually be something more. Trust an editor to know what a story needs. Be aware that editing is a critical process. An editor is looking for what’s wrong with a story and/or ways to improve it. No matter how much it hurts or how long the revision letter, authors should not take it personally.

Do you expect authors to have a certain level of skill, and how do you judge that? Or do you work with beginning writers who show promise?

I do expect authors to have a certain level of skill. We all have weaknesses, but an author should at the very least know basic craft. In my opinion, if an author doesn’t have a grasp on grammar or point of view, has meandering goals/motivations/conflicts or nonexistent plots, then they are not ready for an editor. I can and do work with new writers but they have to be willing to learn and use the tools I give them.

How do you judge if you and the author are a good fit?

One way is to be excited by the author’s story and the author be excited by the edits I provide. It’s a genuine, mutual respect.

How far in advance do you schedule clients? What is your expected turn-around time– You to author and author to you?

I schedule a month to two months out, but can be flexible. Turnaround time would depend on the level of edits. A manuscript heavy on developmental edits will take longer than a light polish. My average time is 2 weeks.

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PAT THOMAS

I am the mother of three adult children and three grand-babies I don’t see often enough. Beginning in my teen years, I read until I exhausted a genre. About five years in I’d shift to another: paranormal to romance, to historic romance, to children’s, to YA, to suspense, to self-help, to thriller, to fantasy, to memoir/biography to… And that continued until I took editing courses and began to edit work for others.

Q: Who reads novels ten hours a day, every day, but seldom reads a published book? Me.

I have a BSc, a BA, Bed, MAEd (thesis Writing as a Social Act), and second MA without thesis (Critical Literacy). I completed a Certificate in Professional Writing and Rhetoric except for the course on writing press releases – I really wish I’d taken that one – and several additional courses on writing, creative writing and women’s studies. I was a career educator (primary to Grade 12) and then a college instructor in the area of adult literacy until I began taking editing courses while on sabbatical in 2005: Mt. St. Vincent and Ryersen University Publishing Program.

I’ve taken short courses through Editor’s Canada and given writing workshops on editing and have worked as a freelance editor for traditional publishers: Lachesis Publishing, Fernwood Publishing and Roseway Publishing and Harlequin Digital. I have also judged literary and fiction writing contests.

Now I have a small company, WindyWood Publishing. Through it I help local writers get their books into print and e-book formats. I also provide active and ongoing editorial support for several series writers in the States, Canada, and Australia.

I’ve edited 180+ books – through all three levels of editing – and I try to work on two to three projects at a time, overlapping different levels of edits. I take new clients occasionally.

I prefer to edit series of books and in these genres: Contemporary Romances, New Age Fiction, Thrillers, Historical and Fantasy, Contemporary fiction and Paranormal.

My website: http://patthomaseditor.webs.com/

My contact information: editpat@hotmail.com

All rates can be viewed on my website   patthomaseditor.com  or discussed upon contact with clients.

Pat, what is your best advice for authors approaching an editor?

Read in your genre. Know what appeals to you as a reader. Apply that to your work. Take your work seriously and take it as far as you can on your own. Then find a good critique partner and revise with their suggestions in mind – only the ones you agree with and that strengthen your story. Find out who edits books you enjoy reading. Then approach that editor if you feel they would be a good fit for you, for your genre, for your writing style.

Realize a professional editor has only so much time to spend on your manuscript. If it’s thrown together, lacks logic, contains many errors or requires extensive revision, that will limit how far the editor can help you take your book. Also, realize editors are taught not to take on work that doesn’t appeal to them. So, if they can’t envision ways to help you make it better it’s one they’re likely to turn down. Make sure your editor likes your story and has a level of interest or excitement about working with you on it.

Do you expect authors to have a certain level of skill, and how do you judge that? Or do you work with beginning writers who show promise?

It’s so subjective. Basic writing skills, applied to a great story, can get my attention. If I see an easy fix – a way to address and strengthen skills with instruction – I might take a chance. Initially I read twenty pages of a manuscript to size it up – that’s about two hours of my time – before making a decision based on the writing and a concise summary. And I mean a summary, not the back jacket blurb. I need to know the ending too. If I accept the edit on the basis of 20 pages, but find the rest of the book does not meet expectations or style, I will step back and suggest another editor or writing coach.

I work with writers willing and open to learn and who demonstrate that during the process. I’ll take on tried and true authors, who’ve written successfully in one genre, received awards, and have worked with editors before, even if they are switching genres, especially if their intention is to begin a new series. I will sometimes take on new clients sent my way by authors I already work with. I do not advertise. I was fortunate to be mentioned and endorsed in The Naked Truth about Self-Publishing five years ago. My most prolific client, Chris Taylor, came my way through that recommendation – all the way from Australia – and we work well together. Twenty plus books, I believe, over three series in four or five years.

Sometimes I’ve been asked to do a “ghost” substantive edit for another editor working on a difficult project. They combine my notes with theirs to present to the author. This is done on a barter basis with another editor whereby they’ll do the same for me if I require a second set of impressions/suggestions.

I have also gently let clients drift away if they keep repeating same large types of errors even if I’ve repeatedly shared instruction and examples. For me, that’s fair.

How do you judge if you and the author are a good fit?

If I can edit the anticipated pages in the time I expect. If it takes five or six times longer, then I am unable to work with the author on their project and will refer them to someone who offers coaching as well as editing. I am very willing to recommend someone else edit a piece. If we communicate easily – and not too often – and if questions and suggestions relate to the project, if timelines are met and if writers are satisfied and come back for more, then I’m happy. I’m not a warm and fuzzy type editor and sometimes the highest praise an author gets is “nice” in the margin. I don’t edit and comment as I would a student on a report card. I take the writer to be a professional and try my best to help.

How far in advance do you schedule clients?

New clients, five months or longer, in advance. Series authors create a rhythm that we all work within. There’s a tacit understanding and a unique style guide created for each series and I follow those. It’s like a dance. Depending on frequency of completions and preorder and formatting deadlines this work rises to the top and is given priority. Others are fit in when there are openings.

New authors are aware this could lengthen their editing time and agree to that ahead of time. They have to be more willing to be flexible with time, perhaps stretching the edit to two months instead of three passes over four to six weeks. If an edit goes on too long, with huge gaps between drafts being returned, it can become stale. If I believe my substantive suggestions are huge, I will bill for that portion after the first pass and let them know it’s okay if they’d like to find another editor who can move them up in the priority pile.  Once in the cue we’re good to continue, though, if they wish..

What is your expected turn-around time — You to author and author to you?

Four to six weeks to completion for series authors once the process begins. First pass often takes me ten days to two weeks and that’s when I begin to create the author’s style sheet – recording decisions they make as writers – and then I apply those consistently. Then it’s back for a week or two with author who works on major revisions. I take about a week for my second pass. This works if authors take three or four days to do these less obtrusive edits. A week is required at the end because it often involves two proofreaders going through the manuscript and we come to consensus on final line edits.

Facing facts, I‘ve learned new authors, or authors requiring a lot of coaching, take longer than this because of the cueing system with series authors, but also because the learning curve can be huge, on both sides.

I learn something new or appreciate something different with every edit I do. Sometimes it’s about sentences that flow like clear water, or dialogue that grabs my attention, or characters I don’t want to let go of at the end of the book – even after three passes. As well as inspiring me, writers constantly challenge me.

Over time I’ve become less rigid, more bendable. For the first years in the business, I enforced every mote of convention on writers. Would not allow my name attached if they chose something other than convention. My wonderful authors pushed back, exerted their style, intuition and common sense, and over time they taught me about what is most important: It’s not so much about which style guide I use, but rather, what their readers will understand and accept and then applying that consistently.

I’ve learned that if writers are consistent with style, readers will stay on board. I’m working on a book now on this topic as it relates to dialogue: Dialogue Dilemmas. In it I illustrate and discuss how different authors I work with (Bev Pettersen, Julianne MacLean, Chris Taylor, Benjamin Stevens, Autumn Jordon, Anne Zoelle and others) handle different types of dialogue in ways that readers understand. The book’s completion depends on finding time in this crazy life though – and it may never get its time.

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TAMARA HOGAN

I’m an English major by education and a software and process engineer by trade. I recently stopped telecommuting to Silicon Valley to teach, edit, and write full-time. I’m an award-winning paranormal romance author, an award-nominated editor (for my indie release, TEMPT ME), a frequent contest judge, and a feral reader of most romance sub-genres. I recently joined the teaching staff at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, teaching workshops on story structure and three-dimensional villains. I offer developmental editing, beta reading, and sensitivity reading of full-length romance novels for all sub-genres except YA/NA and Inspirational, and I’d be delighted to work on your edgiest sci-fi and erotica projects. Sensitivity reading topics include software engineering, women in STEM, Silicon Valley work culture, chronic pain and pain management (including opioid use), and living with sensory sensitivities. Please contact me at tamara@tamarahogan.com to discuss your project, your timeline, and rates.  

What is your best advice for authors in approaching an editor?

A) Is there a particular area of the manuscript, or of craft, which concerns you? That’s great information to provide to an editor up front.

B) For best results, please deliver a manuscript that’s largely free of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors!

Do you expect authors to have a certain level of skill, and how do you judge that? Or do you work with beginning writers who show promise?  

I feel there’s only so much “Writing 101”-type instruction that an editor can effectively provide during the editing phase of the work. For that reason, I prefer working with published writers, or with writers who have a strong working knowledge of craft fundamentals. (Intermediate-Advanced)    

How do you judge if you and the author are a good fit? 

Ooh, that question of alchemy is a tough one. I think I’m a good fit for clients who know their strengths and weaknesses (we all have them) and who don’t necessarily need a lot of hair pats. That said, I’ll definitely let the client know when something’s working well. 🙂   

How far in advance do you schedule clients? What is your expected turn-around time– You to author and author to you?

I prefer to schedule work at least one month in advance, and the expected turnaround time varies depending on client need and my own commitments. Depending on the length of the work, I can usually provide feedback within a week.

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CHRISTA DESIR

My name is Christa Desir and my editorial experience began with a nine-month internship at Entangled Publishing when they first opened their doors. I then became an acquiring content editor for Samhain Publishing from 2011 until they closed in 2016. Most recently, I have been doing freelance content editing for St. Martin’s Swerve, as well as copy editing for Kensington and Macmillan’s YA imprints. I continue to content edit for many of my Samhain authors who are now self-publishing. I’ve worked across many romance subgenres (paranormal, contemporary, UF, historical, LGBTQ, NA) but tend to prefer higher heat books. I also have a personal affinity for multicultural romances as well as queer books of any type. I’m a pro-sex feminist and rape victim advocate, so I prefer not to work on books that involve rape/abduction fantasies or are predicated on a romantic rivalry between women. You can find my rates and contact me at www.editorchrista.com or on Twitter at @EditorChrista.

What is your best advice for authors in approaching an editor?

Mostly, I prefer when authors contact me with a completed manuscript and some specifics about what they’re looking for in an editor, what their scheduling needs are, and what they want to accomplish with their book. My best advice is to be patient with editors getting back to you. I try to get back to everyone within a week, but sometimes life happens and I’m on an editing deadline. Also, the earlier you hire an editor, the better. (This goes for payment too!) A lot of really good editors are booked out pretty far in advance so waiting until the last minute is leaving you with fewer choices. A good rule of thumb for me is to book the next season out. So if we’re in summer, reach out to me about my fall/winter schedule. Sometimes I have last-minute openings, but those tend to get snagged up pretty quickly.

Do you expect authors to have a certain level of skill, and how do you judge that? Or do you work with beginning writers who show promise?

With authors I’ve never worked with before, I generally ask them to send me 5-10 pages that I’ll quickly edit for them and I can see what I’m dealing with in terms of their skill level and they can see how I edit. If I can see that a book will take more time from me, I’m not going to say no necessarily, but I might push the book further back in my schedule so I have the time to give it a thorough edit. Also, not every author is going to love my style and I think it’s best if new authors approaching me get a feel for how I edit and make sure that’s what they want.

How do you judge if you and the author are a good fit?

A lot of my work comes from referrals so I trust the people who have referred me. In terms of our fit, again, that 5-10-page edit helps a lot. Some editors won’t do that because they don’t have the time, but I find it very fair for a new-to-me author to ask me for it. If I don’t have time, then I’m always honest about that and will refer to other editors I know.

How far in advance do you schedule clients? What is your expected turn-around time– You to author and author to you?

I’m booked 3-4 months out, so I’d like authors to schedule me as early as possible. In terms of turn-around time, it depends a LOT on the needs of the book. I generally can complete one editorial pass in about a week. But a lot of times the author will have to do some extensive work so I don’t want them to feel they have to get it back to me in that same amount of time. Here is where communication and scheduling expectations are critical and need to be made clear before work starts. For more seasoned authors, generally the entire editorial process can take a month if I’m doing multiple edit passes (a week per edit pass and a week per author revision). If the novel is shorter, I can sometimes get it done more quickly, but I don’t want to make those promises.

Thank you for having me!

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LAURA OWNBEY

I started working as a freelance editor six years ago. After a manuscript from one client sold to Spencer Hill Press (which primarily published YA), that publishing house took me on as a copy editor and later as a senior editor. I continued to do freelance projects on the side to get a broad sampling of more genres. Last year, I transitioned into technical editing and writing, but I still enjoy doing fiction editing on the side. I most often edit YA, fantasy, science fiction, romance, and mysteries. I also have a some experience with historical fiction and middle-grade work and am happy to explore other genres: the middle-grade steampunk fantasy I edited recently was a great change of pace. I do take on new clients, primarily for developmental edits or line/copy edits on full manuscripts.

All rates can be viewed at my website here: http://redpenreviews.blogspot.com/p/editing.html

For more questions, contact me at lcownbey@gmail.com

What is your best advice for authors in approaching an editor?

Before you look for an editor, decide what you want from the experience. Are you looking for big-picture help in tightening your plot and growing as a writer? Are you happy with your fourth draft and looking for someone to help catch details before you send it to agents? Knowing what you want makes it easier to send those initial inquiries. The more specific you are, the more an editor can help.

 Do you expect authors to have a certain level of skill, and how do you judge that? Or do you work with beginning writers who show promise?

I can work with newer writers, especially if they’re open to advice. I enjoy hearing from writers who haven’t been published before and are willing to say “I like the plot I have, but my dialogue feels clunky. Can you help?” If the sentences are so oddly assembled that I can’t figure out what’s happening, though, that writer probably isn’t ready for an editor. You want to get good value for your money, so take the manuscript as far as you can on your own and maybe with beta readers before you bring in an editor.

How do you judge if you and the author are a good fit?

If an author and I are a good fit, we often have conversations about projects. My first client and I are a great case here. She used to be published through the same publishing house where I worked. Both of us have moved on from there, but we still get dinner together to brainstorm her books and she likes to get developmental edits during the writing process to help bring everything into focus. Not everyone has that kind of time, but I’ve worked with authors who send me several books over the course of months or years and I enjoy watching their writing grow and change.

In the shorter term, I find that sample edits help a lot with this. If writers send in a few chapters at first, it’s a small payment to test the waters. We can have a conversation about what I mean by comments or where they want more attention: it helps so much in establishing a rapport.

How far in advance do you schedule clients? What is your expected turn-around time– You to author and author to you?

Scheduling varies a lot based on the time of year: conventions, holidays, and NaNoWriMo leftovers tend to make things exciting. I like to have at least a week or so of warning when I schedule projects, especially for line edits. If a writer asks if I can start a project tomorrow and turn it around in a week, the answer is no unless my schedule is clear and it’s a short sample edit. If you know you need an editor in October, start asking around in August or early September: my schedule can fill up quickly if a lot of people want to make pitches at the same convention.

For an average book (70-80k), I’m generally comfortable turning that around in two weeks. For a longer book, or something that needs very detailed line edits, I might book closer to three weeks. I like to do two passes with a little space between them so I respond both as a fresh reader and as someone who already knows what’s coming. Authors spend very different amounts of time if they want to send the same project to me twice: I’ve done passes a few weeks apart and almost a year apart.

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LINDA INGMANSON

Hi there! I edit under my name, Linda Ingmanson, and my website is www.lindaedits.com. I’ve been freelance editing for twelve years for various publishers including Samhain and Loose Id, and I currently work with indie authors at various stages in their careers. My schedule is pretty full right now, but I’m always open to talking to potential new clients. I’ll edit anything, but I’ve handled primarily romance — any heat level, any subgenre including m/f, m/m, sweet to boiling hot, etc. My process is to do two rounds of edits, with the first covering the bulk of the line editing as well as content editing, the second round cleaning up revisions, and then it’s off to the proofreader for a fresh pair of eyes and a final polish. Rates are posted on my website. I can be contacted at lindaedits123@gmail.com.

What is your best advice for authors in approaching an editor, Linda?

I will edit anything with words, but some editors do have preferences or genres they’d rather not work on, so it’s good to establish up front if your editor has any content limitations. Also, when discussing deadlines, be sure you tell the editor the date you need all completed edits back to you, not your release date. There’s no way for an editor to know if you need the book back three weeks ahead of your release date or one day ahead of it, as every author is different. Clarity of communication makes the entire process run smoothly. Please ask how much time is required for edits. For example, I ask for six to eight weeks for books over 50,000 words. That doesn’t mean I’ll be working on the book for six weeks, but that gives me time to fit it into the schedule and get it back to you in a timely fashion so we’ll meet your deadline. 

Do you expect authors to have a certain level of skill, and how do you judge that? Or do you work with beginning writers who show promise?

 I have worked with everything from first-time authors to NYT bestsellers. I really enjoy working with beginners because the growth and improvement is so much more evident as we progress from the first book onward. However, of course, those edits are much more time-consuming and require patience, a degree of hand-holding, and probably more than the standard two rounds from me. I don’t take on too many first-timers anymore because of time constraints. If I am curious about a writer’s level of skill, I’ll ask for a few sample pages and go for there with estimates of price and turnaround time. I also enjoy working with established authors as they tend to be very professional and know exactly what they want and need out of an edit.

How do you judge if you and the author are a good fit?

The first couple of times you work with someone, you’re feeling them out to see how receptive they are to edits and suggestions, how hard you can push for changes, how much explanation you need to give with each change, how much feedback they’re looking for, etc. Most authors are great to work with. I really have very few complaints. My “regulars” and I work together like a well-oiled machine, and I know they trust me to make the right suggestions for their books and there won’t be much back and forth. The author always has the final say in any edit, of course, so even if there’s something I feel strongly should be changed, and the author really wants to leave it in, then I respect the author’s decision. I think mutual respect and, as mentioned above, clear communication builds a solid author/editor relationship. If an author is uncomfortable with something in the process or wants me to focus more on a certain aspect of the story, I’m completely open to adjusting to whatever they require.

How far in advance do you schedule clients? What is your expected turn-around time– You to author and author to you?

I ask for four to six weeks for novellas, and six to eight weeks for novels, but authors are frequently late finishing their drafts and have already put the book up for preorder, so I try to be flexible. If an author sends me a book and says there’s no hard deadline, or they have a few months to work with it, I just want to kiss them, because it’s rare not to be under pressure to hit a tight deadline, lol. Again, those windows don’t mean I’m dropping everything as soon as the book hits my inbox and leaping on it, but if I have the book in hand, then I can put it in the queue and it’ll be there as soon as I’m ready to start. My proofreaders require a week as well (or a bit longer on books over 100K), so that also needs to be factored in. Some authors are super quick to turn around edits, and others are slower, so that should be considered when scheduling an edit. One thing I would recommend is having your betas go through the book before you send it to the editor, because there can easily be a case of too many cooks in the kitchen and the author tying herself in knots trying to please everybody when she’s getting conflicting advice in the final rounds.  

Let’s Get those Manuscripts Ready

Next week, many romance writers will be convening in Orlando for RWA’s annual conference.  Authors will be pitching their work to editors and agents, and a lucky few will be asked to submit full or partial manuscripts.

And that’s when the panic hits.

It’s a wonderful feeling to have an agent or editor request your work, but there is always that moment, after the conference is over and you’re back home, when you know that the work needs a little “polishing.”

So I thought I would provide a little inspiration for everyone who needs to spiff up that manuscript, by sharing a few editing thoughts using examples of my own, poorly written work.

My goal is to: 1) show that everyone makes the same mistakes, and 2) inspire you to seek out the worst and most egregious examples of crappy writing and fix them. . . before you submit your manuscript for evaluation.  So here goes.  Below you’ll find some examples of the worst writing ever, and how I fixed it.

POINT OF VIEW MISTAKES

I write deep third person, which is sort of like first person but without the I.  That means I’m forever trying to get out of my own way.  Here are a few examples of how I failed by inserting extraneous words and phrases that did nothing but distance the point of view.

 

First Draft: Even across the room she could feel the heat coming off his body in waves. She was not immune, but she damn well wanted to be. Guys like Matthew Lyndon should be locked away to prevent them from breaking too many hearts.

Edited Version: Heat rolled off his body in waves that reached her even across the room.  Damn.  Guys like Matthew Lyndon should be locked away to prevent them from breaking too many hearts.

In this edit, I removed the words “she could feel,” because it was unnecessary.  Here are a few more examples of subtle point of view problems:

 

First Draft: She watched the bartender as he moved down the bar and chatted with a group of guys at the corner.

Edited Version: The bartender moved down the bar and chatted with a group of guys at the corner.

 

First Draft: He ached to talk with her, to share his own story of high school rejection.  But he resisted that temptation.  He understood her trust issues since they mirrored his.

Revised Version:  He ached to talk with her, to share his own story of high school rejection.  But he resisted that temptation because her trust issues mirrored his own.

 

BEWARE THE MIND READER

Sometimes when writing deep third person, my point of view character will know something that make him/her a mind reader, or worse, like she’s mysteriously entered another character’s mind.  Here’s an example:

First Draft (not in Allison’s point of view): The bride looked back toward the window.  Allison wasn’t enjoying the view of the parking lot.

Revised Version: The bride looked back toward the window, which provided a beautiful view…of the parking lot.

By putting in the ellipsis I convey the point of view character’s snark about the ugly view, without sending the reader on a head-bopping journey.

ECHOES

It’s amazing how many times I can inadvertently repeat words in a sentence or paragraph. An event that inevitably leads to truly awful prose.  Some examples:

First Draft:  The situation made him feel powerless. So, after work, he headed directly to the Jaybird Café.  He needed a diversion, and the moment he walked into the bar and saw Courtney sitting at the bar with Ryan Pierce he knew precisely what sort of diversion he needed.

Revised Draft: Matt couldn’t stop the inevitable.  So after work, he headed directly to the Jaybird Café looking for a diversion.  He found it in the person of Courtney Wallace, who was sitting at the bar with Ryan Pierce.   

In this rewrite I fixed two echoes (YIKES!) and the point of view issues.

PASSIVE VOICE AND THE VERB “TO BE”

Like everyone, I sometimes fall into the habit of using passive voice.  I also have horrible paragraphs in which I repeat some version of the verb “to be” a zillion times.  Passive voice and overusing the verb “was” are not the same thing, but they can both lead to awful writing.  Here are some examples:

First draft: The landlord was given written notice of the repairs needed, and given only thirty days to affect them. And now, forty days later, hefty fines and a lien had been placed on the property.

Revised draft: The county notified the landlord of the repairs needed.  Anderson was given thirty days to effect them, but he failed to respond.  Forty days later, the government fined him and placed a lien on the property.

The revision fixes: 1) the echo (given) was removed, 2) Two examples of passive voice were removed, but not the third, and 3) the common spelling error (affect vs. effect) was corrected.

And here’s an example that contains no passive voice, but it overdoes the verbs was and were.

First Draft:  “Matthew was dorky?”  How was that possible.  The guy was movie-star handsome.  All the Lyndons were movie-star handsome.  The Lyndons didn’t do dorky.

Revised Draft: “Matthew was dorky?”  How was that possible?  The Lyndon family produced only movie-star handsome progeny. They didn’t do dorky.

Polishing a manuscripts is part of the job of being a conscientious writer.  And boy, do my first drafts suck!  In fact, I would say that I spend more time editing and polishing my stories than I do in actually writing them. 

Want to help and inspire others?  Share your own editing and manuscript polishing ideas, techniques, and examples in the comments below.

And good luck with those RWA pitches!

A Cautionary Tale

It’s been said that, in a courtroom, the man who represents himself has a fool for a client. Something similar can be said for a writer who does his or her own editing.

StarshipIn an earlier blog, I mentioned fine-tuning my SFR and that it became a cautionary tale in and of itself. Here’s what happened:

Some of you know family obligations made it impossible for Cuz to relocate when his employer chose to move.  With him facing unemployment, we decided to polish a manuscript that, although begun as a writing exercise in the 90s, would not die. Unsure whether those old ideas still had merit, we entered the first chapters into a contest and—Hallelujah!—they did. To ice our little happy cake, while the story sat, SFR emerged as a viable genre. Whoopee!

Reality soon changed whoopee to whoop ass—with mine in its sights. Half the chapters remained in WordPerfect®, the program we had grudgingly abandoned when Word® rose to industry dominance. Some existed only on legal pads. The last handful were doc. and docx. files.

Have you any idea the garbage a story can collect over nigh eighteen years? Upon seeing the merged files, I darn near had a coronary. Over 120,000 words, huge gaps, duplicate scenes, missing scenes, more inconsistencies than I care to enumerate, and despite comprehensive profiles, the characters had morphed. Oh, and no ending. That’s right. At 120+K. It. Was. Not. Finished.

But wait. There’s more. Since we were having so much fun, circumstances added a smidge more crazy.

My CP, who planned to help us navigate indie publishing’s vagaries, announced her impending out-of-state relocation. In a strange twist, although they didn’t know each other, Cuz and her hubby worked for the same outfit.

Yay.

With the deadline approaching and beta-readers waiting, we escalated to panic mode. I settled in to work. I kid you not when I say I gained about fifteen pounds because I did little but sit and type until I sent the story to the readers.

Nobody liked the hero. Too alpha. No evidence of a softer side. The heroine, while likable,  didn’t fare much better. The villain . . . Well, you get the idea.

I returned to my chair and, comments in hand, knuckled down.

Many sleepless nights, pots of coffee, and PB&J sandwiches later, we had something viable but, given its age, realized holes we stood too close to see might yet exist. Both Cuz and I have solid general science backgrounds and experience within specific disciplines. Neither of us can claim more than a basic grasp of physics, however, and we had, of course, ventured there.

Pooling our resources, we hired a developmental Sci-fi editor who, we were assured, had experience with romance.

While he found several oopsies on the physics/space-science front, making him well-worth his hire, his comments and handling of the love story declared ours wasn’t the story he wanted to read. Unfortunately, what he wanted to read, we didn’t want to write.

We thanked him and parted ways.

I’ve done plenty of editing during my life. These days, it’s mostly for my CP, but in years past, I edited publications, ads, form letters—Yeah. Fun stuff—and books that eventually found place in traditional publishing. I could handle this. No sweat.

Thus, without fanfare, I donned motley and joined the fools’ ranks.

More eighteen and twenty-hour days behind the desk followed. My feet swelled. My hips spread. Each tick of the clock, it seemed, claimed another strand of hair.

Somehow, between midnight phone debates, sometimes-grudging compromises, incessant typing, and gritty eyes, time ran out. Cuz and CP made the long trip, squishing into my dinky office to navigate the publishing process.

After an almost nineteen year gestation, the book went live 25 January 2015.

It wasn’t ready. We knew it. We priced it high to discourage buyers, but like proud parents who refuse to believe they created an ugly child, kept the pictures on display. 

People bought it. Our family and friends led the way, but we sold too many for just that forgiving group.

Instant panic—for me.

Cuz moseyed on to Book Two. I couldn’t make him understand Book One of a series carries the weight of every book that follows (we have three gestating), and ours didn’t have the muscle yet. Our developmental editor had become so fixated on the alien pronoun usage several discrepancies and plot holes evaded his detection just as they’d escaped mine—until I read the book in print.

Nightmares had nothing on this mess. The book bled red ink. Depression, a specter most writers battle at times, found a foothold. I republished over and over while fighting the demon (I forget how many print copies I bought. I can’t seem to see this stuff on the computer), enduring Cuz and Hubble’s jokes about how anal I was and their advice to let it be. No argument made either male understand why I persisted. The months that followed proved hellish.

On 1 August 2015, I downloaded The Sword & the Starship for the final—I hope—time, and can, at long last, say I’m proud of it. It’s sixteen pages and several thousand words leaner than its January incarnation. The bits that went nowhere are gone. The timeline issue has been resolved. The hero and heroine boast complete character and emotional arcs. As for the villain? No complaints.

AND (cue Angel Choir) Cuz has finally seen the light.

Here’s what we learned:

1.) Hiring a content or copy editor would have been wise. Despite determined attempts at objectivity, my knowledge of the story and characters led to ill-advised assumptions, skimming, and more reworking than there had to be.

2.) Nothing catches errors quite like the ear. Read the book aloud. Hearing it read works, too—if you can avoid zoning out.

3.) Not all editors are created equal. While grateful for the solid science, we would have been better served by an editor who shared our vision for the story.

4.) Trust yourself. If your inner voice is screaming, listen; it’s probably right.

5.) Chair time is not always time well-spent. Get up. Move. You can’t think very well with your blood cushioning your tush. You’ll accomplish more with it energizing your brain.

6.) Sometimes, in the long run, it costs less to spend. If you work best with print, then print. While shredded paperbacks are excellent soil-enhancers, and pages spread over soil stop weeds, they’re expensive alternatives. Your flowerbeds will be just as happy with computer paper. Better a garden than a landfill. 

7.) Publishing sites have draft modes. Unfortunately, I noticed the option too late. We could have learned what we needed without risking our—or our book’s—reputation. Instead, we went all in, releasing it during its almost-but-not-quite-ready-yet, chrysalis stage—a decision we might yet regret.

So there you have it, my cautionary tale. If you take nothing else from it, take this:

Some things never attain their potential if they’re rushed, so don’t cut the chrysalis. 

Wait for the butterfly. DSCN1118

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes the Mirror Lies

During my teens, Max Factor and Mary Quant dominated the make-up aisles.  Periwinkle-blue cream eyeshadow (looked like silvery-blue foil), Petal Pink lipstick (one drop of blood in a vat of chalk would have had more color), thick, black eyeliner, and blackest-black mascara applied with a trowel to lashes later separated with either a straight or safety pin were de rigueur.  All the coolest gals added a ‘cat-eye’ flourish to their eyeliner, mimicking the models walking NY’s runways. 

Like all teens, I wanted to be cool, so I followed the program.  The heavy black, with a little assist from the shimmery periwinkle, made my crystal-blue eyes shine like beacons across a midnight sea.  With my lips all but erased, they made a striking focal point.  I knew it to be true.  My mirror told me so.

Now, our high school had mirrors on every corner of every hall—ostensibly for safety, but who cared about that?  Teenage girls just want to be certain they look good.  So, being a teenaged girl, I knew the location of every one.  There should have been no room for suprises, right?

One day, while walking to class and arguing with a friend over a potentially tricky AP bio test, I glanced up.  Some garishly raccoon-eyed chick who looked like death very slightly warmed stared back at me like I was the nightmare come to life, not she.  It took me a moment to realize my friend and I had reached an intersection, and since that death-masked horror wore the same outfit as I—well, you get the picture.  I wanted to vomit.  All the people who’d offered make-up advice (including my mom who I had, naturally, ignored) hadn’t been jealous or spiteful or just plain mean.  They’d been trying to make me see the truth.

That’s when I realized mirrors lie.  Or, perhaps more accurately, we lie to ourselves, seeing what we expect to see—until faced by a mirror for which we are unprepared.

The same can be said of our writing.  We look at it and look at it until we cease to see what’s there.  We can practically recite it by rote, so when we read, we see only what we want to see and ignore flaws evident to anyone but ourselves.

I’ve often heard other writers suggest putting a work aside for several weeks before attempting to edit.  The idea is to see it with new eyes.

Newsflash:  You haven’t changed much in those few weeks or months, and the story you wrote, the product of your imagination, research, blood, sweat, and tears, is still yours.  You will pick it up determined to be objective, but you won’t see the death mask; you will see crystalline-blue and be deluded by your own expectations.  Your eyes can never be new to the story again.  It’s like trying to regain innocence lost.  It isn’t going to happen.

So many people are going the indie route to publishing these days, which is good in many ways.  However, we can all agree there’s a great deal of dreck available, tarnishing the credibility of hard-working, responsible indie authors.  While many can’t afford professional editing—yet—there are alternatives that can better the product of both the indie and traditionally published author.

I do the lion’s share of the editing for my critique partner.  I don’t claim to be an editor, mind you, but I am rather anal about quality, and when trying to make something the best it can be, that usually undesirable characteristic can be a blessing.

One of the tools I use is a voice program that reads the work aloud.  A word missing?  Your ear will catch it even if you eyes don’t.  Awkward phrasing?  Trust your ears.  Unrealistic dialogue?  Ears are a much more reliable detector than eyes.

Even so, never underestimate the value of a second set of eyes.  Don’t have a CP or a particularly anal friend?  Get a couple of Beta Readers.  These can be anyone who reads romance.  Romance readers have expectations, and they’ll let you know if you fall short.  If you confuse them, they’ll tell you.  They don’t need professional training to recognize slow pacing or cardboard characters before you submit to an editor or agent or make the jump to indie publishing.

If you plan to go indie and can afford it, hire a professional editor.  Of course, finding a good one may require some work, but both  the effort and the cost will be small in comparison to the potential rewards.  Ask around.  Talk to other writers.  Join the appropriate loops.  There are good, free-lance editors available.

Don’t let yourself be deceived.  Realizing that ugly girl in the mirror is you is nauseating, but make-up comes off with a bit of soap and water.  Realizing you sent your book into the world too soon, painted on a death-mask that no amount of cleanser can remove, could destroy something precious.  Don’t risk it.

Have you encounted a mirror, whether literal or metaphorical, that has revealed something you’d rather not have seen (fitting room mirrors don’t count; those things are simply diabolical), and how do you go about the editing process?

Get Thee a Nitpicky CP — aka Cattle Prod

Many of us are furiously polishing a manuscript we entered in the Golden Heart so it will be ready to submit to agents and editors on March 25th when we get a call from one of the RWA board members telling us our story is a finalist.  (Note:  I say WHEN and not IF.  Positive thinking is always a plus.)  If you want to be sure your manuscript is truly editor/agent ready, I suggest finding a CP aka cattle prod to help you.  (And be sure to become one in return.)

Anyone who’s ever heard my critique partner and me discussing our work would swear a violent homicide was imminent.  We argue LOUDLY, sometimes for hours, until one of three things happens:

  1. One of us has an AH-HA! moment and finally sees the other person’s point
  2. The one being critiqued comes up with a solution or compromise that addresses the critiquer’s concern or issue
  3. We reach an impasse and lovingly agree to disagree

Occasionally our discussions are about what some might consider a trivial and inane matter.  But is it really?  If our debate was truly insignificant, would the critiquer have been pulled out of the story?  In my opinion, anytime something in a manuscript stops a reader (aside from a passage so funny, touching, or insightful it begs to be reread) it’s a potential problem.

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