Oh, the Hats You Will Wear!

Living As a Reader, Writer, and Editor

Guest Post by Sandi Layne

reading writing and editing by sandi layne

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When I was in Middle School—we called it Junior High, back in my day—a friend of mine told me something that has stayed with me ever since. She said she didn’t want to be a penpal with me when she moved because she thought I’d red-pen her letters.

I kid you not.

For the record, I never red-pen correspondence. Editing has just been something I’ve done without thinking about it since I was quite young. For this, we can blame thank my mother. Not only did she send me to the dictionary when I didn’t understand one of her polysyllabic utterings, but she also corrected my grammar from my earliest spoken sentences.  When I began writing for school, she combed over my paragraphs and essays and short stories (written for extra credit or contests) until my work met her high standards.

I think the first paper I remember her really getting serious about was when I was in third grade and writing an essay about Jesus. (Not for a Christian school; he was just my chosen Famous Person.) From that time until I was in grad school (working on an advanced degree in Theology, yep) my work was often shared with my mother. And often, I did not come up to snuff in her estimation. Thankfully, my teachers loved my words.

Today, people even pay to read them. It’s kind of amazing.

The Green Hat:  Reader

I have been a voracious reader most of my life—just check my bio. When I started this peculiar journey, I began by writing what I read, in a lot of ways. The thing was, I found I didn’t want to read those books anymore, because I wanted to make sure my ideas were mine from that point onward. This severely curtailed my leisure reading and I had to expand my fictional horizons.

Still, I found myself reading hyper-critically once I began writing. On the flip-side, I was also paranoid lest I inadvertently borrow a phrase or idea from another author as I wrote my own romances. Most writers I know have said to themselves (or someone else!) “Oh, I would have said that like this…”

Come on, ‘fess up. You know you have!

But I also marvel when I see how a favorite author has managed to wrap me up in their world. I am just now re-reading Under the Dome, by Stephen King, and even if his style is familiar, it works for me. I lose myself in the tension while simultaneously keeping part of my brain back and taking notes.

“See how he did that?”

Maybe, someone will read my words and think something very similar.

The Blue Hat: Writer

Being critical of someone else’s words makes me feel guilty, as a writer. It really does. Because I know my own words aren’t always the best, either, but they are what I have in my head and so I use them, you know?  I use them fully aware that my readers are like unto me and that they will be saying, “Oh, I could have said this so much better!

Still, I have been known to gloat preen over a choice phrase or two… And I find that, when I do? The phrases are not the ones that stick with my editors or readers. This both depresses and encourages me. I remind myself that some of my favorite phrases might not have been the author’s chosen jewels, either.

As a writer, I find I am more deliberate as I craft some scenes. The scenes that require me to physically get up and work them out on my living room floor, or the moments that I have to push, word by stubborn word, from a crevice in my brain to the emptiness of the screen in front of me. I try to write in a way that will make my ideal reader lose themselves in what I give them.

And while I’m writing? I’m also reading. The green hat is always on my head. It has, after all, been there longest!

The Red Hat: Editor

In many ways, this is the easiest hat for me to wear. Perhaps because I am critical by nature. Perhaps because I’ve been doing it consciously for almost forty years. Perhaps it’s just because it is vastly easier to improve someone else’s writing than to improve my own. Or all of the above!

As I write a first draft, I remind myself it is a first draft. First, meaning there will be more. I am lenient with myself as I write, but I never forget the tips and notes my editors have given me on prior works, either. Be it something as mundane as a notation from the Chicago Manual of Style or something as complicated as separating internal monologue—a valid storytelling tool—from the “telling, not showing” that writers strive to avoid, I have so many things to sort through as I let a scene spill from my imagination to the keyboard and then to the screen in front of me. My internal editor pricks my writing-conscience with reminders that can sometimes get in the way of some serious “writing mojo.”

But! I’m a professional, I remind myself. I focus, create, and then I look over what I’ve typed and tweak it with the recent editorial reminders still sharp in my head.

And then…? I move forward.  There’s a The End I’m trying to reach.

Balance or Personality Multitasking?

Picture me sitting here at my iMac at a tiny computer desk in a small room. Behind me, the Spousal Unit has a movie on the flatscreen. In other rooms, the Offspring Units are occupying themselves in that Summer Vacation, Responsibility-Free zone that occurs when duties have been completed, dinner has been eaten, and all there is left to do is relax.

(And they say they want to grow up. Ha!)

I have a novel in progress behind the window in which I am typing this post. The novel involves a real historical character and a cast of fictional folk whom I have grown to care about. I have wanted to write this book for a long time, truly.

On my Kindle, there is a list of books I am going to read as soon as The End has been achieved for this novel in progress. Due to my “No Reading Policy,” I haven’t wanted to read anything that might be remotely connected to what I’m writing. But when the first draft is done? I’m all over the novels that are waiting—I can even see the covers behind my eyes. Tempting…tempting.

I find myself writing a bit more slowly for this story. My head is full of conflicts. Not only are there the conflicts inherent in the plot, but also the way I am approaching this. My lead editor knows the series I’m writing has a certain style and I can’t really deviate from that, but I am thinking always of her comments as I write this final book in the series. How can I improve so that my manuscript will have fewer critiques from her? (If you’re reading this, E, know that this is a good thing, in my estimation. It just slows me down some!) As an editor myself (yep, people pay me to red-pen their words, too) I know how much work she puts into these comments. I’d like her not to have to work so hard on my account.

All of this is in my head with every sentence I write. The anticipation of completion, the attention to detail, the wish to improve as I go—it’s a balancing act.

I do it all joyfully. The challenge is invigorating, the results boost me with such a feeling of accomplishment that makes any effort worth it. I hope the end result is worth it for others, too.

About the Author

Sandi Layne lives in Maryland with her husband and two sons, but no pets. She writes historical fiction and contemporary inspirational romance and can be found on her website: http://sandyquill.com, twitter: http://twitter.com/sandyquill, and Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/sandi_layne  Look for her latest title, An Unexpected Woman, to be released by The Writer’s Coffee Shop on July 11, 2013. The date is also her 21st Wedding Anniversary, which she will celebrate by doing the marketing with her husband.

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On Writing: Defining Your Conflict

Conflict 101: Survival

Guest post by Stacy Teitel

developing conflict in writing

© Empire331 | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

When I was in middle school, we had an assignment in our English class to read a book and give a ten-minute speech about it at the front of the classroom. *gulp*

I absolutely hated talking in front of groups of people, even small groups. I was not only socially awkward, but an extreme introvert with a side of nervousness—the kind of nervousness that makes me lightheaded. I used to think that if I stood very still, like using a reptilian defense mechanism, people’s attention would pass over me (and I could slowly back out of the room).

Sadly not. I went through with my speech because I was too afraid to ask the teacher to give me a break. So there I stood, timidly describing a teen werewolf horror and things that happened in it.

Abruptly the teacher told me my time was up.

I realized I hadn’t even gotten to the juicy parts of the book! I’d barely shaved away at the surface! As the nervous haze that caused millions of dots to appear around my vision started to clear, I asked myself “where did I go wrong?”

If you’re in a writing critique group, maybe you’ve experienced a similar situation.

You get asked, “What’s your story about?”

Well, there’s this guy and he comes home to find a group of robbers in his house and before he can call the cops, they make off with a valuable antique that has magical powers to… BAM. TIME IS UP.

Well, there’s this woman and she bumps into a handsome stranger who yells at her for being so clumsy, only to find out that he’s her boss at her new job she’s starting today… BAM. TIME IS UP.

But what is the story about? You could’ve sworn you said it somewhere. After all, you’ve been writing this book for months.

If we as writers can’t answer this question, then we can bet something is structurally wrong with our story. Even if we have an interesting protagonist, a plot with great potential, and months of research under our belts, all of those elements won’t hold together without the beating heart: conflict.

Conflict is a struggle between opposing forces. I won’t paste a dictionary definition and insult you. But that’s what it is in simple terms. When we try to apply this bare-boned definition to our stories, sometimes things get muddled. We get wrapped up in all the exciting things our characters are going to do, the obstacles they will face.

Whether you’re a pantser or plotter, just getting down the conflict in a line or two will keep you on track as you draft up your scenes.

Here’s a formula I use when I edit and analyze manuscripts. (If the author has nailed down her conflict, everything will plug in to this formula and it’s a beautiful thing.)

If [the protagonist] doesn’t [get something], [the antagonist] will [kill him].

This looks dramatic, but let me explain…

Death can be anything from basic survival, losing a job, to a broken heart. It’s whatever is at stake for the protagonist. He’s trying either to get something or to get away from something, and achieve a goal. I’m going to plug examples into this formula.

If [John] doesn’t [escape the island], [mega crocodile] will [eat him]. <– Physical death.

If [Sarah] doesn’t [earn good grades for the rest of the school year], [her parents] will [forbid her to date Kevin]. <– Emotional death.

If [Harry] doesn’t [destroy all the horcruxes], [Voldemort] will [commit genocide]. <– Genocide to magical and muggle races! 

Some of these examples are silly, but it doesn’t matter. Silly reasons are important if they’re important to your character.

But what about emotional conflict?

If [Marcy] doesn’t [confront her drug addiction], [Marcy] will [lose her husband]. <– Emotional death, with possible physical death if she doesn’t quit that crack. 

In this last example, Marcy is both the protagonist and antagonist. She is her own worst enemy and the conflict comes from within her.

So, next time someone asks us what our stories are about, we will have the conflict nailed down in our summary.

After Holly Brand saves her friend from a serial killer werewolf that’s been terrorizing her small town, Holly becomes the most popular girl in school and a local hero. But another killer is out there—the once-popular Gina, who’s going through a few howling transformations of her own. Holly tries to stop Gina’s pursuit for revenge (and bloodthirsty appetite) so she won’t become a werewolf’s next meal.

Perfect!

Now, if I could go back in time to my middle school English class…

About the Author

developmental editor apoideaeditorial.comStacy Teitel is a book editor at Apoidea Editorial, a developmental editing service to help fiction writers strengthen their manuscripts. When she’s not working with authors, you can find her copyediting and managing content for eMarketingVS. Some of her favorite things to do are watching political and crime shows, drinking good-quality coffee, and snuggling up with her Kindle. @ApoideaEdits www.apoideaeditorial.com

On Writing: The Importance of Critique Partners

Bad Girlz Write: Part Two

writing with critique partnersWeek before last (May 15), the talented ladies over at the Bad Girlz Write blog hosted a J to tha M chat about critique partners. You can read the final version here, but, as you may have noticed, we can be wordy bitches–or, at least, M can. We had so much fun with the subject and subsequent chat, we decided to share all the crap we cut on the FFYW blog. Lucky you guys, right?

Outtakes and Deleted Scenes

J: Jesus. how long has it been?

sometimes it doesn’t feel like long at all

and sometimes I feel like I’ve known you forever

when was that contest I asked you to judge?

M: Early 2010?

J: I read one of your stories and stalked you

I mean, asked you to judge a contest

I don’t even remember the contest

but I do remember getting all heart-clenchy when I read your stuff and wishing I could do that

make people get all heart-clenchy, I mean

and when I put that call out on twitter for a WC and you popped up, I kind of fangirled. a little. I mean, a tiny bit

M: I love to hear heart-clenchy

and, man, that was a long time ago

J: we’ve been pretty together on a lot of things

M: except that fluffcloud thing

J: you love my fluffcloud

M: the whole licorice and cotton candy

J: I keep you smiling through your gross licorice

you also love knocking me off of my cotton candy fluffcloud on occasion

I oblige you

that’s what friends do

M: keep it balanced

J: How did we get to the point where we wouldn’t write anything without the other seeing it?

M: I think it was during the WC chats where we both were kind of eyeing each other

J: and we gradually moved to private chats

from pasting bits and pieces to sending the whole chapter

we were sponges, ready to grab whatever we could from each other

soak up

M: and we were not only open to learning, but wanted it desperately

J: I loved that you were willing to make changes

instead of thinking you had it down because you had so many readers

and also that you were willing to give me a shot in spite of the few readers I had

M: honestly, I didn’t write to get readers. I wrote to get it out of my head and share. Part of that has always been wanting to make it better

J: that was so easy for me to see, too

M: make it better to satisfy myself and hopefully anyone who happens to read it along with it

J: we did go through a pretty short “getting to know you” period

if someone were to ask me why I trust you so much–well, we’ve covered a lot of it. Definitely your willingness to keep learning. I know if you don’t know, you’ll look it up. I never worry that you’ll tell me something without knowing for sure

then there’s your ability, which I saw firsthand. I already respected your writing before we met

M: it’s the being able to admit and understand that we might be wrong and willing to learn if we are or not

honestly, attitude is the most important thing

J: it’s hard to have a partnership when one believes she/he is better than the other

M: and it’s being able to question, too

not take everything the other says for granted

being able to argue a point

being able to accept when we’re wrong – and when we’re right

and know there are no hard feelings, that we can have a healthy debate

be honest but kind, not hurt each other’s feelings

J: some of your “no effing way” choices make me giggle sometimes, too

You with cooing. Me with flesh.

I just made myself shudder with that one

M: only babies and old ladies coo

not hunky heroes

just no

J: I never had a hunky hero coo

for the record

M: thank baby jesus

J: who would definitely coo

M: Only as as a baby

J: We just kind of fell in each other’s laps (or not. still working on that one.)

M: you’re going to be working a long time

J: I’m determined. Another thing you love about me

M: As far as finding a good CP, get to know people, who you fit with

J: it really is hit or miss. it’s just a matter of sticking it out

M: like meeting friends

J: and actually don’t be quick to trust

M: some people you like and click with, some you don’t

J: however our story might contradict that

M: everyone has different strength and weaknesses, and it’s great when you find someone who complements, balances

but the most important thing is comfort and attitude, I think

J: I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am for your patience when I’m going through your stuff

when I feel like someone’s tapping their watch, I make mistakes. I miss things.

M: yes, it’s a lot of understanding and being considerate on all kinds of levels, while being honest, too

honest about the editing issues, as well as time, and knowledge

when you have that level of trust, you both feel comfortable in asking and doing

M: writing is a lot of stress

and emotion

J: I just realized (again) how special you are

M: we have a pretty special relationship

J: what’s really telling of the comfort and trust in our partnership is our decision to write a whole book together

and then, because we’re either geniuses or fucking idiots, a whole series

M: and those two things together can be a fuck-all mess

J: I usually sway toward geniuses

M: oh, absolutely 🙂

J: I also think it’s going to be obvious to anyone reading this chat that I’m definitely the cotton candy

heh

M: good critique partners are all about support – all different kinds

I’m the whippy licorice, for sure.

J: but man, I love you

M: aw, I love you, too

we need that balance

otherwise, we’d be flaily messes

J: and I can’t thank you enough every day for the support you’ve given and still give. The knowledge, the patience, the learning, the understanding, the firm line in the sand once in a while…

M: it goes both ways, it really does.

I couldn’t do this without you

J: and I feel the same

M: if you weren’t there to talk me down from my ledge…

J: it’s also important to mention that we weren’t the only person there for each other. What lonely lives that would be

we’ve always been smart enough to know someone outside needs to see it first, too

M: absolutely

J: I had Tiff; you had Sarah

and sometimes even more eyes beyond that

M: oh, yes

M: no manuscript is ever perfect. someone will always find something

fresh eyes

that understanding there makes us even stronger

J: and you and I have never had a problem with sharing

M: if we did, we wouldn’t have the relationship we do

J: because we’re lucky bitches.

On Editing: Prepping Your Manuscript for Editing

Don’t Make Your Editor’s Job Harder

Guest post by Tiff Nichols

preparing your manuscript for editing

© Igorabond | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

As a freelancer, I edit all types of writing, but my work consists mainly of editing novels. It’s a lengthy process. In fact, I wish all authors understood just how much work goes into editing their manuscripts.

I will admit that one of my pet peeves is receiving a manuscript that has obviously not seen any part of the editing process.

“But the editing part is YOUR job,” you might say.

Yes, that’s true. Editing is my job. But quality is important to me, and if you want the highest quality from me, you need to do your part as well.

My husband asked me yesterday, “Why don’t you just run a spellcheck? Wouldn’t that be faster?” He’s an engineer. Of course he looks for the quickest, most efficient way to do something. Alas, that’s not how the editing process works.

I don’t just run a spellcheck and then scan the manuscript for errors. I do a thorough reading of the novel, keeping an eye out for technical errors as well as issues with content. If I just did a quick read-through, I might not process the fact that Sally was wearing a blue shirt in paragraph two and a red shirt in paragraph five. It’s important to pick up on minor errors like this. Readers do, and they are extremely quick to point them out.

So what can you do to ensure that your manuscript is ready to be placed in your editor’s capable hands?

First, be absolutely sure that your book is finished. Please don’t send it to your editor mere minutes after typing the final sentence of your first draft. Let it sit for a while. Let it stew. Then go back to it and read it from page one. You’re going to want to make changes. Do it now. Your editor doesn’t want to see a slew of emails that say things like, “Oh, I forgot I wanted to add this paragraph on page nine!”  The pages you send out for editing should be your final draft. That said, no editor is going to say you’re not allowed to add something in if you’re hit by a stroke of genius later on down the road.

Once you’re satisfied with what you have, please—please—USE SPELLCHECK. That will take care of the simple typos and misspelled words that build up and take away from the time I spend with your novel.

Before you send your manuscript, make sure to format it correctly. This means that the font should be something simple like Times New Roman, usually around 12 point. It seems to be easiest on the eyes. Flashy fonts are a pain. Double-spacing your draft can help as well. Editing may be done electronically these days, but it can still make it easier to see what errors have been marked and corrected without things getting too crowded. Save your word as a .doc in Word to make things easy. If you don’t have Word, other writing programs (such as Pages for Mac) have the ability to export your document into a Word document.

Lastly, you should provide some basic information for your editor. Include a short summary and a word count. It’s also important to notify the editor of any special information. For instance, maybe Billy explains string theory on page thirty-four, but he gets it wrong on purpose.

All in all, a freelance editor like me is happy to see new clients. I’m not going to turn you away because you didn’t double-space your manuscript or didn’t give me a summary. If I have questions, I’ll ask; however, prepping your manuscript before sending it really helps move the process along faster.

About the Author

Tiffany is a freelance editor and writer in Charleston, South Carolina. Her vices include coffee, wine, Turner Classic Movies, and being lazy. Sometimes she brings home stray dogs. Her husband humors her whims, bless his soul. Check out her website, Write Edit Repeat, for information on her editing and writing services.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Editing: You May Be Doing It Wrong

Why Your English Degree Might Not Make You an Editor

Guest post by TC Slonaker

on editing

freedigitalphotos.net/scottchan

I am a writer.

Even with my first novel in publication, and a second on its way, I have trouble bringing myself to actually use that title. When I am reading the likes of C.S. Lewis and Harper Lee, I hardly feel worthy to share the same occupation. But I didn’t always boast this humility.

Here’s my background. In school, I was caught in the beginning of that “Let’s boost every kids’ self-esteem” movement. I won awards for my poetry and even found myself holding a pen set designated for Writer of Year, both in 8th and 12 grades. Obviously, I must have known what I was doing. I mean, hey, I placed out of having to take any composition classes in college. Even they thought I knew it all, right?

Ha.

Once I had written my first novel, I began to send it to publishers and agents in hopes of finding someone to take on my project. I expected some rejections, having heard the stories of all the greats. No one is accepted on their first query. After 19 rejections, I thought perhaps all the appropriate niches for this book were full. If I wanted to see this work in print, I might have to do it myself.

When I made the decision to self-publish, I knew my work needed to be looked over.  You know.  For the little things I may have missed like missing commas or forgotten capitals.  Because nothing is more frustrating than reading a book and finding a typo, right?

After all, how bad could it be? Remember all those writing awards I had won? In high school? Of course, high school is not my recent past.  That means it had been 20 years since I was a student of English. But the language hadn’t changed any, so I was sure I was fine.

I had even been a teacher of English – as high as 6th grade, mind you.  And all that stuff was still pretty familiar. I have to correct my own kids’ work regularly too. Many people even hate me for constantly reminding them of which “your” is needed.

So I formed a group of my friends to be “betas” and tasked them with finding my little typos. They hadn’t gone very far when, I am convinced, God sat upon His throne, shaking His head, saying, “Oh no.  She’s really going to do it.  She is going to try to represent me with a book that looks like that.”

Harsh, you say? I wish I could show you the compilation of edits made to the very first chapter of my “masterpiece.” The work I had pored over.  And over. And over again.  I’m telling you, I read that book so much, I was even getting sick of it myself.

I wasn’t going to catch my mistakes, because I didn’t know what I was doing wrong.

So, God set the wheels in motion, stopping me from my adventure into self-publication and finding a publisher willing to work with me. Since I had been nervous diving into publishing my book with no knowledge of the publishing world whatsoever, I jumped at the chance to have a professional do it for me.

After all the contract signing, copyrighting, and other business about which I was clueless, was finished, I leaped into the next phase of editing.

O. M. Gosh. I felt like a first grader, who just learned to read, being taught (patiently) all the rules of composition that I either never knew or was choosing to ignore for the sake of voice. (I learned later that voice didn’t have to break rules and look ugly.  There were better ways to achieve it.)

My editor taught me what felt like years’ worth of proper grammar, syntax, style, and story-telling. I wish I could list it all! Actually, I have been compiling a list of my biggest mistakes.  I use it as a check-off list as I proofread my other novels. It is an on-going list, because sadly, I know there is plenty more to learn.

The result was a book that I was not embarrassed to sell. I probably wouldn’t have been embarrassed to sell it before the editing, but I should have been!

Okay, fellow writers, what are you taking away from this? I’m not putting you down if you have selected the self-publishing route, especially if that was the way you wanted to go in the first place.  However, if you are only self-publishing because your work has been rejected numerous times by traditional publishers and agents, I would suggest looking into finding a professional editor.  A publisher might be too busy to tell you that his pet peeve is when someone starts a sentence off with the word, “But,” but an editor will fix it so you can experience a valued look from the publisher.

I haven’t made it as an author, if “making it” counts as selling more than 13 books. So, my opinion might not matter all that much. But as a reader, I will tell you that I do not want to waste my time on a book that is not well-written.  Please give it your best.

Tracy enjoys her life as a wife and mother of three in just outside Reading, PA. She still has a soft spot for kids and an eagerness to use her degrees in Elementary Education by using them as Director of Christian Education at her non-denominational Christian church. She has also learned to love running, and has not given up her childhood fondness of sports (playing softball and watching football). She gives thanks to the Lord for all His good gifts. Visit her website, follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and connect with her on Goodreads. You can find her book for purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the Martin Sisters Publishing website.

On Editing: This Is Soooooo Important, Guys

NaNooooooooooo!

Guest post by ML Gammella

The importance of editing

Posted on fugly.com

November is such a great time.

Then… December happens, which makes me want to scream and shout, so instead I’ll rant *cough* express my opinion here.

I love NaNoWriMo and think it is an absolutely great program.  It brings so many novice and experienced writers together for one common goal. There is so much love and support to get the sometimes elusive 50,000 words.  We all write together during word sprints, write-ins, Skype calls, whatever works to get to the finish line, all while helping and encouraging one another.

For some, NaNo is just something fun to do to see if he or she can actually write 50,000 words in a month. For others, this is a step toward a writing career or a continuation of a writing career. My rant is geared at those people, like myself, who hope and dream of seeing the words they create released to the masses as published authors.

We all know that what we write during NaNo isn’t ready, not by far, for public dissemination. It is hastily written with grammar rules thrown to the wayside, all in an effort to drill away to 50,000 words. It is the time after NaNo that we are supposed to go through and heavily prune those hastily written words to mine the gold that lies within.

That time starts in December, and for most, last for many months (even years!) afterward. We madly delve into our stories, crying over awesome scenes that need to be cut to keep the integrity of the story or to eliminate unnecessary plot holes. Slowly, the story begins to take shape, and yet, still, our stories aren’t perfect.

Yet, around this time of mid-December to January, I start to see announcements by my fellow Nano writers that their self-published novels are available for purchase on Amazon, Smashwords, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, etc.

Wait, what? So quickly?

I have nothing against self-publishing, but I have read MANY a self-published novel and wished I hadn’t. The author was in such a rush to publish that he or she didn’t take their time to make sure it was edited properly. Now, I’m not just talking about grammar issues, but content ones as well. I can overlook a few grammar mistakes, but content or continuity errors create problems. You can get lost in plot holes big enough for my truck-driving husband to drive his 53’ tractor trailer through.  No joke.

There are some really great stories out there, written by some really talented writers, but those stories are lost due to lack of editing (or lack of good editing), whether it be strictly grammar/structure or also content.

I cannot comprehend why anyone who wants to be a serious published author would even remotely consider releasing a book without proper editing.

Proper editing is just not having your friend read it and mark it up (even if your friend is an editor by trade or is a teacher or someone that is ‘in the business’). Proper editing is not just having a trusted beta reader (or readers) look through it and mark it up. Those are steps to proper editing but should not, should NEVER, be the last step before a book is published. Your friend will not be as honest with you as he or she should be, even if they swear that he or she will be brutally honest. It just doesn’t work that way. Beta readers are awesome resources, but they tend to catch the content issues, not the structure or grammar problems.

Proper editing involves hiring a third party, a professional editor, to thoroughly read through your book. Yes, professional editors can be expensive. So can cars. Shop around. You don’t buy the first car you see, do you? Treat editors the same way. Talk to them, find out their prices, their turnaround time. Develop a rapport. A great editor is worth his or her weight in gold.

I can’t say this enough. If you are a writer and you want to be taken seriously, if you want your books to be enjoyed, and if you want to make a career out of writing…

HIRE AN EDITOR.

I was amazed to see fellow Nano writers proudly proclaim that their book was published and ready for purchase.  Wait – the book you just banged out in 30 days with no concern on grammar or editing, you only took a few weeks or a month to edit and you think it’s ready?

It’s practices like this that make readers hesitant to buy self-published books. I’m a reader and a writer, and I will no longer buy self-published books unless they are referred to me by someone else besides the author. I have bought or read too many and have been horrified over the lack of care taken. If you won’t take your work seriously, why should I waste my time reading it?

Have respect for yourself and your writing and have your work professionally edited. Your readers will appreciate it.

**

M L Gammella has been writing on and off since high school, where she was often found scribbling in her notebook instead of following along in class. She finally made the leap to make writing a paying career and began freelancing after being laid off. M L Gammella lives in Ohio with her husband and their three pets. She is currently working on her first novel, a paranormal suspense based in Maine. You can follow her on Twitter@MLGammella.

On Editing: What Exactly Does a Developmental Editor DO?

What Happens the Morning After?

Guest post by Stacy Teitel

Developmental Editing

© Rinderart | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Revision. That word is not music to every writer’s ears.

But I love it. LOVE. IT.

I revise extensively in my own writing, and as a developmental editor I help writers strengthen their manuscripts.

You, the writer, fell in lust with your story, although you can’t remember why as you look at the tangled, messy draft before you. It’s like the morning after a hot one-night stand, and the person snoring next to you isn’t as good looking as your vodka-induced brain had thought.

Well, now you have to shower, brush your teeth, and put on your big girl (or boy) pants. Then you call your developmental editor.

I answer my phone; don’t worry.

Because let’s face it—revising can be overwhelming. The word count goal is suddenly replaced with The Goal. And sometimes, the thought of revision is enough to make you crawl back to what’s-his-name from last night and convince yourself you could overlook all those bothersome things and fall in lust all over again.

As they say, write drunk but edit sober. It’s time to put away the vodka.

A developmental editor assists writers in revision, comes up with fresh ideas, and offers specific solutions. In addition to editing, my goal is to help writers get focused and organized, to a level where they can feel good about sitting down to revise so it’s not so daunting.

These are some of the tasks I do to a writer’s manuscript (and ones writers can use too):

  • Organize content to make sure plot points line up and are timed well within the structure (acts, moments of no turning back, final battles, etc.), identify gaps and loose ends, condense info dumps and look for ways to apply information in more useful contexts.
  • Ensure the conflict (opposing forces) is strong, and that the hero and antagonist have motivations.
  • Analyze characters for consistency and find opportunities to further develop traits, habits, reasoning, thoughts, and actions.
  • Check the pace and correct areas that may bore or confuse readers. This can be anywhere from heightening tension in a conversation to adjusting the timing of action moments and scenes for plausibility.
  • Look for areas to layer more setting detail and description to help ground readers, or to condense backstory and info dumps. This includes expanding on descriptions, helping descriptions work harder to reveal more information than what’s on the surface.

Additionally, make sure every scene has a purpose and that the end of chapters keep readers turning the page.

I’ve seen many a first draft, and when I work with writers, I want to get the best out of them, no matter what purpose they’re writing for.

Revision is only part of a writer’s journey, (or a necessary evil, if you prefer). But don’t you just love falling in lust love again? A final draft is something to hum about.

I’m always interested in how writers revise, how they tackle levels of revision, and who they rely on in their process.

So, how do you feel about revision? I love hearing from writers!

Also, I’m collecting feedback to keep myself informed about what writers struggle with the most in their work. If you would like to answer a few questions about writing and editing, you can fill out this form anonymously.

Stacy Teitel is an editor at Apoidea Editorial, a developmental editing service to help fiction writers strengthen their manuscripts. When she’s not working with authors, you can find her copyediting and managing content for eMarketingVS. Some of her favorite things to do are watching political and crime shows, drinking good-quality coffee, and snuggling up with her Kindle. Follow her on Twitter @ApoideaEdits or visit her website.