The toughest part of writing a manuscript is editing it into shape. Reshaping our baby when we feel it is perfect and the best it can be is a very emotional thing.
I’ve asked Andrea Merrell to join me and discuss some tips from her book Murder of a Manuscript: Writing and Editing Tips to Keep Your Book Out of the Editorial Graveyard.
Andrea, I wish your book had been available when I started this writing journey. Your tips would have made it so much easier. This small book is power-packed. Tell me why you wrote it and how you chose the content.
Thanks, Cindy. It’s an honor to be with you today. Murder of a Manuscript basically evolved out of all the notes I use to teach workshops at writers’ conferences. As new writers, we have to start with the basics. Even as seasoned writers, we sometimes need a reminder of the little things that can send our manuscripts to the editorial graveyard. My book is not an exhaustive guide on every single thing a writer needs to know. Instead, it is intended to be a quick, easy-to-read-and-navigate guide to help writers understand what agents, editors, and publishers are looking for. Like you, I wish something like this had been available when I first started my own writing journey.
My favorite part was your honest confession of how you put together your first book as a naive novice. Please, share it with my readers.
This was my first major faux pas as a new writer. I had put together a story that was sure to be the next best-seller. J My manuscript was 14 pt. Comic Sans, single-spaced, and filled with words in all caps, bold, and underlined. It was loaded with exclamation points and thoroughly sprinkled with clichés. I had designed my own cover and even used colored paper. Sure that I would wow the ladies at my first-ever critique group, how embarrassing to find out all my hard work screamed “Newbie!” Thankfully, the leader of the group lovingly and patiently explained to me that everything I had done was unprofessional and would be immediately rejected. She, along with the group, pointed out the correct way to format, along with all the things not to do. It was a learning experience I will never forget and will always be extremely thankful for—especially since I was headed to my first writers’ conference.
Why did you decide to add a recap section?
So many times when we read, especially a nonfiction book, we see things we want to remember and/or find again. I tend to underline, star, or highlight passages to refer back to, but with the new wave of e-books, this is not possible. The recap section is meant to sum-up each chapter with bullet points that, hopefully, the readers will remember. This is where repetition is helpful.
You’ve dedicated a whole chapter to what you term “little foxes.” Explain those.
In the Song of Solomon (2:15) we read about how the little foxes are ruining the vineyards. While the larger foxes were able to reach the fruit, the smaller ones resorted to chewing on the bottom of the vine so it would fall to the ground. That way they could easily reach the fruit. The problem was that the vine was ruined. As writers, we need to watch out for those little foxes that ruin our chance for publication. We tend to see the larger critters invading our manuscripts, but it can be all those pesky little typos, grammar glitches, and incorrect usage that derail our project. This is why editing and proofreading is key. If an agent, editor, or publisher can’t get past all the little foxes in your manuscript, they probably won’t invest the time to fall in love with your story.
You’ve listed additional resources at the end of your book, which is so helpful. If you could recommend only one, which resource would it be?
That might be a nearly impossible question to answer. As an editor, it’s essential to use the CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style), the CWMS (Christian Writer’s Manual of Style), and the AP Stylebook. These are considered industry standard. I think as a writer, my two favorite go-to books are Polishing the PUGS by Kathy Ide (now Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors) and The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus. My favorite online resource is Grammar Girl and her “Quick and Dirty Tips” (http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl). I would also encourage your readers to visit and subscribe to www.TheWriteEditing.com. As editors, my friend Alycia Morales and I share information once a week that is helpful to writers. We have a guest post once a month by a well-known author or editor, and we love to do book giveaways.
Andrea, there are so many books out there about self-editing and how to write. If a writer read them all (okay, realistically a few) on the many subjects of writing well would they still need to hire an editor?
Yes, yes, and yes. J When we’re going through our own work, we’re too close to the story. Our mind knows what is supposed to be on the page, but our eyes can skip over obvious errors. After we’ve read something over and over, we can become blind to what we’re reading. Carefully proofing and editing your work is essential, along with feedback from a critique group. But editors are there to help make your words shine. This is more important than ever now that self-publishing is the new trend. We need to make sure we are putting out the best products available, especially in the Christian market.
I’m confident I know the answer, but I’ll ask what others are thinking. You’re an editor so you didn’t hire an editor for your books, right?
Yes, absolutely. I would never have a book published without using a good editor. I think every editor would say a hearty “Amen.” We’re all fallible. I always say even the best editor needs an editor.
I’ve appreciated our time together. Before you go, please tell us about your other books and upcoming projects.
Praying for the Prodigal is my five-year journey with two prodigals. My son and daughter both took a dark path at the same time, and my husband and I experienced our own personal hell. The purpose of this book is to share what God taught me during this time, and to help restore hope to those who are going through this crisis. There is advice from my former prodigals, along with thirty days of prayers and Scriptures to help parents, grandparents, and guardians battle for the souls of their prodigals.
My short story, The Gift, is part of the Christmases Past Series and the Kindle version is available on Amazon for only ninety-nine cents. It is the story of a young couple’s journey through pain, loss, healing … and an unexpected gift.
There are three novels in various stages that are begging to be completed, but my next book is Marriage: Make It or Break It. I share many things I’ve learned in forty-plus years of marriage that can bless or crush a relationship. I also talk about how our basic temperament and love language can affect our relationships, the difference between the way men and women think, and how to pray for yourself, your spouse, and your marriage.
If you’d like to hire Andrea to edit your manuscript, you can contact her through her website: www.AndreaMerrell.com or e-mail her at AndreaMerrell 7 @ gmail (dot) com.
Andrea Merrell is Associate Editor for Christian Devotions Ministries and Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (LPC). She is also a professional freelance editor and has been a faculty member at various writers’ conferences, including: Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, The Asheville Christian Writers Conference (Writers Boot Camp), the CLASS Christian Writers Conference, and Write2Ignite. Andrea has been published in numerous anthologies and online venues. She is a graduate of Christian Communicators and a finalist in the 2015 USA Best Book Awards. Andrea is the author of Murder of a Manuscript: Writing and Editing Tips to Keep Your Book Out of the Editorial Graveyard, Praying for the Prodigal, and The Gift. Andrea has a passion to help writers sharpen their skills and polish their prose. To learn more, visit www.AndreaMerrell.com or www.TheWriteEditing.com.
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