I don’t need no stinkin’ edits

Red marks are good. It shows the things the writer missed. Some editors still edit by hand. most use track changes in ord documents and send you their edits via email.

Writers pay out funds to market their books. We pay venue fees and buy more books to sell while paying for advertising for online sales. Self-published authors pay to get their books in print. Writing is more than an artform, it’s a business and as such dollars that come in from sales tend to go back out for marketing.

Why pay for an editor

So why would I pay for an editor when I pay to be part of critique groups, (yes, that’s plural, three to be precise.) Why pay when my husband is the grammar king? He makes sure my manuscripts are properly formatted too.

Experience has taught me over the years that paying for professional edits makes your work shine. Times are changing, publishers are looking for well-polished manuscripts. Gone are the days of a good story being whipped into shape by publisher’s editors. Those editors do a bit of fine-tuning not drastic developmental edits.

Even best-selling authors use editors. Paying an editor doesn’t mean your words aren’t good enough. It shows you’re not afraid to have others double-check your work for those things that could get you a rejection from the publisher.

When is it time to get an editor?

After you’ve worked with critique partners and traded edits with other authors then your work should be in a place where your cross-eyed looking at it. That is when you engage an editor.

There are three types of edits that you need to consider. Depending on where you are on your writing journey you may need only one type or all three.

 

Developmental or Content edits

This type of edit focuses on the big picture. Is the plot flowing? Are the characters believable and are their inner conflicts and external struggles well- defined? Do your characters have depth or are they just one-dimensional? Is the story structure strong?

A developmental edit strives to make the storyline flow seamlessly with no rabbit trails. The editor tracks the theme to be sure its clear and strong with no deviation. This is where you kill your beauties for the good of the story. Chapters may be rearranged or deleted so the flow of tension heightens to keep the reader engaged. Correcting these things makes your story so much stronger and less likely to be rejected by publishers.

Copy/line edits

Here is where the grammar and sentence structure is corrected. If your research isn’t solid they are often caught in this type of edit if not the developmental stage. Repetitive words and phrases are caught such as just, that or he wiggled his eyebrows. Those pet words and phrased can now be changed to something stronger or different. The story flow can also be caught at this time to some degree.

Proofreading

Editors are looking for typos, grammar and punctuation.

For me, my husband can do the proofreading easily enough. He could probably do a fair amount of copy editing because he’s a writer himself. But if my story needs developmental edits and I don’t bother because it costs more. That’s just bad form. All my work will be for nothing if the story structure isn’t strong. As an author I don’t always catch my own mistakes. It’s so much easier to catch others. Even editors hire editors for their own work.

I can testify that my books have won awards because of having all three types of edits when needed. Many editors do all three types. They often reformat and make sure you have a clean copy after you’ve corrected things and returned it to them. I love my editor friends.

Finding an editor

How do you get edits? Who can you trust? Ask others who they use? Contact the editors and ask for sample edits. Give them the first page and see what you think of their edits. Red marks are good as are comments in the margins. Even the best writers in the world have editors cleaning up portions of their pros.

When you balk at spending money for edits on your book after you’ve had your critique group go over it, you spouse or English teacher fix grammar errors and you’ve read it through several times, do it anyway. You won’t regret it.

Have you paid for edits? Share your experience in the comments.

 

Trivia on your mind? It has value

Trivia cloud

I’ve always believed nothing you experience or learn is ever wasted. This is especially true in our writing journey. Maybe you were never very good at sports. Yet participation in PE class taught you the fundamentals. When one of your characters is a jock, you have background material to make him believable. Don’t discard trivial things. Those pieces of trivia can make or break a novel.

Tidbits add depth to novels

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During my online critique group, we were going over a fellow-writers fantasy piece. The others pointed out great ideas for improvement.  Then I added my two cents, or shall I say pieces of trivia.  The author has a bird, a tree and a setting that all represented something. I pulled from my vast knowledge of weird trivial information to help the author clarify what kind of symbolism she may want based on the point each symbol was to represent. Somewhere in my trunk of little cared about facts I drew out tidbits regarding cedar trees and their significance.  That clarified things for her.

For writers, details are important. As much as I hate to analyze a piece of pros for symbolism. (That boring task we had to attempt in senior English.) I find as a reader my mind connects those tiny tidbits and subtle symbols to the plot and the characters psyche.

Go, Learn Things

Never underestimate the value of wandering through a museum or attending an ethnic festival. Don’t turn down an opportunity to learn something new.  As much as you may hate science or history there are bits of trivia that may seep into your brain and be the cornerstone of a plot line you need. Think docudramas from the History Channel.

 

 

We all know grammar skills are important tools. Yet a well-written sentence with incorrect information or boring similes will cause a reader to close your book faster than a cat fleeing the kitchen when bacon grease splatters his fur.

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I know many things about dog behavior because of dog groomers in my family. Those factoids helped shape Brutus the dog in my contemporary romance New Duet that releases May 2018. (Shameless promotion.) His behavior is pivotal to the lead characters storyline.

The more you read, the more you know.

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Although a recent scientific study claims our brains work at forgetting unimportant information making room for relevant facts. (High School French.) However, we still have a place in the far-recesses of our brain for trivia.  Memories glue those bits in our head. In a nanosecond we can recall baseball statistics, variations on a favorite card game or the state capitals we learned in fifth grade. Who remembers how to speak Pig Latin?

And many of these seemingly useless facts that don’t relate to our day job may just find a place in your novel or your critique partner’s.

Share some trivia you used to help shape your story world.

Taking A Roadtrip of Words-Fun and Challenging

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Road trip!

Often defined as an Adventure with no actual route and end destination.

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Sometimes pantsters write their novels like a road trip. We sit down to write with an ending in mind. We know where to start but sometimes take a few wrong plot twists that lead to dead ends. Then we have to backtrack and delete the mess of jumbled words which grabbed our thought processes and sent our characters careening down a steep hill where the only possible end result is death. (Unless of course you are writing about Time Travel then it’s a black hole that takes you back to the 1700s where you find your true love or get beheaded in a sword fight.)

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morguefile.com

I love a good road trip of words even if I get lost for a while. In the process of finding my way back to my theme and the path leading to my happy ending, I learn a lot about my characters and about myself. I learn I want an easy path in life with no thorns or drama—smooth sailing and Kum ba Ya around the campfire. But when I write that kind of story, my characters rebel. They tell me I am not being realistic. They lie down in the backseat of my SUV and nap as I head down another side road of boring, unimaginative dialog. Spitball fights erupt in the passenger seats between my protagonists and their faithful sidekicks when I candy-coat their lives. They vie for better lines and more interesting situations. They persuade me to stop driving and check out the sites. We visit the critique group with members not afraid to run red lines through bad dialog and grab my characters out of their boring scenes and suggest where to relocate them.

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After reworking those problem areas, we continue our writing road trip only to find my GPS of grammar rules from high school English that lauded lots of adjectives and adverbs is making the road way too rough. My story journey now lags with flowery prose full of –ly words and weak verbs. I grab one of my writing books and fill my GPS with grammar rules fiction writers use to plot a perfect sentence. Strong action verbs; sharp, simple phrases; and descriptive words that don’t go on for paragraphs.

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At the same ol’ waterhole rest stop I notice my hero has twitched his eyebrows four times on the same page while sharing coffee with my heroine who flips her hair behind her ear every time she answers his questions. Argh….Time to change up the menu. Let’s put them at a picnic table and engage in a game of Frisbee. Add lots of sweatiness and tripping in gopher holes. How about a wink, a giggle and a scowl. More entertaining—I think.

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I’m exiting the car of my road trip of words for the day. Even while I do laundry and prepare dinner, my road trip memories replay in my mind. What if she had said…? What if he went too…? The beauty of a road trip of words: you can go back to those places where it didn’t feel quite right and relive it. Rewriting and revising until your characters give you a thumbs up.

Are you on a road trip with your latest writing project, or do you use a preplanned roadmap? Comment below.

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Conference tip # 8 Choosing Classes and Workshops

Bob Hostetler was both a general session speaker and a workshop leader for the 2013 WTP Conference.  He was on my must attend list of workshop choices that year.

Bob Hostetler was both a general session speaker and a workshop leader for the 2013 WTP Conference. He was on my must attend list of workshop choices that year.

Now you’ve got all the tools in your toolbox ready to go. Get a cup of coffee and peruse the class and workshop offering of the conference you want to attend. Think about where you are in your writing life.

Newbies and Novices

Newbies should take beginner classes. If your favorite author is teaching an advance class don’t go. You’ll miss the basics and be overwhelmed by all the advance material. Try to sit at your favs table at lunch instead. Or introduce yourself during a break. Stay with basic classes for better success.

Questions for experienced writers

Is the class being offered in your genre something you need? If you’ve already attended fiction 101 in the past a few times you might want to attend a marketing class or an editing class instead.

Would taking a class outside your comfort zone be good?

You write fiction, only fiction. But let’s face it unless you’ve sold a lot, no one knows who you are. You might consider an article writing class. Millions of people may read an article you write as oppose to a few hundred who might buy your book. Articles help build your credibility as a writer. Non-fiction writers might find help with creating a more interesting book by taking fiction classes.

If you have a book for example about taking care of the elderly. You might consider a public speaking class to help you wade through all the steps of preparing a speech. Many non-fiction writers sell more books at speaking engagements than in book stores or online.

You’ve never written a children’s or young adult book. But you might gain insights into the mindset of these age groups for characters in your adult novel.

Classes to consider and other offerings to consider

Editing classes are always valuable. No one knows everything about editing, and no one is so good at writing they need no editing. You might want to discern if this is a grammarly kind of editing class or a content editing class. Pick the one that will benefit you the most.

Critique groups are wonderful opportunities to get input on your manuscript. If you are shy about sharing your work, you can take notes on those samples brought by others in the group and apply it to your own writing.

Panels: Agent, Publisher and Magazine panels give great insights into what they are looking for. Every conference I come away with a list of potential articles that never crossed my mind until an editor shares a need they have. I sometimes dust off something I wrote in the past that now just might have a place based on a publisher’s comment.

Workshops are usually a continuing education opportunity. Workshops are presented each day of the conference, and to get the most out of them you should attend every one. Skipping a day can leave you lost and confused. If the workshop is not what you expected, feel free to visit a different one that may be of more value. This is a good time to order the CD for the first day of the workshop you switched to. A side note: it is okay to change classes. No one will think you’re terrible. Finding your niche is encouraged.

Take full advantage

Unless you have an appointment be there on time. Take lots of notes and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you have time to linger after class, don’t shy away from getting clarification on anything you don’t understand.

Get CDs of classes you miss due to appointments or classes you want to attend that fall at the same time. Some people prefer to buy MP3s or CDs of the entire conference. If you are one who is disciplined to listen to CDs, often this is a great plan. If you never get around to listening, be honest with yourself and don’t waste your money. You might consider buying the whole set and sharing it with your writer’s group back home. This gives you incentive to listen a second time if you are not the carry-around-a-CD-everywhere-you-go kind of person. MP3s can be downloaded to any device. If you like to listen to music while you work out, listen to a conference class instead. (Just saying).

Value of General Sessions

Don’t skip general sessions. The keynote speakers always have wonderful insights about the writing world. And their encouragement may be what you need to step out of your comfort zone and be the writer you want to be.

Don’t be exhausted

Purpose to get the most out of all that is offered. But if you need to skip a class to regroup or take a nap, do it. Again order the CD for the class you missed. The conference is all about advancing your writing career and learning all you can. Get lots of rest each night, and don’t worry if you can’t wrap your mind around all the information you’ve heard. You can always review your notes later.

Final word

There will always be more workshops and classes than you have time to take so choose wisely. But most of all have fun!

What were your favorite workshops and classes at conferences you attended?

 

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Thick-Skin A Key To Writing Success

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The alligator in the photo reminds me that writers should be thick-skinned. Anyone who has succeeded in the writing world has developed thick-skin. Writers have to pull it out of their toolbox and put it on. Wearing it, nothing and no one can get in our way and bring us down. Sounds cool, right. Well, maybe not. It actually sounds hard. Really, really hard. It’s easier to cry into my alphabet soup.

There are probably more wonderful writers out there who have experienced zero success because they didn’t know how to put on thick skin. Thick skin helps turn rejection into success. Many best-selling authors have been rejected by more publishers than they have fingers and toes.

When to put on your thick skin

Any of these sound familiar?

When an agent or publisher face gets a deer in the headlights look when I pitch my story.

The sigh when an editor says. “Your opening line isn’t strong enough.”

Instead of crying or defending or ranting your thick skin shields your heart and you can say. “Thank you for your time.” or “Do you have a suggestion.”

Why it helps

Thick-skin helps you turn unpleasant things into success. I received an email from a publisher. This is the direct quote. “Your writing is not great.”

Without my thick armor I would have cried and threw my manuscript across the room and chided myself for being such a terrible writer. Great is what publishers are looking for. So, I took a writing course and got better. I still got rejection emails, but I kept at it.

My thick-skinned determination kept me submitting my manuscript for feedback. The first three chapters are the key: they need to shine. I sent them to a manuscript critique offering at a writers conferences. Drug them to my critique group. Each time the comments were more specific. They liked my story but…you have to pay close attention to the buts. A thick-skin helps you remain open to correction and instruction. After three editors told me the story actually started much later in my book I rewrote the first three as one chapter.

Another editor told me to delete all the chapters that were not in the POV of my main characters. I got rid of some interesting scenes. (Anyway they were interesting to me.)

A judge from a contest I entered said I had a lot of stuff going on. Too many characters doing too many things equals not good writing. The judge was confused by all the various action and who was doing what.

Each comment gave me something more to build on. Kinda like the story of the three little pigs. Each pig built his house but only the one built with bricks stood against the breath of the wolf. Wolf breath is often what it feels like when your book is not getting published and no matter how you rebuild your story the wolf breath of rejection collapses all your hard work.

Disney cartoon clipart

Disney cartoon clipart

I was thrilled to get a flash fiction published. This same magazine rejected all my other submissions. Even after making the corrections requested. How frustrating is that? I pulled on my thick skin so I could graciously ask (graciousness is part of the benefit of thick skin) the editor what I needed to do differently. We talked about it. But the gem he gave me because I took the time to ask was so encouraging. “Just because it doesn’t fit our publication needs doesn’t means someone else wouldn’t be interested in it.” Keep submitting until you get a yes.

Protects from reacting

I’m sure you’ve said something like the following:

Who do these jerks think they are?”

“They wouldn’t know good writing if it bit them in the….” You get my meaning.

Thick-skin protects your lips from saying offensive things. (At least in public.) What you say in the shower or to your spouse in the darkness of your bedroom doesn’t qualify under the thick-skin umbrella. It protects your heart from allowing critical opinions of agents, publishers, and fellow-writers from coming out your mouth and infecting all those around you.

It helps writers not compare their baby to everyone else’s. Comparison tinged with jealousy nurtures negativity and the result is a bitter writer.

Don’t get bitter but encourage

Bitterness repels people from you. People won’t want to work with you or recommend you to others. You shoot your writing career in the foot when you surrender to negativity. A thick-skin helps you cheer others on and offer a helping hand even when your own work is not getting recognition. Being the complaining, gossipy, faultfinding individual in your writing group, at a conference or on your blog only weakens your ability to succeed.

Grow some thick-skin by seeking out others who wear it well. Learn how they address issues and deal with rejection. Mimic their responses until they become your own. For me, prayer works wonders. It focuses me, reminds me God is the one in control and as I pray for those whose words or critiques bother me, I gain a new peace and perspective. Add thick-skin to your tool box and keep writing and submitting, writing and submitting until you reach your writing goals.

How do you grow thick-skin? Make a comment below, I’d love to hear about it.

 

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Author’s Anonymous Great Example of A Bad Critique Group

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This past Sunday I rented the comedy Author Anonymous because the premise intrigued me. Here we have six wanna-be writers in a writers group. Each a stereo-type of the worst type of critique group participant. The movie is a tongue-in-cheek documentary with scenes ranging from funny to ridiculous.

Cast of characters

Alan, a dentist, started the group because his wife Colette has a passion to get published. He admits he isn’t really a writer, but rather an idea guy. He records ideas for plots and character names on his hand-held recorder as the thoughts come. He never finishes anything. As the founder he leads the group with no real ability of his own.

Colette, a full-time stay at home writer. She has no kids, no responsibilities and it appears no real writing talent. Writing flowery, ridiculous erotic love scenes that book publishers keep rejecting. These rejection letters give her a neuroses of self-abasement that leads her to do foolish things to get agents attention.

John, a retiree is very opinionated and self-absorbed. He considers himself the next Tom Clancy. He too knows nothing about writing.

Henry suffers from writer’s block. He is a gifted writer but is often distracted by life and the newest member of the group Hannah. Henry reads extensively and can quote lines from Hemingway and the like.

William keeps bringing the same three pages. He is unemployed and always borrowing money from the group. Sleazy best describes him.

Hannah is the newbie. She took writing classes but has no college degree and feels inferior to the others in the group. She also is not a reader.

Check out Author Anonymous trailer: http://www.aceshowbiz.com/video/download/00051273/

What these characters teach us

Other than William, who is truly the most undesirable member, we can learn from the other characters.

Let’s start with Alan. His heart is in the right place. He pursues writing because he loves his wife. Being supportive does not mean you have to join a group together. It takes a special grace to accept critiques from your spouse. Starting a group to benefit someone you love is honorable but not really helpful. Leaders need to have a passion for the craft that propels them to a higher level. This passion encourages those in the group to grow as well.

Wanna-be Colette thrives on compliments. She wants to be the first published. And she breaks all the rules of networking and meeting publishers and agents. The results of her actions hurt her marriage and her credibility. We all start out as wanna-bes. It’s how we follow the road to success that can make or break us. Follow the example of successful writers who have gone before you. Don’t worry about whether you are the first to be published in your group or the last. Enjoy the journey.

Henry decorated his walls with rejection letters. Because of his writers block he comes to meeting after meeting with no pages. The group feels cheated because of the one-sided participation of Henry. Once he gets his priorities straight the words flow, and he eventually gets a publishing contract. Rejections and writers block are part of a writer’s life. How we handle it is the key. Write no matter what. Even uninspired words get us moving in the right direction. Take those uninspired pages to your group. Their input can unlock inspiration. Rejection letters are better than no response at all. If you are lucky, there may even be helpful advice or edits included in one of those letters.

Hannah is the most unrealistic character of all. She writes but does not read. She gets an agent and a contract right out the gate. To add insult to injury for the rest of the group, she gets a movie rights contract and a best-selling author to mentor her. And still she does not read. Writers who do not read are not the best writers. Ask any best-selling author what he reads and his list is extensive and varied. Writers can glean so much reading others works. Whether it is old classics or the latest top ten.

Attitude is everything

The reaction of the group to Hannah’s success can sadly be true. The other group members put on fake smiles and celebrate her good fortune. But walls come up. Everyone becomes jealous of Hannah, refusing to critique her work. They no longer want to help her improve her writing. (Getting a contract is only one rung on the ladder to success. Don’t be small about helping with needed editing.)

John, the guy with the giant ego becomes so jealous he goes the vanity publication route. No way is he going to let the newbie get published first. His book is printed in China and is available in a few weeks. The back cover is written in Chinese and the front cover of his novel Roaring Lion features a barking Chuhuahua. Although vanity publishing isn’t quite this bad, it can be pretty awful. Full of typos and lacking professional editing with odd covers and incorrect back cover information. (Let me clarify, I am not referring to self-publishing which is becoming an accepted route if done properly, i.e., well-written and edited manuscripts.) John’s book is published prematurely with no real marketing plan or network leads. His home is full of boxes of unsold books. He becomes bitter.

Jealousy makes the group toxic and ends with its demise. Critique members need to guard their hearts and seek to encourage each other to do their best and reach their goals. Giving sincere praise and encouragement when others are successful.

Let’s summarize

Critique groups fail or succeed based on the attitude of the group. Leaders should have a passion about writing and helping other writers. Their feet should be doing a happy dance for every success in the group. Newbies should feel nurtured but challenged to improve their skills. Sleazy people should be ejected from the group. And those who are only playing around as writers will leave on their own as the group continues to challenge one another.

I have been part of a wonderful critique group Word Weavers for almost four years. Click here to learn more about them.

Tell me what you love about your critique group?

 

TADA! Time to  announce the winner for last weeks Give-away. An autograph copy of John Turney’s novel Innocent Blood: Equinox of Reckoning is: Mary Deborah Dornedon. Congratualtions! Innocent Blood

One Way A Writer Can Be An Encouragement

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Critiquing a book for an award nomination can give great insights into what publishers are looking for.

One of my goals as I walk this life as a Christian is to encourage others. As a writer I want other writers who meet me to go away uplifted and confident in their ability. This past week I had three opportunities to critique. Critiquing is a great way to encourage. In contrast to being critical, critiquing is helping others improve their craft while letting them know what they have accomplished is noteworthy.

Accountability Partner

Recently, I gained an accountability partner through my affiliation with Word Weavers. I receive encouragement, and I encourage in return as we critique each others work. I am gaining a lot in the process.

E-mail and snail mail critiques

Last week I also received an email from a woman I had met at a writer’s conference who asked me to critique a portion of her short story.  What a surprise to be remembered after a year.  The book I agreed to judge for an award came in the mail that week too. Neither of these activities came with a return-the-favor benefit as with the accountability partner. However, I fulfilled a directive from the Lord to be an encourager. I took the time to give suggestions to this acquaintance to make a good story great. Her story premise was fantastic, and I was honored to give my input.

The book I read and critiqued for the award took hours of my time. The benefit I gained was proving to myself that I could complete this task in a timely manner. It was great discipline for me. I can’t wait to hear the winners announced knowing I was part of the process.

Gaining fresh perspective

All of the critiquing I did helped me look at my own writing with fresh eyes.  The book I judged gave me deeper insights into what publishers are looking for. I was reminded that encouraging others is not all about cheering for the sake of cheering but for sharing insights and observations that can strengthen my fellow writers.

When you give your work for someone else to critique, it’s risky. Receiving your work back with positive affirmation along with constructive tips makes the heart resonate an “I can do this” attitude.

And as one who critiques, if the individual I help is inspired to continue forward, that same positive energy motivates me to press toward a higher calling in my own work.  Christian writers involved in a writer’s community whether online or in real time gain more than they can ever possibly give out. Encouragement is a hard calling that is not always reciprocated.

What have you gained through critiquing?

 

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