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.

 

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Writing When Your World is Out of Control

 

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Photo courtesy of morguefile

 

I had a dream that my writing time was uninterrupted. No family drama or emergency took me away from my words. I stayed on task. All the items on my checklist from blogs, to edits to marketing were completed. Then the alarm went off and I woke to reality. And I’m not alone in the real world of writing during crisis. Several writer friends requested prayer or shared their own struggles with meeting deadlines while family tragedies formed around them.

 

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Photo courtesy of morguefile

 

Some are dealing with aging parents and Alzheimer, illness, or tough things with their adult children. Others, it’s teens in rebellion, little ones with special needs, spouses in the hospital and the list goes on.

We will have trials

We don’t get to quit our day jobs to deal with most of this stuff, and our writing is just as important. But we can adjust. One author writes only hundreds of words daily rather than thousands as she waits by the bedside of her ailing mother.

Taking the laptop to the library to distance oneself from family drama for a few hours a day is one way we writers cope.  Unfortunate circumstances beyond our control amplify the adage, “there is no perfect time to start writing.”

Jesus reminds us that in this world we will have trials. And as a Christian the second half of the verse rings true for me. He says, “I have overcome the world”. Praying and seeking His peace and clarity is so crucial during family drama.

Keep a journal

No, this is not the time to write about the trial.  You’re too close and your emotions too raw. Keep a journal or open a file on your computer and dump all your emotions there. Someday in the distant future all that angst will be fodder for a novel, article, or how-to-endure-family-drama book.

Keep moving forward

For now, you just put one foot in front of the other. Decide what things you need to let go while you deal with the emotional, physical or legal things associated with your trial. I hired a lawyer to deal with all the paperwork for my aging parents. After my father passed, my mother is happy in her assisted living facility. My son’s family lives with us at present and there are times we are responsible for the granddaughters. Drama at work can drain my energy reducing the number of writerly things I get done at the end of the day.  Individually, these are only mild hiccups, but when they all come at you like a flood it can send your writing schedule out to sea. And you find yourself struggling to catch a breath and regroup.

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Once I established a way to deal with the small stuff the large chaotic surprises have a basic pattern to follow.

  • A few hundred words a day is better than none.
  • Go to the library or a café for a few hours to work
  • Turn off your cell phone if possible
  • Don’t accept a large project during a family drama
  • Have someone double check your work before submitting because your focus may be skewed now.
  • Ask for extensions but keep writing as if you don’t have one.
  • Reach out to family and friends for help. Don’t be a super hero. Not only will your writing suffer, but also those you care about most.

Anyone care to add to this list? I’d love to hear how you cope with big and small potholes along your writing journey.

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Grammarly’s Free Download Helpful to Writers

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Recently, I took the plunge. I downloaded the free version of Grammarly. A software program that corrects grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure. The free version catches my often overlooked typos. My family moved a few weeks into my sophomore year and beginning typing. Therefore, my typing skills are less than stellar. Thanks to the invention of the personal computer I am now able to fix my typos quickly. However, there are still other things I can miss. Grammarly catches those. It underlines the word in question and shows me in a sidebar the problem. Or in some cases the assumed problem.

The program pinged on the word Wok—asking if I might mean walk. Because I was referring to the pan, I choose the ignore button. When it questioned the spelling of neighbor to be corrected as neighbour, I again hit ignore. I didn’t want the British spelling. Most of the time it catches not only misspelled words (my bad typing) but improperly used words, missing articles, etc. Pretty cool. When the software challenges a word, I have found myself coming up with an even better word than the one cited as a possible error. Great way to stretch your creative juices.

A downside, you have to get out of the program to save your corrections. I ran the spell check in Word as a double check. They disagree on a few things.  Words spell check doesn’t come close to catching what Grammarly does, and its limited vocabulary pings errors that aren’t.

Writers still need to do the work.

Grammarly doesn’t replace working hard at crafting good sentences. Nor should it be used as the lazy man’s final draft. My college son relies on it to proof his work. Yes, he admits it’s the lazy way. But as writers, we still need critique partners to help us craft better prose.  We need to practice honing the phrasing of our words until they shine.

As a novelist, the basic program doesn’t understand the need for sentence fragments for pacing or dialogue syntax. For example, woulda used to expression a character’s speech pattern is underlined as misspelled.

Overall it’s a great tool to keep your conscience mindful of your most common errors as you draft your copy. I’d recommend anyone who wants to improve the grammar areas of their writing to give the free download a try. I’ve installed it on FB as well. Everyone notices when a writer has a blaring typo. Haven’t decided if I want to purchase the advanced edition. That portion claims to catch errors on a deeper level. I would recommend checking out the free version.

Have you used Grammarly? What do you think of it?

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Why So Many Rounds of Edits After the Contract?

Today and in other posts until my book is published in March 2017 I thought I’d share the many behind the scenes activities that take place after the contract is signed. This is not a time to set back and relax. Oh no. Whether you publish traditionally or self-publish, there are many steps before you see your book on the shelf.

Rounds of edits

First, is edits. Even though my book was professionally edited before I submitted it, there are still things that need changing.

Pansy O'Hara Did you know that Margaret Mitchell called the heroine in Gone With The Wind, Pansy? The publishers didn’t like her name. So it was changed to Scarlett. And if you’ve read the book or seen the movie, she is Scarlett. The name Pansy doesn’t have the power and sensual premise.

 

For me, my first round of edits included rewriting a couple of scenes. I needed them to be from my main characters’ points of view not the minor characters. I actually found them more powerful after I was finished.

The first edit found typos and grammar errors that were missed  during my final rewrite. We found overused words and mannerisms. I liked Jake to run his fingers through his hair when he was frustrated, nervous or thinking. Well, needless to say it was a lot.

So, the editor’s job is to point those out so I can find new mannerisms. A repetitive mannerism can get on a reader’s nerves and pull them out of the story.

The second edit is to double-check what I fixed and find new stuff like character names interchanged. I recently read a book where the character’s name was Joel and his late brother was John. But in one scene the tagline John said was used. This was not a ghost story.  It should have been Joel. The editor may also question your research. And you may be asked to go back and fact check.

There are two more edits after that. Why so many? You don’t want a reader to review your typos on Amazon.

Beta Readers

Next, Beta Readers read through looking for typos and anything that might take the reader out of the story. I’ve had the pleasure of being a Beta Reader. You receive a PDF file of the book and open another document to record any boo boos you find. I understand you can have as many as 30 Beta Readers. This way, any blaring problems are fixed as well as the miniscule ones.

There will be one more round of Beta Readers. They might receive an Author review copy or an e-book version to read. In the new format other mistakes are found. The goal is a really clean copy. The reputation of the publisher is on the line along with yours.

Read it again

Here is the key for you as a writer. Every time you receive edits. Read. Read the sentence being edited. The paragraph. The page. The chapter. The whole novel. Read as much as you need to be sure the change flows. Read enough to ensure the edits have not changed the story.

You are the author and not every edit is the right choice. Please do accept typos, misplaced names. POV shifts, things like that. But there are other things you might say no to.  If someone felt a scene needed more sensory beats. The smell of the hot asphalt. The chirping of a robin. The snoring of the old man. You are the one who decides if that would add or distract from your story.

Author Review Copies

By the time you get to the second set of Beta Readers there’s very little to be pointed out. Possibly nothing at all. These readers are good candidates for pre-release book reviews.

Some publishers might not edit as thoroughly. They might only use one round of Beta Readers. I don’t know that there is a set formula. And if you self-publish you are going to have to find your own Beta Readers.These should be people who notice details and grammar errors.

Beware of editors who go through a minimal of steps. A wonderful story can be ruined by those little grammar, spelling and POV shift errors. I’ve seen them in printed copy of wonderful books. An e-book can be fixed. But a paper copy will hold on to those errors until a new print run. Not what you want at all.

In between receiving your edits to work on, you will be doing a lot of other things. Next post I’ll tell you what I learned about cover design.

What has been your editing experience?

 

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Ten years in the Making: A Book Contract

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If you follow me on Facebook, you saw my recent announcement. I received my first book contract. It only took 10 years to get there. Oh, let’s not forget 20 rejections, many rewrites and several edits. Years of improving my writing skills through online writing courses and writing books.  Ten years of attending conferences. Submitting to magazines and websites with both success and failure. I’ve made the acquaintance of many writers, both newbies and seasoned pros. During my ten year journey I have added agents and publishers to that list of acquaintances.

Help others on the journey

I’ve written over a hundred book reviews and supported my fellow-writers anyway I can. I enjoy helping promote their books and sharing words of affirmation when they were discouraged. I have purposed to invest in others while I worked toward the illusive contract.

Keep learning

Actions such as joining critique groups, following writing blogs and reading a lot propelled me toward the goal of publication. This has been ten years of perseverance and determination. I’d confess “I am a writer” when I wanted to keep that proclamation to myself. Established writers encouraged me to learn how to use social media.  Then I started this blog, Writer’s Patchwork, where all these writerly parts are sown together into the bigger quilt of gaining a contract. (Clever play on words.)

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My award. I am so blessed.

Never give up

Anyway, the point I’m trying to press home is don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged and keep helping others in the industry. Keep focusing on your goal and over time you’ll get that book contract.

Come follow me

It will probably be a year before my novel will be available for sale. During that time, I will be posting the next stretch of my journey. Even though I have a contract, a mountain-load of work remains to be done before I see my book in print. I’ll share my experiences in hopes of inspiring all of you to keep going. And give you a glimpse into the process of contract to book shelf.

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Why Reading your WIP Outloud is Helpful

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Read your manuscript through outloud before your final submission. You will be surprised at the errors and weak spots you find.

Last Thursday I sent my manuscript to the publisher after my editor and I whittled it down to under 85,000 words. Whew! That was a challenge. Molly Jo sent me edits and I rewrote and reworked and rejected edits in turn. Over the years my novel has been critiqued by many writers and editors. I’d cut out 20,000 plus words over time only to find in the rewriting and reworking I’d added them back. (Bummer!!)

Read for flow

So, during out final edit together Molly Jo helped me carve away 20,000 plus words so we were under 84,000. It was painful to see my delicious paragraphs of description reduced to a few sentences. But the story was leaner and stronger without them. Once I’d gone through those last edits, I set it aside for a few days. I knew I had to do one last thing. Oh Dread! I needed to read the manuscript out loud. It’s not like I haven’t read it at least 50 times over the years as I’ve honed my writing craft on every word. Why bother to read it again and out loud for that matter. Because I must. At least every published author I know told me they did. They claim you can feel how will it flows when you do.

*sigh*

I needed a few days break between the completion of the rework and reading it out loud to give it fresh eyes and be in the right frame of mind. This is the same thing I did when I first received edits from Molly Jo. I put it off until I felt ready to tackle the inevitable. Waiting for my attitude to mellow. (My life is full of drama unrelated to my novel. I didn’t want irritation or sadness to affect my view of these precious words.)

Hearing my words helped

So on Tuesday night I started reading. I read most of Wednesday and on Thursday night I finished. It was awesome. I found a few phrases that needed fixing. A section I rewrote and another I deleted. (It was one Molly Jo suggested needed to go but I fought it.) Reading it out loud revealed so much to me. When I finished, I felt good about the end result. I am confident the publisher will find other things to tweak. I expect that. A burden lifted off my shoulders when I finally sent the final draft off.

Read outloud often through out the process

Read sections you are having trouble with as you crafted your novel. You’ll be amazed how much easier it will be to fix those tough sections when you hear your words. Find a quiet place to read it out loud or ask someone to read it to you. Hearing someone else read it can really help you see errors and flabby scenes. I’ve been told there are programs that read to you. After reading through this time, I am going to do my research on those products for my next novel. However you do it, read your novel out loud often, especially the final draft. You’ll be glad you did.

What has your experience been with reading your WIP outloud?

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Killing Off Your Lovelies

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photo from morguefile.com

I’ve been finishing rewrites to my manuscript per my editor’s suggestion. Over the years since the first draft, I’ve had to learn to kill my lovelies. Scenes written from the POV of secondary characters. Scenes evolving around secondary characters and lots and lots of words were deleted from my novel. Reading through this latest draft I recall those scenes and miss them. But you the reader will never know they have been murdered and buried in a deleted scenes file. The secondary characters stories are thinner. But that’s ok. It’s much more enjoyable for the reader to know just enough details to keep reading.

Mark Twain wrote a story about a man who followed every rabbit trail of character relationships before he ever reach the true point of his tale. By then the man had forgotten what he was talking about. It made for a hilarious tale, but done intentionally because you feel your reader needs to know those details is far from humorous. I don’t want my readers to forget key details. Or be confused by waist deep information although useful to know only bogs the reader down in descriptive details.

Some of my lovelies have been reshaped. A secondary character’s scene becomes a brief dialog. He shares his experience after the fact. We don’t get to see him do it but we feel his emotions as he shares.

Some juicy phrases shrink to a few words. But those words pack a big punch. There are juicy phrases that have stood the test of numerous rewrites. Now they are even more memorable due to the edits around them.

I’ve learned to not get too attached to secondary characters just in case they are killed off. As other authors oft state some of those characters beg to tell their story resulting in another book. One of my characters is doing that for me. So, I’m happy to revisit those deleted scenes when it’s time to resurrect her story.

What about you? What lovelies have you killed off in pursuit of a great story?

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