Last summer, a writer friend suggested I sign up for an edit slot with the excellent romance writer Laurie Sanders. I’d had dinner with Laurie once, after she spoke to my RWA chapter, and thought she had a lot of smarts where romance-writing is concerned, so I took that advice.
This week I got an email saying my 7000 word submission was due. Since I’m currently in the process of drafting two different books, it took me a day to decide what to submit. I chose to send the first 7K of The Demon’s Secret Baby, which will be the fourth in my Touched by a Demon series.
Then it was time to clean it up for submission, a process I liken to straightening your house in anticipation of your cleaning lady’s arrival. Back when I was working more-than-fulltime and had a cleaning lady, my husband used to scoff at my scurrying around, tidying everything before she arrived.
“Why do we need to impress our cleaning lady?” he’d ask.
“It’s not to impress her,” I’d respond.
Full disclosure–while it wasn’t to impress her, I really didn’t want the cleaning lady to know how messy we could be. The real reason I tidied up before she got there, though, was so she wouldn’t waste her time having to move stuff around to do her job.
Prepping a manuscript for submission to a paid editor is a lot like that. I want my submission to be as clean and error-free as I can make it so she doesn’t get distracted by or waste her time correcting grammar and punctuation and that bit of backstory that, for some reason, I felt the need to restate in three different places.
How about you? Do you clean for your cleaning lady (in whatever form that takes)?
While wandering around the internet today, studiously trying to avoid anything related to the election, I came across a group of copy editors talking about the pet peeves they have when it comes to reading (and editing) fiction. Being editors, a number of their pet peeves dealt with things like incorrect word usage (their/they’re/there or then/than) and the overuse of sentence fragments. They all seemed to agree, however, that the number of books that appear to have been published without being edited in the least is simply appalling.
Here are some of the other pet peeves that were mentioned:
Inconsistent World Building
This was the top issue that was raised, most frequently in relation to science fiction and fantasy novels. If you’ve read enough books, you’ve undoubtedly experienced this issue on occasion. Pages and pages are spent explaining the intricacies of the fictional universe, just to have those rules broken few pages later for no reason. This also includes inconsistencies like having a cell phone appear in a story set in the 1960s or having a woman going off to vote in an election in the 1890s. Sure, a work of fiction is not intended to be a historical text book, but unless inconsistencies are clearly explained or intentionally done, they just look like lazy writing. Continue reading
Last week I talked about designing your books to focus on the things that your readers value and to minimize the amount of effort you put into adding things that they don’t.
One of the things that my readers seem to particularly enjoy are my descriptions of Hell as a giant dysfunctional corporation.
I wound up cutting the scene below from my first book because my editor felt that it put too much emphasis on Lilith, who was a minor character in that story.
I recently pulled it out to look at because she is the central character in my work-in-progress, but it doesn’t work for this book, either, because I’m trying to redeem her and this scene doesn’t help with that effort.
Even so, the scene was a lot of fun and deserves to see the light of day, or at least the light of blog.
“If you could just sign right here, sir.” Hovering behind the red granite counter by means of his substantial wings, Focalor pushed a quill and a three-part form toward Belial. The griffin had run the Travel department since time immemorial.
Behind him, row upon row of men and women sat at cramped desks, arranging various demonic missions. Their chairs were bolted to the floor six inches too far back from their desks, forcing them to hunch forward to reach their keyboards. After just a few minutes, their backs burned with the strain and they worked twenty-hour days. Continue reading
Are you a writing craft nerd? Or simply interested in taking your writing to the next level?
If you enjoyed Michille’s post last Thursday about the beauty of the comma, then you might also be interested in a free ten-day self-paced class that offers a self-editing toolbox to help make your manuscript shine.
The class is called Learn to Polish Your Manuscript in Ten Days. I know about it because it’s offered by Anne Victory, the line editor I chose to help me burnish The Seeds of Power. Anne has an impressive client list—check out her website and you’ll find famous names like Courtney Milan, Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, Gena Showalter, Jeaniene Frost.
Working with Anne was an eye-opener for me. I thought the draft manuscript I sent her was pretty clean. Wrong. I was shocked at how many technical errors I made, from capitalization and punctuation to sentence construction. Luckily for me, Anne is an excellent teacher as well as a fabulous editor. She’s kind and funny, and she explains exactly why she’s recommended a correction. I learned a lot and I’m determined to do better next time.
Full disclosure: I haven’t tried Learn to Polish Your Manuscript in Ten Days. After I edited and published The Seeds of Power I invested in Victory Academy’s in-depth, paid masterclass version of the course (Self-Editing Masterclass).
According to Anne’s website, the free course is structured as follows:
- Day 1: Avoiding infodumps
- Day 2: Dialogue mechanics
- Day 3: Show vs. tell in dialogue
- Day 4: Carrying show vs. tell forward to your narrative
- Day 5: Deepening your point of view and strengthening your protagonist’s voice
- Day 6: Overwriting and how to avoid it
- Day 7: Saying it once—trust your reader!
- Day 8: Tense issues
- Day 9: The dreaded play-by-play
- Day 10: Making your life easier by using styles in Word
- Day 11: A bonus resource list!
Sounds good, no? If you’re interested, you can meet Anne and find out more about Learn to Polish Your Manuscript in Ten Days by clicking here.
I should add that I have no vested interest in this recommendation. No kickbacks, no affiliate links, no discount off my next edit. It just looked too good not to share 🙂
If you decide to give it a try, I’d love to know how you get on.
At the beginning of November, I received comments back from my developmental editor. This was the first time in six years of writing that I’d gotten far enough to 1) finish a book, and 2) submit it to an editor. When I got her comments–which included a letter with general recommendations as well as detailed line edits throughout the MS, plus a 1.5 hour Skype call–I sat back and processed everything she threw at me before making changes, and I’m glad I did.
But once I was done digesting, how did I figure out what to use and what to keep? I listened to my gut.
Just because an editor (or anyone) makes a suggestion, doesn’t mean you make the change. It doesn’t mean you ignore them, either. The rule of thumb I follow is this:
- If one person makes a suggested change, I think about it, weigh the merits, and listen to my gut.
- If one person + my gut makes a suggestion, I usually change it.
- If 2+ people make the same suggestion, my gut is usually quick to follow suit, and I usually change it.
I say “usually” because sometimes (really…rarely) there’s a compelling reason for me not to. If that’s the case, I’ll brainstorm with my critique partners to see if there’s a way to make a different change that remedies the problem or issue they pointed out. In general, though, if more than one person (or my gut and someone else) suggest something or point out a problem, I try to fix it. Continue reading
I’ve been struggling this past week about what it means to be a writer and how much time and treasure a person should sink into the process. Let me explain.
Several years ago, the company for which I freelanced forwarded a request to me from a person who was looking for editorial help on his fiction project. He’s a nice guy, my contact said, who has a story to tell.
The writer told me he’d written a draft, but it needed more work and he wasn’t sure how to go about it. It was 216 pages.
I asked him what he wanted me to do. A line or content edit? Write the transitions? Shape it? Continue reading
Do your favorite authors have signature metaphors? Do you?
I’ve just finished working through my developmental edit on The Seeds of Power (yay!). Among many other smart observations and suggestions from my editor, Karen Dale Harris, I was surprised to find this comment: You use metaphors with dogs a lot. Do a search for “dog” and try to vary this.
My reaction: I do? Dogs? I don’t even have a dog. And no dog plays a significant part in this book. Really?
A search revealed the following:
- The man was like a fighting dog. Once he sank his teeth into a problem, he never let go.
- Her whole body came to attention, like a hunting dog on point.
- Captain Randsen’s hackles rose like a well-trained fighting dog.
- The prince was dressed and waiting. Soft boots, loose overshirt and trousers, and the ill-contained impatience of a dog who’d been promised a walk, despite the fact that the lad probably hadn’t gone to bed until the small hours.
- Daire said nothing, but if he’d been a dog, his ears would have pricked up.
- He put his enforced inactivity to good use, worrying at his mission like a dog with a sore paw.
- Oriel had described her as a strong ruler, politically astute, fiercely protective of her family and their domain. Again, nothing to set the dogs howling.
- She had the Hollin deep blue eyes and challenging stare, and she looked at him as though he’d thrown her pet lapdog to the hounds for a snack.
Yikes! Dogs, dogs, everywhere, and I hadn’t even noticed.
I’ve fixed it, but I wonder what else I write without realizing. And I’m even more convinced that quality editing is money well spent.
Do you, or your favorite authors, have a go-to metaphor? Or is it just me?
Author by day, copy editor by night. That’s me. To keep myself occupied in the evenings (I’m not much for watching television) and to help pay for my book cover habit, I take copy editing jobs from select writers. In my former life, I had a ten-year career as a technical writer. Combine all of this experience and one starts to notice particular consistent misuses of various grammar guidelines (I don’t like the word “rules,” because there are some rules made to be broken).
Over the next several posts, I’m going to lay out a few basic guidelines, abuses, and misunderstandings of grammar in the hopes that you, fair writer, will learn them and will put them to good use. If you’re paying for copy editing, this will not only make your copy editor love you more (trust me, it will), but it will reduce the time it takes your copy editor to work through your manuscript.
Disclaimer: I use the Chicago Manual of Style as my “bible” for anything grammar- or copy editing-related. There are other style manuals which may offer differing views. Continue reading
Last week, Jeanne discussed critiquing manuscripts for newbie writers, and yesterday Justine talked about revising (and revising, and revising!) the opening chapters of the first book in her historical romance series. With both of these posts on my mind and no less than three (three!) revisions of my own to complete, from minor tweaks in one story to major revisions in another to something in between on the third, today I’m thinking about the best way to bridge the gap between getting back comments from a trusted critiquer and putting a revision plan into action.
We’ve discussed a lot of the steps I’m going to suggest here at 8LW in the past, and much of the way the Ladies approach critique work is based on the guidance Jenny Crusie* gave us while we studied with her in our McDaniel writing program. But with so many of us knee deep (or eyeballs deep) in the critique and revision process, let’s revisit some of the basics, ICYMI (or ICYNAR – in case you need a refresher). Continue reading
I am in the throes of editing my first novel. I’ve never done this before. I’ve written a first draft…numerous times. But I have never gone back through and cleaned it up to make it spit-shined, polished, and ready for the world.
My thoughts on the process? Editing sucks.
I finished my draft, read through the whole thing from beginning to end, and focused on the high-level changes that thought I needed to make. And about ¼ of the way into my first chapter, I was so overwhelmed by my perceived flaws that I didn’t think they were surmountable. I was ready to toss the whole story and start over. At a minimum, I wanted to play the avoidance game, doing such things as scrubbing tile grout or watching repeat episodes of The Queen while eating lots of chocolate.
It was bad. Continue reading