Tag Archives: editors

#amediting

Good morning Scribes and Scribettes. PJ Sharon here, writing from deep in the edit cave. I thought it might be useful to share an Indie’s perspective on the editing process. It’s about seven weeks until the launch of my next book and the pressure is on.

Coming June 24, 2013!
Coming June 24, 2013!

I received my final set of edits from Carol, my super-editor who looks at everything from plot holes, inconsistencies, and characterization, to misplaced modifiers, repetitive sentence structure and comma placement. She is very thorough and brutally honest. She gives me fantastic feedback that at first makes me grumble and sometimes even cry in frustration at my own lameness as a writer. But then I realize that her suggestions are right on the money and that I would do well to listen.

Her best advice in the end for WESTERN DESERT: “Paula, if you can learn to write sentences that do not rely on “this” and “that” but are specific and vivid, your writing will improve enormously!”

You’ve got to love English teachers!

Carol’s straightforward approach makes me continue to grow as a writer and I am eternally grateful for her as a resource and a friend. But everyone’s view point is limited so I am going through another round of edits on my own, employing her suggestions, layering in details that will enrich the story, and developing more deeply, the character arcs. By this point, I’ve also run the entire manuscript through an editing program called Auto-crit which gives me reports about overused words, repetitive phrases, clichés, and much more. I could make myself crazy with it, but I’ve learned to use it to catch those pesky bad habits we all have (55 occurrences of the word “that” in one chapter, please remove about 34 occurrences). Eeek! Using the program helps me to see where stronger verbs and more vivid language are needed.

Next–as in today–I’ll hand the book over to editor #2, Jane. I feel like this round of edits is what fine-tunes the story, bringing it to life on the page and cleaning house on all the picky details like grammar, punctuation, and overall flow. Don’t get me wrong; Jane will also catch me on plot points that need clarifying, missed opportunities to deepen character, and stilted dialogue. She, too, is extremely thorough and honest—two necessary traits for a great editor.

When Carol and Jane are done red-penning my baby to death, and I’ve done my level best to write a compelling and entertaining tale, I’ll send the manuscript to Createspace for print copies.This step takes a week to ten days (usually less), so I use this time to work on marketing and promo plans. Initially, I can only buy four copies since I haven’t approved the final at that point. I give two of these copies to Beta readers (avid readers with a keen eye for what works in a story and what doesn’t), and send the other two copies to reviewers. Most of the big review sites require copies several months in advance of release, but it won’t hurt to send one to Publisher’s Weekly and hope for the best. This is also the time I will send the e-version in PDF format to on-line review sites. I have a yearly subscription to Author EMS, a website that pre-filters a list of reviewers perfect for my book. It’s a lot of work querying and sending out requested material, but I think it’s worthwhile. (I’d love to find an assistant to do these types of tasks for me).

Once I receive all the feedback from my Beta readers, (I usually give them a week or so), I make one more pass, considering their suggestions as I go. I’m usually still adding layers, sharpening dialogue, and looking for ways to weave the underlying themes throughout the story—basically putting the fine brush strokes on the final picture. Then it goes back to Createspace and I get a few more copies. I give one to a Proof reader, and the others I use as review copies. After the final proof read and final corrections, it goes to my husband for formatting. Although I’ve gotten pretty good at it myself, he is much more patient than I am and is meticulous with all of that awful detail and computer savviness. I approve it on Createsapce and order print copies, 30-50 to start, and upload to Amazon, BN, and Smashwords.

Viola! We have a book. The hardest part of this entire process is all of the other work that is supposed to happen simultaneously, such as planning a launch party, marketing the other books, and preparing my social media strategy for getting the word out. Obviously, I need to get back to work!

Any questions? What’s your process like?Truman

Adventures in Query-Land

Hi, there, Scribe fans. Suze here. By now you’ve probably read Sugar’s post from a few days ago about the process she went through over the last year, ultimately culminating in her getting a fab agent and an even fabber three-book deal. (Click here to read it). Since I’m in the same spot she was a year ago, querying and hoping to land an agent and sell my manuscript, I thought I’d give you a run-down on how things are working for me.

Despite the fact that I completed this manuscript a couple of years ago, I was never satisfied with the opening chapters and so I only submitted it a couple of places, and was summarily rejected. After rewriting Chapter One about eight times and tightening up my timeline this past summer, I finally had it where I thought it was marketable. I wrote a query letter and a synopsis, fixed them both with the help of colleagues/friends, and finally began the query process in earnest in September. As one of my favorite rerun detectives, Adrian Monk, might say, here’s what happened.

September – Queried seven agents/editors (two of these were requests from a conference). Two requests for partials.

October – Queried three agents. Two requests for fulls. Two form rejections. One rejection on a partial, but a very nice one (bummer! She liked it overall, loved aspects of it, but she just didn’t love it enough).

November – Queried four agents. Felt like I needed to get some energy moving on stagnant requests, so embarked on closet-cleaning and clutter-clearing in an effort to feng shui my writing career. Unfortunately, this did not have the desired results: Received one rejection on a full because she wasn’t representing my genre, but suggested I submit to another agent in the office. Then received one rejection on a partial because she wasn’t representing my genre, but she “loved my voice” and would be interested in a YA or contemporary if I ever wrote one of those. 

December – Queried three digital-first presses. One rejection on a full, but she did have nice things to say. Depressed! I really wanted that one.  One form rejection. Two requests for fulls.

So the three-month tally is:

  • 17 submissions
  • 7 rejections (none of them mean!)
  • 2 partials still out there (not counting the partials that were sent pursuant to agents’ submission guidelines)
  • 2 fulls still out there
  • 6 queries that have not been acted on one way or another

Kathryn Stockett’s The Help was reportedly rejected 60 times. Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishing houses. I’m not in the depths of despair yet!

Where are you in your writing journey? Where do you want to be?

An Apple A Day

Happy Thursday, loves. Suze here. Guess what? This is our 500th post! Who knew we all had so much to say? Thanks for joining us here today, loyal Scribelings.

I’ve begun submitting my manuscript in earnest to agents/editors, and I’ve had several nibbles. Everybody seems to want something different in terms of formatting, length of submission, length of synopsis, etc., so I’ve been working hard to do everyone’s bidding, LOL!

So, like a good synopsis (something that still eludes me, but it’s far better than it was thanks to the assistance of some awesome friends/colleagues), today’s post will be short and sweet. How about a recipe?

Image courtesy of Petr Kratochvil http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=3421&picture=apples-and-pears
It’s fall here in New England, and that means it’s apple season, but you can enjoy this all year round. Here’s my recipe for super easy homemade applesauce:

SUZE’S APPLESAUCE

*6 flavorful apples, peeled, cored, roughly chopped, and placed in a saucepan (Empire, Cortland, Pink Lady, Granny Smith, and Macouns are my favorites, but MacIntoshes will do in a pinch. No Red Delicious, please! The flavor is too bland and the texture is too mealy to work in this recipe). Add the following to the pot:

*1/2 cup of apple cider, apple or orange juice, or plain water

*1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

*a few grates of freshly ground nutmeg (or a pinch of the kind out of a jar — don’t overdo this spice. It’s powerful)

*1/2 cup packed brown sugar (dark or light doesn’t matter)

Bring to a quick boil, then give everything a stir to make sure it isn’t sticking/burning (add more liquid if necessary). Continue to cook until apples are soft, about 20-25 minutes.

For a smooth-textured applesauce, allow the mixture to cool a bit, then whizz it up in a food processor (don’t overprocess, or you’ll end up with baby food). For a chunkier texture, which is how my family likes it, use a potato masher right in the pan until you get the consistency you like. Taste to see if you need to mix in a bit more brown sugar — apples have different degrees of tartness.

Serve warm or at room temperature with pork chops or pork tenderloin, chicken, or pierogies, or as a topping for vanilla ice cream.

**Note: You can also make this with pears! Just use a ripe, juicy, flavorful pear like a Bartlett or Anjou. The recipe is exactly the same.

Now for you. What’s your favorite fall meal? I could use some menu planning suggestions right about now!

 

Awesomeness of Autocrit

PJ Sharon here on this fine Tuesday. I hope you are all well and writing up a storm. As I’m in the throes of edits and rewrites, I thought I would share an awesome new tool I found. I’ve been hearing about Autocrit for some time, but foolishly I chose to ignore the many recommendations from other writers about its virtues. Boy, have I been missing out!

Autocrit is an on-line service that provides assessment of your writing by way of software that generates a report outlining such helpful observations as overused words, sentence variation, clichés and redundancies, repeated words and phrases, pacing, dialogue, and more. Basically, all the things that a copy editor does, Autocrit does first, and quite thoroughly I might add.

If you go to their website http://www.autocrit.com, you can submit a four hundred word document (about a page or two) of your work in progress (WIP) for free, and in seconds, they will generate a report, not only telling you what overused words that appear in that section, but how many you should eliminate to meet acceptable standards. Your submission appears on the page with the offending overused words highlighted in red. You can even get a combination report showing overused words in red, repeated phrases in blue, and repeated words in green with underline.

You can try out the service for free, but if you want to use it on a regular basis, you can sign up for various levels of use. The $47/year package allows you to submit up to 1,000 words per day. This might be enough for an unpublished writer who is working at a slow and steady pace who wants access to editing help for small projects, flash fiction, or blogging. The Platinum package costs $77/year and allows you to submit up to 8,000 words/day. For serious writers who need the flexibility of having large sections edited and who want to work off-line, they offer the Professional package for $117/year. They allow for up to 100,000 words with unlimited submissions. I chose this package since I’m planning for multiple full length manuscripts and short stories over the next year. This will save me (and my editors) a lot of work on the back end. No more twenty pages of revisions to do before your work is publish ready. A worthy investment in my opinion.

The best part for me is that it showed me patterns I tend to follow and the common words and phrases that I repeat without being aware. Over time, I can see this being a great learning tool that will make me a much better writer. I hope to use it to make my job and my editor’s job that much easier, and to produce the cleanest copy possible.

Not that this word counting program could ever replace the watchful eye of a good editor, but there is no way human beings are going to be able to painstakingly weed through 70,000 words and tell me that I’ve used the words have and that twenty times each in chapter one and that I need to remove about thirteen of them. They might catch some of these infractions, but they won’t catch them all. Unless of course, they use Autocrit.

Have you discovered any on-line writing tools or software that has made your job easier? I’d love for you to share them with our readers.

I Was A Freelance Manuscript Reader

Thea Devine here, with a true confession:  Long ago in a publishing landscape far away (and over the course of the next twenty-five years),  I read manuscripts for several mass market publishing houses, back before electronic transmissions, back when we were writing 500 pp. books on real paper.

I read historical and contemporary romance, romantic suspense, women’s fiction, mysteries, sagas, fiction for reprint, and non-fiction, agented and slush.  And I assure you every proposal was looked at, no matter what form it arrived in — single spaced, cursive font, unchaptered, block paragraphs, handwritten, buried in popcorn. strangled in rubber bands.

And there were always manuscripts;  just the number of conferences across the country on a weekly basis assured that.  But after National — the deluge.

During those years, I never had an editor tell me what to look for, what they didn’t want to see.  Nothing was culled before it landed on the reader’s shelf.

But really — it was always about the story.  Those grab and go opening pages still grab editors..  And they really do know it when they see it..

But what the editor told me when she hired me was, don’t be afraid to be wrong.

Think about that.   Don’t be afraid to be wrong.  Because what if you passed up another Gone With The Wind or DaVInci Code?  What if the manuscript you loved was shot down and rejected by the editor and then became a best-seller for another publisher? (It happened).  What  if … in the fragile world of publishing as it was then, and is now, so dependent on the subjective opinion of reader and editor.

Don’t be afraid of rejection.  Because the editor could be wrong.  And if the editor could be wrong, then a rejection doesn’t t mean you wrote the worst book ever.  It just means this book didn’t move the editor or it didn’t fit into a particular marketing slot.

That still holds true.  The market itself will judge a book, in this new publishing milieu, if not an editor in a publishing house.   All you can do is write.

Some writing secrets from the reader:

It’s the story. It’s always been the story.  It’s how you get into the story.  Get your characters moving.  Make sure the inciting incident is critical, grabs the reader, and requires your characters to do something.

Conflict.   Your protagonists can’t want the same things (his family stole her family’s business;  she wants to get it back; he wants to give it back), even though they can want the same thing (an object of desire — like the Grail in Indy 3).

Pile it on.  The more obstructions, obstacles and problems you present your protagonists, the harder it will be for an editor — or reader — to put your manuscript down.

Grammar counts.  Sorry.  No dangling participles.  Subject and verb must agree.  A line edit takes forever on a manuscript that needs a lot of work.

Motivation.  Why exactly did your heroine go into the burning mine when everyone specifically cautioned her not to?  There are always reasons why your characters do what they do. Make sure your reader buys into it.

Make sure the ending holds up after all the build up.

Have you ever been rejected?  How did you handle it?  Do you think a publisher using readers is a good thing or bad?

Pitch Perfect

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here.

On May 12, 2012, CTRWA (Connecticut Romance Writers) will host their annual Fiction Fest event (for those of you in the area – there’s still time to join us). After much dithering on my part, I decided I would pitch again. This is mostly so my skills won’t get rusty and to motivate me to stay on top of my writing goals for the year.

Here are my tips for pitching to an agent or editor. Full disclosure – this is what has worked for me. Give them a try. It’s better than pulling out your hair or giving yourself an ulcer.

1. I know this is obvious – plan out what you are going to say. I don’t memorize my pitch. Last year I read from my query letters. This doesn’t mean I stared at the paper and barely made eye contact. The trick is to know what is on the paper and loosely follow it along. The editors I pitched to didn’t mind at all (I pitched 4 times and got full/partial requests from every editor).

2. Practice what you are saying. I know I just told you not to memorize a speech. But reading always works better if the words are familiar in your mouth. Say them aloud so you sound convincing when you speak. This is to build your confidence in what you are saying and it will make the pitch easier when the time comes. I have heard repeatedly from A/E’s that they don’t like it anymore than you do if you approach them as a blathering ball of nerves.

3. Do not ramble – see #1. (Please, please, please, do not pepper your pitch with “umms” and “I knows”). Last year, I used my query letter format because a query contains important information like word count, genre and the premise of the novel.

4. Listen to editor or agents questions, then pause before answering. Think, then speak. If you don’t understand the question, ask for clarification.

5. Slow it down and take your time when speaking. When you’re nervous or stressed, it’s natural to speed up your speech so make an effort to slow down.

6. Ask questions. This means you should research, ahead of time, the agency or publisher before you sit down in front of them. Do not waste their time pitching a genre or story they are not interested in.

7. If they make a request (congratulations), write down what they want. Repeat back what they have asked for. Better to be clear now, them send the wrong information later.

8. Smile. Relax. They put their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us. They want to find the next great story as much as you want to sell it to them.

9.Thank them for their time. Again, obvious, but you’ll probably be elated/nervous and it’s easy to forget. And please, practice a firm handshake. No wet noodle, limp hands.

One final note, because this bears repeating. Jamie did an awesome post about appropriate dress for pitching. Please read it.

At all the conferences I’ve pitched at, the agents and editors have all dressed professionally. So I say take your cue from them. Publishing is a billion dollar industry. Show them you are serious and dress accordingly.

Many times when I write, I am in my pajamas or sweatpants. I would never go to an outside business meeting dressed that way. Or a job interview. I work from home full time, yet I do have an outfit or two I can wear to the office (or funerals or writer’s conferences). Invest in your image. Even if you are indie published, I hope you wouldn’t go to a book signing dressed in pajamas. Respect your industry. Just saying.

Okay. Had to get that off my chest. I’ll stop beating the dead horse now.

Remember – Believe in your book. Believe in yourself. Because if you don’t, no one else will either. Good luck. You can do it.

Who wants to share pitching stories? Successes? Disasters? What words of wisdom can you share for anyone apprehensive about doing it?

Say it with Fewer Words

I, Katy Lee, am a woman of few words.  I don’t talk much.  Those who know me might even say they don’t know me.  However, when it comes to my writing, I am the complete opposite.  Maybe that’s why I picked up the pen in the first place.  All those thoughts in my head could finally come out.

And boy did they ever!  My first manuscript ended at 135,000 words. I talked so much, I over told the story.  Whole beautiful scenes, whole flowery paragraphs…whole pain-staking chapters had to come out.  Ouch! I worked hard on those words.

As much as it hurt, though, in the end, the story is better, more concise and easier to follow.  But most importantly, marketable.

The publishing industry has set standards for word count.  And they don’t keep these a secret because they expect the author to follow them.  An editor can tell immediately the difference between an amateur and a professional writer just by how well they say it with fewer words.

So, in reality, I and my few words should be a pro at this.  Except, I’m not.  It’s hard to cut back words without losing the story, but there are other ways to slice-and-dice word count other than the deletion of whole scenes.

A big way is the use of stronger verbs.  You can say so much more with a single word.

For example:  The report gave an analysis of the accident.  Vs.  The report analyzed the accident.  Three words cut. BANG!  Now try that with every sentence.

Another way to slash is to say what you need to say only once.  There’s no reason to repeat your thoughts. This one made me laugh because I don’t like to repeat myself when I’m speaking.  My kids can attest to that.  But apparently, I didn’t mind repeating myself in my writing.  I found many places where I made the same point just in different words.  You know, just in case the reader didn’t understand the first time.  (FYI…Readers are smart people. But I’ll save that topic for another blog.)

Now redundancy doesn’t always occur so blatantly.  Sometimes it is back to back, right in front of your nose and you don’t see it.

For example:  ATM machine. Get rid of machine. Readers know what an ATM is.  BANG! Word gone.

The Unlocked Secret:  17th century French theologian, Francois Fénelon, said this, “Genuine good taste consists in saying much in few words, in choosing among our thoughts, in having order and arrangement in what we say, and in speaking with composure.” But he also said this, “The more you say, the less people remember. The fewer the words, the greater the profit.”

And isn’t that why we’re in this business? To make a profit?