Tag: editing

Professional Editing (Part One)

Professional Editing (Part One)

This article is the first of a two-part series on the importance of using a professional editor. I’ll post the second part in late September.

Self-editing, beta readers, and critique partners or groups are all an important aspect of the writing process. Each step has its own benefits. Some writers may not use beta readers, and others don’t have a critique partner or group.  I believe both provide useful feedback and it goes without saying that self-editing is a must.

However, if you want your manuscript to be the best it can be, you need the services of a professional. It’s important to know there are different types of edits—content edits, line edits, and copy edits.

Some people use the terms line editor and content editor to mean the same thing essentially. Others differentiate slightly on the two. You may also hear the term developmental edits rather than content edits.

Today, I’m going to talk about content editors. This person can take an otherwise dull manuscript and make it shine.

The content editor will go over your manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. Some of the things they do are:

  • Inconsistencies with character behavior and/or speech
  • Point of view issues, including author intrusion and deep point of view
  • Redundancies or repeating the same information in different ways
  • Ways to tighten dialogue or sentences
  • Active vs. passive voice
  • Confusing scenes or passages
  • Overused words or sentences
  • Suggest changes that can improve the pacing of a scene or paragraph
  • Telling vs. showing

The following is an example from one of my manuscripts. A simple rewording of one sentence changed the passage from what’s known as author intrusion to deep point of view.

Before:

Stephanie felt more confident knowing her father was in the stands cheering for her.

After:

Knowing her father was in the stands cheering for her boosted her confidence.

In the first sentence, I’m telling the reader what Stephanie felt. In the second sentence, I’m in her point of view and showing the reader how she feels.

Here’s another example from the same manuscript in which the editor eliminated unnecessary words.

Before:

Stephanie messaged back. You may call me directly. She entered her phone number and eagerly awaited the call.

After:

Stephanie messaged back her phone number and eagerly awaited the call.

The second sentence, although shorter, is stronger and I didn’t lose the intent of the passage.

It’s important to note a good editor never changes the author’s voice. Sadly, I once had an experience with someone who was, in reality, a frustrated writer. By the time he finished editing my work, I almost didn’t recognize it.

To this day, I regret not using a pen name with that story. And even though it was published in a collection with other writers, I refuse to make references to the book on my website. (Of note, I wasn’t the only author who felt that way.)

A good editor not only points out ways in which a writer can improve his or her work, but they also leave encouraging comments when warranted.

I had this comment from on a particularly tense scene in a novel in which a character reveals something about his past:

Oh! Gut punch! As a writer, this is delicious. As a reader, so sad. Good job.

You can see how this help boost my confidence both as a writer and in the story.

If you go with a traditional publisher, they will provide someone to edit your work. It’s important to note that editing isn’t cheap, but it can make or break your book. If you self-publish, it’s well worth the money spent to hire a professional.

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Critique Groups

Critique Groups

Critique groups. Critique partners. For many writers, the idea of joining such a group or linking with another writer is scary. New writers, in particular, may be hesitant about sharing their work. Some might be afraid of what other members will say or think. Still, others may feel inferior to more seasoned writers in the group.

In my opinion, if you want to become a published writer, joining a critique group or having a critique partner is necessary.

I’ve been a part of a critique group for several years and can say my group is invaluable. We have experienced writers and beginning writers. We write in different genres. But we all have one thing in common—we are writers. People who want to want to improve their craft and, if not already, become published writers.

Here are three of the many reasons for joining a critique group:

A critique group provides helpful feedback. As writers, we are “too close” to our work. We know what we want to say, but will our readers understand? When you allow others to read and critique your writing, they can offer suggestions such as, “I believe if you worded it this way…” or “That sentence was a bump to me, it distracted from the main story…”

A critique group offers encouragement. Remember that critique groups are composed of writers. Like you, they love to write and have a deep appreciation for the craft. They want to encourage you, and they want and need encouragement.

I recall when I was working on my first novel. At that time, I hadn’t written a lot of fiction, and the draft needed a lot of work. And yes, there were times when I didn’t want to share it with anyone. The comments and encouragement I received encouraged me to keep going.

Now that I have more experience, I enjoy offering feedback and encouragement to newer writers.

In a critique group, you form bonds and friendships. The people in your group will be with you through thick and thin. Yes, some may come and go, but over time, a core group will form. Together, you celebrate successes and sympathize over rejections. The bonds of friendship are priceless.

I believe smaller groups are best. Too many members equal too many opinions. I think a group of 3-5 people is best. Some choose to have a single critique partner rather than join a group.

Are you part of a critique group or have a critique partner? Please share your experience in the comments.

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Writing Tips To Improve Your Work – Part 2

Writing Tips To Improve Your Work – Part 2

Last week we discussed a few tips to help you create a good manuscript.
This week we have more tips to keep you going.

Keep it Simple
Long words, complicated sentences, and off the cuff tags only distract the reader. Don’t force your audience to stop to look up words you’ve written. If you continue to do this, your readers will lose interest, stop reading, and most likely will not pick up another of your works. Your audience wants to be entertained, not feel like they are in school.

Read Your Work Aloud
I cannot stress this enough—reading aloud enables you to check the cadence of your work. If you stumble over the sentence, your readers will as well. If rhyming poetry is what you write, this will enable you to check the rhyme of the poem.

Show Don’t Tell
This is a big one. The one everyone tells you about. What your critique partners will point out.
Often we glaze over how important it is to show something rather than tell the readers and not give them anything to imagine.
Don’t tell us it’s raining hard. Show us instead. The rain pelted off the window and bounced off the sidewalk. It came down so hard and fast, water flooded the streets.

Beta Readers
If you ask for Beta Readers, listen to their advice. If they all have a problem with a sentence or a scene, then you need to change it. Often they will have ideas or suggestions that will make your piece better. Remember, as Staci pointed out, you can have a critique partner that isn’t a writer. Often a reader will notice things a writer will miss. I use a reader as one of my beta readers and as a critique partner.

Don’t Panic
Several times while working on my current WIP, I worried it was utter crap. I stared at the screen and saw nothing good—only additions to my word count.
If you’re like me, don’t panic. Not everything you write will make the final cut. Take a deep breath, save what you have done, and step away. Take a moment to get a drink and compose yourself. Then go back and pick up where you left off. Remember, you will eliminate the unnecessary “crap” in the editing process.

 

All authors experience writing distractions, need help, and go through periods of self-doubt. This is not uncommon. The key is to find a way to get past what distracts you and keeps you from crafting your masterpiece.

What tips do you use to stay focused and make your work the best it can possibly be. Share with us in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.

Writing Tips To Improve Your Work – Part 1

Writing Tips To Improve Your Work – Part 1

Every writer experiences it. Distractions. Anxiety. Doubt. It can come from anywhere. And it always come at the worst time.

Honestly, writing success boils down to hard work, imagination and passion—and more hard work.

Give yourself every chance possible to be successful. Use these tips as guide—or better yet, print a copy to put on your desk, or wherever you can see them so you can be constantly reminded.

Read
To become a better writer, you must read. Pick up a book and see what’s been done. Does the book flow? Is it interesting? Does it keep your attention? Learn from what you are reading. Use this as a guide to more effective writing.

Schedule writing time
Writing time should be uninterrupted and free from distraction. Make sure you give yourself time to write every day. Make a schedule and stick to it. Don’t take phone calls, watch TV, or play on the computer. Write. When your time is done, then go about the rest of your day.

Introduce your main characters and themes in the first third of your novel.
If you are writing a plot-driven genre novel make sure all your major themes/plot elements are introduced in the first third, which you can call the introduction. Develop your themes and characters in your second third, the development. Resolve your themes, mysteries and so on in the final third, the resolution.

Plan
Make an outline. Create your character sketches. If you are creating a new world, craft your towns. Create a good description. Do your homework. Research.

Be Prepared to Take Notes
You never know when inspiration will hit you. Have the means to write down notes. Carry a notebook, use your phone. Don’t think you will remember it later. You don’t want to lose a good idea because you had no way of recording it.

 

Remember, you are not alone. Every author at some point struggles with focus. Don’t put off your writing

Even famous authors sometimes have a tough time with writing; they also go through periods of self-doubt. Despite this, they always manage to come up with the goods. So take a lesson from them and stop putting off your writing plans and get started on your publishing journey today.

Have a tip you would like to share? We would love for you to share. Leave your tips for us in the comments below.

 

Proofreading Your Manuscript

Proofreading Your Manuscript

You’ve finished the first draft, edited, re-written, and maybe even edited some more. You’re satisfied with the results, and now it’s finally time to send your manuscript to a publisher. Or in the case of self-published writers, time to format and upload into various online retailers.

But before you do this, I think there is one final necessary step. Proofread. Yes, proofread—even though you may have already done this step with the first, second, or even a third draft.

I’ve learned from experience, proofreading using different methods will help flush out some of those missed typos and punctuation errors. Today, I’m going to share a few of the things I’ve used.

Print a copy of the entire manuscript. Yes, this can get expensive if you don’t have a laser printer. Ink cartridges aren’t long lasting, not to mention the cost of paper. Because I take pieces of my writing to a critique group, I decided to purchase an inexpensive laser printer. There are some good ones on the market for less than $200.00. If buying a printer isn’t an option, check with your local print shop for pricing. Spending a few dollars can be worth it for a cleaner manuscript.

Read the entire story aloud. I read sections each week at my writer’s group and often find that by reading aloud, I find errors that I didn’t catch when reading on the screen. No matter how careful I am, sometimes my brain reads what I want the words to say and not the ones I’ve written. Using text to speech software often helps to catch additional errors. There are a number of free apps available on the Internet, and newer versions of Microsoft Word have this feature.

Use online editing tools. My preference is Grammarly. It catches punctuation errors, passive voice, suggest alternative and overused words. It’s not perfect, but I find it to be better than Word’s spelling and grammar checker. Grammarly’s premium version also catches plagiarism.

If printing isn’t an option, try reading in a different format. I use Scrivener for writing, and it can format into ePub or Mobi files. Try reading the manuscript on your Kindle or Nook. You might be surprised at the errors you catch.

Have a trusted friend or critique partner read your draft. A second or even third set of eyes is helpful.

Even with all these methods, there are times when things slip through. After all, we are human. I’ve found typos in books published by one of the big name publishing companies. However, by taking the time to do a final check, we can eliminate many of these errors.

How about you? Do you have other proofreading methods you use? Please share in the comments.

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Ten Tips To A Better Manuscript – Part Two

Ten Tips To A Better Manuscript – Part Two

So last week we talked about ways to get a first draft into fighting shape as a manuscript. This week, we’re going to cover the last five tips about turning that manuscript into something worth submitting. Any manuscript in its final phase has been edited so many times the writer may want to pull their hair out. But it’s those steps that give the manuscript its extra edge, and its those little steps listed below that really round out the editing process leading up to submission.

6. Layout. 

This is where we want to make sure our draft is in order. Some people naturally write in order, from beginning to middle to end, and that’s fine. But not all of us do. Going back and ensuring the story is in the correct order seems like common sense, but it’s also incredibly important. And who knows? Perhaps the order of events can be rearranged to make the story better.

7. Cohesiveness. 

More active reading! Actively reading to make sure all of the plot points make sense is a crucial tip. Does the main plot resolve itself in the end? Do the side plots tie into the main plot, and also have a resolution? Think about what is most annoying about a book that doesn’t fit together properly, then make sure your book doesn’t have the same qualities. Fix any issues and move along to the next drafts.

8. A catchy first page. 

Something important to remember is that the first page is make or break. As authors, we only have so much space on the first page, and that page has to grab a reader’s attention. A good first page is invaluable, so readers and the person evaluating the manuscript for the publishing company wants to keep reading.

9. Grab a beta reader or three. Or four. 

It’s important that our eyes aren’t the only eyes reading our stories. After a few drafts, when the manuscript has been cleaned up and fleshed out, send it to trustworthy people. Make sure they’re a mixture of different types of people, from readers to writers, but ultimately, I can’t stress enough that it’s important these people are trustworthy. We want them to tell us the truth about their thoughts so we can make changes where it’s necessary. We also want to make sure they won’t steal our work or leak it somewhere. Take Stephanie Meyer’s trouble with her manuscript “Midnight Sun” – this is a great example of what could go wrong if we pick the wrong beta readers.

10. Edit and edit some more.

Lastly, after our notes and the notes of the beta readers have been compiled, it’s time to make that final draft. It may take one or two drafts, but that’s all right. Once that whole process is through – and it’s a lot of work – we deserve a pat on the back. Now, it’s time to submit the manuscript, and hopefully, without butterflies. Good luck authors!

 

 

Ten Tips to a Better Manuscript – Part One

Ten Tips to a Better Manuscript – Part One

We all get them. The butterflies that populate our stomachs before submitting a manuscript to a publishing company. The process is nerve-wracking enough without second guessing our submissions. It all starts with the first draft. The brainstorming, stream-of-consciousness, and outlines have all been converted into an organized draft that resembles a manuscript. Now what? With these ten tips, authors can feel more confident about turning their first draft into a full manuscript by using a solid editing process, and quell those butterflies.

 

 

1. Research

All good stories have some kind of research. Whether the story is set in a brand new world crafted from scratch, or in the world as we know it, research will help bring the world of a story to life. Writing about magic? Research other stories and see how they made it work and why. Writing about politics? Research different political systems and parties to make the story come to life. Even in fantasy, details grounded in realism can really help readers relate to the world and feel like they are part of it.

2. Supporting details.

Like doing research, supporting details go a long way to not only flesh out a story, but to draw the reader in. There is a fine line between telling instead of showing, but that’s why the editing process takes more than one draft.

3. Make notes. 

One of the things I personally prefer is to make notes rather than delete. Some things that I think were a good idea in one edit turn out to be a bad idea for the story over all. Not all things have to be changed, and that’s the key to a good edit. Take notes while actively reading, and making edits based on those notes. Save them, and save each draft separately so no work or writing is lost, because we never know what could be recycled!

4. Active reading.

Once the first draft is complete, the research is done, and the right kind of supporting details have been added, go back and read the book. I can’t stress enough how important it is to read actively instead of critically. There will be several edits based on your active reading during the overall editing process. Actively read for glaring plot holes, and cohesion. Edit to fix those. Then go back and read again, maybe searching for details that are out of place or no longer belong. Maybe cut a scene that worked in the first draft, but upon a second or third reading, just doesn’t fit into the next draft. Don’t forget to save those scenes, though, they might still be useful! Active reading helps to get us through the multiple draft process with a focus that enables us to read our work without criticizing our voice as an author.

5. Trimming.

While actively reading, it helps to read for things that just don’t need to be there. This is the excess fat that is trimmed from the story. Maybe there was a whole scene about a food fight in that draft. It may be fun to write, but if it doesn’t further the plot or add depth to the story, it doesn’t belong. Trim it out, but save it as a separate file. It may come in handy down the road.

 

Well authors, that’s it for this week. Hopefully, these tips will get the wheels greased and help to refine the beginning of the editing process. Tune in next week for the next five tips!

First Draft or Stream of Consciousness?

First Draft or Stream of Consciousness?

It may be the first time you’re tackling a writing project or the thousandth time, but you’re not alone. We are all guilty of it at some point. “Stream of consciousness” writing. We sit down and start writing whatever comes to our minds first.

For a lot of authors, this is a great way to brainstorm or to get the beginnings of a scene or character outline mapped out. But for many who are just starting out, it’s difficult to tell the difference between the stream of consciousness writing that kick starts our creative juices and the “crappy first draft” (as many writers like to call their first cohesive draft of a project—if not an even more colorful name) that is the framework for a work-in-progress (WIP).

 

Identifying Stream of Consciousness Writing

One of the quickest ways to tell if your current WIP is in its first draft phase is to take a step back and read it. If it reads like a diary entry, going off on tangents and with ideas headed in all different directions, then your work-in-progress is actually just stream of consciousness writing. Many new authors mistake this as a first draft because it’s the first time they are getting their ideas down on paper. Unfortunately, writing is a little more complicated than that, and it requires a bit more leg work in its beginning stages.

 

Using Stream of Consciousness to Your Advantage

Something important to keep in mind, especially if you are a first time writer, is that stream of consciousness writing isn’t bad. It can be very useful, especially when you’re just trying to get words out onto the page. Any writer will tell you that some days, that’s a struggle! Some days, just writing a short, fifty-word exercise seems like a monumental achievement. And let’s face it, writer’s block is a real problem. Getting words down on the page can give you that small victory you need to keep plowing forward in your writing goals.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your stream of consciousness writing is not where your editing process should stop. While getting the words onto the page is important, it is still just the first step to envisioning your ideas. The first draft should always have some kind of structure and timeline to it, with a real framework to build off of. If you don’t have that, you’re still stuck in the stream.

 

Turning Stream of Consciousness into a First Draft

Experienced authors will tell you that even their first drafts have first drafts, and they aren’t joking. In order to reach the coveted “drafting” stage of writing, an author will go back over their brainstorming, research, and outlines with a fine-tooth comb looking for like concepts, timelines, and cohesion. Those stream of consciousness ideas that went off on random tangents or maybe that stemmed new concepts are reordered and organized into paragraphs and chapters that follow an ordered and structured chain of events. They become the framework for the first draft of a story.

 

Whether you’ve been writing for twenty years or twenty seconds, it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of getting your ideas from your head into tangible words on the page. Keep in mind that while this is exciting, those words still have a long way to go before they are ready for the final edits.

Always remember to keep writing, keep editing, and keep reading. Eventually, you will become a pro at converting your stream of consciousness into a completed work in progress.

Quick and Easy Editing Tips

Quick and Easy Editing Tips

Whether you are traditionally published or an Indie author, self-editing is an absolute must. While there is no substitute for hiring a professional editor, there are a few tips writers can do before submitting that manuscript to an editor, publisher, or even beta readers.

Look for “crutch” words

Every author tends to rely on what I call crutch words. These are different for every writer, but reading through your finished manuscript will enable you to become familiar with your own. As you review, look for repeated words or phrases. Some of my crutch words are well, perhaps, and so.

There is nothing wrong with any of these words, but I have a habit of starting sentences with well and so. “Well, I planned to go to town,” or “So, what’s the next step?” In both cases, I can eliminate the first word without changing the meaning of the sentence. If you find you overuse a word, but leaving it in some places is a must, then refer to a thesaurus for synonyms.

Look for “red flag” words or phrases

We’re all familiar with passive vs. active voice. Using active voice is always best. Words such as here, there, of, was, were, will be, to be, thought, felt, heard, saw, and smelled are often a key to the use of passive voice.

I’m not saying it’s always bad to use these words, but when you see one of them think of ways you can rephrase. Rearranging a sentence often results in changing from passive to active.

Look for “-ly” words

I’m not going to say never use an adverb, but it’s always better to use an active verb. Consider the following sentence. He walked slowly down the sidewalk. He sauntered down the sidewalk gives the reader a better visual image.

Look for “dead” and overused words

Words such as that, just, and very, if overused are known as dead words. Most of the time you can eliminate them and not change the meaning of your sentence. As an example, “This is the most fun that I’ve had in a long time.” Instead say, “This is the most fun I’ve had in a long time.”

I admit to having a hard time removing the word just. But when I say, “He just left,” what am I saying?  Five, ten, fifteen minutes? A better way might be, “He left about fifteen minutes ago.”

Of note, we often use the word just when speaking. Using it in dialogue is okay, but still use it sparingly.

Self-editing isn’t hard. The more you write, it becomes easier to spot the things I’ve mentioned here. This isn’t a comprehensive list of editing tips, but taking these few simple steps will make your manuscript much cleaner before you send it to an editor.

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