Tag: editing

What I’m Writing Now

I’m not talking about this blog. One of the new things you’ll see around here this year is at least once per month, I’ll give you a glance behind the scenes…or more accurately between the covers…of whatever I’m writing at the moment.

Have you Seen These?

The current project is in “revision” mode. This isn’t my favorite. I think I’ve shared this meme before, but each time I see it, it reinforces my emotions in the two processes of being an author: writing and editing.

There is a series within the First Street Church Series published by Sweet Promise Press. This is a trilogy I’ve affectionately called, TEXAS HOMECOMING.

In Book One, Jaz comes home with a plan to find a post-military job and make a quick exit. Since her brother’s death, she and her father can barely occupy the same room without having harsh words.

Bailey dreams of leaving Sweet Grove, too, but when his sister returns home with plans to convert the family ranch into a resort, he knows he has to stay and help her. She’ll be his only family once their father succumbs to the cancer devouring him.

But what if they don’t inherit the ranch? What if a “blood” relative comes to claim it? Bailey seeks out a legal expert and finds his high school crush. Jaz can’t turn the handsome cowboy away, but she’s hardly prepared to start falling for him.

Even without a will, love finds a way.

 

 

 

 

The story continues in Book Two. I refer to this as “Jaz’s story” because she finally gets questions answered about her brother. Of course, a mysterious visitor makes an auspicious delivery. When Bailey sees Jaz embracing the man, he suspects the worst.

Because he knows he’s not worth loving.

Sometimes hope needs a helping hand.

I Have a Plan

When I originally concieved the idea for this series, I hoped to write THREE books outside of Sweet Grove. I was going to pull readers from the Kindle World into my own sweet romance world.

And then their were no more Kindle Worlds.

But there was Sweet Promise Press. And I enjoyed working with Melissa Storm and her crew of friendly and knowledgeable professionals. So, I decided to bring the characters back to Sweet Grove. It was supposed to be a Texas Homecoming anyway, right?

My new plan is to release the third book in the trilogy in April.

Then I’ll hire a designer to make a lovely Texas Homecoming print wrap and in the fall, I’ll release the trilogy in a print collection. All three stories (somewhere between 80,000 and 90, 000 words) together in a single paperback.

Doesn’t that sound like a fantastic idea?

Between the Covers

Now for the moment you scrolled past the rest of this to see. Here’s a scene from the second chapter of the book.

I hate to give too much away, but book three is Bailey’s story. Plenty of reviewers have commented about how static and even whiny Bailey has been in the first two books. Well, he’s not weak. He has a bad past.

And it’s about to come to Sweet Grove.

From the second chapter (this is NOT final copy and is subject to change and IMPROVEMENT) before it’s included in the final book:

Lonie Dyer was a piece of work. Jazlyn Rolle had met sweet talkers like him during her six months with Boldt & Associates.  It wasn’t the false charm that grated against her as much as the expectation to get something for nothing.

By the time he’d spoken two sentences, Jaz had known that the striking physical resemblance between Bailey and Lonie was all there was. Even without the sharp planes on his face and hardness in his eyes, Lonie wasn’t at all appealing.

“And who might you be?” That was the first sentence he’d spoken.

“This is Jaz.” Tess stepped around her as the two of them entered the parlor.

Lonie’s hand settled possessively beside a photo book of Central Texas on the edge of an antique table.

“A Sweet Grove native like my little girl?” His tone dripped honey, and Jaz figured the man could con a starving man out of his last meal.

Probably how he’d convinced the parole board a man with one armed robbery after another shouldn’t serve out a full sentence. Jaz had entered the man’s name into the county database as soon as Bailey had mentioned he was out of prison. Not that she expected him to show up in Sweet Grove. He’d burned whatever bridge he might have had to his children years ago.

“I thought you’d be in your room.” Tess gazed at him with expectation.

That’s when Jaz saw herself in her friend’s posture. Tess wanted his approval. Since she’d always yearned for Daddy love, Jaz knew the feeling exactly. But her friend missed the calculating way Lonie’s eyes narrowed, and Jaz knew Tess was heading for heartache.

Jaz stepped closer. Lonie’s gaze flashed to her and roamed lasciviously down her body.

The very same thing had happened so many times during her six years in the army that Jaz was surprised when she glanced down at herself. The uniform she expected to see was only loose boyfriend denim and a form-fitting sweatshirt. By the way the lust filled the older man’s gaze, it should have been something much more revealing.

“I’m Bailey’s girlfriend, and he’s on his way here.”

Lonie’s lips thinned into a reptilian smile. “Boy couldn’t wait to see me.” His dry chuckle sent a hoard of shivers down Jaz’s spine.

“Tess and I are going to hang out until he gets here.” Jaz turned Tess toward the doorway. “Let’s get some sweet tea. What’s on the menu for breakfast?”

She forced her backbone to steel as she marched her friend back to the kitchen. Tess responded about breakfast, but Jaz didn’t pay attention. Now that she’d met the man and seen the open desire in Tess’s eyes, she realized Bailey hadn’t been overreacting to send her to the ranch.

Jaz blocked the doorway into the kitchen by leaning on the side of the bar. Lonie pulled up a stool like he belonged there.

“Sweet tea?” Tess paused to glance over her shoulder at Lonie while pulling glasses from the cupboard.

“I never did sweeten to it.”

Once Tess turned away, Lonie shifted a leer to Jaz. She glared, unblinking. Maybe it would be smarter to pretend to fall for his slimy charm, but she couldn’t do it. Men like Lonie Dyer had too much power over women, and Jaz refused to be another conquest for him, even if it was only in his own mind.

Tess handed her a glass of tea and sipped hers. “What are your plans?” She set her glass down. “Did you want something else to drink?”

This wasn’t part of her normal B&B hostess routine, and Jaz wanted to snap at Lonie to leave the kitchen, since it wasn’t generally open to guests. But Tess’s hopeful expression killed the protest before it reached her lips.

“A shot of Jim Beam would be nice.” Lonie chuckled again, this time the sound more authentic, although it still grated on Jaz.

“How about a coke? I have Sprite or cola.”

Lonie shrugged. “Don’t go to any trouble for me, darlin’.”

As if she hadn’t already by loaning him a rent-free room. The front door opened and closed, and footsteps plodded toward the dining room. Jaz’s heart leapt, but Bailey would use the kitchen entrance, so it must be Tess’ other guest.

“That’s Mr. Gary.” Tess brushed past Jaz and into the hallway.

Lonie arched a scraggly eyebrow at her and smirked. “How long you been goin’ down on my boy?”

Jaz clenched her fist. “He’s not your boy any more than Tess is your darlin’.” She mimicked his syrupy drawl of the endearment.

What do you think? Are you ready to read more?

My New Gig and a What the Heck? Moment

I have a new gig. The funniest part: that’s the ACTUAL name of it.

If you’re looking for someone to write your evil synopsis or proofread your story before you submit it, check me out on Fiverr. I have affordable rates.

Really. If you have a 100,000-word novel, I would proofread it for $550. That’s as much as half the rate of other professional editors.

Not that I have tons of time for proofreading novels. But I’m willing to make the time.

Why have I taken on another gig when I have so many writing projects under contract and in process?

There’s This Thing Called Retirement

My husband wants to retire. I talk a bit about some of our plans here.

I don’t think I’ll stop writing until I can’t do it anymore. Maybe my brain will turn to mush. Or arthritis will cripple my fingers. It’s possible the story ideas will stop plaguing me (but that’s hard to imagine).

However, my husband wants to stop the daily commute. He’d like to take on a new hobby or two. And both of us want to travel across the United States, through every state. Not just to say we have, but to see this country we’ve been born and raised to call home.

But all that takes money.

So before my husband can retire, we need to pay everything off. Plus, there’s the purchase of an RV that needs to take place. Don’t get me started on that.

To help in this process of paying down and saving for the future, I feel compelled to earn more money.

What About ALL Those Books


Writing isn’t a lucrative career. Not even for mid-list authors.

And I’m still WAY down the list.

With every book I release, I build a base. My earning potential increases. But I still don’t make as much with my writing as I can subbing only a couple days every month.

If I got a full-time job, I’d make even more. I’d be able to save my annual maximum in my Roth IRA with a couple paychecks and use the rest of the money to pay down my car loan and our mortgage. Then save it for a down payment on the RV.

What would probably happen then is that my husband would want to retire earlier. But with the whole medical insurance issue, that’s probably not going to happen.

Not that we spend much on medical expenses. But that will change as we get older. After all, old things break down. They need more maintenance.

Medical costs are crazy.

Which Led Me to Fiverr

Since the cover designer I usually work with has been swamped with writing contracts (good for her), I was back on Fiverr to find someone to design the logo and covers I need for the Reflections series.

As I was crafting my request for bids, I decided to just toss up a gig or two of my own. What’s the worst that would happen? No one would hire me and I’d be out an hour’s worth of work.

A week later, I got this lovely email from Fiverr:


They cancelled my proofreading gig because I’d mentioned proofreading college essays (I guess).

So…is it wrong to get your essays proofread by someone?

I ask this because I proofread many of my sons’ essays for college. I did NOT rewrite them. I did not change them. I proofed them for spelling, usage and grammar errors.

Yes, if there were flaws in reasoning, I mentioned that, but I didn’t rewrite anything. It was up to THEM to make even the changes I suggested. They still had to do the work.
Was it UNETHICAL for my—a professional author—to proofread my sons’ college essays?

I’d love to have a discussion about this. What do you think?

I think it’s a little crazy that Fiverr banned my gig because I mentioned proofreading essays. But perhaps they’ve had some sort of legal action brought against them in the past for soliciting students.

Professional in Need of Feedback

I’m a professional author. That means I write a story and send it off to my publisher. Right?

Wrong.

In most cases, most professional authors write a manuscript and return to it to rewrite, revise (not the same as rewriting), edit (not the same as revising) and polish (a cat of an entirely different color) as many as TEN times before sending it off to anyone. And often, their first readers are NOT their editors but a group of alpha readers, many of whom are writers in a similar genre.

Now that I’ve been a published author for four years, my manuscripts should be pretty close to perfect at the end of two or three drafts.

I wish.

My Process

Sadly, I don’t write a first draft that’s ready for public consumption. Not even by my Aunt Betty who dearly adores everything I write (because she loves me). Manuscripts I write have generally survived three passes from me before they go to my early readers.

  1. FAST DRAFT: Just as it sounds. I sit down with my character sketches, the major plot point beat sheets and write the story.
  2. REWRITES: A few weeks after I finish the first draft, I read through the manuscript and mark it with symbols. I mark where more detail is needed, where there is a plot hole, where I’m bored and where things don’t make sense. A week later, I sit down with that manuscript and rewrite all the troublesome areas. Usually, I will increase the word count by about ten percent.
  3. REVISIONS: Shortly after I finish the rewrites, I turn to page one and begin revisions. I start by making a scene chart. At the beginning of each scene, I ask what the goal of the scene is and whether it’s accomplished. If there is no goal, the scene is scrapped or rewritten to reflect a goal. I go sentence by sentence through the revised scene and cull needless words.

Now my manuscript is ready for beta readers. Generally, I send them a list asking them to look at specific aspects of the story, but I always invite them to comment about anything they like or dislike as they’re reading.


Once all the comments come back, my manuscripts get three more passes.

  1. MORE REVISIONS: First, I read-through the comments and make changes on a scene level as I see fit based on the beta commentary. Sometimes, I have to scrap or completely rewrite scenes. Other times, I need to add some meat. I may not work on EVERY scene in this pass, only the ones that needed work according to the readers.
  2. EDITS: I print out a copy of the manuscript and read it aloud. Yep, some people might find this crazy. I use a colored pen to mark up the manuscript. Usually I read a couple chapters and then return to my computer to input the changes. Sometimes they get changed again as I’m doing the inputting. This pass generally takes longer than any of the others.
  3. POLISH: I compile from Scrivener to a Word document. I do a few macro searches for overused words and change them out. Then I start at the first page and polish line by line, making sure spelling, grammar and punctuation are as perfects as I can make them.

Now, the manuscript is ready for my publisher.

This Story

This summer, Kindle Worlds closed down. I begged Melissa Storm, the author who owned the universe I’d published in there, to form her own small press. She did!

Sweet Promise Press is unique in that they are 100 percent shared series. Not only has she opened up the First Street Church universe that was the Kindle World, but she’s invited authors to pitch ideas for other worlds. Then she opens up submissions for these individual series.

As an author from her Kindle World, she invited me to the group right away. I submitted interest in two of the first five shared series, and I’m contracted to write a novella for the Mommy’s Little Matchmakers series in April 2019.

The novella is written. As I pen this blog, it is with an amazing editor for critical feedback about plot and character arc, as well as the style. Since I’ve never written this genre, I’m worried my sense of humor may get missed or not resound with readers.

One thing about Sweet Promise Press that was quite different from Roane Publishing (where my first fiction works were published)is that they only proofread. It is part of the author contract that a manuscript is line edited before submission.

This is NOT that edit. I’ve contracted the recommended line editor to handle that closer to publication.

My manuscript is with Kristen Corrects, Inc. for something more along the lines of a developmental edit. Except that would have cost about twice as much as what I’m paying her to do with the story. I’m hoping that I’ve got the story RIGHT and only need help with the comedic elements.


SO…I hope I sell enough copies of this story to offset the cost of TWO rounds of editing.

My Hope

I worked with Kristen on my first First Street Church novella, Love’s Late Arrival. She really helped me make that story shine.

I’m hoping she’ll be able to spot all the weaknesses in this new story.

In this case, readers deserve to get the best story. I know I can deliver a great story, but if I miss the mark on the humor, the reviews are going to scream it.

“Romantic comedy is supposed to be funny!”

Most of my stories have an edge of darkness. I always end on a hopeful note, but I’m a realist. I don’t write fluffy stories. My character face some hard issues, but they press on and find light at the end of the shadowy journey.

That’s not the case here. So I had to find lighter issues for my characters to face, but I didn’t want it to be trite.

If anyone can help me bring the story to a smile-inducing place, it’s Kristen.

What questions do you have about the writing or editing process? Are you surprised I spend so much time on each manuscript(and will still release three new novellas and two short stories this year)?

7 Must-Ask Questions to Find Your Perfect Book Editor – Part II

 I hope you haven’t been holding your breath for a week waiting for the second part of Kristen’s post on finding the perfect editor for your book. Waiting with bated breath is good. Holding your breath for a week? Not so much.

Now here’s Kristen with the rest of the questions that will help you in your editor search.

Go for it Kristen:

Last week I shared four of seven questions every author must ask to find the perfect editor for your manuscript. The first four questions are easy, focusing on narrowing your search to editors who offer the type of editing you need, who specialize in your genre, who have experience, and who have a portfolio and testimonials for you to look over.

Now, we’re getting into the serious stuff. By the end of this, you’ll have found the editor that’s right for you.

5. What is the editor’s attitude?

Real talk: There are too many editors to settle for one that doesn’t contribute to a healthy author-editor relationship. When you make first contact with an editor, pay attention to how they communicate.

  • Do they have time to talk to you on the phone about your project?
  • Is conversation with them easy, and do you see eye-to-eye with your plans for the book?
  • When you ask about their experience, are they open and communicative?
  • Do they seem excited about your project?

The author-editor relationship is famously collaborative, meaning if you don’t feel your editor is onboard 100%, move on to the next option. Your manuscript is understandably an important project—and usually a major part of your life. It deserves the respect of an engaged, enthusiastic editor.

6. Does the editor offer sample edits?

As you narrow your search for an editor, you may find several editors that may be a good fit for your project. Getting a sample edit is often the only way to know for sure which editor is right for you. Most editors will be happy to do a sample edit of 500-1000 words on your manuscript—just ask! Once you get the sample edit back, ask yourself:

  • Did the editor’s sample edit make a difference in your novel’s excerpt?
  • Do you feel that the edited material reads better than the original?
  • Pay attention to the editor’s stylistic choices, such as using em dashes (—), semicolons (;), and italics. Do you like their style? Do you feel like it’s right for your book?

The best editor will be able to match your writing style, so all editing changes will be seamless to your original writing. The final result will be a beautifully polished book, highlighting your skills as an author. 

7. What about contracts and pricing?

Before making the final decision, pay attention to two more important elements: if the editor offers a contract or written agreement, and if the price is reasonable.

As a book editor, I require a contract with every project, which provides the details of any editing project in writing, including the payments, editing services provided, and a confidentiality agreement. At the very least, protect yourself and ask the editor to provide a written agreement prior to you submitting payment or your manuscript.

Finally, the old adage “you get what you pay for” is true when it comes to selecting a book editor. The Editorial Freelancer’s Association’s Editorial Rates Chart is the gold standard for how much editing should cost, so make sure your editor falls in the ballpark. Generally, more experienced editors will charge more, while less experienced editors will charge less. You get what you pay for.

BONUS: Editing company or freelance editor?

Your search may turn up freelance editors, or editing companies—big difference between the two. Editing companies can have five or more editors on staff, several of whom will be working on your manuscript. Although multiple eyes on a document can be a good thing, conflicting editing styles and an inability to communicate freely with your editor may turn some authors off.

Generally, freelance editors own their own companies, take on fewer projects, and are the sole editor of your manuscript, meaning you’ll be working with one person (the editor) throughout the entire process. You’ll get to speak directly with the editor you’re working with and form a personal connection with her. That personal connection I make with the author is why I will always be a freelancer. Maybe I’m just biased. 😉

When you hire an editor, you’re paying them thousands of dollars and giving them the power to improve or destroy your work. Choose wisely!

Book manuscript editor Kristen Hamilton is the owner and sole employee of Kristen Corrects, Inc. , which provides manuscript editing services. Working independently allows Kristen the opportunity to interact with clients and provide them personalized service. There is nothing better than communication and friendliness in a business world that is slowly becoming less focused on people. 

Kristen is included in the 2014 Guide to Self-Publishing and the 2015 Guide to Self-Publishing, both published by the prestigious Writer’s Digest. She is also part of the credible Writer’s Market, Publishers Marketplace, and Editorial Freelancers Association and plays a pivotal role as senior editor at Modern Gladiator magazine.

Reading is Kristen’s passion, so when the workday is over, she can usually be found curled up with a good book (alongside her three cats, Sophie, Charlie, and Jack). She loves pizza, cat videos, watching The Bachelor, and traveling, and is likely planning her next vacation. She lives outside of Boise, Idaho.

What are your personal experiences in working with editors? What advice can you offer readers?

7 Must-Ask Questions to Find Your Perfect Book Editor – Part I

Today’s post is written by my friend, a book editor, Kristen Hamilton.  She’s going to enlighten us on how to find a perfect editor for our book.

Here’s Kristen…

Imagine this: You’ve finished writing and self-editing your manuscript and are ready to hire an editor. You type in manuscript editor on Google and are overwhelmed by the results—over 95 million. You e-mail several book editors, not really knowing what you’re looking for, and choose one at random, possibly the cheapest one or the one who has the best looking website. Then, after spending thousands of dollars, you’re unhappy with your book and, discouraged and disenchanted, you shelve your book and never publish it.

Just as the market is saturated with books, it’s also saturated with book editors—some good, some not so good. Although every editor has something positive to bring to an author-editor relationship, some editors will undoubtedly be a better fit for your manuscript.

How do you find the right book editor for your manuscript? You just need to ask yourself the right questions.

1. What type of editor are you looking for?

Are you happy with your book’s overall structure? Do you feel like something’s missing in the storyline? Do the sentences have good rhythm and flow? Most books require three distinct stages of editing:

  • Substantive or developmental editing focuses on the big picture of your novel: addressing character development, pacing, plot holes, and loose ends.
  • Line editing looks for improving sentence structure, readability and flow, consistency and clarity, and logic and sense of scenes.
  • Proofreading is the last check for surface errors including spelling, punctuation, grammar, word choice, and syntax.

Some editors only provide one or two of these services, while others are specialized in all three. Of course, each editing service will be a separate pass through your manuscript. The more times your editor goes over your manuscript, the more errors that will be caught. A good editor will be able to guide you to choose which editing services are right for your book.

2. Does the editor specialize in your genre?

Once you find a competent developmental editor, line editor, and/or proofreader, narrow down the results a bit more by genre.

Most editors specialize in a specific genre. Cookbooks, crime thrillers, general fiction, or memoirs are all highly different types of books, and need different elements to succeed. Naturally, the more experience the editor has with that specific genre and type of editing, the better hands your book is in. And while there are no guarantees that your perfect editor will transform your book into a bestseller, an adequate and competent editor will certainly improve your manuscript.

3. What is the editor’s experience?

Once you’ve narrowed the pool of editors to a select few who offer the type of editing you need, check that the editor is qualified with a degree in English, writing, or a related field. While years of on-the-job experience will help hone an editor’s skills, nothing can replace the specialized learning that comes with earning a degree in the field. Any qualified editor will also be a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, and you can search the database of editors here.

Unfortunately, uninformed authors can easily choose a really, really terrible editor. Beware of editors who don’t have a lot of experience, who have extremely low prices, or who are just plain…sketchy. There have been countless times I’ve accepted a new client who was burned by their previous “editor,” where the editor took their money, did minimal edits, and left a very dissatisfied author and an incomplete manuscript. Yikes.

4. Does the editor have a portfolio and testimonials?

This one’s easy. Check out the editor’s portfolio and testimonials from previous clients—a reputable editor will have these clearly listed on their website.

Take it a step further and read reviews on the books they have edited. If there are complaints of misspelled words, poor editing, or a confusing storyline, move on to the next editor. Your book is too important to put it in the hands of a sloppy editor. If possible, ask to contact an editor’s previous clients. Were they happy with the editor’s work? Would they hire them again? Previous clients’ testimonials are one of the best ways to vet your future editor.

This is just scratching the surface of what you need to do to find the perfect book editor for your manuscript. Check back next Thursday, where the final three questions will be addressed, helping you to find the perfect editor for your book.

Book manuscript editor Kristen Hamilton is the owner and sole employee of Kristen Corrects, Inc. , which provides manuscript editing services. Working independently allows Kristen the opportunity to interact with clients and provide them personalized service. There is nothing better than communication and friendliness in a business world that is slowly becoming less focused on people.

 Kristen is included in the 2014 Guide to Self-Publishing and the 2015 Guide to Self-Publishing, both published by the prestigious Writer’s Digest. She is also part of the credible Writer’s Market, Publishers Marketplace, and Editorial Freelancers Association and plays a pivotal role as senior editor at Modern Gladiator magazine.

Reading is Kristen’s passion, so when the workday is over, she can usually be found curled up with a good book (alongside her three cats, Sophie, Charlie, and Jack). She loves pizza, cat videos, watching The Bachelor, and traveling, and is likely planning her next vacation. She lives outside of Boise, Idaho.

What questions do you have about finding an editor?

I love my job but I hate this part

I love my job. Writing stories and articles and study books delights and excites me.

    But…

Don’t you hate when people say something good and then ruin it with a but?

I like your hair, but…it looks like you’re stuck in the 80s
Your dog is so pretty, but…he has no manners at all.

You know what I’m talking about. People do this all the time. WE do this several times during any conversation.
Because the truth of the matter is ugly hard to swallow unimaginable depressing.

Nothing in life is without its flaws and drawbacks.

(Sorry, honey. I know I tell you and everyone else that you’re perfect, but that’s just not the case. You’re perfect in my eyes only…and when you don’t leave the toilet seat up.)

I’m a full-time, professional author. To earn a paycheck, I substitute teach at the local middle and high schools.
I enjoy teaching. I believe it’s one of my secondary strengths (which is why I write Bible study books and teach women and teenagers at my church).

But writing is my soul food.

When I’m in the groove, churning words directly from my heart and mind onto paper (or a computer screen), it’s Heaven-on-Earth.
Why? Because I believe I was created to do this “writing thing.”

What I Love

I love when I get a new idea. It sparkles and gleams. Every cast of light reveals another dimension.

I enjoy sketching out the plot. I do this with a ton of “what if” questions. And I only hammer in the major plot points before I begin to write. I like to give my characters just enough rope to jerk them into an uncomfortable position.

I adore setting up the scenes in Scrivener, color coding them so I can keep track of things like narrator or timeline.

I don’t even fear the blank page.

I crank out the first scene. I don’t sweat it too much. It will get rewritten more than any other scene in the novel. I accept this and pound out the words.


I bite my lip as I write the last scene. Where do I think my characters will end up? How do I end this?
Believe me, I come up with some incredible last lines.

Then they get edited out of the final manuscript.

I write. There’s no fear of blank screens and blinking cursors.

If I’m not “feeling” a scene, I skip to where my characters are begging to go. I can fill in the blanks later. In fact, those blanks might be better scenes if I don’t force them when I’m not emotionally engaged in writing them.

The whole fast draft and first draft process makes me feel euphoric.

Not that I Hate This

Okay, actually, I pretty much despise everything that comes after writing the first draft of a novel.

As for shorter projects, I don’t mind making several editing passes and polishing the manuscript to a shine. I can do it in relatively the same amount of hours I invested in creating the original draft.

Novels? Not so much.

There’s no way to comb through 70,000 plus words in three weeks (the average time it takes me to write that at the rate of 1,000 words per hour).

And every manuscript needs multiple “passes” before it’s ready to be seen by someone I want to buy it.

I think I’ve written about my process before here and here, so I’m not going to bore you with those details again.

The problem is that the words start to all sound the same after my sixth pass through a manuscript. I can’t discern what works and what doesn’t.

I’m done. I hate this stupid thing. Can I throw it away now?

Some writers talk about coming to love their stories the more they work on it. I get there after the publisher’s editor takes a fine tooth comb to it, pointing out all the weak points and helping me strengthen them.

But while I’m working on the pre-published manuscript? I come to despise it.

Sometimes, when I pick it up months later (on a break from my most recent revision nightmare), I decide it’s not such a bad story. That character is pretty witty. That fight scene gives me palpitations.

But when I’m in the middle of trying to polish it, hoping to convince a publisher to take a risk on me?

I get to the point where I can’t stand the sight of it.

Why would anyone want this if you hate it so much?

Who cares? I just want to get it out of my sight.

What things do you love about your job? What makes you groan with dread?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.

Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

The Three Stages of Editing – And why you shouldn’t try them all at once

When it rains, it pours. Manuscripts in need of editing, that is. Each in a different stage of editing: developmental, line and copy edits, oh my. It’s a three-layer parfait.

Of doom.

The work in progress novel must be ready for submission by the beginning of May. And it’s rough. It’s missing crucial elements. It needs developmental edits galore.

About the time I’m reaching the three-quarter point on that project, I get a manuscript I haven’t looked at since December back from an editor. I haven’t given it a thought since then. Back when I made the developmental changes to it.

Now, the second editor is making a few line edit suggestions that require actual rewriting. Mostly additions, to flesh out a few things added in during the developmental stage.

You know, things that will deepen the story, make the characters more believable and ultimately engage the reader.

And every author wants to ensnare the reader and make them forget they’re even reading. Lasso them into the story realm and hold them hostage until they reach the last page.

“I’ll finish the novel edits first,” I decide. “Then I’ll delve into this other story.”

Meanwhile, the short story I wrote in December and polished in January was sold in February. It’s slated for a June release.

So, of course, I got the first round of edits from the editor. Because I had nothing else on my plate.

Why did I think it was a good idea to have so many projects going at one time?

Oh right, because writers write. And when writers sell their writing, it means they must revisit that story world over and over.

Which is something I enjoy because my story gets better and more enchanting with each round of edits.

The publisher who purchased said short story has never made developmental editing suggestions. I’d like to think it’s because my stories are well-written, but I have a feeling it has more to do with budget and short publishing timelines.

The edits for the story were line edits. A few commas, questionable word choice, repetitions pointed out. All of it a quick fix.

So that should be a simple turnaround, right?

Uh, have you met me?

I will read through the entire story again and tighten every sentence I can. In fact, I deleted two sentences in the second scene, deciding they made my male protagonist look too eager.

So, I have a 14,000-word manuscript to line and copy edit. The second-round edits are mostly line edits, too, but involve some additions. That’s a 20,000-word manuscript.

And the ugly developmental edits on the revised first draft of the novel are getting into the heart and heat of the story. When everything blows up. When my characters enter the crucible and come out the other side as different people.

How do I prioritize this?

My gut says to finish the novel because it needs to get input from alpha readers and my editor. Then it may very well require extensive rewrites before it’s ready to enter the polishing phase.

After all, it’s not even on its way to a publisher yet. It needs to be honed to a shining jewel before I submit it, in hopes the publisher will love it. Will make an offer on it.

And then it will come back again. For developmental edits and then line edits and finally for minor copy tweaks.

Lucky me, though, I can enjoy all three stages of editing today. Right this very moment. With three separate projects.

Rewrite, Revise, Repeat…Is it Done Yet?

Rewrite_revise_repeatGood writing is rewriting. I’m not the originator of that wisdom. It seems like I might be a poster child for it, though.

When did I finish this young adult fantasy novel again? Oh, right, before NaNoWriMo last year.

It was ready for a little polish and then off to the beta readers.

Or so I thought. Until I got a critique on the first 20,000 words from the amazing Jami Gold.

It had major character arc issues.

So, I spent December tweaking things, getting a little feedback on the opening from my online critique group.

In January, I went through it all again, trying to spiff it up slightly. I don’t like sending mediocre writing out to readers.

Off it went to four beta readers in February.

And only one of them loved it.

The non-genre readers had issues with some of the fantastical happenings (it is a FANTASY after all), but thought the characters read fairly well. He wasn’t impressed with the ending.

The fantasy genre read-aholic thought the premise was great. He didn’t think the characters arced very much. Everything happened for them too easily – even though the stakes couldn’t get much higher.

Months later, the soon-to-be-published YA Fantasy writer returned the manuscript. Shredded. (No need to mention my writing confidence was also ripped apart. But that’s part of becoming a professional writer.)

Much of the stuff she address was tight writing, which I address most in my editing and polishing phases (which happen once all the revision and rewriting is finished).

The story had so much potential but was weighed down by wishy-washy characters and too few moments of accelerating tension.

So, I spent the next two weeks slicing and dicing the beta manuscript.

Here are a few examples:

  • The first scene was completely scratched and rewritten (for like the fourth or fifth time)
  • The order of the first two scenes was switched (suggestion from my target audience beta group)
  • Several scenes were tossed into the “cut scenes” file (making it a hefty 15,000 words)
  • A few new scenes were added
  • Nearly every scene was intensified with more emotions (teenagers = drama)
  • The end was completely rewritten (for the second time)

In short, anyone who read the original story probably wouldn’t recognize it in the pages of the rewritten story.

Next stop, revision with a red pen.

I print out my manuscript and read it aloud. Every sentence comes under fire.

I’ll address grammar issues if I find them. Obvious word repetition will fall beneath my sharpened editor’s blade.

But mostly, I’m cleaning up the language. Clarifying meaning. Focusing on the individual voice of each passage.

Does that SOUND like something my seventeen-year-old heroine would say? Would a fifteen-year-old surfing science geek think or talk that way?

good writing meme

After that, the manuscript will get two more rounds of edits. It’s during these final polishing rounds that I will search for obvious areas of “telling” rather than “showing.” Major word repetition will be rooted out.

After that, will it finally be done?

Nope, but it will be ready for marketing to agents, editors and publishers. Once they buy it, it will go through several more rounds of editing.

Because every writer knows – a story is never done.

Beta Readers: Bane or Boon?

betareaderblissThis spring, I’ve had my second – and third – encounter with a group of beta readers. Even as my stinging ego debates whether they are the bane of my existence or a boon to my career, I can’t deny they are essential.

If you’re a writer, you need beta readers. Further, you need beta readers who are willing to tell you what they think, regardless of how much your feelings might be hurt (and I mean demolished – picture me curled in a fetal position sobbing).

What are beta readers?

In my mind, a beta reader is like a software program’s beta tester. They take the product for a ride and find everything that’s wrong with it.

In the case of books, much of the beta feedback is subjective – as a reader’s preferences are varied and unique. Some people adore Shakespeare. I despise reading him, but I’m all about watching his work performed on stage.

In any case, betas are the first real readers of a manuscript. Sure, Aunt June may have seen your first draft and raved about it becoming a best seller. This isn’t the same as having an objective reader give feedback.

Beta readers read your rewritten and lightly edited second draft. They read it as if it’s a book they picked up off the shelf. The only difference: every time they see something they don’t understand or  something they dislike, they comment on it.

What I expect from my beta readers?

Unlike beta testers for software, beta readers might be expected to look for different things by the author. Software programs are meant to work a certain way, and the betas are supposed to find the bugs, so the code can be repaired before the program is marketed.

In a similar manner, beta readers are expected to see if a story works. Does the plot progress in a sensible fashion? Do the characters grow and change? Is there an obvious story problem that is resolved before the book ends?

Of course, my idea of what makes a story satisfying could be different than yours. This is where the subjectivity comes into the picture.

As far as expectations go, I send a detailed checklist to my beta readers. I generally ask about story structure, setting, believability and character likability and growth.

I consider every comment from beta readers, but that doesn’t mean I always change the things thy find problematic. After all, I’m the author.

Bane

Two types of readers tend to be the bane of my existence when it comes to betas: non-genre and published writers.

First of all, having readers who don’t generally read your genre take your manuscript for a test drive is an excellent idea. They are going to be more critical of story elements and plot holes. If you can suck them into the story, great. It’s more likely that they are going to be on the outside noticing all the things they don’t like.

Remember, I don’t change everything they suggest. This is especially true for non-genre readers. However, I do take their thoughts on plot and character seriously to heart. After all, if they can’t relate to my characters, I’ve done something wrong.

Published authors – especially if they are in your genre – are harsh. And, I’ll be honest, it hurts to have someone you respect dissect your story. It feels like being gutted alive.

Once you stop bleeding, however, you’ll be able to sort through all those comments – meant to help not scald – and use them to make your story better.

Boon

I always make sure I have some avid readers of my genre and some members of my focus audience read my early manuscript. These people are going to be a boon to my story.

Avid readers know what works. They’ve read so many books, they can predict outcomes and wade through poor prose without losing touch with the story.

This makes it sound like they aren’t going to be helpful. Not true. They will be able to spot a plot hole a mile away. If your plot is too predictable, you can be sure you’ll hear about it. And, they can tell you if the character you’ve chosen works in the story.

Since my novels are aimed at a young adult audience, it’s essential that some of my betas are in this group. It can be difficult to find young readers who can give helpful feedback.

Luckily for me, I have connections at the local middle school. Further, I can interview the readers in person, thus tailoring my questions based on the answers they give me.

Time consuming? Without a doubt.

However, I’ve discovered problems with character consistency, magic systems, weak resolutions and plot progression from my target audience. The investment is worth the outcome.

In the end, books are meant to be read. As the author, I’m too close to the work to determine if the story is clear. I know my characters so well, I might miss the fact that on paper they don’t appear at all like they do in my head.

This is why authors need beta readers. Without unbiased reader feedback, a novel will never reach its fullest story potential.

Bane or boon, if you’re a writer, get your manuscript to beta readers – before you send it to agents, editors, publishers or -worst of all – publish it yourself.

Road to Published – Polishing your Manuscript

Write. Rewrite. Edit. Revise. Edit. Polish. Repeat.

Any writer worth reading after will tell you the creative process of writing is more often about the concerted effort of perfecting previously written words.

To that end, I have a library of books on the subject. I follow blogs of respected authors who address pitfalls. If you’re a writer, you should do the same thing.

If you’re just a reader, wanting to ogle a writer in their native surroundings, you don’t care about that stuff. You want to know about my process.

One of Many

PlotA gaggle of books have been written on this topic. (Did I mention I own an entire book case of tomes on writing craft?) My process isn’t the only way to take a manuscript from first draft to saleable pages.

My method is derived from the process James Scott Bell describes in his book Plot & Structure. I’ve detailed that in an earlier post.

I use several books to help me make each pass through my manuscript count. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and Mastering Showing and Telling are two of these books.

Self-Editing devotes a chapter to the most common problems found in fiction manuscripts. There are exercises at the end of each to help you hone your editing skills.

Marcy Kennedy’s book gives a list of search terms to use in MS Word during the revision phase. When they show up in your manuscript, it’s a good indicator you’ve entered the realm of telling.  And we all know readers want us to show them what happens.

Start at the Beginning

Regardless of the process you choose, you’ll need to start at the beginning. You’ll need to face the fact that this revision, editing and polishing process is going to take longer than the actual writing.

Top three pages - the other 18 look just as lovely
Top three pages – the other 18 look just as lovely

That shouldn’t discourage you. In fact, experience writers tend to have a different view. After they’ve learned to effectively polish their manuscript, it helps them write a cleaner first draft.

Someday, you might write a cleaner draft, too. I know I haven’t reached that place with my novels, but when I wrote three short stories back-to-back, the third one had the cleanest of all first drafts.

I begin by printing out the entire manuscript. I read through it, line by line – aloud. I replace weak words using my thesaurus. Sentences that are clunky on my tongue get rewritten.

Those pages look like a mass of lines and scribbles. At the end of a chapter (or three), I take the cluttered pages back to my computer and enter the revisions while they are fresh in my mind. Sometimes, I revise these as I’m typing along.

Once I finish this, a minimum of three full days of work, I compile from Scrivener into a Word document. And let the searches begin.

I’m looking for all “to be” verbs and exchanging them for strong action verbs when possible. I’m eliminating adverbs and tightening all sentences to their barest.

After this stage, I usually walk away from the manuscript for at least a week. When I return, I can use the search function to eliminate repeated words. One of my published author idols tells how to do this in one of her posts. I recommend reading her whole “Gold Mine Manuscript” series.

When you’re finished – you’re NOT

Whew! All done.

Wrong.

Now, it’s time to reprint the manuscript. Read it aloud. Line by line.

Some people recommend starting from the end. I haven’t tried that yet, but if you’re already sick of your story, this might be a way to see it from a fresh perspective.

More scribbles appear on your crisp pages. Each day of grueling editing work is followed by the data entry aspect.

Eyes burn. Words swim across your vision. A woodpecker takes up residence inside your skull – rapping out a message in the middle of your forehead.

If you can convince someone else to proofread the manuscript once you finish this “polishing run,” your manuscript will be better for it.

Otherwise, plan to take at least a week away from it between the final red-pen pass and the proofing stage.

Write. Rewrite. Edit. Polish. This mantra repeats over and over for every story, article, and book I breathe into existence.

Publishing isn’t just vomiting a story onto the page and sending it out to be loved. Writing takes work.

Before your story is ready to step onto the stage of being marketed to agents or editors, or be independently published, you will never want to read it again.

I’m serious.

What is your favorite step in this process? Least favorite? Does anything in my process surprise you?