Tag: grammar

Straight Talk from Editor to Author

Editors do important work. In fact, my choice to pursue traditional publishing has as much to do with getting quality editing for my work as it does to the whole avoiding marketing ideal. (Sadly, there is NO way to avoid that irksome task regardless of an author’s path.)

I’ve worked with half a dozen editors. Three of them I chose myself and paid out of my pocket. The others were assigned to me by the publishing house. In my experience, some editors are fantastic and as relentless in their pursuit of a perfect manuscript as I am.

Others? They’re breezing through the manuscript and finding the obvious errors, but they aren’t passionate about polishing the story to the next level.

Recently, I hired Kristen Corrects, Inc for a three-manuscript independent project. She was one of the first editors I interviewed when the first manuscript in this series was an unborn dream. And although I didn’t hire her then, I have experienced her critique skills with a more recent project, MOMMY’S LITTLE MATCHMAKERS.

Welcome, Kristen. You’re an independent editor with a pretty full schedule and a broad range of editing projects, so I know you’ll have insight my fellow authors will want to hear.

What is something authors commonly forget to do before handing over their manuscript to the editor?

KRISTEN: Self-edit their work.

I cannot stress the importance and the difference in quality authors will see if they invest some time in improving their manuscript before sending it off to a professional editor. Unless authors have unlimited money to pay a freelance editor for many, many editing passes (spoiler alert: most don’t!), authors can really improve the quality of their final book simply by self-editing their work.

Me: That’s great advice, but I’m sure some readers are wondering what that entails. What does self-editing mean to you?

KRISTEN: This means recruiting beta readers and implementing their suggestions, and reading your manuscript several times to catch as many errors (continuity, grammar, spelling) as possible. I’ve been a freelance editor since 2012, and one thing I know to be true: the most successful self-publishing authors are those who self-edit their work. Simply handing your raw first draft manuscript to your editor and hoping they’ll make it into gold after one or two editing passes just isn’t realistic.

Me: I can’t even imagine sending my raw first draft to anyone. I even revise and give it a quick edit before I send it to my beta readers.

Let’s face it, there are a TON of editors out there. Not only that, there are several types of editing. How is an author supposed to find a reputable editor?

KRISTEN: Do your homework. Make sure the editor has a contract. Check out their portfolio and look up those books on Amazon (if there are a lot of negative reviews mentioning a story that doesn’t make sense or typos, move on). Read testimonials of the editor’s previous clients.

Most editors will offer a sample edit free of charge, so take advantage of this to see if you like how the edited passage of your book. There are a lot of editors out there, so do your research!

Me: I know that when I first interviewed you, I was hoping to find someone who had experience editing in my genre (historical fiction). In fact (along with price), this is the reason I went with someone else for that first project. Do editors prefer to work in certain genres?

KRISTEN: I’m a fiction book editor, but I haven’t “niched down” yet to a specialty (romance, fantasy, etc.). There’s a robust world in fiction writing, and I enjoy all of it—the variety makes my job so interesting. There’s a big difference between fiction and nonfiction writing, though, which is why I rarely accept the nonfiction project.

Me: At the end of the day, authors don’t have to take your recommendations. Every editor I’ve worked with has reiterated this to me (yes, even the ones with publishing houses). How do you manage issues when the author disagrees with your advice/recommendations?

KRISTEN: The majority of my clients are self-publishing authors, which means after I’m done editing their manuscript, they upload the books to Amazon Kindle or other self-publishing platforms. The book is their baby—it has their name on it, their ideas, and their story. And as such, I always tell my author clients: “You’re the author, so you’re in the driver’s seat!” (It’s kind of become a mantra.)

I’m here as their editor to make the book the best it can be—but if the author disagrees with my recommendations, I’m totally fine with that. That’s the beauty of self-publishing—it’s the author’s story, nobody else’s.

Me: Come back next week and find out if Kristen deals with a client who disagrees with changes she suggested.

For my part, I’ve worked with several editors, and I’ve never had any arguments. There were times I disagreed with my editor and cited the Chicago Manual of Style to them as to WHY I didn’t accept their changes. Amazingly, they thanked me for pointing those errors out to them.

Next week, I’ll open up the comments at the bottom of the post and ask Kristen to check in and answer any questions you have for her. In the meantime, why not check out her blog and see if she answers them there.

How the Street of Dreams Mirrors Life

5,185 square feet, $1,325,000
5,185 square feet, $1,325,000

“I live on the street of my dreams.”

Do you? Does your daily life take you through your dream landscape?

Since I wasn’t being wowed by the uniqueness of the homes on the Street of Dreams, my writer brain went to town to make a life connection. It doesn’t take much to wind up my creativity.

I found three parallels between my experience with the million-dollar homes and my pursuit of a writing career.

Expectations

When someone tells me about a million-dollar home, I’m expecting either an enormous lot or unique features.

If you read my post last week, you know I didn’t find either of these at the Street of Dreams. I found million-dollar homes with fantastic fountains and more floor space than I ever want to be responsible for cleaning.

Lot size? Not much considering how big the homes were. In fact, I could see clearly into all the neighbors’ yards from the second story balcony of one of the homes. Not much in the way of a private setting.

I’ll be honest about the writing career. I knew I needed to pen a million words before I could expect to begin to perfect the craft of novel writing. I have penned more than 750,000 (yes, I keep track) in the past two years. I’m still pre-published.

In fact, this writing gig is much harder work than I expected. Some days all the words I write sound trite or infantile. Other days getting the words out feels like an exorcism (not that I know what that feels like, but seeing one thanks to Hollywood – uh, similar screaming and pain quotients).

Comparison: Expectations while traveling the street of your dreams are never met. Bag them.

Awe Factor

Staring at the amazing great room, kitchen, dining and outdoor living area of the dream home we most loved dropped my jaw. I could visualize it teeming with the people I love – some of them aren’t even born yet.

An ooey-gooey swell of deliciousness warmed me from the inside out. A stuffed turkey roasted in the professional-grade natural gas oven. Trays of appetizers lined the granite-covered buffet along the wall of the dining room. A fire crackled in the great room and outside on the covered patio.

I wish you could see what I did and feel the emotions swelling like a tidal wave inside me. That’s the awe factor we expect from our dreams.

Writing, the dream of my heart, parallels this experience.

Fingers flying over the keyboard. Words, sentences and paragraphs become pages, scenes and chapters. Characters are born on those pages. Lives explode with love, fear, anger and adventure.

Hours pass and only the movement of the sun from my front window to my back deck signifies it. I’m engulfed in the fantasy of my creativity.

This exceeds what I imagined pursuing my dream and being a full-time writer would be like on a daily basis. No paycheck? That’s what you think. Contentment in the dream feeds a hungry soul and clothes lagging confidence.

Epiphany: Living the dream is like having Thanksgiving dinner every day.

Visualization

Imagination is the bedrock of my chosen path. If I can’t visualize, I’m not going to be able to write a story that comes to life either.

My vision of a million-dollar home includes elevators, stoves that cook entire meals without me and a private setting in the middle of the woods.

The Street of Dreams in reality? Stairs I had to climb, even though some of the homes had three levels. Professional quality gas stoves but no automation that would prepare meals at the touch of a button (don’t get sassy about a microwave here, either).

Worst of all, I could see acres of trees in the distance along the ridge of Mt. Scott. Below that were fields of homes, too many to number. So much for tranquility in my million-dollar sanctuary.

Creating a story from nothing but my imagination is what I visualized when I pictured me as a professional writer. I have done that – seven separate times in the past year.

Of course, what I’ve done to take that first novel (well, actually the third; the first two had to be thrown away. They were me writing to find the real story) to a place where it’s ready for public eyes is hardly that glamorous – or enjoyable.

Weeks spent rewriting after reading through the first draft almost felt creative. Revising every sentence to make it sound literary – creative but pushing tedium. Rewriting a third time based on the comments and criticism from my beta readers required a firm hand.

“You will write today. I don’t care if you’re sick of this story. You have a goal to meet.”

You think this manuscript is ready for an agent?
You think this manuscript is ready for an agent?

Revising the 300 pages to smooth the cadence and perfect the prose rivaled a marathon. I was unsure if there would be enough chocolate to see me through to the end.

Still…not…done. Now, comb over every sentence, looking for grammar, usage and typographical errors. Gladly send the thing to someone else for proofreading.

Time to query agents. Time to fix the dull beginning. Time to rewrite the first fifty pages because a professional finds them flawed beyond redemption – almost.

Nothing like I visualized.

Truth to be learned: real life is nothing like the dream. It can be better, if you’re willing to work on reality conforming it to the reality you want.

My allusions might not resonate with you. Or maybe they do.

How has your dream measured up to your expectations and visualizations? Or how has the awe factor kept you moving forward?