Category Archives: Editor Spotlight

Editor Spotlight – Shonell Bacon

Finding an Editor for Your Literary Baby, by Shonell Bacon

First, I want to thank Karen for allowing me to come here and litter her blog with some of my words! I appreciate it.

Today, I want to share with you some thoughts on finding an editor for your book.

Your book is completed. You’ve read through and revised as much as you can as creator, and you have formatted your manuscript according to traditional specifications (unless you are laying it out for publication).

What’s next?

Well, before you get all gung-ho and start submitting your book to publishers and agents, you should first send it to an editor.

Why?

Because as creator of the project, you are very close to the characters, the storyline, and all other components that make your book – in your mind – sing.

It often takes a second set of eyes – and sometimes a third set (or more) – in order to see spelling and grammatical errors, holes in plot, weak characters, etc.

First thing to ask yourself is “How publication-ready is my manuscript?”

The answer to this will help you discern if your book needs proofreading, copy editing, or substantive editing—to start. Below, I talk a little about each.

If you have just finished your book and are looking to have it edited for the first time, then you will more than likely want someone to conduct substantive editing to your novel. Substantive editing seeks to achieve clarity of subject, logic, and consistency. The development of the STORY is key in this level of editing. An editor will be looking for holes in plot, weak characters, development of beginning and ending, strength in dialogue—essentially those components that make your book a book. It doesn’t make much sense as an editor (or a writer performing self-edits) to dive-in headfirst looking at grammatical and mechanical errors. If the story itself is riddled with problems, a spelling error or a comma out of place means nothing. Once an edit for the soundness of the story is conducted, copy editing then becomes key.

When we look to copy edit, editors tackle the manuscript line by line, paying attention to small (yet oh so important) details like grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, passive voice, word choice, consistency of detail, spelling, and consistency of style. I like to refer to copy editing as the yin to substantive editing’s yang. Every story needs to be checked for development of the story and development of the words and punctuation used to develop that story. Copy and substantive editing provide this.

If your novel has already been edited and has been given thumbs up on story and on details, such as grammar and punctuation, and you have even formatted your book for publication if you’re going the self-publishing route, then proofreading would be your next hurdle before the finish line. Proofreading tends to focus on two things: 1) final check of spelling, punctuation, and serious grammatical errors and 2) problems that arise from layout, such as errors in headers/footers, page numbers, and widows/orphans.

Although there are some editors, like myself, who blur these types (I’m always, first and foremost, looking to develop the story, but I can’t help but to look at the minute details, too); it is important to know that you will probably need more than one edit.

Editing is an important process in getting your manuscript to shine; as a result, you should make sure you have your work edited more than once. In the initial stages, having a strong story is important; hence, you would look at substantive editing. As the “story” is perfected, you would look toward getting your manuscript copy edited, and in the final stage, once the manuscript is in layout form, you would seek someone to proofread your manuscript.

When you find an editor you’re thinking about using, be sure to talk with him or her before agreeing to have the person edit your work.

What kinds of questions could you ask?

1-      Do you have any clients/references that I can contact about your work?

2-      What is your editing philosophy?

3-      What is the process in which you edit and communicate with a client before, during, and after an edit?

4-      Do you provide a free sample edit so that I might see your work before making a decision?

This last thought has more to do with YOU than with the editor.

I have had people in the past come to me for editing, thinking I would have their book done within two weeks and they would be ready to send it out to be printed as soon as the book is in their hot little hands.

NEVER is that the case.

Here’s a drop of wisdom – you may have finished your book, but it’s not perfect…or as perfect as it can reasonably be.

When you send a book to an editor, prepare to have it returned with revisions (sometimes major) to be done. Editors do not write your books to make it better; that’s a ghostwriter, and s/he is paid a lot more money to write your book than we do to edit it.

Editors, and I’m speaking from my own experience, clean up errors and make a lot of suggestions. If I see a hole in the plot, I state where I see it and make suggestions on how to fix it. If I see weak dialogue, I explain why it’s weak and offer suggestions on how to fix it. If I see an underdeveloped main character, I point this out, explain why I think the character is underdeveloped, and offer suggestions (or ask questions) that can help the writer develop the character further.

The editor’s job is to fine tune, but most importantly (and specifically) the job is to help YOU make your book the best book it can be. We offer you the advice, suggestions, and tweaks that YOU – as creator of the work – can go back and develop to make your literary work shine.

Be prepared to put in the work needed in revising and don’t be in such a rush to have a book in between covers.

You’ll thank me later.

Shonell Bacon

About Shonell

Shonell Bacon is an author, doctoral candidate, editor, educator–everywoman. She has published both creatively and academically–novels, short stories, essays, and textbooks. In addition to her love of writing, she is also an editor (12+ years in the trenches) who loves helping writers hone their literary craft. She is an educator, having taught English and mass communication courses in addition to fiction writing. Shonell also finds the time to pursue her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University.

Links

Website

CLG Entertainment ~ editorial and workshop/coaching services

Facebook

Twitter

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I realize that not every editor/proofreader is perfect for every writer. This is why I am presenting the series, Editor Spotlight. If you know an editor or proofreader who would like to participate, ask them to contact me at karenselliott AT midco DOT net. The Editor Spotlight series will be presented throughout the next several months in between my regular blog posts and special theme weeks. – Karen S. Elliott

Editor Spotlight – Chris Eboch

Editor Spotlight – Heidi Thomas

Editor Spotlight – Shawn MacKenzie

Editor Spotlight – Wendy Reis

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Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Editor Spotlight

Editor Spotlight – Chris Eboch

By Chris Eboch

If you’ve been in many critique groups, you might recognize the following characters.

  • The Grammarian. She doesn’t have a lot to say about the content of your work, but she’ll circle every typo in red pen and may insist you follow strict grammar rules that have long since gone out of date.
  • The Mouse. You can’t tell whether or not she likes your work, because she never voices an opinion, preferring to hide behind the excuse that she’s not experienced enough to offer feedback.
  • The Perpetual Beginner. This person truly isn’t experienced enough to offer feedback, and never seems to improve. This type can be divided into The Rut, who brings in the same manuscript over and over without ever making substantial changes (despite all your thoughtful advice) and The Hummingbird, who throws away a manuscript as soon as it’s gotten one negative comment, preferring to work on something else.
  • Father Knows Best. He always has an opinion, which he voices clearly and often. He prefers to discuss how he would write the story if it were his own, not the author’s vision.
  • The Bully. She or he (other characters are typically one gender or the other, but this one and the next can go either way) enjoys tearing apart your manuscript. No suggestions, just criticisms bordering on insults.
  • The Cheerleader. She or he loves everything you do! This is gratifying, especially when you are doubting your talent, but not particularly helpful in identifying weak spots.

All these characters have one thing in common. They don’t really help you improve your work.

Critique groups can be great. At their best, they are both a source of emotional support and a way to get thoughtful, detailed suggestions about your writing. If you have one of those groups, remember to say thank you (perhaps with hugs and chocolates). But most writers aren’t that lucky. Beginners in particular may find it hard to join a serious, experienced critique group, as often the best writers want to work with other professionals, not spend their time teaching beginners for free.

This is when hiring an editor can help. You can work with an experienced professional who will prioritize your work because it’s a job. If someone is paying me $400 to critique a novel, I’m going to devote my time to getting it done well and quickly. I’ll dig deep and be as tough – but helpful – as I can be. For example, I’ve critiqued a couple of picture book manuscripts that seemed excellent on the first read. But because I was getting paid, I settled down for a second and third close read, analyzed the structure of the material, and came up with several suggestions that I – and the authors – thought would make the manuscripts even better.

My novel critique letters typically run five or six single-spaced pages, with comments broken down into categories such as Characters, Setting, Plot (Beginning, Middle, and End), Theme, and Style. As much as I love my critique group members, I don’t have that kind of time to spend on them.

It’s tempting to stick with trading manuscripts for free, and you may get some excellent feedback that way. But there comes a time when you need professional help. You might ask a friend to help you bandage a scraped knee, but if you have a bone sticking out of your leg, you’re going to the hospital. When it’s serious, professional experience counts, so if you are serious about your writing, find professional editors.

When is it time to hire a professional editor? First, keep in mind that most successful authors do a minimum of five major rewrites, and many say they do up to 20 revisions. Assuming you don’t want to hire an editor for each draft, do what you can on your own first. Use some of the many tools available for analyzing your work. I developed my Plot Outline Exercise to help authors analyze their work for everything from conflict to character arc to subplot balance. The Plot Outline Exercise is available on my Kris Bock website as a free download, and it’s also in my book Advanced Plotting with more explanation and resources.

Other options are the Complications Worksheet or the Goal, Motivation, Confict, Tension tips on the Adventures in YA & Children’s Publishing blog, and books such as Manuscript Makeover, by Elizabeth Lyon, and Novel Metamorphosis, by Darcy Pattison. Once you’ve dealt with the big picture and want to improve your style, I love Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.

You can also get feedback from family and friends at this point. Don’t take their comments too seriously (family and friends can fall into the same categories as the critique group members mentioned above), but ask them to mark any place they were bored, confused, or disbelieving. Then if you have a critique group, let them tackle the work.

Your manuscript should have improved a lot, but still, consider getting a professional review before you send your work to editors or agents so you make the best possible impression. If you aren’t convinced you really need professional help, do a trial run, sending a half dozen queries out to see what kind of response you get. I’ve had several clients come to me after querying, getting requests for partial manuscripts, and then not having the editor or agent request the full. This is a good indicator that the idea may be strong, but the writing isn’t there yet.

And if you’re planning to self publish, hire an editor long before you start worrying about cover art and distribution. Start with a content editor who can help you shape the story. Finish up with a copy editor or proofreader who can make sure your work won’t annoy those readers who notice every misplaced comma. Indie publishing is great (I’ve explored it myself with my romantic suspense), but you’re on your own, so give yourself the same advantage that traditionally published authors have – get an editor.

If you’d like to know more about my editing work, stop by my website. I provide content editing for fiction and nonfiction for all ages. Novels are $1.50 per page, minimum $100. I write a 4-6 page editorial letter with advice on plot/character/flow/style, plus comments on the manuscript. Picture books, short stories or articles under 1200 words are $40.

Chris Eboch

Chris Eboch’s book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots and is available in print or e-book on Amazon or B&N. Learn about Chris’s children’s books at www.chriseboch.com or visit her Amazon page or B&N page. Check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog. Chris also writes romantic suspense for adults under the name Kris Bock. Visit her website or see Kris Bock’s books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.

Websites: www.krisbock.com or http://www.chriseboch.com for children’s books

Facebook: Kris Bock Author Page

Twitter: @Kris_Bock

Blog focused on the craft of writing: Write Like a Pro!

Chris Eboch’s profile photo by Sonia Sones.

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I realize that not every editor/proofreader is perfect for every writer. This is why I am presenting the series, Editor Spotlight. If you know an editor or proofreader who would like to participate, ask them to contact me at karenselliott AT midco DOT net. The Editor Spotlight series will be presented throughout the next several months in between my regular blog posts and special theme weeks. – Karen S. Elliott

Editor Spotlight – Heidi Thomas

Editor Spotlight – Shawn MacKenzie

Editor Spotlight – Wendy Reis

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Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Editor Spotlight

Editor Spotlight – Heidi Thomas

Hunting Down the ‘Pesky Pleonasm’ by Heidi Thomas

I learned a new term not long ago: Pleonasm.

Is it a murder suspect? A graffiti artist? A practical joker?

Turns out, it’s nothing quite so mysterious. A pleonasm is a word or phrase, which can be removed from a sentence without changing its meaning. For example, John walked to the chair and sat down. “Down” is a pleonasm and can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Although I was not familiar with the term, I did know them when I saw them. In fact, part of my editing advice revolves around deleting extraneous words. Words such as “that,” “very,” “both,” and “there was.” Others might include “began,” “started,” or “continued.”

Here’s another phrase that nearly everyone is guilty of: “The sky held a myriad of stars.” Myriad means “countless.” So the correct use is “The sky held myriad stars.” (Simply substitute the word countless for myriad.) That eliminates two extraneous words.

And then there is the word “unique.” We are inundated with varying degrees of “uniqueness” every day: “That was a rather unique movie.” “Your story is very unique.” What’s next—uniquely unique? Unique means “the only one of its kind.” Unique is unique. It doesn’t need any modifiers.

I also caution to watch use of “ly” words. These words are often used to prop up weak verbs. For example: “She walked quickly” can be stronger if written “She strode” (or bounded or rushed). Likewise with the “to be” verbs (was, were, had been, etc.) especially when used with an “ing” verb. “She was walking” is better as “She walked.”

Some authors like to use taglines (he said, she said) plus an action: “…she said, taking a sip of coffee.” The simple action is sufficient: “She took a sip of coffee.” You also don’t need to describe two actions at once: She nodded and smiled. He puffed himself up and took a swig…

A writer friend of mine is looking at every sentence in her manuscript and challenging herself to remove at least one word from each. She has cut 14,000 words from a 400-page manuscript.

I challenge you to go one step farther: see if you can delete an entire phrase from a sentence, an entire sentence from a paragraph, a paragraph from a scene.

Hunt down and exterminate those “Pesky Pleonasms.”

Here is a handy checklist from Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. This is a book I recommend to my editing clients and something I like to look at for my own work every so often.

  • How many ing and as phrases do you write? Remember, the only ones that count are the ones that place a bit of action in a subordinate clause.
  • How about ly adverbs. Both tied to your dialogue and within your descriptions and narration.
  • Do you have a lot of short sentences, both within your dialogue and within your description and narration?
  • Do you use a lot of italics? We mean a lot of italics. And you don’t use many exclamation points, do you?!!
  • Are there any metaphors or flowery phrases you’re particularly proud of. Do they come at key times during your plot? If so, think about getting rid of them.
  • How much time have you spent moving your characters around? Do you cut from location to location, or do you fill in all the space in between?
  • How much detail have you included in describing our character’s action? Try cutting some of the detail and see if the actions are still clear.
  • Take a look at your flashbacks. How often are you interrupting the forward flow of your story? Do you have flashbacks at more than one level—that is, flashbacks from flashbacks? It you spend nearly as much time in the past as in the present, take a look at each flashback individually. If it were cut, would the present story be hard to follow?
  • Keep in mind what you’re trying to do with each paragraph—what character point you’re trying to establish, what sort of mood you’re trying to create, what background you’re trying to suggest. In how many different ways are you accomplishing each of these?
  • If more than one way, try reading the passage without the weakest approach and see if it isn’t more effective.
  • Do you have more than one chapter that accomplishes the same thing?
  • Is there a plot device or stylistic effect you are particularly pleased with? How often do you use it?
  • Keep a lookout for unintentional word repeats. The more striking a word or phrase is, the more jarring it will be if you repeat it.

Heidi Thomas

Bio
Heidi M. Thomas grew up with a love for books. She received a journalism
degree from the University of Montana and has had two award-winning novels
published, Cowgirl Dreams and Follow the Dream. Heidi is a freelance editor
and member of the Northwest Independent Editors Guild and The Blood Red Pencil editors’ blog.

Rate
My rate varies with each project. I normally charge from $1.50-$3+ per page.
I like to do a sample edit of 5-30 pages to see what kind of work needs to
be done and then I can give an estimate for the project. That also gives the
client an idea of what kind of editing I do and if he/she wants to go ahead
with the project.

My strong suit
I edit both fiction and non-fiction. Genres don’t matter, but I don’t do
erotica or manuscripts with a lot of profanity. (Some is OK.)

Type of proofreading and editing I do

I do a little of everything for most projects, depending on what the needs
are. I don’t do as much developmental consulting as the story is being
written, but will make suggestions if the plot needs more work or characters
more development, etc.

Samples for prospective clients?
Yes. Five pages free, 30 pages for $50.

Heidi’s Links
Website
Blog
Facebook Author Page

Twitter

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I realize that not every editor/proofreader is perfect for every writer. This is why I am presenting the series, Editor Spotlight. If you know an editor or proofreader who would like to participate, ask them to contact me at karenselliott AT midco DOT net. The Editor Spotlight series will be presented throughout the next several months in between my regular blog posts and special theme weeks. – Karen S. Elliott

Editor Spotlight – Shawn MacKenzie

Editor Spotlight – Wendy Reis

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Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Editor Spotlight

Editor Spotlight – Shawn MacKENZIE

Writing and editing, the two endeavors are intrinsically entwined. Even the most experienced scribe can benefit from a good editor. (A couple of very famous authors come to mind—no I won’t name names—who’ve insisted, contractually, that they not be edited. Sadly, it shows in the work, proving that, as with lawyers, writers who edit themselves have fools for clients.) We don’t need someone to simply gush and insist every word is a gem plucked from the mouths of the divine literati. Grandma Esther does that. She’s family; it’s her job. An editor’s job is to be supportively ruthless as they make our work better.

I am a graduate of Bennington College, the author of The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2011), Dragons for Beginners (Llewellyn, 2012), and numerous short stories, published and not. And I have been a freelance editor for twenty years. While I can and will edit most anything, I prefer working on fiction, both short and long. A fantasy/sci-fi writer myself, as long as the words captivate, I will delve into any genre and edit with relish. My only hard and fast rule is that the work demeans no one regardless of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or species.

As an editor, I bring fresh eyes to an author’s work, look for awkward passages, incongruities, weaknesses, even disasters waiting to happen. I help a writer strengthen their prose, and, honoring their voice, help them sing. Of course, an editor can only recommend; ultimately all choices are yours.

If I have a particular redactor’s bone to pick it would be with people who expect an editor to be a janitor cleaning up their sloppy writing. That’s your job, not ours. I am not a ghost writer, not even a major re-writer. One of the things I have noticed in much self-published work is what I would call an “anyone can write” mentality. And while this is true on a certain level, it leaves the field wide open for people with stories to tell but lacking the craft for the telling. A writer is first a craftsman—a wordsmith. Hone your craft if you want your work to soar. To that end, read great books and write, write, write. And before handing your hard-earned cash to an editor, polish your manuscript within an inch of its life. At the very least avail yourself of the tools of our trade, especially spelling and basic grammar checks. They’re not infallible, but they are a start.

I would also suggest using standard reference works. I have been a crossword-puzzle editor for years and so have a plenitude of dictionaries at my fingertips. That said, you can’t go wrong with Webster’s New World College Dictionary, American Heritage Dictionary, and the OED (which is just a blast and a half to read!). I use Chicago Manual of Style as an editing baseline, but don’t consider it the Holy Grail. Strunk & White’s Elements of Style is also invaluable. I’m all for celebrating individual eccentricities if they are the result of deliberate, educated choices and not the by-product of lazy writing.

Read your work aloud. This is one of the clearest ways of finding cumbersome sentences or tinny dialogue. If your tongue trips over itself, something needs to be fixed. Remember: you are stepping up, striving to enter the big leagues, and should respect your work enough to make it as good as it can be before sending it out into the world—even to your editor. Just because you write at home in your teddy-bear slippers and pjs, doesn’t mean your work shouldn’t go forth in full-on Ascot and morning coat. This is your baby. Be proud of her.

Finally I’d say, as a writer, I look for an editor I can trust—who gets me—and who pulls no punches. As an editor, I look for work which, flaws aside, engages my mind and imagination. In the quest for such a proper fit, I believe the exchange of samples can be mutually beneficial. For a sense of my style, feel free to check out my blog or look inside my book, The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook. As for recommendations, I would direct you to Karen Elliott’s generous words:  I thought I was a freaky-good editor until I met Shawn.

I do both line and structural/developmental editing; proofreading, too, though as a stand-alone activity, it’s not my most favorite. If you are submitting your work to someone with specific guidelines/requirements let me know; I will gladly adjust. Rates on request.

Shawn MacKENZIE

Shawn MacKENZIE

Website

Blog
Twitter
Facebook
LinkedIn

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I realize that not every editor/proofreader is perfect for every writer. This is why I am presenting the series, Editor Spotlight. If you know an editor or proofreader who would like to participate, ask them to contact me at karenselliott AT midco DOT net. The Editor Spotlight series will be presented throughout the next several months in between my regular blog posts and special theme weeks. – Karen S. Elliott

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Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Editor Spotlight