Tag Archives: Darlene Elizabeth Williams

Editor Spotlight, by Darlene Elizabeth Williams

editor spotlight alvimannTips to Reduce Your Editor’s Fees

Thank you, Karen, for your gracious offer to guest post on your blog. It’s an honor to be part of your Editor Spotlight series.

I work primarily with Indie fiction authors (either self-published or published by small to mid-sized presses). Publishing as an Indie author is a tough row to hoe. Millions of books are uploaded to Amazon and Smashwords annually, with most lost in obscurity the moment they appear.

If Indie authors are to succeed, my philosophy is we cannot merely write novels equal in quality to that of traditionally published books, we must exceed those standards. The stigma of self-publishing is lessening, but it still remains.

An Indie author attempts to wear many hats: author; editor; proofreader; cover designer; formatter and marketer. An author can self-publish a book without engaging an editor, cover designer, and formatter. Likewise, authors don’t have to market if they are uncomfortable with the concept—but don’t expect to sell copies.

Indie authors can learn how to design covers and format their manuscripts for upload onto Amazon or Smashwords. There is a plethora of advice and instructions on the internet. Marketing? Again, there is no limit to the information available on social media for authors.

However, there is one essential category an author cannot effectively do themselves or learn by Google searches: editing.

Many authors assert they are best qualified to copy edit and proofread their work, as they are most familiar with it. In fact, this is the reason an author is least qualified. Writers often fail to catch basic typographical errors, misused word, missing text, incorrect punctuation, and awkward sentences because they are too close to their manuscript.

Editing places Indie authors in a Catch-22 position. If they hire an editor, will they sell enough copies to recoup the expense? If they don’t hire an editor, will readers pitch the book against the nearest wall and leave a one star review lamenting the lack of editing?

At the end of the day, all an Indie author has to hang their hat on is their reputation. That reputation is derived through written words; a fragile hook indeed.

These are three doable tasks Indie authors can undertake to reduce editing costs:

  • Firstly, run a spell check;
  • Secondly, self-edit a minimum of two rounds; and
  • Thirdly, ensure the manuscript is in the English version (US or UK) intended for publication.

Your bank account and editor will thank you.

After working with a number of Indie authors, I compiled a list of tips to reduce editing costs. I discovered these pointers are applicable across the board; every author—whether novice or experienced—has writing idiosyncrasies.

Word Over-Usage

A great online thesaurus resource is Wordsmyth.com. I keep it open while I write or edit. The following words and phrases are amongst the worst offenders for over-usage:

  • kid
  • with a smile, smiling, smiled
  • grin, grinned, grinning
  • small
  • large
  • old, old house, old book, etc.
  • young, young woman, young man, etc.
  • quickly
  • grabbed
  • peer, peered, peering

The kid quickly grabbed the small candy out of the large container in the old country-style corner market. The young woman behind the counter peered at him. He grinned and ran out the door. He sucked on the candy as he walked home with a smile.

That “that” May Not Be Necessary

Read sentences that include the word “that”. Reread the sentence without including the “that”. Does it make sense? Great. Delete “that”.

Modifiers

Modifiers create passive language and dilute prose sophistication. In rare circumstances they are necessary; otherwise, eradicate modifiers ruthlessly.

A list of commonly used follows:

  • very
  • quite
  • rather
  • somewhat
  • more
  • most
  • lessDSC02458
  • too
  • so
  • just
  • enough
  • indeed
  • still
  • almost
  • fairly
  • really
  • pretty
  • even
  • a bit
  • a little
  • a lot
  • a good deal
  • a great deal
  • kind of
  • sort of

“and” Conjunctions

The conjunction “and” is used ad nauseam. Reread your sentences with this conjunction to decide whether the “and” can be replaced with a period separating the two phrases into complete sentences or a semicolon.

Your writing becomes active and engages the reader. There will be instances where this conjunction is impossible to avoid.

Eliminating “and” conjunctions effectively removes a frequently over-used word: then.

I ate lunch with a dear author friend today, and then inspiration struck for the topic of this post while we talked about writing.

Punctuation

Exclamation marks are not substitutes for periods. The excitement denoted by an exclamation mark can be exhibited by the character’s choice of words or actions.

“This is the last time you pull this stunt on me.” Melanie slammed and locked the door. Thank heavens Jerry didn’t know about her move tomorrow.

If possible, avoid exclamation marks or, at least, insert them sparingly.

Dialogue

Our everyday conversations are filled with extraneous comments which, if included in a manuscript, bore the reader. As examples:

“Hey,” said the boy.

“Hey,” Tom replied.

“I’m Harry.”

“I’m Tom.”

—    or —

“Good morning, Susan,” said the Duchess

“Good morning, Your Grace,” said Susan.

“How are you today, Susan?” asked the Duchess

“I’m well, Ma’am. How is Your Grace today?”

“Well thank you, Susan.”

Are you asleep yet?

The colloquialisms below are littered throughout manuscripts—sometimes numbering in the hundreds. Unless this is in sync with your character’s background and/or current lifestyle, they irritate the reader:

  • Ah…
  • Hmmm…
  • Humph.
  • So,…—or—I am so excited….
  • Oh,—or—Oh…
  • Okay,…—or—…, okay?
  • yea (or yeah)
  • You know, or …., you know?
  • eh?
  • huh?
  • Well,…

Dialogue Tags

Dialogue tags should be invisible to the reader. Punctuation is always within the quotations marks. The examples in the Dialogue subsection illustrate how to punctuate dialogue.

Studies show the reader’s eye skips over the word “said” to the name of the speaker. If there is a question mark in the dialogue, this alerts readers and they once again skip over “asked”.

This keeps the reader in the story, whereas using “called, replied, yelled, screamed, exclaimed, loudly, etc.” pulls the reader out of the story world. Characters’ words and actions best demonstrate emotion.

***

These tips are meant to assist authors with self-edits which, in turn, reduce editing costs. They are not intended as a substitution for an editor.

If you have spent months or years writing a novel, honor your work by ensuring it earns the recognition it deserves. Hire an editor that understands your genre and your vision.

Darlene Elizabeth WilliamsDarlene’s website is Darlene Elizabeth Williams. Drop by and say hello on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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