Tag Archives: Editing

Thoughts on revisions and self-editing #amwriting

New and beginning authors often (loudly) assert their ability to edit their own work. If you are “editing” your own manuscript, you have a fool for a client. There is no such thing as self-editing—the best you can do is make revisions and admire your work. For that reason, we need other eyes on our work.

As authors, we see what we intended to write rather than what was written. We misread clumsy sentences and overlook words that are missing or are included twice in a row.  If you are in a critique group, you have a great resource in your fellow authors—they will spot things you have overlooked your work just as you do in theirs.

The first draft of any manuscript is the story as it flowed out of your mind and onto the paper. Yes, there is life and energy in your words, but your manuscript is not publishable at this stage, no matter how many times you go over it.

You need an unbiased eye upon your work, or your book will be published with typos, awkward sentences, dropped words—the list of inadvertent errors goes on.

Every author needs someone to read their work before it is published. Just because I can see six instances of the word ‘long’ in one paragraph of someone else’s work does not mean that I will spot it in my own.

To the author in the first flush of victory, the completed first draft of his manuscript is a thing of beauty, a flawless diamond to be cherished and adored.  It is the child of their creative muse and is perfect in every way.

Let us consider the word ‘that.’ The following passage is from one of my original manuscripts as it emerged from the first draft in 2008, ten years ago.

 Jeanne was not upset over something that he had not done or not said. Now he sensed that it was a mixture of anger, hurt, and guilt that she was feeling.

In just two sentences, my stream-of-consciousness writing included 3 instances of the word ‘that’ and 3 of ‘not.’  Yet, in my own mind, it was as good as I could make it. I didn’t see those unnecessary words.

This is how that paragraph read in my mind and is how I would write it now, ten years on:

Jeanne wasn’t upset over something he had done or said. He sensed she felt a mixture of anger, hurt, and guilt.

I began working with an editor in 2012, and that is when I truly began to grow as an author. Each time they showed me where I had gone wrong, I learned from it and gradually, my stream-of-consciousness writing improved. I use fewer unnecessary words, and my prose is leaner.

Better writing habits are learned over time by writing regularly and by consciously applying the tricks and tips you learn from other authors.

Once your writing/critique group has given you their best opinions on your manuscript and you have revised it to your best ability, you need an editor. Ask other authors who they might recommend as an editor and see if you can work well with that person.

Your editor will likely point some things out that you didn’t see, but that a reader will.  At that point, you might be slightly shocked and hurt, but if you’re smart you’ll consider each comment and make your revisions accordingly.

Once you see your work through someone else’s unbiased eyes, you will be able to take your story to the next level.

The fact is, unless you can accept criticism, your work will never be what you want it to be. You must be open to viewing your work the way the reader will see it. You’re not obligated to follow every suggestion an editor makes, but 9 times out of 10 I make changes along the lines they suggest because when I look at the problem area, I can see exactly what they meant.

Writing seems like a solitary craft, and much of the time it is. However, joining a local writing support group or a critique group will give you a sounding board that costs you nothing, but from which you will reap many benefits.

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Beta Reading VS. Editing #amwriting

Once again, the question of the difference between beta reading and editing has arisen in one the many forums I frequent on Facebook. So, I feel the need to revisit a post from 2015, Beta Reading VS. Editing. If you’ve already seen this post, nothing has changed in the world of editing and beta reading since this first appeared. But thank you for stopping by!


Indies rely heavily on what we refer to as beta readers to help shape their work and make it ready for editing. But in many online forums, authors use the term used interchangeably with editing, and the two are completely different.

And unfortunately, some indie published works are clear examples of work by authors who don’t realize the importance of working with an editor, although it is apparent that they have had assistance from beta-readers.

What is quite disappointing to me, is the many traditionally published works that seem to fall into the same lack-of-good-editing category, and I am at a loss as to why this is so.

So, what is the difference between a beta reader and an editor?

Well, there is a HUGE difference.

Editing is a process, one where the editor goes over the manuscript line-by-line, pointing out areas that need attention: awkward phrasings, grammatical errors, missing quote-marks, or a myriad of things that make the manuscript unreadable. Sometimes, major structural issues will need to be addressed. It may take more than one trip through to straighten out all the kinks.

  1. In scholastic writing, editing involves looking at each sentence carefully and making sure that it’s well designed and serves its purpose. In scholastic editing, every instance of grammatical dysfunction mustbe resolved.
  2. In novel writing, editing is a stage of the writing process in which a writer and editor work together to improve a draft by correcting errors and by making words and sentences clearer, more precise, and more effective. Weak sentences are made stronger, nonessential information is weeded out, and important points are clarified, while strict attention is paid to the overall story arc.
  3. The editor is not the author She can only suggest changes, but ultimately all changes must be approved and implemented by the author.

Beta Reading is done by a reader. One hopes the reader is a person who reads and enjoys the genre that the book represents. Beta reading is meant to give the author a general view of the overall strengths and weaknesses of his story.

The beta reader must ask himself:

  1. Were the characters likable?
  2. Where did the plot bog down and get boring?
  3. Were there any places that were confusing?
  4. What did the reader like? What did they dislike?
  5. What do they think will happen next?

Beta Reading is not editing, and the reader should not make comments that are editorial in nature. Those kinds of nit-picky comments are not helpful at this early stage because the larger issues must be addressed before the fine-tuning can begin, and if you are beta reading for someone, the larger issues are what the author has asked you to look at.

This phase of the process should be done before you submit the manuscript to an editor, ensuring those areas of concern will be straightened out first.

Editors and other authors make terrible beta readers because it is their nature to dismantle the manuscript and tell you how to fix it. That is not what you want at that early point–what you want is an idea of whether you are on the right track or not with your plot and your characters, and if your story resonates with the reader.

Do yourself a favor and try to find a reader who is not an author to be a first reader for you. Then hire a local, well-recommended editor that you can work with to guide you in making your manuscript readable, and enjoyable.

If you notice a few flaws in your manuscript but think no one else will notice, you’re wrong. Readers always notice the things that stop their eye.

In my own work, I have discovered that if a passage seems flawed, but I can’t identify what is wrong with it, my eye wants to skip it. But another person will see the flaw, and they will show me what is wrong there.

That tendency to see our writing ‘as it should be and not how it is’ is why we need other eyes on our work.


Credits and Attributions:

Beta Reading VS. Editing, by Connie J. Jasperson, © 2015 first published on Life in the Realm of Fantasy.

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#amwriting: 3 steps for keeping the story straight

1916 Momus Pinocchio via Wikimedia CommonsEvery liar knows it’s difficult to keep a story straight–the story keeps evolving and soon it’s out of control.  However, writers, those spinners of awesome lies on paper, must devise ways to avoid this little problem.

Some people use a program called Scrivener which is not too expensive, but which seems to have a tricky learning curve. I downloaded the free version but couldn’t make heads or tails of it and found it quite frustrating. Nevertheless, I understand that it works well for many people, and to them I say, “Good for you.”

For myself, I don’t want a fancy word-processing program. I just use MS Office, because I have been using the programs that come with that software since 1993, and I’ve been able to adapt to each upgrade they have made. It’s affordable, so I use Word to write and edit in, and occasionally use Excel  to make small charts that are my style guides for each  novel or tale I write, and also for every book I edit.

Helpful tip #1: Create a style sheet for every work-in-progress. Whether it is a handwritten list or spreadsheet–keep track of what you named people, places, and things.

Bleakbourne Style Sheet

By creating a visual guide that I can print out or  keep minimized until I need it, I will not inadvertently contradict myself later on in the tale. This particular chart is the style-sheet for a serial I am writing for Edgewise Words Inn, a small online blogzine.

Lets consider Lord Tenneriff, the name of a minor character. Because I noted it on the style sheet and gave a small explanation when I first used it, I will always remember that Lord Tenneriff was spelled with two ‘n’s and two ‘f’s, and with no ‘e’ at the end of it.  The heading of the sheet is like this:

Character Name       Word 1st appears      Other names       Meaning?

            Jason Tenneriff              chapter 1                                                      a local lord

                                                         chapter 2                   Bleakbourne             a village

By listing out the names of every character no matter how minor, even the horses, I will not have a continuity problem by the time I hit chapter 14 of this series. For my editing clients, I also list all magic spells, every god, demon or dwarf that comes into the tale. Anything that is named goes onto that style sheet exactly the way it was first mentioned, the chapter it was first mentioned in, and the brief description of what it means.

Every author has a different way of visualizing these things, and this is what works for me.

Helpful tip #2: Map it out:

Map of WaldeynSo how do you visualize your country and the world you are creating? I have discussed this before–I draw maps.

They start out like this, all blotchy and hand-drawn, with whiteout covering the changes. After a while of refining them they end up looking more like real maps.

Its a gradual process, and the actual shapes and where the places are will evolve throughout writing the tale, but it will remain basically that way.

Many authors will use locales they are familiar with for their fantasy maps, just changing the names of major cities.  This is a good way to do it, because your world is already well defined for you, and Northwesterners know that Portland, Oregon is about 170 miles south of Seattle, Washington.  You are safe using currently existing terrain.

map of Waldeyn 2015 with lettering cooper black copyBut safe isn’t exactly my thing, so I had to invent both the world of Waldeyn (Huw the Bard), and the World of Neveyah (Tower of Bones). This is what the hand-drawn map of Waldeyn from above has evolved into————>

Helpful Tip #3: Version control:

When we first begin to write seriously we learn how critical it is to have proper naming of our files to ensure version control.  The most recent file will usually be the best edited unless you have accidentally saved an earlier version over it. ALWAYS use a separate file for each version, and ALWAYS use consistent file labeling practices to avoid this tragedy!

Use good file labeling practices, even if you have a fancy program that handles structuring your manuscript.

As an editor, I am particularly careful how I name the files of my clients.

  1. I use a specific sort of naming system. It will ALWAYS be Book_ AuthorName_script.doc .
    This is the main file folder for this book and this author!
  2.  The file folder will contain everything that pertains to this author and his work. There will be at least two folders in this file, and can have up to six. Version control is critical, so proper naming of the files is absolutely essential. If he should ever lose his files, I will have the most recent version on hand.
  3. The raw manuscript in its entirety is saved in this file, and I will name it:
  •  Book_ AuthorName_rawscript.doc

There will be 2 files for every step of the process this manuscript goes through with me: One file will be from the author’s desk to me, and the other will be from my desk to the author.  I will break the raw ms down into chapters, and label each chapter in that file consecutively:

  • Book title_Ch1_ author initials_cjj_edit_rnd1.doc

This tells me that this is Book A, chapter 1, by Author SoAndSo, and was edit round one of that ms.

For my own work I label the files uniformly, like this: The main folder will be labeled with the working title, such as Bleakbourne on Heath. Inside the main folder will be the style sheet, and any images that will be used, including maps if needed.

Version Control 1

These three tips, creating a style guide, drawing a map, and labeling your files so you have good version control will help you navigate the shoals of the authoring business. You will always know who you are talking about, where you are, and you will be working in the most recent version of your work.

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#FlashficFriday: The Edit

The village clerk , painting by Albert Anke 1874

The Edit 

Desperate hours, pen in hand,

Inspiration shifts like sand.

Ruthless, crafting perfect prose,

Revelation’s tendril grows.

Sifting, sorting, choosing—nay–

Some must go, but you shall stay.


The Edit, © Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved

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The clock, groceries, and a new thesaurus

Jetsonslogo640x480At times the world seems to be conspiring against me.  I have to drop what I’m doing, load up the van, and head up to town for something as mundane as groceries. Food should order itself, deliver itself, and put itself away.

But no. Where is my android butler and why is he not doing the shopping? Just like the flying car I was promised when I was child, my android butler is in the Jetsons‘ style garage of my imagination.

But sometimes I get two or three pages of writing done in the 20 or 30 minutes before I have to leave the house for an appointment. There is something about the pressure of knowing I will have to quit at a certain time that forces me to be more productive than I would ordinarily be.

Why is this? When I am pressed for time I use every second to get those ideas out of my head. I don’t stop and research on the good, old, time-wasting internet, and I don’t worry about whether or not I am overusing a word in the narrative. This is a rough draft–all of that can be ironed out when I have more leisure–the next day usually.

clockSome of my best ideas have come about under a time crunch.  Normally when I am writing on a stream-of-consciousness level, I can key about fifty words a minute–paltry compared to today’s young-uns who grew up keying their homework rather than writing it in cursive.

I do admit that just because I can key those words does not mean they will all make sense, or be worth reading. But that again is why we are driven to look at what we just wrote the day after we wrote it–did it say what I meant? How many times did I use the word “noose” in that particular chapter and where am I going to find six different alternatives for such a unique word?

Apricot poodle puppy portrait. Isolated on a white background (studio shoot), via Google Images

A little rephrasing here, cutting there, and voila! It looks like a poodle!

It’s a jungle in my head sometimes, and my ancient  student edition of Roget’s Thesaurus is my friend. But neither the old student version of the thesaurus from 40 years ago, nor the modern, online version is cutting it for me right now.

I need more synonyms. Lots, and lots more!

I have just now invested in a bigger, better, hardcover thesaurus. Thus I now have the Oxford American Writers’ Thesaurus winging it’s way to my doorstep. I expect the drone to drop it on Saturday.

ozford american writers thesaurusSome references have to be in hard-copy–such as The Chicago Manual of Style, which is the most comprehensive style guide geared for writers of essays, fiction, and nonfiction. Strunk and White’s Elements of Style is a good beginner style guide, but I found it hard to navigate and couldn’t always find what I wanted. The Chicago Manual of Style is written specifically for writers, editors and publishers and is the industry standard.

Just as a side note–if you are using AP style you are writing for the newspaper, not for literature–two widely different styles with radically different requirements. AP style was developed for expediency in the newspaper industry and is not suitable for novels or for business correspondence. For business, you want to use the Gregg Reference Manual.

Eternal_clock

Eternal Clock, Robbert van der Steeg CC|2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

All in all, I like the way being forced to produce words in a short time helps me lay down a rough draft. But being short on time is big pain when I am trying to revise and iron out stubborn, repetitive wrinkles in a narrative.

Summer is nearly over, and with that comes the long, dark days of the northern winter. I won’t be going as many places (I hope). But with the advent of September I will be spending longer hours editing for clients. My personal productivity will drop in regard to my own work, but I will still find time to write.

And I will also find time to revise. I am nearly at the end of two books written for the World of Neveyah series. Valley of Sorrows will wind up the Tower of Bones series–it is completed and is in revisions. The Wayward Son is nearly complete. While The Wayward Son is not actually a part of the Tower of Bones series, much of it does run concurrently with Forbidden Road, as it is the story of John Farmer’s redemption.

Today will be busy–groceries can wait until tomorrow. Today I am working as hard as I can, trying to get Valley of Sorrows ready to be edited, so that the ToB series will be complete, and also to get John’s story out there too.

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Is it damn fool, damnfool, or damned fool?

colloquialism memeOne of the more interesting things about being an editor is the amazing amount of time you spend stopping what you are doing and doing a little research. This is especially true if you are editing a piece that has a lot of colloquialisms in it.

Fortunately, some colloquialisms have made it into the Webster’s Dictionary, and the rest are out there on the internet somewhere.

Let’s consider the question of if we mean damn fool, damnfool, or damned fool:

According to the Urban Dictionary

  • A person who is extremely foolish. Their actions are not only irresponsible to themselves, but can possibly be harmful towards others.
  • If a guy tries and talk you out of using a condom, he is a damn fool. (You can’t make this stuff up–you have to go to the internet for it.)
  • Did you see that damned fool? He was swerving all over the road. (end quoted text)
And just for fun, lets see what Wiktionary has to say:
  • damn fool (adjective)
  • damnfool 
  1. (informal) Contemptibly foolish. (end quoted text)
He was a damned fool.

Ellbert Hubbard memeHow I see it:

  1. He was a damned fool. (I just cursed him to hell.)
  2. He was a damn fool. (He was contemptibly foolish)
  3. He did a damnfool thing. (He was contemptibly foolish and I will curse him to hell.)
Now this can be tricky if you are unsure which of these damnfool things the author meant, so this is where I insert a comment asking the author what kind of a damned fool she is writing about.
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What other fun little “OMG I have to stop and look this up” things do I play with when I should be working?
  • I love looking up Pagan rituals, or indigenous peoples’ religious rituals.
  • I love anything to do with history, and exact dates.
  • Ooh! Ooh! Let me look it up on a map!
Yep–looking things up is part and parcel of the fun. I’m just not as keen on looking up where to properly place commas–the rules make my head hurt.
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So let’s talk commas and where to stick ’em, or better yet, where NOT to stick ’em. I found a wonderful website that has a handy-dandy list of comma don’ts phrased in simple language that did not make my eyes go numb: The Proper Care & Feeding of Commas
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chicago manual of styleImproperly installed commas can wreak havoc in a paragraph. This is because they are punctuation: “…the act or practice of inserting standardized marks or signs in written matter to clarify the meaning (of a sentence.)” (quoted from Google)
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Commas are there to separate clauses and to make sentences understandable. Consistently used according to the accepted rules, commas make it so that every English-speaking reader understands what you have written. We don’t put them in to indicate to the reader where we pause or take a breatheveryone pauses and breathes differently and what makes sense to you will not make sense to someone else.
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These are the same rules for everyone, which make our work understandable in Brisbane, Houston, London, Hong Kong or Seattle. But the rules in the Chicago Manual of Style (my go-to manual) are often ambiguously phrased and are hard to remember. SO, when checking on simple points, I love this website for a quick list of comma dos: Your Dictionary: Comma Rules
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Dialect and local sayings play a huge part in contemporary work–sometimes I get a piece that was written by a UK author.  Perhaps it is an Urban Fantasy and it will have all sorts of words I have never heard of: again, I go to Your Dictionary: Common UK Expressions. This  is also a problem with American dialects and local slangs–the internet is my friend! Texas-talk is “a whole nuther thang” and sometimes more difficult to follow than Cockney EnglishHowdy Get Rowdy
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It is an editor’s job to do a certain amount of research whenever a question arises in the manuscript to ensure his comments will help the author clarify ambiguous and hard-to-understand areas. Having fun surfing the internet looking up obscure and interesting facts is just one of the perks!
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keep-calm-and-say-you-fool-you-damn-fool

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Phrasal verbs–minions of evil, or sometimes useful?

Book- onstruction-sign copyPhrasal verbs are usually two-or three-word phrases consisting of a verb plus an adverb, or a verb plus a preposition, or both. They are just another aspect of English vocabulary, and can be considered a form of compound verbs.  We use them all the time, but what, exactly, are they?

First, what is an adverb?

The term adverb is somewhat of a catchall word to describe many kinds of words having little in common other than the fact they don’t fit into any of the other available categories (noun, adjective, preposition, etc.) and they modify an action word—a verb.

The principal function of adverbs is to act as modifiers of verbs or verb phrases. An adverb used in this way gives information about the manner, place, time, frequency, certainty, or other circumstances of the activity denoted by the verb or verb phrase. Too many modifiers in your narrative and voila! Purple prose.

phrasal verbsThere are three main types of phrasal verb constructions depending upon whether the verb combines with a preposition, a particle, or both.

Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge, has a good example of these three forms:

Verb + preposition (prepositional phrasal verbs)

  1. Who is looking after the kids? – after is a preposition that introduces the prepositional phrase after the kids.
  2. They picked on nobody. – on is a preposition that introduces the prepositional phrase on nobody.
  3. ran into an old friend. – into is a preposition that introduces the prepositional phrase into an old friend.
  4. She takes after her mother. – after is a preposition that introduces the prepositional phrase after her mother.
  5. Sam passes for a linguist. – for is a preposition that introduces the prepositional phrase for a linguist.
  6. You should stand by your friend. – by is a preposition that introduces the prepositional phrase by your friend.

Verb + particle (particle phrasal verbs)

  1. They brought that up twice. – up is a particle, not a preposition.
  2. You should think it over. – over is a particle, not a preposition.
  3. Why does he always dress down? – down is a particle, not a preposition.
  4. You should not give in so quickly. – in is a particle, not a preposition.
  5. Where do they want to hang out? – out is a particle, not a preposition.
  6. She handed it in. – in is a particle, not a preposition.

Verb + particle + preposition (particle-prepositional phrasal verbs)

  1. Who can put up with that? – up is a particle and with is a preposition.
  2. She is looking forward to a rest. – forward is a particle and to is a preposition.
  3. The other tanks were bearing down on my panther. – down is a particle and on is a preposition.
  4. They were really teeing off on me. – off is a particle and on is a preposition.
  5. We loaded up on Mountain Dew and chips. – up is a particle and on is a preposition
  6. Susan has been sitting in for me. – in is a particle and for is a preposition.

(end of quoted example, thank you Wikipedia)

We use phrasal verbs all the time in our daily speech and in our writing. However, whenever it’s possible we should look for simpler ways to phrase our thoughts when writing, unless we are writing conversations spoken in the local vernacular.

Why do I feel that way? The way I see them, phrasal verbs are  two-or-three words (an action word and modifiers) forming what can be considered a separate verb-unit with a specific meaning. In other words, they use more words than is really needed to express a thought:

  • Who is looking after (verb unit) the kids? == Who is watching the kids?
  • They brought that up (verb unit) twice. == They mentioned it twice.
  • Who can put up with (verb unit) that? == Who can endure that?

We use these phrasings because they sound natural to us—that is the way people in your area might speak. But when used too frequently in a written piece, phrasal verbs junk up the narrative. They subtly contribute to what we call “purple prose” because the overuse of them separates the reader from the story.

Unless you are writing poetry, simplicity is best, because you want to immerse your reader in the experience.

ok to write garbage quote c j cherryhWhen we are revising our first draft, and tightening our narrative we should be examining the prose for weak phrasing. Each time you come across phrasal verbs in your work, look at the sentence it occurs in as if it were an isolated incident and ask yourself if it needs to be there. Many times a phrasal verb really is  the only way to express what you are trying to say, but equally often a more concise way can be found.

Phrasal verbs have their places, but if you can simplify a thought and make the sentence stronger, do so.

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#Proofreading is not #editing

Epic Fails signWhile some people will dispute this, proofreading is not editing.

Proofreading is done after the final revisions have been made, and hopefully it is done by someone who has not seen the manuscript before. That way, they will see it through new eyes, and the small things in your otherwise perfect manuscripts will stand out.

Anita Campbell, in her May 28, 2015 guest post for the SBA’s Blog-Industry Word says: “The first step of effective proofreading is understanding that not every typo or issue is alike.  Each needs to be attacked in a different way.” While she is speaking of editing blogposts, and short works, that profoundly true of longer manuscripts.

Even though an editor has combed your manuscript and you have made thousands of corrections, both large and small, there may be places where the reader’s eye will stop. Words have been left out, punctuation is missing–any number of small, hard-to-detect things can occur even after the most thorough of edits.

After the final edit we go over our work with a fine-toothed comb, trying to proof it ourselves. We read it aloud, and we read it from the bottom up, but our eye sees what it expects to see. We catch many things, but we don’t catch it all.

This is where the third person in the process comes in–the proofreader.

First of all, proofreading is not editing. Editing is a process that I have discussed at length elsewhere, and is completed long before we get to the proofreading stage.

SO, at the outset, the proofreader must understand that no matter how tempting it may be, they have not been invited to edit the manuscript for content. That has already been done and done again. If they cannot refrain from asking for large revisions regarding your style and content, find another proofreader.

What The Proofreader Should Look For:

Spelling—misspelled words, and homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently). These are words that spell-checker may or may not catch, so a human eye is critical for this.

  • Wrong:  Bobby wint out the door, slamming the screen.
  • Right:  Bobby went out the door, slamming the screen.
  • Wrong: There cat escaped and he had to chase it
  • Right: Their cat escaped and he had to chase it.

Repeated words and cut-and-paste errors. These are insidious and damned difficult to spot, and spell-checker won’t find always them. Sometimes they seem like unusually garbled sentences.

  • Wrong: First of all, First of all, it is accepted practice to italicize thoughts.
  • WrongFirst of all, it is accepted practice to practice thoughts.
  • Wrong: First of all, it is accepted to ot  thoughts.
  • Right: First of all, it is accepted practice to italicize thoughts.

Missing closed quotes:

  • Wrong: “Doctor Mendel, you’re new to the area. What do you know about the dead man? asked Officer Shultz.
  • Right: “Doctor Mendel, you’re new to the area. What do you know about the dead man? asked Officer Shultz.

Numbers that are digits:

  • Wrong: There will be 3000 guests at the reception.
  • Right: There will be 300 guests at the reception.

Dropped and missing words:

  • Wrong: Within minutes the place was crawling with cops, and Officer Shultz was sitting at my kitchen table me gently while I made hot water for tea.
  • Right: Within minutes the place was crawling with cops, and Officer Shultz was sitting at my kitchen table grilling me gently, while I made hot water for tea.

keep clam and proofread

Each time you create a new passage in your already edited manuscript, you run the risk of creating another undetected error.

At some point your manuscript is done. You have been through the editing process, and the content and structure is as good as you can get it, but you need one last eye looking for small flaws. Before you upload that masterpiece to Kindle or wherever, do yourself a favor and have it proofread by an intelligent reader, who understands what you are asking them to do and who is willing to do only that.

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Beta Reading, or Editing–what’s the difference?

Book- onstruction-sign copyIndies rely heavily on what we refer to as beta readers to help shape their work and make it ready for editing. But in many forums, I’ve seen authors  use the term used interchangeably with editing, and the two are completely different.

And unfortunately, some indie published works are clear examples of work by authors who don’t realize the importance of working with an editor, although it is apparent that they have had assistance from beta-readers.

What is quite disappointing to me, is the many traditionally published works that seem to fall into the same lack-of-good-editing category, and I am at a loss as to why this is so.

So what is the difference between a beta reader and an editor?

Well, there is a HUGE difference.

Editing is a process, one where the editor goes over the manuscript line-by line, pointing out areas that need attention: awkward phrasings, grammatical errors, missing quote-marks or a myriad of things that make the manuscript unreadable. Sometimes, major structural issues will need to be addressed. It may take more than one trip through to straighten out all the kinks.

  1. In scholastic writing, editing involves looking at each sentence carefully, and making sure that it’s well designed and serves its purpose. In scholastic editing, every instance of grammatical dysfunction must be resolved.
  2. In novel writing, editing is a stage of the writing process in which a writer and editor work together to improve a draft by correcting errors and by making words and sentences clearer, more precise, and more effective. Weak sentences are made stronger, nonessential information is weeded out, and important points are clarified, while strict attention is paid to the overall story arc.
  3. The editor is not the author She can only suggest changes, but  ultimately all changes must be approved and implemented by the author.

Beta Reading is done by a reader. One hopes the reader is a person who reads and enjoys the genre that the book represents. Beta reading is meant to give the author a general view of  the overall strengths and weaknesses of his story.

The beta reader must ask himself:

  1. Were the characters likable?
  2. Where did the plot bog down and get boring?
  3. Were there any places that were confusing?
  4. What did the reader like? What did they dislike?
  5. What do they think will happen next?

beta read memeBeta Reading is not editing, and  the reader should not make comments that are editorial in nature. Those kinds of nit-picky comments are not helpful at this early stage, because the larger issues must be addressed before the fine-tuning can begin, and if you are beta reading for someone, the larger issues are what the author has asked you to look at.

This phase of the process should be done before you submit the manuscript to an editor, so that those areas of concern will be straightened out first.

Editors and other authors make terrible beta readers, because it is their nature to dismantle the manuscript and tell you how to fix it. That is not what you want at that early point–what you want is an idea of whether you are on the right track or not with your plot and your characters, and whether or not your story resonates with the reader.

Do your self a favor and try to find a reader who is not an author to be a first reader for you. Then hire a local, well-recommended editor that you can work with to guide you in making your manuscript readable, and enjoyable.

If you notice a few flaws in your ms but think no one else will notice, you’re wrong. Readers always notice the things that stop their eye.

In my own work I have discovered that if a passage seems flawed but I can’t identify what is wrong with it, my eye wants to skip it. But another person will see the flaw, and they will show me what is wrong there.

That tendency to see our own work as it should be and not how it is, is why we need editors.

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What I #amwriting

Alarm clock quote ray bradburyI normally begin my day at about 5:30 a.m. with editing for my clients–I like to do that when I am at my sharpest which is always in the morning.  I spend the afternoons writing, and right now I have two manuscripts that I am working on, and several short-stories. My evenings I either write blog posts or work on designing book covers.

Other than writing, most of my work these days centers around finishing up publishing the second editions of the Tower of Bones Series. The book itself, Tower of Bones, has been republished, and book II in the series, Forbidden Road, is in the process of being proofed and should be available soon–hopefully within two weeks.

In addition to revamping the TOB series, I hope to have the prequel to the series, a stand-alone novel, Mountains of the Moon, published by July 15, 2015, with a few copies to take to the PNWA conference. That means it has to be finished and ready to proof by June 25–which may be pushing it. However, things are moving so perhaps I will be able to meet this new deadline.

As I said, I have two novels in the works: concurrently with The Wayward Son, I am fleshing out the final book of the Tower of Bones series, Valley of Sorrows. This book deals with the aftermath of the events in Forbidden Road and winds up that story.

The road to hell Phillip Roth QuoteIn the aftermath of an incident that occurred in the last days of the war in Mal Evol, John lost the use of most of his magic. He has managed to keep that disability a secret for thirty years. The Wayward Son is the story of John’s redemption, and explains the events that happened in Aeoven while Edwin and the others were gone. These incidents culminated in John and Garran being sent to meet Edwin in Braden at the end of Forbidden Road. 

John Farmer’s story is intriguing to me, because he is a man concealing many secrets. A lot is going on under the surface–he suffers from survivor’s guilt and PTSD, which often develops after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events. In The Wayward Son, John’s rocky relationship with Garran is explored, and also his love affair with the Abbess of Aeoven, Halee.

While I was re-editing the series to date, I took the liberty of changing several once-minor characters’ names, as they had suddenly become important in the two later books, and their names were too close to other, already prominent, characters’ names. Since I was changing them anyway, I made them widely different. Thus Marta Randsdottir is now Halee Randsdottir. Her original name was nearly identical to Edwin’s wife, Marya, a problem since the two women figure prominently in The Wayward Son.

The problem was inadvertently begun in 2009 when I was writing Tower of Bones as the story-line and walk-through for an RPG, and was scrounging around for good character names. I didn’t know at that time it would become a book, and it didn’t occur to me that NEVER naming any character with a similar sounding, looking, or rhyming name is something every author should take note of. This is important, no matter how minor the characters seem to be, because, just like Halee, they may have a larger part to play later and the confusion will ruin the story.

The magnitude of the problem first became evident when I was writing Forbidden Road, but I thought I was stuck with it. Referencing the two women in the same paragraph was dreadfully confusing, since their names were only one letter off from each other.

ok to write garbage quote c j cherryhFor a long time, I didn’t know what to do about the name problem. I thought I was stuck with it, but one of the beauties of being an indie is the freedom I have to make adjustments when a gross error is discovered. Since I was completely revamping the series anyway, it was the perfect time to take the plunge and rectify that mistake. The series now has new maps, new interiors, and new covers.

It was just another lesson I’ve learned since leaping into this mad circus of indie publishing, but now I know to never name two characters in the same book with names that begin and end with the same letters. Don’t do it!

 

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