Here’s the thing about independent editors…

May 9, 2012

…it may not always work out the way you’d hoped. What do I mean? Let’s say you have a great story partially written, and your agent or your writer’s group suggest that hiring an indie editor would really kick it up a notch. So you spend some serious bucks and, voila! everyone is thrilled with the partial. Your agent sells your book, and you’re in Tra La Land.

So you go back to your indie editor and work with them on completing the rest of your manuscript, the agent and indie editor, and you are thrilled with the outcome. And then the editor comes back with your developmental edits, and leaves you muttering, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?? I thought my book was perfect.”

Here’s the thing about indie editors; their job is to spiff up the story you give them. Their concern isn’t making sure you have a marketable story with a large audience, your platform, your promotion plan, and selling lots of books. They can only work within the parameters for which they’ve been hired. The result can put you at odds with the editor who bought your book and who most assuredly has her eye  on the business end of publishing AND the artistic part.

This is the main reason I dislike buying partially written manuscripts. I do, of course, but I know the sample chapters in the book proposal have been massaged so that they sing. I’m never quite sure what the finished product will be, and I always cross my fingers and hope for the best.

This is also why I don’t get all gooey in the knees when someone mentions in their query letter that they worked with an indie editor. With that usually comes the belief that their work is a cut above and needs no editing – and that isn’t always the case. The manuscript may be very well executed and has a lovely voice, and excellent pacing, but it’s off the tracks from what the publisher’s editor wants, hence requested rewrites.

For example, an editor friend of mine bought a book she thought was going to focus on a horse trainer’s experience with working autistic kids and how working with the horses brought about big changes in the kids. Cool book, right? The partial she read was great, so she bought the book. What my friend ended up getting was the trainer’s biography – which isn’t what the agent had pitched to her. So the author was taken aback when my friend delivered her developmental edits that included massive rewrites…even though the author had worked with an indie editor.

“But my indie editor and agent loved the book as is,” replied the author.

My friend tried to make things clearer. “True, it’s a well-written story with great development and pacing, but that isn’t what was pitched to me.”

Of course, the indie editor had no way of knowing how the book was going to be pitched – all she knew was that she needed to help refine the book sitting in front of her. As for the agent, it’s something a lot of editors see – the agent is excited about selling the book. It’s not their job to think like an editor because they can’t. We’re all different. And the most important part is that the agent hasn’t seen the final product either because they sold the book based on a partial. What she thought she was selling and what my friend thought she was buying were different from the final product. Hello, rewrites.

So you can see how it’s easy for the left hand to not know what the right hand is doing. No one is at fault. The point of this post is not to place your entire end-all be-all on your indie editor. Just because you paid for her services doesn’t mean it’s bullet-proof. And yes, it may mean that your publisher’s editor may ask you to do rewrites in order to fit her vision of what she knows she can sell because she bought it based on a solid pitch. For instance, had the agent pitched my friend the horse trainer’s biography, my friend would have passed on the project.

Take a deep breath and understand that nothing is in cement until the book is actually printed up and out the door. Until then, all bets are off, and you may have to go back to the inkwell. It’s all a part of this madness we call publishing.

You just can’t have too many editors…

April 16, 2012

This project is huge…Google, for instance, invested $166 million. This website was approved from the highest of the high. Pity that $166 million didn’t get them a copy editor. They will forever be known to me as Goggle.

Click on image to enlarge.

“My manuscript has been professionally edited.”

March 27, 2012

It’s common to see this sentence somewhere in query letters, and I always wonder why authors think that’s an important inclusion. In truth, I would rather they leave this out because it’s not a selling point for me, and here’s why:

Editorial Blunder

When you state that you’ve enlisted the services of a third party editor, you are subconsciously raising my  expectations. That means that I’m double-secret-scrutinizing your manuscript, and any misplaced commas, poor syntax, misspelled words, lack of transitional sentences, pacing, flow, or plotting will have me clucking like a chicken loaded on too much grain alcohol.

Just last weekend I read a submission from an author who revealed that his work was beyond reproach because he had been “professionally edited.” Let me tell you, it was a hot mess, and I could only wonder at this “professional’s” qualifications. Needless to say, the author had two strikes against him…one, for revealing his editorial “help,” and two, for delivering an editorial mish mash of mush and not realizing it.


“Professionally edited.” Now, what does this mean? In truth, anyone can hang their shingle out and call themselves a “professional.” There are no state boards or licenses one must obtain to be labeled thusly, so this whole idea of “professional” is a bit of a misnomer.

There are many thankless souls who have spent years making their living as editor. They have edited many well-published books, possibly have done freelance work for solid publishers, and have excellent reputations. They are the precious darlings who I consider “professionals.”  When we had the Great Publishing Implosion of 2008-9, lots of talented editors lost their jobs, and they turned to doing freelance work.

But mixed in with this group, are those who have a barely-passing handle on grammar and/or know very little about content editing. If you, the author, don’t know the tools of your trade, then how can you know when your third party editor is as under-schooled as you are?

Because of this, it’s impossible for me to take this whole “professional” thing seriously. Out of literally thousands of submissions I’ve read, I signed one author who I feel got her money’s worth, We barely touched her manuscript when we signed her because it was so clean. And at that, I know the author really didn’t need to hire third party help because I’ve seen the writing brilliance on her blog.

And this brings me to my next point:  who gets the credit?

To Whom Should I Place My Faith?

When you tell me a “professional” has done the holy cross over your work, I have to consider whom to thank…you or your third party editor.

Case in point, an editor friend of mine wailed on about the editing nightmare she was having with one of her authors. The manuscript was pretty clean, but she wanted the author to make some rewrites to flesh out a couple sub-plots that would enhance the overall story. My friend made her suggestions and awaited the rewrites – which came back and were horrendous.

Missing was the fabulous signature voice that carried the book and convinced my friend it was a “gotta have it.” In its stead was clunky writing, missing transitions from each paragraph to the next/from one scene to the next. My friend was flummoxed. “It’s as if a whole different person did these rewrites.” A hot mess.

My friend was naturally suspicious about who actually finessed it to the point of being publishable because the author appeared ill-prepared to handle simple editorial rewrites.

So, you can see that this isn’t merely a matter of whom to thank for the clean manuscript, but it’s a red flag to editors because we’re wondering if  the author has the chops to handle the editing process. Having experienced this many years ago with an author who is no longer with us, I can attest that it’s enough to make me want to pull my hair out.

I appreciate authors who are honest with themselves. If you think you need to hire an indie editor, then do you believe your writing skills are evolved enough to be publishable? If it’s a matter of getting feedback, then join a writer’s group, or get a group of beta readers who will offer objective critique.

But if you feel that your grammar isn’t up to speed, then you really need to learn this aspect of your craft. It’s like a surgeon saying, “I’m really good at heart transplants, but I get all icky at having to crack someone’s chest, so I’ll hire someone else to do that.” You’re either a heart surgeon, or you aren’t. You’re either a writer and know the tools of your trade, or you don’t.

When To Use a Third-Party Editor

If you’re self-pubbing your book, then it’s mandatory to hire a good editor. There are so many horrible DIY books flooding the marketplace, and you want to make sure yours is glorified for its fabulosity, not its horrorosity. Make sure that the editor you hire has a solid background and has edited books published by solid commercial presses.

Another reason is, Why the hell not? If you have the disposable income and you don’t feel confident about your abilities, why not hire a third party editor? You can treat the experience as a private education, so you’ll be that much better with your next book. But always be aware that if this book is published, you’ll need to have the chops to handle rewrites. No running home to Mama.

It’s important to learn ALL aspects of your craft, not pick and choose the things that are fun. Otherwise, at some point, you will be found out – probably during editing phase and your editor is ready to jump off the Empire State Building. Be smart; save an editor from certain death or margarita-dependance, and enhance your brilliance.

And don’t include this in your query.

Punishing the Peccadillo

January 10, 2012

I can’t remember how old I was when I first heard the word “peccadillo,” but I do remember laughing like a simpleton because it always reminded me of armadillos. So when Mom said, “She certainly has an strange collection of peccadilloes,” I envisioned some lady with a box of armadillos, all wearing brightly colored hats and carrying fancy handbags. Considering where I grew up, this would have caused a few traffic accidents.

I find peccadillo to be a fun little word. It’s polite and only refers to a slight offense in the quaintest of terms, quite unlike its more barbarian brethren “breach” “crime” “malfeasance” “wrongdoing” “delinquency.” Now those are some badass words that mean business.

When it comes to writing, I try to avoid using the badass words because they’re so mean. They carry guns and knives, and threaten black-hearted, soulless editors right out of their batcaves. But there are many times when I read a manuscript and notice tendencies. A peccadillo. These tendencies aren’t enough to get Mr. Malfeasance or Ms. Crime on their high horses. But they are, nonetheless, irritating because they are permeated throughout the manuscript.

If I see an author has a peccadillo with not using good transitioning between paragraphs and/or scenes, then I know my redline comments are going to turn the manuscript bloody red. It’s a constant. Same thing if an author is fond of comma splices – Ex: The beagle is drunk again, get out the aspirin.

That peccadillo is going to drive me crazy because I either have to ferret out every single one and choose which comma splices work and which don’t, or I have to tell the author to rewrite the offending comma splices. Problem is, a few sprinkled here and there can add flavor to the pace.

I have worked with authors who adore semi-colons. They sprinkle five to ten of them per page. It screws with the pacing and becomes like that dull headache I get when I’ve had one too many of the beagle’s margaritas. I have to either tell the author to rewrite nearly all of the semi-colons, or I do it myself using the Track Changes feature.

My own peccadillo is my fondness for using “that.” Go figure. But there it is. That here, that there…drives me nuts to the point where I slap myself silly. Other adore em dashes or ellipses. We all have them, but the trick is to BE AWARE OF THEM. If you see that you have an overabundance of ellipses, punish your peccadillo by lighting a fire to your hair recognizing it and writing without it. It’s like trying not to itch a mosquito bite. You know you want to scratch that little bastard ’til it bleeds, but then it hurts, gets all gooey, and itches even worse.

See, peccadilloes won’t ruin your literary career, but they will make your editor want to mainline cheap gin because that little peccadillo populates itself throughout your entire manuscript. It’s an editing PITA.

So what are your peccadilloes? Be honest and look for them because you have one. Seek it out, give it a good spanking, and scrub it from your manuscript. Who knows? You just may save an editor from another long day of inebriation.

Or not…

Edits – it’s just you and me, and we both disagree…

January 3, 2012

Oh how I love that song by Dave Mason. But what are we disagreeing about? Editing…what else? A writer contacted me over the Christmas break and asked about whether she should follow her editor’s advice and make some pretty big changes to her manuscript. It was plain the author was uncomfortable with the editor’s recommendations and wondered whether she should shut her yap and blithely do the rewrites and not say anything.

Eh, blind faith is a scary thing. I’m a writer as well, and I know that an editor has to come up with logical reasons for requesting rewrites, or for tossing things out. It needs to make sense…which is a scary thing because writers are often too close to their writing to be objective.

The truth is, there is no “correct” because edits are subjective. I read many books that, had they come under my bloody red pen, would have been edited far differently. Does that make me right and the book’s editor wrong? No. We simply have different editing styles. When I suggest rewrites to our authors, I back that up with my reasoning as to why it’s not working for me as written. I include the elements that I feel would elevate the story, the organization, the pacing, and ultimately, the marketability.

It’s vital that we editors justify our editing decisions. Usually, the author agrees, but it’s a give and take thing, and I see nothing wrong with an author debating with me and giving reasons why he wants it to stay as is.

This is when it’s important for both parties to listen. It’s only through truly listening to my author that I can discern what the author is really saying. You’d be surprised to know that it’s not necessarily keeping the writing as is, but some important element to that scene that the author wants to retain. By talking back and forth, I can then come up with solutions that will make everyone happy. And that’s what it’s really about. A happy author is proud of his book and will do lots to promote it.

So back to this author’s question as to whether he was right to yield to the editor without any discussion. Dunno. Did you have a back and forth conversation about why the editor wanted the changes? Did the editor understand why you were reluctant to make the changes?

Case in point: I worked with an author whose story was filled to the gills with enough backstory to choke an overweight mongoose. I kept telling him he needed to get rid of all the fluff because it was slowing the story down to a snail’s pace. He balked, feeling the backstory was vital to the story.

Hello, Mr. Impasse.

So I took another tack and asked him what elements he loved about the backstory. It came out that he felt he needed the backstory to let readers understand his family life because it justified and explained why the main character acted the way he did. Ohhhh…no problemo, sez me. I still had him remove all the unnecessary fluff, but had him sprinkle the backstory about his family life in dribs and drabs throughout the story. The key was to put in only the amount of backstory to explain that particular scene. Suddenly, what was an overweight backstory-laden story, was now a fully-developed story that included just enough info about his family life to make the story come full circle. It made for a richer story.

So had he blithely acquiesced to my suggestions without discussion, he wouldn’t have the wonderful story he now has. His feedback was vital to that fabulosity.

So, in short, don’t be afraid to disagree. Stand up for your story and open up a dialog with your editor. You wrote it a certain way for a reason. It may be that reason isn’t valid. But what if it is, and you simply wrote it clumsily? Your editor needs to know because they can’t climb inside your head. They are there to help bring your story to life, and your feedback is vital to that goal. No one is going to dump you for asking legit questions, so  go ahead and don’t be afraid to disagree. Just be mindful about finding common ground because you and your editor have the same goal of a fabo book.

Getting ungorgled – sit down, shut up, and WRITE!

December 14, 2011

“I’ve hit a roadblock,” my friend complained in an email to me. “I don’t know where my story goes next, and my editor has given me a deadline.”

I know what she means. I have this glorious new hip, for which I will always consider my surgeon my personal savior and hero. Thing is, that hip joint is about as tight as the beagle’s wallet when it’s her turn to buy a round of drinks. I have to continually stand up and stretch it out. Sucker doesn’t just let loose all easy-like, I have to take a few steps, stop, gorgle my hip around, take a couple more steps, more gorgling, until it loosens up enough to where I don’t walk like a pregnant water buffalo trying to carry a bowling ball between her knees. And the longer I wait, the harder it gets downstream.

Walking normally is going to take work by stretching out some very expensive spit and glue – if my hospital bill is any indication. I have to be willing to get off the couch, knowing it’s gonna yankle, in order to have a good outcome.

And it’s no different when revising your story. It’s one thing to have the story sitting in our heads. We think we have it all figured out…until we start putting it down on cyber paper. If you’re on a deadline, then you have no choice but to strong-arm through the fog. And this isn’t a bad idea because it’s forcing you to get something down.

Too many times I see authors set their hair on fire when it comes to revisions because they feel they got it right the first time, and the idea of making changes is as horrific as the beagle contemplating sobriety. This is the predicament my friend had. Her book was good enough to get a good agent, who sold it to a good publisher. But that doesn’t mean she’s bulletproof.

There are always revisions. Srsly.

Your editor will give you sound advice and be very clear about the parts that need smoothing over, or further development. I remember my editor slammed me with writing an entire new scene in Donovan’s Paradigm. In the original version, I’d merely alluded to the scene in conversation, but she came back at me with a, “Oh, not so fast, Pricey. That’s a huge scene that I’d like to see.”

Oy. Vey.

I worried about word count, I worried about context, I worried about transitioning this new scene into the story. And on and on. I whined. I begged. I drank pitchers of margaritas long into the night. The beagle laughed, I cried. And then I slapped cheeks and told my bad self to grow up and write the damn scene. It wasn’t easy because I had to do a lot more research. And you know what? That remains one of my favorite scenes in the book because it developed my main character on a medical level, while getting into her head on a personal level in the height of a major emergency. Many docs who read the book thought I was a fellow doc because I had gotten into their heads.

And I have my editor to blame.

The one thing that might help you in your writing career is to tell yourself that, yes, your book is finished to the best of your abilities, BUT, that you also realize that it really isn’t done until the cover is wrapped around the pages and it’s sitting on bookstore shelves. Your editor is your unbiased set of eyes that sees past your unyielding love and perfection, and knows where your book can reach the pinnacle of yumminess. Yes, that’s a technical term.

Instead of fretting and biting your nails to the quick, increase your BIC (Butt In Chair) Index and get cracking. Whining and moaning gets you nowhere. Sit down and write that new scene, even if it feels wrong. Get something on paper because once it’s there, you can always go back and refine. And as you refine, your mind opens up to what feels right (write?). And who knows? That new scene your evil editor made you write will turn out to be your best.

Muscling through is how you get ungorgled – and yes, that’s another technical term.

Editing – hold on to your garter belts

November 15, 2011

I was talking to an editor friend of mine, and she laughingly told me how she’d just sent off her first round of edits to her author. “I thought she was going to drench me with a fine spray of perspiration.”

Whyzzat? I asked. After all, she had been expected to be edited, right?

Oh yeah, she said. She just had no idea there was going to be so much redlining.

Ohhhh…I can relate. I’ve told authors how much I loved their manuscripts, how clean they are (the manuscripts, not the authors), and was excited to dig into the editing process. When they got my edits, they were convinced the nice lady who signed them had been replaced by the daughter of Satan.

I could hear the screaming from my batcave. “I thought you said it was clean!” they’d wail. “I’m bleeding red ink on every page! The horror, the humanity!”

Let me explain. When we read your manuscripts, we take a mental note of all the mechanics – spelling, punctuation, syntax, blah, blah, blah. There’s a point where our “Ick O’Meter” dings and we realize the mechanics need a lot of work. Next, we look at the story, the flow, pacing, and organization and let our “Ick O’Meter” ding…or not ding. Based on the dings we hear, we can measure the cleanliness of the manuscript.

So in our way of thinking, something may be deemed “clean,” meaning the foundation is solid and marketable. That doesn’t mean you produced an edit-free story. It isn’t until we get into the nitty gritty of editing that we find the warts and hit them with wart-off. We may have lots of comments about rewording a sentence, or reworking a scene – but to us , it’s still “clean.” To you, it looks like I made merry with a red pen on crack.

All I can say is don’t sweat this stuff. Your writing didn’t come from the hands of the Great Cosmic Muffin, so you’re gonna see lotsa red. Revel in the fact that your editor is working on little sleep, burnt coffee, and cheap booze to make your work rock its bad self into the hearts and souls of readers.

And yes, this takes faith. But then, you wouldn’t have signed with your publisher if you didn’t have faith they knew what they were doing, right??

Surviving Edits in 12 Easy Steps – from my side of the desk

March 28, 2011

I know, I know, it’s all about the author. And it really is. My friend Carolyn Rosewood has a post on her blog about surviving edits, and I thought it would be fun to take her points and pull a switcheroo, just so you can see things from my side of the desk…if that sort of thing floats your boat.

1) CALM DOWN. Don’t try to read the entire document at once. You’ll get drunk, or at least be tempted to. And it’s very hard to edit while drunk. Not that I’d know.

What’s the worry? We get drunk here all the time when we’re editing. You think we keep the beagle around for her winning personality? Her margaritas are so strong, that we’re swinging from the rafters by noon.

Ok, kidding aside, this is sound advice. Reading crits it all at once is fraught with danger because you’ll see hundreds of comments off to the side and probably a separate page that includes a long critique about what she did, why she did it, and problems that she sees consistently cropping up in your writing.  It’s a lot to absorb, so take your time.

I’ve seen authors want to fold up their tents and go home because the editing process was so brutal. I admit that I do edit our authors to within an inch of their lives, so I’m sure they feel like they’ve been through a war zone by the time we’re done. But I’d like to think that our books are far better for it. Remember, it’s not personal. We love your books and we’re that unbiased angel whose sole purpose is to make your book shine.

2) Realize how much time and work your editor took with the changes. She did. Really.

Carol isn’t just whistlin’ Dixie here. We work our Vickie Secrets off during the editing process. We read Each. And. Every. Word. When I’m in editing mode, it’s not unusual to work from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. And on the weekends. Especially if I have manuscripts stacked up like jets on the runway.

3) Learn how to use Track Changes in Word. Um… yeah… this one… learn it before those first edits arrive, okay? Trust me on this one. 🙂

Ok, if was cool to kiss Carol straight on the mouth without drawing the ire of her hubby and my Mr. Sweetcheeks, I would. We make certain assumptions when we sign a new author:  they are professionals, they know how to put sentences together in really groovy ways, they know the difference between a sentence fragment and comma splices, AND THEY HAVE MS WORD AND KNOW HOW TO USE IT.

Yes, yes, I know many of you hate Word, but it’s the gold standard by which we all work, so it’s wise to suck it up and get it. The freebie version OpenOffice is great, but it doesn’t read the comments correctly, so it can be confusing. This is fine for your personal writing, but if you have a book deal, for petesakes, buy Word. And learn how to use it.

I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it is to try to teach someone how to use the Track Changes feature. It’s like the time I tried to teach the beagle to drive a stick shift. Utterly hopeless, and I had a hell of a time explaining things to the nice policeman who took exception to the beagle driving over his motorcycle.

4) Read through the entire thing first, slowly.

Yes, always a good idea to read it through first before you begin making edits or rewrites. Sometimes we’ve made a comment further down in the chapter, and you might think of something that will combine both those comments together in one single rewrite. Besides, reading it through first gives you the overall feel for what your editor is communicating with you.

5) Try not to freak out as you do (4).

I disagree. Freak the hell out. You know you want to. Don’t fight it. Eat a pound of chocolate and drink five martinis in a row. You’ll wake up with a terrible headache, but you’ve gotten it out of your system.

6) Edit at the time of day you’re most fresh. It will be easier. Trust me. Oh, and if you wrote the original MS to music, edit to that music as well. It will help you recall the emotion. 🙂

I agree with this. It’s the same for me as well. It’s much easier to edit when I’m fresh. Problem is, my “fresh” lasts for about an hour. That would make editing a single manuscript impossible, so I work even during advanced stages of staleness. And though I’m a bit gamey, I would much rather work all day long because I’m completely absorbed in your manuscript. I’m in the flow, the groove, mainlining the ink, riding the quill highway, doing the literary lambada…wha’? TMI? Ok, you get my drift. I’m engaged, as they say.

You, on the other hand, need to be clever and witty with your rewrites. It’s harder to do when you’re tired and cranky. Unless you’re the beagle, in which case that’s when you get your best work done.

7) Break the document into number of pages you need to edit each day to make your deadline.

8) Then double that number of pages, and set that as your daily goal. Just in case. Things happen, we get busy, and if you leave yourself no extra time you’ll miss your deadline. It’s part of some Law, I’m sure. And it will piss off your editor. You do NOT want to do that.

You’ll be given a deadline for your edits. It could be a couple weeks or a month. Whatever the deadline, DO NOT MISS IT. We have very tight schedules with little wiggle room. Things have been set in motion many months ago, back when the ink on your contract was still drying. Your editor discussed the season for your book’s release, had to talk to cover art, get all the copy written so it could get into their catalog. Sales teams have been alerted and have the book on their schedules to pitch to the national accounts. Sales kits have been developed. And on and on and on…

So while it may seen like no big deal to be a couple weeks late, you really have no clue how that delay can gum up the works. Think of your book as a giant water wheel. It has to turn at a certain rate in order to keep the water flowing at an even pace. Too slow, and you risk flooding. Too fast, and you risk going dry. Stick a rock in the sprockets, and the wheel stops turning altogether. The water builds up and overflows the banks.

Avoid this. Really.

9) Go through each change one at a time. Slowly. Most don’t take that much time. Honest. Most of mine are a simple matter of accepting the change.

This is solid advice. There are all kinds of edits – simple things like rephrasing a sentence or elaborating on one point a bit more. They don’t take too much thought. But there are times when the foundation needs to be retooled, or a character needs to be fleshed out more or a scene has to be totally rewritten. That ain’t no small thing, and you need to take your time in order to maintain the same voice as your manuscript. Consistency is key here.

There have been times that I made changes to an author’s manuscript, taking special care to write in their voice. I’m not talking adding paragraphs or anything. Small stuff, like adding some action to signify a dialog tag – She tossed the cup across the room and watched it break against Tom’s head. “There, you two-timing windbag. That’s what if feels like to be cheated on.” I’ll make the addition because I may have felt there were too many talking heads and no action. But I have to do this as if I’m the author, and maintain their voice. It’s like when I used to try on my mom’s shoes when I was a kid. I’d become Mom, and start ordering my brothers around.

In those cases, you need to judge whether your editor struck the right tone and either accept or reject the edit.

10) Remember it’s your story. If something doesn’t sound right, read it out loud. If it still doesn’t sound right, don’t accept the change, and write your editor a very sweet comment explaining why it just doesn’t sound right. They’re human beings too. 🙂

BWAHAHAHA! We’re human? When did that happen, and why didn’t I get the memo? It’s ok to disagree with your editor. I’ve had my authors disagree with me from time to time. Don’t be afraid to do this. Carol’s right – this is your book, and you have to be happy with it. But you also need to have complete faith in your editor because it’s their dime that’s funding this whole endeavor. They want you to to be successful.

If you’re really adamant about something your editor wants to change, consider the possibility that the reason she wants the change is because you didn’t write that scene well enough. So it’s not about the actual scene at all, but the scene’s literary quality. Be thoughtful about your edits.

Let’s use an example. Say you have a scene that you need in there because it’s integral to something big in your story, only the editor wants to yank it out. You need to fully explain your reasons for keeping it in to your editor so she has a clearer idea as to why you wrote that scene. Once she understands, you two can discuss how to strengthen the scene so it accomplishes what you intended. It may be that the best move is to yank it. But only through discussion can your editor better understand your motivation for things that you wrote and are attached to.

11) Take frequent breaks but make your daily goal of so many pages. If you get behind, you’ll only stress yourself out trying to make up the pages, and the changes won’t be as good as if you took your time.

Dammit, Carol, when did you plant a bug in my office, and where is it? I can tell when someone has rushed the edits because the quality is horrendous. Nothing can ruin a good book quite like lousy edits. When I see cases of this, I’m tempted to send the manuscript right on back to the author with a note, “Nice try. Do again, please.” I’m very fortunate in that my authors edits have almost always been fantabulously stupendous. We may go back and forth on a few issues, but my authors are geniuses. That’s not to say I haven’t had my times of frustration, tho.

12) Celebrate!! You have edits! From an editor! And you’re on deadline! That means you’re one step closer to the finished book, and it means you’re that much closer to being a paid writer. 🙂

Yes, I second that. When I have a manuscript in the bag, I celebrate by making Sweetcheeks take me out to dinner where I can order something that’s totally not on my diet and makes me feel sinfully fantastic. I’m excited because I know the author is thrilled and relieved to be past that tough bump in the road. I’m excited because I know we’re one step closer to making this fabulous book a reality. I’m excited because I can let the author relax for five minutes while we work our magic in the background.

And most of all, I’m excited because I know that we have another fantastic book that will soon be unleashed to the reading world, and I can’t wait for the explosion.

So yes, you will survive edits because it’s the last step you’ll make before your book becomes a reality. Enjoy the process. Really.

Public Service Announcement

March 25, 2011

It’s Friday, and that means you can slough off the day and be irresponsible. Or is that just me?

But while you’re busy contemplating your weekend, stop everything and  read 8 Fiddly Things You Can Do To Your Manuscript To Make Your Editor’s Day by Alison Janssen. I implore you…nay, I DEMAND it. Yah, it’s that good.

Indie publishers and editing: where the rubber meets the road

December 9, 2010

So. You’re wondering what’s the big whup about small publishers. After all, they’re smaller, have less money, don’t have as big a marketing/distribution footprint, blah,blah, blah. May I give you another little something to consider?

Let’s talk editing.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gotten submissions that we knew were going to be big hits but needed a lot of editing to make them sing. In some cases those books went to large conglomerate presses, where I got the pleasure of comparing their editing results to what I would have done.

Far be it for me to say that any established, reputable publisher does crap editing jobs because that would be incredibly disingenuous and untrue. HOWEVER, there are degrees in publishing that allow the gift of TIME, and that’s a pretty big consideration if your book happens to need some heavy editing.

The first consideration is that you or your agent may have a harder time selling the project because everyone loves a clean, polished story.

Truth: Editors don’t want to work any harder than they have to. And they won’t – not with all the talent out there.
Exception: But they will if they see a story – no matter how raw – that they are passionate about.

And that is where the rubber meets the road. See, editing a book is like scratching an itch. Have you ever had an itch that you just couldn’t scratch?At first you think it’s on your leg, then…oh, it’s there, on your calf…no…it’s on your knee…DAMN, it’s on your ankle. If you take enough time, you’ll find the darn itch and scratch it. Same goes for editing.

But this takes TIME, right? After all, it’ll ensure that the book will be the absolute tops. The problem is that TIME isn’t something a large conglomerate publisher has a lot in supply. They are beholden to a corporate beast who cares less about literary quality than they are getting lots of product out to market. Editors are under the gun to move through the editing process quickly. I’ve talked to plenty editors with large houses who express their frustration at not being able to spend more time on a project.

It’s that time factor that prevents the larger houses from offering contracts on books they feel require more editing. And guess who cleans up? Us little spuds. Independent weenie beanies have the luxury of time to caress, love, and finesse a manuscript so that it rocks. And we do that because we see huge potential in the story – and I’m talking books whose authors have very nice/big platforms. What’s even better is those independent weenie beanie publishers have the distribution in place to get those marvelous slabs o’ love out to market.

And what’s so wrong about that?

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