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(My editor…unfortunately)

Scary, I know, but when you’re trying to get your book out in the busiest time of year, it’s bound to happen.

After the initial shock and denial stage, I immediately tried bargaining with her that I could push back my release a few months if she needed more time and, she first agreed—until she found out the page count of the third book. Clocking in around 640 pages, she just couldn’t promise me that it would get done by March. Since it usually takes another two or three months after the editor is through to make the changes and to send it off to copy editors, I knew I couldn’t make my fans wait that long.

But how could I change editors mid-series? Would this effect the consistency of my books? Could I find someone with the same skill at the same price? How could someone jump into such a complicated series mid-way?

After breathing into a paper bag for a few minutes and then self-medicating myself with too much chocolate, I realized that this might be meant to be (what I always say to myself in difficult situations). My editor recommended a few editors she works with (at a small press publishing company) and said there was one in particular that had a strong background with historicals. I contacted this person, sent off a sample chapter, and was so pleased to see that their styles were incredibly similar (at the same price to boot!).

She seems wonderful and she not only said she’d get right on the project, but that she wanted to read the first two books so she could understand the third book that much more!

So, just a word of assurance to any of you that might get the same shock, there are plenty of fantastic editors out there and situations might arise where you need to find an alternative mid-series. Take a deep breath and send out sample chapters to other recommended editors and feel around for one with a similar style. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to touch base with my editor a month earlier so that I could have had more time to find a good fit, but this time I was lucky to find someone so fast who was willing to start the project immediately. So keep in touch with your editors!

Happy Holiday everyone!

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After I finished writing my first novel, I stared at the pages, not knowing what revising entailed.

It’s perfect I thought. Exactly the way I wanted it.

But then I started to research the process of revising and it dawned on me that I had to completely slash away and polish every sentence, analyze every word, make sure every punctuation was just as I wanted it before querying.

I found some fantastic books and websites, but none helped me more than Caro Clarke’s in-depth advice.

If she taught a class, I’d take it. The way she explains everything and the topics she thought to include, astounds me. I read each and every one of her writing articles and if you have a little time I would check them out. How could you not, with unique article titles such as:

Just to name a few.

Caro truly knows her stuff and I promise you that you will come away a better writer after you have read through them all. I took her advice so seriously that I felt the need to thank her in my first novel. Best of all, the advice is free!

(Although it would be nice to purchase her novel in thanks if you find her advice as helpful as I do).

Just writing this blog has made me realize I should reread all these articles again before I revise the next book in my series. I’m sure I’m in need of a refresher course.

Thank you, Caro, for taking the time to write these extremely helpful articles and for sharing them so graciously.

Have any of Caro’s tips helped you? Whose writing advice has made the biggest impact on your writing?

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Yes, it is a superhero talent to weed through and catch every error from comma placement to sentence structure to checking historical facts. And after all that, they still comprehend the work enough to make sweeping editorial changes!

How do they do all that?

I’m completely impressed by my editor’s talents. Both times I sent my ms to her I thought, I really feel like a caught everything this time. And both times, my ms came back painted with insertions, deletions, and editorial suggestions. My editor is the person who double-checks my parachute before I jump out the airplane. That added bit of confidence that I have produced the best novel that I can is priceless. Although, even with that extra pack inspection, every parachutist still has a backup parachute.

A proofreader (or copyeditor) is that extra parachute.

It’s important to get another pair of discerning eyes to pick up on the oversights the first editor missed. As authors, we’ve all experienced the moment when someone points out an obvious error and you say to yourself, I must have read that sentence a hundred times before, how could I have missed that!  Well, your editor is only human–although mine is as close to superhero as you can get–and they can overlook as well. Since my editor is making comments on practically every other sentence, things can get harder to spot. I do send it back for a second look through, but again, things may still slip on by.

Since the sequel is much longer (epicly long), I toyed with the idea that maybe I didn’t need a proofreader since my first editor is so amazing. The proofreader did find a few instances where she really saved my professional tukus in the first novel, but my editor caught most of the problems. So the cheap side of me tried to overcome the perfectionist side of me, but my OCD girl won out, and I opened up my wallet to hire the proofreader as well. The good news is that a proofread usually costs half of what the editor costs.

Phew! Was I glad I did get the proofread!

It must have been because this book is so much longer that it caused more opportunities for oversight, but she really caught some critical things. At one point I added something during the revision process and used the wrong name for a character and the proofreader caught that. That would have majorly confused someone. That one catch was worth her whole payment.

No matter how incredible your editor is, they are only human and can’t be 100% accurate.

The best evidence that all self-publishers should use an editor and a proofreader (if they can afford it) is that traditional publishers have a whole team of editors and copy-editors, all triple-checking your novel before release. As a self-publisher, I strive to mirror as many of the steps that a traditional publisher would carry out—at a lower cost of course.

So, you still might decide to only use an editor to save money, but if you hear feedback from an eagle-eyed reader about an error somewhere in your published novel, you’ll end up paying a formatter to go back and make those corrections for you, not to mention the fact that every review or rating you get mentioning that error is permanent.

My advice: hire the safety inspector and splurge for the backup parachute. It’s money well spent.

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Oh well, holidays are over and my sequel is out for final proofreading. I’m completing my citations and bibliography page now and I’m forcing myself to finish writing my next book in the series. I say forcing since I’ve a hard time changing hats from researcher-writer- revisor- queryer-editor-designer-publisher-promoter then back to writer. I tend to get stuck in the phases.

When I was writing, I just kept writing. I actually finished the first book, the second, 2/3’s of the third, and 1/3 of the last book all in one straight streak. I couldn’t stop creating. I worried that I would never want to stop writing to get any of the books out. I made myself stop and start to rework the first book. Then I got caught up in all the other stages.

Why do I have such a hard time transitioning?

So now, I really don’t want to start researching the next life I’m delving into. I keep trying to convince myself that it’s a better idea to start reworking the lives I’ve already completed in the third book. I think a part of me feels like I haven’t written in so long that I’m afraid I can’t do it anymore. I have this great momentum in the book up until this point and then I stopped to do all the other phases and I’m scared to pick it back up again.

What if the momentum is ruined?

I think a part of me is scared to see if I can still write this series. I feel so much more comfortable to do what I’ve been doing for a year now. Plus, I have to isolate myself so much more during the writing process. I can revise, edit, design, promote all while watching Thundercats, shaking a baby toy, or keeping an eye on my son’s ninja attempts. But when I write, I need to focus and fall into the world inside me. Once the words start pouring out, it’s torture to stick a cork in to do something else.

But I don’t have a choice. I’m a full-time mother and writer, so I must try to juggle as best as I can. I realize that I just have to quiet those fears and throw myself into the writing. I hope it will be like riding a bicycle. I hope the series will keep up it’s pace and intimacy I created previously.

Who knows? Maybe all this professional editing will rub off during the first draft!

Do you have a hard time changing between all the different phases? Which phase to you enjoy the most? Which one do you dread?

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Wow. Everything’s going by so quickly suddenly. The summer’s almost over, my son’s school will start soon, the baby’s on its way, a hurricane threatens to disconnect my internet for days, and of course I’m in the midst of book formatting my first novel of the series. Originally when I set the 11-11-11 launch date I thought I was giving myself extra time just in case of a colicky baby or the baby blues prove a challenge, but now with time ticking away I’m so glad I didn’t pick an October release!

Everything I’ve read about increasing your indie book sales recommends getting your second book out as quickly as you can after your first. Many say that nothing promotes your first book as much as another book release. The more books you can get out there the better. So, as I’m learning the ropes of publishing the first one I’ve been busy revising my second. My goal is to release the sequel January 2012 and I’m even planning on including the first chapter of the sequel in my debut book.

Honestly, I’ve been revising this book over the last year. I’ve gone through all my normal revising checklist and now I’ve added all the things my editor pointed out in the first novel. I feel like I can’t get it any better on my own and since this sequel is almost twice as long as my first, I know the editor, the copy editor, and the book formatter will all take twice as long, so I need to get moving. I did worry that one of my most trusted beta readers is midway into the sequel and would need to allow time for her critical feedback, but I know I can still make improvements between this first editor run-through and the second. I might even have time to send it out to a few more people as well.

So I wrote to my AWESOME editor to see if she was available to take on another book of mine. She said to send it on over and that’s what I did. Two books now on their road to print. I can’t believe it. Is this really happening?

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I can’t wait for this editing to end!

This is all new to me so every step I don’t know what to expect. I was so pleased after working with the editor I chose and part of me wondered if I even needed to use a copy editor. But I listened to all of the most informative self-publishing blogs that insist you must have a quality editor and proofreader before publishing.

So luckily, I found the name of a very reasonable proofreader on one of the forums I frequent. Her website looked fantastic and I liked how she has a review site as well that showcases self-published books. Anyone who wants to support self-publishers like that I want to give my business to.

I gave her my MS on Wednesday and she had it back to me by Sunday night. She even had her partner give it a look through for no extra charge!

I was worried about seeing completely different suggestions the other editor pointed out. I worried I wouldn’t know which editor was right and I’d lose faith in both editors. Well, when I opened up my file I saw the corrections were very infrequent. She changed comma placement, suggested some sentences could be made clearer by removing a few words, found a word I left in by accident when I made my last edits, and made a few editorial comments.

All in all, there was much less corrections than I anticipated. At first I wondered if that meant she wasn’t thorough but then I realized all the improvements she did point out where spot on. So then I realized that this was a great sign. It showed the first editor did a great job and the second editor agreed with her choices.

A few instances she pointed out things I went against the editor with and so I knew I had to change them. But I was very happy to see that the majority of things I did keep (against the first editors recommendations) the copy editor didn’t pick up on. Making me feel much better about going with my gut.

In conclusion, I feel very confident going forward. The fact I’ve had such a thorough and professional editor and then a great copy editor who picked up on the little things we’ve both missed, makes me feel fantastically ready to publish. The copy editor also told me that she and her partner really enjoyed reading my book and couldn’t wait to see what happened next!

I’ll probably do another read through before I send off to the book formatter, who I am still waiting on for a quote. This is all really moving forward so nicely.

PS- Would love to give you the name of the copy editor if you’re looking for one, just ask!

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So in the middle of this whole first self-publishing experience, I’m attempting to get my second novel of the series ready to quickly follow the first.I find myself going back (what feels like so long ago) to the first major edits of my first. So these are the things I’ve learned from so many terrific editing blogs out there:

1) Remove all the ‘just’s you can

2)Remove all the ‘that’s you can

3)Do an ‘ly’ search for adverbs and change them where you can

4) I tend to overuse the word ‘look’ so I do a search for those and change them

6) Tighten up unneeded words

7) Remove all unnecessary dialog tags

8 ) Cut the fat (take out anything that doesn’t move the story forward)

9) Change all ‘has pulled’ to ‘pulls’ or ‘is running’ to ‘runs’, even ‘comes running’ to ‘runs’

I’ve also started to go through all the things I learned from my editor so she doesn’t think I’m a lost cause. My goal is to have a lot less red on the pages with the next one.

It seems a never-ending process though because publishing the second makes me want to finish writing the third book so I can have that follow as well, but I’m only human! How can I be learning self-publishing, promoting, editing the second, AND writing the third! How do these prolific writers do it?

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Phew! I did it. I sent the corrected MS back to the editor for the second look through. She said she’d have it back to me in two weeks and then I’ll make the changes and ship it off to a second copy editor to make sure we caught everything.

But I didn’t change everything the editor suggested. Most of the time, I immediately saw that her suggestions improved my novel and implemented them, but there were some instances where I realized the change wasn’t right for what I wanted to convey to the reader.

Here are some examples of what I didn’t change:

1) I kept some ‘says’ and ‘continues’ in where I felt needed it, but I did try to take out as many as I could.

2) Some historic things she didn’t find in her research but I found support in more detailed non-fiction books.

3) She wanted to take out unneeded words and I thought it changed the flow or impact of the sentence so I kept them.

4) She made a suggestion to completely remove something that didn’t seem to have much relevance to this novel but it is something that will be mentioned throughout the next few books and explained in the last book.

5) Her suggestions sometimes showed me that she didn’t understand what I was trying to say and told me I needed to clarify the sentence better.

6) Also some of the suggestions she made went completely against some beta readers’ favorite parts. If you hear the same suggestions being made it tells you to change it, but if some of your readers love something I say you should keep it.

All in all, 95% of the time I made the changes. The last 5% I thought over and over about before I decided to keep my words in. But if I send it to the copy editor and she picks up on the same things I didn’t change, well then, I’ll probably make the changes since it’s obviously standing out in the wrong way.

Well, off to enjoy a little summer 🙂

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Ugh! I see why it takes a year to print an accepted novel to be traditionally published. I’m still working on this MS and I’ve been working on it every moment I can get! I can’t believe what a tedious process this is. I sympathize with editors since it must feel just as long to go through a novel, looking for every blessed error, and trying to give suggestions to correct them. It must feel twice as torturous to them because it’s not even their story!

So last night I finished all of the easy corrections (wahoo!) but I highlighted any areas the editor flagged for larger changes that I have to still work on 😦

Historical Inaccuracies– My editor was outstanding in that she even looked up all of my historical phrases, places, and objects (there are many!)  and double-checked to be sure I got them right. Some of these suggestions I have to go back into my research and be positive I have support to back me up, but I love the extra confidence that my historic details are strong.

Scene Building Although I thought I worked out all my scene building gaps from suggestions from workshops and beta readers, my editor found a few more areas where she felt a scene or a character needed more description. It’s easy to miss these sparse areas while writing since I have this whole world in my head so clearly that I can’t see where I forgot to guide the reader through. So I have to go back and try to describe what’s already there for me and try to do so in a descriptive and intriguing way.

Plot Holes- *Dum-da-dum-dum!* There are a few instances where my editor pointed out areas where illogical events, unlikely actions of characters, and statements that contradict earlier events in the storyline cropped up. These make my head spin! They are hard to accept because to me it all makes perfect sense, so the trick is that I have to figure out a way to convince the reader that it all makes sense. This means I might have to go back earlier in the story and put in more information to make a development seem more logical. Or I might have to put in some historic information to explain why I have my character act in a normal way for their time but not as likely for our time. Or I have to remove a contradiction or explain why my character is contradicting themselves. And if I can’t do any of these things, then I have to take it out entirely (ouch!) since it will pull the reader out of the book.

I really, really hate this part.

I’m desperately trying to finish all these improvements by tonight so that I can send my editor the MS back before I go away again. This will be my last vacation before the baby comes and it will be nice to get it off for my fabulous editor to complete the last look through. I’m not sure how long that will take but it feels so great putting my novel in her hands. And even though I doubt that she’s overlooked anything, I will still send the returned MS out to another copyeditor to be doubly sure that my book is in the best shape possible.

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First off–A DISCLAIMER–I’m not an editor nor do I have any editing background. Upon correcting my MS, I see these mistakes highlighted repeatedly by my editor and would like to pass it on to anyone else with grammatical disability*.

(I’m probably making grammatical mistakes even just explaining this to you.)

Like I’ve said before, I have tried…tried to learn how to revise every common mistake new writers make. I’ve read all the blogs on revising advice and I’m still so shocked that there were so many corrections! Well, maybe you can learn from me…hopefully I’m learning something through this all so that I won’t make these same mistakes with my next novel.

 

TOP MISTAKES I’VE MADE:

TOWARDS- I always spoke with a plural on the end of this one…note to self: it is toward.

COMMA BEFORE BUT- I thought it was a general rule that whenever you used but in a sentence, you needed a comma before it but not always so. Only if the group of words following the but is independent the comma is used. (Notice I didn’t use a comma above–there may be hope yet!)

DON’T OVERUSE EXCLAMATIONS! – Whenever my characters were upset, I used exclamations for the whole tangent when I’ve been told it is overkill. Use them sparingly and let your dialogue convey the anger instead.

CUT GARBAGE TAGS- These tags should be used sparingly: says, continues, and finishes.

CUT REDUNDANT ACTION- With actions such as ‘nods his head’ you should always cut out the obvious ‘his head’ since nods is self-explanatory. (I already knew this one but you’d be surprised how they disappear into the text)

NO SPACE AFTER ELLIPSIS- When using an ellipsis in a sentence there is no space between the end of the ellipsis and the next word.

POSSESSIVES- When you put a possessive at the end of a name that ends in an ‘s’ that doesn’t have the hard ‘z’ sound you must add an apostrophe ‘s’ to the ending. Example: Sokarisis’s dream chamber.

OVERUSING ‘THEN’ IN ACTION- My editor pointed out the abundance of ‘then’ in my action sequences and pointed out that it’s better to just allow the action to flow without it.

I HEAR, I FEEL, I SEE- It is extremely hard to resist using these when writing first person present, but as my editor pointed out using these makes someone feel like ‘they’re trapped in a long car ride with someone who is only talking about themselves.” Allow the reader to experience the action outside of the first person’s head as much as possible.

SLIPPING TENSES- I originally wrote my novel in first person past tense, but after a workshop everyone agreed it would feel much more immediate if it was in present tense. I seem to naturally write in past tense so I find whenever I rewrite I slip into past tense again. Thankfully, my amazing editor always found the slip-ups.

SEMI-COLONS AND COLONS- Still haven’t seemed to fully understand when they should be used. I get corrected 50% of the time…will have to study these more.

 

Oh well, that’s about all the grammatical talk I can tolerate. I still can’t fathom how people like my editor can just spot these things so perfectly. I have a feeling my disability has to do with my ADD, since I seem to get so hyper-focused into the story that I can over-look most errors. However, lucky for me, I have a superhero editor who will make it possible for me to self-publish in spite of my grammatical kryptonite.

*Don’t know if grammar disabilities do exist but I’m sure if there was a test, I just might qualify for it.

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