Yves Brown McClain: Literary Fierceness

Posts Tagged ‘Editing’

Writer Wednesday: Killing Your Story Softly #2

Posted by Dahlia on August 24, 2011

Killing your story softly 

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. However, I’m a reader first. I love reading books as much I enjoy writing them. I have found from both the reader’s and writer’s perspective that there are things an author can do to a book that could place it in urgent care, ICU, or just flat out kill it altogether. Based on feedback from both writers and readers the Killing Your Story Softly (KYSS) Series was born.  So, you ready? LEGGO!


KYSS #2: Cause of story death was determined to be lack of edit

Here is a re-enactment of a conversation an anonymous writer had with her friend who is also a writer. Writer A wrote a story, Writer B was acting as a critique partner. The dialogue isn’t word for word, but you’ll get the point.


Writer A: I think I’m ready to get this thing published.

Writer B: You’re ready. It’s a great story.

Writer A: Thanks. I think between your comments and my red sharpie, I’m as ready as I’m gonna be.

Writer B: Trust me on this. Don’t do it. You could shoot yourself in the foot if you don’t have it edited. I’ll give you my editor’s number. She’ll catch things that we missed.


Okay, I’ll admit that writer A was me. (Gasp!) If you go through previous posts, you’ll find how much I believe in NEVER editing your own work. So, why was I now taking this hypocritical stand?

Well, the piece I put together was short. Coming in at under 24K, I felt the word count was low enough that between me and my sharpie, the critique of Writer B, and my endearing Beta Babies that were doing a test read, I could circumvent the professional substantive edit.

Second, I was anxious. I really wanted to give “the people” (the millions of imaginary fans I’d envisioned downloading my novella in droves) something to read. Put a little literary gem into the universe while I completed revisions on my full-length novel and put THAT one through the professional edit.

Writer B was having NONE of that. Despite it’s length, it needed an edit. If not for typos and grammar, at least for structure and flow. Without proper editing, I was taking a huge chance that the gem I was putting out would turn out to be a cubic zirconia, not a diamond.

I once read an book by an author whose work I really like. But, the story wasn’t edited very well. She grossly misspelled a well known fashion label. I was able to move past it because the story was good but it was almost like that movie Showgirls where Jessi (I know that’s her Saved By The Bell character name) called the dress she was wearing “Ver-sayse”. Epic fail. The typos I remember about as much as the plot itself. Thing is, not every reader is as forgiving as me. For some, this can be considered a critical error. Critical story errors can turn people off and not only will they never read another book of yours, they’ll tell their friends.

Am I suggesting you run every piece by a professional editor? Not really. If you’re posting a flash-fiction piece, a poem you came up with at 3am, or a writing exercise on your blog or website just for fun or to give your readership a “lil’ something something”, just as long as you pull out your sharpie, read it aloud, and hit spellcheck, you can get away with it. Besides, at the frequency blogs are updated, there’s not a lot of time for it. And most of us don’t even have the resources.

BUT for work you want to publish AND/OR sell, skipping this step could be a shot to the foot or worse. Now will that editor catch it ALL? No. I’ve put the novel I’ve been working on through a professional edit before and she caught the vast majority of my mistakes. But, she missed a couple of tiny things, like a comma here and there. Stuff like that won’t kill you as it didn’t interrupt the flow of the book. However, cracks in story development, plot holes, typos, and tense-jumping might pronounce your work DOA.

So, I’ve been in touch with a few potential editors to go through my novella. So, while I’m not able to cross that published bridge yet, it’ll be worth it to wait because I really want this story to be known for its plot and characters, NOT for that major story flaw halfway through it or the little annoying things like redundant words or not being descriptive enough. Oh, and to Writer B? Thanks again. You saved my writing aspirations from potential death or brain damage from lack of edit.


Now it’s your turn. My beloved readers, what things have you come across in books that have made you scratch your head or just throw the book in the garbage? For my writer peeps, what pitfalls are you avoiding so that your work will be its best effort possible? I’d like to know. Perhaps your story pet peeve will make the “KYSS of death” list. Happy writing and happy reading 🙂

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To the Cloud! (part two)

Posted by Dahlia on March 2, 2011

Yesterday, I shared my experience with using Elance to find my copyeditor. Elance, like guru.com or Odesk, is a virtual network of freelance workers in a variety of fields (web design, marketing, programming, virtual assistant, writing/editing) seeking work on a contract basis. These contractors come from all over the world and compete for business by placing bids on projects for individuals and businesses that either have a temporary need or may not have the resources to hire someone on a permanent basis. If you are in need of a copyeditor, web designer, or any resource to assist you in your writing or marketing, it is worth considering using a source like Elance. Definitely do your due diligence first, so you don’t wind up losing money to a contractor that is inexperienced or a website that claims to match you up with a contractor but in actuality, will rip you off. Below are a few tips if you decide to go “to the cloud”.

1. You get what you pay for: There are some copyeditors out there that will edit your MS for a few hundred dollars. However, they will likely be inexperienced or just not that good. You can find a good copyeditor without breaking your bank. Just be realistic about your budget. Definitely be specific in your RFP (request for proposal) and ask the potential editor questions about their experience, turnaround time, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask for samples. The good ones will be more than willing to share, if they don’t already have it in their online portfolios.

2. Be mindful of language/cultural barriers: Once you submit your RFP, expect proposals from everywhere – America, UK, India, Australia, etc. While all are English-speaking, there are differences in wording and language. I had one bidder mistake my reference to a “two-story house” as a “second-story flat” and my sample pages were changed to reflect that.

3. Check his/her credentials: There are a ton of copyeditors out there, but not every copyeditor is the same. I had several bids from very experienced editors, however their experience was limited to textbooks or business editing. If you need a novel edited, make sure the person you choose has experience in creative writing and/or editing fiction. Basically, find the editor that will best suit your need.

4. Listen to your gut. I knew pretty much instantly when I got the bid from my editor that I was going to choose her. She was interested in the story, had the experience, and was within budget and timing. She connected with me and was very personable, even though we only communicated by email and the Elance workspace.

5. As always, read the fine print and make sure you understand the terms of the agreement you’re making with the person you’ve chosen. Most of the contractors will have contracts ready because like you, they need to protect themselves. One good thing about Elance is that they will get involved in dispute resolution if an issue were to arise between you and the contractor.

Finding a copyeditor in this manner isn’t for everyone. Some writers need to at least speak with the editor over the phone if not meet with them face to face. Some are leery of sending money through the internet. Elance, by the way, has a system called escrow – where you deposit the funds and it stays there until the project is completed (or whatever the terms of your agreement are with the contactor), then the money is released upon reaching milestones or completion of the project. Escrow isn’t necessary for every project though. However, it’s nice to know it’s there because you know the contractor isn’t paid until the work is done and the contractor knows that he/she will be paid because the money is being “held” in a safe, secure place. The other contract/freelance sites likely have a similar service.

Whatever route you choose with the editing of your manuscript, be it virtual or traditional, these tips should be of some help. Editing is a “must do” for the serious writer. It’s your story, so it is important to find an editor that will enhance your work and improve your writing.

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To the Cloud! (part one)

Posted by Dahlia on March 1, 2011

I mentioned in my “acceptance speech” for the Stylish Blogger award that I’m a huge fan of color ultra-fine point Sharpies. They are great aids for when I do edits. I consider myself to be a good editor; I keep my style guide handy and have some professional experience editing. It can be easy to believe that because of this, I am capable of editing my WIP, right? That would be a negative.

Here’s why: Writers tend to know their works – left, right, backwards, forwards, upside down, and sideways. We know exactly what that MC is going to say and the setting that it’s said in. Because we know our stories, our minds trick us into seeing words that we just knew we typed in. In our minds, the story flows like it’s supposed to and every character and scene makes sense. We are no longer objective, which can make us the worst kind of editor, much like a doctor is the worst patient. A writer who edits without outside help can wind up producing a book so littered with typos, grammar issues, and plot holes a reader can’t get past a few chapters. Which is never a good look, especially if it’s your first book. ( I did not intend for that to rhyme, by the way.)

I knew that I needed a copyeditor. I also knew a copyeditor can get expensive. It was an investment that needed to be made, but I wasn’t prepared to spend more on an editor than what I pay in household expenses each month. So, I decided to turn to the “cloud”. Or Elance, one of many freelance websites filled with well-qualified contractors competing for work.

It was fairly easy to do. I put in a description of my project, the timeframe for completion, attached the first few pages of my WIP to give the prospects an idea of what I was doing, and set my budget. Within a matter of minutes, I was set up. Within a few hours, I had 10 proposals. I got so inundated with proposals, I had to stop taking bids once I passed 40 within 24 hours. There was no way I could take bids for two weeks. It would’ve been overwhelming.

After a few days of going through proposals, weeding out the ones that were charging way too little (you do get what you pay for, after all) and ones that didn’t meet my criteria, I had it narrowed down to two editors that both took an immediate interest in my story and impressed me with their portfolios. However, one stood out by asking me some very pointed questions, such as to what my end-goal for the book was and explaining her process. She even returned my sample pages with a sample edit. A few others did this as well, but she did it best. Because of her qualifications, professionalism, and genuine desire to assist me with my WIP, she won the bid and became my copyeditor. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I made in regards to this book. She not only edited for grammar and spelling, she edited for style and flow. She pointed out issues with the story from the perspective of a reader. She gave me a ton of suggestions to improve the work. Ultimately, the story was an improvement based on her edits and feedback.

I will follow up with a few tips for picking a copyeditor for your WIP, especially if you go the virtual contractor route like I did. I did my research before diving in and I found it to be well worth the expense. Plus, can you say tax deduction? As the girl in the Microsoft commercial says when she finds she can watch the DVR recording of Celebrity Probation on her laptop at the airport…”Yaaay, cloud!”

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