A Thank-You Letter to My Dad on Father’s Day

John F. Yardas, EdD and Candace (15 months old)
John F. Yardas, EdD and Candace (15 months old)

Dear Dad,

Because you’re a self-declared technophobe, you won’t read this today, but I’ll send you a printed copy via snail mail. I may be using all my techie-toys (laptop, printer, and my WordPress blog) to write this, but the message is very old-school: without you, I would never be following my dream today.

You see, I’m finally pursuing a passion I’ve had for my whole life. Remember when I’d spend hours in my room reading books and writing to pen pals? You and Mom humored me for the most part, but every so often, my bedroom door would fly open and you’d bellow, “It’s time to go outside for some fresh air!”

I hated when you did that, Dad, because invariably I was lost in a world you couldn’t have known. A word where magical things happened to imaginary people—and it didn’t matter to me whether those magical things happened in the books I read or the letters I received. I couldn’t get enough of those worlds beyond my door, and I really have to credit you for that as well.

For as far back as I can remember, your nose was always in a book or magazine. I can close my eyes and see you sitting in your chair in the living room, glasses perched on your nose and a book balanced on your lap; you always had your legs crossed (I wonder if that’s a genetic trait, because I can’t seem to sit without doing the same). I can’t remember the titles of any of the books, but I clearly remember the Look and Life magazines; you and Mom read those cover-to-cover, and I loved looking at the photos, too, until I was old enough to read the words.

Yes, you instilled in me a love for reading, but more than that, you instilled a love for writing. I seldom shared my little stories with you because I feared your disapproval, but I wrote them nonetheless, and even though you didn’t read them, you certainly influenced them. The letters I wrote to pen pals all over the world were a form of creative writing, too, as were the journals I meticulously kept, and later, as I worked on essays and research projects in school, I learned many valuable lessons about writing styles and rules and authors and grammar and . . . the list goes on and on.

Having a father who is a perfectionist and a schoolteacher is difficult for a child, but I suspect having that father is the reason I was constantly proofreading cereal boxes, street signs, and letters from those pen pals on the other side of the world, and why I was always drawn to helping others with their writing. When it came time for college, practicality won out and I convinced myself that I wasn’t good enough, that I could never make a living as a writer, so I went a different direction and never looked back.

Until a few years ago when my midlife-crisis-self decided it was time to follow my heart for a change. (Thank goodness that crazy lady finally spoke up!) My love of writing and grammar and teaching and helping others all came together, and today I have a wonderful career as a freelance editor and writer. Pat yourself on the back, Dad, because your example is what led me down that path:

  • the example you set as a teacher who expected the best from every student you taught showed me that everyone has the ability to find just a little bit more inside himself or herself;
  • the example you set as a parent who expected nothing less than perfection made me into a perfectionist, which is a noble quality for a proofreader (although less so for a writer, I’m afraid—anxiety tends to kick in when perfectionism rears its ugly head);
  • the example you set as a reader taught me that words are a precious commodity to be respected and revered, whether one is reading The Little Engine That Could or The Godfather or an algebra text (that last one took a few extra years to appreciate, by the way);
  • the example you set as a parent helped me pass my own love of reading and writing to my children and grandchildren; I can’t express the joy I felt when my eighteen-month-old granddaughter pulled me into her room to read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom—a book I gave her!

So on this Father’s Day, Dad, I just want to say thank you for sharing your love of words with that little girl who loved to crawl up into your lap and listen to you read aloud. You gave me a gift that has continued to shower me with happiness for all these years, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Now please, Dad, won’t you consider putting aside your fear of technology and just consider an e-reader? You’d make gift-giving so much easier!

Love, Candace

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Dream a Dream

to-freelanceIn a previous post, I shared some of the reasons that went into my decision to become a full-time freelance editor a little over a year ago. I had a dream that I could make a living by editing for authors I truly cared about, and I’ve turned that dream into a reality. When I posted that blog, I received numerous comments, including this one that inspired the post you’re now reading:

“Have you ever turned down an editing assignment? What parameters do you set for yourself in considering assignments? For a brief time when I considered going full time freelance, the fear of having to take any and all assignments always brought me up short. Currently I have a day job that I’m happy with, but I’ve always wondered how freelancers manage their workload. Personally, I know that if I were totally reliant on freelance work, I would find it impossible to say “no” to anything.”

So here goes:

“Have you ever turned down an editing assignment?”

Yes, I have. I always offer a sample edit to authors who are looking for line editing or proofreading; occasionally, a writer who swears his manuscript needs nothing more than a spell check sends a sample that is clearly in need of more substantial editing.

If a manuscript is so full of major flaws that it reads more like a first draft, I won’t take the job. Correcting grammar or misspelled words won’t help a manuscript that is in need of major revision, and I would rather lose the work than take someone’s money when I know I am not really helping him or her. Continue reading “Dream a Dream”

How to (Almost) Instantly Improve Your Writing

ID-10053750If you are serious about your writing, you’ve probably searched for the magic formula that will guarantee publication of your work. I hate to be the one to break this to you, but there is no magic formula.

Writing is hard. Writing well is hard work. Writing well enough to see your work published takes time, dedication, ruthless editing, and yes, a bit of luck.

Luck isn’t something you have much control over . . . but you do have control over time, dedication, and ruthless editing.

Millions of words have been written about finding and making time to write, so you’re probably working on that, and you’re already dedicated to your craft or you wouldn’t be reading Stephen King’s On Writing and searching blogs for ideas on how to make a living in this crazy business.

That leaves ruthless editing as your ticket to instantly improving your writing.

How does that work, exactly?

I’m glad you asked.

The #1 way to become a better writer is to edit someone else’s writing.

In a wonderful post about writing in a way that makes people feel, Guy Bergstrom writes:

You learn to write by editing, and you learn to edit by taking a red pen to what other people write. Where we need to switch it up is how we edit. Not line by line. Don’t worry about pretty sentences. Worry about pretty BONES. The bodywork of the car matters a helluva lot less than the engine that makes it go. Focus on the engine.”

We writers spend a great deal of time crafting a sentence so it says exactly what we want it to say. The tendency to overwrite is a common mistake, especially when we’re first starting out, but it’s something we can overcome with time and a lot of practice.

Ruthless editing, then, means going back and deleting all the fluff; it means breaking the story down and building it back up again; it means returning to writing basics. Need a few ideas on where to begin?

In Creative Writing with the Crimson League, Victoria Gefer writes:

Remember, the most basic rule of editing, on the most basic level, is always this:

Any word that doesn’t need to be in a sentence shouldn’t be.

Remember rule two of editing:

Never distort your writing into something that’s worse than using a common, go-to phrase. Don’t change “weak” style points on principle; change them when you can see a clear way to make your writing better by changing them: a way to be clearer, simpler, and less redundant.”

Once you’ve revised your work, it’s time to get some perspective on it. Remember this:

The #1 way to become a better writer is to edit someone else’s writing.

I edit other people’s work for a living, and I can honestly say that every piece I’ve worked on has been a learning experience in some way. Reading, as we all know, is a wonderful way to learn how other writers write, but I encourage you to edit another writer’s work; there’s nothing like it for learning about your own style and foibles.

One of the best articles I’ve read about peer editing is by Oliver Gray at LiteratureAndLibation.com:

Editing another writer’s work will improve your writing. It gives you a chance to read all kinds of stuff you might not see otherwise, but also gives you a chance to see what mistakes other writers are making. Editing gives you the chance to learn from other people’s lessons, dissect how a writer created an image or a theme or a tone.”

So there you have it in a nutshell: editing another writer’s writing will improve your own, because editing forces you to look at writing from a completely different point of view. Whether you join an online critique group like Scribophile or reach out to a fellow writer you met on WordPress, I encourage you to learn about writing in a different way by editing someone else’s writing.

As Oliver Gray wrote to me, “Man, editing and revisions is way harder than actually writing!” And he’s right! Writing is the fun part; editing and revising are what make you a better writer. Almost instantly!

Have you done any peer editing? Have you found your own writing improves after editing someone else’s work? What valuable insights have you gained from the process?

Happy Writing,

Candace

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 Image courtesy of  http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Ideas_and_Decision_M_g409-Question_Mark_On_Jigsaw_Puzzle_p53750.html

You Never Know How Strong You Are Until Being Strong Is the Only Choice You Have

discover-your-strengths1Life is full of challenges. Sometimes they are minor, like trying to explain to your children (for the thirteenth time) why they can’t have a puppy because you don’t want the responsibility (“But Mom, we promise we’ll walk it and feed it and play with it—you won’t have to do a thing!”).

Sometimes the challenges are much more, well, challenging.

Like mourning the passing of a loved one, or receiving another rejection letter for the piece you poured your heart and soul into, or suffering a stroke at age 12. Those are the types of challenges that can send us over the edge if we don’t know how to consciously access our resilience.

Maybe it has something to do with the alignment of the moon and the stars—who really knows?—but I feel like the past week has been a particularly challenging one for many of the bloggers I follow. Phillip McCollum wrote about a writer’s paralysis in “I’m Not Good Enough” (includes a great Ira Glass quotation, too); Hermania Chow discussed self-esteem in “5 More Things Writers Need to Stop Doing”; J. Keller Ford shared her perplexing relationship with her adult daughter in “A Demon of the Past Is Destroying the Present and I’m the Scapegoat . . . Again.”

We often beat ourselves up over what we didn’t do, what we “should” have done instead. I’m always reminded of my late mother when I hear the word “should.” She would remind me that, in her opinion, it is one of the most useless and debilitating words in the English language. Think about that for a moment, and ask yourself if the “shoulds” in your life are keeping you from being your best self.

“I should let the kids have that puppy.”

“I should be writing.”

“I should be able to get through the day without being sad about Dad’s passing—it’s been a year, after all.”

“I should have finished by now . . . should be more established as a freelance writer . . . should be able to write a blog post every day . . .” Yes, we can “should” ourselves into feeling like failures, but by consciously accessing our resilience, we can stop listening to those negative voices and turn our challenges into character-building markers.

I was prompted to write this post when I received an email yesterday from Patricia O’Gorman, the author of The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power. After her own especially challenging week, Dr. O’Gorman was more than thrilled to receive a great review for her book, which reminded her that no matter what happens to us, if we access our personal power, we can overcome just about anything. There is something in this book for every man, woman, and child who ever suffered from self-doubt.

The book’s reviewer (from MyShelf.com) wrote:

There is a test to see where you fall on the resilience scale. Take it, it really is informative. O’Gorman’s words are empowering.

You will really get a lot out of this book and want to pass it on. But be sure to put your name in it, because you will definitely want it back to refer to later when you start thinking your ‘girly thoughts’!”

I hope you’ll take my mom’s advice and lose the “shoulds” in your life. You are strong and resilient, and even when you’re having a bad day (or two or three), remember: you are stronger than you think you are.

Yes, you are.

Now go out there and have an amazing week!

Happy Writing,

Candace

If you enjoyed this article, please consider subscribing so you’ll never miss a post! It’s easy: Just enter your email address on the right side of this page. And please know that I’ll never sell, share, or rent your contact information—that’s a promise!

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Post title is a quote from an unknown author.

Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be.

4 Easy Ways Self-Publishing Authors Can Save Money on Professional Editing

ID-100123723Self-publishing can be expensive. Between editing, cover design, formatting, printing, and marketing, you can spend a small fortune if you aren’t careful. Even if you’re a DIY author who controls every aspect of the process, there are many (expensive) costs associated with bringing your work to the world. Finding ways to cut those costs can become an important part of your learning curve as a self-publishing author. (And no, skipping the professional editing isn’t one of those ways.)

Estimates for the whole self-publishing enchilada range from several hundred to several thousands of dollars—and one of the biggest expenses is typically the editing. But professional, quality editing doesn’t have to put a huge hole in your wallet. The best editing money can buy is available at a fraction of the cost many writers pay when you use the B.E.S.T. system.

                                       B is for Beta readers

                                       E is for Editing your own work

                                       S is for Sample edit

                                       T is for Talk to your editor

1. B is for Beta readers who can give your constructive feedback on what is and isn’t working in your manuscript. This is an opportunity to see how others interpret your work—how readers will respond. You get so close to your work that you cannot be as objective as you need to be. Patterns of error, plot holes, undeveloped characters, run-on sentences, subject-verb disagreements, and punctuation gaffes are all fair game for a beta reader or writing workshop buddy. Correct the grammar and punctuation errors, and use the suggestions that make sense to you. Don’t feel compelled to make a change that doesn’t respect your authorial voice or one that doesn’t improve your work.

2. E is for Editing your own work. After you receive feedback from your beta readers, writing workshop partner, or other writers, go back and re-edit one more time. Anything you can fix before turning your manuscript over to an editor will save you time and money in the long run. Self-editing techniques like printing out your work and editing on paper, or reading backward from the end of your manuscript to the beginning, are just two ways scores of writers edit their work and catch mistakes. Check out the related articles below for some other great ideas.

3. S is for Sample edit, which you should get before you decide on an editor. Blindly hiring someone because he’s inexpensive or she knows your mother isn’t a wise business decision. Reviewing a sample edit will give you a huge insight into a particular editor’s knowledge and ability. Every editor has a slightly different approach to editing, and this is a quick way to see if your expectations and his or her style are a good match. “He charged a small fortune but I hated what he did to my work” is something no author should ever have to say.

4. T is for Talk to your editor. The relationship between a writer and his or her editor is based on communication and trust. When editing is a collaborative effort, you learn what works and what doesn’t in your writing, which will allow you to make your own corrections on this manuscript as well as build your writing skills going forward. Make it clear to your editor that you are on a tight budget and want guidance on self-editing; for example, if your sample edit indicates you use commas incorrectly, go back through your manuscript with a style guide or other reference material in hand and correct as many of those commas as possible before turning the manuscript over for editing. One missing or incorrectly placed comma won’t make a difference in your editing bill, but dozens and dozens of them in addition to everything else can really add up in a novel-length manuscript.

When you follow these four points, your manuscript will be in the best shape you are able to make it and your editing dollars will go much farther. Even when you’re on a tight budget, there’s no excuse to publish your book without having it professionally edited and proofread. You have to be smart about how you spend your money; develop a plan and follow the B.E.S.T. points to make sure your manuscript is the best it can be!

What other way have you found to save money on professional editing? Have you traded critiques with another writer, or hired an editor to coach you through a rough spot? Please share your stories, which might even help a fellow writer save a few editing dollars!

Happy Writing,

Candace

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Manuscript Editing Demystified

I was invited by Shonda Brock, author of the paranormal romance Eternal Traces, to help demystify the editing process for new authors as well as to share some tips on how to edit your book and how to find the right professional editor.

Shonda asked some great questions; here’s one with my answer as a sneak peek, and then I invite you to jump over to The Paranormal Blog and read the rest.

What do you find are the most common mistakes writers make? Most writers fall into a pattern of error that they aren’t even aware of. When we don’t know we are doing something incorrectly, we just keep repeating the same mistake. If you have a tendency to use dangling modifiers, for example, you probably use them quite frequently. The same can be said for comma splices, run-on sentences, and of course, punctuation, which is almost everyone’s Achilles heel. I was the queen of semicolons before I learned how to use them correctly!

Shonda asked some great questions, including “What are your thoughts on authors using beta readers before sending a manuscript to a professional editor?” and “How much can a writer expect to spend to have an average length novel professionally edited?”, so please head over to The Paranormal Blog to learn more, and don’t forget to check out Shonda’s paranormal romance Eternal Traces!

Thanks for stopping by, and happy writing!

—Candace

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What a Difference a Year Makes

ID-100126906In May of 2012, I made a decision I’d been contemplating for some time: I hung out my shingle as a full-time freelance editor and writer.

I had been working as a senior editor at a small traditional publisher. I was very excited about how different my working life would be as a freelancer. But giving up that steady paycheck—well, that was a horse of a different color, as they say.

My passion was working with writers and their words, and sadly, the economics of traditional publishing had caused my job to morph into something that left me little time to do that. My days were spent on so many things other than editing, and I grew more and more frustrated.

I finally realized that if things were going to change, I would have to be the one to change them.

So I did, and I’ve never looked back. Was it scary? Yes, it was—and it still is. But in hindsight, I only have one regret: I wish I’d done it sooner. Becoming a freelance editor and writer is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Today, I have the freedom to work on projects that I’m excited about. I have the variety of working with writers on their novels, their memoirs, their self-help books, their blog posts, their articles for magazines and websites. I even had the opportunity to write a comedic speech, which was a great challenge but SO much fun! Every day I have the opportunity to work with authors who are among the most dedicated and creative people I’ve ever met. And the best part is that I can now call those people my friends.

It’s been a year since I decided to start Change It Up Editing and Writing Services, and it’s been a fantastic twelve months. Thank you to all the writers who trusted me with their amazing words, and thanks to all of YOU who read this blog. I never dreamed I’d have so much FUN!

—Candace

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my blog and you’ll never miss a post! It’s easy: Just enter your email address on the right side of this page. And please know that I’ll never sell, share, or rent your contact information—that’s a promise!

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Image courtesy of africa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be.

Turning Life's Lemons into Limoncello

LemonsLimoncelloToday is the official release of Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy by Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner. It’s a guidebook for finding self-acceptance, comfort, courage, and personal renewal on the heels of adversity—Italian style. Here’s what Steve Parillo, CEO of Parillo Tours, has to say:

Perhaps life has knocked you down one too many times. Or maybe you’ve just gone ‘stale.’ Dr. Mautner is part philosopher, part psychologist, part life coach—but entirely Italian. She offers Italian-style therapy: food, family, friends, and fun—a recipe for your own, personal renaissance. What would Freud say if he was Italian? Here’s your answer!”

The challenges we face over the course of a lifetime, especially those that involve major personal loss, can seem devastating, as radio personality and self-help specialist Dr. Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner discovered when her husband suddenly and unexpectedly died of a heart attack. The Italian rituals and lifestyle habits she grew up with—and later began researching—were instrumental in helping her stay grounded, feel comforted, and be gently redirected to a new path of joy and the next level of her own personal transformation.

At some point in our lives, most of us will experience the kind of personal devastation that accompanies something as devastating as the death of a loved one. But the loss of a job, a home, a pet, finances, health, a friendship or even the loss of one’s self-esteem can send us into a tailspin, too.

When in the throes of such challenges, it is hard to believe that we will ever enjoy life again, let alone possibly come away with the courage to live the next phase of our lives with deeper appreciation and clarity. Lemons into Limoncello offers a front-row seat to the Italian ability to arrangiarsi (get by) through elevating ordinary events to the extraordinary, and is the first self-help book to prescribe a traditional Italian cultural approach as a pathway to one’s own personal renaissance at a time when it is most needed.

Lemons were as big as footballs. And twice we ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the editor of this unique self-help book, I assure you that this is a book you’ll refer to many times in your life. And it’s one you’ll want to hand to a friend who is ready to move forward after adversity of any sort. The tone is warm and inclusive, and you’ll feel like you’re sitting at the author’s kitchen table with a cup of espresso and a biscotti (the recipe is in the book) as she shares her thoughts, wisdom, and advice.

You can learn more about the author:

Here’s one more review, this one from a NetGalley reviewer, to whet your appetite for this amazing book:

I truly enjoyed reading Mautner’s book Lemons into Limoncello. Not only did it have recipes, but it also had some wisdom in how to move on after disaster strikes no matter what type. She was able to weave her own story of painful loss of her husband untimely death along with her helpful tips for allowing the healing process to enfold in her life. Read this book, it is amazing. You will get some great recipes and great wisdom from a woman who has had her own journey.”  —Jamie Holloway, NetGalley

Update May 29, 2013: Connecticut Style television interview with the author about the book: http://tinyurl.com/owml57h 

Update June 18, 2013: Slideshow on Beliefnet.com: http://www.beliefnet.com/Health/Find-Happiness-and-Health-the-Italian-Way.aspx

 

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Happy Reading!

—Candace