Readers for Writers: Beta Readers, the Superheroes of Your Writing Team

 Beta ReadersIf adding “Published Author” after your name is one of your goals, you’re probably itching to polish the NaNoWriMo manuscript or a WIP that is marinating on your hard drive  and send it out into the world.

But don’t just run a final spellcheck and pronounce your work ready for publication.

If you are serious about publishing, your first readers should be beta readers.

And just what is a beta reader?

Think of beta readers as superhero partner/readers for your WIP. Correctly employed, your superheroes can save you time and money. How? I’m glad you asked! Continue reading “Readers for Writers: Beta Readers, the Superheroes of Your Writing Team”

Self-Editing Checklist for Fiction Writers Part II: Micro Issues

Self-Editing Checklist for Fiction Writers Whether you plan to self-publish or try for a traditional publishing contract, your post-writing/prepublication steps begin the same way. In Self-Editing Checklist for Fiction Writers: Macro Issues, we looked at some “big picture” strategies you can use for your first round of revisions and self-edits. In this continuation, we’ll consider the smaller details, the “small-tooth comb” review, that every writer should consider before declaring a manuscript ready for the copyeditor.

As you may recall, addressing a manuscript’s macro issues includes reviewing for global details, like how the characters develop over the course of the story and whether or not the story arc works; micro issues include sentence structure and word choices.

When checking a manuscript for macro issues, here are some points (in no particular order) to consider: Continue reading “Self-Editing Checklist for Fiction Writers Part II: Micro Issues”

Self-Editing Checklist for Fiction Writers Part I: Macro Issues

Self-Editing ChecklistWhether you plan to self-publish or try for a traditional publishing contract, your post-writing/prepublication steps should be the same:

  1. Pat yourself on the back for completing your manuscript, and then put it away for a few weeks.
  2. Once you’re ready to begin self editing, review your outline (if you have one) to refresh your memory about your original plans; this step will help you remember, for example, that the character who was originally named “Mary” was later changed to “Marie,” so you can do a search to be sure they were all changed. It will also help you if (when!) you begin moving chapters around.
  3. Run a spell-checker and grammar checker. Be careful, though—don’t automatically assume the computer software will catch all your mistakes. Here’s a fun example of correctly spelled words that prove the point:

I have a spelling chequer,

It came with my pea sea,

It plainly marks four my revue,

Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

(read more at http://www.future-perfect.co.uk/grammartips/spell-checker.asp)

Now it’s time to begin going through your manuscript with a fine-tooth comb. For most writers, moving from macro to micro works best, but if you’re easily distracted by minutia, you might want to reverse the process.

I’ll cover micro issues in another post. Macro issues include big-picture concepts, like how the characters develop over the course of the story and whether or not the story arc works; micro issues include sentence structure and word choices.

When checking a manuscript for macro issues, here are some points to consider:

When checking a manuscript for macro issues, here are some points to consider: #amediting… Click To Tweet

Continue reading “Self-Editing Checklist for Fiction Writers Part I: Macro Issues”

How to Survive “The Shock”: Your First Round of Editing

When writers have their manuscripts professionally edited for the first time, they often experience “The Shock.”

I’m talking about that moment when you open the document, fully prepared to see a few red lines here and there (because, of course, the reason you hired a professional editor in the first place was to find ways to improve a few sentences, catch a misspelled word or two, and clean up some punctuation).

What you didn’t expect was this:The Shock Your First Round of Editing

Yikes! What happened?

When an editor returns an edited document to you, the first thing you should do before you open it is TAKE A DEEP BREATH.

Believe it or not, as an editor, I’m as nervous about sending that marked-up document as you are about receiving it. I want you to feel that hiring me to edit your manuscript was one of the wisest decisions you’ve made on your path toward publication.

What I don’t want is for you to open the document, take one look at all the red lines, close the document, and give up—on you or on me as your editor.

The shock of seeing an edited manuscript can be especially overwhelming for writers. #writetip… Click To Tweet

I know the shock of seeing an edited manuscript can be especially overwhelming for writers who have never hired a professional editor before. I try to mitigate the shock in several ways in my cover letter; I explain the nuts and bolts so you understand how I use Microsoft Word’s track changes and comments features; I also explain my method for “talking” to you in the text itself. I point out the strengths I find in your manuscript as well as recurring issues you might not be aware of, like a tendency to overuse a phrase or too many dialogue tags. Above all, I try to be encouraging and convey both my respect for your author’s voice and my goal of helping you create the best manuscript possible.

I also write that my suggestions are just that—suggestions—and the ultimate decision about whether or not to accept them belongs to you, the author.

But I know how it can feel when you open that document and see a sea of red. Somehow, you just weren’t expecting to see that many corrections and suggestions.  As author Rinelle Grey puts it, “Every time I get an edit back, even a sample one, it hurts.”

Here are some points to remember when you look at a professionally edited manuscript:

  • This Is a No-Judgment Zone: When you read through your editor’s comments and look at each change he/she has made, keep in mind that the editor is judging the manuscript, not you. Maggie at Maggie Madly Writing writes, “Editors’ comments are to be taken as constructive feedback, not as an insult. Too many writers get defensive and claim that an editor has it in for them, when that is certainly not the case. . . . A good editor has to be able to justify every change or comment she makes. If an editor puts a comma inside of quotation marks, it may seem like a small, nitpicky change. But there’s a legitimate reason. He’ll gladly explain his reasoning.
  • We’re All in This Together: When I’m working with an author, I’m wearing my team-member hat. My goal is to make your work shine, so every correction I make, every word choice I query, every comment I add have the same goal: to help you polish every sentence to make it the best it can be.

One of the reasons I always offer a no-obligation sample edit to a potential author/client is to take away some of that edited-manuscript shock. In addition to having a way of determining if I’m the right editor for you, a sample edit prepares you just what “editing” means for your manuscript.

Editors who do nothing are great for an author’s ego. But, believe it or not, there are errors in your manuscript—of internal logic, of grammar, and of sense. There always are. Trust me, you don’t want your readers (or reviewers) to point out your mistakes.” (Thanks to Erica Verrillo at Publishing and Other Forms of Insanity for that quote.)

  • You Are Now a Stronger Writer: One of the benefits of having your manuscript professionally edited is that you learn a great deal about writing in general and your own writing in particular. It’s sometimes difficult to accept that someone else’s suggestion for structuring a sentence does make for a stronger sentence, but don’t get hung up on “winning.” A good editor is one who doesn’t just follow a set of rules; a good editor puts his or her own ego aside and works with you to strengthen your voice and style. As Erica Verrillo writes:

Don’t slavishly follow every suggestion. Use your judgment. On the other hand, don’t, don’t, don’t tell them to sod-off—even mentally. They may be right. Take a step back from your manuscript, take a deep breath, and then exercise your skill as a writer. Make your manuscript shine as only you can—with their guidance. If the editor is good, the final product will be well worth it.”

As you review your edited manuscript, don’t be afraid to question anything you don’t understand. Wondering why “affect” was changed to “effect”? Confused by the comment “passive voice”? Unsure about deleting that entire paragraph the editor marked as “redundant”? Ask. Ask lots of questions. Be sure you are comfortable with the suggested changes before you accept them, and be sure you understand what the editor is suggesting or querying and why. Your WIP will be a better read for it, and I’ll bet your next manuscript won’t come back with as much red as the first one did.

I’d love to hear about the first time you opened an edited manuscript: were you concerned by all the red lines? Did you expect as many changes? Did you feel the editor respected your voice? And if you’ve been through the process more than once, what advice would you offer a fellow writer who is ready to hire an editor?

Happy Writing,

Candace

If you enjoyed reading this, please subscribe to my blog and 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!

And if you want more great writing and publishing information, check out my Facebook page at Change It Up Editing and Writing Services, where I share all kinds of interesting articles and links.

 

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.

 

How to Save Money on Editing by Preparing Your Manuscript

Most writers understand the importance of professional editing. Whether you plan to query agents and editors or self-publish your work, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

You’ve finished revising and self-editing your manuscript, and you’re ready to send it to the copyeditor of your choice. You just attach the file to an email and press send, right?

Oh please, no, don’t do that! You’ll make so much extra work for your editor if you do that—and you’ll spend more money in the process. Allow me to explain.

Your editor estimates the amount of time it will take to edit your manuscript based on the sample you submitted; time equals money, so the more time the editor has to spend making changes, the more money you will spend.

Don't spend your editing dollars on clerical tasks you can do yourself! Click To Tweet

Why spend editing dollars to have someone fix the spacing between paragraphs or remove hyperlinks? Save your hard-earned money for actual editing!

Whether your editor quotes hourly rates, or charges by the word, page, or project, every quote is based on the amount of time the editor will invest. If your manuscript isn’t broken into chapters, your editor will have to invest time formatting it that way. If your nonfiction book doesn’t include in-text citations, your editor will have to spend hours identifying material that should have source information included. In both cases, those extra hours are added to your bill and won’t be available for you to use later for proofreading or help with crafting a great query letter.

Want to save money on your next edit? Follow these tips to prepare your manuscript. Click To Tweet

Here is a basic formatting checklist you can use to prepare your manuscript for copyediting: Continue reading “How to Save Money on Editing by Preparing Your Manuscript”

Dream a Dream: Life of a Freelance Editor

life of a freelance editorIn 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.”

Do freelance editors turn down assignments? Yes, and here's why. #writetip Click To Tweet

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: Life of a Freelance Editor”

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

Save Money on Professional EditingSelf-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

The B.E.S.T. system of editing and how it can save you money #editingtip Click To Tweet

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

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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What a Difference a Year Makes

becoming a freelance editorIn 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.

Why I quit my job as senior editor at a publishing house #editing #publishing Click To Tweet

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!

And if you want more great writing and publishing information, check out my Facebook page, where I share all kinds of interesting articles and links.

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.

Can You Hear Me Now? Finding a Freelance Editor Who Listens

Whether you hope to interest a traditional publisher or you’re publishing independently, you know you need professional editing before you submit yourFinding a Freelance Editor Who Listens manuscript.

But how do you know if the editor you found is a good fit for you?

In my last post (read it here), I discussed how a sample edit can do three things:

  1. It show you a particular editor’s knowledge and ability,
  2. It helps the editor determine the amount of work your manuscript needs to make it as professional as possible, and
  3. It gives you the opportunity to see how that editor believes he or she can improve your book.

Erik John Baker (be sure to check out his blog here) left this comment:

I think it’s also important to find an editor who listens, both [to] the writer and to the writer’s voice.”

Bingo! We all expect an editor to be good with the written word, but it is equally important that someone who is part of your team is a good listener and honors your authorial voice. Let’s discuss the “good listener” part.

How do you know if the editor you found is a good fit for you? #editing #indieauthors… Click To Tweet

Continue reading “Can You Hear Me Now? Finding a Freelance Editor Who Listens”

Testing, Testing: How to Choose a Freelance Editor

How to Choose a Freelance EditorAs a savvy author, you know you need professional editing whether you hope to interest a traditional publisher or you’re publishing independently.

But how do you know if an editor is a good fit for you?

In an article titled Freelance Editing: How to Hire an Editor for Your Book or Query Letter, Chuck Sambuchino offered advice for hiring a freelance editor. His first piece of advice was “Get a Test Edit.”

A test edit basically means you pass along a few pages and get them reviewed to see what kind of notes and ideas the editor is making in terms of proofreading and content work. Test edits usually work one of two ways: 1) You pass on 1-2 pages and the editor reviews them for free; or 2) you pass on a more substantial number of pages (10-50) and simply pay the editor as normal for those pages. If you like what you see from the test edit, then you can move forward on a bigger deal.”

I think he makes his point well with his example (which hurts my brain every time I read it!)

You wouldn’t let just any mechanic fix your car, so don’t let just any editor fix your words. #editingtip Click To Tweet

This week I’ve been contacted by several writers who are shopping for editors as they near completion of their WIPs, and I’ve made this same offer to each one:

Send me the first few chapters of your manuscript. I’ll select several pages and provide a free, no-obligation sample edit for you. A sample edit is beneficial to both of us; it helps me determine the amount of work your manuscript needs to make it as professional as possible, and it also gives you the opportunity to see how I can improve your book.”

As I wrote here and here, you wouldn’t let just any mechanic fix your car, so don’t let just any editor fix your words. Ask for references from other authors who have hired that editor for the type of work you need, and don’t be afraid to voice your concerns before you hire someone. Editing is like marriage: communication and trust are vital to success.

*A big note about this: I am talking about editing for publication for any medium—printed book, ebook, blog post, advertising blurb, query letter. How your work is published isn’t the determining factor; that you publish a professional piece is. In a blog post titled SELF PUBLISHING ON KINDLE – Have Any Books On Kindle Ever Sold No Copies?, author Steve Truelove gives his answer to that question, which includes:

I guess is if the book is totally hopeless….badly written, full of mistakes, ridlled wiht typo’s, and unedited. Believe me, if you upload a book like that to Kindle you will soon get found out, so to speak.”

Blindly hiring an editor because he’s inexpensive or she knows your mother isn’t a wise business decision. But reviewing a sample edit will give you a huge insight into a particular editor’s knowledge and ability, so don’t hesitate to ask for one before making this important financial and professional decision.

Your expertise is writing; let me show you how my editorial expertise can help you take your writing to the next level. Contact me at cyjohnson5580@gmail.com for a no-obligation quote and sample edit today.

Happy Writing!

—Candace

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