Writing Fiction: #AmEditing Tips From @ChangeItUpEdit

Thanks to paranormal romance author Shonda Brock for sharing a Q&A about editing tips on her website. Please join us there to learn more about editing … and about me!


Please welcome Candace Johnson from Change It Up Editing and Writing Services.

Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, and ghostwriter who works with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book publishers in both fiction and nonfiction.

We asked Candace to help us demystify the editing process for new authors. She also shares tips on how to find the right professional editor for your book.

Continue reading “Writing Fiction: #AmEditing Tips From @ChangeItUpEdit”

How to Find Great Writing and Publishing Content

I’m a stalker.

I begin every work day with a cup of coffee and my computer, and I spend the next hour or two stalking other writers for great content to share with my Facebook followers.Find Great Writing and Publishing Content

We all have busy lives, and I understand the many reasons writers might not have the time or a desire to spend hours searching for writing tips. That’s why my Facebook page is filled with articles that offer valuable writing and publishing information.

No one person has time to find and read all the amazing content that is posted every single day, and I’m no exception. But I find some real gems that I want to share, and if you haven’t already done so, I invite you to check out Change It Up Editing on Facebook for easy access to information that I believe writers will find helpful, interesting, and sometimes, just plain hilarious.

Please like Change It Up Editing's Facebook page for publishing industry news. #pubtip #writetip Click To Tweet

Here are just a few of the recent links I’ve posted there:

101 Quick Actions You Can Take Today to Build the Writer Platform of Your Dreams

How Much Does It Cost to Publish a Book? Three Budget Breakdowns

Dialogue Tags

Platform vs. Portfolio

Ten Things You Can Do with Short Stories

If you’re looking for a one-stop place to find writing tips, publishing industry news, and the latest happenings in the publishing world, please “like” Change It Up Editing’s Facebook page and comment often, because the content YOU need is the content I’ll post there. Looking for anything in particular? Be sure to let me know and I’ll try to find it for you!

Happy Writing,

Candace

If you enjoyed reading this article, 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!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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, 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 read on to learn more, and don’t forget to check out Shonda’s paranormal romance Eternal Traces!

How do you find the right editor for your book? #writers #editing Click To Tweet

1. You love words. What made you choose to be an editor instead of a writer?

Actually, I am both, but I especially love working with people and the words they write. Strong writing skills are important to be an effective editor, but there is also an intangible that a good editor has: the ability to hone in on what makes a piece of writing “tick.” I approach every project I work on as a collaborative effort between writer and editor, and maintaining your distinctive voice while suggesting and making necessary changes is a top priority for me.


2. Can you give us a brief description of your editing process?

With developmental or substantive editing, which is the “big picture” type of editing, I work with the writer to figure out what is and isn’t working with a manuscript. My first step is to read the manuscript all the way through, and I make notes as I do so. Once I have a feel for the writer’s voice and the story she’s crafted, I go back and examine every aspect of the manuscript to see what’s working and what isn’t. Is the story compelling? Do the subplots enhance the main story? Are the characters fully developed? Do the story arcs work effectively to compel the reader to keep reading? If I see issues like plot holes, unnecessary characters, weak or slow passages, or even chapters or characters that aren’t working, I bring these to the author’s attention, and I often suggest possible revisions that might fix that particular problem. There can be quite a bit of brainstorming with this level of editing, and I love the collaborative process of helping a writer improve her work, which ultimately makes the story that much better for the reader.

Copyediting is more detail-oriented, and is often called line editing. At this level of editing, I’m concerned with the mechanics of the writing: spelling, punctuation, and grammar faux pas such as correct and consistent tenses, sentence structure, and word usage. I’ll also point out lapses in logic or sequential errors, but this level of editing assumes that the writer has completed revisions to the work, so the editing is more about the mechanics of the writing than about the ideas in the work.


3. Most new writers don’t know where to begin or how to manage revisions once they’ve completed their story. What’s the secret to keeping focused and organized when editing a large body of work like a novel?

Every writer has to find the system that works best for him or her, but as a rule of thumb, the best thing to do first is put the manuscript away for a period of time; give yourself a chance to gain a little perspective.

Once you’re ready to begin revisions, I suggest running a spell check first and a grammar check second. Not only will you catch many of your mistakes, but you’ll also see some of your patterns of error, which will help you improve your writing in the future. But don’t automatically accept the corrections—software doesn’t know that your character is an uneducated bumpkin who is supposed to say “I’s good with it.”

The next step is to read—just read—through the entire manuscript. Take off your writer hat and become your potential reader. Pay attention to the characters, the flow, the plot holes, and make notes of things you want to come back to, but don’t begin revising yet. Go ahead and fix any glaring errors that jump out at you (like the spelling or punctuation errors that still remain), but try to just keep reading so you’ll have a good sense of what you’ve written. By the time you finish this read-through, you should be able to see what’s working and what isn’t and begin revising.

There are a plethora of software programs available to help writers stay focused and organized while they write and edit. The best advice I have is: stay organized and focused while you write and edit. Back everything up. Delete nothing (save it all in a separate folder—you never know when that minor character you decided to delete might make a great protagonist in another story). Whatever system you use, use a system so you aren’t overwhelmed with jumping around nilly-willy, which creates a whole new set of problems, especially with consistency throughout the novel.


4. 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!


5. Especially in this frenzy of self-publication, why is it important for a writer to hire a professional editor to polish their his or her manuscript?

There’s an old saying that “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This is especially true in publishing. Professional, quality editing isn’t cheap. But how much will it cost you to publish a poorly constructed story full of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors? At the very least, make sure you have your work professionally proofread before it is published.

When you engage intellectually in the editing process, you’ll find your writing improves and your ideas crystallize as a result. Remember that your editor hasn’t lived with your ideas, plot, or character—and that’s one of the reasons why you hired him or her to work with you. It is difficult to be objective about your writing when you are so close to it, so really consider every suggestion—then discuss your ideas and concerns, and make your editor your partner in creating the very best work you are capable of writing.


6. What are your thoughts on authors using beta readers before sending a manuscript to a professional editor?

I think it’s a very wise decision. Quality professional editing isn’t cheap, and any mistakes you fix or revisions you complete before you involve a professional editor will save you time and money in the long run. Beta readers can point out those patterns of error, those plot holes, those undeveloped characters, and by the time you begin working with an editor, you’ll be icing the cake instead of searching for raw ingredients to put into the bowl.

One word of caution, though: beta readers, your best friend, your high school English teacher—and even your editor—may have differing opinions about changes you should make. “Too many cooks spoil the soup” is a truism when you begin revisions on your WIP. Consider the suggestions that make sense to you, the ideas that respect your authorial voice, and don’t feel compelled to make a change that doesn’t improve your work. In the end, this is your story.


7. How does a writer determine whether an editor is right for their his or her book?

The writer/editor relationship is a lot like a marriage: communication and trust are vital to success. I encourage writers to do three things when shopping for an editor:

  1. Ask for references from other authors who have worked with that editor. You wouldn’t let just any mechanic fix your car; don’t let just any editor fix your words. Check the websites of editors you’re considering; I read one website for a “professional editor” that was filled with grammar errors and misspellings. Ah . . . no. And don’t be afraid to conduct an interview—you’re spending your hard-earned money, and you deserve the best!
  2. Discuss your needs and expectations with the editor you are considering. If you don’t know what you want or need from an editor, you might not end up with the editing you thought you were getting. You don’t even need to know the correct terminology—a professional editor can help you figure that out. The more specific you can be about what you want from an edit, the more you’ll get for your editing dollars.
  3. Ask for a sample edit. Each editor has a slightly different approach to editing, and one of the best ways to see if that approach works for you is through a sample edit. Blindly hiring an editor 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, so don’t hesitate to ask for one before making this important financial and professional decision.

When you hire an editor at any stage from development to proofreading, be sure you know what you want and need. For example, if you just want a professional opinion on a section that doesn’t seem to work after you’ve revised it several times, don’t pay to have the entire manuscript copyedited.


8. What credentials should a writer look for when seeking a professional editor?

First, in my experience, a good editor is intellectually curious, well-read, a good writer, and is compelled to edit.

Most editors don’t hold a formal degree in publishing or editing; while many have an English degree, that alone does not make a good editor. (I do have an English degree. )
Many editors (myself included) learned from working with editor-mentors, and then from hands-on experience. I have a page of testimonials on my website from authors I’ve worked with—not to pat myself on the back, but to let potential clients know that I’ve worked with authors who recommend my work.


9. How much can a writer expect to spend to have an average length novel professionally edited?

The industry standard word count for a page is a firm 250 words, so a 75,000 word novel would be 300 editing pages. (This may not be the page count of the printed book, which varies based on typeface, layout, and other factors.) According to the Editorial Freelancer Association (EFA), an experienced freelance editor can complete a basic copyedit at 5 to 10 pages per hour; a heavy copyedit is 2 to 5 pages per hour. That comes to somewhere between 30 and 150 hours for those 300 pages, depending on the amount of editing needed. That’s quite a range, I know, so let’s base our estimate on an average of 5 pages per hour, or 60 hours. The EFA’s suggested rates are $30 to $40 per hour for a basic copyedit and $40 to $50 per hour for a heavy edit, so depending on the amount of work necessary, that 75,000 word novel will cost between $1,800 and $3,000 to edit. You’ll usually pay more for developmental editing and less for proofreading.

Before you swear you can never afford to spend that kind of money, please remember these are price ranges. I base my fees on each individual project because every project is unique.


10. What advice can you give writers that will make the editing process less painful?

In my experience, the number one reason writers avoid using a professional freelance editor is cost. Shelling out money with no guarantee of a return on your investment is something that’s easy to talk yourself out of doing. So spend your money wisely. Don’t waste it by handing over a first draft and expecting an editor to “just fix it.”

The pain of editing only goes away when you work with an editor you trust. Invest the time to find the right editor, be sure you share expectations for what the edit will accomplish, and verify with a sample edit that the editor is a good partner for you. Establish a relationship built on solid communication and you’ll not only enjoy your editing experience, but you’ll learn invaluable skills you’ll bring to your future writing.

 

Thanks for stopping by, and happy writing!

—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, follow me on Facebook, where I share all kinds of interesting articles and links.

Write.

Thanks to Mayra Bitsko for this simple post that says so much! Hope you like it as much as I do.

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.

Candace

Pass the Passive Writing, Please!

I thought I was a pretty good writer when I was in college. I probably was, at least as far as making my argument was concerned. But unfortunately, I didn’t learn until after I graduated that I was guilty of a common writing error: I overused passive writing because I thought it sounded “literary.”

Boy, was I wrong! Yet I had plenty of company, and I can even point to a couple of good reasons why it happened and why writers continue to overwrite using the passive voice.

Let me explain. In the active voice, the subject performs the action; in passive writing, the subject receives the action. It’s that simple. For example:

Active voice: Candace wrote a new blog about passive writing.

Passive voice: A new blog about passive writing was written by Candace.

In passive writing, the subject might even disappear from the sentence, like this:

A new blog about passive writing was written and posted.

In most cases, you want to emphasize the subject that does the action (active voice); in the passive voice, the subject receives the action. And because passive writing is often wordier than active writing, writers should always be looking for ways to craft a cleaner, more concise sentence.

While it is preferable to use an active voice most of the time, there is a time and place for passive writing. Daily Writing Tips puts it this way: “Passive writing is common in scientific papers because it lets the writers avoid using the words I or we, to avoid saying where their ideas came from That’s why some teachers think that passive voice sounds more educated. Usually, though, it’s simply less definite . . . but in the real world, when they have something to say, even scientists don’t have the luxury of not being definite.” And in A Writer’s Reference, author Diane Hacker writes,

“The passive voice is appropriate if you wish to emphasize the receiver of the action or to minimize the importance of the actor.”

Passive writing is tricky, though, and something you should work to avoid in most cases. Absolutewrite.com offers:

“It takes time and practice to eliminate such problems as expository dialogue and passive writing from your work. But the payoff for your hard work      and diligence will be a smoother style and a heightened ability to create remarkable stories.”

That sounds like a goal worth pursuing! So don’t try to sound “literary” or “educated” by overusing the passive voice when you write. If your grammar checker flags a passive sentence, take a careful look to be sure you’ve written it that way for a good reason. If not, it’s time for a revision.

A final word: in the classic Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English, author Patricia T. O’Connor writes, “If you have something to say, be direct about it. As in geometry, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” That’s good advice for all of us, so the next time you self-edit, say it the way you mean it and work to construct your sentences so they are direct and active.

—Candace

Next week: Avoiding Awkward Sentences