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”

Struggling with Revisions? Try Playing with Paper Dolls

revisionsMany books and articles are available that offer step-by-step processes for revising and self-editing your manuscript. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, but . . .

The real secret to getting through “revision hell” is trying different methods until you find the one that works best for you and your writing style.

In today’s digital world, some of the most-used and best-loved writing programs also offer a digital method for revising your first draft. One of the most popular (at least with my clients and writers whose blogs I read) is Scrivener.

Wikipedia has this to say about Scrivener:

Features include a corkboard, the ability to rearrange files by dragging-and-dropping virtual index cards in the corkboard, an outliner, a split screen mode that enables users to edit several documents at once, a full-screen mode, and “snapshots” (the ability to save a copy of a particular document prior to any drastic changes). Because of its breadth of interfaces and features, it has positioned itself not only as a word processor, but as a literary “project management tool.”

The whole idea of virtual index cards just makes my heart skip a beat—I love the ability to virtually duplicate what I used to do on paper. And even in today’s high-tech world where novels are written on smartphones and self-help books are created on tablets, low-tech methods sometimes still work best—especially if you’re not in the mood to learn another new software program.

The real secret to getting through “revision hell” is trying different methods. #revisions #amwriting #writerslife Click To Tweet

When you’re struggling with revisions, try playing with paper dolls.

I’m not actually suggesting you stop writing and crack out that box of childhood toys you’ve saved “for the grandchildren.” I am suggesting you consider returning to a method that you probably used in your pre-computer days, which I call the Paper-Doll Method. Continue reading “Struggling with Revisions? Try Playing with Paper Dolls”

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.

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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 #editingtip #writers 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 #editing #editingtip 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. As one author 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. They’ll gladly explain their 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,


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 a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Manuscript Evaluation

One of the biggest mistakes a writer can make is moving forward with a manuscript that isn’t ready for submission or publication. Whether you ID-10098753choose to query agents and publishers or you decide to self-publish your work, remember the old saying:

 “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

How do you know if your book is ready to meet the world? One way is to have a professional manuscript evaluation.

How do you know if your book is ready to meet the world? #amwriting Click To Tweet

You’ve shared your work with family and friends—and they’ve all raved about your storytelling talent. You’ve shared it with your critique group and beta readers, and they’ve offered some useful, constructive criticism. You’ve tweaked this, deleted that, and rewritten entire scenes and characters.

Now is the time for an honest and objective critique of your plot, dialogue, characters and pace, or opinions about structure, coherency, consistency, and organization.

A manuscript evaluation is a big-picture look that tells you what works and what doesn’t. It is not editing: a manuscript critique is an assessment and diagnostic tool that pinpoints specific strengths as well as weaknesses you can fix to improve your manuscript.

As a professional freelance editor, I interact with many writers who struggle when they finish writing and move into the editing phase. Some just throw in the towel and self-publish their books with little or no editing; some work for weeks to self-edit and revise; some search for a freelance editor who will help them “fix” their manuscript.

Don’t struggle alone, hope someone else will fix your problems, or give up. And don’t jump into the publishing pool unprepared. Instead, have your entire manuscript reviewed; if you can’t afford that, at least have your first chapter evaluated.

Whether your readers are literary agents or members of your target audience, you have to catch and keep their attention. As New York Times bestselling author John Gilstrap writes:

Something must happen in the first two hundred words. That’s the length of my interest fuse. Billowing clouds, pouring rain and beautiful flowers are not action. Characters interacting with each other or with their environment is action.”

Be sure you choose an evaluator with experience, someone who understands what literary agents and publishers are looking for, and someone with whom you can communicate so you’ll get the most from your critique.

Don’t be shy about discussing your needs and expectations for the evaluations, as well as your preferences for how you receive feedback. As with any editing service, you should feel very comfortable that the editor you hire is someone who can help you meet your goals. As I wrote here and here, be sure you clearly articulate your expectations and make sure your new editing partner is a good communicator.

I just finished evaluating a 75,000 word fiction manuscript; I sent the author a seven-page written critique filled with specific details and examples of the strengths and weaknesses I found in the manuscript. I’m also in the midst of a memoir critique that is part written evaluation and part Skype conference. As you can see, there are different ways for an author to communicate with his or her editor, and you’ll want to work with someone who can give you the evaluation YOU need to improve your work.

Don’t be the author who papers your room with rejection slips or bad reviews because your manuscript needs work! Contact me today for a professional manuscript evaluation and let me help you bring your work to the next level.

Happy Writing!


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.

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Related articles:

How a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Developmental and Substantive Editing

How a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Copyediting

How a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Proofreading

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,


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!

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

3 Things You Shouldn’t Hire an Editor to Do

3 Things You Shouldn’t Hire an Editor to Do
Don’t waste your money–read this article first!

When authors contact me about editing, they often don’t even know what they need. They know they should hire an editor at some point, but many are confused about terminology like developmental editing, copyediting, and proofreading. But there is SOOOO much a writer can do before paying an editor for his or her expertise—and I’d like to show you three ways to not only save your money but get the most bang for your editorial buck.

1.    Don’t pay an editor to edit your first draft.

No matter how brilliant your ideas are, or how beautifully you phrase them, do some serious revising before you hire professional help. Learning to revise your work is an important part of becoming a professional writer. Get rid of those extraneous words, the fluff that doesn’t say anything, the character who doesn’t advance the story. Consider every word, every sentence, every paragraph. There is no point in hiring a copyeditor to clean up work you may later delete in a revision.

Don’t pay an editor to edit your first draft. #editingtip #amwriting #selfpublishing Click To Tweet

2.    Don’t expect an editor to provide a service other than the one you’ve contracted for.

Your manuscript may need different types of editing help at different stages of your writing process. When you hire a developmental editor, you hire someone to help you with the big picture, not small details like punctuation. When you hire a proofreader, don’t expect help with your story arc; a proofreader is looking at details (like that pesky punctuation the developmental editor didn’t care about). If you’re uncertain about the type of editing help you need, ask me—I’ll be happy to help you figure it out. I’m here to help you make that book, newspaper article, blog post, advertising flyer—or anything else that strings together those amazing, marvelous things called words—sound as perfect and professional as it can be.

3.    Don’t hire an editor to tell you what you want to hear.

You are the author, and you have the right to disagree with your editor. You always have the right to ignore his or her advice and reject suggested changes. But if 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.

My love affair with words is the best tool in your arsenal as a published author. You came up with fantastic ideas, and I’ll help you make sure they come across the way you want them to. I love words, and I’d love to play with yours. Email me at, and let’s discuss how I can help you.

Happy Writing!



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