Working with an Editor, Guest Post

.Working with an Editor

Working with an Editor is one of the needed parts of getting your story read to publish.

Today we welcome Adi Alsaid, the author of Somewhere Over the Sun. He has graciously written a guest post for us about his experience working with editors on his novel. For those of you who are afraid to work with an editor or who don’t know what possible benefit an editor can give you in the preparation of your book, read on. :) Don’t forget to visit his website and check out his novel.

While writing my debut novel, Somewhere Over the Sun, I’d send an updated manuscript to my two personal editors every other week and wait for them to tear me apart. I looked forward to their scrutiny, appreciating the straightforwardness of their comments to “cut” and the sentences they highlighted and labeled simply “awk.” They were sometimes brutal, if they needed to be, and we all understood it was for the good of the novel (though I’m sure they had a little more fun on that end than I did). I think if there’s one thing to be thankful for as a writer, it’s the ability to not be offended when an editor writes into your margin, “Eww. Get rid of this.” Of course, those edits are easier to bear when just a few lines later the same editor, someone whose literary opinion I greatly trust, is swooning and demanding of me: “Do not change this part. Ever!”

Working with an Editor

I had the incredible fortune of having two brilliant ladies work with me as editors throughout the writing of my debut novel (one stopped having the time to give me detailed notes about halfway through, although her occasional tweets assured me that she was still reading, still holding me accountable for quality, and that a glass of wine perfectly accompanied my novel). The one who stopped is an old friend, an incredibly talented writer with the education and the knowhow to not only move my commas around and put a leash on my fragments, but someone who had no problems scoffing at my mediocrity or lauding my greatness.

Editor number two was a very new acquaintance at the time, someone whom I trusted with my manuscript because she obviously shared my passion and love for language, had an English degree from a well-respected university, had real-world publishing experience and big-six editorial aspirations, was obviously extremely intelligent and hard-working, and to be perfectly frank, she was someone I simply wanted to be around often, someone whose opinion of my writing, for whatever reason, mattered to me.

I am eternally grateful and indebted to both of them, my dear personal editors, for their insights, dedication, time, genuine care for my work and a billion other ways they helped make my novel better.

I could have just powered through the first draft, then sent it off to them and wait for the notes before continuing on with re-writes. But receiving their notes throughout the writing process helped me improve parts of the novel that had yet to be written. Thanks to them, I was rewriting before my words even showed up on the computer screen, I was holding myself up to a higher standard before even sending them anything to correct. Kurt Vonnegut once made a distinction between two kinds of writers: “Swoopers write a story quickly…then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one.” I was a basher, and they were the safety net of a future that swoopers rely on. If I let something slip that was not good enough, I was confident that the next set of notes from them would include the comment, “tighten” and remind me to not be vague.

The beauty of working with an editor.

After three months, I had completed my first draft. I took a two-day break then I re-wrote for several hours every single day for a month straight, clicking back and forth between editors’ notes and the chapter-by-chapter run down of strengths and weaknesses. I went through every single comment, sometimes being a stubborn artist and ignoring a minor suggestion or three, but more often than not, I placed my trust in their judgment, and there is no doubt in my mind that my novel is better off for it.
Proof of that is the last round of editing my novel received. When asked if a copy edit was not enough and a more thorough revision of the manuscript was required, the freelance editor hired by the self-publishing company I used replied: “…I wanted to keep reading and I was laughing and wrapped up in the storyline instead of noticing any glaring editorial needs.”
I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve accomplished in Somewhere Over the Sun and I think that is a testament not necessarily just to my novel, but also to the painstaking, passionate and knowledgeable contributions of my editors, without whom my book would, quite simply, not be as good.

Author Bio

Adi Alsaid graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with a degree in Marketing, but spent the majority of his time there reading and writing fiction. Somewhere Over the Sun is his debut novel and was written in Monterey, CA. He was born and raised in Mexico City to Israeli parents whose love and support made this book possible. Adi is usually unsure of how long he will remain at any given address, but chances are he is living somewhere in the northwestern hemisphere. He hopes this book brings his readers even a sentence’s worth of happiness.

About the Novel

The story follows Alan, a spirited young writer with a wandering imagination who has discovered that the stories he writes are suddenly coming to life. At the suggestion of his loving father, Alan embarks on a quixotic journey to visit friends and use his newfound gift to write them all happier lives.

Author website: www.somewhereoverthesun.com
Twitter: twitter.com/adialsaid
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Adi-Alsaid-author-of-Somewhere-Over-the-Sun/117746478273611

Working with an editor should be on the top of your to-do list

What is Your Story Built Upon?

Every story needs structure to be successful. Does your story have it?

Consider a house. To stand, it needs a basic structure. Those 2x4s support the walls, and the trusses support the roof. Your story is no different. It needs structure to stand up. Few stories can succeed when written in an offbeat sequence, just like few houses can stand if the underlying structure is weakened or compromised. Think of all the different housing styles you’ve seen, yet they all have the same underlying structure. Those 2x4s are still there.

Your story needs its structure to do the same thing. Most stories are based upon a four part structure. This structure has been implemented since man started storytelling. Before you complain that using a structure hinders your creativity, think of all those houses that look so different. Think of all the dogs on the planet; they all have the same bone structure, the same digestive systems, the same function, yet they can look as different as a Chihuahua does from a German Shepherd.

Likewise, readers expect a story to progress in a certain way. Let’s take a look at Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (or Philosopher’s) Stone. In the first part of the book, we are introduced to Harry, our hero. We find out about his circumstances, and we empathize with him. We see that he does have abilities that he isn’t familiar with, and we eagerly go along with him as he goes off to Hogwarts to begin his new life. Then Harry hits some complications. He makes enemies. He must fit in all his schoolwork along with Quidditch practice. He finds out about the stone. Next, he has to find a way to prevent Voldemort from getting the stone, while the stakes get higher. Finally, he confronts Quirrel and Voldemort, prevents them from getting the stone, and life returns to some semblance of normal again.

Along with Harry Potter, other bestsellers follow this basic structure. Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, Jim Butcher’s Changes, and Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer all follow the same basic structure. All of them sold well, and two have been made into movies. They wouldn’t have been half as successful if the authors decided to mess with the basic structure.

So, does your story have structure?

Every story needs structure. If you’re not sure about yours, your editor can help pinpoint it for you so you can plug up holes, rearrange portions if necessary, and make it strong. Please check out our services if you don’t already have an editor.

Concept, Concept, Concept!

Do you have a concept for your story? Do you know what a concept is? It isn’t an idea… that is merely the seed that may sprout into a concept. It may help you to phrase your concept as a ‘what if’ statement. If it is a strong concept, this what if statement should trigger other what if questions that will help you develop your story.

A strong concept will trigger lots of questions that your story will strive to answer. This branching of story will keep your action flowing and your characters busy. Let’s try an example.

What if a powerful organization was planning to make it appear that the world is really ending on the date a prophet has predicted so they could expand their power worldwide?

What can we do with this concept? Does it bring up more questions? Let’s see.

What if our hero discovers the plot?
What if no one wants to listen to him or her in the growing fear and paranoia?
What if the government is supporting this organization because they’ve been bribed?
What if he or she finds a way that could bring down this organization?
What if our hero finally finds one congress member who believes them and is willing to go out on a limb and help?

See what I mean? Your concept question should inspire more what ifs that will keep your story building and growing.

If you find yourself stuck on this point, your idea may not be ready to be a story, or it may not be worth spending time on. That is up to you to decide.

Your concept is very important. Like location, location, location, concept is something you really need to keep in mind. It could very well give you success or failure, depending on how strong it is. Don’t be afraid to spend some time working on your concept. While it may come first for many writers, you may find you have your characters first, and need to find a concept that suits them. Either way, don’t skimp on the concept.

Concepts may vary from genre to genre, but they should still be captivating and create more of those fascinating what if questions.

How Well Do You Know Your Characters?

Characters are your story. They plan the subplots and drive the plot through their mistakes and their moments of brilliance. So how well do you know them?

You want your characters to be memorable. You want your readers to understand what makes them tick and maybe wish they were real enough to invite to dinner. So how do you take a figment of your imagination and flesh them out?

One of the best ways is to really delve into discovering who they are. You can do this by writing detailed character descriptions, writing a brief journal in their own words where they talk directly to you, and so on. JK Rowling has reams of pages detailing all of her characters, even the minor ones and some that didn’t even make it into her Harry Potter books. She knew who they were related to, what they liked to do in their free time and their flaws. When it came time to put them into a book, she knew enough about them to give you insight with a few select words. James Frey, author of several writing books, such as How to Write a Damn Good Thriller, is an advocate of the journaling option. He gives several examples and comments about how sometimes the characters surprise him by what comes through in these pages. By writing these pages in the voices of your characters, you can really get inside their heads, which will make it easier for you to put them on the page realistically in your story.

Yes, this is extra work, but it pays off in your story. No one wants to read about a cardboard character. Do this with your hero, your villain, and any other characters that are important to the story. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to put them on the page and have them do what you want them to do in a way that is organic to them. You’ll understand intimately what motivates them and you’ll know their flaws and their good points. This will all come across in your story, making the characters come alive to your readers. They’ll fall in love with them, fear them, or feel the loathing or pity you want them to feel for each particular character. Try it. You may be surprised at how well it works.

Common Errors

Thought I’d post about some of the most common errors I’ve seen while I’ve been editing lately. Keep these in mind when you’re self-editing before you submit your manuscript to an editor, agent or publisher. For those of you who make them, just be aware. I am not making any judgments about these; I just want writers to be aware of them.

Chocked instead of choked
I’ve seen this a lot lately in several different manuscripts by different authors.

Periods before dialogue attributions
Lots of this in many different manuscripts. When you place an attribution, end the dialogue with a comma, a question mark or an exclamation mark, as appropriate.

Hyphens instead of dashes
When you want to use a dash, use one. Don’t substitute a hyphen instead. They are not the same thing. You can make an en dash by pushing the Ctrl button and the minus button at the same time. You can make an em dash by pushing the Ctrl button, the Alt button and the minus button at the same time.

Ellipses only have three dots
Ellipses have three dots, not four, and not a long string of dots. To make an ellipse in Word that acts as a single character so it won’t get split from one line to the next, hold down the Alt button while you put in the numbers 0133.

Ending punctuation
If you’re in the USA, place your periods and commas inside the quotation marks. Don’t leave them dangling.

Shuttered instead of shuddered
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this over the past few months. If your character is creeped out and shuddering, say so. If your character’s house is shuttered up to protect the windows, so be it.

Breath and breathe
Boy, do these two get mixed up a lot! If your character needs to breathe, add the e. If they are taking a breath, leave it off.

Could of, Should of, Would of
Don’t do this. It is could have, should have and would have. If you want the words to sound like of, use could’ve, should’ve or would’ve.

Bear and Bare
Yes, they sound alike, but they are two different things! Bear is either a large, wild animal or your character is having to carry a heavy burden. Bare is, well, you know, without clothing. Even worse is a local exercise place that uses bare in their name and a teddy bear in their logo. 😛

Boarder and Border

A border is a line, an edge or barrier. The yard had a border of marigolds. The excited couple gazed over the border into Mexico. A boarder is someone renting a room.

Well, that’s about it for now. I’m sure I’ll have more to add in another post on another day.

Metaphors & Similes

Admit it. We’ve all written them. Those elaborate metaphors and similes just seem to flow onto the page, don’t they? Sometimes, we get so enamored of them that they are very hard to let go. But do they really help?

Take a quick read of a few of your very favorite novels. Are they full of elaborate similes? How many poetic metaphors are there? Probably not very many. Why? Because they don’t usually further the story. Instead, these elaborate phrases tend to bog the reader down.

They also tend to remove the character from their immediate situation. If you are tempted to use one, take an objective look at the scene. What is happening? If your character is taking a moment to compare the huge battle he is facing with something totally unrelated, is that realistic? If you were using all of your energy fighting, would you be able to construct something like this in your mind and still be an effective fighter? Probably not. The only thing going through your mind would probably be how to block their next hit or where you could strike them most effectively.

And for love scenes… has your significant other ever spent time elaborating on how your eyes are limpid pools (or have you done this for your partner)? Probably not. Is it poetic? Maybe. Is it right for the scene? Maybe. It depends on your style, your characters and what is happening in the scene.

Before you go overboard, take an objective view of the scene that contains the phrase. Does it further the story? Does it provide insight into the character that we must have? Does it fit in the ongoing action? If you can’t answer yes to these questions, you probably don’t need it.

Editing for Publication – Guest Post

Today we are lucky to be hosting a guest post by author Liz Borino. (Loud applause.) She has two books published now. She also edits and does publicity for other authors. See the links at the bottom of this post to get your hands on her books.

Thank you for having me here today, Toni. I’m a two time author published by Lazy Day, a digital first publishing company. I’m here to impart a little secret on you: the writing life doesn’t get (much) easier once you have that publishing contact. Yes, there’s no more stress about querying. I have to ask, does anyone enjoy doing that, if so, please tell me in the comments. Even without that stress, there’s something you might not have thought of: editing. Now, I expect one of two reactions: a.) “But I’ve already edited! It’s perfect!” or b.) “Isn’t that what editors are for?”

To the former group, your baby isn’t perfect, I’m sorry to tell you. It’s good, it may even be great, but it’s not perfect. You know what’s funny about that? It won’t be perfect even when it’s published. Ask Toni, she’s going over my first book, Expectations, six months after publication. Before it even gets to publication, though, there will be at least two editing stages. Once the publisher acquires your manuscript their editors do ‘revision suggestions.’ These are the ‘big’ things which need to be corrected: character inconsistencies, plot holes, and scenes which can be deleted, to name a few.

Here’s one more, the one I struggled with, point of view. See, Expectations and What Money Can’t Buy are both told in third person omniscient POV. For non-writers, if they’d even be reading this, that means you’re in every character’s head constantly. Lazy Day said it was hard to follow in What Money Can’t Buy. They wanted me to only be in one character’s head in each scene. I’m going to be honest with you, that was hard for me to take. I learned a lot from writing and editing Expectations and I believed, even in my first draft, What Money Can’t Buy showed that. Lazy Day and I ended up coming to a compromise with the POV issue because I couldn’t limit to one character per scene. It just wouldn’t work with the book. A good publisher will listen to you and respect your opinion, if you feel strongly enough. And Lazy Day is great about that. However, it’s just as important for you, the author, to get off the ‘my story is perfect’ stick.

And to the group who chose option b? No. I’d say more, but as an editor, the thought of that group makes me want to reach through the computer let loose with a curling iron.

Expectations Amazon: http://amzn.to/fxC2Tf
B&N: http://bit.ly/e7mwDj
Fan page: http://on.fb.me/cw3IqE

The Dialogue Police

Dialogue. It is a necessary evil if you have characters. They must communicate, after all. Someone has to talk. It is also some of the most challenging writing you’ll do.

Why? Because you need to know your characters enough to speak for them. As them. Use their vocabularies, not yours. Reflect their histories and emotions. Oh, and don’t make them sound stilted unless that is how your character speaks.

Unlike everyday speech that we engage in everyday, you must also focus and compress your written dialogue so it is interesting. Let’s face it; we have a million conversations a day with family, friends, and coworkers that would put anyone to sleep if they read it. In a book, you need to keep that kind of dialogue to a minimum.

So, how can you make your dialogue more effective?

One way to make your dialogue sound more realistic is to use contractions. When most people speak, they don’t say, “I would not do that if I were you.” They say, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” It will also make it sound more natural if you use sentence fragments in places. When we speak, we don’t tend to think of proper sentence structure. Did I remember to put in all the adverbs I wanted to describe the topic I was just talking about with Karen? No, that just doesn’t happen. Take a common topic in our household, tea.

“Want some tea?” Wendy asked.
“Sounds great.”

Neither of these sentences are built in the proper structure, but they reflect how people talk. You can get away with a lot more of this when writing dialogue because it sounds more natural.

You can also help make your dialogue more natural by stringing sentences together using commas. We don’t often stop completely after each thought when we speak; we leap from one to another.

“Yes, I want some eggs, make sure they are sunnyside up, thanks.”

Never opt for the more complicated word unless your character thinks using big words is impressive to someone. Fancy words can make the dialogue sound stilted, unrealistic, and if they are truly big and obscure, make your reader stumble. Try using ‘obligatory’ in a sentence without sounding awkward and unrealistic. Most people would use ‘required’ or even ‘mandatory’ instead when they speak. Courtroom dramas may be a small exception to this when a character is a lawyer speaking during a trial or if you have medical personnel talking about a case amongst themselves. In these cases, you may need to figure out a way for the reader to understand the terminology.

Dialogue Tags

What are dialogue tags? They are the little he saids, she saids of the literary world. While many of us learned in school to vary our dialogue tags so we don’t just use ‘said’ all the time, the fact is, if you can’t substitute the tag you have now with ‘said’ and still understand the meaning of what is being spoken, you may want to go back and rewrite your dialogue.

Let’s take a look at a sample:

“What do you mean, I can’t go?” demanded Lucy. “I have to be there!”
“Well, young lady,” her mother explained, “you didn’t clean your room like you said you would. You know the consequences.”
“But Mom…” Lucy whined. “All my friends will be there!”

Using dialogue tags like this explains what should have been explained in your dialogue. If you did get the meaning across in your dialogue, you shouldn’t have to explain it again by using tags. In fact, sometimes you don’t need tags at all.

When you have a dialogue between two people, once you’ve established who is speaking, you can often dispense with the attributions altogether, breaking up the dialogue with beats. Few people just sit there, completely still, while speaking. They may take a sip of coffee or scratch their neck. They may stand up abruptly to add power to what they are saying. Adding physical action to your dialogue makes it more realistic and believable; much more believable than spelling out your meanings through the dialogue tags.

Let’s take another look at that bit of dialogue:

“What do you mean, I can’t go?” Lucy said. “I have to be there!”
Her mother folded another towel. “Well, young lady, you didn’t clean your room like you said you would. You know the consequences.”
“But Mom… all my friends will be there!”

You still get all the meaning, don’t you? Remember this when you write your dialogue. It will improve your writing.

Edited according to our helpful comment! Just proves that every writer needs an objective editor!

What Do You Need?

I was thinking about how to meet the needs of our clients today, and it occurred to me, I should ask writers what they are looking for in an editing service! So, this is your chance: tell me what you want in an editor. We will try to incorporate as many of your suggestions into our service as is feasible. Please be realistic in your requests… don’t tell me you want free advanced editing for everyone, for example. As much as I would love to do that, I also have a family that really likes having shelter from the weather and food to eat. However, there must be many ways we can meet your needs. I am not averse to offering specials, as you know, and I am open to trying many things. So… what do you need? What do you want? I would like to tailor our services to the needs of writers as much as possible.

Oh, maybe I should offer a prize to the best suggestion! How about a free line edit for the best suggestion? Please leave your suggestions here in the comments. I will announce the winner of the free line edit on March 31.

So, get out there and share this. Tell your writing friends. This is the chance to help create the editorial service of your dreams… and you could win a free edit. :)

WINNER: The winner of our free line edit is Suzie Ivy! :) Congratulations, Suzie! :)