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

They’re, Their, There

They're Their There

They’re, their, there!

Here we are for Tutorial Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

They’re Not Letting Me Play with Their Toys Over There!

As you can see I used them all in the sentence above in their proper sense. Let’s take a look at each one, shall we?

 

They’re, their, there quandary!

Let’s take a look at each one, shall we?

They’re

This is a contraction of ‘they are.’ If you think you need to use this in a sentence, you can test it out by replacing it with ‘they are’ to see if it still works.

They’re looking at me.

They are looking at me.

See? You should be able to interchange them easily and the sentence still makes sense.

Their

This is a possessive. The word tells you that whatever you’re talking about belongs to them. Their toys, their car, their vegetables… see?

Their tomatoes were ripe and juicy.

The tomatoes belonged to them, not me. I would certainly buy those tomatoes from them if they are really that good. :)

There

This word is used to describe placement.

They parked the car over there.

It can also be used with variations of the verb ‘to be’.

There are apples all over the ground.

See? It is paired with ‘are,’ which is a conjugation of the verb ‘to be.’

It really is very simple if you take a moment to think about it when you write. In these types of grammatical cases, it is best to rely on your brain than on spell checkers found in many programs. I often get flags on my writing with these three words in MS Word when I am using them correctly. The program wants me to change it to they’re in most cases, which would not be correct for the sentence I wrote. If ever in doubt, just do this quick little test and you’ll know you used the correct one

Know Your Psychology

Last week I talked about the three dimensions of characterization. This time I’m going to go a bit deeper and talk about the psychology of characterization. Do you remember anything from psychology class? If not, it may be time to brush up. Psychology deals with how we behave and why. That’s what you need to utilize when you’re building a character. It all works with the dimensions of character we discussed earlier.

You’ll find that a lot of people are driven by resentment. Sounds petty, but it’s true. Someone hurts your feelings. Even if you’ve forgiven him for it, unless you’ve really dealt with it, you may still harbor some resentment, even years later. What do we do with resentment? We resist. If we resent someone or something, we resist it. We won’t use a product associated with someone or some organization we resent. If your best friend from school that stole your boyfriend makes overtures of friendship years later, you may rebuff her because of what happened due to your resentment. Resentment is a powerful motivator.

Resentment can even make us look for ways to get revenge. What happens when one spouse finds out the other has been cheating? The first one often decides they should also have an affair to get even. Is one spending too much on clothes? The other may go out and buy too much of something they like to get back at them. This gives them the feeling of exacting revenge, even though it really doesn’t solve anything.

The consequences of resentment and revenge are third dimension decisions which are motivated by second dimension issues. People usually dress all this up in first dimension fluff that may either try to hide it or flaunt it.

Let’s say you go to the wedding of an old friend. While you’re there, you see an ex who blatantly cheated on you with one of your other friends, flaunting it for all to see. He hurt you badly. He’s there with his wife… the very friend he cheated on you with, and she’s eight months pregnant and glowingly happy. Your heart begins to pound and your blood pressure rises. What do you do? Here is where your third dimension steps up to the plate and reveals your true character. Are you politely cool? Do you ignore them? Give them a piece of your mind and storm out? Embrace them and wish them well, meaning every word?

If you were writing this scene, you would be able to orchestrate exactly how your character would try to appear (first dimension), how her emotions were running amuck (second dimension), and her final decision (third dimension). The second dimension doesn’t make the character’s choice, it only shines the spotlight on their motivation. This is the psychology of what happened: it hurt, it hasn’t healed, it hasn’t been dealt with in any way. In this moment, the character must be pressed to act, amidst her pain, in front of everyone. Without the second dimension’s motivations, the reader wouldn’t be able to understand the meaning behind the character’s third dimension decision.

 

Character Dimensions

Human beings are three-dimensional. Your characters should be, too. This is what makes them compelling. This is what makes us fall in love with them or love to hate them.

I’ve often come across posts online where authors are asking for character quirks. They’ll list a bunch of qualities their character has. “Dorothy is blonde, blue-eyed, and loves to knit. What quirks should she have? I can’t think of any!”

This is the first dimension. What we see on the surface. Maybe Dorothy chews her fingernails. Maybe she collects cats. Maybe she’s a rabid Doctor Who fan who wears her hair in a perm like her favorite character, River Song. This first dimension is a combination of how Dorothy sees herself and how she wants to be seen. Sometimes these things will contradict each other, which takes us to the second dimension. But we’ll get there in a bit. Let’s stick with the first for a moment longer.

The first dimension traits show your reader what is. It’s up to the reader to assign any meaning to it. So what if Dorothy knits sweaters for her cats? If you show the reader why she does this, you’ve just crossed into the (cue music) second dimension.

In the second dimension, you show the reader why Dorothy does what she does. Whether it’s her conscious choice or whether she does something to cover up something else, the second dimension exposes backstory or maybe Dorothy’s hidden agenda. Dorothy may have been a neglected child who never felt warm or cared for, so she knits sweaters for her many cats to give them the care she never received. Maybe. It’s a thought.

The third dimension takes all the first dimension choices and subordinates them to more important choices and behaviors that must be made when greater things are at stake. What will Dorothy choose when faced with such a dilemma? Since she only trusts her cats, can she trust another person? What if it were a life or death situation? Could she risk her life to save that other person, setting aside her distrust? The third dimension will let us know. These third dimension choices are good for showing character growth. Just like there’s a story arc, characters have an arc of their own. Do they grow and change? Is it for better or for worse? Can Dorothy grow as a person and trust again? Will she run back to her cats instead? Each of these dimensions lets the reader see the character from three different perspectives, even though they may not realize it, since it should be wrapped neatly in the story.

Now that you understand the three dimensions, let’s see what fun you can have with it. The first dimension may be a sham. Maybe it’s all an act. Maybe Dorothy puts on this mask because it makes her feel safe or it allows her to hide her true self. If you go with this approach, it is crucial that you show her true colors at some point or the reader will never know.

Look at your own choices in life. Every morning when you get dressed, you’re making first dimension choices. You can watch people around you and pick out first dimension behavior. This is great practice and research for writing.

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.

Just What Do We Do?

If you’re new to the book game, you may be wondering just what in the heck we do. As an author, you know that books just don’t write themselves. You must write, rewrite and perfect your story.

Well, once you’ve got your story as good as you can get it, that’s where we come in. In editing, we read the book to get the overall theme and thrust of the story. Then we can take it chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, and line by line to really make it shine. Do you use unnecessary words? Like a particular phrase so much that it is overused? Have problems with spelling, colorful metaphors or anything else? We fix it. I’ll send it to you chapter by chapter if you like, and we can discuss any portions you are having issues with or that you disagree with my suggestions. Yes, you can disagree with me. It’s your book. I am merely putting that shine on. Depending on the level of editing you have chosen, this may be just a light spit and polish for grammar, spelling and proper usage, or it could be an indepth substantive edit with reorganization, rewriting, and coaching along the way. Editing can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the amount of work that is needed, what is happening in your life, and the occasional upsets in mine.

For instance, this week, my oldest daughter, our book cover artist, got appendicitis and had to have surgery. While she is recuperating, we won’t be able to do any book covers. Once she feels good enough to sit at her computer again (probably a week or two), she’ll be back to work. She designs covers for both electronic and print books. She can easily put together a nice looking cover from stock photos or with original art. Of course, anything original takes a lot more time than using a photo and manipulating it to fit your book. Plan accordingly if that is what you want for your book. If you are really organized, you can request a book cover while I’m editing, so both phases are being done at the same time. It is imperative for her to have a good understanding of your story and if you have any ideas in mind for the cover.

Formatting. What would a book be without formatting? It would just be a sheaf of pages. We can convert your book for both electronic and print formats. Each version requires its own set up and has its own rules. When we convert a manuscript file to an ebook, for instance, we make a copy of it and then remove all existing formatting. From there, we replace any italics, headings and so forth as necessary, using the guidelines necessary for ereaders to process it. With ebooks, pages are not the same as in print books. Ereaders must be able to reconfigure a “page” according to the standards it is made for. Print conversion from a Word file is done according to the specifications of the size of book you have in mind. All forms of conversion take into account readability, spacing, paragraphs and special text like italics and so on.

Proofreading can be done after the formatting has taken place. We go through your book painstakingly, marking down the errors we may have missed the first time (or second, or third…). No single person is perfect. Luckily, we have several sets of eyes we can put to work for proofing. All errors are corrected before the files are returned to you for publishing or submission.

Of course, we will continue to add services as we improve our tools and skills. We are always learning about better ways to help authors with their books. We do work with several authors at a time, in order to keep our prices low. In this economy, we know many of us are doing the best we can, and here at Unbridled Editor, we want to make it as easy for you as possible to polish and prepare your book.

If you’re still not sure, we are happy to do a sample edit for you. Send us about four or five pages from a section of your book that you feel may still need a little work. We’ll do the sample for you at no cost. It is our goal to be a one stop shop where you can get your book finished off in a professional manner. After all, no matter how good your story is, it still pays to have your book look as good as possible.

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.

Plan or Wing It?

You may have heard a lot about writers who wing it… they write as they go, without any planning. Called seat-of-your-pantsers, or pantsers for short, some of them really bring it. Their stories unfold like a blooming rose, with all of the elements of storycraft in place. However, most writers can’t do this. Stephen King is one of those gifted writers who can get all of the elements in place without the planning.

Most writers who write this way are not Stephen King. They may get all those pages written and find out that something is missing. Or they got repetitive. Or they went off on a tangent. The truth is, you don’t have to be a pantser to get that creative rush from your writing. Most authors benefit from planning, even a little. Planning can help you avoid those pitfalls and holes in your story. Like yesterday’s tips on characterization, you can have it all with just a little planning on your part.

It can be daunting to keep the subplots, the plot-behind-the-plot, the plot that your book is about, all the characters, their mistakes, flaws and goals, and everything else you need all in your head. You haven’t failed if you have to use a pad of paper, notes on your computer or sticky notes all over your work space. In fact, you may find that they make it easier for you.

JK Rowling, when writing her massive Harry Potter series, had notebooks full of backstory, characters, details about the wizarding world, and more. While you may not have to be that extensive, stay open to keeping notes and writing detailed character sketches. They will make your work easier. Can you imagine getting to the finished stage in half the time it might have taken you if you tried to keep it all in your head? It is possible, if you are organized and know your plot and characters.

I recommend a couple books that may help in this regard if you are unsure whether planning is really for you.

Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, by Roz Morris. Roz shares her secrets to finding the holes in your story and getting them plugged.

Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks. Larry has broken fiction writing into six core competencies that will keep your stories on track and riveting.

Of course, utilizing readers and writers’ groups are also very helpful in making sure you don’t have a gap or that your characters are well-fleshed and believable. There are many writers on Twitter and Facebook who form online groups and chats that can help them connect and critique each others’ work when a real life group is not available.

So, do you plan your story or wing it? Planning does not have to crush your creativity; in fact, it can enhance it. No plan is written in stone, so if the story changes, so can the plan. Plans can also help you when you get stuck or need inspiration. If you’ve never tried planning a book before, give it a try. You may be surprised. That germ of an idea may sprout and grow with a plan.

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.