The Spring Edit

Get those mops and brooms, it’s time for spring cleaning! It always feels so good when you rid the house of the remnants of winter. All those months with the house closed up created a haven for mold, mildew, and stuffy air. Most of us start thinking about ways to make ourselves look a bit better as well in preparation for summer.

You could say the same goes for your manuscript. Freshen it up with a nice spring edit! Get rid of that clutter of commas, thats, and justs. Streamline those sentences until they look good in a bathing suit. A freshly edited manuscript just feels good! A good editor is kind of like a good housekeeper. She picks up after you, puts everything in its proper place, and makes everything shine.

Now’s the time to get in the queue. At times like this when my queue is short, turn around is usually four to six weeks. (This may change depending on the amount of work needed on your book.) Later in the year when it gets fuller, turn around slows down. Just like a good cleaning, a good edit takes some time, so be sure you add enough time for a good edit before you publish or start making the rounds with your story.

After the Edit

You’ve opened up the manuscript you got back from your editor and you may be amazed at how many changes have been made. If they’re using Word’s Tracking Changes, you’ll find your manuscript may be very colorful indeed. Now what?

If you’re not familiar with Word’s Tracking Changes, now’s the time to get to know it better. In Word 2010, you’ll find it under the Review tab. It’s the fourth section from the right. Proceeding left to right, you’ll see Proofing, Language, Comments, Tracking, Changes, Compare and Protect. Right now we’re going to look at Tracking. Your editor clicked on Track Changes to make her edits. This makes all changes visible and puts them in a different color than the original text. If you need to make changes and send the manuscript back, you’ll want to make sure Track Changes is enabled so your changes are made in a third color. This makes it easy for your editor to follow your changes.

If you’re ready to accept or reject changes, move one more topic to the right and find Changes. If you click Accept, the program will accept the change that is highlighted, making it black text, then it will move to the next change.  If you pull down the menu from the tiny little arrow under Accept, you can choose to accept and move on, just accept the change and remain there, accept all changes shown, or accept all changes in the entire document.

I highly recommend going through each change individually. By accepting all changes in the document, you may miss a spot where the edit accidentally included a space that was supposed to remain there, or maybe you don’t agree with a suggested edit. While it may seem tedious to go through the edits one by one, it will save you time and effort later when the document is all in black again and you can’t find what you’re looking for easily.

Just to the right of Accept is an icon with an X. This is for rejecting a suggested edit. If you use the drop down menu provided here, you’ll have the same options as were available under Accept.

Below the Reject icon are two icons with arrows, one facing left and one facing right. These will take you to the previous change or the next change.

After you’ve gone through all the edits, I suggest you do another spell check. Again, this helps find those little areas where spaces or other issues cropped up when edits were being made. Don’t want two spaces between a word or no space between two words. :)

After the spell check, it needs another read. Yes, you need to read it again. If you have the funds, now is the time for a proofread. Some people find reading a manuscript backwards will help them find any tiny errors that may have escaped everyone that has seen it. It does happen.

Once your manuscript is all clean, make sure it is formatted in the form required from the agent/publisher you are submitting it to. In the case of self-publishing, this means you need proper indents for each paragraph (often without using tabs), proper chapter headings, page numbers if applicable (not used in ebooks), and so on. If you’ve got it all done according to the format you wish to use, your manuscript may be ready to head out into the world.

Tutorial Tuesday – Grammar: Its and It’s

Streamed live on Oct 30, 2012

Tuesday Tutorials…

Helping you with your grammar… one small tutorial at a time!

Rakestraw Book Design
http://rakestrawbookdesign.com/

Okay. You’re writing and suddenly you can’t remember if you need it’s or its. When in doubt, use the apostrophe, right? WRONG. There is a simple way to double check if you’re using the right version.

Its

This is possessive. Unlike most possessive words like Mom’s flowers, Sarah’s jeans or the man’s tie, when you use the possessive of it you don’t use an apostrophe. Why? Because the apostrophe is already being used in the other form… see the next paragraph.

For example: The dog chewed its food carefully instead of gulping.

It’s

This is NOT possessive. This is a contraction of the words ‘it is.’ If you can replace ‘it’s’ in your sentence with ‘it is,’ use the apostrophe.

For example: It’s not my fault the cat escaped when the door was open.

This can also be written: It is not my fault the cat escaped when the door was open.

This is the contraction version, so use the apostrophe.

Is it all clear? This is a simple rule to remember, so there won’t be any trouble figuring out which one to use in the future when you write. Just ask yourself that little question… can I replace it with ‘it is’? If not, you are probably using it as a possessive, which means… all together now…. no apostrophe!

Happy writing!

References:

Eats, Shoots & Leaves Illustrated Edition, by Lynne Truss
The Associated Press Guide To Punctuation, by Rene J. Cappon

Self-Editing

Every writer needs to learn to self-edit. This doesn’t mean you don’t need an editor, but it will help you get more for your editing dollar because your editor can focus on the big issues instead of the small ones.

What do you look for?

Make sure you have your quotation marks in the right places. Don’t forget them at the end of the dialogue. Make sure they are all the same. If you use straight quotes, make them all straight. If you use curly quotes, make them all curly. Whatever you use, be consistent.

While we’re talking about dialogue, watch your punctuation.
“I don’t know what to do,” she said.
is different than
“I don’t know what to do.” She frowned.

Can you tell the difference? The attribution in the first sentence tells the reader the character said that line. In the second, it isn’t an attribution, it’s an action. Because of that, you need a period at the end of the dialogue and you need to capitalize ‘she.’

How many ands do you have in one sentence? It can be very tempting to fit everything into one sentence, but you need to learn to read it objectively and know when to break it up. Reading loooong sentences can feel like you’re running out of breath when you read… keep those sentences varied in length and tight.

Speaking of tight… some words don’t need to be there. The two biggest culprits are very and that. Very is easy… you don’t need to use it… ever… unless it is in dialogue and your character would use that word. That can be a bit trickier. It can be insidious. It pops up all over the place, rather like dandelions in a lawn. There are a few times when it truly is warranted, but not as often as it would make you believe.

There are more things you need to learn when it comes to self-editing, of course, but this will get you started. We’ll probably add more on another post.

Our Interview at Edin Road

We did an interview on BlogTalk Radio today. For once, the shoe was on the other foot for John. He got to answer questions instead of ask them. He brought me on and I answered some editing questions… check it out for yourself. :) We covered all sorts of topics, from how to develop a book idea to selecting an editor to choosing cover art.

Jess at Edin Road was a fun host, and I hope we’ll get to know her better. Maybe I’ll get better at being interviewed, too. :)

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edinroad/2012/01/17/author-and-radio-host-john-rakestraw

The Other Side of the Glass… Being Interviewed

Joey Kelley, author extraordinaire, interviewed me! I’m used to interviewing others, not being the one in the hotspot. She did a fabulous job, and I hope I performed as well. You can read her fabulous interview on either of her sites: One Hundred Romances Project or on her personal blog, JM Kelley Writes. Thank you, Joey, for all the fun!

Check it out!

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.

Improving Your Writing

How do you hone your craft? You write. It doesn’t matter if it stinks and you can’t spell. What matters is you keep writing. Some people find that picking a specific time every day works well for their writing. Others do better if they just let it flow when the mood strikes. Either way, keep writing.

Another thing that makes you a better writer is reading. Read as much as you can. Yes, there are some excellent books on writing… feel free to check some of our recommendations. Besides that, just reading your favorite fiction can help you be a better writer. As you read and write more, you’ll find that you can’t help analyzing a particularly effective sentence or scene.

Combine what you learn from your reading with your writing sessions. Can you describe a setting as well as you read in that last story? Pick a different setting and see if you can’t do just as well. Try it with an action scene, or with internal thoughts of one of your characters. Be honest with yourself. Was your scene as effective as the scenes you are trying to emulate? This takes practice. Obviously you don’t want to just rewrite the original scene. This is why I recommend changing the setting, action or thoughts.

Above all, write.

Don’t publish until you’re ready. Sure, put something on your blog and ask for feedback, but don’t publish a book until you are sure your writing is up to the task. When you do feel you’re ready, get the book edited. This probably won’t be after the first or second draft; it may take you several drafts before you’re ready to hand your baby off to another’s hands. Even I get nervous about handing my writing off to someone else, but I know it is necessary to hone and polish my message.

Sometimes I need to take my own advice and write. It takes time, it’s true. But unless you make the time, it won’t happen, and writing will remain one of those unfulfilled dreams.

So, write. Write some more. Revise it. When you’re happy with it, we’re happy to help you from there with editing, book design and formatting.

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.

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.