Ask the Divas

What to Ask a Freelance Editor

Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Ask the Divas, Featured Articles, Quick Tips | 0 comments

What to Ask a Freelance Editor

What to Ask a Freelance Editor… Before You Hire Them Hiring the right editor to work on your book can be daunting. How do you know you’ve hired someone who has experience, shares your vision, and is just the right match? Some authors resort to the trial and error method, but that seems like a cumbersome way to get the job done. Many authors get a recommendation for an editor from a fellow writer because a personal testimony from someone you admire or trust is a great place to start. But just because an editor is a great fit for your friend, doesn’t mean they’ll be a great fit for you, too. So what’s an author to do? While there are no guarantees, you increase you chances by asking potential editors a few questions to find someone who’s a better fit for your project. Are they knowledgeable? How well do they know their stuff? Do they have a blog with writing advice? Do they offer writers tools to improve their craft? Good editors don’t simply correct errors. They can tell you why something is an error, why you should fix it and, for deeper edits, offer suggestions on how to fix those issues. They should know how to explain it and help authors them become better writers. Will they provide referrals? Whether it’s a testimonial page, bragging rights or a list of authors they’ve worked with, editors should be able to provide you with a list of referrals and writers who have worked with that editor before. But not all editors will have a ready list, so give them time to get the permission to hand out the contact information of a few of their clients. If the editor is just starting out, she might not have referrals yet. This doesn’t mean that she’s a bad editor, just new to the game, so this next point is a good alternative for those new editors and a great practice for all. Will they provide you with a sample edit? A sample edit is a wonderful way to determine if a potential editor can, well… edit, and if their editing style is one you like and can work with. You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive, so why not ask for a sample edit. One or two pages from you manuscript for a sample edit is the norm and is usually done for free. If you ask for more or would like to have the first chapter or couple of chapters edited, the editor may ask you to pay for the sample edit because this takes time and editors have to earn a paycheck, too. Pay close attention to the editor’s changes and comments and what she says in those comments. Decide if you like her style and her changes. Finding someone you feel is going to help your book go from okay to great is important. So find someone whose editing style you like. Do they use a style guide, and if so, which one? Style guides are like the design specs of editing. The Chicago Manual of Style is one that helps authors and editors produce consistent work by defining rules for different aspects of writing and publishing. Be wary of editors who don’t know what a style guide is or think there isn’t a need for one. Without a style guide, it can be difficult to produce consistent work and remember all the little guidelines. Does the editor offer a style sheet? A style sheet is a road map of your edit. It’s basically a list of words and terms the editor checked in your manuscript and what they changed. It’s also a tool the editor can use to keep track of elements from the book for consistency. It will save you the embarrassment of the ever changing eye color or the car that morphs into a truck by the end of the scene. Don’t be afraid to ask for a copy of the completed style sheet, and don’t be alarmed if your editor doesn’t have a style...

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Ask The Divas: What is a Manuscript Assessment and Why Do I Need One?

Posted by on Sep 20, 2013 in Ask the Divas | 0 comments

Ask The Divas: What is a Manuscript Assessment and Why Do I Need One?

Ask The Divas: What is a Manuscript Assessment and Why Do I Need One? A professional manuscript assessment is more than a critique of an author’s story. Sure, an assessment goes through the story, looking at plot, character development, pacing and rhythm, narrative and dialogue, not to mention countless other manuscript-driven items, but it also discusses more abstract topics like genre, point of view, tense and timing, and even marketability. A good assessment will pinpoint a story’s strengths and weaknesses impartially, allowing the author to focus only on the parts that need work. But why does a manuscript need an assessment, exactly? Most authors are not hermits; they have friends and family—some of whom may be writers, as well—to read and critique their work for them. And this is a wonderful thing, as every author needs a support system behind her, ready to go to bat for her. The issue with friends and family is impartiality; most friends and family find it hard to be blatantly honest with those they care about. And that’s completely normal, of course. I mean, who wants to tell her friend her story line is slow and boring, or her protagonist is wimpy and needs a shot of testosterone? That’s where the professionals step in. Impartiality is a professional editor’s badge of honor. Assessments are made on a manuscript, not on an author, and that differentiation is sometimes hard for friends and family to make. When an editor is assessing a manuscript, it’s never an issue. Critiques and comments are made for one purpose only: to make the story the very best it can be. Editors’ suggestions can be minute tweaks; perhaps a simple change in pacing could alter the tone of the entire story. Or they can involve massive rewrites, cutting of primary or secondary characters, a change in genre, a switch in point of view or tense—even a shift in protagonist or antagonist. But every change is suggested to turn the manuscript into a publishable submission. And whether an author’s final destination is traditional publishing or self-publishing, I don’t think many would argue they want their end result to be ready to publish. So when should a manuscript be assessed? Usually after the second or third draft of a story is a good time to have an assessment done. Once an author has completed her own edits and has had her set of writing friends or critique partners finalize their thoughts is the best time to have an impartial set of eyes go through the manuscript. The process usually takes a couple of weeks, depending the amount of other work on the editor’s desk, but it’s really in the author’s best interest to allow an editor as much time as possible to  read through the story multiple times, pick up on nuances and patterns that might not be apparent from a single reading. After the read through, the editor will put together detailed suggestions, broken down by topic (e.g. Characters, Theme, Pacing, Dialogue, Grammar and Punctuation, etc.) along with multiple examples of the editor’s findings from the manuscript.  The editor will then recommend the type of edit that would best fit the manuscript based on the findings. An assessment can be overwhelming to an author—just from the sheer amount of information one usually contains. Added to the fact there is nearly always criticism in some form, we always tell authors to read through it first and then close the file, walk away, and come back to it a day  or so later. That allows the information to sink in while giving the author some distance to avoid taking the critique personally. Will an assessment hurt? Sure, it can sting. No one likes having her hard work criticized. But it’s a necessary tool in the growth process, for both the author and the manuscript. No person, author or not, will grow if never challenged, and friends and family who cheer for an author make a fabulous support system, but when it comes to giving honest constructive criticism, they usually don’t meet the criteria....

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Ask the Divas: Blond or Blonde

Posted by on Sep 6, 2013 in Ask the Divas | 2 comments

Ask the Divas: Blond or Blonde

Is it blond or blonde? This particular conundrum has been responsible for more than its fair share of grief with editing and writing. I will attempt to explain this as simply as possible. There are several schools of thought here. The traditional form would be to apply the words based on gender, blonde for women and blond for men. However, this is no longer politically correct and is also considered antiquated. The non-gender specific thought would be to refer to everyone as blond and take gender out of it, but by going that direction, we have actually reverted to the outdated idea of substituting he in for everyone regardless of gender. And half the population will beg to differ and say we should call everyone she regardless of gender. The third option is a blending of the two and the most popular method used today and the one Write Divas prefers as well. So the general rule of thumb for blond vs blonde is as follows: When referring to a person’s hair color, use blond whether male or female. When referring to a person who has blond hair and they are female, use blonde. If they are male, use blond. An easy way to remember this rule is with the following sentence. Keep in mind, this works well for the Write Divas because we are women. “I am a blonde because I have blond hair.” Do you have a question to Ask the Divas? Contact us, leave a comment below, or send us an email at AsktheDivas@WriteDivas.com....

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Ask the Divas: Remembering Elmore Leonard

Posted by on Aug 23, 2013 in Ask the Divas | 0 comments

There was a moment of silence in the literary world this week when Elmore Leonard passed away on August 20, 2013 at the age of eighty-seven. Well known for his clean, direct narrative, he listed his now famous “10 Rules of Writing” in an article written for The New York Times in 2001. As an editor, lists like this make me happy—especially number three. But not simply because I agree with what he has to say, but because he took off his ‘famous author’ hat to speak to fellow writers on the most basic of levels. And readers benefited from it—he didn’t just write those rules, he lived by them. This style is reflected in his writing, often described as “crisp,” “direct,” and “succinct.” He stripped away the flowery prose, the litany of adjectives and adverbs, and let the characters say what needed to be said. Instead of an ‘Ask the Divas’ question this week, we decided to post the list. This is a simplified version; the full article can be found on the NY Times website. 10 Rules of Writing Never open a book with weather. Avoid prologues. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.” Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. “My most important rule is one that sums up the 10,” he wrote. “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” Some food for thought. Rest in peace, Mr....

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Ask The Divas: Editing Pet Peeves

Posted by on Aug 9, 2013 in Ask the Divas | 0 comments

Ask The Divas: Editing Pet Peeves

I was asked today, “What are your biggest editing pet peeves?” Immediately, I thought of a myriad of things. But when I really got to thinking about it, there are just a few things I find grating, which can be addressed beforehand by authors.  The simplest mistakes an author will make are the most common and ultimately very annoying and redundant for editors. Not that we would tell our authors that. Most of the time authors either aren’t aware they are doing it or just simply skip proofreading their work. Editors shouldn’t hold that against authors in any way. The idea is to teach and have them learn. I’m going to point out the simplest mistakes, which are the easiest to fix before you publish your book or turn it over to an editor. I promise *authors, I’m looking at you* that this will only help your chances to get published. Many of these pet peeves are must haves in editing, some are subjective, but all will help your writing in the end. To many ssssss. There is no S at the end of toward, backward, onward, forward, any ‘ward’ word you can think of. If you are using American grammar, the S is always dropped. If you are writing in British or English grammar, you can leave it in. They like adding letters to words over there.  Punctuating dialogue correctly.  For example, wrong dialogue punctuation looks like this: “Frank has a big book.” Said Millie.  Correct dialogue punctuation: “Frank has a big book, ” said Millie.  Any vocal action coming from the mouth in any tense (said, says, told, whispered, replied, replies, murmured, etc) should always be punctuated with a comma, not a period, which then continues the sentence. A period is only used when there is a physical action describing the dialogue. For example: “Frank has a big book.” Millie pointed toward Frank’s bag. Overuse of idioms. The definition of idiom is: A speech form or an expression of a given language that is peculiar to itself grammatically or cannot be understood from the individual meanings of its elements. Some great example of idioms, if you’re still not sure what they are, can be found on IdiomSite.com.  Commonly misspelled words. Richard Nordquist wrote a nice  list of some commonly misspelled words here. My personal favorite misspelled word would be good-bye. Everyone forgets the hyphen (goodbye). These don’t however include British spellings that American writers mistake for American spellings. Those crazy English like to use extra Us and Ls and replace Zs with Ss. Don’t they know they are so wrong? (This is very tongue in cheek, mind you.) The Oxford Dictionary put together a list writers can use as reference here. Disembodied motion. A lot of disembodied motion or action can be viewed as acceptable from author to author and their writing styles.  But a general rule of thumb for editors is to take each instance into consideration. If, for example, an author is writing primarily erotica, more disembodied action is allowed, but it is still limited to avoid saturating the book. Usually in erotica, disembodied action or motion is used in the love scenes more prominently. Authors need to be aware of the dreaded zombie body parts taking over scenes.  A great article entitled Night of the Living Syntax: Disembodied Action by Craig Clevenger can help put this into better perspective. Overuse or underuse of commas. There are a bunch of rules on comma usage. My best advice is to study up, folks. This is a great article from the New York Times by Ben Yagoda here. Homophones.  These are easy to spot  for editors but hard for authors—unless they are scanning their manuscripts line by line, they are using spell check and spell check isn’t going to find homophones. Common examples of homophones are: to/two/too, there/their/they’re, your/you’re, four/for/fore, and so on. Here is a nice list by EnglishClub.com Creative Dialogue Tags. Again, this can be subjective, and an author can claim that creative dialogue tags are stylistic. In my editing eyes, it’s a big fat no. Some examples of creative dialogue...

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Ask the Divas: Should I Research When Writing a Novel?

Posted by on Jul 26, 2013 in Ask the Divas | 2 comments

Ask the Divas: Should I Research When Writing a Novel?

Writers have an unspoken agreement with readers to suspend disbelief when they begin a story. Readers willingly do this because they’re in it for the enjoyment of getting lost in a good book. But as a general rule, people will suspend disbelief only so far. Push the envelope too much and you’ll end up with reviews about your lackluster world building, protagonists acting out of character, and a story that simply didn’t make sense. Because while people want to get lost in a make-believe world, that world still needs to make sense within the boundaries you, as the writer, have set. So what does this have to do with research? It basically comes down to knowing your crap vs. knowing you’re crap. If you haven’t done enough research into the science behind a medical thriller, you won’t be able to convince people of the credibility of your characters and of you as an author. Stories that feature Vikings wearing helmets with horns or Roman Gladiators using words like groovy and whaddup sends up a red flag that the author is lazy. Let’s face it, if you aren’t willing to do a simple search of the Internet for “what did Vikings wear,” e-mail a university professor who specializes in ancient civilizations for help with common phrases used in Ancient Rome, or ask a doctor or medical intern for help with medical terminology and phrasing, your readers will notice. I know when I come across issues like these, it pulls me from the story and I begin looking for inconsistencies in the setting and details instead of reading the novel. The book becomes a comedy of errors. Don’t be afraid to ask an expert, avid hobbyist, or general know-it-all for input on ways to make your book sound...

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