Divas on Writing

What Should Authors Expect From An Editor?

Posted by on Jul 27, 2015 in Divas on Writing | 0 comments

What Should Authors Expect From An Editor?

Whether you are embarking on your first publishing venture as an author or if you are already a published author who’s decided to jump into the deep end of the self-publishing pool for the first time, working with a freelance author is a necessity if you want to present your best work. Many authors venturing out into the freelance world are former publishing house authors. Having worked at a mid-sized publishing house and as a freelance editor, I’d like the discuss the difference between an edit from a publishing house and an edit from a freelance editor. Editing With a Publishing House For authors who have worked with a publishing house before, access to a number of editors and editing options can vary to a few to as many as it takes. At the mid-sized publishing house where I worked, we didn’t have an army of editors at our disposal, but we did have teams of editors who went through the manuscripts of their assigned authors. On average, those books were looked at by five to six editors who went through the manuscript one to three times each. In most cases, the manuscript went back to the author between editing passes so the author could address changes before it came back for more editing. Between the editors from the publishing house and the author, a manuscript typically received about twelve passes. Larger publishing houses can afford to have more editors work on any given manuscript—usually until they can’t find any more errors. While attending an author panel several months ago at a convention, I listened to an author talk about her experience working with a large publisher as they edited her book. She commented that it was the twenty-sixth version of her manuscript that was eventually published and that most of the editors who worked on her manuscript only went through it twice before another editor was brought in to edit. That’s a lot of editors. Creative Control: How much creative control the author has over their manuscript varies from publisher to publisher. Some want things their way and since they’re footing the bill, they typically get to call most of the shots. But not all publishing houses rule with an iron fist. Many will listen to authors when they object to creative changes and try to work out a solution that will make both sides happy. All relationships are about the given and take, which means neither side will win all the disputes. Editing With a Freelance Editor What should an author expect from a freelance editor? The same thing they’d expect from a single publishing house editor. One pass of editing (going through one time) to correct the bulk of the errors and another pass to find what she missed and to correct any errors caused by the editing process. Should an author expect a freelance editor to catch every mistake in a manuscript? No. A freelance editor does not have an arsenal of other editors at her disposal to go through your manuscript multiple times. Each pass costs time and money and since most freelance editors depend on editing for their income, it isn’t cost effective to expect them to go through the manuscript more than two times. Keep in mind that editors are human and make mistakes, too. What you should expect from your freelance editor is an edit that will catch the majority of errors. But the editing doesn’t stop after the freelance editor. The author must go through the manuscript, line by line, and do her part after the edit is returned. A few freelance editors, Write Divas included, offer combination edits. The Write Divas version of a combo edit is a two-pass edit with two editors: the first editor performing a content edit (one time through to catch the bulk of mistakes and a second time through to catch anything that got missed), and—then once the author has made the edits suggested—the second editor performing a proofread on the manuscript. I’ve seen several variations of this from a few other freelance editors. Creative Control: An author should also expect a give and take with a freelance...

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What’s Killing Your Writing Dreams?

Posted by on Jul 20, 2015 in Divas on Writing | 4 comments

What’s Killing Your Writing Dreams?

If any of you follow my articles, you know by now that I’m an editor and a struggling writer. And let me tell you, I struggle. A lot. I don’t know why I can’t get past my hump. Let me rethink what I just wrote. I do know what it is killing my writing dreams—excuses. I get hung up on so many things like self-doubt; it’s a constant battle in my head when I sit down to my computer. I know I’m not alone. There are so many people out there that I’ve spoken with, met, or wrote with who struggle just as much, if not more, as I do. So I ask this question to you all: What’s killing your writing dreams? Here’s some of mine. The Dreaded Chapter Five I have written about ten stories all the way up to chapter five and then fall on my face. What is up with that? The stories themselves are perfectly fine. I’ve retweaked them about a bajillion times, I’ve edited and reedited them another bajillion, and I let some friends read the chapters for critique. But why do I get to only chapter five? The answer is easy: I’m over thinking my work too soon. Do you find that this kills your mojo just as bad as it does mine? I focus too much on the start of my book, and I fail to look at the big picture or even down the road. My perfectionism is misplaced. I tell myself not to focus on the first five so much, just to let the words flow, but man, it’s hard. Time, Oh, Blessed Time Another thing I don’t give myself is time. What the heck is that, right? And it’s not like I don’t have time, I do. I have oodles sometimes. It’s making the time just for writing that I have no idea how to do. There are too many excuses we face that make it so easy for us to bail on our writing dreams. Mine usually include: I want to read, I’ll write later, I’m tired, it’s Friday, or whatever else I fool myself into thinking. I’m constantly putting it off. I told myself at the beginning of summer that I would finish my short story before the kids go back to school. Guess where I’m at? Chapter five. The Grass Is Always Greener I tell you what, I will see authors pump out book after book, have critical acclaim, land a deal, get national attention, or whatever it is, and I get in a pissy mood. It should be me by now, right? Why is looking at someone else’s achievements holding me back? It’s author envy. It sucks, and I haven’t realized that it’s holding me back until recently. So there’s that… My Husband Is So Darn Cute Oh, I’m so going there. I’ll be the first to admit that he’s bad for my writing. Not that he knows it. In fact, he thinks he’s like my writing cheerleader. To him I can write a 700-page book in two days. He doesn’t understand why I haven’t done it already. Well, that stud muffin is so unaware of how stinking cute he is when he’s being all supportive. It’s so distracting. Work Will Happen If I Ikea What? Really? Am I’m going to blame Ikea? Yup. I can’t work because I don’t have a perfect office supplied by Ikea. I found this cool office set up on Pinterest. I’ve convinced myself that I write more productively when my office is organized. And only then. Do I clean my office and hippety-hop to Ikea? Nope. When I look at my office I hyperventilate. Summer Vacay Isn’t Really A Vacay Last but not least, it’s summer. Which would be totes awesome for any other writer but to this gal it’s totes not. I love my kids, I really do, but they suck every last drop of my energy and creative juices. From the time school ended I promised myself I would work around my kiddos. That didn’t happen. Trips to the pool or the zoo...

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How to Use Subplots

Posted by on Jul 6, 2015 in Divas on Writing | 0 comments

How to Use Subplots

I’ve written about the three-act structure  in novels and how it relates to plot. In this article, I want to take a look at subplots and how to use them in fiction. Subplots are secondary or side stories to the main plot of the story. By nature, they have less action, focus, and events that unfold than the main plot. In addition, subplots have a lower impact on the story and usually involve the secondary characters. There are two types of subplots: parallel and interwoven. Parallel subplots oftentimes revolve around secondary characters and move alongside the main plot but are not related. However, they do have an impact on the main plot and characters, because of the association between the secondary and main characters. As the main plot and the parallel subplot unfold, it’s not always clear up front if the subplot is pivotal until later in the story. This can be used as a tool to drive up the tension of the story. Interwoven subplots weave in and out of the main plot and are related to the main purpose of the story. Both the main plot and the interwoven subplot affect the other, thus creating complex layers as the main plot and subplot continually push and pull along the path to the resolution of the story. There are many ways to use subplots in a story. They can be used to drive the main plot, develop a rich and complex story, and give secondary characters life. Subplots can also be used to increase rising tension and to purposefully misdirect the reader. If the main plot and subplot(s) unfold at the same time, they can be used to show contrast or add mystery. Each time you present a set of clues with each scene, the reader must work out what’s important and what isn’t. And as the main plot and various subplots continue to tangle, the tension rises. Some of the most satisfying climaxes in literature are when the main plot and subplots unravel for the big reveal. So when and where do you add subplots into your story? One simple way is to use the decisions of the protagonist and antagonists as catalysts for subplot development. Every decision has consequences and these can cause ripples throughout the story, causing that straight line from point A to point B to take a detour because one decision to clear one obstacle caused another obstacle to appear that wasn’t there before. This is where those secondary characters and their arcs (or subplots) come into play. And it is how the different characters’ desires, fears, strengths, and weaknesses interact and change based on what each character did. Short stories and novellas are typically light on the subplots because there simply isn’t enough room to develop both the main plot and a subplot. If you’re writing a novel, but have hit a roadblock or your story suddenly stalls because there just isn’t enough there, take a look at the decisions your main characters have made and ask yourself what types of ripples that decision set off. Is there a secondary character who can now contribute to the story, thus giving you a subplot? With all subplots, it is important to remember that it is a subplot and should never outshine the main plot of the story. So what subplots have you used or enjoyed reading? Do you like writing subplots or do you find them to be too intimidating? Now… go write something! Related Articles The Five Basic Elements of Plot The Three-Act Structure in Novels Plot and Genre Storyboarding Plot...

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Indie Author Pep Talk

Posted by on Jun 29, 2015 in Divas on Writing | 2 comments

Indie Author Pep Talk

Oh jeez, where do I start with this author pep talk. I know you’re thinking: A pep talk? Really? Yes, indeedy. I have a lot author friends, clients, Facebook friends, followers, etc., so I hear a variety of gripes, tales of woe, burning hatred, and envy for a plethora of reasons like “Why can’t I crank out books like so and so?” or “Where in the heck do they find those cover models?” and “Did they even reread their book before they hit publish?”. Part of being an editor is lending an impartial shoulder to lean on—an ear to hear all you need to vent about the business. I like being an advice giver and a person who can help solve an author’s problems. It’s what I like to do and it seems that I’ve been coming to the rescue more often, so to speak. While I don’t mind this, I thought that a good article would be more focused on an author’s mentality instead of their technical merit for once. So here it is, the pep talk. The grass is always greener. Yep, Sally Susie over there has an excellent cover, the editing is perfect, and her story just hit the best-seller lists like everywhere. So stop comparing yourself to her. You’re not her, nor will you ever be. Stop wondering why her book is selling so well while your ranking sits at one million in the Kindle store. Your book might be just as excellent, but something didn’t happen for you that it did for Sally Susie. What you can do is keep writing and keep publishing. When you compare yourself to other authors, it will only make you crazy. Be your own writer. Be confident. My muse has died. AHH!! I hate this because it’s happened to me too many times than I can count. The Fix: get inspired. Grab a book, watch a movie, make a scrapbook on your characters, do something that doesn’t let your creative juices run dry.  Go brainstorm with your editor or fellow authors. Turn on the radio or listen to your playlist. DANCE! Rough drafts aren’t evil stepchildren. So you written your first draft and go back to read it and freak the heck out. It’s terrible! How did you write this dribble? Why, God, oh why did I ever think I could write a book? Well, stop that crap now! Rough drafts aren’t final drafts. That’s the magic of writing. No one has to see it but you. The best thing about rough drafts are just that, they are rough and you have plenty of time to revise before anyone reads your lovely words. No one is buying my book! There are so many reasons why your book doesn’t sell. I mean, so many. Unfortunately, the over saturation of books and book sellers changing their standards left and right makes it hard to get established . Everybody and their mama wants to sell a book like E.L. James, but it’s not in the cards for the ordinary writer. It may take years and dozens of books before you can really make a living as an author. Hitting the jackpot with a hot book even close to the juggernaut of Fifty Shades is unrealistic. What you can do is build a library behind your name, do the groundwork of promotion, get to know your readers, schmooze, market the hell out of your book, and you will see the turnaround. You’re not a superhuman. Yes, we all have lives and writing isn’t a full-time job for most of us. Don’t get yourself down when you fall asleep at the computer or want to go out with friends instead of outlining your next chapter. It’s okay to put your book on the back burner so you don’t go insane. Don’t give up! Even if you’re a publishing veteran or a newbie just starting out. Finish that story. I have to remind myself of this, too. I have yet to go beyond chapter five of anything, but I’m nowhere close to giving up. I will finish...

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Character Consistency

Posted by on Jun 22, 2015 in Divas on Writing | 0 comments

Character Consistency

Character Consistency How many times have you been reading something and out of nowhere there’s an odd change to a character that comes with no explanation? Nothing inconsequential, of course—something substantial, like eye color or body type or a huge personality change that goes unexplained? Are you the type of reader who would notice that sort of thing? As an editor, I have to be. During the editing process, there are often changes to the story line, a rearrangement of the timeline, or both, and a lot of extra details are potentially removed. So it’s important not to lose track of the basics of your character—their voice and their physical characteristics should remain consistent. The question becomes: How do you keep your characters’ traits consistent—especially when there could be a large number of them, depending on your story or series? The most logical answer is to keep character sheets for each—like a dossier.  What form that takes is up to you. Some authors choose to storyboard their character sheets, using Post-its or flashcards on a cork board, others put them on a whiteboard, and others still keep them in electronic document form using applications like Word. What should you keep track of? Here are some basic things: Name Nicknames Hierarchy of character – protagonist, antagonist, secondary character, etc. Age Physical Description – Gender, eye color, hair color and normal style, skin tone, body type, piercings, tattoos, glasses, handicaps, etc. Emotional Characteristics – friendly, introverted, grouchy, dominant, mouse-like, etc. Physical Reactions – nodding, blushing, cursing, nail-biting, frowning, eye-rolling, lip-biting, etc. General Character Traits – photographic memory, horrible fashion sense, extraordinary abilities, hates cats, allergic to peanuts, etc. Relationship to others characters General background story, regardless of whether it affects the story line. As the author, you should know it. Story arc for the character – does this character grow, does he die in chapter two, does she spiral into drugs and overdose? This type of character record is important not only to the author, but to the editor, as well, and should be referenced during all the stages of writing, revising, and editing. Each character should have a life of her own and be a unique voice in the author’s head. Character records help the author learn about and become more familiar with the players in the story to the point where they’re almost real people. Once you come to think of the characters as friends—or enemies—from real life, you’re more likely to keep their characteristics clear.  Then when you’re reading through your manuscript and come across something that seems not quite right, it’ll be glaringly obvious. Happy...

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Numbers in Writing

Posted by on Jun 15, 2015 in Divas on Writing | 0 comments

Numbers in Writing

Divas on Writing: Numbers in Writing How many of us think about numbers when we write a book? Not very many, I’d wager. But numbers do play a part in most books, whether it’s an address, street number, monetary terms, the time of day, etc. Numbers are a part of our lives, and so they are often a part of a novel. The rules for numbers in a work of fiction are many and vary from one style guide to the next, so I’ll talk about the recommendations from the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition. The following are the most common uses of numbers I see when editing works of fiction, but this list is not meant to be all-inclusive. CMoS General Rules Chicago Manual of Style recommends the following: Spell out numbers zero to one hundred. Use a combination of numerals and spelling if confusion will result, such as Three girls wore size 6, five wore size 9, and two wore size 12. Remain consistent within the class of number if combining numerals and spelling. In other words, all the quantities in the previous example are spelled out and the clothing sizes were rendered as numerals. These rules apply to the following: Nontechnical physical qualities (six foot three, twenty-three miles, 105 years old) Ordinals (See section on ordinals below.) Very large numbers (thirty-five million, 750 trillion) Currency (ninety-five dollars, twenty cents, and $3,000) Street numbers (102nd Street, Fifth Avenue) Alternate Rule: Spell out single-digit numbers zero through nine only. The AP Style Guide and others adhere to this alternate rule, but CMoS prefers the zero to one hundred rule. Numbers in Dialogue All numbers should be spelled out in dialogue, even the ones over one hundred, unless confusion will result. However, years, such as 2010 or 1938, and numbers in brand names, such as 7-Eleven and 3M, can be rendered as numerals. Beginning a Sentence with a Number If a sentence begins with a number, it is always spelled out, even if that sentence begins with a year. Sometimes it’s best to rewrite the sentence and avoid starting a sentence with a number. Two thousand ten was the year I wrote my first book. In 2010, I wrote my first book. Ordinals Words like first, second, twelfth, eighty-first, and so forth are spelled out. For numbers above one hundred, the letters used in ordinals (st, rd and nd) should not appears as superscript. Grandfather fought in the 142nd Airborne Division. (Not 142nd) The shop is on 118th Street.  (Not 118th) When using the nth degree, the n is set in italics. As stated above, if confusion will result, a combination of spelling and numerals is acceptable as long as you are consistent within the class or use of the numbers. The first used car lot had 107 cars, the second had 56, and the third had 39. Train 9 has ninety-five passengers, Train 75 has forty-three, and Train 127 has eighty-one. Time of Day Times of day are spelled out when referring to them as even, half and quarter hours, and o’clock is spelled out as well. But numbers that emphasize exact times, including even, half and quarter hours, appear as numerals. Margaret met John at the coffee shop at a half past twelve. Kaden went to bed at eight-thirty that night. Megan barely made the 6:35 a.m. train. You are cordially invited to a reception on July 9, at 8:30 p.m. Dates Years are written as numerals unless they are at the beginning of a sentence. If the year is expressed as two digits by dropping the first two digits, an apostrophe precedes the number. Mom graduated high school in ’56. Note: If using curly quotes, the quote should curl away from the number or in the direction of the part of the word or number that was dropped. When the month and day appear together, the day is expressed with a numeral. If the year appears with the month and day, it is a numeral as well. But a day that appears by itself is spelled out oftentimes as an ordinal. Mary had her baby June 21, 2011 but she was due on...

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