Tag Archives: Editing

VIDEO: 5 Mistakes Every Writer Should Avoid

Posted by September 21st, 2015

Become a savvier author in 15 minutes!

In this video tutorial, editors Meghan Harvey and Christina Henry de Tessan share the 5 Mistakes Every Writer Should Avoid:

  1. Don’t forget your reader.

  2. Don’t fly blind.

  3. Don’t rush the process.

  4. Your editorial team is on your side.

  5. Don’t wait to build your audience.

Take a seat and get schooled on how you can avoid these mistakes as you work to reach your writing goals.

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What Is a Developmental Edit?

Posted by August 24th, 2015

ThinkstockPhotos-508609021Our guest blogger this morning is editor Christina Henry de Tessan of Girl Friday Productions, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at this year’s San Francisco Writers Conference. She’s here today to break down the nuances of the term “developmental edit,” something you’ve likely heard as you make your way from being a writer to being an author.

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Editing can serve as something of a catchall term that can refer to anything from tinkering with semicolons to removing entire characters or plot threads. This nebulousness can make it confusing to know what you’re even asking for when you’re in search of editorial help. In an effort to make the entire undertaking less opaque—and hopefully less daunting—here are some insights into that crucial first stage in the editorial process: the developmental edit.

Fiction

Character: For fiction, character is paramount. Your characters can be lovable, flawed, complicated, even loathsome, but no matter what, you’ve got to make us care about them. Do we see their vulnerable underbellies and darkest thoughts? Or are you keeping your characters at arm’s length? Does your main character have enough nuance to keep us interested, or is he/she falling flat or being a bit too predictable in places? Does your protagonist evolve over the course of the story? Do the characters feel real? Do we feel invested in their trajectories? Developmental editors are here to make sure your readers are compelled to hang out with your characters until the very last page.

Plot, pacing, and structure: Does the story feel rushed? Are you doling out information in a way that leaves us wanting to turn the page? Or does it drag right at the moment when we want resolution? Is there enough tension? Is the lush setting or history of the time period eclipsing the main plot? Are there awkward information dumps that could be woven in more naturally? Are there any holes? Are you making any problematic leaps in logic? This can seem obvious, but if you’ve worked on numerous drafts of a book, old material may no longer make sense with more recently added material.

Style: Although a developmental edit doesn’t usually focus extensively on the line (sentence structure, repetition of words or phrases, and so on), a dev editor will point out stylistic issues. One that comes up a lot is the classic “Show, Don’t Tell” edict. Writers will often do a fabulous job of showing and then undermine their own great storytelling by telling just to make sure they got their point across. So if young Rose blushes and averts her gaze when the boy she has a crush on approaches her, you don’t need to then tell us explicitly that she felt nervous. The dev editor is there to tell you that your scene can stand on its own two feet—and if it needs extra support, your editor will suggest fixes. Your dev editor will also look at voice and tone—is your dialogue sounding genuine or stilted? Do all the characters sound the same? Does their word choice accurately reflect who they are?

Memoir

With memoir, a developmental edit can be particularly helpful, as it is sometimes difficult for writers to transform their life story into a cohesive narrative comprised of discrete scenes. How do you choose what to tell and what not to? How do you integrate crucial background information in a way that feels seamless? Perhaps most importantly, how do you nail the voice from the very first page so that the reader is drawn into your story?

Nonfiction

Nonfiction is a bit of a different beast. If you’ve written a book on finance, character development is not your primary concern, and ensuring that the plot thickens at just the right moment isn’t relevant. But a developmental editor can work other kinds of magic with nonfiction. Below are some of the most frequent issues that come up with nonfiction.

Audience: It’s imperative that you know who you’re writing for. But this can be surprisingly tricky when you’re an expert on the subject—after all, when you think about financial planning all day long, it can be hard to see what a novice might not know. A good dev editor can hone your language to make it appropriate for your target audience, using the right level of vocabulary and making the right assumptions about your readers’ background knowledge. Have you assumed a level of understanding of reverse mortgages that will leave your readers flummoxed? Your editor will be the one to point that out.

Organization: When you’re a subject-matter expert, it can be hard to see your material from an outside perspective. You’re so deeply immersed in it that it can be difficult to present your argument in a logical fashion. Who is picking up your book, and what do they hope to get out of it? Have you organized your material in such a way that each section builds on the last? Does it give enough foundational information at the outset? Or have you bogged it down with too much background before getting to your message? A developmental editor will point out the holes and ensure that there is continuity so that your readers never once furrow their eyebrows in confusion.

A good developmental editor is like some hybrid of a detective and a psychologist, sniffing out problems and proposing solutions so that you can polish and hone before putting your beloved manuscript in front of a wider audience. In short, we hope you’ll think of us as your secret weapon.

Christina Henry de TessanAbout Christina Henry de Tessan

Christina Henry de Tessan is the vice president of editorial at Girl Friday Productions, a full-service editorial firm headquartered in Seattle. Formerly of Chronicle Books and Seal Press, she’s also the author of several travel books, including Forever Paris and Expat: Women’s True Tales of Life Abroad.

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Assistant Editor Michelle Meade on the Editorial Process

Posted by September 9th, 2014

“Never feel that your book is finished before you get started in the editorial process.” Michelle Mead, now Assistant Editor at MIRA Books, an imprint of Harlequin, gives advice to new authors starting the editorial process.

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Does Your Book Have What It Takes?

Posted by August 11th, 2014

Does your book have what it takes?The most successful writers are those willing to really listen to the feedback they get on their manuscripts, and then use feedback to revise. And then do that again, and again, and again, until their book is really ready for readers on a large scale. On Book Country, writing and posting new drafts to share with the community is how you can gain traction for your book, widen its audience, and ultimately, have a better chance of turning your book into a publishing success. Continue reading

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Editing During NaNoWriMo: A Writer’s Perspective

Posted by November 6th, 2013

editing_while_writingThis is a guest post by Book Country fantasy writer and NaNoWriMo Montreal regional coordinator RJ Blain. RJ has been around the block when it comes to marathon writing, so we invited her to get her perspective on the how to stay on top of one’s writing goals in November.

In this piece she covers a NaNoWriMo classic: “Should I be editing during NaNoWriMo?” ~NG

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One of the most common pieces of advice during NaNoWriMo is to never edit while drafting. Don’t look back, always walk forward. Don’t do this, don’t do that.

Well, screw that nonsense. There, I said it. Sometimes, editing is a valuable part of the drafting process. But if you’re the type of writer who needs to edit as you draft, you have a lot of work ahead of you.

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“Find a Good Story and Tell It Well”: A Conversation with Random House Executive Editor David Ebershoff

Posted by October 1st, 2013

david_ebershoff_editorIt is not an overstatement to say that Random House’s David Ebershoff is a star editor. Not only has he edited authors such as Gary Shteyngart, but two of the books he edited won a Pulitzer Prize this year. We talked to him about life as an editor, as well as his other roles as an author and writing professor.

Do you mind describing a day at your job as an editor?

My day starts at home with my own writing. I get up at 5:30 AM and write before plunging into the day of editorial work. A typical day will be a mix of the following: calls, emails, lunch with an agent, meeting with a writer or a foreign publisher visiting New York, some kind of marketing meeting, a good deal of corresponding with the media and social media about the books I’ve edited, checking in with colleagues about books and writers we have on submission. In the evening, that’s when I read submissions and edit. A typical weekend is an editing binge-fest.

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Meet Writer Danielle Bowers

Posted by May 6th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

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“Learning to ignore the doubt and continue on has been the hardest lesson.” –Danielle Bowers

Danielle Bowers is a young adult writer and photographer from the Boston area. She’s currently putting the finishing touches on her debut YA fantasy novel, Salem. She’s known around Book Country for her creative analogies. Take Danielle’s dead-on assessment of Fifty Shades of Grey’s protagonist: “Christian Grey has more issues than National Geographic Magazine.”

Nevena: Thanks for joining us, Danielle. Let’s start with the basics. When did you start writing? What inspires you to carry on?

Danielle: I began writing three years ago this August, which makes me a newbie in the literary world. What has kept me going is the knowledge that writing is a constant learning process, and some day my ability will catch up with my ambition. That day will come if I keep writing.

Nevena: How do you manage to fit writing into your life? I’ve seen your beautiful photographs. What else do you do when you’re not plugging at your WIP?

Danielle: With two children, a husband, and work to consider, making time to write can be a juggling act. I learned early on that scheduling time to write is crucial. Too many people say they would write a book if they had the time. I don’t have spare time. I make time.  In the evenings when my husband is watching television, I’m writing. If I’m at a concert and waiting to be called to photograph, I’m writing. If my kids are occupied coloring for a few minutes, I’m writing.

One of the things I do when I’m not writing is photography, as you noticed. It’s a form of storytelling in of itself. My job is to capture the moment, to show the viewer the story without saying a word. Writing and photography mesh well as hobbies/careers, and what I see on the road becomes material for my books.

I also blog, write articles, treatments for comic books and film, and manage the social media accounts for a couple of businesses.

Nevena: You seem to have a lot on your plate. Let’s talk more about your book, Salem. It’s set in Salem, Massachusetts and is rooted in the history and lore of the Salem Witch Trials. What drew you to that moment in history?

Danielle: I live close to Salem, and as a history buff I couldn’t help but be drawn to the lore. When I found out that it wasn’t just Salem that held witch trials I was fascinated.  For two hundred years across several countries and continents, there were similar witch trials. Close to 10,000 people accused of witchcraft were killed during that time. It wasn’t a stretch to wonder what would’ve happened if there really were witches involved.

Nevena: Liam, Salem’s protagonist, is a young witch who flees Scotland to escape the Brotherhood, aka the bad guys. How did Liam’s story come to you?

Danielle: The entire idea came to me when I saw a runner out on a winter day. He stopped at a light, steam rising off his skin. The idea of magic being shed like body heat clicked, and my imagination took it from there. Liam’s personal storyline within Salem came to me slowly.  I wanted to show the reader both sides of the war between the witches and the witch hunters. The best way to do so was to have Liam born into The Brotherhood and have “the brothers” turn on him.

Nevena: How has the novel changed over time?

Danielle: I wrote the first version of Salem two years ago. It was simpler, like a plain white t-shirt compared to an expensive sweater. With every rewrite I’ve gotten to know the characters better, added nuances and depth. Several characters have been cut and the remaining ones refined. The core storyline has matured with time, and I’m finally happy with how Salem has turned out.

I’ve learned the proverbial mid-book slump is nothing compared to the revision blues. The book is finished, and now you have the job of making it readable. You read it and become convinced it’s the worst book ever written and you’re wasting your time. Learning to ignore the doubt and continue on has been the hardest lesson.

Nevena
: What achievements are you most proud of as a writer?

Danielle: The blog I kept on Rolling Stone Magazine’s website. The magazine wanted to do an Almost Famous type trip, and I was chosen to follow a country music tour to photograph and blog. It was a mess: I wrote in the back of vans, at concerts, in bars, and even at five star restaurants while we were on the road, but I did it. Seeing my name in the magazine with a page dedicated to the trip was unreal.

Nevena: Wow! So why are you on Book Country? How has it helped you grow as a writer?

Danielle: I found out about Book Country from Colleen Lindsay on Twitter. She was looking for beta fish to test the site, and I signed up. At that time, I was a brand new writer and I was terrible. That is no joke, if there was a mistake to be made, I was doing it. Without Book Country and the friends I made here while getting started, I would have become frustrated and given up within a year. In almost every review there was praise for what I was doing right, and advice to correct what I was doing wrong. It was like having a coach giving pep talks and a cheerleading squad on the sidelines cheering me on.

Nevena: I like that imagery! What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Danielle: When I first started writing I would draft a few chapters, then agonize over them for weeks. Finally, someone on Book Country told me to finish writing the book and then edit.

Three chapters aren’t an entire story, so finish it before editing because you’ll make hundreds of changes to the story over the course of the book.

Nevena: So keep focused on the big picture. Is there anything else you want the community to know about you?

Danielle: I think putting raisins in cookies should be a criminal offense.

Nevena: LOL! Thanks for chatting with me, Danielle!

Connect with Danielle Bowers on Book Country and follow her on Twitter @DanielleEBowers. If you want to know what happens when witches fight back their inquisitors, check out her novel, Salem.

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Meet Charlotte Firbank-King

Posted by December 21st, 2011

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

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Haven’t interacted with Book Country member Charlotte Firbank-King yet? Get to know her in our member spotlight!

Every time I read a book, a short story, a poem, or anything really, I wonder about the person behind the words. I ask myself a million questions, wishing I could know some of their true-life stories and how their experiences have shaped them. Why? Because what we’ve been through is what shapes our creativity. It’s not identical, of course, but it makes us who we are as people and as writers.

So, I decided to chat with Book Country member Charlotte Firbank-Kingabout some pieces of  her life, her process, and her writing to get a little insight into this recently minted member’s mind:

DP: The majority of our members are from the United States but I noticed you are not. I’d love to hear a little bit about what it’s like in South Africa where you live! What is the writing community like there?

CFK: South Africa is a complex land with 11 official languages and almost every ethnic group known to the World. We have wide open spaces of pristine bush with a staggering variety of creatures. And no, lions and elephants don’t wander down our streets—unless you live in a village in the bush. Here, a stark third-world existence rubs shoulders with gleaming first-world technology and opulence. Our weather is wonderful. We don’t get many earthquakes or tornados and snow only falls on mountainous areas. The writing community sucks. I personally don’t bother to explore its limited offerings. In that regard, we are definitely third world.

DP: You edit, write, and illustrate? What was your first creative outlet? How did you shift into the other two?

CFK: The illustrating, art came first. I studied art at Pretoria Art College. I visited England and France to see the works of old masters. There, my existing love of history was fuelled. I have always dabbled in writing, from childhood. First poetry expressed my angst, and then cheesy bodice rippers served as a release for raging teenage hormones. Finally, life turned out to be my greatest motivator and teacher. About seventeen years ago, I sent a very, very length novel to Sandy Tritt, CEO of Inspiration for Writers. Because of the poor exchange of SA Rand, I couldn’t afford the editing fees, but she offered to read my book anyway. She imparted her extensive knowledge freely and I honed the craft of writing under her guidance over the next ten years. She eventually asked me to become an editor and ghost writer for IFW.

DP: It says in your profile that you usually write from the male protagonist’s POV. Why’s that? What’s your favorite (and least favorite!) part about writing from the perspective?

CFK: Men are simpler. I love their direct, practical approach, and I think they are misunderstood and underappreciated by most women. (Not talking about your wife-beating jerk here) I especially love the warrior spirit in a man and that is what I concentrate on. My husband was a warrior and he was killed. I guess I just understand them. I have no least favorite part. Well, maybe when it comes to finer details like what is it like to make love to a virgin—tricky interview that.

DP: You have great attention to detail, especially when it comes to grammar and word choice, from what I can tell from your reviews so far. What is your greatest writing pet peeve? Why do you think it’s important?

CFK: That sounds like a no-brainer. Isn’t writing all about grammar and word choice? My pet peeve is manuscripts put out there when the author hasn’t even bothered to try to edit a single word. Would a person expect someone to live if they performed brain surgery on them without studying medicine first? This is my mantra and I write with it in mind always.The writer is forever searching for a brilliant phrase that will blow the reader’s mind away. They hunt among the bright pebbles of adjectives and adverbs, worn smooth by overuse, when all the while it is hidden under the boulder of brevity.

Below are a few of my favorite quotes that sum up how I feel:

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back again” ~ Oscar Wilde

“When instinct fails, rules may guide us. But rules shouldn’t preoccupy the writer. The real job, the enduring task of the writer, is cultivating the instinct for language–even when language so stubbornly resists the precision we seek.” ~ George Orwell

DP: There is a wide variety of authors listed as your favorite writers–Dan Brown to Shakespeare! What do you like about them?  Is there a common thread you see in their writing? I’m intrigued!

CFK: Dan Brown and the like are light entertainment (they should edit their books more carefully, too). Shakespeare feeds my soul; Dickens and Oscar Wild teach me how to use words effectively. I have eclectic tastes, interests, what can I say! =)

DP: What brought you to Book Country? What is your own personal writing goal that the community can help you with?

CFK: I saw your site referred to on Kirsten Lamb’s blog. My goal, to get my first, of 12 novels, published. My inability to promote myself is my worst enemy. At first, I just wanted another point of view on my most completed novel Twilight Path. And most of the reviews have been helpful, made me look at the area that bothered me most, what genre is my book? And some things that I didn’t think were a problem, but then had to look at. Finally, as I did more reviews, I wanted to help aspiring authors. Yes, I am paid to edit, but when I see a really talented writer I can’t resist wanting to guide them.

DP: I read that your book, TWILIGHT PATH, is nearly complete and ready for publication. How many rounds of revision did you go through? What was your process? How do you know you’re nearly done? 

CFK: Not nearly, it is completed, but only to the best of my ability. I think what got me was the numerous rejection slips I received from romance publishers. I write for the thinking person. I don’t do wilting heroine on hunk’s arm. I doubt I could give an accurate estimate of how many edits, but I would not be lying if I said at least 150 of my own. So I’m anal, shoot me. =) My process starts with the story in my head, clamoring with a thousand others to be heard. The one that screams loudest gets first shot. First chapters are my thing. It’s like the first time you make love; it has to be good because that defines your love life (story) for the rest of your life (story.) As I go, I have a separate file called a story outline. This has all the details about various characters—eye color, hair, fears, habits, twitches, aspirations etc. It isn’t good to have blue eyes in one place then brown eyes. I guess I will never be done editing; there is always the lure of a better way to say something.

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.” ~Winston Churchill

DP: What kind of books do you edit versus what you write? What do you find appealing about them from the different roles?

CFK: I have edited anything from hard-core porn, romance, Christian inspirational works through to paranormal and some that have no specific genre. I write mystery/thrillers with strong elements of romance. I also write YA fantasy and kids’ books with illustrations. I guess I wear two hats, an editor hat and a writer hat. The editor hat puts aside self. I have no views or opinions that I am permitted to express, concerning the author’s views and opinions. My job is simply to help them grow as writers, be it porn of spiritual. In my own writing, I wear both hats and I sometimes hate my editor hat.

The editing appeals because I can help someone improve, if they are willing to learn. Some aren’t. My writing satisfies a deep, abiding compulsion within me to write—I can’t help myself—I need to write everyday like a junky needs a fix.

DP: What inspires you to write? Do you have a muse, if you will?

CFK: I believe God gives us gifts and those gifts become a compulsion if we let them, I let them. The stories that keep me awake at night won’t go away until I put them on paper, then they grow and consume me. Do I have a muse? A muse, by definition is spiritual, really. So if God likes Shakespeare and those of his ilk, then there is my multidimensional muse—there are ten, mythically speaking, aren’t there?

DP: For our final question, let’s talk about something other than writing. We’d love to hear a random fun fact about you!

CFK: I’m not random, so obviously, I don’t get the question, but here is what my one granddaughter and kids thinks is fun about me, if that counts:

I am into technology and play computer games, so that makes me fun.

Eldest daughter: Editing with me makes me fun.

Son: Woodworking and cooking with me, experimenting with different dishes, makes me fun.

Youngest daughter: I play computer games.

Is that random enough? =)

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