Editing Wizardry

A Guide to Handling Revisions by Kate Brauning

Posted by on Aug 28, 2014 in Editing Wizardry, Pen and Muse Summer School, Writing | 0 comments

A Guide to Handling Revisions by Kate Brauning

A major part of writing a novel is revising. Good, solid revisions are a different process than drafting, and may take several rounds. Handling the editorial letter itself can be difficult—hearing someone point out all the areas your manuscript needs work can be overwhelming, even if you’re braced for a tough critique. As an author-editor, I’ve been overwhelmed by edits myself and I’ve seen it happen to my clients, too—but revisions really don’t need to be overwhelming. So pull up a chair and we’ll talk about specific, simple strategies that can help you address those notes and apply them to your manuscript. Editorial letters can come from a few different places. A professional editorial letter may come from your editor at a publishing house, if you have a publishing deal, or it may come from your agent before going on submission, or it may come from a freelance editor you hired to get your manuscript in good shape independently. Professional editorial letters, especially ones from people invested in your career like your agent or editor, should be taken seriously. Take a few days to process the comments before reacting or deciding how much of the advice to follow. Don’t write off a comment because it doesn’t match up with what you planned for the story. Think about it, and see if those ideas challenge your concepts in positive ways. If you’re confused or want clarification on any of the advice, don’t hesitate to ask for it. Agents and editors definitely want you to ask. Finally, make sure you’re making those edits your own. Don’t just fix the surface; take ownership of the ideas, apply your own voice and vision to them, and dig deeper than those notes. Take ownership of your revisions. Click To Tweet Most authors also work with beta readers and critique partners, and the kind of advice given there can vary widely. Of course, you should only be sharing your work with people whose talent and advice you respect. Following bad advice can make a mess of your manuscript. Sift through the comments to make sure what’s being advised is good for the story. Sometimes a change that’s recommended will make the story different, but not necessarily better, so keep a strong idea of what you want your story to be. I have several writers who give me feedback on my work, and it’s almost always helpful to see the story the way someone else does. One of the most confusing things about critique partner edits is that sometimes the sets of notes will disagree. One might say the pacing is too slow, while another might say it’s awesome how active the plot is. Sometimes one finds the character badass, and someone else things she’s unlikeable. When you have conflicting advice, ask yourself whether there’s a connecting issue. Perhaps a lot does happen in your story, but the plot points take too many pages to happen. Action spread over a lot of space can make the pacing slow. Maybe your character is badass, but her motivations need to be built up so readers connect with why she’s doing what she’s doing. Sometimes conflicting advice is simply due to personal taste; not everyone is going to react the same way to an element, and that’s fine. An important thing to keep in mind is that while CPs and beta readers may be right that there’s an issue, their solutions might not be best for the story. (The same goes for your agent or editor’s edits.) Take the issues they’re pointing out seriously, but just make sure the...

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Freebie: Scrivener Fiction Writing Template

Posted by on Aug 24, 2014 in Editing Wizardry, Pen and Muse Summer School, Writing | 11 comments

Freebie: Scrivener Fiction Writing Template

Remember all that talk about Scrivener yesterday? No? Well, you better get caught up. You’re going to need it. Really. But it’s a good thing. If you’ve been following Summer School faithfully (which you have, right?), you know each course comes with a related freebie. If you’ve been following Muse KJ (in a non-creepy manner, please. She tends to use her large purses as weapons if excited.), you’ll know she’s absolutely devoted to her Scrivener. Devoted. When those combine, what do you get?   No, not Captain Planet. Sorry. But just as good. *drumroll* Freebie: Scrivener Writing Template One of the things I love about Scrivener is that you can make your own templates – which means you can adjust for different projects. So, what’s in this Scrivener template? A few tips from KJ Scene worksheets Character worksheets (with an example from KJ! Feel free to use and abuse this character anyway you like – just tell me about it.) Setting worksheet Sold yet? Grab it now! Once you download the zip file, you’ll have to unzip it – and then load the template into your Scrivener templates. (From the main menu, find the options dropdown, and select “Import template”.) (Further directions can be found here, from Belinda Crawford.) PS: Feel free to leave feedback of what you DO want and don’t want in a template – I may add a few...

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To Scrivener or Not to Scrivener by Sam Hager

Posted by on Aug 23, 2014 in Editing Wizardry, Pen and Muse Summer School, Writing | 3 comments

To Scrivener or Not to Scrivener by Sam Hager

I can already see you, yes, some of you are building a moat and looking for ads for fire-breathing dragons to protect your Microsoft Word. Trust me, I’m not here to take it away from you. There are those that will defend their precious word processing program to their dying day and challenge you to prove what Scrivener can do that theirs can’t. They cross their arms and glare. “So what?” they ask. “What does your Scrivener have that is so much better?” I was at a writer’s retreat over the summer and we got into this very debate. I’m not an expert. I do not know every function available. I continue to learn. One of my favorite tools, I learned only recently by Googling my question. But, allow me to point out some of the features I found that matched my writing style. And, please don’t discount the last few words of the previous sentence. Writing style has a HUGE amount to do with to Scrivener or to Not.   Project Targets. This is probably what turned me on to Scrivener. It has a nice little word count tool that keeps track of my words for the day. I can select a total for the day and a total for the project. I can select a day that I want to finish and it will tell me how many days I have to be done. A nifty feature, however, I also have a writer friend who types in Microsoft Word daily and updates to Scrivener to check her daily progress. (I have no problem with this, if this works for you, you’ve supported them by buying the product, use it)   Chapter/Selection Goals. I only discovered this feature recently, but I’m very excited about it. Here is where style comes in. I’m concise writer and I worry about word count. I noticed when I looked at a section of my story, I could track the length of each chapter and set a goal for each. For me, I feel like 1800 words feels like the right amount. When I saw my chapters spaced out, I could see how uneven they were.   To set my goals for each chapter, you hit the button with small circles at the right of the green bar. You can see your progress for each chapter. You can see the status of each chapter, the word count, target and progress.   Templates. If you open a new document and you select “Fiction” for your project, you will be able to create templates for your characters and settings using pictures and descriptions. I find this to be a useful tool for planning as well as inspiration when I am trying to visualize a scene or want to remember details about a minor character. And honestly, it’s kind of fun to go searching for little tidbits that fit and tuck them away.   Composition Mode. I am easily distracted by pop-ups on the screen, the desire to check Facebook, Twitter – heck, I’ll be checking my bank balance if I get stuck enough – but using Composition Mode helps. In the ‘View” screen you can first select an image to use and then chose to “Enter Composition Mode” if you get desperate enough. The background you have selected will appear. I enjoy having a unique selection for each WIP.   Chapter Folders. This is probably the defining question that should tell you whether or not you’re a Scrivener person. I write in circles, messy circles that have more holes than Swiss cheese that are put...

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The 6 People You Have to Be When Line Editing Your Novel by JC Lillis

Posted by on Aug 22, 2014 in Editing Wizardry, Writing | 4 comments

The 6 People You Have to Be When Line Editing Your Novel by JC Lillis

The 6 People You Have to Be When Line Editing Your Novel by J.C. Lillis YOU ARE SO CLOSE. You’ve fixed plot holes. You’ve cut 7k from your flabby second draft. You’ve gotten rid of that pesky flat character who did nothing but whine and eat all the nectarines. Now your story’s a working machine, and it’s time to rub on that coat of polish that makes it all sleek and glossy. Whether you do your own line edits or edit for others, here are six people you have to be while you shine up your sentences. 1. The Nightclub Doorman Okay, so in your first draft you let in ALL THE WORDS, and in your next few drafts you streamlined and tightened the heck outta that plot, right? Line editing is when you get REALLY snobby and exclusive. Stand at the velvet rope and scrutinize the words; they all want in, but you know better. Tell those extra “that”s and “just”s and “very”s to take a hike. Allow some adverbs, but only ones that have their own thing going on and don’t repeat everything the nouns just said. Some words might be pretty but empty—a couple peacocks are fine here and there, but too many and there’s bird crap everywhere. Make every word tell you why it needs to be there. If it can’t, boot it out.   2. The Poet At this point in your editing adventure, you’re probably communicating the right things with your sentences. Now it’s all about rhythm and flow. Sometimes just changing one or two words around can make an okay sentence awesome, so put in the extra time and shoot for the awesome. Try reading some poetry you love during the break you take before your line edits—whether it’s Shakespeare, Stevie Smith, or Shel Silverstein. Hearing the music in their language will help you make sentences sing.   3. The Lie Detector Remember that show Lie to Me? I don’t, really, so I have to go IMDb it to see if this example makes sense. *zips off* *zips back* Right, so the guy on Lie to Me could zero in on tiny, subtle clues to figure out if someone was being less than genuine, and that’s what you’ve got to do to ensure authenticity. Put on your Lie Detector cap with the beeping antennae. Interrogate your paragraphs and round up Evidence of Fishiness. If a word or image sets off your radar—even for a second—reexamine it and consider replacing.   4. The Acting Coach I’m right in the middle of an ill-advised Dawson’s Creek rewatch, and damn, I forgot how many times Katie Holmes would do the 1) hair tuck 2) lopsided grin 3) single-shoulder shrug in a single episode. Don’t let this happen to your characters: be a good acting coach, and do a careful reread with a critical eye on their tics. Little physical quirks help build character, but too much of the same action and you’ve got a drinking game waiting to happen. Do searches for common body parts—eyebrow, nose, lips, hair, shoulders—and make sure your characters aren’t abusing theirs.   5. The Trading-Card Collector You collect wonderful words because you’re a writer, and you probably have your favorites. But as seasoned card collectors know, you don’t need three “ashen”s. Or four “diaphanous”es, especially not in the space of two chapters. So keep a running list of standout words in your manuscript—ones you especially like, and ones you already sense you might overuse. I call my list “Word Bewares,” but you don’t have to be that dorky. During line...

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Copy Editing Wizardry Tricks by Helen Boswell

Posted by on Aug 21, 2014 in Editing Wizardry, Pen and Muse Summer School, Writing | 1 comment

Copy Editing Wizardry Tricks by Helen Boswell

First of all, huge hugs and a big THANK YOU to the lovely writers at Pen & Muse for asking me to contribute to their Summer School series! I’m excited to be part of it, and it happens to coincide with me going back to work/school in my other life, so I’m already thinking about lesson plans.     By way of introduction, I’ve self-published three novels and traditionally-published one non-fiction book and one laboratory manual. I worked for about a year as a freelance copy editor for other self-published authors, and I’ll be bringing to the table some of the ideas and tools I have on the subject. These aren’t tricks by any means, because unfortunately, there is no copy editing magic wand… Dang it.   What is copy editing, and why is it a big deal? Copy editing is different from content editing (an equally important step), though the two have some overlap. Copy editing involves making sure each and every word in your MS is correct in the following areas: grammar, spelling, punctuation, and consistency in style. This is usually the last step before publishing, after revisions and content edits are in place. Your ultimate goal in copy editing is to make sure that your sentences are correct and also say what you want them to say. Regardless of whether you choose to copy edit yourself or hire someone to do it, you need your meaning to come across clearly in each sentence of your MS. If not, the results could be potentially disastrous.   Example of why punctuation matters. (It matters a lot.)   Copy editing Tips: 1. Read your MS as you would read a book. I use this method for both revisions and copy editing. You’ll catch a lot more errors as you read through your MS if you read it as a book than if you read it on your computer. I’m assuming that you wrote your MS on your computer or tablet and that you’re used to seeing it this way. Our brains do a marvelous job of filling things in for us when there are errors, and this cool article published in The Guardian explains why we do this. Incidentally, this is why you can read something fourteen times and not spot a glaring error; sometimes we just need a different perspective to see it! When you read, pay attention to clarity and consistency as well as grammatical/spelling errors (see point 2 below). Do you enjoy reading paperbacks? Print out your MS (a lot of local printing services will even bind your MS at an additional nominal fee), go take it to your favorite chair with a highlighter, and sit down to read. Are you an ebook reader? There are several programs you can use to convert your document into the ebook format of your choice (I recommend Scrivener or Calibre). Pages for Mac will also export your MS into a relatively clean ePub copy for your copy editing enjoyment. The major benefit to either of these methods is that you can highlight the changes as you go without actually getting bogged down in the edits as you might do if you were reading it on your computer. Here’s an example of what I mean from the copy edits of one of my own books:   2. When in doubt, look it up. Our parents and teachers started teaching us things like grammar, spelling, and punctuation from the time that we could speak and write. Some of us struggle with these subjects, and others have an affinity for them (i.e.,...

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Formatting Tips & Tricks by Amy Kessler

Posted by on Aug 19, 2014 in Editing Wizardry, Writing | 0 comments

Formatting Tips & Tricks by Amy Kessler

I can hear it now:  “I’m going the traditional route, I don’t need to know how to do this.” Yes, yes you do. I’m published both traditionally and indie and some of these basic things are very important. With my publisher, I was handed a ninety-page ‘style guide’ to help me with this. Luckily, since I do freelance formatting it wasn’t a huge deal, but I did learn some things. I’m here today to teach you some basic formatting that will make things a bit easier for you.   Paragraphs Let’s start with something that will probably make the generation who grew up with typewriters happy. The first line indent, no you don’t have to hit the tab button or the space button five times! Most word processors have a setting for this. It’s in the format option of your document. Here are two screen shots, one of Microsoft Office on Mac and one on Libre Office, an open source word processor.   Both of them say first line and you can choose how far you want to indent it. For paperback books I normally go .3, for ebooks .5. While we’re focusing on the paragraph section, let’s talk about something that drives me nuts. On both those screen shots you can see the little box that says “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style.” Please make sure that is NOT clicked. What that does is ensures a line break between each paragraph. It’s hard on the readers eyes and since a line break is normally used for a character or scene shift, it can become confusing. Line spacing, now when I edit, I prefer double space; however, when it comes to the final product it needs to be single-spaced. This isn’t a high school paper guys, this is your book, so unless specified it needs to be single space, or at the most 1.5. That’s going to be in the format settings again. You want the line spacing to be single, don’t mess with anything else. The point is, you need to make your manuscript look polished before you send it off or publish it, which ever route you’re going. Page Break Vs. Section Breaks I’ve seen this done both ways. Which ever you chose make sure your new chapter starts on another page. If you’re dealing with headers and footers (a topic for another day) section breaks for the areas you need different headers and footers (i.e. different page numbers, no header at the start of the document) are best.   Other Tips: Search and Replace is your friend. Under advance settings you can search for things like tab marks, page breaks, and header formats. Turn on your hidden character marks ¶ it helps you see your hard returns, your spaces, and your paragraphs. As well lets you see any crazy programed characters. (think when you see things like $05%^ randomly in text. That’s a program thing) Take your time. Minimize out until you can see multiple pages in your window, use that as a quick overview on how clean your manuscript looks. Some quick things for you: Always use em dashes ( — ) instead of a short dash (-) when using to set words apart. Always make sure your three periods (…) turn into an actual ellipsis (…) I know you can’t see much of a difference, but when a file is uploaded, you can. Double check the automatic fixes that the word processing might have built in. Some of them change words when they are misspelt and may not be the word...

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