Easing into the Future

Edith here, roasting north of Boston.

I’m in that stage of revisions on my work-in progress (Quaker Midwife Mystery #4) where I print out the manuscript and spend a couple of days at the dining table with a colored pen and words on paper. Last week Ramona DeFelice Long, my dear friend, editor, and writer, wrote a blog post about how she no longer prints out her manuscripts.

Even though using expensive ink smarts, and watching all that paper crank through my printer does, too, I can’t abandon my paper readthroughs. I do it three times during my writing/revision process. Right now is the first time, after I have finished the first draft and addressed all my self-queries I had saved for later (things like, Did the Meetinghouse have a furnace in the basement? Did the post office have lockable individual post boxes? What went on during the winter on the frozen river? And so on). Paper readthrough

Reading straight through shows me continuity issues, weak plot points, and the flow of the book. I see the words differently on paper, too. I’ll do it again just before I send it off to be edited, and again before I send it to my publisher.

I don’t, however, write original content on paper (unless I am absolutely stuck somewhere with time on my hands and no laptop), and would never go back to that.

In other areas I also have a foot in both the paper and the digital worlds. We pay almost all our bills by writing an actual, old-fashioned check and sending it in an envelope with a stamp on it. I know I could do it all online, but there’s something about sitting down with the checkbook that feels safer, and is also a link to the past. I can picture my father doing the exact same thing.

calendarI’m a convert to Google calendar. I love it! It’s on both my computers and on my phone., and it sends me handy reminders. I don’t even need the appointment card from the doctor any more – I just poke the appointment into my phone and we’re done. But I also use a paper calendar at my desk, and we keep one downstairs, too. I like that visual reminder of what’s coming up and what has already happened.

I prefer to read books on paper. That said, having a Kindle is a boon for traveling or for trying out a book from a new author I can’t get from the library or am not sure I want to own.

A couple parts of my life that are reassuringly old-fashioned are cooking and gardening. I just don’t see those going digital any time soon (although I do often find recipes online, so there’s that).

Readers: what about you? Are you all digital all the time, or straddling the worlds as I am? What’s your favorite analog thing, and your favorite digital?

The Juggling Act

By Julie, looking forward to a long weekend writing

Dear Readers, do you like hearing about our writing or publication process? If the answer is no, I am so sorry. You’re not going to love this post. But if the answer is yes, buckle up. I’m appointing you all my accountability partners.

I have two books due this year–one on August 1, one on December 1. I spent January plotting them both.  I set up a schedule. I put my plots in Scrivener, and started on the second book in my Theater Cop series (the one due August 1). I hoped for a pre-Malice finish of the first draft. Missed it by a week, but hit it on Sunday. With A Kiss I Die (working title) is clocking in at 75,000 words so far. I am determined to give both manuscripts time to breath, so I can read them with fresh eyes. Trust me when I say this isn’t my norm, so I am happy I met this first self imposed deadline.

Top binder, A CHRISTMAS PERIL, ready for copy edits final round. Bottom binder, WITH A KISS I DIE, ready for first read before I send it out.

Top binder, A CHRISTMAS PERIL, ready for copy edits final round. Bottom binder, WITH A KISS I DIE, ready for first read before I send it out.

What I neglected to add into the schedule was the arrival of copy edits and proof pages. Both have been done for Chime and Punishment, which will arrive in bookstores on August 1. I got the copy edits for A Christmas Peril, my first Theater Cop book, which will be published September 8. They are due next week, and then the proof pages will come in. According to my schedule, the book that is due December 1 should be started soon so that a draft is done while I am working on With A Kiss I Die (working title) edits.

Then there will be launches of Chime and Peril. Two series, two names, one woman.

How lucky am I that I have the great good fortune of juggling all of this? Very, for sure. Even luckier because Liz (aka Cate Conte), Jessie (aka Jessica and Jessica), Sheila (aka Sheila, but with many series), and Edith (aka Maddie) have been down this path before, and I can learn from them. The imagination part isn’t the difficulty. It is the switching gears to the publication process that makes my head spin.

2017 trading cardThis weekend I will be working on the Theater Cop series, books one and two. Here’s the printed copies. Very soon there will be post its, sheets of paper, and highlighter marks marring both manuscripts.

So, dear readers, this is where I need your help. Would you mind if I keep you up to date on this journey over the summer? Will you help keep me honest? I’ll post updates on Twitter and Instagram, let you see how it is going. Next month I’ll tell you the story of the trading card I created, including the picture of me.

I will send you some updates on Instagram and Twitter, and I’ll check back next month.

Dear readers, should we lay odds? Am I going to keep to my writing schedules? Or am I going to go off the rails and be writing for Thanksgiving?

Myth-Busting, Part III – Personal Editing

WW Editing

Congratulations to Terri Crossley! You are the winner of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries. Please contact Sherry at SherryHarrisauthor.com! Random.org was used for the drawing.

This month, we’ve busting myths and rules about writing and the writing process. We’ve talked about character bibles and word count goals, and today we’re talking personal editing habits.

Many writers and teachers alike follow the mantra of, “Get the whole first draft down before you edit a word.” It works for a lot of people, especially those who dread the slog of a first draft. But some people say they need to look at what they’ve already done and make it better before they can move forward. So who’s right? Wickeds, what do you think?

Sherry: I do a combination of both. I think I’ve shared the odd way I write before — the beginning, the end, and then back to the middle. Because of this I do some editing along the way. But avoid writing and rewriting the same scene over and over. I think that is a form of procrastination or fear of failure.

Jessie: I am of the “get the draft done, then go back” school of thought. I don’t change anything already written before the draft is done. For example, if I decide to combine two characters into one, I go forward as if that has always been the case from the moment I make the decision. I wait until a revision draft to begin to patch things up. I tend to write quickly during those early drafts and I really don’t want anything slowing down my flow.

Barb: I am also of the “never look back” school, partially because I don’t know what needs to be fixed until I’ve gotten to the end, read the whole first draft, and made some decisions. I could waste a lot of time going back and fixing stuff–and then end up cutting the whole scene for one reason or another. Sometimes I KNOW I’m creating continuity issues, but I soldier on.

Julie: I write the entire draft. But, I use inline edits in Scrivener, and also use brackets and write myself notes like this [fix this later] [find out what you called her in the second chapter] [add more clock stuff here] [is this true or did you make it up?]. I’ve learned to trust my plotting, and keep on going.

Edith: I also like to crank out the sh**ty first draft, as Anne Lamott said. I try not to stop for research while I’m writing, instead typing [CHECK THIS] or a variation on one of Julie’s notes. One of my first editing passes is to search for left square bracket and then go check for answers to those questions. That said, every morning when I start writing I reread what I wrote the day before. I do some minor editing, fleshing out, tweaking. It gets me back into the story and reminds me of what’s coming up next.


Photo by Lisa Risager (blue socks for a feminist) via Wikimedia Commons

I think it’s interesting that this approach we all pretty much share would not work in some other art forms – like knitting, for example! Can you imagine knitting the rough draft for a sock and then polishing it? Although it might work for a painting. I wouldn’t know, not having talents in that direction, but I can imagine an artist might lay down the rough idea for a picture and then fine tune it.

Liz: I always intend to write the first  draft through, but when I get stuck I find that if I go back and do some editing, I end up making changes that get me unstuck. I don’t love that it works that way because I always feel like I’m never going to get the entire book done, but it seems to work – even when I’m churning out the last chapter after the rest of the book has been revised a few times!

Readers: What do you crank out and then refine, and what kinds of projects do you have to make your best on the first try? Writers – anybody out there write just one draft, ready to submit?

The Blank Page

News Flash: Barbara Kay and Cynthia Balevre are the winners from yesterday’s post! Check your inboxes, ladies, and congratulations.

Liz Mugavero: Every time I finish a book, especially after a particularly harrowing deadline crunch, I feel like I want to crawl into a hole. A hole with no computer, more specifically. I feel like every piece of my creativity is completely wrung out, like I’ll never be able to turn out another word.

But I also have an immense sense of freedom, of being able to join the living again, to answer the 10,000 emails that have piled up, to actually leave the house.

The last thing I want to do is write. I say it will be at least two weeks, maybe a month, before I can even think about a new story or my Blankcharacters or a good opening scene. I happily push it all out of my mind and begin to go about my new, free life.

But during those relaxing walks around the town green, while Shaggy sniffs trees and we watch birds, I find myself typing notes into my phone—quick thoughts about something I saw that would fit into a story, or an overheard conversation that would make a great first line.

Or I’m in the car and suddenly an entire plot line jumps into my head and I have to tell Siri to take notes for me so I don’t lose it before I get home. Then I go home and start working on my synopsis for the next book. And guess what? It’s only been three days since I swore I wasn’t working on a book.

Am I crazy? Obsessed?

Nah, I’m just a writer. I can’t stop. I’ve never been able to. Telling stories is what I’m here to do, and it’s not something I can simply turn off. And in that free space that comes from finishing a project, new creativity has even more room to blossom. It doesn’t so much need time to return, but rather space to blossom.

Then I’m overcome with the possibilities of what’s going to happen to my characters this time. What dire problems I can bestow on them, and how they’ll figure a way out of it.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

It is. I do admit, I like a finished book that needs editing. It feels like I’ve climbed a mountain and can now linger on the way down the other side, taking my time and being all the things I didn’t see in that arduous climb.

But there’s something to be said for that blank page.

Ask the Editor — Jane Haertel

We are so happy to have our next guest editor, Jane Haertel, join us today. Read and learn!

Crazy_DiamondName:  Jane Haertel, Crazy Diamond Editing Services (www.crazydiamondediting.com)

Area of Expertise: Romance of any shade, Young Adult, New Adult

How did you become an independent editor? A few years ago, a friend who was preparing to indie publish her YA novel asked me to proofread for her. My fussbudget nature would not allow me to leave it at a simple proofread, though, and I ended up copy and line editing the whole book for her, as well as providing content editing. Once I got started, I couldn’t stop, and I discovered that I had both a knack and a love for this part of the publishing process. After that, I picked up another client, who consistently began to hit the New York Times and USA Today lists of best-sellers, and through word of mouth I now have more than a dozen steady clients (several of whom hit the lists with every book).

Feta_Attraction_CoverWhat are three things we should know about your area of expertise? Everyone—are you listening?—everyone needs an editor. (Yes, even me. Especially me.) When you’re all excited to indie publish something, and you’ve been over your manuscript a few times, it’s so tempting to think: Oh, in high school I was great at grammar and spelling, so I can save myself some coin by doing my own editing. Or: I’ve been writing for years. I’m not paying someone for something I can do myself. Wrong. You know what you meant to say, but that might not be what comes out on the page. And in general, your mom/sister/best friend is probably not the best person to do editing of any kind on your book. They love you, and they won’t want to hurt your feelings. Hire a professional. No matter your skill level, you need an objective, experienced set of eyes on your work.

Editing is expensive. Sorry, but it’s true. It takes many, many, many hours to make just the first pass through a full-length manuscript, and this is how we editors make our livings. Especially for authors who are independently publishing their first works, there is a tendency to look for the lowest price and fastest turnaround. I wrote a book, darn it, and I want to start making my millions immediately. I can’t afford to hire an editor (or proofreader, professional cover artist, formatter). I would argue that you can’t afford not to assemble the best possible team to get your work out there. The market is glutted right now with indie books and getting good editing (and proofreading, and cover art, and formatting) is something you can control. If you want to make it in the indie world, you have to produce a product that is on a par with books published by New York houses. And yes, that costs money.

Still not convinced? Think about it this way. Writing and publishing books is a business. Would you expect to start, say, a knitting shop without providing any capital upfront for retail space, inventory, staffing? And, oh, open your doors to the public before all these things were in place? Of course not. That would be crazy, right? Putting your indie book out for sale is no different.

So get creative if you have to raise the money to hire professionals. If you have a special skill, perhaps you can barter services. I have edited in exchange for personal training, and for cookies. Which, now that I think about it, should probably be mutually exclusive. There’s probably stuff in your house that you can sell on eBay or Craigslist. Can you take on some freelance work of your own, such as cooking, sewing or knitting/crocheting for hire? Or take on a few hours of overtime at your day job? How about eating at home instead of going out to dinner? That’s the same as earning $50 or more, money that you can put toward your dreams. It’ll be worth the sacrifice upfront when the money from your beautifully professional book starts rolling in!

What do people usually get wrong? Good writing is not necessarily grammatically correct. In fact, perfect grammar makes fiction stilted and inaccessible to the reader. But there are some rules that should not be broken. Here are the mistakes I see most frequently:

Alright, alot. These are not words. Use all right and a lot.
Misuse of the apostrophe. This is perhaps my biggest pet peeve. Never, ever use an apostrophe to form the plural of anything. Example: Peach’s For Sale. Who is Peaches? What’s she selling? See what I mean? And the other most common assault on the poor apostrophe is the various formations of the word its. The only time that word should have an apostrophe is if you can replace it with it is or it has, never to show possession.
Adverbs. Okay, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m not one of those people who thinks that every –ly construction should be eradicated from a manuscript. Most, yes. But they don’t bother me as long as the author uses them … sparingly. And try not to end a sentence with an adverb like sparingly, LOL!
Misuse of the forms of the verb to lie. (Lay, lain, laid) The rules are too long to list, but here’s a link to a site that may help. http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/lay-versus-lie?page=all
Using dialogue tags other than said. Ninety-eight percent of the time, said is all you need. You want the reader focusing on your characters’ words, not getting distracted because you tried to get creative. “Hand me that glass of water,” he spouted/hissed/emitted/etc., etc. Once in a while, okay. But don’t make a habit of it.
And my personal pet peeve, the word smirk. Please, please, please. Unless your character is an annoying adolescent, or an adult acting like an annoying adolescent, do not have him/her smirking. A smirking character is automatically unlikeable. So, particularly in romance, but this holds true for other genres, do not let a main character perform this juvenile action.

Is there a great idea you’d love to share? Here’s a bit of my personal hoodoo. If you are stuck in the middle of a project, or you have finished a project and sent it off somewhere, perhaps to a potential agent or publishing house and you’re waiting on the outcome, go clean something that hasn’t been cleaned in a long time. Even better, get unwanted stuff out of your house—not just moved to another spot, but actually thrown away or donated. Still better, tackle something that you’ve been putting off or avoiding and that has been nagging at you. For example, if you hate going to the dentist, make—and keep—that appointment. Call an old friend you’ve been meaning to get back in touch with. The more things you do, the quicker and better the magic works.

Jane's_Head_ShotYou see, making space in your head and your life allows new, wonderful things to come in. Nature abhors a vacuum. It works every time, but not always in the way you expect it. I did a lot of cleaning and decluttering while I was querying agents, and I not only got the call from an amazing agent, I got a three-book contract, all in a two-week span. 

What are you working on? As an editor, I’m working on a juicy New Adult novel for a very good writer, so it hardly feels like a job, LOL!

Readers: Jane will be available to answer your editing questions throughout the day.

Jane Haertel, who writes as Susannah Hardy, attended St. Lawrence University, graduating with a degree in history, and has worked as a waitress, handbag designer/manufacturer, paralegal, and currently as an editor of independently published short stories, novellas and novels at www.crazydiamondediting.com. She serves on the board of directors of the Connecticut Romance Writers of America and is a member of Sisters in Crime. Jane lives in Connecticut with her husband, teenaged son, and Elvira the Wonder Cat. You can connect with her alter ego, Susannah Hardy, at www.susannahhardy.com, on Twitter: @susannahhardy1, and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Susannah-Hardy/111056935644467 Her first novel, FETA ATTRACTION, releases January 6, 2015 from Berkley Prime Crime.

Ask the Editor: Ramona DeFelice Long

Edith, somewhere in southern Indiana

I’m delighted to have our good friend, independent editor Ramona DeFelice Long, as our photoAsk the Editor guest today. She’s smart, funny (in that delightful southern kind of way), generous, hardworking, and has a knack for gathering people into the most intriguing of conversations. She’s also a great writer who several of us Wickeds first met at Seascape 2009. Take it away, Ramona!

The Language of Editing

Consider these scenarios:

  • You’ve finished the first draft of a novel.
  • You’ve completed a short story.
  • You’ve run your manuscript through beta readers.
  • You’re in the middle of a manuscript and hit a wall.
  • You’re considering self-publishing.
  • You’re unsure if your 100 pages have enough story for a novel.
  • You have interest from an agent and want your MS to be in its best shape possible.

The next sentence for all of these scenarios may be: Now consider hiring an independent editor.*

The question after that sentence may be: How do I know which type of independent editor to hire?

It is ironic that, in a job focused on word choice, nuance, and precision, the terms used about self-employed professional editors can be confusing. There is no helpful glossary in the back of an Editing 101 textbook—because there is no Editing 101 textbook. A person cannot go to college and earn a Bachelors of Editing degree.

Even the terms to describe editing itself are not set in stone. This is what I call editing in practice:

Editing – Editing is what a professional, paid person does when they examine a writer’s manuscript.

Revision – Revision is what a writer does when he/she works over his/her own draft of a manuscript.

Critique – Critique is what a fellow writer does to a peer’s work.

By my definitions, “self-editing” is a misnomer but “self-reviser” doesn’t have much of a ring to it, does it?

Job descriptions for the various types of independent editors can be confusing, too. good-guy-vs-bad-iclipartThere’s a notion that “hiring an independent editor” means paying someone to check out your antagonist and protagonist, streamline your plot, catch your typos, strengthen your sentences, fact check, and help you write a query—all for one low, low price.

Stop dreaming that dream. While editors do cross over, different editors perform different functions at different stages of a manuscript. This is true for the staff at a traditional publishing house, and it is true for independents. Each step of editing requires a particular skill set.

Below is a lexicon to help writers who wish to collaborate with an independent editor.

Content/Developmental Editor – examines the manuscript for structure, appeal, story logic, effectiveness of scenes, character development, flow, plotting, genre expectations, etc. A developmental editor reads for the big picture of the story—Is it logical, pleasing, and publishable?—and will make suggestions designed to create a stronger overall manuscript. Content/developmental editors work with works in progress (WIPS) as well as completed drafts.

Copyeditor – Copyeditors check tense, POV, sentence structure, redundancy, readability, character and scene consistency. A copyeditor will also fact check. A copy edit will aim for clean copy, which means removing errors in  spelling, grammar, style and syntax, as well as technical errors such as typos, missed words, and punctuation flubs.

256px-Text-x-generic-highlight-red-marker-round.svgLine Editor – No pun intended, but there’s a fuzzy line between copy and line editors. A straight line editor will read for technical errors– typos, missed words, punctuation errors, sentence by sentence–without considering bigger issues such as character development or scene value.

NOTE: Copyeditors and Line Editors are often combined as one skill.

Proofreader –  a person who reads a manuscript to catch technical errors. Sometimes a skilled amateur, a proofreader may work for pay or by barter.

Book Doctor – some people use this term interchangeably with content/development editor. A book doctor is a manuscript fixer-upper.Ghostwriter

Ghost Writer – an anonymous person who writes a book which is credited to someone else as author.

Writing Coach – a mentor who provides guidance to a writer beyond reviewing manuscripts

Beta Reader – not a professional editor and so works without pay, usually for barter. A beta reader is a skilled reader with genre familiarity, who examines the draft of a manuscript and offers a critique.

Reviewer – not an editor, but a person—professional or amateur—who shares his/her opinion of a book after it is published via trade journals, periodicals, newspapers, review sites, blogs, booksellers (Amazon & B&N).

And now for some lagniappe terms about editing:

Turnaround Date – the date you can expect the return of your edited manuscript. If an editor posts a turnaround time of one month, that’s how long the editing job will take. A writer should always ask for, in writing, a turnaround date.

Track Changes – the easy-for-editors, tedious-for-writers editing system built into Microsoft Word.

Style sheet – a publisher’s list of preferred style and syntax choices.

Acknowledgement – the “thank you” a writer includes in a published work. Some editors require a permission to be acknowledged.

Pilcrow – the paragraph mark () is used in copyediting to note a new paragraph. In Microsoft Word, a pilcrow sign appears in the tool bar. Clicking on the pilcrow shows every hidden space in a manuscript. A space between words gets a dot. A return gets a pilcrow mark. The pilcrow helps you find unnecessary spaces you can’t see. Many writers have no idea this useful function is available.

Now back to the questions at the top of the page. If you are in one of these scenarios, do you understand which type of independent editor you need to hire?

Extra credit: Did you know about the pilcrow?

*Disclaimer: I work as an independent editor. I also hire independent editors for my writing.

RamonaLogoFinalRamona DeFelice Long is an author and independent editor who specializes in mystery novels. She works with private clients as well as through organizations such as Sisters in Crime to edit chapter anthologies and teach online courses. Her own writing has appeared in literary and regional publications, and she’s been awarded fellowships, grants, and residencies from multiple arts organizations. Ramona lives in Delaware. Her literary website ramonadef.wordpress.com features a new blog post every Tuesday as well as a collection of tips for writers.

Readers: Stop in and ask Ramona questions! And how did you do on the quiz?




By Julie
In the winter wonderland of Boston

SN853052We’re three days into 2014. How are those resolutions doing? For many of the Wickeds, today is a snow day, and a perfect time to write. Though this being able to actually work at home takes the shine off the whole “snow day” thing.

A while back, I wrote about #JanNoWriStart. It is a riff off the #NaNoWriMo, but without the firm “rules”. Here are the ones I am using. Adapt them as necessary:

  • Set a daily goal. If you are writing a first draft, make it a word count. If you are editing, make it a number of pages, or a time limit. It needs to work for you. The important thing is, make it achievable on a daily basis.
  • Keep moving forward. If you are on a first draft, just keep writing. If you are editing, and get stuck, make a note to yourself (fix this! research this!) and then move forward. #JanNoWriStart is about building both a habit and momentum.

wordcountMy goal is 500 words a day. “They” say you can form a new habit in 21 days, so we have 10 extra days to make sure it works. I am a plotter, so I have scenes outlined. Now just to get them written.

So, who’s in? What are your goals? Let us know–we’ll be checking in every Friday this month.

Let’s start the new year right write!

And Happy New Year!