Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Pre-Edit Your Manuscript (expanded version of earlier posts)

Friday, October 30th, 2015
To save time and money, do a pre-edit on your own. However sharp your writing skills, it takes another pair of professional eyes to examine your work more subjectively and to focus not only on what is right with your material but also where it falls short. So, while your end goal is to hire an editor to review and revise your material where necessary, you can save time and money by first giving your manuscript the benefit of your own professional eye. The simplest set of problems is the typos. These are not always due to missed keystrokes, but that your brain generally works faster than your fingers. The good news is that the hours you spend doing this represents money you will no longer have to pay someone else. 2. Consider the editing process as a game. The trick is to make your writing as clear as you can, and as strong, smart, concise, and compelling. The main challenge is to acknowledge your material as randomly flawed. Nothing more than a piece of raw material which you, in your valiant quest for excellence, seek to liberate from its imperfections—vanquishing every blot and blemish crossing your path. You gain multiple points for persistence—and ultimately win the game. As with most competitions you face a daunting adversary, which you must subdue from the outset. That enemy is your own ego. If left unchecked it will vigorously tempt you to justify, rationalize, overlook, and underestimate those defects that keep the brilliance of your words from sparkling to their maximum. Once aware of how much better you can make the material by being objective, you begin to enjoy striking out against every false word or comma that stands between you and your ultimate goal. 3. Read the material aloud. Is there a consistency of pattern, cadence, and rhythm? Do you ever read aloud? Do the sentences flow from your lips with ease and precision, or does your mind stop on occasion at a particular word or phrase that seems awkward or misplaced? Reading your material aloud allows you to listen to the rhythm of your writing, and to discover those places in which it doesn’t ring true. Words are arranged best when they perpetuate a beat, which is why, when they fail to do so, they are likely in need of fine-tuning. Sometimes by merely removing a word or two from the end of a sentence and relocating it to the beginning or middle can make a vast difference in the overall clarity and effectiveness of the piece. It’s why writers are sometimes told their words “sing,” and it’s that degree of reaction you are seeking. So, read the material aloud, and you will hear the things you didn’t see in print. 4. Omit spare words and you will be more effective expressing the same thought. The shorter the sentence, the likelier it is to be understood and to comply with rules of grammar. You may embellish your thoughts for the sake of imagery, introspection, or information, but you want your sentences to be messengers of your creative thought process with the sole intention of elevating the reader’s experience. Practice minimalism and scrutinize your sentences for excess. The following sentence can do with a word cut: “When you go through the painful process of grieving, it would be helpful for you to enlist the support of close family and friends.” The following conveys the same thought, but in half the number of words: “You can diminish your grief with the loving support of family and friends.” 5. Be careful not repeat the same thought in different words. Or to overuse the same word or phrase, which is often happens with personal pronouns. We all have a tendency to overuse “you” and “I” and “she” and “he.” Cut those down to a minimum, and your writing automatically improves. The same is true for repetition of most any word or phrase, except when used for emphasis. How many times in one paragraph or on a single page do you use a particular word relative to your subject matter? More often than you are aware. You should also seek different ways to refer to a single character. For example: “Alice went to the cupboard and found George looking for a box of cereal. George stared at Alice and wondered where she had been.” Try it this way, instead: “Alice went to the cupboard and found George looking for a box of cereal. He stared at his wife and wondered where she had been.” Now, not only does the second sentence read more smoothly, but it reveals information that the first one did not—that Alice is George’s wife. Just as common is repetition of thoughts from one paragraph to another. When reading the material over, you will likely find that something said in one paragraph was already stated in a previous one, but differently. Read carefully for comprehension. While the same rule holds true for dialogue, some writers take the opposite path—going out of their way to avoid the “he said/she said” conundrum. However, this is one case where sameness is desirable. In the spirit of originality, writers often seek substitutes for the verb “to say” that, upon reading, can seem artificial and forced. “Don’t leave me,” she wept. “I don’t love you anymore,” he reasoned. “I’ll change,” she vowed. “There’s someone else,” he confessed. “I don’t want to know,” she sniffed. You get the idea. 6. Keep adjectives to a minimum. Adjectives can enhance the reading experience, but their overuse is legendary. Writers often fall into this trap when introducing a character. An old man can be depicted as “gray-haired, hunched over, with fading blue eyes, heavily veined hands, and a missing front tooth.” But Hemingway made a case for minimalism in his short story, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” in which he referred to an old man simply as “clean,” leaving the rest to the reader’s imagination. In another example, a building can be described as “a stately, proud, 50-story glass and concrete edifice” or “a towering monolith.” An automobile might be “a sporty, fire-engine red, diesel-fueled British-made compact convertible” or a “sleek, imported dream car.” Choose carefully. 7. Empower your sentences by starting them with an action word. Try using an action verb as the first word of your first sentence instead of positioning it where it provides the least impact. You will likely engage the reader more quickly. When you begin with a pronoun, it reads like this: “He stormed out the front door, dragging an oversized bag behind him, and headed for his van.” Try, instead: “Storming out the front door dragging an oversized bag behind him, he headed for his van.” It’s subtle, of course, but with the action verb at the beginning, the character and his intention are already in play. Another example: “Mary woke from a bad dream, sweating and shaking.” Shifting the verb to the beginning, it might read like this: “Sweating and shaking, Mary awoke from a bad dream.” Third and last illustration: “The girl was running across the street when she slipped and fell.” Or: “Running across the street, the girl slipped and fell.” 8. Avoid using clichés. A cliché can be defined as an overused expression that lost its effectiveness. Ironically, the reason it has been used with such frequency is that it does its job so expeditiously. Your goal as a writer with a keen imagination is to come up with a substitute for each of those worn-out expressions that manages to say the same thing, but in a fresh manner. Some common expressions that you likely use without realizing they are clichés are: “Money can’t buy happiness,” “Love makes the world go round,” “It’s raining cats and dogs,” “Wishing doesn’t make it so,” “Time waits for no man,” “It’s always darkest before the dawn,” “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” “Time will tell,” and “All is fair in love and war.” The list goes on into the thousands. A good rule of thumb when using one of these expressions is that if it sounds too familiar, avoid it like the plague. Oops. Did you notice that cliché I slipped in there? While it is difficult to avoid their usage 100% of the time, it is possible and desirable to keep clichés to a minimum. 9. Avoid using outdated phrases or slang expressions unless you are writing for a different time and/or place. A major weakness of some writers, primarily those who are either stuck in the last century or for whom English is a second language, is their frequent use of words or expressions that are either awkward, too formal for contemporary tastes, or considered antiquated or passé. “Henceforth,” “forthwith,” “moreover,” and “thusly” immediately come to mind as being out of touch with today’s reader. “The cat’s meow,” “picture show,” “shake a leg,” “dowse the light,” “crank up the sound,” “lip rouge,” and hundreds more slang expressions and outdated words and phrases that were coined in the first half of the 20th century never rolled into the 21st. Chances are you would never start a sentence with “As one might come to expect …” or “It goes without saying ….,” but if you are an older writer or if you spoke another language before learning English, you are advised to read and listen carefully to the way English is spoken in today’s society. In particular, you should become keenly aware of the latest words and expressions that are modifying our language on a daily basis. With the constant infusion of new buzzwords and tech-speak into our everyday speech, even those of us born in the U.S. are struggling to keep up. English is a living language, and being watchful of what works and what no longer does is essential to the way you are perceived as a writer. Ultimately, your material will be richer for your having done your homework, and far more engaging to your reader. 10. Make certain that each sentence conforms to current rules of grammar and style. Use Chicago Book of Style or another appropriate stylebook choice for reference. The rules of grammar and style are in a constant state of change. A classic example is the ongoing battle of the commas, which is all about when and where to use them—or not. Other such conflicts have been raging for some time, while new ones are constantly erupting. To illustrate: We have always been taught that a properly constructed sentence must have a subject and an object. Not anymore. Writing right is not as clearly defined as in the past. There is a general trend toward loosening up certain old constraints, while refusing to budge on others. The kind of writing you do will dictate the type of authority you choose for reference. In general, while journalism generally adheres to one style, creative writing refers to another. Determine the type of manuscript you are writing and the category of outlet you are targeting for submission. This will help you choose the best stylebook for your needs. You can also access individual publishers’ guidelines by visiting them online. To be taken seriously, it is essential you comply with their requirements. 11. Review each chapter individually. Make sure it contains everything you planned to include. Check for chronology. You may find that a paragraph works better elsewhere than where you originally placed it. Words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and whole chapters can be moved around to improve flow, consistency, and overall impact of your message. Some you would do well to omit entirely. In the course of writing and rewriting, you may assume certain information has been included—whether about a person, place, or a thing. Because a specific point was already established inside your mind, you assumed that you had transmitted the thought to print. You hadn’t. Or maybe you had, but it’s chronologically out of place. Such things don’t always pop out at you on the first read-through. By the second or third or fourth time around, however, you are likely to start spotting a number of inconsistencies or missing elements. 12. Look out for new areas of weakness resulting from changes and modifications. Once you have reviewed each chapter and made changes, re-read the entire manuscript beginning to end. Do this not so much for inconsistencies anymore—although you may find a few stragglers—but for words or letters that you neglected to delete in the process of revision as well as those you meant to delete, but didn’t. For example: “The Los Angeles Dodgers is the best team in baseball,” when edited to “The Los Angeles Dodgers is one of the best teams in baseball,” requires more than the addition of “one of.” Since your intention was to change “the best” to “one of the best,” you have to remember to also change the plural of “team” to “teams.” Sometimes we forget to fix surrounding words to make them grammatically compatible with our revisions. 13. Read your material over again, leaving a day or even a week or more between readings. Often a sentence reads subtly different from the way you thought you had written it, even after a revision. Your manuscript is now reading better than ever. All the inconsistencies, repeated words and phrases, uneven chronology, unclear information, omitted data, and so forth are edited in or out of the original and you may think you are ready to release your masterwork to the world—or, at least, to your editor. But now is when you let it sit and rest. The longer interval you allow, the more objective you will be when you take on that final reading. Once you pick up your manuscript after letting it lie for a while, you will not necessarily find a number of issues in need of resolution, but chances are there will be more than you expected. One more time, you make your changes, and you breathe a sigh of relief. 14. After finishing your first run-through, repeat the process. You may discover things you overlooked the last time around. Even if you found only one error on the last go-round, there might be something similarly suspect yet lurking in the shadows. Apply all previous tips one more time. The process will go faster, as you are more familiar with the material and can probably recognize a glitch from 40 yards away. Then sit back and congratulate yourself for a job well done. You have probably gone as far with the creative process as you can. But in no way are you finished with your task. It is time to bring in outside forces with a fresh and objective eye. 15. Enlist people to read your book and give you their comments. Writers know from experience that asking their nearest and dearest to be objective when reading anything they’ve written is an exercise in futility. Whether it’s your mother, your wife, or your boss, no one in your inner circle wants to rain on your parade. What they don’t realize is that the more brutally honest they are, the bigger the favor they are doing you. In either case you want them among the first to comment on your work. Just remember to take it with a grain of salt when you get nothing from them but gushing praise and not a trace of constructive criticism. At the same time, to balance the feedback, give your material to three or four people whom you respect as professionals, and whom you have reason to believe understand the process well enough to give you a candid reaction and helpful feedback. 16. Compile comments from both groups and add thoughts from your own list. Then, make an action plan. When you are finally satisfied with the revised material, you may have new ideas to add to the mix. Your project is still a work in progress. Add the elements you consider significant. Then declare victory and hire an editor to take it from here. 17. You have completed your editing task and are ready to submit your material to an editor for a professional go-round. Unless you already have someone in mind, there are a number of sources through which to find an experienced editor to suit your needs, including personal referrals and a number of editors’ websites or professional organizations. If you Google “book editor” you will be inundated with more choices than you can possibly use. Follow through on two or three that appear most closely to meet your needs, then email or call them, and ask them how they generally work with a client and what they charge. The next step would be to send them a few pages of your manuscript and request a sample edit. There are two major types of book editors: 1) a developmental editor helps an author produce a publishable book by taking raw material and turning it into compelling, readable text, or, in the case of fiction, resolving issues of plot, theme, dialogue, and structure; and 2) a copy/line editor resolves inconsistencies of grammar and punctuation, as well as improves the flow of ideas and polishes the overall content. 18. Re-examine your initial goal for writing the material. Are you satisfied it meets your expectations and your goals? If not, where does it fall short? Make a list, and keep adding to it. Creating a list is a good way to organize your thoughts. In a way, it is like a streamlined version of a business plan, hitting and summarizing the points you sought to cover, and providing an effective means of double-checking your material. By now, you should be satisfied that you have addressed everything according to plan. 19. Consider your target market. Are you planning to submit your manuscript to major publishers? Small presses? Do you need or want an agent? Or are you self-publishing, at least as a first step? There are a number of ways to publish, and the pros and cons are too numerous to discuss here. Major consideration should be given to matters of time, money, and the strength of your material and platform. When submitting your manuscript to a publisher, consider whether or not you need a book proposal. A memoir, novel, or collection of short stories will not generally require one, but a nonfiction work geared to a niche market most likely will. Your book proposal should contain your marketing plan. If you are looking for an agent, check on the Internet for an agency that is open to submissions from writers of your particular genre. The agency’s website will provide you with its unique guidelines, and the rest is up to you. 20. If you are self-publishing, you will need marketing plan. Your marketing plan should incorporate the various tools and strategies you plan to utilize as well as a number of other topics, including your platform—which is essentially your potential community of readers. There are a number of books on this and related subjects, plus volumes of information on the Internet. Good luck to you and your book!

Roberta Edgar

Before hiring an editor, co-author, or ghostwriter follow the checklist below.

 

1. To save time and money, do a pre-edit on your own.

However sharp your writing skills, it takes another pair of professional eyes to examine your work more subjectively and to focus not only on what is right with your material but also where it falls short. So, while your end goal is to hire an editor to review and revise your material where necessary, you can save time and money by first giving your manuscript the benefit of your own professional eye. The simplest set of problems is the typos. These are not always due to missed keystrokes, but that your brain generally works faster than your fingers. The good news is that the hours you spend doing this represents money you will not have to pay someone else.

2. Consider the editing process as a game. The trick is to make your writing as clear as you can, and as strong, smart, concise, and compelling.

The main challenge is to acknowledge your material as randomly flawed. Nothing more than a piece of raw material which you, in your valiant quest for excellence, seek to liberate from its imperfections—vanquishing every blot and blemish crossing your path. You gain multiple points for persistence—and ultimately win the game.

As with most competitions you face a daunting adversary, which you must subdue from the outset. That enemy is your own ego. If left unchecked it will vigorously tempt you to justify, rationalize, overlook, and underestimate those defects that keep the brilliance of your words from sparkling to their maximum. Once aware of how much better you can make the material by being objective, you begin to enjoy striking out against every false word or comma that stands between you and your ultimate goal.

3. Read the material aloud. Is there a consistency of pattern, cadence, and rhythm?

Do you ever read aloud? Do the sentences flow from your lips with ease and precision, or does your mind stop on occasion at a particular word or phrase that seems awkward or misplaced? Reading your material aloud allows you to listen to the rhythm of your writing, and to discover those places in which it doesn’t ring true. Words are arranged best when they perpetuate a beat, which is why, when they fail to do so, they are likely in need of fine-tuning. Sometimes by merely removing a word or two from the end of a sentence and relocating it to the beginning or middle you can make a vast difference in the overall clarity and effectiveness of the piece. It’s why writers are sometimes told their words “sing,” and it’s that degree of reaction you are seeking. So, read the material aloud, and you will hear the things you didn’t see in print.

4. Omit spare words and you will be more effective expressing the same thought.

The shorter the sentence, the likelier it is to be understood and to comply with rules of grammar. You may embellish your thoughts for the sake of imagery, introspection, or information, but you want your sentences to be messengers of your creative thought process with the sole intention of elevating the reader’s experience.

Practice minimalism and scrutinize your sentences for excess. The following sentence can do with a word cut: “When you go through the painful process of grieving, it would be helpful for you to enlist the support of close family and friends.” The following conveys the same thought, but in half the number of words: “You can relieve your grief considerably with the loving support of family and friends.”

5. Be careful not repeat the same thought in different words. Or to overuse the same word or phrase, which often happens with personal pronouns.

We all have a tendency to overuse “you” and “I” and “she” and “he.” Cut those down to a minimum, and your writing automatically improves. The same is true for repetition of most any word or phrase, except when used for emphasis. How many times in one paragraph or on a single page do you use a particular word relative to your subject matter? More often than you are aware. You should also seek different ways to refer to a single character. For example: “Alice went to the cupboard and found George looking for a box of cereal. George stared at Alice and wondered where she had been.” Try it this way, instead: “Alice went to the cupboard and found George looking for a box of cereal. He stared at his wife and wondered where she had been.” Now, not only does the second sentence read more smoothly, but it reveals information that the first one did not—that Alice is George’s wife.

Just as common is repetition of thoughts from one paragraph to another. When reading the material over, you will likely find that something said in one paragraph was already stated in a previous one, but differently. Read carefully for comprehension.

While the same rule holds true for dialogue, some writers take the opposite path—going out of their way to avoid the “he said/she said” conundrum. However, this is one case where sameness is desirable. In the spirit of originality, writers often seek substitutes for the verb “to say” that, upon reading, can seem artificial and forced. “Don’t leave me,” she wept.  “I don’t love you anymore,” he reasoned. “I’ll change,” she vowed.  “There’s someone else,” he confessed. “I don’t want to know,” she sniffed. You get the idea.

6. Keep adjectives to a minimum.

Adjectives can enhance the reading experience, but their overuse is legendary. Writers often fall into this trap when introducing a character. An old man can be described as “gray-haired, hunched over, with fading blue eyes, heavily veined hands, and a missing front tooth.” But Hemingway made a case for minimalism in his short story, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” in which he referred to an old man simply as “clean,” leaving the rest to the reader’s imagination.  In another example, a building can be described as “a stately, proud, 50-story edifice of glass and concrete” or “a towering monolith.” An automobile might be “a sporty, fire-engine red, diesel-fueled British-made compact convertible” or a “sleek, imported dream car.” Choose carefully.

7. Empower your sentences by starting them with an action word.

Try using an action verb as the first word of your first sentence instead of positioning it where it provides the least impact. You will likely engage the reader more quickly.

When you begin with a pronoun, it reads like this: “He stormed out the front door, dragging an over-sized bag behind him, and headed for his van.” Try, instead: “Storming out the front door dragging an over-sized bag behind him, he headed for his van.”  It’s subtle, of course, but with the action verb at the beginning, the character and his intention are already in play. Another example: “Mary woke from a bad dream, sweating and shaking.” Shifting the verb to the beginning, it might read like this: “Sweating and shaking, Mary awoke from a bad dream.” Third and last illustration: “The girl was running across the street when she slipped and fell.” Or: “Running across the street, the girl slipped and fell.”

8. Avoid using clichés.

A cliché can be defined as an overused expression that lost its effectiveness. Ironically, the reason it has been used with such frequency is that it does its job so effectively. Your goal as a writer with a keen imagination is to come up with a substitute for each of those worn-out expressions that manages to say the same thing, but in a fresh manner.

Some common expressions that you likely use without realizing they are clichés are: “Money can’t buy happiness,” “Love makes the world go round,” “It’s raining cats and dogs,” “Wishing doesn’t make it so,” “Time waits for no man,” “It’s always darkest before the dawn,” “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” “Time will tell,” and “All is fair in love and war.” The list goes on into the thousands. A good rule of thumb when using one of these expressions is that if it sounds too familiar, avoid it like the plague. Oops. Did you notice that cliché I slipped in there? While it is difficult to avoid their usage 100% of the time, it is possible and desirable to keep clichés to a minimum.

9. Avoid using outdated phrases or slang expressions unless you are writing for a different time and/or place.

A major weakness of some writers, primarily those who are either stuck in the last century or for whom English is a second language, is their frequent use of words or expressions that are either awkward, too formal for contemporary tastes, or considered antiquated or passé. “Henceforth,” “forthwith,” “moreover,” and “thusly” immediately come to mind as being out of touch with today’s reader. “The cat’s meow,” “picture show,”  “shake a leg,” “dowse the light,” “crank up the sound,” “lip rouge,” and hundreds more slang expressions and outdated words and phrases that were coined in the first half of the 20th century never rolled into the 21st.

Chances are you would never start a sentence with “As one might come to expect …” or “It goes without saying ….,” but if you are an older writer or if you spoke another language before learning English, you are advised to read and listen carefully to the way English is spoken in today’s society. In particular, you should become keenly aware of the latest words and expressions that are modifying our language on a daily basis. With the constant infusion of new buzzwords and tech-speak into our everyday speech, even those of us born in the U.S. are struggling to keep up.

English is a living language, and being watchful of what works and what no longer does is essential to the way you are perceived as a writer. Ultimately, your material will be richer for your having done your homework, and far more engaging to your reader.

10. Make certain that each sentence conforms to current rules of grammar and style. Use Chicago Book of Style or another appropriate stylebook choice for reference.

The rules of grammar and style are in a constant state of change. A classic example is the ongoing battle of the commas, which is all about when and where to use them—or not. Other such conflicts have been raging for some time, while new ones are constantly erupting. To illustrate: We have always been taught that a properly constructed sentence must have a subject and an object. Not anymore.

Writing correctly is not as clearly defined as in the past. There is a general trend toward loosening up certain old constraints, while refusing to budge on others. The kind of writing you do will dictate the type of authority you choose for reference. In general, while journalism generally adheres to one style, creative writing refers to another. Determine the type of manuscript you are writing and the category of outlet you are targeting for submission. This will help you choose the best stylebook for your needs.

You can also access individual publishers’ guidelines by visiting them online. To be taken seriously, it is essential you comply with their requirements.

11. Review each chapter individually. Make sure it contains everything you planned to include. Check for chronology. You may find that a paragraph works better elsewhere than where you originally placed it. Words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and whole chapters can be moved around to improve flow, consistency, and overall impact of your message. Some you would do well to omit entirely.

In the course of writing and rewriting, you may assume certain information has been included—whether about a person, place, or a thing. Because a specific point was already established inside your mind, you assumed that you had transmitted the thought to print. You hadn’t. Or maybe you had, but it’s chronologically out of place. Such things don’t always pop out at you on the first read-through. By the second or third or fourth time around, however, you are likely to start spotting a number of inconsistencies or missing elements.

12. Look out for new areas of weakness resulting from changes and modifications.  

Once you have reviewed each chapter and made changes, re-read the entire manuscript beginning to end. Do this not so much for inconsistencies anymore—although you may find a few stragglers—but for words or letters that you neglected to delete in the process of revision and those you deleted by mistake. For example: “The Los Angeles Dodgers is the best team in baseball,” when edited to “The Los Angeles Dodgers is one of the best teams in baseball,” requires more than the addition of “one of.” Since your intention was to change “the best” to “one of the best,” you have to remember to also change the plural of “team” to “teams.” Sometimes we forget to fix surrounding words to make them grammatically compatible with our revisions.

13. Read your material over again, leaving a day or even a week or more between readings. Often a sentence reads subtly different from the way you thought you had written it, even after a revision.

Your manuscript is now reading better than ever. All the inconsistencies, repeated words and phrases, uneven chronology, unclear information, and omitted data are edited in or out of the original and you may think you are ready to release your masterwork to the world—or, at least, to your editor. But now is when you let it sit and rest. The longer interval you allow, the more objective you will be when you take on that final reading. Once you pick up your manuscript again you will not necessarily find a number of issues in need of resolution, but chances are there will be more than you expected. One more time, you make your changes and you breathe a sigh of relief.

14. After finishing your first run-through, repeat the process. You may discover things you overlooked the last time around. Even if you found only one error on the last go-round, there might be something similarly suspect lurking in the shadows. 

Apply all previous tips one more time. The process will go faster, as you are more familiar with the material and can probably recognize a glitch from 40 yards away. Then sit back and congratulate yourself for a job well done. You have probably gone as far with the creative process as you can. But in no way are you finished with your task. It is time to bring in outside forces with a fresh and objective eye.

15. Recruit people to read your book and give you their comments. 
Writers know from experience that asking their nearest and dearest to be objective when reading anything they’ve written is an exercise in futility. Whether it’s your mother, your wife, or your boss, no one in your inner circle wants to rain on your parade. What they don’t realize is that the more brutally honest they are, the bigger the favor they are doing you. In either case you want them among the first to comment on your work. Just remember to take it with a grain of salt when you get nothing from them but gushing praise and not a trace of constructive criticism.

At the same time, to balance the feedback, give your material to three or four people whom you respect as professionals and who you have reason to believe understand the process well enough to give you their candid reaction.

16. Compile comments from both groups and add thoughts from your own list. Then, make an action plan.

When you are finally satisfied with the revised material, you may have new ideas to add to the mix. Your project is still a work in progress. Add the elements you consider significant. Then declare victory and hire an editor to take it from here.

17. You have completed your editing task and are ready to submit your material to a professional editor.

Unless you already have someone in mind, there are a number of sources through which to find an experienced editor to suit your needs, including personal referrals and a number of editors’ websites or professional organizations. If you Google “book editor” you will be inundated with more choices than you can possibly use. Follow through on two or three that appear most closely to meet your needs, then email or call them, and ask them how they generally work with a client and what they charge. The next step would be to send them a few pages of your manuscript and request a sample edit.

There are two major types of book editors: 1) a developmental editor helps an author produce a publishable book by taking raw material and turning it into compelling, readable text, or, in the case of fiction, resolving issues of plot, theme, dialogue, and structure; and 2) a copy/line editor resolves inconsistencies of grammar and punctuation, as well as improves the flow of ideas and polishes the overall content.

18. Re-examine your initial goal for writing the material. Are you satisfied that it meets your expectations and your goals? If not, where does it fall short? Make a list, and keep adding to it.

Creating a list is a good way to organize your thoughts. In a way, it is like a streamlined version of a business plan, hitting and summarizing the points you sought to cover, and providing an effective means of double-checking your material. By now, you should be satisfied that you have addressed everything according to plan.

19. Consider your target market. Are you planning to submit your manuscript to major publishers? Small presses? Do you need or want an agent? Or are you self-publishing, at least as a first step?

There are a number of ways to publish, and the pros and cons are too numerous to discuss here. Major consideration should be given to matters of time, money, and the strength of your material and platform. When submitting your manuscript to a publisher, consider whether or not you need a book proposal. A memoir, novel, or collection of short stories will not generally require one, but a nonfiction work geared to a niche market most likely will. Your book proposal should contain your marketing plan.

If you are looking for an agent, check the Internet for an agency that is open to submissions from writers of your particular genre. The agency’s website will provide you with its unique guidelines, and the rest is up to you.

20. If you are self-publishing, you will need marketing plan.

Your marketing plan should incorporate your various tools and strategies as well as a number of other topics, including your platform—which is essentially your potential community of readers. There are a number of books on this and related subjects, plus volumes of information on the Internet. Good luck to you and your book!

“I Can Spot a Typo at 20 Paces”

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

(from Flo) I’m a regular contributor to Carol Roth’s business blog. Today’s topic: “Tips for Becoming a Respected Business-Industry Expert.” My contribution is the last one, #105: “I Can Spot a Typo at 20 Paces.”

Here’s the link:

http://www.carolroth.com/blog/tips-for-becoming-a-respected-business-industry-expert/

105. I Can Spot a Typo at 20 Paces
Tell everyone you know what you do. I’m a PR consultant who also copyedits books, scripts and websites. Copyediting includes proofreading, so when I say I can spot a typo at twenty paces, it gets a laugh – and people remember. Sometimes, I’ll send a friendly note telling someone of a typo on their website. My email sig says “copyeditor/proofreader” and gives my website. I’m president of a writers organization in SoCal. and when I don’t blow my own horn, some members do it for me.

Thanks to: Flo Selfman of Words à la Mode.
xx   Flo Selfman    (photo: Libby Slate)

How Not To Work a Room

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
(from Flo)  How many networking events do we attend every year? A lot, if you’re like me. Some are successful, others are not. What makes the difference?  Is it the event, the attendees — or is it something we did or did not do?  In this guest article I wrote for the Media Magnetism blog, I tell you how to work a room — by telling you “How NOT to Work a Room.”

I am a contributing author to the book “MEDIA MAGNETISM: How to Attract the Favorable Publicity You Want and Deserve.” Our wonderful editor, Christina Hamlett, created the blog on the MM website.
http://mediamagnetism.org/guest-blogs-2/.

APRIL 2014

“How Not To Work a Room”

From the Desk of Flo Selfman

xNETWORK: a group of people who keep in contact to exchange information. NET = WORK.

74% of all jobs are found through networking and 75% of all business deals come from networking, yet most people don’t know how to network.   – Hank Blank, networking expert.

If you want to sabotage your chances of being successful at business and social events, just follow these easy steps!

  1. Arrive late.
  2. Hang around the bar. Eat or drink too much.
  3. Sit with people you know.
  4. Don’t have business cards or copies of your book with you; or…
  5. Have business cards deep inside your purse or in the car, not in your pocket or hand, and don’t bother wearing a name tag.
  6. Have a limp handshake.
  7. Talk only about yourself and your business/book.
  8. When asked, “What do you do?” or “What is your book about?” talk for twenty minutes before taking a breath.
  9. Break into an ongoing conversation.
  10. Spend all your time talking to someone who can’t help you or isn’t interested in you or your book/business.
  11. If someone offers you a breath mint, say, “No, thanks.”
  12. Send a follow-up note and misspell the person’s name or use an incorrect title.

Seriously, it’s so easy to just run out the door and hope for the best. But with some advance planning, working the room can bring benefits to you and the people you meet. Whether the “room” is an elevator, conference, or chamber mixer, it can be a chance to shine.

BEFORE THE EVENT: Create and rehearse your “elevator speech.” Prepare everything needed for looking and feeling your best and being prompt. That means: making a trip to your dry cleaners, shoe repair, and beauty salon or barbershop; brushing your teeth, brushing off pet hair, and taking that requisite shower. It also means having access to cash/credit card, planning your route to the event, allowing enough time to arrive early. You’ve heard the saying, “If you’re early, you’re on time, and if you’re on time, you’re late.” It makes sense. Being among the first to show up allows you to greet people one at a time, letting you “own” the event. Once it’s in full swing, it’s much harder to join conversations. Have an objective, such as: I will talk to five strangers. I will set up one lunch meeting. I will meet two prospective clients.

AT THE EVENT: Place your business cards in your right-hand pocket for easy access. Put those you collect in your left-hand pocket after jotting a note on the back. Wear your name tag on your right side; when you shake hands, the eye follows your arm up to your name tag and reinforces your name and your face. Write your first name in large letters; include your last name. Be interested in others; be interesting to others. Don’t monopolize the conversation. Don’t spend too much time with one person; arrange to meet if he or she seems like a good business prospect. Make eye contact and SMILE.

AFTER THE EVENT: You’re not done yet. Put your materials away. Set up meetings. Send “friend” requests – but don’t add people to your lists without permission. Respect people’s privacy and always send blast emails as “bcc,” never “to” or “cc.”

Now – go forth and network!

Flo Selfman creates and implements PR campaigns for personalities, theatre productions, arts festivals, books and authors. She is an in-demand copy editor for scripts and manuscripts (www.wordsalamode.com) and teaches lively grammar/punctuation review workshops. Flo has been president of IWOSC – Independent Writers of Southern California (http://www.iwosc.org) since 2003.

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How many other ways can you think of? I plan on writing a follow-up post and would love to hear from you!

Get Feedback: Tip #15

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

It’s time to enlist people to read your book and give you their comments. 

Writers know from experience that asking their nearest and dearest to be objective when reading anything they’ve written is an exercise in futility. Whether it’s your mother, your ex-spouse, or your boss, no one in your inner circle wants to rain on your parade. What they don’t realize is that the more brutally honest they are, the bigger the favor they are doing you. In either case, there is no way around offering them a first look at your work. Just remember to take it with a grain of salt when you get nothing from them but gushing praise without a trace of constructive criticism.

At the same time, to balance the feedback, also give your material to three or four people whom you respect as professionals, and whom you have reason to believe understand the process well enough to give you a candid reaction.

Re-read Your Work: Tip #14

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

After finishing your first run-through, repeat the process. You may find things you overlooked the last time around. Even if you found only one error before, there might be something similarly suspect yet lurking in the shadows. 

There is no mystery to this tip, not if you have already worked through the first thirteen. Take all the same suggestions you did with each previous one, and apply all of them again. The process will go much quicker this time, as you are more familiar with the material than ever, and can recognize a glitch from 40 yards away.

Now, sit back, and congratulate yourself for a job well done. You have gone as far as you feel you can for now.  But you are, in no way, finished with your task. It is time to bring in outside forces with, we hope, an objective eye.

Give it a Rest: Tip #13

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Read your material over and over again, leaving a day or, better yet, a week or more in between readings. Often, a sentence reads oh-so subtly different from the way you thought you had written it, even after a revision or two along the way.

So, your manuscript is now reading better than ever. All the inconsistencies, repeated words and phrases, uneven chronology, unclarified information, omitted data, and so forth has been edited in or out of the original, and good riddance. Now, you are ready to release your masterwork to the world. Right? Of course, wrong. Now is when you let it sit and rest. The longer interval of time you allow between you and your words, the more objective you will be when you take on that final reading—before hiring an editor. 

And aren’t you glad you did?! When you pick up your manuscript after letting it lie for a while, you will not necessarily find a litany of issues in need of resolution, but chances are you will find more than you expected.

One more time, you make your changes, and you breathe a sigh of relief.

Edit Your Edits: Tip #12

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Look out for new areas of weakness resulting from changes and modifications. Don’t let them get away from you.

Once you have reviewed each chapter, you should re-read the entire manuscript, beginning to end. Now is the best time to do that, not so much for inconsistencies anymore—although you may find a few stragglers—but for words or letters that you left in during the process of revision that you had meant to delete, or deleted that you had meant to leave in. For example: “The Los Angeles Dodgers is the best team in baseball,” when edited to “The Los Angeles Dodgers is one of the best teams in baseball,” requires more than the addition of “one of.” Since your intention was to change “the best” to “one of the best,” you have to remember, as well, to change the plural of “team” to “teams.” Sometimes, we forget to fix surrounding words to make them grammatically compatible with our revisions.

Review Your Work: Tip #11

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Consider each chapter individually. Make sure it contains everything you had planned to include. Look for correct chronology. You may find that one paragraph works better at the beginning or middle or end rather than where you originally set it in place. Words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and whole chapters are often shifted and re-shifted from place to place to improve the flow, consistency, and overall impact of your message. Some may be omitted entirely.

In the course of writing and rewriting, you will tend to assume certain pieces of information have been included—whether about a person, place, or a thing. A piece of detail, perhaps, or a description—a particular point that is important to the overall clarity of your story or theme. You were sure it was included somewhere in the text, but your search ends without a trace of it. Like so many writers, you had made a basic assumption. Because a specific element was already established inside your mind, you assumed that you had transmitted the thought to print. You hadn’t.

Such things don’t always pop out at you on the first read-through. By the second or third or fourth time around, however, you are more likely to start seeing all sorts of inconsistencies in your work. Why did you state something here that is in no way relevant until there? And didn’t you already state pretty much the same thing on the previous page that you are repeating here, as if for the first time?

Until you took on the task of the read-through, you were sure your words read perfectly as they were. Now you see thoughts that are repeated, only in difference words. And chronology that is back and forth and back again when you intended it to be linear. The more you read over a chapter, the more such errors stand out, waiting for you to pick them off, one by one, and delete them away forever.

Follow the Rules of Writing: Tip #10

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Make certain that each sentence conforms to current rules of grammar and style. Use Chicago Book of Style or another appropriate stylebook  for reference. Rules change over time, and your credibility as a writer depends on your remaining current.

A classic example is the ongoing battle of the commas, which is all about when and where to use them and when and where to not. Other such conflicts have been raging for some time, while new ones are constantly erupting. To illustrate: We have always been taught that a properly constructed sentence must have a subject and an object. Not anymore.

Writing right is not as clearly defined as it once seemed to be. The general trend seems to favor the loosening up of certain old constraints, while refusing to budge on others.

The kind of writing you do will dictate the type of authority you choose for reference. In general, while journalism generally adheres to one particular style, creative writing refers to another.

Determine the type of manuscript you are writing and the category of outlet you are targeting for submission. This will help you choose the best stylebook for your needs.

You can also access publishers’ guidelines by visiting them online. To be taken seriously, it is essential you comply with their requirements.

Substitute Outdated Language: Tip #9

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Stay away from worn-out phrases and slang expressions.

A major weakness of some writers, primarily those who are either stuck in the last century or for whom English is a second language, is their frequent use of words or expressions that are either awkward, too formal for contemporary tastes, or considered antiquated or passé. “Henceforth,” “forthwith,” and “moreover” immediately come to mind as being out of touch with today’s reader. “The cat’s meow,” “let’s neck,” “picture show,”  “shake a leg,” “dowse the light,” “crank up the sound,” “lip rouge,” and hundreds more slang expressions and words and phrases that were coined in the first half of the 20th century never rolled into the 21st. These are only a few of the more obvious ones.   

Chances are you would never start a sentence with “As one might come to expect …” or “It goes without saying … (but, there, you’ve said it, anyway), “In days of yore …” or even the all-time favorite, “Once upon a time …” But, if you are an older writer, or if you spoke another language for some time before learning English, you are advised to read voraciously and listen carefully to those around you speaking English in today’s society. In particular, you should become keenly aware of the latest phraseology and slang expressions that are changing our English language on a daily basis. With the constant infusion of new buzzwords and tech-speak into our everyday speech, even those of us born and bred in the U.S. are struggling to keep up.

English is a living language, and being watchful of what works and what no longer does is essential to the way you are perceived as a writer. In the end, your material will be richer for your having done your homework, and it will be significantly fresher and more engaging to your reader.