Let me lay down some knowledge for you from my time spent in the editing trenches. I’ve worked with five plus houses, three literary agencies, and indie clients. That comes with a whole lot of editing experience. Let me tell you a secret: one editor on a book often isn’t enough and especially not if that book needs a lot of work. As an indie author it can be daunting to hire and afford more than one editor, but the end result will be so worth it. Having more than one editor means more fresh eyes to iron out issues. If you’re a a traditional author, this means you will likely work with more than one editor at your house.
Want to know how the Big 5 get their books so polished and shiny? It’s because those books often have a developmental editor and then a copy editor who also proofreads if they don’t also have a separate proofreader. This means they get an editor to focus on all the developmental issues without being sidetracked by copyedits. Then the copy editor gets to focus on copyedits without being sidetracked by developmental edits. Then finally the proofreader gets to ax any remaining issues still hiding. With all those fresh eyes focusing on one type of editing, the manuscript goes through a lot of rounds and gets put through the wringer. And to add to that many of those books were also edited by agents before going to the house. Continue reading “The Benefits of Multiple Editors”
Between the slush and my own editing I’ve seen a lot of first chapters. Dozens upon dozens upon dozens of first chapters. I often notice similar issues over and over again and find myself giving out the same advice in first chapter critiques and edits. Two of these issues specifically, a lack of stakes and a hook, I came across in a book I borrowed from the library. If you are a writer who struggles to understand issues like stakes without examples then read on because you are about to get some specific examples. I’m going to to discuss two common issues I spot in opening chapters with a few bonus problems and I’m going to be very candid with you. The book I’m using as an example is a young adult magical realism contemporary, The Inconceivable Life of Quinn.
As a warning I quit reading after the first two chapters to get some other reading done and haven’t picked the book back up yet, so I have no idea of what happens after the first two chapters (yet). On Goodreads the book only has a rating of 3.2 and a lot of reviews complaining about it being “meh” or “boring.” Many called it “strange” and “odd” despite the great concept that has a magical realism touch to it. I’m always curious to read reviews of books after I finish to see what other people thought. Let me tell you exactly why the book got reviewed as meh and boring at the start so you can avoid making the same mistake. First let me be clear this book wasn’t rated low because the writing or story is bad, the book just needs some more reworking and polishing to have a wider appeal and the issues I’ve brought up are ones I see all the time, which is why I wanted to make this post. I find it hard to discuss common issues without examples, and this book provides some perfect examples for me to discuss. Continue reading “When Opening Chapters Have No Teeth”
Those who follow my blog by now should be super aware that I’m an editor. I’ve edited for 5+ houses, but I’ve also been a literary agency intern and assistant. I wanted to take a break from all my book reviews to discuss some of my experiences on the agency side in regards to the slush. One of my first thoughts after getting a peek at the slush during my internship was that I wish I’d gotten that experience earlier in my editing career. I think it’s useful experience not just for aspiring agents, but also editors and writers. It gave me a whole new respect for acquiring editors and a better understanding of the acquisitions process. I found there was a lot to be learned from the slush.
As an editor I don’t deal with acquisitions, just the edits that come after. That means I often heard tales about the slush, but until I interned with a literary agency I never saw it for myself. The most surprising aspect of seeing it? How many of the subs had decent writing. Sure you get authors who don’t follow guidelines and aren’t in querying shape yet, but I was surprised by how many subs I read that had passable writing. I was expecting a lot more of it to be nowhere near ready. My first dive into the slush to find something to pass to my agent caused me to struggle to decide what to pass on since as an editor I was so used to taking something no matter the quality and polishing it. As I got more experience with the slush, it became much easier as I learned to pick out the best writing and most eye-catching stories. The editor in me could see possible edits for many submissions, but as I learned through experience some of them just needed too much work. I was used to making editing decisions after acquisitions, not deciding what to acquire, and that was the big learning experience for me. I learned how to spot quality in the slush and pick out the gems. Continue reading “Lessons from the Slush”
Filter words. It can be so tempting to use them, but they weaken your writing, especially when overused. One of the most common issues I spot when editing is the use of filtering. From my experience it’s a common habit for new authors and one that can be hard to break. Even yours truly had to learn to break the habit. Let’s get started on how to spot and revise filtering.
What is filtering? Filtering words are words that place your character between an important detail and your reader because the detail gets filtered through your character’s point of view. These filter words can tell us sensory details, what a character sees or feels, and what they think. Filtering can make it hard for readers to connect to your world because it creates distance between the reader and your narrator. Filtering can also lead to telling instead of showing. You can show us how your character feels about their world through dialogue and character development, but we don’t need details and actions filtered through their point of view. Let us connect directly to the world. Continue reading “Filtering in Writing”
Some editors are also writers while others are happier to stay on the editing side and find they don’t enjoy writing or have the chops for it. And that’s totally okay. It’s just like how some agents write, but others prefer to focus on championing and selling books rather than writing them. However, I’m an editor who also writes. For me writing came before editing and inspired me to try out a career in editing. Pair them both with my love of books and I can’t let either one go.
I find that writing helps with my editing and vice versa. I think you can’t truly understand what authors go through when they get their revision letters or edits unless you’ve been in the same spot. Edit letters can be scary, especially when you are a new author not used to getting revision feedback. It can be overwhelming to see all the fixes and changes your book needs and it can be easy to feel like you’re writing isn’t good enough when you see your manuscript all marked up. By writing and getting revision feedback, I put myself in the same shoes as the authors I edit, and I go through all those tough emotions that so many authors have to work through when they get an edit letter. Going through it myself helps me to have a sympathetic understanding of what my authors are going through when we begin edits. Continue reading “The Writing Editor”
I love a good story twist. Gone Girl anyone? But I don’t like a story twist that falls flat. Recently I’ve noticed some problematic story twists in indie books and books yet to be published. It got me thinking about what makes a good story twist and what exactly made the twists fall flat for me. I noticed a few common themes among the twists that I wanted to share. So here’s the three biggest issues that I noticed, or the big three P‘s in plot twists. Continue reading “Make Your Story Twist Shine”
Recently on Twitter I posted a link to a blog series by literary agent Kristin Nelson talking about nine book openings to avoid. You can find that series here and I suggest giving it a read, especially if you struggle to find the right spot to start your book. I found myself agreeing with a lot of what Kristin said in the series as an editor and reader. Continue reading “A Story Opener to Avoid”