Editor, Not Opinionator-Terminator

[by Billi Joy Carson, Senior Editor/ Editing Addict]

Editor Tip: Make Sure Your Editor Is Just That—an Editor

Recently, an author contacted me about another editor she was using, and the practices, notes, changes, and comments this editor was making. To say I was appalled, is an understatement. The author showed me notes this editor had made.

It was obvious the editor was a Opinionator-Terminator, not an editor, because she was literally in a fight with the author about OPINIONS—claiming she was right, and the author was incorrect.

The battle was not over grammar, not spelling, not punctuation, not even the functions and allowances of the Chicago Manual of Style…the arguments were forcing the author to justify why she chose to name characters what she did, and why she titled her work with that title…. She was belittling the author, and tearing apart subject matter that was irrelevant.

If an author wants their character to have an accent or lisp, then that is the author’s decision. The editor’s job is not to challenge that decision, but to make sure if the character had an accent or lisp in the beginning, they also have an accent or lisp in the end—continuity, flow, and logic.

If you are dealing with an editor who is an Opinionator-Terminator, you may feel too afraid to say anything (and fairly, saying anything to one of them may not have the outcome that you desire). This is one reason you want to have a clear and concise contract laid out before starting the editing process—know what it is you are expecting. You also need to know your rights as an author.

You—the author—are the creator and final decision-maker with your work of writing: poetry, book, short story, essay, novel, biography…. The editor is there to help you, assist you.

What should an editor change with minimal (if any) notes to the author?

[Proofread Edit]
Spelling
Grammar
Punctuation
CMS standard
 

 What are the items an editor should leave comments for the author, but shouldn’t make the changes?

[Copy Edit or Content Edit]
Logic flow
Names of characters, places, cities, families….
Plot & action
Scenes / Chapters
Scenario of suspense/humor
Ending

 

An editor should tell the author what items are or aren’t accepted in CMS standard. Those are facts, but they aren’t laws. If the author chooses to reject a change, the author’s voice and choice still reigns supreme—YES, above the CMS, above the editor, and above all.

An author can choose to reject the standard of CMS, if they feel it will alter the readability or the understanding of the project for the reader. The author makes that decision, not the editor. The editor can leave notes, but there is no reason for an editor to attack or harshly defend their points and opinions. That is not their job. Authors shouldn’t put up with it.

An editor’s job is to make sure and find the mistakes—iron out the punctuation, spelling, and grammar. It is not an editor’s job to grade the entertainment value or the subject, or to test the humor factor. That is the author’s choice and decision—they are the creators of the work.

It is okay to challenge your editor, and to disagree with them. If they don’t allow for this, then they are not an editor, they are an Opinionator-Terminator. You need to seek out and find a real editor in order to find success.

If you are looking for an editor, contact me at billijoycarson@editingaddict.com.

[by Billi Joy Carson, Senior Editor / Editing Addict

 

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What Your Editor Needs From You

[by Billi Joy Carson, Senior Editor/ Editing Addict]

Editor Tip: What Your Editor Needs From You

Respect

Your editor is going to spend weeks pouring over your manuscript. She (or he) is going to eat, sleep, and breathe YOUR book. She (or he) will be correcting spelling, grammar, margins, indents, spacing (line and character), punctuation, formatting sections (for consistency), comparing character logic and plot flow… Your editor is going to be BUSY. Don’t treat them like your time is more important than theirs—or like you are their only client.

A Timeline—So They Can Schedule YOUR Book

Your editor is not a magician. She (or he) has other clients, and those clients all have deadlines too. When you know you are getting close to finishing your manuscript (not the day before you plan on handing it over to your editor), notify your editor. They need to estimate the time needed on your book, and let you know when they can do it, and then add it to their schedule.

Communication, Because Deadlines EXIST

1) Again, stop treating your editor like they can do magic. They can’t. If you missed giving your manuscript to your editor on time, several things should happen:

If at all possible (I mean, come hell or high water), stay within the deadline of when you said you would give your editor your manuscript.

As SOON as you know you are going to be late, notify your editor. Their time is valuable, and they need to schedule in another project. Remember, they blocked out time for YOU.

If you are late with your project, and you didn’t give your editor notice, you should be paying a late fee. You reserved their time, and you did not cancel it. Respect them enough to pay for the slot you scheduled.

2) Tell your editor about your deadlines.

Ideally, you should have given your editor the manuscript with time to spare, but if you need a rush on the edit, then you need to communicate this. Also, all rush edits need to have a rush-fee. You are asking your editor to SUDDENLY include your manuscript in their schedule. This means something else has to be shuffled (or possibly dropped) for you.

Complete Files

 When you send your manuscript to your editor, it should be in one file (not broken out in sections, chapters, or parts). If you change anything after your editor has started to work on your manuscript:

Most editors will require a change-fee, because they have to transpose all their notes, edits, and changes to the new document. Some editors refuse to work with any changed manuscripts, so it is best to ask in advance.

Most editors work with .doc and .docx files only. Ask your editor what he or she prefers, and then—send them what they ask for.

If you send your editor files she (or he) has to convert (e.g. .wp7 when they asked for .docx), you are taking two risks:

Possible lost information:

If your editor has to convert the files:

It means she (or he) doesn’t have the program your files are saved in. Therefore, once conversion is complete, your editor will not know if anything is missing from your manuscript.

There is also the possibility that your editor can’t convert the file, and the file will have to be returned to you. This delays your editor, and shrinks her (or his) timeline of work—because the deadlines are still the same.

Abusing your editor:

You want a loyal editor who roots for, cheers for, and fights for you. Not one who resents you every time you send them your manuscript in the wrong format. See the first item listed on this page.

A Way to Reach You

 More than likely, your editor won’t need to speak to you during the editing process. Radio silence does not mean anything is wrong, it means they are steadily working on your manuscript.

If your editor comes across something that needs to be addressed immediately, before they get too far into the book, they need to be able to reach you. Email is a good way to communicate, because they can copy/paste the questionable areas for you to read, and give them feedback (e.g. your editor may discover that your main character’s name changed in spelling, but you intended a plot-twist, and need your character’s name to change; you want them to check with you before correcting all the names throughout the book).

Both communication and respect assure success; they also enable teamwork to grow and thrive between you and your editor—who is on YOUR TEAM, and desires to be there. She (or he) hopes you succeed, and is excited to be along for the journey. Your editor is dedicated to helping you grow, and cares that you keep learning how to be an amazing author.

Help your editor to help you. Teamwork brings success!

[by Billi Joy Carson, Senior Editor / Editing Addict

 

Audience-Shmaudience—Write What YOU Love

[by Billi Joy Carson, Senior Editor/ Editing Addict]

Editor Tip: Write What YOU Love

 

It’s true that writers need to write to an audience. But the process is not a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey.  As a writer, you do NOT need to find the audience you think is best worthy, and then force yourself to write for them.

 

Write what you love, and find the audience that loves to read what you write.

 

When C. S. Lewis was asked about his books, The Chronicles of Narnia, and whether he wrote specifically so children would read them, he answered:

 

“I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. The good ones last. A waltz which you can like only when you are waltzing is a bad waltz.” 

 

Lewis wrote what he loved; he didn’t morph his writing so it would be read and liked by his audience. He found the audience that would cherish his writing. Children love his books; adults do too. Why? Because C. S. Lewis poured passion through the pages of his books—a love that is obvious, and not forced, a contagion of enthusiasm that inspires generations, young and old, to pick up his books and read again.

Know your audience, don’t choose your audience; your audience has chosen you. Write what you know, write what you love, and write what the world will want to read again and again.

[by Billi Joy Carson, Senior Editor / Editing Addict

 

Don’t Fear Your Editor

[by Billi Joy Carson, Senior Editor/ Editing Addict]

 

Often, editors are presumed to do this to writers:

 

unnamed

 

Editors are members of your team—like coaches—wanting YOU (the author) to succeed. They are paid to find mistakes, errors, and faults, in order to make you a stronger and more successful author. They are not paid to pat you on the back, tell you how amazing you are, and do a little flattering dance to your glory—that is part of the marketing team’s job [haha!]. Your editor is not your friend—they aren’t there to encourage you by cheering your good points. They are there to point out the ugly and sloppy aspects that need help, that need polishing and fixing.

Don’t fear your editor. The editors are here for the authors. They aren’t going to highlight your face green (as the comic above suggests), but they are going to help you see the errors and weaknesses in your writing. Then (hopefully), you learn and grow, and become a stronger writer—which leads to an amazing author. A good editor can be a great teacher; make sure you treat their insights and time as valuable, because it is priceless.

Your editor will pick apart your work, but it doesn’t mean you are a bad author. It means your editor wants you to be better. Coach Lou Holtz, the winningest (yes, that is a word) college football coach, is known for tearing into his BEST players. He would pick them apart mercilessly. Why? Because he saw untapped potential. He wanted his players to improve beyond where they were. Even when they were good, he knew they could be great. A great football player is remembered, and people come to see them. A good football player is cheered for the one game, but no one comes back. Your editor wants your readers to come back.

Always pay your editor for their work. A great editor slowly reads through your book, flushing out the mistakes, making notes for the author, fixing the punctuation and grammar, checking with the author on flow and logic issues, researching quotes for accuracy, making sure your book aligns with the standard for publishing (per the Style Guides)….

How much your editor will do for your book, is dependent on which level of editing you have paid them for—just like taking care of your vehicle. If you take your car to a car wash, but you really wanted them to replace your muffler, you are going to be surprised. More than likely, they will leave a note on your receipt that you have a muffler dragging behind your car—but they will not have done anything for it, except wash and polish it. Know what you need (which editing package) and then be willing to pay for what you need. It will be worth it.

 

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If you need a quote on your editing project, contact our senior editor, Billi Joy Carson.

[by Billi Joy Carson, Senior Editor / Editing Addict; artwork by Keely Mitchell]

 

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Questions for our editor, Billi Joy Carson, to answer next time:

Market the Author

[by Billi Joy Carson, Senior Editor/ Editing Addict]

Editor Tip: Market the Author

If you are an author, a blogger, or a copywriter…then correct spelling, punctuation, word use, and grammar is a necessity in all areas of your writing…books, blogs, marketing, advertisements, social media, queries, submissions, letters, and emails.

Why…?

I can hear the horrified gasps, feel the eyes rolling—doubt and fear from writers everywhere. Panic in the streets.

Before you throw your hands up, and stop reading, let’s look at the WHY behind this necessity.

 

You are always marketing YOU.

 

Your books come and go, but you, the author, remain constant. You are the first line of defense when it comes to marketing yourself—which you are doing every day, every time you write…anything.

You are marketing not only to readers, but to publishers, agents, editors, and your fellow authors who would network with you. You are marketing your writing ability—yes—but you are ALSO marketing your organization capabilities, your attention to details, your desire for accuracy….

What if you don’t care about details and accuracy? Publishers do.

Publishers, editors, and agents notice. In this world of instant access, through social media and blogs, your everyday comments and posts are seen.


If an author can’t be trusted to use the right word in 140 characters, why would they trust the author with a 300-page book?

 

Agents, editors, and publishers (oh my!) have deadlines. Organization is a big part of that. Make it appear you are organized—even if you have to fake it.

Here are some excellent tools to keep close to you, always. I suggest bookmarking them, as well as storing them on your smart phones and tablets—wherever you write, post, and email.

OneLook.com

  • Dictionary compilation of over 1000 dictionaries
  • Correct spelling not needed
    • It offers options for word spelling
    • Shows several dictionaries, with links.
  • Breaks search answers into four categories
    • General
    • Business (language)
    • Computing (language)
    • Slang*
      • *Words that haven’t made it into traditional dictionaries will show up here.
      • *Caution: When writing items for publishing (versus informal social media, emails…), only use a Chicago Manual of Style approved dictionary, like Merriam-Webster.

Other dictionaries:

Thesaurus:

Grammar:

  • Grammarly.com (not CMS approved, but still a great tool)
    • Copy/paste text in box—it shows grammar errors and weaknesses
  • Guide to Grammar & Writing
    • Quick lookup for parts of speech, word use, and grammar rules

Style Guides:

 

Questions for the editor to answer next time:

[by Billi Joy Carson, Senior Editor / Editing Addict

 

Query the Book, Not the Author

[by Billi Joy Carson, Senior Editor/ Editing Addict]

Editor Tip: Query Dos & Don’ts

Many inexperienced authors (and a few experienced) make fatal errors with their query letters. The letters are not fan mail, and aren’t notes to a friend. A query letter is a business letter. Though all query letters are not created equal, they are all formal, professional, and to the point. The goal of a query letter is to set yourself apart from the rest, and make your product the next big thing that the agent, editor, or publisher wants.

Definition of a query letter: a formal letter written by an author, proposing writing concepts; it is sent to magazine editors, literary agents, and publishing houses or companies.

What should you include in your query letter?

A business letter is very formal, and can take a few shapes—while remaining a constant format. Purdue Owl shows the anatomy of a business letter, with great advice on the structure and format.

Once you have the format down, proceed with building your query letter. Here is the basic composition of a query letter:

Address
Date (format: August 7, 2014)
The agent or editor’s name, title, company, and address
 
Greeting: “Dear Ms./Mr. Surname:
 
Introduction: Keep this within two-three sentences about why you are writing to them (agent, editor, publisher).
 
Pitch A: Keep this within two paragraphs (or several tiny paragraphs) about your BOOK [note: this is not about YOU]. This should be written in the style of a book jacket.
 
Pitch B: Add a little more information regarding your book—it should be beyond your book jacket’s plot and characters. If there is a surprising mystery as a secondary storyline, mention it here. Also, if you have a series, this is the place to mention the upcoming books, and how they link together. Keep it precise, short, and within one paragraph if at all possible.
 
Bio: Now is the time to talk about YOU. Keep it as brief as possible—no more than three short sentences. The less, the better. Remember, in their eyes, it doesn’t matter if you have worked with flowers all your life, unless the book is on botany. And even then, they really don’t care. The focus of the query letter should be the BOOK, and not the author.
 
Conclusion: This should include short “thank you for your time” notes, and any information the agent/editor/publisher would need to know. Tell them here whether this is a simultaneous submission, or not.
 
Sign-off: Sincerely, Your Name
 
Enclosures: List all the items you are including in your submission along with the query letter.

What are the most popular mistakes on query letters?

  • Mentioning self-published books as previously published works
    • It is a great accomplishment to have a self-published book, but it harms you to mention it in the query letter (unless you have had success as great as Fifty Shades of Grey).
    • If you have a series, then you need to query the first book, with notes to all the future books in the series (place that info in Pitch B’s paragraph).
  • Talking about the author instead of the book
    • The point of the query letter is to sell your BOOK; too many authors try to sell themselves instead.
      • A maintenance man can write a children’s book, therefore it is irrelevant to the agent/editor/publisher where he has worked for the last thirty-five years.
      • If he is writing a how-to manual on janitorial services, then this information would be beneficial in the Bio paragraph. If not, then leave it out.
  • Getting too informal with the writing, like you’re writing a friend
    • This is a business letter. Your writing should reflect a business mindset. Avoid slang, texting talk, conversational words, or anything else informal.
  • Underselling the author as a newbie (even if they are)
    • Don’t tell the agent/editor/publisher that you are a new author, or that you’re just starting out.
      • They don’t need to know that.
      • If you tell them you are “an aspiring author,” you have taken ALL the focus off the book, and placed it squarely on your inexperience. Keep the focus on the BOOK.
  • Begging for your book to be read, because you know it is worth it
    • The goal of the query letter is to make your book DESIRABLE.
      • You want the agent/editor/publisher wanting to read it—not coerced by force, or guilted into reading it (because guaranteed, that won’t work).
    • Don’t ask the agent/editor/publisher to “just give it a chance” or “if you only read it…”
      • This will diminish the effectiveness of your query letter.
      • If you have to beg for the book, instead of letting it stand on its own, then you are not confident in it.
      • If you are not confident in your book, why should they be?
    • Imagine that your query letter is a commercial for a car
      • The commercials don’t focus on the car manufacturer, they focus on the luxurious car—the feel, beauty, details, handling,  shine…
      • People are filled with desire for the car, and want to find out more about the CAR, but they don’t care about the manufacturer.
      • Your book is that car. You are the manufacturer. Advertise your BOOK; let it stand on its own.
  • Sending a query letter to an agent/editor/publisher without researching what they accept
    • Every agent/editor/publisher has different rules for their query letters as well as their submission requirements.
      • Some require a summary of all your chapters
      • Some require a summary of the whole book
      • Some don’t ever want to see a summary
    • They will have clear guidelines listed on their websites. It takes research, time, effort, and discipline. No two are the same.
    • If you submit a query letter that does not have EXACTLY what they have asked for, they will (almost always) automatically reject it.
      • If you can’t follow simple instructions, they know your book is probably a fall-apart mess too. They don’t want to deal with it.
      • Remember, if they set up limitations in genre/audience, it is because they have STRICT limitations on what they can publish.
        • If they have asked for Young Adult Sci-Fi, and you send them a nonfiction book, they have nowhere to publish it. Therefore, guess what? You just got rejected, and you didn’t have to.

Query letters are about the confidence authors have in their masterpieces—their books. Once you have your confidence in the right place, and you have done your research (while avoiding the pitfalls mentioned above) you will have an unstoppable query letter. Rejections happen, but don’t give up. Every rejection is one more no on the way to getting your yes!

[by Billi Joy Carson, Senior Editor / Editing Addict]

 

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Questions for our editor, Billi Joy Carson, to answer next time:

Highlight to Success

[by Billi Joy Carson, Senior Editor/ Editing Addict]

Editor Tip: Highlight to Success

Every writer—no matter how strong a wordsmith—has at least one crutch word. To the author, the words remain hidden, and unseen, but to the reader, the words become machine-gun weapon rounds every time they read them.

The words are different for each author, just as style and genre differ. The impact of the words on the readers, however, remains the same. The more crutch words you have, the greater the possibility you will lose your readership. The pain of hitting word after word after word becomes greater than the desire to keep reading.

Have you noticed the number of times a variation of word has been used in these two paragraphs? Ten times in a ninety-five word count. A deft killer of writing, hiding in plain sight. Crutch words.

What are the most popular crutch words?

They are the small ones. Innocuous. Overlooked in read-throughs, and missed in proofing: and, had, that, my, he, she, it, her, him, said, looked, saw, turned, smiled, be, is, was, were, been.

Steps to becoming crutch-free:

1. Search [Edit/Find All] your manuscript for each crutch word listed above. You might be surprised how many times they pop up in your book.

2. Highlight all occurrences of the word you’re searching for (e.g. that)

a. How many highlights are clustered together?

b. If you feel annoyed seeing all the highlights…

(1) …guess how your readers feel?

(2) Time to fix it.

3. Rework the areas where the highlights show up clustered together

a. Many can simply be deleted without changing the meaning

(1) The man that was sitting at the table, told her that she was beautiful.

(2) The man, sitting at the table, told her she was beautiful.

b. Some can be reworded, or reordered, to strengthen the writing.

First paragraphs with highlight method:

Every writer—no matter how strong a wordsmith—has at least one crutch word. To the author, the words remain hidden, and unseen, but to the reader, the words become machine-gun weapon rounds every time they read them.

The words are different for each author, just as style and genre differ. The impact of the words on the readers, however, remains the same. The more crutch words you have, the greater the possibility you will lose your readership. The pain of hitting word after word after word becomes greater than the desire to keep reading.

First paragraphs reworded:

Every writer—no matter how strong a wordsmith—has at least one crutch word. To the author, it remains hidden, and unseen, but to the reader, the writing becomes machine-gun weapon rounds every time they read them.

The weaknesses are different for each author, just as style and genre differ. The impact on the readers, however, remains the same. The more crutches you have, the greater the possibility you will lose your readership. The pain of hitting word after word becomes greater than the desire to keep reading.

Once you master this, you will keep your writing alive, and retain your readership. It’s a tedious task the first two or three times, but it will eventually be second nature to you.

Questions for the editor to answer next time:

[by Billi Joy Carson, Senior Editor / Editing Addict