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Archive for the category “Perfecting the craft”

1, 2, 3, edit! Things to do before you hire a copyeditor

By Katy McDevitt

Are you ready to get your manuscript edited? Here’s a quick guide to help you figure out whether you’re as ready as you think.

1. Have you tied up all the loose threads?

This sounds really obvious, right? But it’s surprising how often I come across bits and pieces in a manuscript that indicate a thought that the author didn’t quite finish, a sentence that circles round on itself, or even an ‘X marks the spot’ indicating a bit of research or fleshing-out that the author meant to come back to. Go back through your work and resolve all those small, but accumulative, outstanding issues. Your copyeditor can certainly help spot missing or incomplete elements, and raise them with you as author queries, but it’s not the editor’s job to create or research content on your behalf, and it will take longer and cost more to complete the editing stage if you don’t fully resolve your work. Tie up as many loose threads as you can, before submitting your work for editing, and your editor will thank you for it (and probably bill you less).

2. Have you done your self-editing duty?

What is self-editing? It’s when an author attempts to anticipate textual issues that an editor might find during the copyediting stage, and fixes as many of them as possible. Why do it? Because it makes the editing quicker, smoother and (if you do it right!) cheaper. Self-editing can be a painful chore if you’re not a detail person, for sure, but it’s well worth doing. My fellow workshop presenter Patrick Allington will be giving guidance on how to do it during the Editing Bootcamp. Look critically at your chapter titles, headings, paragraph structure, syntax, and punctuation; run spelling and consistency checkers; proofread your own work, onscreen or on paper. Step back, for a short time, and pretend you didn’t write the book. Be your own worst critic. What would distract you from the core meaning or message if you were reading it for the first time? Where do you see inconsistencies of fact, style, language or formatting? Remove the tripwires.

3. Have you run your work past someone else?

A copyeditor is certainly a fresh pair of eyes. But if you’re hiring a professional, you can expect to pay a professional fee, and a copyeditor isn’t going to review your work for issues like narrative drift, irritating protagonists or a downer of a conclusion (though a developmental editor will – but that’s another post!). So, it’s a good idea to get someone you think is an eagle-eyed reader to do an editorial dummy-run. They won’t pick up all the textual details that a pro editor will spot, but they will be able to give you a good idea of what kinds of issue a new reader will find in your work. Again, it’s about testing out your writing, at one remove from you, so that the manuscript is as tight and resolved as possible by the time your editor starts work.

So, you’re ready? Let’s get started.

How do you find a qualified professional editor, assess their suitability, figure out what to pay them, and brief the editing work you want done? I’ll be sharing tips on all this at my ‘What is Editing?’ workshop on the morning of Friday 16th May. Come along and find out whether your manuscript is truly ready for its editorial close-up.

Dr Katy McDevitt AE is Principal Editor at Katy McDevitt Editorial Services and Publisher at Simply EBooks SA. She has worked with dozens of authors throughout her career, as a copyeditor, proofreader and publisher, and she loves collaborating with writers to help them achieve their publishing goals. She is leading a workshop for authors, called ‘What is Editing?’, as part of the Editing Bootcamp on 16th May.

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Five Questions an Editor Will Ask of Your Novel

By Kevin O’Brien

Why not join us for the Editing Boot Camp to learn more?

I should start this blog post by saying that good editors will ask you more than five questions about your novel, but I’ve chosen the following issues in particular as they can be the hardest to fix if left until the end of the writing–editing process.

It’s not going to be your main aim as an author to please an editor, of course, or to make an editor’s life easier (although the editor will love you for it if you do), but it’s always good to anticipate some of the editor’s questions. That’s because you and the editor have a common goal: to make your novel the best version of itself it can possibly be. The questions an editor asks of your manuscript are the same that you should ask of it, rather than leaving a prospective agent or publisher, or the end reader, to do so.

Sometimes, these questions have to be set aside until you have enough of an idea of the story you want to tell for your own revisions to begin. Then, it can be hard to know where to start. So please don’t be dissuaded by these lines of enquiry. They are intended as suggested starting points for self-editing, as well as potentially problematic end points:

 

  • Does your novel have any problems at the level of the narrator, in terms of consistency of voice and how much the narrator knows?
    For example, is your narrator mainly invisible and faceless but then seems to develop a ‘personality’ at various points? Is your narrator a character within the story he or she is telling but also privy to the other characters’ innermost thoughts and feelings? This would need to be explained in some way if so.
  • Does your novel’s structure and length suit the story you are trying to tell?
    Readers will anticipate structure in any story and base certain expectations on it. If the book opens with a prologue, is there an epilogue, or is the action of the prologue returned to in the main story somewhere (without being repeated word for word)? If the first two chapters of the book are narrated from two different points of view, do the other chapters continue in this vein? Good structure is about managing the reader’s expectations (and this also applies to the length of the story: does it feel too long or too short?).
  • Do all of your novel’s characters serve a purpose?
    A novel can reflect reality, but it is not reality. As it has been constructed to serve a particular purpose (telling a story), all of its elements are usually expected to contribute to that purpose, including characterisation.
  • Is the plot as successful and satisfying as possible?
    Are the events of the novel and motivations of the characters believable? Are there any loose ends that need tying up? How is the pace throughout? Are there turning points and climaxes? Do these come at appropriate times in the story?
  • Have you done enough copy-editing (particularly in terms of grammar and punctuation) to make your meaning clear enough to facilitate editing?
    If not, you will likely be bombarded with queries at the editing stage (politely asking ‘What do you mean?’) or there might not be an editing stage, unless you commission one yourself, because your writing is perceived as requiring too much work. Where your meaning is sufficiently clear, of course, errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation are part of the editor’s job to fix.

 

If you would like to hear more about these questions, I will be discussing each of them in detail on Saturday 17 May as part of the SA Writers Centre’s Editing Boot Camp.

 

Kevin O’Brien is a freelance editor based in the Adelaide Hills, with clients including Pan Macmillan, Hachette, Random House, UQP, Black Inc., Allen and Unwin and Penguin. Some of the novelists he has worked with are Kate Forsyth, Gregory Day, Peter Rix, Jacqueline Lunn and Jenny Bond. He runs workshops for fiction writers, and editing and Microsoft Word courses for publishing students and professional editors.

What is Editing Really About?

By Katy McDevitt

NB: SAWC is holding an Editing Bootcamp. Register early to avoid disappointment.

Here’s a proposition for you: editors are the most misunderstood of any publishing professional. Let’s test it out. What do you think of when I ask you to imagine an editor? Perhaps a dainty woman in spectacles, wielding a red pen and a dictionary, pausing in her grammatical mission only to feed her cat and adjust her cardigan? Or, at the other end of the scale, a cosmopolitan big-city publisher, swilling a gin and tonic while taking a long lunch with his pet author?

I’m exaggerating, of course, but that’s what stereotypes do. In case either of the images I’ve just described chimed with you, let’s dispel them right away and look at what modern editors are actually like, and how their role is changing. Because, as my own favourite editorial guide, Janet Mackenzie, asserts, ‘editors who fit either of these stereotypes don’t get far’. Here, I’ll focus on copyeditors, since that’s the type of editor authors most often meet – but of course there are also developmental, substantive, web and any number of other types of editor out there.

A challenging, creative job

The American copyeditor and blogger Carol Fisher Saller has written that it’s important to recognise ‘the challenging, creative, intellectual aspects’ of copyediting. We’re not bean-counting accountants, shushing librarians, or frustrated writers with a grudge. Editors possess unique skills in interpreting and manipulating content for effect – whatever it comprises, from text to images to hypertext – and we make a highly valuable contribution to publishing (even if we aren’t always highly paid… sigh…). Editing can also be a wonderful career, as we can hone and deepen our skills and experience throughout our working lives, and we get to work with creative people every day.

It’s true: editing is detail-oriented, consistency-minded, and persistent in its pursuit of the most expressive, most effective writing. The British poet Blake Morrison famously wrote almost 10 years ago that it’s a ‘bloody trade’ (he compared it to surgery). But it’s far from a dry and dusty, pseudo-scholarly practice. Editors get vocabulary, dialect, rhythm and word placement; structure, pace and flow. We know when to query and when to fix. We judge writing, but we’re never judgemental. We understand the markets and readers our authors are trying to reach.

Adapting to publishing change

Where editors work and what we call ourselves are changing. Judith Butcher, a superstar copyeditor among copyeditors, writes that ‘a book’s journey from the author’s mind to the printed page can follow many different routes’. For her, it’s essential that the editor is ‘adaptable to the publisher’s requirements’ – as the available formats and technical options expand, so too do the skills a pro editor needs. However experimental your chosen form as an author, there’s an editor out there who wants to hone what you’re creating. You can find people using editorial skills of different sorts everywhere from traditional publishing houses to technology companies and from charities to businesses – so there are editors who work on fiction, yes, but right alongside them there are editors of non-fiction, poetry, magazines, communications, ebooks and digital publishing of all kinds.

So, what are editors like now? We’re techie, we’re collaborative, and we’re increasingly entrepreneurial.

Copyeditors still exist (mostly editing onscreen). Proofreaders still exist (mostly working digitally, too). But more of us are taking on additional editing roles, or adapting our traditional skill set, as publishing forms expand – and that goes double here in SA, where more of us work in non-traditional editorial roles or as freelancers than as in-house editors in publishing companies.

Beyond grammar and spelling

Of course, a professional editor needs the same aptitude for grammar and spelling they’ve always had – the rules of which vary a lot more than you might think – but my point is that there’s way more to editing than fixing grammar and spelling errors. In the best working relationships, the editor understands profoundly where the author is coming from, and helps them amend their work to make their voice more theirs.

As my fellow Bootcamp presenter, Kevin O’Brien, has said, ‘the editor help[s] a book to become the best version of itself it can possibly be’. If you like, a good editor is the best critical reader you’ll ever have – one skilled in perfecting what you thought was 99% there already, and who is 100% on your side. Poet and editing guru Mark Tredinnick believes that ‘writing is creativity and discipline; it is freedom within bounds. It’s freestyle drawing and engineering’. So too with editing. How limited would an editor be who only did discipline, without appreciating creativity? We might introduce commas to Roald Dahl’s rich, headlong lists of adjectives (which he rarely punctuated), losing his distinctive rush of descriptive exuberance in the process. We might – horror! – encourage Ernest Hemingway to use more semicolons, to break up all those short sentences. You get my drift. A dogged application of ‘rules’ to the neglect of an author’s creative intentions can be disruptive and damaging – worse than no editing at all.

Through a combination of wordsmithery, language sense and ingenuity, a good editor brings on your work from drafted to polished. Although I’ve talked about editors as technically savvy, there’s always something reassuringly handmade about the work we do for and with authors. We’re individual readers, above all, and we can bring fresh, unique editorial insights to writing. So, I encourage you to say farewell at the trackside to those mythical, stereotypical editors of the past, and hire an editor who’ll travel much more comfortably by your side.

To find a South Australian editor, including Accredited Editors (AEs), visit the Freelance Register at Society of Editors (SA)

Dr Katy McDevitt AE is Principal Editor at Katy McDevitt Editorial Services and Publisher at Simply EBooks SA. She has worked with dozens of authors throughout her career, as a copyeditor, proofreader and publisher, and she loves collaborating with writers to help them achieve their publishing goals. She is leading a workshop for authors, called ‘What is Editing?’, as part of the Editing Bootcamp on 16th May.

The Art of Lyric Writing

By Emily Davis

In general I’m a bit of a communic-a-tard. This is kind of like being a lactard (allergic to milk), but perhaps with slightly more serious connotations and consequences. I can assure you I can write, and read and speak, and I’m not too bad at a boozy dinner party when I’m tasked with spinning a bawdy yarn (*NB as a slight aside I’d like it noted that having just completed a Facebook endorsed ‘Right Brain Left Brain’ test and I’m a confirmed right brain thinker, which apparently means I enjoy creative story telling; I think best when lying down and I’m meant to be good at Geometry. WTF?!

songwriting

‘…lyric writing is the salve; the litmus test to happiness.’

Ahem… anyway when one boils down the essence of true communication I’ve always struggled to authentically convey things that I’ve seen in my brain (an image, revelation or something that’s moved me) into a succinct, accessible neat little package of words. The frustration I’ve experienced when I realise I’m unable to explain what I really mean has led to me give up on my quest for a sash-and-tiara placement in the art of eloquent conversation pageantry. (See?…What a wanker, I mean ‘conversation pageantry’ says it all)

What the hell does this have to do with the price of eggs?

Lyrics. That’s what. The art of song writing is something that has taken me many years to comprehend, and I’m by no means an overly successful lyricist. Well not by the usual measures. I’m not famous for it, I don’t earn much money from it, and I’ve never had an affair with one of my dancers because of it. I don’t even have dancers. On the upside, my lack of commercial success has allowed me to approach song writing with a highly personal agenda; and writing lyrics seems to be the most glorious part of the process.

When you’re nostalgic, affected, romantic, easily amused; when you dream every night and have forever, in colour; when you like booze, read poetry for FUN and you like music, and you’re a communica-a-tard, lyric writing is the salve; the litmus test to happiness. You become the grand poo-bah of your own inner insecurities and quirks because suddenly you have a tool to freely and deliciously speak your mind. You can, through the course of a single verse, convey an aesthetic, mood, or an entire life story. You can finally connect with others without having to explain at length in conversation, that which made your cogs turn or your head spin, or your heart sing, or your stomach churn.

I can’t tell you how many songs have been love letters; how many verses have been film trailers to dreams I’ve had; how many choruses have been self-help mantras that have gotten me out of an existential pickle; how many opening lines have been eulogies to the ones I’ve loved.

So now you know. Lyric writing gives my thoughts and visions and dreams and feelings a mouthpiece. It lets me nail down those things that govern me, and confuse me, and it lets me place them side by side; a series of neat little vignettes that line the shelves and cavities of my mind and heart. And this is something that I’d like to share with you, because once I learned how to trap the montages of my mind and bed them lyrics, I suddenly found that I needn’t bother with failed conversation; rather I should just open my mouth and let the song say the rest.

 

Emily Davis; troubadour; conjure woman; ritual maker and story weaver. Emily has performed at WomAdelaide and PeatsRidge Festival and supported Clare Bowditch, The Audreys and Kate Miller-Heidke. Her two solo albums have been played on Triple J, Nova FM, and the ABC. Davis is currently writing her third solo album due for release in Spring.

Emily will be holding a half day workshop called Trapping the Montage on lyric writing at the Centre.

 

 

Writing Prompts and Inspiration

Here are some great writing prompt sites to help you bust through any moments of writer’s block (or just keep you in an internet spiral all day long):

 Writing Prompts on Tumblr

Creative Writing Prompts

 Awesome Writing Prompts

Daily prompts sent to your inbox

 200 Fantasy Writing Prompts

 Spec Fic writing prompts  (don’t forget to come to our Members Monthly on Spec Fic this week).

Random Lists of Things

1000 Awesome Things

List of Fictional Things

Pinterest board of pictures to inspire writing

Share yours below!

Top Tips for Successful Writing

By Sue Fleming

  1. Give yourself time in your life for your writing and do justice to your muse!
  2. Preserve the ideas as they come to you – scribble them down, cut them out or scratch them on the wall!
  3. Read, read and read.
  4. Always draft and re-draft your work until it shines like summer.
  5. Proof reading is vital!
  6. If you find yourself cleaning the bathroom instead of writing you know you’re in trouble!
  7. Talk to other writers and learn from them.
  8. Take a course- it may well include material you might have discovered on your own but you’ll discover it more quickly!
  9. Keep to deadlines.
  10. If you feel out of your comfort zone when writing, be comforted that this is a good thing

 

Sue Fleming has coordinated the Professional writing program at the Adelaide College of the Arts (TafeSA) for more than four years and has taught more than 200 new writers the basics of creative writing. She also acts as mentor to final year students studying in the accredited Advanced Diploma of Arts (Professional Writing). Sue has a passion for writing and writers and has participated for the last two years in the Peer Assessment Panel for Literature at Arts SA. Her current challenge is helping to shape ‘Co-West Coworking’, Adelaide’s first creative writing coworking space.

Sue will be running the workshop Creative Writing Basics on Thursday 20 March, 6pm – 9pm. Bookings essential.

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