Feb

13

2013

The Writer as Editor: More Tools to Use

by Karen Ball

Adding the finishing touches to his hairstyle

There are some great quotes out there about editors and editing. For example:

“Read your own compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.” Samuel Johnson

“What I have crossed out, I didn’t like. What I haven’t crossed out, I’m dissatisfied with.” Cecil B. DeMille

“From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I shall not put.” Winston Churchill

“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” Shannon Hale

And my favorite:

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” Dr. Seuss

SO, how to edit your own writing? Well, we already talked about three helpful tools in my post last week. Now, let’s take a look at three more:

1. Pull The Threads. How often have you finished a book and realized you’re not sure that a character’s story/faith/emotional arcs are all you want them to be? Here’s a great way to check that out: Copy and past that character’s scenes into a document, then read them beginning to end. When you read just those scenes, you’ll have a clear idea of whether or not you’ve accomplished what you wanted. What’s more, you’ll be able to pinpoint where to make any changes or revisions.

2. Use Your Ears! When we write, we see the story unfold in our heads, playing out on the screen of our minds. But once the story is on the page, and once you’ve had a little time away from it, it’s time to get outside your head and…listen. Listen to your story. Close your eyes, and just…listen. Whether you have someone read the book to you, utilize one of the many text-to-speech programs available, or read it out loud yourself (in which case, don’t close your eyes!), hearing your story can help you catch an amazing number of issues. It’s well known among editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders that the eye reads what it expects to read on the page. Which makes it easy to miss when words are misspelled or misused. But hearing your story, or reading it aloud yourself, helps you catch such things as:

  • Missing words
  • Wrong words (e.g., you rather than your; through rather than though)
  • Pacing issues
  • Dialogue issues
  • Confusing sentences
  • Spell-check missteps (years ago I was editing a manuscript on comparative religions, and spell-check changed every Mormon and Mormonism to moron and moronism)
  • Narrative and character voice

3. Tighten Up! When you’re editing it’s the perfect time to remember that old adage, “Less is more.” Unless you’re writing about a character who uses ten words when five will do, use the editing process to tighten your prose. Some things to watch for:

Superlatives. They’re there, hiding in your manuscript. And you need to blast ‘em into extinction: very, extremely, super, really, just, and so on. So make your writing super tight with the extremely easy step of just cutting out all those really useless superlatives.

Empty phrases. A few to watch for: started to, in order to, began to, prepared to. Not He grabbed her pen in order to stop her from adding another superlative but He grabbed her pen to stop her from adding another superlative. Not She started to write but She wrote.

That. You’d be amazed how many thats creep into our writing. Most can be eliminated (e.g., not She told him that he was too wordy but She told him he was too wordy)

–ly Adverbs. More often than not, these are weak writing. See if you can replace them. (e.g., not He walked quickly to cash his royalty check but He hurried to cash his royalty check; not She hummed happily as she edited but just She hummed as she edited, since not many folks hum unless they’re happy

Ups and Downs. Not The writer stood up at his signing, but The writer stood at his signing. Remember, unless you’re in the military, you don’t stand down. Not The editor sat down to work but The editor sat to work

Speaker Attributions. Only use ‘em when you need ‘em for clarity. And when you need to use them, go with he said/she said. Those tend to be invisible to the reader’s eye.

Redundant Expressions. Watch for expressions where you can drop one or two of the words and the meaning of the expression doesn’t change (e.g., not Commute back and forth to the library, but Commute to the library.)

Okay, let’s close today’s blog as we opened it, with a quote or two about editing:

 “Will you tell me my fault, frankly as to yourself, for I had rather wince, than die. Men do not call the surgeon to commend the bone, but to set it, Sir.” Emily Dickinson

 “It is with words as with sunbeams—the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.” Robert Southey

Feb

12

2013

News You Can Use – Feb. 12, 2013

The Pope Announces His Resignation – First time this has happened in nearly 600 years. The last time was in 1415. Put that in historical perspective…Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. Martin Luther was born in 1483. This is a really big deal in Church history whether you are Catholic or not.

Lawsuit Threatened by Attorney Representing Author and Publisher of Bestselling book ‘The HarbingerRead this article. Some of the darker side of the publishing world.

Bookish – A New Website to Help Recommend Books – This launched last week to much fanfare. Took two years to develop. Try it out. It works fairly well. EXCEPT the selections are limited, for now, to only the catalogs of the major publishers involved. For example I couldn’t find Frances Chan. One analyst gives reasons why it will survive and why it won’t.   (By the way, don’t forget NovelCrossing.com which helps you find your next Christian novel to read. A very well done recommendation site.)

Copyright Controversy Just Won’t Go Away – If you care about protecting your intellectual property you owe it to yourself to stay informed on the various issues and changes afoot.

Amazon Coins Coming in May – Fascinating press release from Amazon. A way to keep money within their own eco-system and avoid bank fees and other issues. Like I said, “Fascinating.”

Seven Productivity Myths, Debunked by Science (and Common Sense) – Alan Henry looks at various theories of getting things done, like “Getting up early is more productive.”

How Big is the Universe? – Watch this short six minute video attempting to explain the massive distances in the galaxy. At the 5:30 mark the scientist makes a comparison to a grain of sand. Our God is a big God.

[ Read More → ]

Feb

11

2013

When Your Proposal Doesn’t Sell

by Steve Laube

Unhappy young business man looking away

It happens. Despite all efforts and good intentions not every proposal we shop will end up being contracted by a major publisher. Of course our agency tries our best to keep that from happening. We carefully choose which projects and authors we represent. And our success rate is extremely high.

But that success rate is not 100%.

Here are a few examples of projects that I represented in past years that did not sell to a major publisher.

[ Read More → ]

Feb

8

2013

Fun Fridays – Feb. 8, 2013

A little bit of culture for your Friday viewing. Introducing ballet master Rudolph Nureyev and Swine Lake via “The Muppet Show.”
Three minutes of parody and hilarity!

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Feb

7

2013

Changes or Opportunities?

by Tamela Hancock Murray

002-26A

What are you doing to counter and grow from the ongoing changes in the marketing of books?

I don’t look at the changes as something to counter, but opportunities to reach an ever-increasing audience with excellent books. I am becoming more savvy about social media, because effective marketing by publishers is becoming more reliant on this new phenomena. I am working more directly with marketing people than in the past.

As you know from reading this blog and keeping up  with industry news, few authors have the luxury today of holing up at home, churning out books, without ever interacting with fans. Today, fans expect to find their favorite authors on the Internet. For example, authors should consider becoming active on Twitter. By active, I mean offer a status update at least once or twice a day.

[ Read More → ]

Feb

6

2013

The Writer as Editor: Tools to Use

by Karen Ball

consumer survey

As we’ve been discussing over the last few blogs, switching hats from writing to editing can be a bit…challenging. In fact, it can make you feel like your poor head is about to explode! However, you can make the process easier by following the tips from last week’s blog by not letting the editor and writer come out to play at the same time, and by giving yourself time away from the scene/chapter/manuscript you just finished.

But when you’ve done both of those, and it’s time to get into the edit, how do you make sure you catch the real issues? How do you edit your own work? This week and next, we’ll look at six tools you can use to do that with excellence and ease.

Tip #1: Accept Your Limitations. It’s a simple fact, friends: we’ll never be able to edit our own work as well as we edit others’ writing. We see so much more when we read what others have written than we tend to see in our own work. That’s normal, and it’s okay.

Tip #2: Make A Checklist Of Your Weaknesses. We all have them, those little bugaboos that slip into everything we write. Things we seem blind to when we’re writing, and can too often overlook when we’re editing. So how to be sure we’re catching the places where we’re weak?

[ Read More → ]

Feb

5

2013

News You Can Use – Feb.5, 2013

Shocking Copyright Grab by School System – Anything a student writes as part of a class is owned, forever, by the school? So if a kid invents the idea of a better FedEx as part of a school project the school owns the idea. Or if he writes the first pages of what becomes later, the next “Harry Potter,” the school owns the idea. (?!) Unbelievable.

Christian Writers Guild Adds Publishing Division – The linked Publishers Weekly article quote me accurately. This is a logical next step in the services the Guild provides. Not sure why so many in the writing community are up in arms over it. If someone wants to pay for all services from editing to printing at least CWG is an honorable company that will do what they say they will do.

10 Tips for Looking Professional Online – If you are new to this industry please read this article by Burcu Akyol. I guarantee that an agent or an editor will look you up online as part of their evaluation of your proposal.

Become a Storyteller – A half hour interview with Eugene Peterson from 2007 that is worth every minute, whether you write fiction or non-fiction. Highly recommended.

150,000 Animal Sounds Now Online – Cornell University’s ornithology department went live with all this incredible audio and video. Click here for what I sound like when I’m negotiating (American Alligator).

[ Read More → ]

Feb

4

2013

Review Any and Every Contract You Sign

by Steve Laube

Signing contract

Today’s headline sounds like a blinding flash of the obvious but you’d be surprised how many writers are not careful about the agreements they sign. Those with a literary agent have that business partner who will review their book contracts, that is a given. But what about their magazine article or online article contracts?

Earlier this month the Condé Nast organization, which includes Wired, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker, surprised their freelance writers with a new agreement that has Condé Nast controlling the film and television rights on articles published by their magazines, with a cap on the revenue paid to the writer. Why? Because past articles turned into big box office hits like “Argo,” “Eat Pray Love,” and “Brokeback Mountain.”

This contractual assertion has put writers in a bind because they do not want to lose the chance to writer for these prestigious magazines.

[ Read More → ]

Feb

1

2013

Fun Friday’s – February 1, 2013

A delightful Disney animated short film (8.5 minutes long) that has been nominated for an Oscar.
Note that not a single word is spoken and yet volumes are being said.
Enjoy!

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Jan

31

2013

Ch-ch-ch-Changes

by Tamela Hancock Murray

railway

More questions!

How are the revolutionary changes in the publishing industry affecting your effectiveness as an agent?

I believe literary agents are needed more than ever because the landscape has become increasingly bumpy for writers. For example, we have been working with publishing house contracts regarding digital issues and how they affect the definition of out-of-print and  how authors will be compensated for digital rights. Clauses that might have generated yawns five years ago, today are scrutinized and reworked with new technology and formats in mind. These are not simple issues and having a skilled literary agent negotiating your contract is critical. In addition we have clients at the forefront in digital-first publishing, with contracts from Zondervan, Cook and Tyndale, to name three. This model is being heavily scrutinized on both sides of the table.

[ Read More → ]