Tag Archives: editing

Your Inner Editor

One of my most popular posts – the inner editor can ruin your chances of winning NaNoWriMo if you’re not careful! From October, 2012.

I just put “inner editor” into my Bing search bar. This is what I got: 43,600,000 results. Google, not to be outdone, has “about” 84,800,000 results. I find that astonishing! Of course, go to the NaNoWriMo website and forums and you’ll see lots about that most wicked of unwanted visitors. But people are still looking — obviously.  So what to do?
The inner editor is a demon of epic proportions that’s got to be at least as scary as a balrog.

Like a balrog (my own balrog experience being limited to The Lord of the Rings), it’s the bane of writers everywhere. In fact, it’s so scary that many would-be writers never venture forth into writer-land, afraid that the flaming whip is going to come out of the dark recesses of their mind and snatch them right off their feet. Many who start writing aren’t able to stand up to the balrog like Gandalf, uttering my favorite line of the whole book/movie: YOU. SHALL NOT. PASS. Many, if not most, don’t think they have that power.

Let me assure you, friends, that you do. You, too, can stand on that rickety writing bridge, turn to face the demonic inner editor, and throw down the gauntlet. You, too, can look that flaming freakazoid in the fiery eyeballs and refuse to back down. You, too, can claim your territory, can draw a line in the sand, can put a stop to the tyranny by saying “I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS!”

Who is this inner editor anyway? Well, like the balrog, he or she lives down in the dark recesses of your mind. Usually, it’s content with scathing remarks when you’re standing in front of the mirror or when you say something you’re not sure if you regret. But get out the pen and paper, or computer, or paintbrush and paint, and its true nature comes swelling into life. It says:

  • How dare you think you have anything to say to the world?
  • How dare you presume to write 50,000 or 100,000 words on paper and expect anyone to read it?
  • Who told you that you could write?
  • Who told you that you could do anything at all unique, interesting or good?
  • Who do you think you are????

If you forge ahead anyway, the inner editor goes from vastly exaggerated statements of your measly self-worth to minutia in an instant.

  • Your grammar sucks.
  • That sentence sucks.
  • Why would you choose that word?
  • This is crap.
  • Those people are one dimensional, unbelievable, and stupid.
  • You are one dimensional, unbelievable and stupid!
  • This whole thing is stupid. Let’s just order pizza and watch a movie.

And if you don’t turn, at some point in this whole process, and say it — say “You shall not pass!” right then and there — you will quit. You will close your laptop or cap your pen, wander off to the tv, and quit. And the balrog… uh, inner editor… will smirk and smile and leave you alone for awhile, so you have peace and forget about that stupid writing thing.

Well. Are you going to give up that easily? I’ve given you tips before for outsmarting the inner editor, and you can read those here. But I was struck by the fact that, really, the inner editor can only be stopped by taking a stand. Sure, you can trick it. You can use my tips and get your 50,000 words for NaNo, and that would be a great accomplishment. But what happens if, like 10-20% of us doing NaNo (totally made up that estimate, to be honest) you really want to try to do something with the book? That will require finishing it, and editing it, and the inner editor will get louder and louder. And you have to shut it up, or your novel will be one of millions in drawers, old hard drives and dusty boxes the world over.

It IS necessary to be honest with ourselves about our writing. It IS necessary to get beta readers who will be honest with us about our writing. It IS necessary to edit and edit and edit, and try to make it the very best it can be. But if you don’t believe in yourself and your writing, if you won’t take a stand for it against the inner editor/balrog, you will be stuck in the two blue squares above. Humility is one thing. False humility is another. Your balrog isn’t a pet… It’s an enemy. One only you can fight. Will you stand up for yourself and your vision and take a stand?

(We’re now required to put in this disclaimer for anything containing ‘NaNoWriMo’ or ‘National Novel Writing Month’:  “This is not an official NaNoWriMo site, and the content has not been reviewed by National Novel Writing Month. For more information on National Novel Writing Month, visit http://www.nanowrimo.org.”)

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Admitting Mistakes

oops

I know it’s shocking, but we’re not perfect.

I’ll give you time to ponder that. No rush. I know it’s a lot to take in………………

Okay, now that you’re sitting down and the paper bag is gone from your nose and mouth, and oxygen is once again flowing to your brain, let’s examine this radical concept.

I have noticed that most writers, even those without perfectionist tendencies in other areas, tend to be perfectionists in their writing. The problem is, writing is subjective. Even grammar, to some degree, is subjective, especially in fiction. If you don’t believe me, try running multiple grammar checks on your document, not just the one in the program you use for writing. There will be differing recommendations on things as simple as comma placement. And don’t even get me started on story. How can a story ever be perfect? It’s from your head!

Then there’s the seemingly endless tedium of editing. At some point we are either unwilling or unable to do more. Once we’re more experienced, that’s usually enough. But early in our publishing journey, that might mean that we leave mistakes. By the time I published Solomon’s Throne, my first novel, I was so sick of the whole thing that I just wanted it gone. I thought I’d editing so long that the thing must be perfect… Only it wasn’t. In fact, it was embarrassingly not. I published a new edition, with the corrections, a few months after it’s original publication.

I’m back to that again, this time with Undaunted Love. I hadn’t sold many of this book for some reason – it had good reviews and even good word-of-mouth. But after my completely insane 50,000+ download promotion recently, I’ve been selling them at a pretty good clip. And now I’m aware of the typos and misspellings. I doubt there are more than 2 dozen, but that’s way too many! So I’m scheduled to have the book reformatted next week, and republish it.

On the one hand, that’s a hard thing to admit. I also don’t really want to revisit old stuff when I’m supposed to be working on new stuff. But on the other hand, I HATE knowing those mistakes are there, and hate when a reviewer points it out and is disappointed. Thankfully, self publishing makes this kind of fix SO easy.

So that’s my admission… I’m not perfect. (Yes, I did drag y’all into my shame…) But I’ve made a step towards admitting it, which is always good. Right?!

mistakes1

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Guest Post from Bestselling Author Leeland Artra

How to Sabotage Your Writing Career in One Easy Step

Leeland Artra is a six month Amazon bestselling author with his debut fantasy/sci-fi trilogy that starts with the book Thread Slivers.

01-Thread-Slivers-533x800-Cover

It’s one o-clock in the morning. You have pushed through because you could see the end. Hundreds of hours of work are done and your book is really written. Congratulation you are now an author. All that is left is to watch the sales roll in.

Well, not exactly. There are still a few items to deal with. For example, you have to format the book into an appropriate form for the eBook retailers or print on demand shops. Oh, and there is that silly cover graphic that needs to be made. What about a forward or an epilogue? Do you need an acknowledgements section? Of course, there is the blurb or sales pitch for the back cover.

All of the above can take hours or days, and some talented or determined people manage to work through the various items on their own. Sales might not be fabulous, but a poor blurb, or a unexceptional cover design will not really kill your career.

There is a common mistake that screams, “Hey, this is just a want-to-be writer who isn’t serious.”

What is that mistake? I’ll get to it in a second. First take a step back and consider how many authors you have bought a second, third or fourth book from. Think about the authors who you just know that, if you see their name on a cover, you’re going to drop the cash to buy it and read it with joy. Now, what do they all have in common?

When you have a favorite author you stop looking at the covers, you might only read the blurb to find out if this new fabulous find is part of a series. The blurb and the cover are used to judge new authors that you are not familiar with to see if you’ll give them a shot.

What about authors you’ve decided never to read again. What was it that made you cringe to read the book?

I’ll bet you might not even know why you put some authors on that “never again” list. I know my list had a few I couldn’t identify the reason for until I started writing myself. I went back and analyzed my favorite vs. my “yuck no way” authors.

What was it? It was something I never even noticed, something I am personally horrible at getting right myself.

Okay, enough of the suspense. It was grammar. Yep, a number of authors on my never read again list were there because the first book I got with their name on the cover had some horrible grammar errors. Misused words, and just terrible flow. Good stories, interesting characters, but just unforgivable writing errors.

What is the one mistake that will sabotage your writing career? The answer is not bothering to have a real editor give your manuscript the complete treatment.

The moment I realized this, I knew I would never let that mistake happen. It isn’t easy finding a good editor. They are not exactly inexpensive either, most charging about one cent per word. If your book is one hundred thousand words, that is one thousand dollars in editing services. That is a lot of money to drop. Is it worth it? I’d argue yes. Every single book you sell might bring you a dollar in profit. However, more importantly you want that book to bring you at least one faithful reader. You want to earn the respect of someone so they will buy your next book, and the one after that.

The idiom “you only have one chance to make a good first impression” is true. As an author you will earn back at least ten dollars for every dollar you spend in editing. You will make a good impression, you will make future sales, you will get word of mouth recommendations leading to more of the same.

What if it is impossible for you to hire a professional editor? Well dig in, work hard, find someone qualified. There are librarians, there are high school writing teachers, there are college writing professors, and I know you have friends. Exploit your network of friends and find one or two people that qualify as real editors that will do it for you free.

Be aware of what makes a good editor. Editors do not just correct your typos. They look at the style, the flow, the character development, the tone, and the grammar based on the genre. They do so much more than proofread; you will have to rewrite parts, ditch some stuff, and expand other items based on their feedback.

Editorial passes are not just a one time through the wringer either. My first book had two different editors and went through four revisions before being called done. Even with that there were still typos and some minor issues. My second book had three professional editors. I sent the book off to one, got it back, worked through the changes and then sent it to the next editor. The book went through each editor three times, which means I did nine revisions. It is almost as much effort as writing the thing. But, the final result shines so brightly I am proud to release it.

Be aware of what each editorial pass is about. Here is the breakdown.

First pass is called the beta read. In a beta read pass the editor is generally ignoring words, grammar and language. This pass is about characters, plot, and flow. The editor is looking for character mistakes, character believability, and plot progress.

Second pass is called a line-edit. In a line-edit pass the editor has the red pen out. All the grammar, word usages, typos, and language are under heavy scrutiny. This pass, the plot and characters are back burner items and it is all about sentence structure, dialogue handling, etc. (This is the pass I dread personally because I’m horribly vicious to the English language.)

Third pass is called a proof read. In a proof read pass, the manuscript is considered “done” and basically ready for print. Most editors can do a proof read in a couple of days. In this pass they are just speed reading the book end to end looking for simple typos. Red pen out, this is generally where some of the stuff you added gets marked up a little. This is also where I get a lot of comments like “had to stop here I was laughing too hard to keep going” and “this is really cute”.

Good editors are busy people. If you want to get onto their schedules you have to book in advance. I have gotten very lucky in finding my editors. I had to do a lot of searching to locate and vet them. You need to find some editors you feel are good for your books. This is not something to short change. Be tough when first meeting an editor. Ask questions like how many books in the [insert genre] realm do you work on? Can you give me references for books you have edited? Do I have to pay for each editorial pass or can we negotiate a one fee for beta+line-edit+proof read type service?

Whatever you do, don’t let your books go out unedited. This is something you can have total control over and there is no need to miss this step. I wish you all the best! Feel free to shoot me questions on Twitter, or Facebook.

I wish you all the skill and luck in the world. If you’re another fantasy and/or sci-fi author I’d love to connect with you.

 Leeland-Author-180

Leeland sayds, “I still can’t believe I’m really a bestselling author. You can find all of my books at Amazon.”

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Editing and mistakes

do whatever you like

I just read a good blog post by internet-friend Victoria Grefer on typos, and it got me thinking about editing in general. On the issue of typos, the more casual the writing, the less typos bother me. In my own writing, they bother me more than when reading someone else’s. These days, most traditionally published novels have typos and other editing errors in them. Budget cuts or carelessness? I don’t know. If I’m into the story, it rarely registers beyond a tiny blip on the radar.

But I’m in the editing phase of IXEOS: Rebellion, and so this is pertinent point. I’m not a grammar nazi, although I know some, and I don’t strive for grammatical perfection. Grammar doesn’t matter one whit in dialogue, which is my favorite thing to write, and a lot of grammar is somewhat subjective. Don’t believe me? Try an experiment: run your document through at least three spelling/grammar checkers and see what happens. I use Scrivener to write my first drafts, and do the preponderance of editing in that program. When I’m about to move it to Word, I run the spelling/grammar check. I fix things, move the document to Word on a pc, and run the novel through Grammarly. What do you know? There are now more, new things, or things correcting my corrections back to the way I originally wrote it. After Grammarly, I move the document to Word on my Mac for a final (or two) read-through and edit. When that’s done, I run the spelling/grammar check a final time. And… you guessed it. More/new things show up, often to go back to a formerly “corrected” version. Sometimes words that didn’t show up as misspelled before pop up.

What does this tell you? That, for fiction at least, the rules are flexible. In fact, they aren’t even so much “rules” much of the time. They’re suggestions. (Kind of like the pirates’ code in Pirates of the Caribbean.) While people, even the best of editors, are incapable of total objectivity when it comes to editing and proofreading, computer programs have no such issues. They are incapable of subjectivity. If three programs, all respected and widely used, vary in their use of grammar rules, then what does that say about those rules? Now, I’m not saying we should all be ee cummings and use no punctuation or capitalization at all. Obviously, grammar is a necessity for the reader. But if you want a comma somewhere that your editor or your grammar program doesn’t like, because it puts a mental pause in that spot (or vice versa), use the comma. If you don’t use ellipses exactly how “the experts” say to use them, but you always use them the same way, trust your reader to be smart enough to figure that out.

As indie authors, we owe our readers our best product. We have to take the time to edit, proofread, and edit some more. But you will never get it perfect, because such perfection doesn’t exist. There is too much subjectivity. A friend of mine recently confessed that she “always” edits books she checks out from the library. In pencil, thank God. Her daughter, who used to work in a library, had a conniption fit at this disclosure and (supposedly) my friend has stopped this practice. But she’s done it for decades, and has even written letters to authors to tell them about their grammar. Obviously, these are all traditionally published books. And we’re not talking about a typo or two. What does that tell you about the subjectivity of grammar?

The above meme says it all… Write whatever you like. Edit. Proofread. Then let your imperfect child loose on the world.

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Can you please everybody with your writing?

the worst thing you write

Hopefully, you answered the question with a resounding “NO!” But some of you said, “I sure hope so,” or “I’m trying!” This, my friends, is a recipe for disaster. Let me tell you why.

If you go to the reviews of any of my books on Amazon, you will quickly realize that the same thing that one reviewer loves, another hates. While these aren’t direct quotes from the reviews, you’ll see things like, “The beginning just sucked me in from the first page,” followed by “It took awhile to get into.” One reviewer will comment on how great the dialogue was. Another will say there wasn’t enough and they couldn’t tell who was talking. A third will say there was too much dialogue. On the characters, you’ll read everything from “totally believable!” to “I don’t think kids would act this way” or “the husband and wife seemed to have a weird relationship.”

What’s up with that? Don’t I get discouraged?

Well, honestly, no. I don’t get discouraged. Because I am a reader, I completely understand that not all books are for everyone. There are books that people swear are the best things ever written and I literally despise them. Some of the books I love meet no technical requirements for a good book. Many technically great books are awful (in my opinion!). Why would I think that my books are any different? Hopefully some people will love them. Certainly many people will both like and not like them. It can be hoped that not too many will despise them, but it’s likely that some will.

An honest review is a great thing for a writer, whether you like their work or not. An honest review isn’t like a lot of the “troll” one-star reviews out there, clearly written by people who’ve never read the book, or who even say, “I only read the first chapter, but…” and go on to slam the book. An honest review is, well, honest. What you liked. What you didn’t like. What worked for you and what didn’t. Those are the reviews that are constructive for the writer and the potential reader alike.

For a writer, reviews can be a kind of mass beta reading. You aren’t going to go back and revise that particular book, most likely, but if there are things that resonate, or if many people have an issue with the same thing, it is helpful as a teaching tool for future books. For the potential reader, reading a good number of honest reviews can give them a sense of whether they will like the book. There are things I know I love in books, and things that are pet peeves. If I read a review of a book and a lot of the comments point out something that’s a pet peeve, I can save my money. On the other hand, if the things other readers love are the same types of things I love… I’ll have it downloaded in a minute.

The main thing, as a writer, is that you write the story that’s in you to write. We can always hope that our loved ones will like it, and our friends. But the likelihood is great that at least someone you love won’t. My 99 year old grandmother wanted a copy of my latest book, IXEOS, because I wrote it. I can guarantee you that she has never read a Young Adult sci-fi fantasy dystopian novel in her life, and would never, ever buy one. It is absolutely not at all something she would normally read. But she read it, liked it okay, and will read the next two in the trilogy. My husband will probably never read IXEOS. He doesn’t like any of those genres in movies or books, with very rare exceptions. And that’s okay! It is not an indictment of my writing; it is an indication of his preferences and personality. I don’t take it personally.

The single hardest task we have as writers is avoiding our inner editor. I would say overcoming it, except I’m not sure we ever do that. We can subdue it, ignore it, stuff it in a box, and tie it up, but it never goes away. One of the inner editor’s main weapons is telling you that nobody is going to like your work. Because most of us have some perfectionist tendencies, and all of us want to be liked, we can easily get discouraged and even give up at the thought that what we are doing will be disliked or worse. We can’t give up. We can’t even think about the people who are going to read our books, other than to try to write the best and most entertaining books we can. That’s our job. That’s our only job.

Let people think what they want. Just do your job, and do it the best you can. You don’t need everybody to like it. You just need a group of fans who will support you and enjoy your work. They’re out there! Trust me.

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