Editing services

***Bank Holiday Sale – 20% Off*** #editing #selfpublishing

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To celebrate a rather windy and rainy August Bank Holiday (at least here in the UK) I am offering clients a special 20% discount for any services booked from an enquiry made before Friday 31st August for September and October.

summer rain

Just a typical ‘summer’ bank holiday in the south east of England!

If you’re reading this, the chances are you’re thinking of self-publishing or you might be thinking of sending out your work to agents and publishers. You’ve spent hours writing. You’re proud of your work, but nervous about how it will be received. You’ve spent time revising and polishing when you could have been doing other things. If you’re self-publishing, you may have already paid out for a professionally designed book cover. You really need to start making some money on this project. So you don’t need the extra expense of an editor do you? Well, yes, you probably do.

You’ve written your masterpiece. You’ve had family and friends read it; they’ve pointed out a few typos but have told you it’s wonderful and that you should publish or send it out to agents. So that’s what you do next, right? Well, possibly – if your friends and family are completely impartial and will tell you the honest truth. And if you are completely sure that you’ve managed to catch every typo and grammatical error in your copy. And if you’re one hundred per cent sure that there’s nothing that can be improved, corrected and enhanced by a completely impartial, professional eye – by someone who edits as their job and whose reputation depends on how well they do that job.

You need an editor because not only will you not see all the typos and grammatical errors (and there will be lots of those), but you will be too invested in your work to see it impartially. You know your characters and your plot inside out. You know the sequence of events and why and how things happen. And this is where the problem lies. You can’t ‘un-know’ all of that, so you can’t see the flaws in plot, in structure, in characterisation. You can’t read your book from beginning to end the way a reader will. And if there are flaws and inconsistencies, if there is more than the odd typo, then your readers, if you publish without having had a thorough edit, will be happy to point them out in reviews.

bad-review

I’ve self-published. I understand how attached you are to your work. I know how horrible it is to send that work to someone else and have them criticise it, however constructively. However, I also know that this process is far less painful than sending your precious work out there, warts and all, to have those warts picked over by readers and reviewers.

So the question is not ‘Can I afford to hire an editor?’ but ‘Can I afford not to?’

And if you’re considering making that step, then do get in touch. My offer means that if you request a quote and a sample edit before this Friday, 31st August, and you go on to make a booking, then the cost of your edit will be discounted by 20%. So a combined edit/proofread will be £3.60/$4.80 per thousand words. This comprises of an edit for spelling, grammar, sentence structure, flow, characterisation, continuity, plot consistency and style. I will also correct any typos, grammar errors and spellings. I use the track changes facility in Word and will provide you with two copies of the edit: Edit 1 shows all changes made so you can trace what I have done, Edit 2 is a clean copy with all changes accepted – this will show you how the manuscript will read if you accepted all the changes that I’ve made. Having both copies means that you can easily see the difference the changes will make, while still having the option to choose whether or not you want to make those changes. You can go through Edit 1 accepting or rejecting each change as you see fit. As well as the edits, I will write a detailed report focusing on plot, structure, characterisation, pace, setting and style, making suggestions for any changes. An 80,000 word manuscript will now cost £288/$384, a saving of £72.00/$96.00.

If you would like to book an edit followed by a separate proofread, the discounted cost is £4.40/$5.80 per thousand words.

Two edits of your manuscript followed by a separate proofread costs £6.00/$8.00 per thousand words.

Still unsure? Have a look at my testimonials. And you’ll get a free sample edit of your first 1500 words before you commit to anything, so you can be completely sure that my editing services are right for you.

Do get in touch via the contact page, send an email to alisonewilliams@sky.com, or give me a call on 07891 065 012.

Have a lovely weekend!

weekend

 

 

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Editing services – an update on pricing #amwriting #editing #selfpublishing

pricing-tips-freelancers

A few weeks ago I decided to change the way I charged for editing, moving away from pricing per thousand words to charging by the hour. I did this because I had found over the last few years of editing that there is a sometimes quite a big difference in the amount of time it takes to edit different manuscripts of the same length.

However, I have realised since making that change that this system isn’t working for authors. I have reached out to past and current clients and the feedback I’ve received is that clients prefer to know up front exactly how much an edit will cost. This is understandable – writing and publishing can be an expensive business and I can completely understand how it is better from an author’s point of view for the costs involved to be clear from the outset.

So, after much reflection and consideration, I have decided to return to the previous system of charging per thousand words. My clients are, obviously, the life blood of my business and it makes sense to use a system that works for them.

My editing charges are as follows:

Editing – a note on editing: as I work mainly with authors who are planning to self-publish, or who want to have their work edited prior to seeking representation, my editing service works in a slightly different way to the editing process that happens in traditional publishing, which would usually involve a developmental edit, followed by a line edit and then a proofread. Most writers are on a restricted budget and so would find it difficult to pay for all these different stages of editing. There is also always some overlap in these editing stages.

So, my editing service comprises of an edit for spelling, grammar, sentence structure, flow, characterisation, continuity, plot consistency and style. I will also correct any typos, grammar errors and spellings. I use the track changes facility in Word and will provide you with two copies of the edit: Edit 1 shows all changes made so you can trace what I have done, Edit 2 is a clean copy with all changes accepted – this will show you how the manuscript will read if you accepted all the changes that I’ve made. Having both copies means that you can easily see the difference the changes will make, while still having the option to choose whether or not you want to make those changes. You can go through Edit 1 accepting or rejecting each change as you see fit. As well as the edits, I will write a detailed report focusing on plot, structure, characterisation, pace, setting and style, making suggestions for any changes: £4.50/$6.00 per thousand words.

For manuscripts under 15,000 words I charge a flat rate of £60/$80

If you would like to book an edit followed by a separate proofread, the cost is £5.50/$7.25 per thousand words.

For manuscripts under 15,000 words I charge a flat rate of £80/$100

Two edits of your manuscript followed by a separate proofread costs £7.50/$10.00 per thousand words.

For manuscripts under 15,000 words I charge a flat rate of £100/$130

Proofreading – correction of spelling, grammar and any minor issues with sentence structure and plot inconsistencies: £2.50/$3.25 per thousand words.

For manuscripts under 15,000 words I charge a flat rate of £40/$50

Beta Reading – general feedback on elements such as plot, characterisation, setting, story flow, continuity and any grammar/spelling issues. Please note that this is not a proofread and I will only give general advice on spelling and grammar, not a line-by-line edit. I do not fact check: £1.50/$2.00 per thousand words.

For manuscripts under 30,000 words I charge a flat rate of £40/$50

Evaluation/critique of self-published work: £2.00/$2.50 per thousand words.

For manuscripts under 15,000 words I charge a flat rate of £40/$50

Submission to agents – letter and synopsis: £40/$55

Evaluation of first three chapters for submission: £40/$55

Self-publishing – blurb, author page information: £35/$45

Please note that all prices are in GBP and USD. If you would like a quote in a different currency then do get in touch.

If you would like a quote, a sample edit, or if you have any questions at all, then please do get in touch, either via the contact button, by email at alisonewilliams@sky.com or give me a call on 07891065012.

You can also read some testimonials from current and past clients here.

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Working with an editor – some tips and advice #amwriting #writinganovel #writingtips #selfpublishing

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I’ve been editing for a while now and have worked with some truly lovely writers. I understand that it can be quite nerve-wracking to approach an editor, and if you’re a new writer, you might not know what to expect. Here are some things to bear in mind.

Remember that an honest, professional yet friendly relationship between editor and client is crucial in order to make your manuscript the best it can be. Your editor wants to help you, to guide you, to advise and to encourage you in your writing journey. To do this, there are some things that your editor needs from you.

Read the FAQs

This may be the first time you’ve worked with an editor. You should have lots of questions and most editors will be more than happy to answer any concerns that you have. But before you send a lengthy email, have a look at your editor’s blog or website and see if they have a Frequently Asked Questions page. You will probably find a lot of the answers to your questions here.

Send your manuscript on time

If you have agreed a date with your editor, then do please make sure you send your manuscript on time. Even a morning’s delay can have an impact on your editor’s schedule. It is probably best to send the manuscript the day before, at the latest.

Read payment terms carefully and adhere to them

Editing can be an expensive business. But it is your editor’s job, their livelihood. They may be relying on the fee that you have agreed to pay bills, for example. Please pay on time – just because you have a sudden extra expense, it doesn’t mean that your editor should have to wait to be paid. You have entered into a professional agreement – be professional about it. And do accept that your editor is investing their time. Don’t expect them to edit for nothing, or for a pittance. I’ve seen editors and proofreaders offering their services for next to nothing. As with most things in life, if a deal seems to be too good to be true, then it probably is. Check your editor’s credentials and do bear in mind that old saying – ‘you get what you pay for’.

Be open to advice

You are paying your editor for their expertise and their knowledge. If they offer you advice, take it in the spirit it is intended. It is there to help you.

Keep in contact

Let your editor know how things are going. I care very much about my clients and their books. I want to know how you’re doing, how the book’s doing, if you’ve had positive reviews (or not!).

Check if they want to be acknowledged

As an editor working mainly with independent writers, I have no control over what is eventually published. I can only correct, improve and advise. I cannot force a client to take that advice, make those improvements or even accept the spelling or grammatical corrections that I make. I have, on more than one occasion, advised clients, have had that advice ignored, have seen that client publish the book and then seen reviews making the points I have raised. It is excruciating to have a client ignore your advice and then to see a reviewer say that the book could do with a thorough edit. On the other hand, your book is your book and you are perfectly within your rights to ignore my advice and recommendations. But if you do so, then please don’t thank me for my editing in the acknowledgements. While I appreciate the thought, it makes me look like a terrible editor!

Give feedback

You know how lovely it is when your editor says good things about your writing? How it makes you feel wonderful? Well, it’s lovely when you tell an editor how pleased you are with their work, how you appreciate their help and advice. And it’s also really helpful, if not so lovely, to know if something wasn’t quite right.

Recommend them!

The majority of my clients now come from recommendations – something that makes me incredibly happy! It is a minefield out there. I am a member of a certain reading/writing website and I do belong to editors’ groups on that site. Almost every day I see people advertising their editing and proofreading services. Sometimes I have a look at their websites (it’s good to keep an eye on the competition after all!) and, while there are some fabulous editors, there are also people who set themselves up as editors with absolutely no relevant experience, qualifications or knowledge whatsoever. So what does a writer do? Apart from looking at an editor’s blog/site extremely carefully, I do think it’s a great idea to ask for recommendations from your fellow writers. And if you do work with an editor that you feel did a great job, then please tell everyone else!

 

 

 

Editing and proofreading services – new prices and special offer #editing #selfpublishing #amwriting

editing-e1452170134574

***Offer – 20% discount for bookings taken before the end of May***

I have been running my editing business for several years now and have just finished my three-hundredth project! I’ve worked with some wonderful authors and writers and have felt extremely privileged to be part of their writing journey.

I have learnt an awful lot too about running a business and a lot about how much time and effort is involved in editing and proofreading and how much this can vary from manuscript to manuscript. I previously charged clients on a rate per thousand words. However, experience has shown me that this isn’t always fair on the client – or on me! The time involved can vary enormously and I have had manuscripts of 80,000 words that have taken three to four days to edit and others that have taken twice that.

I’ve decided that it is much fairer to charge an hourly rate. Of course, I’ll provide an estimate so that clients can have an idea of the total cost, and if it looks as though things are going to take a lot longer than expected, then I’ll let clients know as early in the process as possible.

My prices are based on the amount of experience I have, my qualifications (I have a first degree in English, a master’s degree in creative writing and a journalism qualification), and the amount of feedback and advice I provide. My rates are competitive, and I do provide a fast turnaround. I have excellent testimonials – you can read them here. Most of my business comes from word of mouth recommendations and authors who come back to me with subsequent books.

The services I offer are:

Proofreading – correction of spelling, grammar and any minor issues with sentence structure and plot inconsistencies: £20.00 per hour. ***£16.00 per hour for bookings taken this month***

A proofread of a manuscript of 80,000 words will take, on average, between 15-20 hours to complete (average cost between £240-£320).

Editing – a note on editing: as I work mainly with authors who are planning to self-publish, or who want to have their work edited prior to seeking representation, my editing service works in a slightly different way to the editing process that happens in traditional publishing, which would usually involve a developmental edit, followed by a line edit and then a proofread. Most writers are on a restricted budget and so would find it difficult to pay for all these different stages of editing. There is also always some overlap in these editing stages.

So, my editing service comprises of an edit for spelling, grammar, sentence structure, flow, characterisation, continuity, plot consistency and style. I use the track changes facility in Word and will provide you with two copies of the edit: Edit 1 shows all changes made so you can trace what I have done, Edit 2 is a clean copy with all changes accepted – this will show you how the manuscript will read if you accepted all the changes that I’ve made. Having both copies means that you can easily see the difference the changes will make, while still having the option to choose whether or not you want to make those changes. You can go through Edit 1 accepting or rejecting each change as you see fit. As well as the edits, I will write a detailed report focusing on plot, structure, characterisation, pace, setting and style, making suggestions for any changes: £25.00 per hour. ***£20.00 per hour for bookings taken this month***

An edit of an 80,000 word novel will take, on average, between 20-30 hours to complete (average cost £400-£600).

***If you book an edit followed by a proofread, then the cost of the proofread will be reduced by 10%***

Beta Reading – general feedback on elements such as plot, characterisation, setting, story flow, continuity and any grammar/spelling issues. Please note that this is not a proofread and I will only give general advice on spelling and grammar, not a line-by-line edit. I do not fact check: £15.00 per hour. ***£12.00 per hour for bookings taken this month***

Help with introductory letters, synopses, evaluation of first chapters for submission, blurbs, evaluation of published work: £20.00 per hour. ***£16.00 per hour for bookings taken this month***

When you make a booking, I’ll give you an estimate of cost based on wordcount. I’ll then ask for a 50% payment based on this figure to secure the booking. When your edit/proofread is complete, I’ll invoice you for the remaining balance due.

If you already have an edit scheduled in with me then the agreed rate still stands.

I’m very excited to be developing my business and working with more fabulous authors and writers. I know it can be an expensive business and I believe that my rates offer excellent value for money.

If you have any questions then do get in touch via the contact page, drop me an email at alisonewilliams@sky.com or call on 07891065012.

 

 

Editing and proofreading services – new prices #editing #proofreading #writingservices #selfpublishing

Special introductory offer – 20% off bookings made in April and May!

editing 2

I have been running my editing business for several years now and have just finished my three-hundredth project! I’ve worked with some wonderful authors and writers and have felt extremely privileged to be part of their writing journey.

I have learnt an awful lot too about running a business and a lot about how much time and effort is involved in editing and proofreading and how much this can vary from manuscript to manuscript. I previously charged clients on a rate per thousand words. However, experience has shown me that this isn’t always fair on the client. The time involved can vary enormously and I have had manuscripts of 80,000 words that have taken three to four days to edit and others that have taken twice that.

I’ve decided that it is much fairer to charge an hourly rate. Of course, I’ll provide an estimate so that clients can have an idea of the total cost, and if it looks as though things are going to take a lot longer than expected, then I’ll let clients know as early in the process as possible.

My prices are based on the amount of experience I have, my qualifications (I have a first degree in English, a master’s degree in creative writing and a journalism qualification), and the amount of feedback and advice I provide. My rates are competitive, and I do provide a fast turnaround. I have excellent testimonials – you can read them here. Most of my business comes from word of mouth recommendations and authors who come back to me with subsequent books.

The services I offer are:

Proofreading – correction of spelling, grammar and any minor issues with sentence structure and plot inconsistencies.

Editing – a note on editing: as I work mainly with authors who are planning to self-publish, or who want to have their work edited prior to seeking representation, my editing service works in a slightly different way to the editing process that happens in traditional publishing, which would usually involve a developmental edit, followed by a line edit and then a proofread. Most writers are on a restricted budget and so would find it difficult to pay for all these different stages of editing. There is also always some overlap in these editing stages.
So, my editing service comprises of an edit for spelling, grammar, sentence structure, flow, characterisation, continuity, plot consistency and style. I use the track changes facility in Word and will provide you with two copies of the edit: Edit 1 shows all changes made so you can trace what I have done, Edit 2 is a clean copy with all changes accepted – this will show you how the manuscript will read if you accepted all the changes that I’ve made. Having both copies means that you can easily see the difference the changes will make, while still having the option to choose whether or not you want to make those changes. You can go through Edit 1 accepting or rejecting each change as you see fit. As well as the edits, I will write a detailed report focusing on plot, structure, characterisation, pace, setting and style, making suggestions for any changes.

*** If you book an edit followed by a proofread, then the cost of the proofread will be reduced by 10% ***

Beta Reading – general feedback on elements such as plot, characterisation, setting, story flow, continuity and any grammar/spelling issues. Please note that this is not a proofread and I will only give general advice on spelling and grammar, not a line-by-line edit. I do not fact check.

Help with introductory letters, synopses, evaluation of first chapters for submission, blurbs, evaluation of published work.

When you make a booking, I’ll give you an estimate of cost based on word count. I’ll then ask for a 50% payment based on this figure to secure the booking. When your edit/proofread is complete, I’ll invoice you for the remaining balance due.

If you already have an edit scheduled in with me then the agreed rate still stands.

I’m very excited to be developing my business and working with more fabulous authors and writers. I know it can be an expensive business and I believe that my rates offer excellent value for money.

Please contact me for current rates and special offers via the contact page, drop me an email at alisonewilliams@sky.com or call me on 07891065012.

 

Small publishers – a bit of a rant! #WWWBlogs #writingtips

Buyer-Beware

As well as writing and editing, I also read and review a lot of books. I try to read a variety of genres and read indie authors, traditionally published authors, big names, small names, complete unknowns, new writers and established writers. So I read a lot of books published by small presses.

Now before I get a load of flak, I do appreciate that there are a lot of really excellent small presses out there who do a fantastic job and who look after their authors. I also know that there are big, traditional, well-known publishing houses that don’t look after their authors. However, as the problems I have come across have all been with these smaller presses, those are the ones I want to talk about here.

I have read several books recently, for the most part eBooks, where the author has been published by a small publisher. Being rather nosy, and being an author always looking for opportunities, I have looked into many of these organisations. They all have lovely websites, all have lots of authors they are working with, all say they have plenty of experience in the industry, all say they are offering authors more than other publishers. Most also provide editing, formatting, book covers etc.

So why then are the majority, and I mean at least 75%, of these books not of publishable standard? Why are they full of typos and formatting errors? Full of spelling mistakes? Why, when they have supposedly been edited, do many contain basic writing no-nos such as ridiculous dialogue tags, exposition, stereotypical characterisation, unnatural dialogue, and information dumping?

Why also do so many of these organisations insist that authors promote each other? Why do I often look at glowing five star reviews for a book I can’t bear to finish and find those reviews are written by authors publishing with the same company? I’m all for authors helping each other, but I smell a rat, particularly when a publisher’s website states that the organisation treats its writers like family. All very nice I’m sure, and I’m very fond of a lot of my clients, we talk about stuff other than writing, we even occasionally meet up for coffee, but when they’re paying me their hard-earned money for my hard work it’s a professional business relationship, not family, and that’s how it should be.

I’m not suggesting that these companies are deliberately misleading authors, or that they aren’t trying their best. What I am suggesting though is that they aren’t up to the job. And OK, they might not be charging their authors up front – they’re not vanity presses – but they are taking a cut of the writers’ earnings (if there are any) and for that an author deserves professionalism, deserves an editor who knows how to edit, a marketing manager who has experience in marketing.

I think a lot of this has to do with people thinking they can publish books just because they can. And on closer inspection, a lot of them, despite vague statements to the contrary, don’t have any RELEVANT experience.

So please, please, please lovely authors – beware. Don’t let the fact that a publisher wants to publish your book go to your head. You deserve more than what some of these people are offering. You can probably do what they do better yourself. I shall be posting soon on what you should be careful of and what you should look for if you are considering a small publisher. In the meantime, do be cautious, and do your homework.

#WritingTips Active Vs. Passive #WWWBlogs #Writinganovel

This is a post I wrote a while ago that deals with an issue many writers struggle with.

active passive

When developing your writing craft, one of the ‘rules’ you will often hear is that you should avoid the passive voice. Using the active voice makes your writing simple, clear, concise and immediate, drawing your reader into the action of the piece and giving your writing energy. Using passive voice, on the other hand, can make your writing seem too formal, dull and wordy and can create a distance between the reader and the words. But many writers don’t really understand the difference between active and passive, and so are unsure how to write actively and how to avoid passive voice.

Passive

In passive sentences, the thing acted upon is the subject of the sentence, and the thing doing the action is usually included at the end of the sentence, for example:

The book was read by Sam.

boy reading book

The book is the subject receiving the action, ‘was read’ is the passive verb and Sam is doing the action.

Active

In active sentences, the thing or person doing the action is the subject of the sentence, and the thing or person receiving the action is the object. So:

Sam read the book.

Sam is the subject doing the action,’ read’ is the verb and the book is the object receiving the action.

What’s the problem?

The problem with passive is that the thing or person receiving the action becomes the subject of the sentence, but he, she or it isn’t actually doing anything. They are having something done to them. The first sentence isn’t grammatically wrong – it makes complete sense, but it sounds unnatural and forced. Another issue with passive voice is that it can be wordy. For example:

Passive

It was thought by most people that I killed my husband because he cheated on me.

husband passive

Contrast the active:

Most people thought I killed my husband because he cheated on me.

Or:

Passive

That evening, a delicious meal was eaten by Sarah and James.

Contrast the active:

That evening, Sarah and James ate a delicious meal.

Making sure you’re getting it right

One of the simplest things we can do to improve our writing is to get rid of unnecessary words, keeping our sentences clear, concise and to the point, getting rid of unnecessary words. Changing passive sentences to active sentences can be a good starting point.

If you’re not sure whether you’ve written a sentence in the active or passive voice, look out for the use of ‘was’ or ‘by’. Although not all sentences that include these words are necessarily passive, they can be a good clue. For example;

The dog was walked by Sam. (Passive)

When you spot a passive sentence, try rewriting it as an active sentence. You might be surprised at the difference it makes to your writing.

And although it pains me, as a vegetarian, to use this example, it does sum it up!

mac passive

 

 

#WritingTips – Using Adjectives and Adverbs #wwwblogs #writinganovel

This has  proved to be one of my most popular posts with many people kindly commenting on how useful it is – so I thought it was worth sharing again.

adject

The use of adverbs and adjectives is an issue for many writers. Many overuse them in the hope of making their writing seem more interesting, more descriptive. And while I’m not at all advocating that you cut all adverbs and adjectives out of your writing, what I have seen over and over again in the work that I edit, is that both are often added for no discernible reason. This is often, it seems to me, because a writer is trying really hard to set a scene, to draw a reader in. They can see the scene, the characters in their head and they want to convey everything that’s there. And they want to show that they can write, that they have a wide vocabulary. But unfortunately, these adverbs and adjectives often add nothing to the scenes in which they appear.

So how do you know what adjectives and adverbs to cut?

Let’s look at adverbs first.

Adverbs modify verbs. If you’re using an adverb to modify a verb, ask yourself why you need to. Is the verb not doing its job? If the verb alone can’t tell your reader how someone or something is doing something, then is it the right one to use?

For example:

John walked quickly down the street.

man walking quickly

You want your reader to know how John walked, so if he’s walking quickly, then say so – right? Well, no.

John hurried down the street.

One word instead of two – tells us exactly how John is moving.

How about:

She totally, completely accepted that her work needed editing.

Neither of those two adverbs is needed. Just say:

She accepted that her work needed editing.

(Actually get rid of ‘that’ too!)

There are also adverbs that are totally redundant – like ‘totally’ in this sentence!

The fire alarm rang loudly.

How else would it ring? It wouldn’t be much use as a fire alarm if it rang quietly.

 

fire alarm

A well-placed, strong and evocative adjective can add great detail to a word, phrase or scene. However, too often they come across as contrived and unnecessary.

The beautiful, bubbling river sparkled in the golden sunlight, its silvery ripples reflecting the brilliant, blazing rays that played on the shivering surface.

Too much, far too much. What’s wrong with:

The river sparkled in the sunlight, silvery rays playing on the shivering surface.

(Though, to be honest, that’s still too much).

And be very careful of ‘broad’ adjectives like ‘beautiful’ in the first sentence. ‘Beautiful’, ‘nice’, ‘wonderful’, etc.are broad terms – these words are subjective and mean different things to different people. They add nothing and are best avoided, except in dialogue.

Also be wary of the thesaurus. It is useful and can help you describe things in a fresh, new way. But be careful. Very careful.

joey

The use of adjectives and adverbs is a contentious issue – I’d love to know your thoughts.

Writing a Synopsis #wwwblogs #writinganovel

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jenspenden.com

I’ve worked with lots of writers who can compose the most beautiful prose, bring scenes to vivid life, make me care about their characters, keep me turning the page, but these same writers find one thing almost impossible to do – they can’t write a synopsis.

What is it about a synopsis that has so many writers struggling? It doesn’t seem to matter how great a writer you are, there’s just something about condensing your masterpiece down into one or two sides of A4 that strikes fear into a writer’s heart.

And I think that’s the issue. As authors, we spend so long on our books, every last detail is important to us. A synopsis asks us to get to the heart of the story, to strip away to the bare bones – and that can be really hard when you are so close to the world you’ve created and the characters that live there.

So what should, and what shouldn’t, you include?

  • First of all, check what the agent/publisher is looking for. They may well specify a length and may want you to write a chapter by chapter synopsis. If there are no specifications, then I would advise sticking to one page, single-spaced, six hundred words maximum.
  • Remember to write in third person (even if your novel is written in first person).
  • Use active voice and present tense.

Now to the actual writing of the synopsis itself.

When I was studying literature, we learnt a lot about narrative structure, and although it might not initially seem like it, most novels do fit into this basic structure:

  • Set up – main characters introduced. Introduction of the problem.
  • Conflict – the main body of the story. There is a catalyst that sets the conflict in motion. Characters go through changes because of this conflict and develop – the character arc.
  • Resolution – the problem is confronted and solved – or not – and loose ends are tied up.

To write your synopsis, it is really helpful to look at your novel in these terms and break it down into this structure.

  • Start with the set up – who is the protagonist? The other main characters? What is the problem?
  • Then move on to the conflict – there may be more than one. Decide what conflicts, plot twists and turns are really important; what do you need to include for the ending, the resolution, to make sense? How does this conflict change the main characters?
  • Finish with the resolution. Remember – this isn’t a blurb. The agent/publisher needs to know how your novel ends.

Remember:

  • Don’t get caught up in too much detail. Think about what’s really important.
  • Don’t include lots of backstory – you don’t have the space.
  • Be short, concise, clear. This isn’t the time for showing off your beautiful prose. That’s what the sample chapters are for.

Agents/publishers are looking for something new, something exciting – if your novel has that (and it should) then make sure your synopsis makes that clear.

And please, please, please remember that this is not a blurb. You MUST include the ending.

Good luck!

 

 

Dialogue Tags – An Editor’s Worst Nightmare (almost!) #writingtips #writinganovel

dialogue tag 1

 

When my children were small, I worked for a while at their school. One of my roles was to take the ‘able and gifted’ children for creative writing lessons. Part of this was to increase their vocabulary and we duly spent a great deal of time thinking about different words, more interesting words, particularly more interesting words than ‘said’ and ‘asked’. Honestly, I’ve spent hours writing down word after word after word that could, technically anyway, be used instead of ‘said’!

Now I spend a great deal of time highlighting more unusual and interesting dialogue tags and begging my clients to please, please, please delete them and, if they must use a dialogue tag at all, then stick to ‘said’ and ‘asked’.

I can hear the intake of breath from here – particularly from those of you who are newer writers  (and possibly from some of those who aren’t and who should know better!). Surely it’s a mark of a good writer to have an extended vocabulary? Surely you’re showing your writing prowess by having the thesaurus open and using ‘snickered’, ‘interjected’, ‘commented’ and ‘sighed’?

No, you aren’t.

What you’re actually doing is taking that carefully crafted fictitious world you’ve spent months, even years in some cases, crafting, and smashing it down.

Because the point of a dialogue tag is to signify who has spoken. That’s it. Nothing else. It shouldn’t indicate how something is said. It shouldn’t indicate the tone or the volume of the words. It should simply show only who is speaking.

Why? Well, lots of reasons. (If you are a client and you have read all this before then I do apologise.) Readers are so used to seeing ‘said’ and ‘asked’ that they skim over them, noting quickly who is ‘saying’ or ‘asking’ and getting on with the important things. The flow of the writing isn’t interrupted, the reader reads on smoothly and happily. If a dialogue tag suddenly crops up, like ‘chuckled’ or ‘screamed’, the reader is forced to pause, to think about the tag. The flow is interrupted, and for no purpose. The reader is also suddenly reminded that they’re reading a book. They’re not actually in an eighteenth century English prison, or on a spaceship circling Mars, or on a beach in Sydney. They’re suddenly pulled out of that world and back into reality. ‘Look at me,’ the dialogue tag says, ‘the author looked me up in a thesaurus because they wanted to sound interesting. Also, they didn’t have enough confidence in their own writing to know that the character’s words, actions, situation and emotions would be sufficient to let you know that the character was shouting, or that you, the reader, were clever enough to work that out yourself. The author thinks you’re stupid.’

And that cleverly crafted world is destroyed.

If you don’t believe me, then look at this dialogue from the wonderful Douglas Adams:

‘Drink up,’ said Ford, ‘you’ve got three pints to get through.’

‘Three pints?” said Arthur. ‘At lunchtime?’ 

The man next to Ford grinned and nodded happily. Ford ignored him. He said, ‘Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.’

‘Very deep,’ said Arthur, ‘you should send that in to the Reader’s Digest. They’ve got a page for people like you.’

(The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

It’s also worth bearing in mind that most dialogue tags don’t really make sense. Take ‘chuckled’ for example. No one really chuckles a word. They might say a word and then chuckle, but you can’t do the two things at once.  Dialogue cannot be laughed, smiled, giggled, nodded or screamed.

Remember, writing should appear effortless (although it is far from it) and a dialogue tag that stands out reveals the author, reveals that the world has been crafted. To paraphrase Stephen King – you have told your story well enough to believe that when you use ‘said’ or ‘asked’ your reader will know how it was said or asked.

So please, avoid that thesaurus, and avoid using distracting, horrible dialogue tags. Even better, try not to use tags at all. You can use actions to signify who is speaking. For example:

‘Where have you been?’ Adam folded his arms, his mouth a thin line.

Jennifer rolled her eyes.

‘It’s none of your business.’

‘It is when you’re late for dinner.’

She looked at the table, set for two, and then glanced at her husband.

‘I’ve told you before not to bother cooking for me.’

In this (admittedly not very good) example, it’s completely clear who is saying what, and we also can tell how it’s being said – the physical actions and reactions give us all the clues we need.

So trust yourself, and trust your reader. You don’t need that thesaurus. At least not for dialogue tags.