Writers Resources

#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.

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Writing a Synopsis #wwwblogs #writinganovel

writing_humour_synopsis-scaled500 (1)

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!

 

 

Building Characters—one funeral at a time @barbtaub #wwwblogs

A fabulous guest post from writer Barb Taub today – enjoy!

I don’t know. What do you think about during funerals?

I suppose you could think about your own life, and whether this many people would ever gather in one place just to say such nice things about you. But I’m a writer, so for me funerals are ALL about the character. What went into making that person who they ended up becoming? What kind of main character did their story have?

The last two funerals I attended were for the first two people I met after moving into the tiny village in the north of England. They had already been friends for decades (the phrase “partners in crime” came up often) when I met Margaret and Marion my first morning in the Castle. I’d arrived from the States the night before, and only had time to learn one thing about castle life—the meaning of stone cold—before collapsing in a jetlag coma.

durham-brancepeth-castle

Our home-sweet-castle home in the north of England. (We were in the rear tower)

I’ve always thought that our friendship was based on the purest of human emotions: pity. First I met Margaret, who must have taken one look at me, gaping up at thousand-year-old walls, and still wearing what I’d slept in—which was, basically, everything I could pull from my suitcase, as explained here— and felt sorry for me. She introduced herself as my landlady, the owner of the castle, and informed me that it was Wednesday—which, to be honest, I couldn’t have sworn to. With Wednesdayness established between us, she took me to my first Village Coffee.

There Margaret introduced me to a lady with an accent so posh it could probably etch glass and a surprisingly wicked look in her eye. American wannabe-writer Barb, meet doctor/intellectual/PhD/90+ year old character Marion. And my life in the tiny, perfect village in the North of England officially began.

1545114_10152518184399692_350813276_nI couldn’t begin to list all the experiences the two of them introduced me to over the next several years. First, there was the Village itself. With no actual commercial entities—not even a pub!—entertainment was homemade and varied. But no matter the event, there were two things you could count on—there would be raffle tickets to buy (lots), and there would be alcohol to consume (more than lots). There were gala reenactments of the Queen’s Jubilee and the Royal Wedding, Progressive Suppers (which involved the entire village getting progressively sloshed), garden club “walks” (see progressive supper results), dance/casino/quiz/archives/garden show/you-name-it nights, and of course, the Christmas Show.

Castle gatesBut that was only the beginning. As owner of a medieval castle, Margaret belonged to something that probably had an impressive title, but which I called Castle Club. In England, you often drive past tall stone walls and lines of trees with the occasional crest-topped gates. Well, she took me inside some of those gates, up the long drives, and into the castles and stately homes you couldn’t even see from the road.

[Digression: In my family, what’s going into my will is more of a threat. (As in, “Okay, kids: last one to call me on Mother’s Day goes in my will for that Elvis on velvet painting from Great-Aunt Mo.) So it was an amazing window on a new world for an American from the suburbs to hear people debate the best way to install a roof that will last for centuries because you don’t really own the place; you’re only borrowing it from your great-great-grandchildren.]

photo (1)

Ceilidh in her Castle

Then there was their generosity. Both Marion and Margaret raised charity to an art form, and invited me along. In the name of their favorite causes, I got to help with this proper victorian tea party, a ceilidh dinner dance, castle tours, and so much more.

And they showed me the England they loved, which most Americans never see. When I told Margaret that I’d never been to the Cotswolds, she joined me as my guide in a week-long driving tour which culminated (I’m so not making this up!) in joining Prince Charles at his home for tea.

Although Marion’s sight was going and her memory wasn’t what it used to be, she also happily accompanied me on jaunts all over the county. We even took a memorable road trip to the Royal Heritage Society gardens at Harlow Carr, where she took an unholy glee in informing the ticket collectors that she had a life-membership (fact) which entitled her to take guests in at no charge, including afternoon tea (not even close to fact). They meekly ushered us in. And no outing was complete without stopping for lunch where Dr. Marion would ignore all of her health restrictions to inform me that I wanted to have a drink and a sweet, to which she would of course join me.

Admiral Roebuck: With all due respect, M, I think you don't have the balls for this job. M: Perhaps. But the advantage is, I don't have to think with them ...

Admiral Roebuck: With all due respect, M, I think you don’t have the balls for this job. M (Densch): Perhaps. But the advantage is, I don’t have to think with them … [Image Credit: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) ]

Decades of friendship notwithstanding, their disagreements were the stuff of Village legend, as Rock debated Hard Place in the most polite of Oxbridge accents. Of course, their eccentricities were legion, as the Villagers dodging bicycle or electric-scooter mounted octogenarians could attest. They gardened with passionate intensity, took care of those in need both across the street and across the globe, and taught misplaced Americans to speak a version of British that hasn’t really been used for half a century. (They would “spend a penny” when they went to the loo, price things in crowns, and institute a cone of silence while they listened to The Cricket on the radio.) They were the kind of British women who show up in movies and books, indomitable and secure in themselves—characters like Hepburn’s Rosie in The African Queen and Judi Dench’s M in the Bond films.

Captain: "Who are you?" Rosie: "Miss Rose Sayre." Captain: "English?" Rosie: "Of course." [Image Credit: The African Queen, John Huston's 1951 film starring Hepburn and Bogart] https://youtu.be/gc9QYyzw9VA?t=1h38m14s

Captain: “Who are you?”
Rosie: “Miss Rose Sayre.”
Captain: “English?”
Rosie: “Of course.”
[Image Credit: The African Queen, 1951]

 

At each of their funerals, I joined crowds who gathered to remember and share stories about these two remarkable characters. They told of amazing generosity and hilarious eccentricity. Some shared Margaret’s triumph over severe physical limitations that were supposed to end her life as a child, only to have her stubbornly confound every imposed limit. Some talked about her charming, eccentrically-English husband, who I never met because he died just as they bought the castle, leaving his relatively young widow to raise their large family and run their company.

Celebrating Marion's 93rd birthday with a champagne tea and proper cake.

The two old friends celebrating Marion’s 93rd birthday with a champagne tea and proper cake.

I heard about Marion, daughter of a Nobel Prize scientist who had “Sir” before his name. She went to medical school as a young woman, and then served as the only doctor for over 160,000 people in what was then Tanganyika. Along with her delight in forbidden alcohol and sweets, Marion particularly loved her birthday. As we celebrated the day she turned 93, I asked Marion to tell me about her favorite birthday ever. “Considering the alternative,” she told me, “every birthday I make it to is the best one ever.” So of course, I asked for her secret to a long happy ever after. She answered right away. “Have a lot of friends who remember you even when you can’t remember their names.” A few minutes later she added, “Don’t say no to sweets.” And finally, “Don’t look back.”

For me, Margaret and Marion will always be the ones who introduced an American stranger to England—village, castle, estates, country, and even future king. As a writer, I got to view characters and settings I could never have imagined. As a friend, I’ll miss them every day.


Note from Barb:

For a look at characters I’ve built, check out my newest book. Now available for presale on Amazon, ROUND TRIP FARE will be released on 7 April, 2016.

Round_Trip_Fare-Barb_Taub-1563x2500ROUND TRIP FARE by Barb Taub

Is it wrong that shooting people is just so much easier than making decisions? Carey Parker’s to-do list is already long enough: find her brother and sister, rescue her roommate, save Null City, and castrate her ex-boyfriend. Preferably with a dull-edged garden tool. A rusty one.

Round Trip Fare RWA Contest Finalist 2015

Genre:

Urban Fantasy (with romance, humor, a sentient train, and a great dog)

Pre-order here: Amazon 

 

Barb pix 300 dpiBarb Taub:

In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled AussieDog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them traveling around the world, plus consulting with her daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter: @barbtaub

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.

 

 

 

Writing a Query Letter #wwwblogs #writinganovel

query letter pic 3

While it’s true that the world of publishing is changing, and that many authors are happy to self-publish, some writers still wish to find an agent, and so will need to introduce themselves with a query letter.

What’s important

It’s absolutely vital to remember that this letter is the first example of your writing that an agent will see, so make it count. These are the key things to remember:

  • Address your letter to a specific agent – avoid Dear Sir/Madam.  Using a name shows that you’ve selected that agent – not just stuck a pin in ‘The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’
  • Make it clear you’ve done your homework – state why you’re approaching that particular agent (similar authors? Looking for your genre?)
  • Make your book sound interesting
  • State the genre and word length
  • Include any details of your writing history – competitions, publications, experience
  • Keep it formal, keep it short, be business-like
  • Do include EXACTLY what they’ve asked for

Structuring your letter

When I’m helping my clients to write a query letter, this is the basic structure I suggest:

  • Paragraph 1 – why you’re writing and what you’ve included
  • Paragraph 2 – a VERY brief, two or three sentence summary of the book
  • Paragraph 3 – brief details of any relevant writing experience/successes
  • Paragraph 4 – the fact the manuscript is complete and word count. Also, state if you are working on a series, a new novel etc. Agents like to know that you have longevity
  • Paragraph 5 – contact details including a telephone number and an email address

What not to do

  • Don’t make jokes or try anything wacky – they’ve probably heard and seen it all before
  • Don’t spell the agent’s name incorrectly
  • Don’t forget to include your submission (apparently that does happen!)
  • Don’t come across as arrogant – if the agent takes you on you will have a very close working relationship, so you don’t want to sound as if you’ll be a pain in the backside
  • Equally, don’t beg or sound needy – agents need writers!

Most important of all, be professional. Yes, we’re all artists, and creative types and so on, but publishing is, first and foremost, a business. This is a business letter – treat it as though you’re applying for a job (because you are). Good luck!

Approaching Agents #writingtips #wwwblogs

manu1

So you’ve finally completed your manuscript and you’re wondering what to do now. If you have decided not to self-publish and want to try and secure an agent, then how to you go about it?

1. Make sure your manuscript is ready
And I mean really ready. It’s vitally important that your manuscript is as clean and professional-looking as possible. This is your chance to showcase your work – don’t send it out with typos and grammatical errors. Has it been edited and proofread? This doesn’t necessarily have to be done by a professional editor or proofreader, but have you at least had two or three people go over your manuscript? If you’re worried or embarrassed about having someone read your work then this is a good time to get over it. After all, if you are lucky enough to see your work published then hopefully lots of people are going to read it.

2. Do your research
Get a copy of the latest Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and look through the agent listings really carefully. Pick out those agents that look the best match and make sure they accept unsolicited manuscripts. Then check their website. You should be looking for agents that:

  • are open for submissions
  • are interested in your genre
  • have published similar works

3. Stick to their requirements
Read the submission requirements really carefully. Make a note of how they accept submissions (email or post?), and what exactly you need to send. Most will ask for a query letter, a brief synopsis and the first two or three chapters of your manuscript, but it does vary.

4. Stick to their requirements
No, that’s not a typo. This is so, so important it’s worth saying it twice. Send EXACTLY what they ask for. Don’t be tempted to send the middle three chapters of your book, or the two first chapters and the last. Only send what they ask for.

5. No gimmicks
No weird fonts to make your submission stand out. You need to send your manuscript in a clear format. No silly jokes or ‘surprise’ gifts in your submission that are related to your manuscript. You may think no one’s done that before, but they have. The agent is looking for a manuscript they can sell – your WRITING needs to shine, that is what needs to attract their attention. Bells and whistles will get you nowhere.
balloons

6. Prepare your query letter carefully
This is the first impression an agent will have of you. It’s really important that you get it right. There’s lots and lots of (sometimes conflicting) advice about this online and I’ll also be writing a whole post on the subject in a couple of weeks.

7. Take time over your synopsis
A synopsis can be a tricky thing to write. How do you express your book in so few words? This is another subject worthy of its own post which will be on this blog soon.

8. You’re not ready yet
Double check. And triple check. And check again. The agent isn’t going anywhere, so take your time and make sure you have everything ready that each agent has asked for.

9. Send it out
Once you’ve checked and checked and checked, then send it out. This can be terrifying I know, but you’re not getting an agent unless you pluck up the courage to approach one. So send it. Go on.

post eastkilbridepost.co.uk

10. Be realistic
Getting an agent is difficult. Really, really difficult. You’re extremely likely to be rejected. Several times. Accept this. You’re going to probably have to send your work to more than one agent. More than five agents. Possibly more than ten. And it might never happen. And even if it does, that’s only the beginning of a very long process after which your book might still not find a publisher. There may come a point when you will have to decide whether or not to keep submitting. No one but you knows when that point is. But do remember that agents ARE looking for authors – it’s their livelihood after all. But you’re going to need a thick skin and realistic expectations.

Good luck!

fingers crossed

Writing Tip – Lying/Laying #wwwblogs

A quick writing tip post today about one of the issues that comes up over and over again when I’m editing – confusion over the verbs ‘lie’ and ‘lay’.

These words are probably the ones that are used incorrectly the most in the writing projects I’ve worked on.  If you get confused about the correct forms to use, it might be worth keeping a note close to your work space – even a post-it stuck to your computer screen.

It works like this:

‘Lie’ is an intransitive verb – it doesn’t require an object; it means ‘to recline’.

Its principal parts are:

‘lay’ (past tense – and probably the cause of most of the confusion)

‘Lain’ (past participle)

‘Lying’ (present participle)

Jane lay down on the bed for a nap half an hour ago.

She had lain in bed all day.

Jane was lying on the bed. She had been lying there all day long.

 

‘Lay’ is a transitive verb – it requires an object; it means ‘to place’ or ‘to put’

Its principal parts are:

‘laid’ (past tense)

‘laid’ (past participle)

‘laying’ (present participle)

 The chicken laid an egg.

The chicken had laid an egg.

The chicken was laying an egg.

 

If you lay a book on a desk, it is now lying there NOT laying there.

When you go on holiday, you may spend time lying on the beach NOT laying on the beach (unless you are a chicken and you’re laying an egg on the beach).

If you lie down on the sofa to watch TV, you might spend the evening lying there – you DO NOT lay on the sofa and spend the evening laying there, unless, again, you are a chicken.

If there is an egg on the ground, it is lying there. If the chicken is involved, she may be laying the egg on the ground.

To add a bit more confusion, ‘lie’ also means to tell an untruth. Its past participle and past tense form is ‘lied’ and its present participle form is ‘lying’.

 She had lied too often.

He lied to me.

Stop lying to me.

He was lying to me.

A word of caution – don’t always trust the green squiggly line in spelling and grammar check – it sometimes gets confused too!

chickenatbeach

bigdamnband.com

#WritingCompetition – still time to get your entries in! #wwwblogs

writing comp

Written a short story over the Christmas break? New Year’s Resolution to get you name out there and submit more stories? Why not try Sandalle’s Short Story Competition? The closing date is 30th January so there’s still time for a final proof and polish.

This is a brand new competition that is relatively cheap to enter – the entry fee is only £5.00, with money raised helping to fund the prizes. The Sandalle group is a very small and very dedicated group of writers, poets and actors who give up their free time to help other writers, running competitions and events and giving critiques. So by entering this competition you might not only win a prize and have a writing credential for your writing CV, you’ll also be helping a dedicated group of volunteers.

There’s another incentive too. If the winning writers have a novel they’re hoping to submit or publish, or one that’s just been sitting in a drawer, I will provide a free assessment of the first three chapters.

Sandalle’s Short Story Competition

First Prize: £120.00 plus free assessment

Second Prize: £75.00 plus free assessment

Third Prize: £50.00 plus free assessment

Theme: The Key

Word length: 1200 words (maximum)

Fee: £5.00 per entry. If you would like a story critique, please add £2.50.

Closing Date: 30th January 2016

Please send two copies of each entry, a cheque (payable to Sandalle), an S.A.E and a separate sheet with your personal details to:

Sandalle
c/o Gwyn Hall
Orchard Street
Neath
SA11 1DU

Good luck and please do spread the word!

Remember – the closing date is 30th January.

How to Help Your Editor #writinganovel

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!

 

 

 

#WritingANovel : Feedback

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One of the most difficult things to deal with when writing a novel is getting feedback, whether this is from a friend, a beta reader or an editor. Honestly – it can be completely terrifying. I know this from experience having written two books myself. The first experience I had of getting feedback on a piece of fiction was when I began studying for a Masters in Creative Writing. A huge part of the course was the workshop. We took it in turns to send a few chapters of our WIPs to everyone in the group and then a week or so later we would gather (online) to discuss that writing. The first time it was my turn I actually felt physically sick. I was terrified that the other students would hate my work, that they would destroy it. So, as an editor, I do completely understand how nerve-wracking it is to get that feedback. And sometimes it’s not only terrifying, it’s also confusing, especially when two or more of your readers or editors have completely different opinions about your work. So how do you deal with feedback?

Feedback from Beta Readers

So you’ve sent out your manuscript to five beta readers and you have five conflicting opinions about it. What should you do?

First, step back and coolly asses your betas. Whose opinion do you really trust? If one of them is your mum, then she’s probably not the one to go with.

Then go with your gut – you know if someone’s comments rings true, if something makes you think ‘Oh yeah. That’s a good point’. You need to be honest with yourself.

Look for common threads. If three of your betas hate the same thing, but one loves it, then it’s probably safe to go with the majority.

Feedback from Editors

Again, take a step back. Yes, that’s difficult; your work is so personal to you, so much a part of you. But feedback is vital to improve your craft. So put the process into perspective. Your editor is (hopefully) trying to help you. Their criticisms (if they’re any good) should be constructive. Trust me, when I give feedback on a manuscript, I’m not trying to hurt your feelings, or upset you or belittle you. But it would do you no good whatsoever if I wasn’t honest. I want to help you. So bear that in mind and try to be objective when you look at feedback.

Make sure you understand what your editor is trying to tell you. If you don’t understand their comments or you need some clarification, then ask. Personally, I feel that if a writer comes back to me about a point I’ve raised, then it’s my job to address their concerns. Just because I’ve finished the edit, it doesn’t mean I can no longer answer questions or provide feedback. A caveat though – don’t take advantage of your editor’s good nature; ask a question, accept the answer, but don’t expect a long-running dialogue. And don’t argue either – you’ve asked me for my professional opinion, I’ve given it and I’ve given my reasons for that opinion. It serves no purpose if you don’t agree for us to have back and forth emails about it.

Remember – you own the story. You don’t have to do what your editor says. It’s entirely up to you. But do remember that your editor is not your enemy. We don’t sit there trying to pick faults – we want to help you make your manuscript the best it can be. So if we say something you don’t agree with, take a deep breath, read the criticism again and really think about it. Does your editor have a point?

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