#writingcommunity

Authors – please choose your editor carefully #writingcommunity #amwriting #selfpublishing

when kpis turn to poison

As I have said many times, I love my clients. I love working with them and I feel privileged that they choose to share their writing with me. I am often the first person to have read their work and I really appreciate how brave that can be.

So I do feel a little bit protective towards the writing community. And I am a little tired of seeing people taking advantage of these lovely writers.

I have seen lots and lots of people recently selling their services to writers. Not a problem – it’s what I do. But increasingly these people have no experience whatsoever – they just seem very, very good at giving the impression that they do.

Now, I have no problem with entrepreneurs, or people trying to make a living. What I do have a problem with is people who have maybe written one or two books (not necessarily good ones either) setting themselves up as experts. I have seen in the last few weeks the author of one book (a book that hasn’t sold many copies and has few reviews) pitching themselves as an editor, proofreader, and self-publishing advisor. This person also sells books on how to write.

Now, I may not be a wildly successful author. But, I do have  a first degree in English Language and Literature, a master’s degree in creative writing, I’m a qualified and experienced freelance journalist and copy writer, and have had hundreds of articles published. I have edited three hundred fiction and non-fiction books. I have plenty of testimonials. I know lots of other editors with similar backgrounds, all of whom provide excellent services.

We have qualifications and experience. We know what we’re talking about. We earn the money you lovely writers pay us.

Over the years I’ve been editing I have worked with so many clients who are paying me after they’ve already paid an inexperienced, unqualified person who has set themselves up in business. These manuscripts are often full of the most basic grammatical errors, unnatural dialogue, cliched descriptions and similes, and dreadful dialogue tags. In short, the author has been diddled.

And the big problem is that often new writers don’t realise they’re being given the wrong advice. They assume that what the editor is telling them is correct.

Please, lovely authors, you’re worth more than that. Look really carefully into your editor’s background. Ask for testimonials, look for experience and qualifications. Be very, very careful.

And arm yourselves with knowledge too. If you know basic grammar rules, understand what helps to make good writing, can punctuate properly, you’ll be able to tell if an editor is all they’re cracked up to be.

And would-be editors, proofreaders, ‘experts’ – I’m not saying that you’re excluded from some club if you lack these things. These skills can be learnt, after all. But don’t charge authors money for old rope. Learn your skills, practice, get experience first.

And remember – writing a book doesn’t make you an expert on writing.

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Using Feedback #amwriting #writingcommunity #writingtips

feedback 2

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 my master’s 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?

feedback

‘The Cheque’s in the Post’ – how to not annoy your editor! #amwriting #selfpublishing #writingcommunity

angry

I’ve been editing for a while now and the majority of my clients have been an absolute joy to work with – open to advice, professional, and just downright nice. That said, I’ve had a few not so pleasant experiences over the last few months and felt it was time to address some issues that unfortunately seem to be becoming quite common.

So here’s my advice on having a professional and constructive relationship with your editor.

Punctuality

clock

I have many hats. Editor, writer, reviewer are just some of them. I have a full schedule and am usually booked in advance (for which I am very grateful). I have to stick to my schedule to avoid infringing on the time set aside for my next project. So if you agree to get a manuscript to me by a certain date, please make sure you do so. I work hard to stick to deadlines I’ve agreed to, and to make sure I bear my client’s own schedules in mind, so please grant me the same consideration.

Formatting

I’m clear about how I would like you to format your manuscript before sending it to me. Please adhere to this – and if for some reason you can’t, then just let me know. Which leads to my next point.

Communication

communication

I appreciate that sometimes things happen, that there are circumstances beyond our control, and I try to be flexible as much as I can. But please communicate. Send me an email. Call me. Just let me know what’s happening. I recently agreed to a client deferring payment of her deposit. I kept that spot for her. She didn’t pay, ignored all my emails, and I couldn’t fill that space at such short notice, so I had a week where I had no income. Unprofessional and totally unfair. It also means that I’m now wary of being that flexible for other clients. If she had just been honest and emailed me to say that she could no longer use the space I may have been able to reschedule or find another client.

Money matters

services-stamp

This is probably my biggest bugbear. I appreciate that editing costs money. But if you have decided to hire an editor, then please make sure you have the money in place to pay them for the work they do. I ask for a deposit when a client books a place, but I have had several occasions recently where a deposit has been paid, but the client has then either delayed or not paid the balance once the edit is completed. This isn’t because they are unhappy with the edit – in fact on all these occasions the client has been very pleased with my work. On one occasion, the client emailed to say they were very happy with their edit, and then simply ignored every request for payment. Other clients have deferred and deferred. While I appreciate that some circumstances are beyond people’s control, please do remember that your editor may be relying on your payment. It isn’t fair to expect someone to wait for a payment from you because of circumstances that are nothing to do with them. Without naming names, one of my clients didn’t pay because he had to fund repairs to his car. But what if I’d needed to pay for repairs to my car and was relying on his payment to do that? If you’ve booked a service, agreed to a contract, and the other party has fulfilled their obligations, then you should pay what you owe. It really isn’t fair to expect to do otherwise and it’s completely unprofessional – you wouldn’t tell a plumber you couldn’t pay once he’d fixed your tap, so why is it ok to not pay your editor?

Don’t take it personally

I get it. I’m a writer. It hurts to have our work criticised when we’ve put our heart and soul into it. But if you want to be an author, if you want to be taken seriously as an author, then you need to be able to listen to feedback. I’m not out to be nasty or unkind, but I am honest and I will tell you what isn’t working. Please take that criticism and advice in the spirit in which it’s intended. I would be doing you a disservice and wasting your money for you if I just told you your book was wonderful.

Understand the role

A client recently complained that while I had pointed out places where things needed reworking and had provided examples of how he might do this, I hadn’t actually rewritten those parts for him. This is not your editor’s job. Your editor is not there to write your novel for you. I can guide you, advise you, restructure things so that you can see how they might be improved, suggest how you might improve things, tell you what needs developing and where things don’t work – but I cannot, will not and should not rewrite your manuscript. An editor isn’t a ghost writer.

I’m sorry if this feels like a rant – honestly, 99.9% of my clients are lovely, friendly, professional people and I love working with them. I can’t tell you how lovely it is when they take the time to tell me how my work has helped with their book. However, these bad experiences seem to be becoming more commonplace and it’s a worrying trend. But to the clients that do make my work a joy – thank you!