#writingguidance

How to choose an editor #writingcommunity #writing #editing

writer

A new year means that many of us will be assessing the past year and making plans for the future. If your resolutions and goals include finishing that novel, or self-publishing or submitting to an agent, you should consider using an editor to make sure your manuscript is up to scratch.

The boom in self-publishing, as with any industry, means that a multitude of businesses have sprung up around writing. There are editors aplenty out there, but not all of them are up to the job. I’ve worked with countless writers who have paid hard-earned money to editors who haven’t a clue what they’re doing. As a writer myself, I understand how fellow writers feel about their work, and also how difficult it can be to hand that manuscript over to someone else, often someone you don’t know, and trusting them to do a good job. So what should you expect from an editor? And what should you look for when choosing one?

Testimonials

Look for testimonials from previous clients. If an editor can’t provide testimonials, find out why. When I began my business, I provided free edits in return for honest testimonials. This way I began to build a reputation and a client base (most of those clients that I provided free edits for came back to me with their next projects) and could also provide new clients with evidence that I could actually do the job. I’m happy to say that since then I have had testimonials from many clients and that now most of my work comes from happy clients who come back to me.

Sample edits

An editor should offer to provide you with a free sample edit. This way you can see how they work and see if it is right for you.

A contract

An editor should provide you with a contract setting out exactly what you should expect and what the editor also expects from you. This contract should include dates, fees and a summary of what’s included in your edit.

A price

I have worked with clients who have lost money to unscrupulous editors including one client whose ‘editor’ asked her to pay up front and then didn’t deliver. OK, you might think she was naïve to pay out, but this was new territory for her and she was unsure how things work. Unfortunately, I’ve also worked with clients who have paid the deposit, received their edit and then vanished without paying the balance. It goes with the territory, but please don’t be that person.

Make sure you know the rate, and when you’re expected to pay. And please do stick to this.

A reasonable timescale

Your editor should give you a date when your edit will be done and back to you. If they can’t commit to a date, ask yourself why. I’ve heard of editors who haven’t delivered when promised, have made excuse after excuse or have refused to give a firm date in the first place. Where does this leave a writer with a publication date in mind? And don’t let the process go on for months and months. If I have an editing project then that is what I work on – it takes priority. I plan my schedule so that projects – paid for writing projects or editing projects – take priority over everything else. I give a client a firm date – usually ten working days for an edit of a manuscript of up to 80,000 words. I have seen editors who will take up to six weeks to do the same amount of work. That’s fine if that works for you – but make sure it does work for you and that the deadline is agreed by both of you.

Honesty

Sometimes this is a hard one to take. It’s not very nice having someone tell you about all the faults in your work, all those things that don’t work. But an editor should do this. What’s the point otherwise? I know that I have built a bit of a reputation for my honesty – and that some people don’t see that as a good thing. They usually don’t ask me to edit their full manuscripts if they don’t like my honest appraisal of their sample. Which is probably a good thing. If you’re paying money to someone to edit your work then you must realise that the editor isn’t there to pat you on the back and tell you what a great writer you are. They are there to offer a professional, unbiased, honest critique of your work and to show you how to improve it and get it to a publishable standard. Yes, I do compliment a writer on things they have done well, things that really work. But what’s the point of me glossing over something that isn’t right? Something that doesn’t work? That will mean you’ve wasted your money. As one of my clients says:

‘Alison will pull no punches, but then, why would you want her to? You want your book to be the best it can be, right? You want your readers to get the best possible story you can produce, right? You want five-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, right?’

Exactly

So when you’re looking for an editor, do make sure that you are very careful, make sure you both know what’s involved and what everyone’s expectations are. And do be ready to listen and take advice. That’s what your editor is there for.

Happy writing!

I’m currently offering a 10% on bookings taken before the end of January for February and March. My schedule is filling up fast, so do get in touch soon to discuss your project. You can use the ‘contact’ form or drop me an email at alisonewilliams@sky.com

 

 

Yes, we do judge a book by its cover! #writingtips #amwriting

pencils

It’s a very old and very well-known saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But this is a saying that shouldn’t be taken literally. While I urge you not to judge other things in life by their appearance (particularly people!), it’s usually a safe bet that a poorly designed book cover means a poorly executed book.

Unfair? Well, taking off my editor hat and putting on my reader hat for a minute, if I’m going to spend my (very) hard-earned cash on a book, I want to make sure I spend it wisely. And what have I got to go on when I browse the endless goodies on offer on Amazon? I have the blurb, (please authors – get this right. It is NOT a synopsis), the reviews (if I can trust them), and I have the cover. And I won’t get to the blurb or the reviews if the cover doesn’t grab me in the first place.

A good, well-thought out, attention-grabbing cover tells me that this author cares – cares about their work, cares about their book, cares about their reader. A poorly executed cover sends warning bells ringing that this author hasn’t researched the self-publishing world thoroughly, doesn’t understand what they need to do to publish successfully, and has probably rushed to publish.

So what makes a good cover, and what doesn’t? And what should you bear in mind when designing your cover?

Think thumbnails. Will your cover stand out in that tiny, tiny little space it will have in a search?
Think genre. What’s your book about? If it’s a romance, go for an image that says romance. If it’s a gritty detective story, then show that in your cover. Don’t be vague, and don’t overthink it.
Think trends. I hate to say it, but there are fashions in book covers as there are in anything else. Look at other books in your genre and see what’s popular at the moment. People know what they like and they may go for a book by an author they don’t know if the cover reminds them of a book they’ve liked (although don’t plagiarise, obviously). But do give it your own twist and be original too.
Think title. Make sure it stands out and that people can read it. Make sure the font is clear and big enough.
I’ve seen covers with dreadful hand-drawn images, cut and paste pictures that are the wrong size and perspective, and random images that have nothing to do with the book itself. There are blogs devoted to showcasing the worst of these – which, while it’s easy to laugh, it’s also heart-breaking that these authors haven’t done the research and have set themselves up for ridicule.

Self-publishing can be an expensive business – but there are some things that cannot be scrimped on. Editing, proofreading and a great book cover are worth investing in. There are some great designers out there who do a good job and don’t cost the earth (although you shouldn’t expect to pay peanuts for a professional). Research, ask for recommendations; if you see a self-published book with a great cover ask the author who designed it – most will be more than happy to give you a recommendation. If you’ve spent time crafting a wonderful novel, give it the polish and packaging it deserves.

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!

 

 

 

Writing the dreaded query letter! #amwriting #writingtips

letter_writi_24714_lg

Along with the dreaded blurb and the dreaded synopsis, the query letter seems to rank as one of the hardest thing a writer has to tackle. Write a 100,000 word novel? No problem. Write a one-page letter? No thank you!

And 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!

Writing the dreaded blurb! #writingtips #amwriting #writinganovel

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A lot of the writers I work with have a great deal of trouble writing a blurb. I’ve given some tips on this before, but they are definitely worth repeating.

Almost as feared as the dreaded synopsis, the book blurb has the power to turn wonderful writers to jelly. But the blurb is the hook, along with the cover, to reel those readers in. You need to make sure that you entice your reader, that you intrigue them without giving too much away. Longer than the elevator pitch, but shorter than a synopsis, the book blurb is key to whetting a reader’s appetite.

So how should you approach it? Here are some quick tips on getting that blurb up to scratch.

Keep it short. This is NOT a synopsis. You want a couple of two to three line paragraphs. Too much and you risk giving too much away and turning off your reader. Too little and you might miss the mark.

Mention your main character(s). It’s important for your reader to know who the book is about.

Be precise. There is no place or space for vagueness, long-windedness or clever clever vocabulary in your blurb. Short, sharp, to the point.

Make it interesting. Obviously. What’s intriguing about the story? Why would I want to read it?

Don’t give away the ending. It might sound silly to even point that out – but it does happen.

Don’t compare yourself to other writers or compare the book to other books. Tell your potential reader that you’re the next J.K Rowling or Stephen King and you’re more likely to annoy them than anything.

Watch out for clichés or overused words and phrases. Try and be refreshing and new. And interesting.

Good luck!

Writing and Editing Tips Revisited – Transitions #ThrowbackThursday #WritingTips

Another post from the past – this time looking at how to take your characters from one place to another, and to take the reader along too.

furlough

Transitions are used to:

  • Change time
  • Change location
  • Change character viewpoint
  • To skip unimportant time periods or events

One issue I’ve seen with many writers is that they put too much detail in these transitions, showing how a character gets from one place to another – getting into their car, driving home, parking, walking up the stairs to their apartment, just like this scene from the infamous B-movie Birdemic:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrremE8SCQk&t=8m12s

The reader doesn’t need to know that. They just want to get on with the story, on to what happens next.

So how do you use transitions skilfully?

  • Start a new chapter – this easily lets your reader know the narrative has moved on
  • If you’re changing scene/time/viewpoint within a chapter use a physical sign like ***** centred on the page, or double space and then don’t indent the first line of your next paragraph.
  • Keep it short and simple – ‘That night’, ‘The next morning’.
  • Jump right in – rather than say: ‘When Linda arrived at the coffee shop the next morning’ go for ‘Linda slid into the booth and took a sip of her first coffee of the day.’ We know where and when Linda is straight away.

How to Approach an Agent – The Query Letter #publishing #writinganovel #ThrowbackThursday

A post from a while ago that aspiring authors may find helpful.

letter_writi_24714_lg

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!

Writing and Editing Tips Revisited: Writing a Blurb #writingtips #wwwblogs

website-migration-failed-frustrated-woman-at-laptop-300x200

Almost as feared as the dreaded synopsis, the book blurb has the power to turn wonderful writers to jelly. But the blurb is the hook, along with the cover, to reel those readers in. You need to make sure that you entice your reader, that you intrigue them without giving too much away. Longer than the elevator pitch, but shorter than a synopsis, the book blurb is key to whetting a reader’s appetite.

So how should you approach it? Here are some quick tips on getting that blurb up to scratch.

Keep it short. This is NOT a synopsis. You want a couple of two to three line paragraphs. Too much and you risk giving too much away and turning off your reader. Too little and you might miss the mark.

Mention your main character(s). It’s important for your reader to know who the book is about.

Be precise. There is no place or space for vagueness, long-windedness or clever clever vocabulary in your blurb. Short, sharp, to the point.

Make it interesting. Obviously. What’s intriguing about the story? Why would I want to read it?

Don’t give away the ending. It might sound silly to even point that out – but it does happen.

Don’t compare yourself to other writers or compare the book to other books. Tell your potential reader that you’re the next J.K Rowling or Stephen King and you’re more likely to annoy them than anything.

Watch out for clichés or overused words and phrases. Try and be refreshing and new. And interesting.

Good luck!

Writing & Editing Tips Revisited – Contractions in Dialogue #wwwblogs #writingtips #WritingANovel

writing-dialogue

A very quick tip here for writers struggling with dialogue.

One of the issues that I find in a lot of the manuscripts I edit is that the dialogue can seem forced and contrived. Realistic, believable and authentic dialogue is a must for a good novel, and authors need to make sure they get it right. But many new writers think they have to write ‘properly’ and they think this means eschewing contractions.

Generally, if you want to make your dialogue flow and for readers to believe in it, then you need to use contractions (there are exceptions to this, in particular types of fiction). Think about it. How many people do you know (however posh they are and however ‘properly’ they speak) who say things like this:

‘Please do not walk on the grass.’

The answer is no one. No one ever (except perhaps the queen and probably not even her) speaks like that. It sounds horrible.

So remember:

‘Don’t’ not ‘do not’
‘They’ve’ not ‘they have’
‘Should’ve’ not ‘should have’ (and definitely NOT should of)
‘I’ll’ not ‘I will’
‘Can’t’ not ‘cannot’
You get the point.

There are three things you can do to improve your dialogue:

Listen – actually listen to people talking. This has the advantage of also often being very entertaining.
Read – when you’re reading, make a note of dialogue that really works, and why it works
Speak – read your dialogue out loud. Does it sound right?
Contrived, formal, awkward dialogue is, I’m afraid, the sign of a writer still learning their craft. Get it right, and your writing will be smooth and professional and your dialogue a pleasure to read.

Writing & Editing Tips Revisited: Using Adjectives and Adverbs #WritingTips #WritingANovel #wwwblogs

 

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.