Lessons Learned: Editing Your Manuscript Before Publishing

The last few months I’ve spent hands down on the computer getting my next book “The Calling’s Return” completed. Writing the story is the easy part. Edits are the tedious part, but the most important task to do when publishing a book.

Once the story is written, I go through two edits before I send the manuscript to my editor. When she gets the manuscript, she will review/edit three times.

At the high level, the manuscript is read to determine if the story flows, if the scene makes sense, or if there’s anything missing. Is the right POV being used? Is there enough dialogue mixed in with description? Are the characters true to life?

And then there’s the detail level. This is where sentence structure is reviewed, if the right word is used, and if the sentence makes sense. This includes making sure no space is used after the period at the end of the paragraph and that each chapter title and spacing is consistent throughout the book.

Don’t think that you can skip this part. You can’t. Someone else has to review/edit your manuscript. And once the editor is done with her/his review, you need to review it again. I’ve read published books from traditional publishers with unacceptable errors (double words, cut sentences). Minor errors do occur, it’s hard to catch everything, but they should be few and far in between.

Edits are an important part of publishing a book, especially for self-published authors. And for me, I’m almost done with “The Calling’s Return” edits. My editor is on the final review, and then I’ll review one more time.

Beth M James

Novels based on strong characters and elements of romance.

http://www.bethmjames.com

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Killing Malmon

 

In the last month, I read “Killing Malmon” featuring 30 Authors…One Victim. The book is edited by Dan and Kate Malmon and benefits MS. This was my bedtime story book, and I enjoyed reading the short stories on how to kill Dan. I’m sure Kate was fascinated too –  she’s Dan’s wife!

Killing Malmon

Killing Malmon

Kate has MS and this is their way of helping the MS Society by donating the royalties earned from their book to the cause. The stories are pretty creative and it’s amazing how many different ways you can kill one person! There’s a mix of humor, drama, jealousy, and total crime. If you have a chance, check out the book. Great stories and a great cause!

To Edit or Not to Edit

I belong to an email group for indie writers. Recently the group had a discussion about professional editing and whether or not it is important to hire an editor to review your story. With the changes taking place in how we write (no more cursive, text abbreviations), will it matter if our stories aren’t perfect?

Books have been professionally content and copy edited for many years. The goal is to have a polished book that is clean of errors. But how many times have you read a book and found one or two errors? If you do find one, you’re caught off guard for a second, and then you get right back into the story. And for those readers who finish reading a book in a day, do they really “read” the book or skim through it? Would they even find the errors?

Many of the members in the indie group thought that errors are acceptable based on today’s standards. In a new generation of abbreviations and less focus on proper English, the grammatical errors aren’t as noticeable. Of course, other members responded, as I expected, that if you want to be a serious published author then you must professional edit your work. What surprised me is that the majority, even a bestselling author, leaned toward the side that standards are changing.

So what is right? I think it’ll be interesting how books will be edited in the future. Look at how writing has changed from the old form of English to our current version. Wherefore art thou Romeo? Say what? If proper English is turning less than proper, what will become the acceptable norm? The English language continually changes, including how we write it.

When I finished writing “Gitana – Life Plan,” I had a few friends read through the manuscript for errors before I even sent it to a professional editor. I loved getting feedback and their suggested changes, because I wanted a polished book. For my blog, I don’t have anyone proofread my work. I probably should, having found a misspelled word in last week’s blog, but I’m not a stickler because I consider my blog normal, personal writing. I will do my best to catch errors. I know my grammar isn’t perfect. I will misspell words and not catch them. I hope my readers are forgiving.

So is it safe to say that there are different levels of published writing? Will we become more relaxed in how we publish books? Less formality? I’m curious to how the next few years play out.

Writer’s Digest Contest

Writer’s Digest Contest

Last year I decided to sign up for the Writer’s Digest’s Self-Published e-Book Awards. I entered the contest and then mailed them three copies of my book “Gitana – Life Plan.” They said they would notify the winners at the end of the year. When the first of the year came around…heavy, sad sigh…I knew I wasn’t one of the winners.

Today, when I got home from work, I did a quick review of my emails. I had three emails from Writer’s Digest. The first email I opened was a greeting and a document of general marketing tips for entrants. I thought that was nice. The next email was a thank you for participating, a note saying that narrowing down the winners was difficult due to impressive talent, and that my score and judges commentary would be arriving shortly. I quickly went to the third email to see how I did.

The scores were 1 (needs improvement) to 5 (outstanding) for the following categories: structure and organization, grammar, production quality and cover design, plot, and character development. I received the highest score, 5, for all categories. Yay! My heart sang. Here is their commentary (in their writing):

“The cover is gorgeous. Love the mix of blues and grays to convey her blue mood. Also, the pier being a bit rubbly, with weeds growing, conveys her state of mind, that she has been walked on, that unwanted things grow (memories), and the model’s thin and slumped posture shows the weight of the world. Well done, conveying so much as well as a sense of place. Very engaging, and a strong impression to bring the reader to the book.
Great opening! The reader can see the smarmy doctor’s tan, the glitzy car, feel his tense presence and her tension in his presence. The reader tightens up at their meeting, which is very good when you make the reader react emotionally and physically in just a few sentences, that’s excellent craft.
Excellent imagery tied between Gitana and her scenery, such as when she looks up to the sun and the author ties it to the sailboats looking up to the sun and sky as well. Author does an excellent job with place, and giving Gitana a presence in it. It’s very 3D, very well-done.
The author excels at using sensory details, how things smell, taste, feel, textures, even the bend of a shoe. Great talent with this essential element of a novel that is an experience, not just a read. We are there with the characters. Beautiful inclusion of nature and animals. This is a real world she’s created.
BRUTAL that the ex gives her a bottle of Diazepam, especially with her history. Reader gets a visceral reaction, feels Gitana’s anger and hurt. This was a brilliant idea on the author’s part.
All of the characters are likeable and engaging, written well with differentiated voices and movements; the author has done great work in creating each of them as the surrounding characters. Excellent work with the supporting cast. Especially with Rex, who is a hoot, and it’s especially good that he’s distant and hesitant with her at first, then grows into a relationship with her. This shows maturity in the author’s writing, not just laying supporting characters in a scene like a paper doll. These supporting characters have depth and motivations, worlds of their own. Well done.
While there are just a few slow spots that are not at all a detraction from the book’s quality, the pace is good, the author moves the plot along well and naturally without any gimmicking, and the romantic parts are done naturally, lacking in clichés. Enjoyable to read and organic to the story.
It’s especially enjoyable to start with Gitana’s sadness over her infertility, her inability to create a child, then evolve into being a creator of art. Nice that this journey allows her to give birth to art.
The author does a good job of evolving Gitana from that mind-lock of imagining her ex with the other woman, the obsessive thoughts, to finding more freedom from that. We sense her strength growing, her learning from her life’s mistakes even with some backslides, and the surprises throughout truly take the reader for a ride. Nothing predictable here. A great read, with great characters, in a great world.
Well done.” —Judge, Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards

I didn’t win the big prizes or get honorable mention, but I was extremely happy with what I did receive. In a world with a million plus authors and zillions of books on the market, it’s nice to know that my scores were the highest given and they liked the book. They made my day! 

Lessons Learned: Two Goals for “Gitana – Life Plan”

One of my goals for this year was to publish my first book. In March, I published Gitana Life-Plan in electronic format. The eBook is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, iBook, and other outlets. A second goal for this year was to publish in print format. Drum roll…I’m happy to say that Gitana Life-Plan is now available through Amazon in print format!

When seeing Gitana Life-Plan for the first time on Amazon in March, I was thrilled to no end. I immediately went to my Kindle and bought my eBook. I clicked through the pages with a big smile. I did it! I was a published author.

Front Cover

Front Cover

However, being old school, I knew there was nothing like holding a real book in my hands. I decided to wait at least six months before publishing in print. I began the process in October, using CreateSpace (Amazon) for my POD (print on demand). Again, I was thrilled to no end when I opened the box that held my proof for review. I loved feeling the book in my hands. I loved how the cover, spine, and back turned out. I read each cream-colored page (and so did my husband!) to make sure all was correct before clicking on the “Publish” button. I’m still smiling to know that I’ve accomplished my two goals. I can’t wait until my next one comes out 🙂

Back Cover

Back Cover

Fall Writing Retreat

Last weekend was our RWA, WisRWA Chapter, writing retreat for the Chippewa Falls group. Once a year our small group dedicates three days to focus on writing. This includes learning what we’ve been up to, helping each other out, sharpening our skills, and hiding around the hotel to work on our own projects.

This year we shared our successes and presented one author with a framed copy of her first published article in “Tea Time” magazine.

Chip Falls Writing Retreat Oct 2013 007

We also brainstormed ideas throughout the day. If someone had an issue with a character or storyline, we were all there to help. We love getting those “aha” moments, and we had a few of them this year.

To sharpen our skills, we reviewed Michael Hauge’s Story Mastery presentation that he gave at our WisRWA conference last June. We decided to watch “Hitch” and “Shrek,” movies that he used in some of his examples. We were able to identify his six stages of plot structure and the turning points in both movies. This was a great exercise to study plot structure. I’d highly recommend it.

And last, our biggest goal of the weekend was to write. The retreat gave us a chance to write without interruptions, renew our energy, and bond with friends who love to write.
I’m fortunate to belong to my writing group, and I look forward to next year’s retreat. I’m sad that the weekend has ended, but I’m also supercharged to finish my next book.