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.



Manuscript Editing

I’m in the home stretch of completing my edits for my novel “The Calling” before I send it to the editor. Editing is time consuming and tedious, but rewarding as well. I love how the story transforms into polished work. The main errors that I look for in each chapter are adverbs, sentences over 30, and repeat words. There’s other edits as well that I will look for (consistency, typos, etc.), but the three noted above are the ones that I don’t “see” when I read my own work. I am too close to the story to notice the errors. I use a software program to point them out to me.

For those edits, the majority of adverbs used in a story are unnecessary. I mainly look for “ly” words. I’ll remove 90% of them. If the “ly” word is used in dialogue, I won’t remove it. In both books I liked to use the word “just.” Funny how a simple word can be used way too many times.

Sentences with over 30 words are easy fixes. I will break the one long sentence into two or three sentences. The hardest errors for me to find are the repeat words. Even when repeats are right in front, screaming at me, I still can’t see them, until they are highlighted in bold. In two paragraphs I had “dangerous” written four times. Four times! To correct, I determine if there’s another word I can use to replace the repeat, or if I have to restructure or delete the sentence. At times, I will keep the repeat if needed. Fixing repeat words takes the majority of the time. I’m not a pro, but I am getting better.

With that said, I need to edit another chapter….

WisRWA Write Touch Conference – The Experience

This year’s theme for the WisRWA Write Touch Conference was Publish, Polish, and Promote. The sessions for the conference fulfilled all three “P’s” and then some.

I learned about the trends in publishing. Contemporary is waning, paranormal is dead, and SciFi is taking off. Right now there’s displacement in the market due to everyone in the world self-publishing. Saturation is coming next, we haven’t hit it yet, but it’s coming. Once the playing field evens out again, it’s the hybrid authors, both published and self-published, who will be the most successful.

I learned how Liz Pelletier, founder of Entangled and an editor, will read a manuscript for edits. There’s three passes that include the full read, the line edit of the story, and a line edit of the craft. She went through the detail of what to look for in each pass. There was a lot of detail.

I learned about street teams and how important they are to the success of an author. Street teams are not just for spreading the word about you or your next book; they are about relationships and having fun. Gina L. Maxwell has a street team called the Maxwell Mob and she has fun with her romance mafia. She’s also a great speaker.

The conference began Friday evening and ended Sunday afternoon. Not only did we learn how to publish, polish, and promote, we also learned how to use the Myers Briggs personality profiles when building characters, how to plot for the heart of romance, and what’s needed for a self-publishing business.

My brain went into overload, and I’m still processing all that I learned. Some pieces I take with a grain of salt and others are like “Oh yeah, I can’t wait to try it!”

But for all conferences, the best part is spending it with friends, meeting new people, and being aspired. I’m looking forward t next year’s conference. WisRWA has something fun in the works.

Lesson learned: Writing or Publishing – which takes longer?

I’ve been asked which one takes longer, writing or publishing a book.

My first response is to say publishing. The learning curve is huge when you do it yourself. Yes, you can have your fiction or nonfiction work uploaded within a few hours. Just follow the instructions that each distributor provides. But what if you want to be professional, polished, and serious about the success of your work? A few hours won’t do it and not the route I chose to take.

First, I wanted to make sure that ePublishing was the direction I wanted to go. I researched. I went back and forth on traditional versus independent. I continued to research, and I listed the pros and cons to each option. I attended conference sessions to hear others and collect information from their experiences.

Once I decided to be independent (self-publish), I chose to have an editor content and copy edit my story. I had to find an editor and then work within their time constraints. I had to create a book cover, format the document, create the Table of Contents, and add the copyright information and author bio. I had to learn about ISBNs, Sigil, and Calibre. Not to mention, my novel isn’t published yet…but I’m still looking at this month for the launch date.

And then I listened to the analyst in me and wondered if I should have said writing took longer. I’ve been writing for decades with the wish to publish, but I never hardcore pursued the dream. I’ve written four other stories, with only one making it to a first manuscript draft.

The first three didn’t count. Let’s just say Starsky and Hutch, the Monkees, and Elton John were main characters, and the stories should have stayed in my head. The fourth, the manuscript draft, I’m going to revisit. Next, I wrote my current story Gitana. The first rough draft took 30 days to write. The next 11 months were used to edit and polish the story (with two rewrites and family health issues to contend with). When I thought I was done, I did another edit before sending off to the editor. So if you add up the years that I’ve been writing and editing, you could say the writing takes longer.

So now which one do I believe takes longer? What comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Steps to ePublishing

This month is a heavy hitter for me in terms of getting my novel ready for publishing by the middle of March. I have a white board posted in my office with the following February tasks:

Week 1
Take author photos
Complete final edits

Week 2
Size cover photo and author photo
Format document to all eReader formats
Add cover, front and back pages, and author bio to document

Week 3
Scan the documents for a final quick read to make sure everything looks good
Order promotional materials

Week 4
Write book blurb
Finish what I hadn’t completed in the first three weeks.

I’m not sure if this will be a heavy load or not, but we’ll soon find out. I think back to the past year when I first started the process to publish my manuscript. In April, I wasn’t sure the route I would take, either solicit to agents or ePublish. I leaned toward ePublish and that’s why I went to the RT Booklover’s Convention in April, 2012, to learn more about it. I think I was overwhelmed because a little bird sat on my shoulder and pushed me in the direction of trying for an agent.

By June, a wise old owl swished that little bird off my shoulder and stamped “ePublish” into my forehead. I decided my goal was to publish by the end of the year. However, the first editor that I hired didn’t work out and caused a delay. In September I was extremely happy to find my new editor, and her first availability time to copy and content edit was in December. Her second and final round of reviews ended last month. Last month I also bought my ISBN numbers and created my cover.

I’m probably taken longer than the average new author to get her book out to the public, but I want to make sure that the final product is professional and polished as if printed by a distinguished publishing house. Next book will be a little easier.

And tonight, I introduce to you the cover to my novel Gitana – Life Plan.


Lessons Learned: Reflections

The last day of the year can be a time for reflection. You think about your past and what you did in the last year. You then think about what you want to do for the coming year and in the future. Of course, some people just think about the party. Who cares about the past or the future? Let’s just have fun and worry about life later on.

Whatever you decide to do is up to you. For me, I usually reflect both on past and future during the last few weeks of December. By the time New Year’s Eve comes around, I’m tired and ready for the New Year to begin. In reflection, I’m happy with the last year. I’m happy that my final edits are with my editor, and I’m that much closer to ePublishing. Next year, I’ll be an author. Am I looking forward to 2013? You betcha.

Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve, no matter how you reflect or celebrate.

Interviews and Pitches

Job interviews and agent pitches are similar in many ways. First, the excitement of receiving the call or setting up the appointment gets your heart racing. You stay pumped and think big. You see yourself as being successful in that new job or getting word that five publishers want your story. You know you can do it.

And then they day of the interview or pitch comes along. Your stomach turns into knots, your hands shake, and your mouth becomes dry like the sand in a desert. You begin to wonder how you can back out of the interview or postpone it for another day. You’re going to be sick. Unfortunately, this happens too many times. Your nerves take over your confidence.

The best way to tame those nerves is to be prepared. Here are a few tips to help:

  1. Dress up. Be professional and clean. When you look sharp, you’ll feel good about yourself.
  2. Smile. Show them you’re personable. You don’t have to be a comedian or be too friendly. Be polite and upbeat. Let them know that you work well with others. This is especially important when pitching. They have to see that you’re outgoing enough to market your book.
  3. Be familiar with the organization or agency. Mention a positive fact that you’ve seen or heard about them that made you want to apply or pitch to them.
  4. Don’t babble. White noise in between questions is okay. Take a deep breath as you think about the question and to organize your thoughts before you respond. Remember, if you don’t know the answer, you don’t know. Say it. If you don’t understand the question then ask for more detail or for them to explain.
  5. Sell yourself. A previous boss gave me this tip. He said to think of four strong points about yourself that you want them to remember. In the interview, make sure to get those four points out. Even if you have to tell them in the first minute of a five-minute pitch – do it. Sell yourself.

Just remember, nerves will always be there. Use them to your advantage and charge yourself with positive energy. If you go in prepared, you will come out feeling good about the interview. The big thing to remember is that it’s a two-way street. You need to feel good about the interview as well. They have the choice to offer you the job, but ultimately it’s your choice if you want to accept.

Lessons Learned: Editing Your Work

One of the frustrations as a writer is to publish a story or a document and then find out a few days later that a word is misspelled, used incorrectly, or added in error. What’s even more frustrating is when two or three people edit your work, and they miss the error as well. A few days ago, I found a mistake in one of my chapters that the copy editor missed. Of course when I read through it again, the misspelled word stuck out like a big, blinking neon sign across the page. Luckily I’m still in the editing stage and corrected the word immediately.

Errors are unfortunate, but they do occur. The material becomes too familiar, and you glaze over the words because you know what’s coming. You power read. Sometimes you spell it right, but your software autocorrects what you’ve typed. Or, you don’t catch the correction because the word sounds the same or similar to what you wanted. I’ve found that sometimes copy/paste can be a nightmare in disguise.

At work, we always had one other person plus an editor proof read the material. A couple of tricks that I learned may help you find those errors. A few of those tricks include:

*Line read – place a blank piece of paper (an envelope works great) under the line of the document that you’re reading. This covers the lines on the remaining page so you’re not distracted by what’s to come.

*Read each word in a paragraph or sentence backwards (E.g., edit the first paragraph in this blog as ‘immediately’, ‘word’, ‘the’, ‘corrected’, and so on).

* Increase the font size on a page, complete your proof reading, and then change the font back to the correct setting.

* Zoom out the page view to 200% so each word is super large.

And if you find an error after it’s published, fix it right away. Don’t stew about it. Don’t point out the error to your buddies and claim your embarrassment to the world. Just make the corection and forget about it. Most times this works. If not, apologize for the error and state it’s been corrected.

And remember, blogs, tweets (see now that could’ve been misspelled as twit), and text are less formal. You will find more errors in those because words and grammer doesn’t have to be perfect. Right? 🙂

Did you find my errors in this blog?

Publishing – Now versus Later

The internet created the NOW effect. The concept of multiple screens, wireless, and streaming still amazes me. What was once a dream is NOW a permanent fixture in our lives. Within seconds we’re able to communicate with family, friends, and strangers. We can research topics, watch videos, and take classes. For me, I love what it has done for the writing world.

After completing my first manuscript, back a few years, the only option available for an aspiring author was to submit query after query to agents and editors. Mainly agents. Most publishing houses were ‘agent only’ submissions. There were vanity presses hovering for your business, but those were frowned upon. Today, self-publishing is not the ‘bad’ word it used to be. And E-publishing tops the ‘in’ chart.

With my current manuscript completed, I’m ready to publish. I went to the RT Convention to learn about self-publishing (see my blogs under Conferences/Retreats). I teetered on going the traditional route versus self-publishing. I had two agents and a publisher request my manuscript. I submitted the fulls and the partial with ‘Requested Submission’ in the subject line. I haven’t heard back. I know I should have sent a follow-up email, but I wasn’t sure if that was the route I wanted to take. When I submitted, I thought I’d play the wait and see game. But then I thought…why should I wait until LATER? Get feet wet. Go for e-publishing.

The deciding factor for me was the WisRWA conference that I attended in June. I discovered that more and more authors are turning to e-publishing. Some want their books published sooner than LATER. Some have written manuscripts that do not fit the genre they write in. Some want to publish their out-of-print books, making them available to their readers. Whatever the reason, they understand that life includes the internet and that is a powerful tool.

One book can take a year to publish through the traditional route (agent/publishing house). For some, it can take longer based on need and schedules. E-published books can take a few days to a few months (based on size and quality). Now, mind you, I’m not ripping on the publishers. I think they are a great way to go…if you have the patience to wait. Actually, I’m thinking more and more that publishing houses are like fishermen. They wait and see which e-books are successful and then hook the sale for traditional print. LATER I may have the opportunity to publish traditionally, but NOW the internet offers a great opportunity that can’t be ignored.

And guess what…NOW I’m excited.

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