Monthly Archives: December 2012

Do You Need An Editor?

writingAccording to Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO of Marketing Experts, Inc. and author of “Why Editing Is the Single Best Marketing Tool,” any serious author needs an editor.

I know my passing this information along might seem self serving, but the truth is, the editor you need might not be me.

First, why does every serious writer need an editor?

  • We have blind spots when it comes to our own writing
  • Our family and friends will love what we write, no matter how good it is
  • Our family and friends may not be able to tell us how to fix weak spots
  • Fiction without glaring errors is more apt to be the kind readers talk about
  • Critique partners, while helpful, may not have the knowledge or experience or ability to analyze what will move our fiction to the next level

If these things are true, and if Ms. Sansevieri is right, how should a writer go about picking an editor? According to Lauren Hidden of The Hidden Helpers, there are a few basics someone looking for editing needs to consider:

  1. Objectivity–someone who isn’t so close they will overlook mistakes because they are too afraid of losing relationship if they say what they really think.
  2. Knowledge–a person who knows your kind of project and who knows what changes to suggest
  3. Experience–an editor who other writers can recommend or endorse
  4. Price–an editor who offers services within your price range
  5. Service–someone who provides the type of editing you require
  6. Time frame–a person who can complete the work within the time period you specify

I think along with “Time frame” I’d add, “availability.” If you need your work edited at once and the person you contact has five other clients ahead of you, then you’d be wise to look for someone else.

I’d also recommend you do some comparative shopping. In the sidebar here at Rewrite, Reword, Rework, you’ll find a list of qualified editors. Some of those may also have links to other editors you may wish to investigate.

In other words, one editor does not fit everyone, nor are all editing services priced or structured in the same way. By doing your homework, you’ll have a much better chance of finding the editor that fits you and what you write. And that should be your goal.

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Filed under Freelance Editors, Resources, Writing Process

Love What You Write

disappointed_manI don’t generally use this space to write inspirational pieces. For the most part, I assume someone who is reading a blog offering writing tips is probably already motivated and doesn’t need too much sideline cheerleading from another writer.

But for most of us, there comes a time when we start to wonder what it is we’re doing. Whether it’s agent rejections, tough critique group responses, contest failures, low sales, a scathing review, few blog post comments, dwindling followers–need I go on?–there will come a time in our experience that we might get discouraged and wonder why we’re writing.

It’s at those points I believe that we writers should focus on what we love. We should write what we love, but more than that, we should write it so that we love it.

Most often the writing advice we receive is helpful, but there can come a time when it all seems conflicting or vapid or repetitive.

I’ve been in groups before in which one person praises the very thing that another person rips apart. So which view is right?

I’ve also seen critiques that are so bland, they are meaningless. “This is nice” might be the worst comment of all. Or “It’s fine.” How is a writer to learn, grow, improve from that?

Then there are the comments that continue to be the same no matter what your write. “Needs more description,” or “the character’s voice isn’t strong enough”–week after week, no matter what changes you make, the comments remain the same.

It’s possible, after a time, for us to write ourselves in circles, trying to fix all the problems others point out in our work. And it gets discouraging, so much so that some writers might consider stepping aside and letting go of their dream.

It’s at that point that I think we need a little inspiration, and it comes from what we love. We writers generally made the decision to tell a story we love or discuss a truth we believe in. In other words, we had a passion for communicating something with others. In times of discouragement, then, it’s important to focus on that story we love, on that truth we believe in and ask if we still want to communicate it with others.

But that’s really writing what we love. This post is about loving what we write.

In those times of discouragement, it’s important to love what we write. That can be hard to do when we have the voice of critics running through our heads as we read our work. But at some point, we need to decide if the critics are right or not. If they’re right, then we need to do the hard work and revise our story or our article until we love it.

What if the critics are not right? One thing I’ve learned about writing feedback–well, two things: no piece of writing is ever perfect and if someone says there’s a problem, they may not be right about how to fix it, but they’re probably not wrong about the fact that a problem exists.

I think there are far too many writers out there who simply have not done the hard work and yet think they are ready for a publisher. After all, I was one of those writers. I went through the process of joining a critique group, growing from their feedback, and eventually receiving glowing comments. I was going to conferences and placing in contests. I was ready! Except I wasn’t. There was still more hard work for me to do.

But here’s the thing. Even as I am doing the hard work to become a better novelist, I still love the story I’m writing. That, I think, needs to be the baseline to which we return. Some stories can get so gummed up by all the changes this agent or that editor or critique partner has suggested, that we stop loving them. Maybe those need to be put aside for a time. Maybe we need to pick up something else, something that expresses our passion, and tells the story we love in the way we love.

Maybe then we will remember why we write and we’ll recognize our own voice again.

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Filed under Revision, Writing Inspiration

Putting Things In Order

domino_lineOrder matters. Whether in science, math, or sentence structure, order matters. It also matters as a fiction technique–one often overlooked by writers.

Believe it or not, order matters in fiction because of how it affects the overarching goal of a novelist–to give the reader an emotional experience.

Writing instructor Randy Ingermanson explains this purpose of stories this way:

Your reader is reading your fiction because you provide him or her with a powerful emotional experience. If you’re writing a romance, you must create in your reader the illusion that she is falling in love herself. If you’re writing a thriller, you must create in your reader the illusion that he is in mortal danger and has only the tiniest chance of saving his life (and all of humanity). If you’re writing a fantasy, you must create in your reader the illusion that she is actually in another world where all is different and wonderful and magical. And so on for all the other genres.

If you fail to create these emotions in your reader, then you have failed. If you create these emotions in your reader, then you have succeeded. The better you create the desired emotional experience in your reader, the better your fiction. Perfection in writing comes when you have created the fullest possible emotional experience for your reader. (excerpt from “Writing the Perfect Scene”emphasis mine)

In what way does “order” contribute to creating reader emotion? Primarily by allowing readers to experience emotion along with the characters.

Authors that overlook this principle of order at times show a character response before showing to what he or she is responding. Hence, the character might be expressing fear or joy and concern, but the reader is experiencing confusion. The reader is wondering, why is he reacting that way?

When the author pulls back the curtain and shows the reader what the character has already learned, there is no shared emotional experience–simply shared understanding. In short, the premature revelation of a response robs the reader of feeling what the character feels and turns the story into more of a cerebral rather than emotive exercise–at least if this reversal were carried all the way through the story.

Harry Potter and Deathly HallowsI’ve been re-reading the Harry Potter books, paying closer attention to author J. K. Rowling’s craft. The world she created is so rich in detail, so believable, and yet I’ve felt strangely detached from the title character. I’ve speculated that perhaps this is because of the omniscient point of view which distances readers some from the character’s inmost thoughts and feelings, but I’ve also discovered that Rowling has a number of “reversals” in which she shows or tells a character’s emotion, then reveals what caused the reaction.

Often there is only a small delay before the reveal, but when the author shows or tells the reader the response before the cause, the reader no longer has an openness to his or her own emotions.

Here are a few examples from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:

“Don’t make us hurt you,” Harry said. “Get out of the way, Mr. Lovegood.”

“HARRY!” Hermoine screamed.

Figures on broomsticks were flying past the windows. (excerpt from p. 419)

– – –

“Have we come to the right place? Doby?”

He looked around. The little elf stood feet from him.

“DOBBY!”

The elf swayed slightly, stars reflected in his wide, shining eyes. Together, he and Harry looked down at the silver hilt of the knife protruding from the elf’s heaving chest. (excerpt from p. 473)

– – –

Then he heard a terrible cry that pulled at his insides, that expressed agony of a kind neither flame nor curse could cause, and he stood up, swaying, more frightened than he had been that day, more frightened, perhaps, than he had been his whole life . . .

And Hermione was struggling to her feet in the wreckage, and three readheaded men were grouped on the ground where the wall had blasted apart. Harry grabbed Hermoine’s hand as they staggered and stumbled over stone and wood.

“No—no—no!” someone was shouting. “No! Fred! No!”

And Percy was shaking his brother, and Ron was kneeling beside them, and Fred’s eyes stared without seeing, the ghost of his last laugh still etched upon his face. (excerpt from p. 637)

In each of these examples, a character reacts slightly ahead of the reader learning to what they are responding. This reversal does not allow the reader to fully experience what the character experiences. The last example is most illustrative.

The young man who died in the scene was a minor character, but he had been standing near Ron, one of the central characters. First Harry comes out of the rubble caused by an explosion, then comes his close friend Hermione. Next are the lines recorded above. My first thought as a reader when the characters were reacting was, Oh, no, not Ron. When I learned at the end of the chapter that Fred had died, I actually felt relieved.

I doubt that was the emotional experience Ms. Rowling was going for at that point in the story. If she had shown the cause of grief, then given the reaction, I believe I would have entered into the emotions with the characters rather than standing apart and feeling something altogether different.

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