fbpx

Tag: proofreading

Surviving my final round of edits

2738476184_3c2da05e5d_z
Image courtesy of flickr.com

At long last, I am getting back to some kind of normal today. I have missed my last two blog posts and so it feels good to be writing one again. During my absence, I have been busy with my final round of editing of ‘From Here to Nashville’ and I have to admit that I have been finding it really hard. When I first looked through the edited manuscript, I could see that the majority of the edits were straightforward suggestions for improving the story but there were also some major issues which I knew would involve me in some lengthy rewriting. My immediate feeling was one of panic because I had already booked my proofreader for 8th December and I didn’t think I could keep to that schedule if I went ahead with the rewriting. I did the sensible thing and contacted my proofreader and thankfully, she was very understanding so I have now postponed the proofreading until the end of January to give me some more time. If I do keep to this plan, I could be self-publishing my book in early March.

However, one of the issues is that my description of settings is not detailed enough. This is a difficult one. I know that many writers write about places they have never been and so your descriptions need to be backed up with some good research if this is what you’re doing. I have done all this of course, for Nashville, but still my descriptions don’t seem to be quite good enough. So, is it something that would be improved by personal experience or is it just the quality of the description writing? As I’m going to Nashville next April, I have wondered whether I should wait till my return to finish the story so that I can add in description details from my personal experience but in the end, I’ve decided not to wait. If I delay any further, I won’t be publishing until the end of May and I will just be twiddling my thumbs, as far as this book goes, for the first five months of next year. This has been a very hard decision to make but, for now at least, I think it’s the right one.

One of the other major issues the editor has flagged up to me is the narrative voice I have used in the story. In fact, it’s narrative voices and this has been an issue I have worried about and blogged about all the way along this journey. Just to remind you, the first part of my story is written from the female character’s point of view in first person; the second part is from the male character’s point of view, in first person and the final part, alternates between them. The editor has suggested I rewrite it all in third person or rewrite it all in first person from Rachel’s point of view. After I’d got over the initial shock, I tried rewriting a section in third person and I didn’t like it at all, which leaves me rewriting it all from Rachel’s perspective. This would mean losing Jackson’s perspective on Nashville, which is quite a large chunk of the novel. It would have some advantages though, in that I could lose some of the minor characters who are stacking up quite high and it would allow me to lose a lot of words from the story, tightening the pace a bit too. I haven’t reached this part of the story yet to see what the effect of rewriting it would be but I am willing to give it a try and see what happens. The hardest thing is having to make these decisions on your own, without the benefit of advice from a publisher and I have really been struggling under the weight of that responsibility. I have talked it over with a number of people but in the end, it has to be your decision if you are self-publishing and I want to make the right one for my book.

The final major issue is that for a romance, the editor thinks it’s not sexy enough! Following the advice from a partial edit earlier in the year, I did try to inject more emotion into the story but apparently, I haven’t gone far enough. I went on a course last year about how to write passion on the page and at the time, we were given a handout on ‘The Twelve Steps of Intimacy’ by Desmond Morris from his book ‘Intimate Behaviours.’ I did try to use this to help me build up the sexual tension and I had succeeded to some extent with it but I only went so far, forgetting that I need to keep it going all the way through the story. This is another difficult one in that I like to read quite sexy stories myself but writing them is a completely different thing. I don’t want to go too far and alienate readers but nor do I want it to be a so-called ‘sweet’ romance. It needs to be somewhere in the middle and this is not as easy as it sounds. The research for this one is good fun though 😉

I have to admit that I have felt quite despondent over the past couple of weeks because every time I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it moves away from me again. Now that I have started working my way through the edits though, I know I can deal with them. I realised that I would need more time and I’ve built that in. I’ve had to accept that I’m the one making all the decisions, including whether or not I agree with all the editor’s suggestions and comments, and I’ve started making them. For the time being anyway, I can see the light again.

Thanks for reading. Do leave me a comment and let me know how you dealt with your final round of edits. I’d love to hear from you.

A few proofreading tips to improve your manuscript

7330421994_283f61cb52_m
courtesy of flickr.com

After last week’s post, I had many comments giving me advice on how to reduce the costs associated with self-publishing. One suggestion was that in time, I might be able to miss out the final professional edit but that I should never miss out the final professional proofread. I have pondered this over the past week and concluded that for the time being, I’m going to have to pay for all the professional help I can afford because as a new writer, I just don’t know enough yet to be sure of my writing.

However, I did recently start a course of training with the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Admittedly, it is only the beginners’ course in Proofreading that I’ve been doing but what I know for sure as a result of doing this course, is that I would make a very good proofreader (if you will allow me to blow my own trumpet just this once 😉 ) As a teacher in my day job, I already feel like I spend a lot of my time proofreading anyway when I’m marking children’s books and I have always been good at SPAG (that’s Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar to the uninitiated!) My husband’s advice has been that maybe in time, I might feel confident enough to do the proofreading myself, although I know there will be loads of you out there saying ‘No! You can’t do your own proofreading!’ I hear you and I understand.

Anyway, it got me thinking about some of the grammatical things I still find hard after all these years and I thought they would make a good blog post for today. These are a few things that you can do to improve your own manuscript before you send it off to the proofreader, making their job easier and maybe saving you a few pennies along the way.

1. When to use a colon
According to the Oxford Dictionary, there are three main uses of a colon:

  • Between two main clauses, where the second explains or follows on from the first.

By running the marathon, he achieved his goal: to raise £500 for Cancer Research.

  • To introduce a list:

You will need the following ingredients to make your cake: butter, flour, sugar and eggs.

  • Before a quotation and sometimes before direct speech.

The poster stated: ‘Your country needs you!’

2. When to use a semi-colon
The main job of a semi-colon is to show a break that is stronger than a comma but not as strong as a full-stop. It is used between two main clauses that are too closely related to be made into separate sentences but would still make sense on their own:

France is my favourite holiday destination; the weather is reliable and the food is delicious.

You can also use a semi-colon instead of commas in a more complex list:

Our holiday itinerary is as follows: three days in Memphis, including a visit to Graceland; three days in Nashville, seeing all the sights, especially The Country Music Hall of Fame; three days in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and a final day in Gatlinburg.

3. Punctuating Direct Speech
In the UK, we usually teach children to use double inverted commas around speech. However, many style guides recommend using single inverted commas for direct speech. Either is acceptable but you must choose one style or the other and stick to it:

‘I find all these punctuation rules so confusing,’ she said.

‘Me too!’ he cried.

“I find all these punctuation rules so confusing,” she said.

“Me too!” he cried.

You must always start a new line for each new speaker and the final piece of punctuation at the end of the speech, for example, a comma, full stop, question or exclamation mark, must come inside the inverted commas.

4. The Oxford or serial comma
Before I started writing, I had never come across this and I’m not sure whether I should feel ashamed about that or not! I’ve probably seen it in lots of writing over the years but just not noticed it. Anyway, if you’ve never come across it either, let me explain. The Oxford comma is an optional comma used for clarification before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list:

I went to the shops and I bought apples for my apple crumble, pears for the tart I want to make tomorrow, and raspberries.

One of the things a proofreader will want to know when they start working with you is what your style preferences are and they may ask you if you have a style sheet for them to work with. If you don’t, most will create one for you and check your preferences before they get started. This will allow them to maintain consistency throughout your document.

I have only touched on a few points today and of course, there are many other things a proofreader will look at for you but I hope you find these useful in your writing. I find the Oxford Dictionaries website very easy to understand for grammar issues if there is anything else you want to check up on. Happy writing and please do leave me a message in the comments about your grammar concerns. Thanks for reading as always 🙂

How much does it cost to self-publish?

DiceAs I approach the end of my path to publication, money has started to occupy my mind quite a lot. Having made the decision to self-publish my first novel, I have obviously had to think long and hard about how much it’s all going to cost me and the dilemma I have had to face is how to publish the best piece of work I can whilst having no real budget to speak of. I have read enough ebooks to know that many self-publishers just aren’t thinking about quality at all before they hit the publish button or maybe they were but they just didn’t have the money to spend on quality control before publishing their first book. Whilst I understand and sympathise with that situation, I could not do that myself but there is no doubt that it’s expensive and if, like me, you want to publish a high quality piece of writing, then you need to give some thought in advance to the potential costs involved.

1. Editing
It is generally agreed that if you want to end up with a high quality book, you will need to have it edited by a professional. I had my first professional edit done by the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) as part of their New Writers’ Scheme (NWS). I was lucky enough to get on to the scheme which includes a read through of your work in progress by an author. My reader sent me a three page report and made comments on my manuscript too. This was invaluable advice at the time. This edit equates to the developmental edit I guess in the round of edits that you could decide to have done. It cost me £120 to join the NWS for the year. Prior to that, I had asked a number of close friends to beta read for me and I had also made friends with a writer who beta read it for me, all of which was done for free.
As a result of attending the RNA Conference, I made contact with a couple of other professional editors too. When I approached them about editing though, I realised that I just couldn’t afford to pay for their professional services which started from £400 upwards. I felt caught then because I knew I had to have a professional edit and of course I wanted to pay people properly for their services but I couldn’t stretch to this. In the end, one of the editors was offering a special one-off deal of £90 and so, my problem was solved. In all, with some partial editing to my first three chapters, I have spent £150 on editing. With the fee to join the NWS added to that, this brings my total for editing to £270.

2. Cover Design
As you’ll know if you follow my blog posts every week, I have recently finished working with a cover designer for my novel. You can read the post here if you missed it. This service has cost me £187 but there will be a bit more (£50) when I go back for the print version of the cover. I know I could have spent less than this but I don’t think I would have ended up with a cover that I love as much as the one I have. I consider this to have been a very good investment and as you know, people do judge books by their covers and so it was important to me to get that right. Total cost then spent on cover design  will be £237.

3. Proofreading
This past week, I have been looking into proofreading as the final step before publication. Once again, I knew that this was going to be a fair expense because I was going to need a professional. I have joined the UK Society for Editors and Proofreaders myself because I wanted to do their Introduction to Proofreading course and so I had an idea of what sort of cost to expect. Last week, I also took the plunge and joined the Alliance of Independent Authors and I was able to seek the advice of their members for recommendations which was very helpful. Still, it has been a difficult decision when all the people I’ve contacted have been equally well-qualified and professional in their response. They all have excellent references as well. So how you do you decide? In the end, I’ve reached a conclusion based on qualifications, availability, costs and personal recommendation. This is going to cost me around £250. I don’t think I could have paid less than this and still felt that I was going to get a professional service.

4. Everything else
This final section would include things like formatting, which I’m going to attempt myself with some help from my friends (!) and it might also include marketing. I have just run a giveaway on my Facebook Author page and it got me thinking about the promotional materials I might need to get before I launch my book. This would include postcards, bookmarks, business cards etc at the very least but I can’t really commit more than £100 to this.

In total then, for someone who has no budget, it looks like I will have spent about £850 to self-publish my book to a quality that I will be happy with. As these costs have mostly been staggered, I have managed it reasonably well. My understanding is that if I price my book at £1.99 on Amazon, I can expect to receive 70% royalties from them for every book I sell. By my calculations, that will mean that I will need to sell 610 books in order to make my money back. Now all I need to do is make it visible enough for readers to know it’s out there. And that will be a story for another blog post!

Thanks for reading as always. I welcome your comments about your experiences 🙂

Editing using E-Prime and reducing repetition, repetition, rep…

Image from flickr.com
Image from flickr.com

During this past week, I finished working through the beta readers’ comments I’ve had in so far for the third draft of my novel. However, following some very useful comments after my last blog post, I decided to ask my husband to read the current draft to get his take on whether my male character’s point of view (POV) is realistic enough. I await his comments with interest – sadly, I may be waiting a long time because he is a slow reader, only managing a couple of pages a night before he falls asleep 😉 As I’ve set myself a deadline of the end of May to complete my edits on what has now become the fourth draft of ‘From Here to Nashville,’ I’ve decided to crack on with my own final edit of the story.

At long last, the time has come for me to turn to all those useful articles on editing I have been bookmarking since I first joined Twitter last year. When I took a quick glance, I could see that I had bookmarked 46 articles in total! Some of them are more proofreading-type articles which I’m going to save for the final, final round of editing when I get my manuscript back from the RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) but the rest are about line-by-line editing and I decided to try and work my way through as many of these as possible before my self-imposed deadline of the end of the month.

Therefore, I thought it might be useful for other new writers to see what I’ve been getting up to. The very first article I’d bookmarked can be found here on The Procrastiwriter’s website, a site I’ve found useful on many occasions. The title of the article is ‘The Secret Way to Energise Any Kind of Writing (even Poetry)’ and it focuses on a particular type of editing called ‘E-Prime,’ which involves finding and replacing all variations of the verb ‘to be’ in your writing. The idea behind this is to make your language clearer and to strengthen your writing by making it more active and less passive. It is described as a prescriptive way of writing and I agree with that but I decided to give it a go because I knew that many people advise writers to cut down on the passive voice in their writing. The first thing I noticed is that it is virtually impossible to cut out all instances of the verb ‘to be’ so I stopped trying to do that quite quickly, deciding only to change those sentences that I could and that I thought would benefit from the approach.

Here’s an example of a before and after in my novel:

Before: ‘The feel of the strings against my fingers was as reassuring as always and helped calm my nerves.’
After: ‘The feel of the strings against my fingers reassured me as always and helped calm my nerves.’

The downside of this approach is that it takes a long time to do but it has helped to give the story a bit more energy and so I’m going to plod on with it.

The other bit of editing I’ve been doing at the same time (for when I get bored with just the one job!), is to try and sift out my repetitive use of certain words. Thanks to Scrivener, I can see under ‘Text Statistics’ exactly how many times I use every word in my manuscript. I know how to have fun, right? Unsurprisingly as my novel is in the first person, I use the word ‘I’ a massive 5,008 times in my story. I still feel this is probably too much though and so I’m going to see if there’s anything I can do to cut that down a bit as I go through. The next highest word after that is ‘to’ which can be found 4,577 times. Obviously, some of these words you wouldn’t even notice as a reader perhaps but if the word was ‘gallivanting’ for example, you might feel differently. You’ll be glad to know that I only use this once! Anyway, the week ahead looks like it could be a bit tedious from a writing point of view but I’m hanging in there because I know it will improve my writing. I’ve also noticed that it’s reducing my word count and that’s a real bonus.

I’d love to hear from you if there’s a special editing approach that you’ve used on your manuscript. Until next week, wish me luck and good luck to all of you writing and editing out there 🙂

A review of the first year of My Writing Life

As the end of 2013 approaches, it seems like a good time to review what I have achieved this year and to set some writing goals for the coming year.

I started writing my first draft of my first novel in April 2013. I finally finished it in October and by this time, I had learnt that first drafts are usually not that good so I would have to spend the next several months editing what I had written. At first, I felt only despair at the mammoth task this would be but then, after a lot of research, I knuckled down and got on with it. Unfortunately, I had thought that I would be able to do this at the same time as taking part in NaNoWriMo 2013! Mad fool, I hear you cry. Well, I came to my senses pretty quickly and decided that I would just use November to read my WIP aloud and make editing notes as I went along. This became my first round of edits and I will have completed this by the end of the year. Yep, by tomorrow. I feel very proud of that, as well as the fact that I was a NaNoWriMo winner, writing just over 50,000 words of my second novel. I have also managed to find two critique partners to accompany me on my editing journey and I know their help is going to be invaluable next year.

In June 2013, I started to blog about my writing life. I wanted to write about my experience on this journey, sharing what I learnt along the way and I am amazed to see that I have managed to blog every week since then. Not only that, I have found new things to say and have made a few good friends along the way. I really enjoy writing the blog as well and I enjoy reading other people’s.

I also joined Twitter and started to build a following by following other writers and people dedicated to helping writers. I have found this much more fun than I expected, although it has also become a bit of an obsession!
It has been a year in which I have learnt so much and most of it from other writers, for which I am very grateful. I am looking forward to the new writing year immensely.
So my goals for 2014:

  • To finish editing my first draft of ‘From Here to Nashville’, hopefully by April which would be a year since I started writing it. I would like to have it professionally edited ultimately and I have a couple of ideas about how to manage this.
  • I plan to work hard with my critique partners to make my work as good as it can possibly be.
  • I would like to finish the first draft of my second novel too. I don’t have a deadline on this but it would be good to have finished it by the time NaNoWriMo 2014 comes round!
  • I would like to attend a writing course or two this year to help me progress my learning.
  • I am thinking of taking a proofreading course as a way of supplementing my income now that I work part-time. It would be great if longer term, the proofreading could pay for some of my other goals 😉 I am realistic about this though (honest!)

A good year then, all in all. I hope your writing year has been good and that you have set yourself some sensible goals for next year. Best wishes to you all for 2014 and thank you for reading 🙂

Editing procrastination for the unpublished writer

Like most people, I expect, this past week has been absolute madness and for me, it won’t stop until I reach the end of term on Friday. This week, we have our KS2 Music and Drama production at school and today, we had our dress rehearsal. It didn’t go well 🙁 but everyone kept telling me not to worry because it would all come together on the night (tomorrow! eek!) I should know this by now because I  have a fair few productions under my belt but I still feel very nervous at this point every year. This is simply because after all these months of rehearsals, I want everything to go right for the children, as well as for me and the other people involved in bringing this together. The two performances this week are the culmination of a lot of hard work and I would like everyone to go out on a high.

This got me thinking that this must be how it will feel when I finally finish editing my first novel. I am still soldiering on with it, hoping that what I have done so far will be worthwhile. However, I know that I haven’t even begun to deal with the really nitty gritty editing yet. I am really just proofreading because I know I am skilled at this and I find it very easy. I have been bookmarking all the other editing advice I have seen over the past couple of months, to use later when I do the REAL editing. This is procrastination at its best. I have nearly 100 such articles bookmarked so far! I have posted on this before but I really think that there is just so much advice out there about editing, amongst other things and yet, no definitive guide to the whole process. As a new writer, this is what I feel I really need in the absence of an agent, let alone a publishing contract. There are many people blogging about the poor quality of some self-published novels but even if you are fairly literate, if you’ve never written a novel before, you really won’t know the first thing about how to edit it on anything other than a superficial basis.

I will start to work my way through these articles over the holidays and because I’m a methodical sort of person, I know the job will get done but whether it will be to my satisfaction when I finish working my way through, is another matter. Still, all part of the learning curve, I suppose.

Has anyone else got any experience of editing for the first time that they would be willing to share, including any book recommendations? I really would love to hear from you 🙂

To outline or not to outline, that is the question (with apologies to you know who!)

I have been learning a lot of new vocabulary since I started writing this first novel of mine. One of these words has been ‘pantser’, meaning a writer who just sits down and writes without necessarily having every aspect of their story planned out in their minds. I was definitely a ‘pantser’ when I started writing my novel but when I got to 70,000 words and realised I didn’t know how to end the story, with the help of Scrivener, I became someone who outlines the story first. Except that I had to do it in reverse and I am still going!

I have got to the point in the story that I wanted to change. I’ve changed it and then worried that was the wrong decision (aargh!) but I am trying to plough on and it really is a nightmare job 🙁 This is because I am outlining, writing and editing all at the same time and I feel like I might be going slightly mad in the process.
So no more flying by the seat-of-my-pants next time. I am definitely going to outline the next one before I start. That’s assuming that I finish writing, editing, rewriting, proofreading this one….

Here’s a link to just one interesting article I read on this very subject.