querying a novel

Don’t query before your novel is complete, revised, and ready

Quick, what’s the fastest way to sabotage your efforts to get an agent for your book? Answer: query your novel before it’s ready. If you’re a novelist, you’re not ready to query until your manuscript is completely written, fully revised, and ready for its close-up. Don’t be misled by advice intended for nonfiction authors, who Read more about Don’t query before your novel is complete, revised, and ready[…]

Editing and Revision

The editing and revision process for self-publishers

Whoa, just look at that flowchart! That’s way too many steps! Why, yes. Yes, it very likely is. Few self-published authors can afford all of these editorial production steps. Few would want to even if they could. But the truth is that this does mirror the traditional editorial and revision process. If a publishing company Read more about The editing and revision process for self-publishers[…]

Developing story skills

How to develop your story revision skills

Are you guilty of trying to put lipstick on a pig? As my colleague Jami Gold confided via email, “I’ve seen far too many authors consider themselves ‘edited’ just because someone did a comma check, but my reviews and impressions of a story are almost always about the story itself. We can’t emphasize that enough, Read more about How to develop your story revision skills[…]

Rejection

How to cope when your manuscript query is rejected

Writers have this thing about rejection. It seems edgy or romantic somehow to count rejection notices, to clutch them to your breast like the beads of a diabolical rosary with the power to damn or redeem your creative power for eternity. That’s an awful lot of malign intent to ascribe to an agent who might Read more about How to cope when your manuscript query is rejected[…]

Be a more effective reader.

Be a More Effective Reader: Learn to read like a novelist

If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.—Stephen King Did you hear the one about the songwriter who doesn’t listen to music? She doesn’t want her creativity to be tainted by another musician’s sound. On the rare occasions that she makes an Read more about Be a More Effective Reader: Learn to read like a novelist[…]

Writing a series

Series Writing 101: Resources for planning and writing a series

Writing a series is standard operating procedure for self-published authors who are seeking to pad their catalogs. The formula is simple: stretch a story concept across two, three, four books or more, and voilà—you’re a multi-title author with a respectable little catalog to your name. (Here’s how that works.) But tackling a series is a Read more about Series Writing 101: Resources for planning and writing a series[…]

The Author's Survival Guide to Track Changes

Updated: Author’s Survival Guide to Track Changes

If you’ve never used Microsoft Word’s Track Changes feature before, the idea of getting your manuscript back from an editor filled with all sorts of lines and squiggles you have to do something to in order to keep your novel from plummeting precipitously through a fiery ring of digital destruction and disappearing into the black Read more about Updated: Author’s Survival Guide to Track Changes[…]

Reasons novelists should read

More reasons novelists should be reading

Do you know your business? It’s all very romantic to claim that as a novelist, you’re a creative spirit with no head for the mundanities of business and marketing. The truth is that no agent or publisher wants to work with a clueless aspirant, and no self-published title will make it without an understanding of Read more about More reasons novelists should be reading[…]

Regional English usage

Mixed Signals: Why you shouldn’t mix British and American English in your novel

Why does your editor keep changing grey to gray in your book? You like the way grey looks. It’s listed in Merriam-Webster as a “variant spelling of GRAY”—that makes it legit, right? Unfortunately, mixing American vs. British English doesn’t work that way. For an everyday Joe, mixing English usage from all parts of the world Read more about Mixed Signals: Why you shouldn’t mix British and American English in your novel[…]

combining edits

Can you combine types of editing to save money?

If only it were practical to hire an editor to “give everything a quick once-over—and let me know if you spot any plot holes along the way.” The problem is that different types of editing zero in on entirely different areas of your book. Asking an editor to combine edits and multitask their way through Read more about Can you combine types of editing to save money?[…]

Growth mindset

Improve Your Writing: How a growth mindset changes everything

The gestation period of a nascent novelist is ridiculously lengthy. Turning out enough practice novels to effectively grasp the form demands more time and patience than many aspiring authors are willing to give. What if you could accelerate the learning curve with one-on-one feedback from an editor or writing coach? You can—if you come into Read more about Improve Your Writing: How a growth mindset changes everything[…]

author's reading list

Author’s Reading List: Recommended craft titles for fiction writers

Nothing revs my editorial engines higher than a new way of explaining a storytelling or writing technique. My family gets put out with my workaholic ways when they find me curled up on the weekend with my craft book TBR (to be read) pile instead of a “recreational” fiction title. (Shh, don’t tell them I’m Read more about Author’s Reading List: Recommended craft titles for fiction writers[…]

Find a compatible editor.

Find a compatible editor who fits your style

Your editor is more than a nameless someone who “checks your work.” Whether you write as a creative outlet or a tolerable way of making some money, you deserve a compatible editor who connects with what you’re all about. You deserve an editor who gets you, who gets your work, and who lifts up what Read more about Find a compatible editor who fits your style[…]

Progress reports on editing

Progress Reports: What’s happening during your edit?

It’s 10:00 p.m. Do you know where your manuscript is? It’s like being trapped in a replay loop of the old TV public service announcement reminding parents the kids should be home for the evening, safe and sound—only this time, it’s your manuscript you’re worried about. You sent your baby to the editor a week Read more about Progress Reports: What’s happening during your edit?[…]

types of editing

Types of Editing: A Practical Guide

If you clicked on this article hoping to finally figure out the difference between line editing and copyediting, allow me to break it to you: there are no industry-wide definitions of editing types that everyone agrees on. This isn’t just a situation of traditional publishers calling certain editing one thing and self-publishers calling it another. Read more about Types of Editing: A Practical Guide[…]

professional editing

Should you get professional editing before querying agents?

Everyone has an opinion about whether you should get professional editing before querying agents with your manuscript. There’s the story about the agent who turned down the author once he found out someone else had edited the manuscript. There’s the story about the agent who claims she no longer reads sloppy manuscripts because she gets Read more about Should you get professional editing before querying agents?[…]

How long does editing take?

How long does professional editing take?

When you’re eager to see your book in print, it’s tempting to look for an editor who can promise your manuscript back in just weeks or even days. Buyer beware: Do the math. If an editor promises to turn your manuscript around in little more than the time it takes to read your book, you should wonder Read more about How long does professional editing take?[…]

beta reading

The quick and easy guide to using beta readers

Oh, no … You didn’t just ask your spouse, your mom, or your best friend to read your book and tell you what they think, did you? Every author needs test readers—impartial, unbiased test readers. As much as your squad may want to help, beta reading is one area where friends and family don’t qualify. Read more about The quick and easy guide to using beta readers[…]

critique and feedback

How critique and feedback help your book

One of the most insidious ways to hamstring yourself on the way to publishing your first novel is to be overly cautious about sticking your head out of your shell. When you hide your writing until you’re “ready,” nine times out of ten, it means you’re hiding from feedback. Sorry I had to call it Read more about How critique and feedback help your book[…]

find editor

The author’s guide to finding and hiring an editor

The first thing you’ll discover when you’re ready to hire an editor is just how many people offer editorial services. There are editors for your story and editors to catch your typos. There are editors who contract with publishing companies and editors who moonlight. What sort of editor do you need? How can you find Read more about The author’s guide to finding and hiring an editor[…]

Publishing goals

What are your publishing goals?

Can you imagine the extradimensional bliss of watching your book become the next hot thing? While many authors dream of being the next Mark Dawson or Hugh Howey, in our hearts, we all know how rare that kind of success really is. But while the common wisdom tells us to shoot for the top, planning Read more about What are your publishing goals?[…]

Should you credit your editor in print?

Editors have a reputation for wanting to keep their work behind the scenes. Even the freedom of self-publishing authors to generously acknowledge and credit their editors’ contributions hasn’t done much to change that. Why are editors so darn sensitive about being credited in print? You might think an acknowledgment or credit line would be universally Read more about Should you credit your editor in print?[…]

10 kinds of books authors should be reading right now

Do you know what’s hot in your genre right now? What are fans reading more of? What are they reading less of? Whether or not you consider your book “like” the bestsellers, today’s hot titles are what your book will be competing against. Even if you don’t buy a copy to see what they’re like, Read more about 10 kinds of books authors should be reading right now[…]

The two things authors should do every day

As an aspiring author, you probably always pictured yourself tucked away somewhere cozy for long stretches of intense writing and then kicking up your heels afterwards in an explosion of creative renewal. What you probably didn’t expect was the everyday routine of reading and writing. Welcome to life as a working author. Writing professionally means Read more about The two things authors should do every day[…]

File name

File names that keep track of your revisions

It’s never too soon to start using good file naming habits. When your whole story lies ahead of you, it’s easy to naively assume you’ll start with TheGirlWiththeFuzzyManuscript_Orig, then go to FuzzyGirl_Revised, and maybe finish with TGWTFM_BetaFeedback. What you may not have counted on are the dozen variations of your book now nesting inside your Read more about File names that keep track of your revisions[…]

What is your writing style?

Writing Style: What it is—and what it isn’t

What makes up an author’s writing style? You’d think it would be skillful writing. But all too often, authors are told weak writing habits are excusable—and sometimes even worthy of acclaim—because they represent hallmarks of the author’s individuality and style. Don’t be fooled by such shenanigans. Spare us the tired tales of how This Bestselling Read more about Writing Style: What it is—and what it isn’t[…]

Accepting feedback

How to handle editing and feedback on your novel

No author wants spend time changing a bunch of commas in their manuscript—except when the editor recommends deep changes, at which point changing commas is often all you feel capable of doing. Every writer feels the sting of opening a document file filled with red ink. But when the entire editing process becomes a battle Read more about How to handle editing and feedback on your novel[…]

Revising your manuscript

How to revise the early drafts of your novel

Ah yes, the stony gray wall of revision. It stares you down with the same inscrutable gaze of a blinking cursor on a blank page. How on earth should you begin? You start rereading your manuscript. Something’s misfiring; you can hear it, but darned if you know what it is. Meanwhile, you fiddle with the Read more about How to revise the early drafts of your novel[…]

content vs. copy editing

Developmental editing vs. copyediting—which do you need most?

If you could only afford one round of editing, should you choose developmental editing or copyediting? Developmental (content) editing ensures that your story is strong and vital. Copyediting (or line editing) crosses all the t’s and dots all the i’s. A purchase-worthy book needs both—but whether you’re hoping to be picked up by a publishing Read more about Developmental editing vs. copyediting—which do you need most?[…]

Self-publishing mistakes

3 ways to waste good writing and editing

So you’ve had your manuscript professionally edited. That decision marks you as an author who understands self-publishing means assuming responsibility for professional-quality editing and revision. Great start! But the finish line is still quite a long, dusty trek ahead. While your budget may still be stinging from editing—it’s one of the biggest costs of your Read more about 3 ways to waste good writing and editing[…]

critique group

Where to find writing critique partners and groups

You’ve poured your heart and soul into your manuscript, and you’ve taken it as far as you can on your own. Now it’s time to widen the circle of your publishing team with a critique. Whether you’re sending your manuscript to an agent or self-publishing the title yourself, professional-quality publishing means putting your work in Read more about Where to find writing critique partners and groups[…]

The Author's Survival Guide to Track Changes

The Author’s Survival Guide to Track Changes

Track Changes—a fate worth than death? Though revising an edit full of tracked changes and comments can seem utterly intimidating the first time, a few simple guidelines will keep you safe and sound. Truth be told, thanks to this guide, I haven’t lost an author to Track Changes yet. You too can emerge unscathed—and with Read more about The Author’s Survival Guide to Track Changes[…]

Writing rules

Why writing rules and outlining won’t squelch your creativity

There’s an assumption among many writers that writing rules and outlines are pinched, mean things that constrain creativity and the flow of literary ideas. Writing blogs advise authors to flout conventional grammar and aim for a free, contemporary style. Authors fling pantsed manuscripts at their editors only to discover there’s a dropped plot line and Read more about Why writing rules and outlining won’t squelch your creativity[…]

the right editor

How to introduce your book to a prospective editor

Finding the right editor means opening a conversation you hope turns into a long, creative relationship with a like-minded lover of books. You’ll be asking prospective editors questions that tell you if they have the professional background and approach you want for your book—and they’ll be looking for something similar from you. Who are you as Read more about How to introduce your book to a prospective editor[…]

Editing

Should you use volunteers to proofread your book?

New authors often wonder why they can’t skip paying for a professional editor and crowdsource their editing instead among volunteer readers. Or what about using that neighbor who’s a retired English teacher? She says she’d only charge $200 to edit your entire book. Couldn’t you save big money with crowdsourced editing? You could—but you wouldn’t be Read more about Should you use volunteers to proofread your book?[…]

How much does editing cost?

10 ways to save money on editing

As an emerging author, you may be frustrated to discover that you shouldn’t be following the lead of experienced authors when it comes to your editing budget and saving money on editing. The editing needs of seasoned authors are different from yours. Writers at earlier stages of their careers need strong developmental guidance. You need Read more about 10 ways to save money on editing[…]

How far ahead should you schedule your edit?

One of the top reasons authors give for self-publishing is the speed with which they can bring their books to publication. Gone are the endless publishing house production cycles that can keep books in limbo for years on end. Control is back in your hands. That’s the good news. The bad news is virtually the Read more about How far ahead should you schedule your edit?[…]

Should you send your whole manuscript to a prospective editor?

You just clicked Save on your manuscript file in preparation for sending it off for a sample edit. The thing is, the prospective editor has asked you to send the entire manuscript. All you need is a tiny sample edit. Why would an editor ask to see your whole manuscript? Could this unknown editor be Read more about Should you send your whole manuscript to a prospective editor?[…]

Best publishing resources for authors

This post has been moved to a new permanent page. If you are not automatically redirected, please click here to visit the new page. Once your book is edited, where can you turn for reliable advice on the next steps in the publishing process? My favorite publishing resources for authors include books and articles on Read more about Best publishing resources for authors[…]

error rate

Why did the editor miss errors in your book?

What is the price of perfection? When you pay for professional editing, shouldn’t you be assured that your book will be error-free? Accuracy rates for professional editors today are quite high. Yet language and the art of writing don’t lend themselves to a strictly formulaic approach. Reader-reported errors and fumbles that creep in during revisions Read more about Why did the editor miss errors in your book?[…]

Ask an Editor: Live on Facebook, 2 p.m. March 15

  What’s the best way to revise your own copy? How do you know what kind of editing you need? What mistakes do editors find most often in manuscripts from first-time authors? How can you make your protagonist seem more relatable and sympathetic? Ask professional fiction editors (not acquisitions editors from publishing companies) your burning Read more about Ask an Editor: Live on Facebook, 2 p.m. March 15[…]

Help! My edit is choking my computer!

Bad news: You just got your manuscript back from the editor, and your computer has collapsed in a pique. Every time you open the document, Microsoft Word stalls out. The only thing still moving is your cursor, which is chasing its tail like an eternal puppy. How can you process your revisions if you can’t Read more about Help! My edit is choking my computer![…]

Playing the organ

Cliché Killer: Stop playing the organ

If you’re like many writers, your monitor is a veritable porcupine of sticky notes, many of them warning you away from the clichés your beta readers and editor have called you out on again and again: Her heart pounded as his hand slid up the side of her neck. She took a deep breath and Read more about Cliché Killer: Stop playing the organ[…]

The secret to nailing your final draft

What if I told you there was a writing tool that could help you nail your final draft, slash time and effort off the front of the editing process, and set up your novel for acceptance by an agent or publisher? Such a beast really does exist, and it’s something you already know you’ll need Read more about The secret to nailing your final draft[…]

Is your manuscript ready for editing?

Nothing makes an editor sadder than slogging through an edit on a manuscript that isn’t ready yet. I don’t want you to pay me for a service your manuscript isn’t ready to receive. Really. As exciting as it feels to move one step closer to publication, remember that there’s a lot of work that needs Read more about Is your manuscript ready for editing?[…]

writing goals

Streamline your queries with Canned Responses

After the long grind of writing, revisions, and editing, you’re undoubtedly eager to reclaim your free time or move on to the next creative project. Create that time by stepping up your game with simple tools to help you generate queries efficiently and professionally. Now that you’ve entered the publishing market with your book, you’re Read more about Streamline your queries with Canned Responses[…]

How long should your chapters be?

Chapter length is more a matter of rhythm and consistency than hard numbers. Chapters that are exceptionally long or short in relation to the rest of your chapters change the flow of your book in ways you might not have considered. Super-short chapters act like flags to readers. It’s like the tight, gathered stance and Read more about How long should your chapters be?[…]

line editing

7 ways to evaluate a sample edit

Before you hire me as your editor, I like to open the conversation with an initial consultation. This free consultation is like a first meeting with a new attorney or accountant. You get a chance to explain your goals and concerns, and I can look at your manuscript in enough depth to see if I’m the best Read more about 7 ways to evaluate a sample edit[…]

How to use MS Word Track Changes with your edited manuscript

Working your way through revisions? Please see my updated Track Changes Guide. Your edited manuscript is back! It’s time to incorporate the edits. Track Changes can seem intimidating to work with the first time, but once you get comfortable with it, you’ll wonder how you ever managed notes, edits, and revisions without it. Here are Read more about How to use MS Word Track Changes with your edited manuscript[…]

Writing goals

How to prepare for and revise after your edit

The End. Most authors heave a sigh of relief when they type those two words. Sure, they’ll need to read through everything again, and they’d like to give their manuscript to a few friends to read. But the editor is going to be doing the heavy lifting from here on out, right? The gritty truth is Read more about How to prepare for and revise after your edit[…]