Loading...

About Eamon

A Dublin native, now residing in the historic and beautiful environs of Sligo, Eamon has travelled a long and eventful journey to his current occupation as editor and mentor. Always a lover of reading and writing – he read newspapers long before beginning school – he was lucky enough to find teaching mentors who encouraged him to follow his passion. From an early age he was involved in writing and acting, going on to study performing arts in Dublin’s Bull-Alley, after which he spent several years collaborating with other writers and actors to hone his scriptwriting and editing skills. He has been active on several online-critiquing sites for several years, building up solid relationships with many emerging writers.

He has a reputation for caring for those he works with, and is known for his considered and constructive approach to critiquing and editing. If you read through the testimonials from writers he’s worked with, you’ll quickly understand why he is held in such high regard and where his many strengths lie.

Services

The Services I Offer

My Editing Service

Over the last decade I’ve worked with many writers from around the world, critiquing and editing projects from specific chapters to complete drafts, using my strengths as a life-long lover of writing and reading to develop plot, pacing, conflict, character, dialogue; helping enhance the overall health of a given work-in-progress (WIP).

Though I provide line edits, I’m much more than that. I approach a manuscript from a holistic perspective, acknowledging that no one aspect causes a work to sink or swim. Your WIP is organic, evolving through each rewrite, with all of its essential elements combining to create art that stands strong on its own two feet.

My substantive approach focuses on any issues surrounding plot, dramatic tension, characterisation, character interaction, narrative arc, voice, readability, style and grammar; anything that requires attention, I’m the one who’ll get right in there to set it straight.

As well as a full edit, I provide a comprehensive report on the overall health of your WIP. And once you return your manuscript with the applied edits, I’d give it a final run-through followed by a proofread that’ll have you as good as ready to start submitting to agents/publishers, or consider entering the growing universe of independent publishing.

I work with all genres: Thriller, Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Y/A, Romance, Erotica – if it’s about story and writing, I’m good with it. If you have bad habits, especially regarding technical aspects of writing, my suggestions will help bring you back to the correct path.

Proofreading Services

My proofreading service includes two read-throughs, where SPAG issues (spelling and grammar) will be noted and corrected using Word’s Track-Changes application. This will allow you to view each action on my part, and give you the option to accept or reject any given suggestion. I will also attend to syntax, style, and readability issues.

I also accept non-fiction, including memoir and thesis.

 

 

Free Sample Edit

Contact me at clearviewediting@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you asap for a friendly ‘chat’. To begin with, you’ll send me a chapter/section, preferably from the middle of your manuscript (I want something that hasn’t been polished to the nth), and I’ll edit it for free. This works both ways – allowing you see if my approach suits your needs, as well as providing me with an idea of where you are as a writer – enabling me determine what level of attention your WIP will require.

Booking & Rates

My rates lean towards the affordable side.

If we agree to work together, we’ll set a schedule and I’ll send you a contract that will let you know where we both stand regarding work expectations and payment. I expect half before I begin, with the remainder due on completion of the first edit. There is a general turnaround of two weeks, but that can change depending on your manuscript’s overall health. I may be booked up for the immediate future, but the ‘waiting time’ will give you the opportunity to apply my sample edit to the rest of your manuscript. There’s no rest in this game.

Though word-count has a large bearing on price, at an average of 250 words per page (double spaced), if your manuscript has been worked to a relatively clean copy, the price will decrease – the more work I need to do, the more you have to pay. As a writer and former actor, I’m well aware of the financial realities we live under so I’m always going to lean towards the more affordable side of things.

You’ll be kept up to speed, anyway, from the beginning, so there’s no need to worry. If you sign up with me you’ll be in good hands – just read my references.

Testimonials

Need more convincing? Please read through my testimonials.

I have exchanged correspondence with Eamon O’Cleirigh for over 7 years, and I value his editorial advice and experience a great deal. In 2010, I contracted Eamon to line edit a 340 page book – The Infection Anthology, which is still in publication. In 2012, I again secured Eamon to line edit another anthology – It Didn’t Happen This Way, which was published in that same year. I have worked with other editors and Eamon is by far the most considerate and professional. On upcoming publications, I hope to work with Eamon again. I would not hesitate to recommend him to anyone seeking editorial services.
John Mitch Lavender , Texas
On September 13, 2010, I signed onto Critique Circle—an on-line writing workshop—and saw I had received a critique from Eamon O Cleirigh on one of my submissions. From that day until today, Eamon had been my writing mentor.

He and I are an ocean apart and have never met. He has had no incentive whatsoever to pour his time, talent, and patience into my work, yet pour he has, and much to my benefit. There’s not enough room here to list the many ways in which Eamon has helped improve my writing, but suffice it to say that, after two years of working with him, I obtained a literary agent, something only 5% of writers accomplish.

While knowing where to place a comma or correct a verb tense or remove an unnecessary adverb is critical to editing, grammatical competency alone does not make a brilliant editor. Brilliance always comes from the heart, and from the heart is how Eamon works. The goal of great writing is part of his philosophy. Sharing that pursuit is part of his soul. It will exist in him as strongly in a year, or even twenty years, as it does at this moment. I should know, because if anything could have destroyed it, it was my first novel!

Eamon is highly esteemed in many writing circles. He has worked consistently to build a bank of goodwill and respect amongst individual writers, and we will all be there for him in his new endeavor. It thrills me to imagine him taking his skills to a professional level where he will impact and, no doubt, elevate the greater writing community. Thank you for helping to make that happen.

Kathryn Estrada
My debut novel, The Black Lotus, will be published by Chicken House in August 2015. It’s been through the publisher’s editorial wringer many times now, but long before it fell under the scrutiny of professional editors, the manuscript was edited by Eamon on Critique Circle. In fact, I think he went through the entire novel three or four times, for no fee, might I add. I firmly believe that if it wasn’t for Eamon’s sharp editorial eye, my manuscript would never have secured an agent or publisher.

Eamon is the Governor of Grammar, the Punctuation President and the Superintendent of Syntax all rolled into one! But of course, editing is so much more than this – it’s about asking the right questions, making good suggestions, being honest and talking straight. At other times, it’s about being subtle and gentle and constructive with your criticism. Eamon tells you when things don’t work, but equally, he praises you when they do. He has a deep understanding of narrative, and dialogue is a particular strength of his.

My book would never have gotten where it is without the help of Eamon, and this will be confirmed on the novel’s acknowledgements page. I have no hesitation in recommending Eamon as an editor, and I plan to use him for my next writing project. Should you have any questions, please contact me via my website www.kieranfanning.com.

Kieran Fanning, Writer
I learned so much from Eamon when I began writing fiction. I loved working with him because his advice was not only appropriate, it was always kindly stated and carefully considered. I used to tell him I was going to follow every one of his suggestions, which I did.
Carol Ervin, Author of bestselling ‘The Girl on the Mountain’
I started to work collaboratively with Eamon not long after I began writing short fiction and, to date, I have found his support and a keen editorial eye to be invaluable to my development and growth as a writer.

Eamon’s attention to detail is second to none. His editorial process is detailed and focuses on grammar and sentence structure, as well as on the clear expression of ideas, and I have learned greatly from his comments and corrections.

In 2011, Eamon was instrumental to my success in being short-listed for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Awards. After submitting a story to the New Irish Writing feature, which ran in the Irish Independent at that time, I was asked to consider editing the story down by about 500 words, to improve its chance of being published. I enlisted Eamon’s help, and over a period of about 4 days, and communicating mostly by email, the story was reduced to the desired word count, and was subsequently published by the Irish Independent, and shortlisted for the competition.

Ciarán Carty, Editor of New Irish Writing, commended the edit as “sensitive” as it brought the story down to size, without damaging it.

This has been true of all of my experiences of working with Eamon, who is incredibly sensitive to the style of the author, and understands the nuances and subtleties of this in a way that only an experienced editor can.

Aisling Keogh O'Connor, Writer - Galway
Eamon’s attention to detail is a must for any writer hoping to bring their work to the next level. He’s sensitive, insightful, and his editing constructive. He has an uncanny gift at honing in on flabby, lazy writing. Eamon’s editorial and rigorous feedback is critical to work I’m submitting. I’d trust few others to help me strengthen my writing and stretch me as a writer.
Mari Maxwell, Journalist & Writer, Connemara, Ireland
I am fortunate to have already experienced the editing services of Eamon O’Cleirigh on two separate occasions. The first was when he was employed by a US publisher to edit a series of short stories that were part of an anthology to be published in both paperback and digital format. I had two stories in the collection and Eamon provided excellent advice on my narrative structure, as well as a full line-editing service. I was pleased how he not only pointed out the areas where my writing could be improved, but also those sections he considered worked particularly well, which was welcome feedback. So, when I got through to the final stage of a Northern Ireland Screen script-writing competition for the UK Television channel, E4, I sought Eamon’s advice to help me finalise my script treatment. I consider him to be very knowledgeable and an excellent grammarian, as well as an approachable and professional editor.
Marion Clarke, Writer and Artist – Co. Down
I write Young Adult novels and met Eamon through Critique Circle, an online writer’s website.
He first critiqued one of my novels in the fall of 2010 and has, since then, stuck with all my stories, coming back to critique every one of them. He has never earned anything less than a perfect score on my grades, and that’s because he does an excellent job at both big-picture critiquing and line edits.

Since English is my second language and literature took a backseat during my education in medical school and residency, I had just a basic knowledge of grammar and sentence structure. I learned everything else from critique partners like Eamon. From the first critique itself, I had realized that I had the best editor possible in Eamon. He pointed out every error and offered suggestions to fix it. His critiques are the best examples of constructive criticism.

So now when I revise my stories or write down a new idea, I think of all the points he’s made – how to craft a sentence so it’s grammatically correct and pleasing to the eye, how to find plot holes and fix them, and, most importantly, how not to overwrite. He’s been a critique partner, a coach, and a cheerleader, all in one, advising me (and the others lucky enough to know him) to revise and revise, until our stories shine.

I have really benefitted from Eamon’s knowledge and skill and endless patience. And would definitely be willing to use and recommend him as an editor. He’s already an excellent one.

Suja Sukumar
I first met Eamon through an online writing group seven years ago. This online group shared our writing projects and Eamon was always there to edit, read our work and help any of us who needed it. As the group shared more, we arranged to meet in person and continue to do so every year for weekends away. So I know Eamon in person very well. He is a thorough and dedicated person to his craft.
Eamon has advised me with some of my short stories and I’m happy to say I am always impressed with his suggestions. At present I have my second novel in progress and I intend to use Clear-View Fiction Editing for help with developing it and for proof-reading. I have no hesitation in recommending Eamon to any of my writing friends, both in Ireland and abroad. In fact I am happy to promote his services on my writing pages and blog site.
I wish him well for the future.
Mary T Bradford, marytbradford-author.blogspot.ie
I first used Eamon’s excellent editing skills about five years ago and I always return to him when I need someone who has a thorough command of the technicalities of language. He is an absolute master in the use of punctuation and the finer points of grammar. I have no hesitation in recommending him to cast an eye over your darlings.
Sue Morgan, Writer

Get In Touch With Me

To get in touch, please contact me at clearviewediting@gmail.com

Words from Home

Warriors of The Word – New Beginnings

Warrior 2

Warriors of The Word – New Beginnings

As we begin the new year of 2016, our focus turns to new beginnings where we endeavour to channel our energies into the likes of health and personal development that will see us grasping the thorny vine of projects that may have slipped from our control over the past year or so. For many, especially writers, that will mean getting out and about to lose a few unwanted pounds. Writers, spending many hours of each day harnessed to a chair, working through the warrens of a fictional world, often find themselves piling on the weight.

Jogging

But not just physical weight. No. Though committed to working their projects through, regularly to the detriment of family and social life, scribes can find themselves overwhelmed by issues such as the immensity of story; the barbed hurdles of grammar and dialogue; trying to capture an elusive voice; pinning down the hoary specifics of point-of-view, or grasping the complexities of active voice, to name just a few. The struggle to overcome the technical aspects of such projects can prove so discouraging that, even though several drafts may have been completed, the writer often finds herself cast adrift, without the energy to make it to the solid ground that will see the work brought to its next stage where real progression is seen and appreciated.

untitled (5)

I’ve provided constructive feedback to writers for twenty years or more and know how beneficial a considered opinion can be, especially during a challenging phase when the wrong response – a wayward comment – could see a project, and the desire to continue, destroyed. Writers need to know how things stand, and while they welcome honesty, they don’t want to be battered with the hard edge of reality. There has to be hope – light that provides access to the next step.

That’s what I do. Writers send me a chapter from their work-in-progress and I return a sample line-edit where everything is reviewed, from each word to style and structure – anything really that needs looking at, I get in there and tackle it until the writer knows exactly what the options are that will see issues worked through and those dark clouds parted so the broader perspective can be appreciated. The main thing is that the writer has a much stronger idea where he or she stands in relation to the problems at hand.

Novel in progress

The writer can then decide if they want to go the rest of the journey alone – applying lessons learnt from the sample edit to the rest of the work, or join in a collaborative affair by commissioning me as their editor. A first edit is a two-week journey to begin with, where everything is laid bare. Everything. With the writer’s vision taken into account, voice and style retained, I wade in and leave nothing unturned. When the manuscript is returned, it resembles a battlefield with the mass of notes and suggested edits. ‘Battlefield’ is apt because if the war is to be won by the author, the enemies of progression must be annihilated. One of my clients recently said that she felt like a warrior of the word when tackling my first edit. She was correct, all writers are warriors of the word. When it comes to the editing process, the author is the soldier on a quest to fight and defeat the monster that is the undeveloped manuscript, while I am the Special Forces mentor, there to advise and guide, and between us we ensure that our side comes out of the fight in the best condition possible, ready to step into the light on release to the world at large.

The author, now seeing that light, applies my editing suggestions as they see fit and returns the manuscript to me for a second edit that will bring the work, once applied, to its proofing stage. It’s all part of my package. I know the story – I know the author – I’m in a perfect position to recognise where things still aren’t quite right, or where they’re just perfect. Two edits and a proofread will see the writer out of those horrid doldrums and into the heady glare of pre-publication.

write 1

I haven’t met an author yet who hasn’t appreciated the benefits of a solid line-edit. It’s not easy seeing your work put under the microscope, with every element reviewed, but bringing your novel to a ready-to-go level, with the aid of your editor, is one of the most progressive things you can do as a writer. If you’re in a position where you’ve brought your work-in-progress to a point where it requires professional help to bring it to the next stage and beyond, all I can do is recommend that you choose a chapter, preferably from the middle of your novel, and send it to me for a free sample edit. You’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain. Send it to clearviewediting@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you asap.

Good luck with all your endeavours in 2016.

hny

 

Easing the Burden with a Little Self-Editing

Easing the Burden with a little Self-Editing

Self-editing 1

A lesson in Awareness

How much do you know about the technical aspects of your writing? As a writer with serious intentions, you need to make time to learn the fundamental rules. We learn as we go, but we evolve so much more if we make a point of actively honing our writing skills through personal study. If you have the ability to create clean copy and a story with the minimum of structural issues, your trip to the editor will be a much cheaper one. Invest! Create a strong reference library that you can dip into at a moment’s notice. Actively read novels, noting elements that you struggle with, whether that be dialogue, description, punctuation, point of view. The more you actively read, the more you learn.

Achieving Objectivity

How long is ‘long enough’? To gain necessary perspective we need to create distance between ourselves and the work we’ve been so close to over the past year or two. Once you write The End, put it out of mind for as long as you can and start work on something else. If you can leave it for a month (or more), great – you’ll be able to view it with a level of objectivity that will allow you see and tackle issues that you were previously too connected with.
Self-editing needs to be so much more than a simple sweep through your manuscript (ms) to correct grammar and punctuation errors. Also, if you try to tackle everything in one go, you’ll succumb to the dreaded word-blindness affliction, missing some of the most important elements while focused on something else. The process should be slow and steady, taking one thing at a time.

First Read

Read the manuscript without changing anything. Have a notebook to hand and jot down whatever impressions hit you as you read. Don’t allow distractions – this is simply to reacquaint yourself with the ms.

Structure

Focus on structural editing first. If the story’s not right no amount of polishing will fix it. Is the plot solid? Are scenes complete? Are transitions lacking? Are characters fully developed and consistent? Are their actions/reactions justified?

Line-Edit

self-editing 2

Time to iron out the wrinkles with a serious line-edit. This is where you get in deep – one word at a time; anything confusing, convoluted, wordy, needs fixing. Every word, phrase, sentence, must pass the hard-edit test. If it doesn’t hit the mark then it needs reviewing. You can’t be soft here, even if it’s one of your favourite pieces. If it doesn’t read right, chop, chop, chop. This phase is also ideal for searching out ‘weasel’ words – personal phrases/words of habit that stand out because they are yours, not the character’s.

Less-is-More

Pull sentences back to their bones without changing original meaning. Hit unnecessary repetition, redundant words and phrases, and negative patterns such as sequential sentences/paragraphs beginning with the likes of He/She/I. If you have three in a line, change the second to break the pattern. Patterns can be a result of lazy writing, but here we’ll just blame it on first-draft fever. Considered rewriting will rectify and improve any such issues.

Activate You Writing

Target telling adverbs and replace with strong verbs and considered descriptive narrative that pulls the reader tighter to the character’s experience. Same goes for adjectives – test as you go to see if a particular noun can stand on its own without the so-called supportive adjective. Have confidence in your writing and allow the power of context carry your story to the reader.

Cut Filters

Another way to activate your writing is by cutting filters. The likes of ‘she felt the rain on her face’ distances the reader from the action by placing the character in the way. Using filters does no justice to your writing when something as simple as – ‘cold rain spattered her face’ pulls the reader into the moment, activates their imagination, and creates a stronger reader/character connection. Other filter examples are: thought – wondered – knew – realised – saw – touched -watched – heard.

Dialogue

Get your dialogue punctuation right. You can google the fundamental rules any time, but the important thing is to absorb them so you’ll not have to think about them when writing. I’m a dialogue man and my clients feel it when they send me dialogue that falls below my quality bar. Important, too, to cut excessive tags and said-bookisms – if the tag isn’t a manner of speaking, cut it down and replace with a simple but effective ‘said’. Vary up dialogue/action tags, too, to break patterns and enhance variety. Dialogue tags can easily be replaced with the likes of action or observation tags before, during, or after dialogue, ensuring there is as little structural repetition as possible. Such variety enhances the reading experience, which is always a good thing where the reader is concerned.

Point-of-View

Slippages stand out better when read aloud. Don’t jump heads from one character to another. It simply doesn’t work, confusing and irritating your reader, often to the extent that they’ll abandon all hope and spread the word for others to approach with caution. One character’s perspective per scene, even if it’s a short one – slip a divider/asterisk in and carry on with pov integrity. It’ll be appreciated by your reader. If your pov character can’t see or hear what’s going on, then it can’t be included in the scene. Have another character speak or act so we know what’s going on with them, or have your pov character act/react verbally/physically to create necessary context.

Proofreading

self editing 3

As a writer, it’s your responsibility to at least thoroughly proofread your ms before subbing it to your editor or publisher. It takes work, but you should be up for the challenge, especially if you’re serious about your craft. As mentioned above, the cleaner the copy, the cheaper the edit. I base my fee on impressions from sample edits – if it’s lagging behind where it should be, I know I’ve my work cut out and charge to suit.

Keep a style guide handy, and a style sheet. I use The Elements of Style, but there are others out there. It’s good to have to hand for the more obscure rules. A style sheet, consisting of character/setting details, will prove invaluable when rewriting. It’s a simple list to add to as you write your first draft. Character details, place names, and setting are examples where you need consistency throughout. Readers are expert at finding consistency/continuity errors and your style sheet will save you post-release blushes.

one last time

Last thing to do is the idiot-check run through. Just read through the piece to ensure nothing gets left behind. Believe me it’ll be worth it. Once you’ve that accomplished it’s time to send it off to your editor. My email address is: clearviewediting@gmail.com

New Releases

I’m very happy to announce the release of two novels that I’ve had the pleasure of editing in the recent past. Though these works are as different as you can get, one an in-depth analysis of disparate characters surrounding a life-changing event, the other a rollicking Irish modern romance, both share similar strengths: strong characterisation and tight-as-you-can-get dialogue.

Frank Parker’s ‘Transgression’ will keep you riveted from start to finish with its wonderful depth of storytelling and characterisation. Beautiful writing that was an absolute pleasure to edit.

Transgression

‘Roger felt too old for this talk of conspiracies and subterfuge. It had all seemed so simple forty years ago: help a friend and a young woman hide the consequences of a single foolish action that both regretted. How had it turned into a witch hunt?
Forty years ago four people conspired to conceal a teenage pregnancy. Now one of them is dead and a book about her threatens to expose a Member of Parliament’s guilty secret. For how long will Roger be able to prevent Sally getting at the truth of her parentage? Can he prevent the break-up of his own long term gay relationship?
We’ve come a long way from the prudery still prevalent in post WWII Britain to the acceptance of gay marriage. Did the new found sexual freedoms of the 1970s send the wrong signals to men who regard young women as ‘fair game’ for predatory behaviour and make recently exposed scandals involving celebrities inevitable?’

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transgression-Frank-Parker-ebook/dp/B014N1C1QC/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1444166381&sr=1-4&keywords=Transgression

Amy Tierney’s ’30 Days Hath September’ is currently keeping many Wicklow women up all hours of the night, unable to leave down what is proving to be a very popular romance from a local first-time author. At the rate it’s going, it won’t be long before it smashes all local records before breaking out into the wider world at large.

Amy Tierney

‘When is it a good time to start a new relationship? When you are ready of course, or perhaps when your mad friends push you straight into it.
Cathy can’t deny the instant chemistry between her and Sam, but with two children and an ex-husband, she is hardly his usual type.
Sparks fly as the relationship intensifies, but they have both been hurt before. Is it possible for them to ignore their meddling pasts, and come up with their own happy ever after?
Romantic, funny and awash with the power of friendship, 30 days hath September captures the exhilarating passion between these sweet lovers.’

http://www.amazon.co.uk/days-hath-September-Calander-Days-ebook/dp/B015P642OS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1444165457&sr=1-1&keywords=30+days+hath+september

If you are lucky enough to read one or both of these new releases, please consider leaving an honest review on Amazon. Enjoy!

The Man Of The Hour

IMG_8069

Kieran Fanning’s book launch in Dublin’s Gutter Bookshop on August 24th was an exciting affair, with children and adults alike clambering for seats, photo angles, and a prize spot in the long queue to have his book, The Black Lotus, signed, followed, of course, by the obligatory photo with the smiling author himself.

And he had reason to smile. His time-travel, teen-ninja adventure is a cracker of a story, guaranteed to hook imaginative pre-teens and adults with its solid characterisation and twisting plotlines. I know because I had the pleasure of lending a helping hand in the book’s early stages when Kieran put it through Critique Circle’s public and private queues.

It is my experience that peer critique is an essential element of story development, and I recommend it to any author after they’ve completed their first draft. Kieran, as is only right, took full advantage of C.C’s system, putting The Black Lotus through the crit ringer no less than three times, relying on what developed into a solid team of five crit-buddies who he was good enough to credit in his novel’s acknowledgements. And fair play to the Gutter Bookshop on Essex Street in Temple Bar, an independent entity who put on an excellent show, one of many they provide for new and established authors.

Barry Cunningham, representing Kieran’s publisher, Chicken House, stood proud as punch before the packed bookshop, letting us know how happy they were to have landed a writer with so much potential, who is in the process of lighting up the world of children’s literature in Ireland and beyond. Then guest speaker, Robert Dunbar, Kieran’s mentor from his time in St. Patrick’s College, Dublin, got up and wasted no time in painting the man of the hour in glowing hues, leaving us in no doubt that his protégé is a man who will go far in the world of literature. This was met with hearty applause, simply because we also believed it.

IMG_8056

As you would expect, Kieran’s priority in life is his family, confirmed when he gave full attention to his young daughters in his opening speech, evoking squeals of delight and protest as they reacted to being in the spotlight. With his easy-going, interesting manner, he regaled us with the story of The Black Lotus’s development, which you can read about on his blog… http://www.kieranfanning.com/index.html

He gave credit where credit was due, thanking his C.C team, his agent, publisher, and their editors, who have collectively shaped TBL into the cracker it is today, a real credit to the developmental process from peer critique to professional editing, never forgetting the enormous work put in by the writer himself. Without Kieran’s determination to see this seven-year project through, no amount of external assistance would have mattered. The Black Lotus, as it is now, is a testament to a writer with vision, who was always open to feedback, often willing to take it on the chin in order to see his work reach its full potential.

IMG_8075

It was great to finally meet Kieran after knowing him for six years online. He’s a gentleman of the word, and I’m looking forward to his next book, as I’m sure you will be, too, once you read The Black Lotus, available at a bookshop near you.

A Rose-Tinted Rant (reality check)

Reality check

A Rose-Tinted Rant

As an editor, several things annoy me about the broad process of preparing a novel for release into what is now a massive self-publishing market. Over the last few years the market has expanded into something that caught the Traditional world by the pants, and has, to a large extent, left it scarpering to catch up, hunting out successful Indies in the hope they’ll come aboard and share some of the goodies.

We all want a share of those goodies – there’s nothing wrong with that – but writers have to be realistic about expectations. Thankfully most are, but there are quite a few who still believe that everything will happen without putting in the necessary graft, and that professionals such as editors, cover designers, and formatters, will jump to at the proverbial click of those fingers.

From experience, I believe it’s incumbent on a writer to sharpen the tools he or she uses to bring their story to that magic ready-to-go state where it will have been worked through several drafts, critiqued by peers, read by a solid team of Betas, edited professionally, then proofed to the nth to ensure it’s wearing its best suit of clothes before stepping off the plank into the big bad world of publishing.

If you’ve read King’s ‘On Writing’, you’ll remember how he advised writers to hone up on their craft by reading the best and worst, by going to classes and studying to educate themselves about all aspects of the game, and by generally adopting a professional awareness that will help keep you on top of your game.

Schedule

Part of this is being realistic. As a writer, you can’t expect to release your novel in September if you only approach an editor in August. Any editor worth their salt will balk at the suggestion that a full edit (not a ‘proofread’) of an 80K word manuscript will be completed in anything less than ten days, let alone a week! It will also take a week or more, depending on how dense the editing is, for the writer to apply said edits. In many cases, the writer is a tad shell-shocked at the mass of red and often needs time to come to terms with the reality that so much work was required in the first place. In any case, most editors are booked up in the short-term so wouldn’t be available to leap into such a job.

The higher the quality of the ms, the less work the editor has to do. This is why it’s so important not to send your completed first or second draft away to be edited. The early work needs to be read and critiqued by readers and writers experienced in the genre. When you ponder their feedback and apply worthy suggestions, you tackle the consequences brought about by these changes, which may see serious rewriting and development. And if you have a high literacy level, you’ll be able to give a solid bash at self-editing and proofreading before sending it off to be professionally line-edited.

If you send your work to an editor and all you get is something that resembles a proofing, then you are being hoodwinked. That’s my opinion. I’m not going to go into detail, but an edit must involve all elements of the manuscript, not just punctuation and spelling – that’s the job of a copy editor, which is basically done when everything from beginning to end is deemed to be working – the job of a line-editor.

So, writers of the world, please take that reality check well before you’ve finished your early drafts. Hook up with writer friends or crit buddies for that Beta-Reading cycle. Do your research and decide on your editor, then agree to a workable schedule that will leave you with plenty of time to achieve your objectives. Once your edits are done and dusted you can have your ms proofed, the cover designed, and the big door opened to all your waiting readers who will have been primed by your pre-release marketing campaign.

“What’s a marketing campaign?” I hear you say. I’ll cover that next time. For now, get your work done and schedule a realistic release date.

Preparation Is The Name Of The Game

untitled (2)

Preparation Is The Name Of The Game

If you submit to an agent or publishing house, your work won’t last five minutes off the slush pile if it’s not ready-to-go, and by that I mean professionally edited – not simply proofread. Your manuscript requires more than its punctuation and spelling errors corrected.

The same goes for those of you endeavouring to self-publish. If your work isn’t honed and cleaned to a professional standard, your initial sales will dry up and your name will quickly join the many out there known for not doing the necessary work required to ensure your reader is satisfied with their purchase.

In other words, why should I fork out my hard-earned cash on a product that is below par? This is especially so when there are so many new releases that have been put through their paces, tested and kicked about until they’re just right, with a story that works, a solid plot, strong multidimensional characters, dialogue and narrative that pulls the reader into the experiential core of the novel, with a satisfactory conclusion that leaves everyone wanting more. Life’s way too short to waste time and money on authors who expect an easy ride without putting the work in.

images (4)

True, a professional isn’t cheap, whether it’s a developmental, line, or copy editor, but it’s so worth the expense to have your hard work brought to a point where it is the best it can be. It’s not like you’ll just wake up one morning and decide that you need an editor. This is something that should be an inherent part of writing a novel – as essential to the process as finding a cover designer, or a formatter, or an agent if you’re going the Trad route. If you’re committed enough to lock yourself away for months on end (sometimes years), as well as putting the work in researching and enhancing your knowledge of the craft, then it shouldn’t be a problem opening an editor account or stashing a few euro/pounds/dollars aside each week so that you’ll be able to hire a professional without having to worry about sourcing the finance at short notice.

Without that financial weight around your neck, you can focus on finding an editor who will best suit you. Know what you want and make sure you dig a little deeper, visiting the editor’s website, Twitter and Facebook pages, where you can check out their services and testimonials, see who they are and what they’re about. When you’ve created a shortlist of prospective candidates, email them and begin a correspondence that will further clarify where they stand in relation to your requirements. If they’re not willing to provide a sample edit, move on – you need to know if they’re suitable, and no better way than having edited pages in front of you. If you do your research, you’ll be well aware of what to expect from an editor. I’m a line editor. I’ll not pass one word until I’ve no doubt that it’s in the right place and doing its full job. The same goes for phrases, sentences, paragraphs, scenes, chapters, character, plot, story, style, grammar, and anything else you’d like to bring to the table.

So when it comes to finding your editor, embrace the process as thoroughly as you can. Know what you want and ensure that what is on offer suits your purposes. It’s up to you to do the work in this regard because you don’t want to receive your first edits and realise that your editor simply isn’t doing it for you. You’ve paid your hard-earned money by this stage and there’s no comeback. My clients know where I stand, what I have to offer, and that my door is wide open right up to the work’s release. My job is to help you make your story the best it can be. It’s what I’m good at, it’s my passion, and I’ll happily do it ‘til the cows come home (and later!).

images

Contact me at clearviewediting@gmail.com and let your editing journey begin.

On Being Too Close To Your Story

images (45)

You’re a writer. You’ve probably spent the last year or so chipping away at your novel – the love/hate of your life, bringing clarity and shape to the mangle of ideas and shadows that filled your head for so long. You’ve worked and reworked elements of story, developed character, polished and burnished grammar and structure until blue in the face, brought years of learning to the table in order to shunt your darling as close to that ready-to-go status required to take that next step.

What’s the next step? Some writers, especially first-timers, make the huge mistake of releasing their novel to the world before putting it through the able hands of a professional editor. Who needs an editor, anyway? Why fork out a substantial amount on someone who can’t possibly see your creation as you do? It’s yours, not theirs. You’ve also spent so long learning your trade as a wordsmith, honing your craft with knowledge accrued from your home library, workshops, and the internet, even ensuring your friends from your writing group had a read of it and shared their valued opinions. What’s the point of sending it out to someone who just wants to make a buck out of you?

untitled (27)

Because, my friend, the editor isn’t constrained by your emotional connection to your novel. It doesn’t matter how good a writer you are, or even how solid you are at editing, as the creator you are way too close to see the wood for the trees. You’ve made so many changes from day one, often reverting to something cut or reworked in an earlier draft, that your head and heart are filled with those lurking shadows that make up the holistic body of your novel. As you work through different phases of the self-editing process, what you see on the page often doesn’t correlate with the jumbled roadmap in your mind, simply because you carry the sense-memory of each action – each change – involving questions, doubts, and justifications for every decision you or your characters have made across the breadth of the manuscript.

I’ve seen it so many times – writers adamant that they’ve covered near-enough everything that needs covering, many needing the proverbial arm-twist to get them to have their hallowed tome edited by anyone but themselves. And I’ve seen the shock on their faces when their edits are returned. ‘Eh? This isn’t mine, is it? No!’

You cannot have a clear view of your own work, even if you read it backwards, aloud, from a loudhailer. It’s just not possible. We can only take our work so far before it needs the stable, objective eye of a professional. Your line-editor will trawl through your manuscript, word by word, phrase by phrase, paragraph by paragraph, scene by scene, chapter by chapter, character by character, point by point, setting everything straight and pulling slack from the rope you so carefully tied your package with. The contents of your package: tone, pacing, voice, point of view, conflict/tension, narrative arc, character, dialogue issues, anything and everything to do with grammar and style (normally the job of the copy editor, but ideally covered in a line edit), readability, credibility, and anything else that falls from the sky will be sifted through and clarified to the extent that your script will be dripping red and you will be nothing short of shell-shocked on its return.

untitled (28)

Your shock will be short-lived once you’ve read through the changes and started applying suggested edits. The mists will part and you’ll see through the clotted branches, at last able to make out what was hiding there all along, waiting for the cloak of familiarity to be whipped off by your trustworthy editor. I use ‘trustworthy’, because make no mistake your editor has your best interests at heart. He/She won’t lie to you, or pull any punches when the ‘hit’ needs to be made. She’s not your friend, afraid of a catty repost levelled from an ego-bruised heart. In saying that, any suggested edit should be made in a constructive manner, and always with due consideration for author integrity.

imagesND1URQCT

Once the edits have been applied, you’ll then return the new draft to be copy-edited and proofed, probably still shaking from the experience but in a far better place than when you were so adamant that you were all your manuscript required before submitting or releasing it. So, do yourself a big favour and have your work edited. Even better, check out my details and contact me for a chat and free sample edit: clearviewediting@gmail.com

An Acceptable Standard of Punctuation

bda847cc7db1f36e69a75330de8fcc9f

When characters speak, the reader should be trapped in the moment, hooked, not pulled out of the story by unwieldy phrasing, words that simply don’t fit, or punctuation that distracts. When reading your dialogue aloud, which you should always do, if it sticks out or trips you, rework it so that it does what it’s supposed to do. If that doesn’t work, cut it out.

Dialogue must have an objective: advancing plot; increasing tension; developing character. If it doesn’t do any of these, if we don’t learn something about the character, it should be cut. Harsh, but it’s the only way your story will work.

Create a short scene, with two characters, and make it a scenario that carries a high percentage of dialogue.

We use everyday dialogue in real life, but when we’re speaking to a friend, or a sibling, we’re not trying to sell a book or push a reader to turn to the next page. That’s why all fiction dialogue must be filled with intention; an action or reaction to further an objective.

When an obstacle is placed in front of an objective, conflict arises. This conflict will ensure dynamic because it heightens tension. Tension lifts the story from the everyday and keeps your reader hooked because they like to see characters challenged. It’s the only way a character will change.

In your scene, have one character strive to achieve an objective, with another standing in their way, obstructing progress.

The objective could be as simple as wanting to get into a club, to find friends lost during an earlier pub-crawl, or trying to hire a taxi to get across town to meet a lover, but there’s only one taxi and someone else wants it just as bad (going the other way).

Once A’s objective is being thwarted, the ensuing tension provides loads of scope to use dialogue to convey frustration, spite, fear, passion, need and, of course, sub-text – the underlying meaning of a phrase or statement.

When writing a dialogue-heavy scene, don’t bog your reader down with expository telling. Don’t have your character spew out information that’s already known because you’re afraid your reader will run away if they don’t know what’s going on. Reveal detail in a way that elicits response – action/reaction – short and concise, or at best not dragged out. This rat-tat-tat ups the dynamic and ensures your reader is fully involved. Of course you can’t keep such a pace up forever, but in a short scene, there’s no point in long flowing speeches full of information that will drive your reader into the kitchen. Keep it terse and crisp.

In order to convey such a scene so that it will be fully understood by your reader, an accepted standard of punctuation must be adhered to. While there are more complex rules of style, the few basics will get you through any club door or into any taxi. It’s just about remembering what goes where.

Write your scene, and don’t worry about being right or wrong. Once the scene is written, you can view the dialogue rules and apply them in your second draft.

images8QWH4J5G

First rule: The complete spoken phrase is enclosed in quotation marks. This includes your full stop, comma, exclamation mark, or question mark. The dialogue tag that follows is still part of the dialogue equation, so the first word is not capitalised unless it is a personal pronoun (‘I’ – John/Mary).

“I need to get in to find my friends,” Mary said.

Or – Mary looked at the bouncer, steadying herself against the pillar. “I need to get in to find my friends.”

If you place the dialogue tag before the dialogue, the comma goes before the quotation marks…

He stared at her, as if she was something he’d wiped off his shoe, and said, “Sorry, love, not a chance.”

You can also have it as a discontinued phrase, placing a description/action tag between dialogue beats. –

“Sorry, love,” he replied, staring at her as if she was something he’d wiped off his shoe, “not a chance.”

You could also have this as two complete sentences, with the first dialogue phrase ending in a comma, but with the following observation tag ending in a full stop.

“Sorry, love,” he replied, staring at her as if she was something he’d wiped off his shoe. “Not a chance.”

An em-dash (named because the dash is the length of an m) denotes interrupted dialogue. There’s no need to explain the interruption because the m-dash is an accepted convention.

“Look, love, I already told–”

“But you don’t understand. I have to–”

“Don’t interrupt me, love.” He straight-armed her away from the door. “I told you you’re not getting in.”

When a character’s dialogue trails off, an ellipsis is used. It contains three dots before the quotation mark, or next word or thought.

“But you don’t understand. I need to…” Shit, what am I going to do?
“But you don’t understand. I need to… Shit, what am I going to do?”

Readers like to know who is speaking, so it’s not good practice to reveal the speaker’s identity at the end of a paragraph or several sentences. Such ‘hanging’ dialogue tags create imbalance. Consider these examples…

“I won’t have it. You’ve known me over a year now and you won’t get away with treating me as if I’ve just turned up begging your last penny from you,” Frank said, his face a deep red.

“I won’t have it,” Frank said, his face a deep red. “You’ve known me over a year now and you won’t get away with treating me as if I’ve just turned up begging your last penny from you.”

The second example works for me because it reveals the speaker after the first clause/sentence so I don’t have to guess, and the paragraph isn’t weighted down by that dialogue tag at the end.

Be sure to separate each character’s dialogue into a new paragraph. This makes it easy for your readers to distinguish who the speaker is.

Said-bookisms are where a writer uses something other than said in a dialogue tag. Your reader is blind to ‘said’, once it’s not used in a series. Their focus remains exclusively on the story. You don’t have to use it all the time because you’ll be using pre and post-dialogue action tags, or untagged dialogue where the identity is unambiguous. To be extreme, the likes of replied, answered, asked, told, and remarked are acceptable, but most others like snarled, laughed, responded, snapped, elucidated, etc., etc., pull your reader from the story because of their telling and redundant nature.

So, with that in mind, only use dialogue tags that denote speech. “The joke’s on you,” she laughed – is not acceptable, because you cannot laugh dialogue, or at least not in a manner that will be understood. Considered writing will get you places. The first draft is the place to make such mistakes, whereas the second-on is the arena for revision and putting things right.

Make every word count. Have confidence in your writing, and never be afraid to tweak and revise as needs be. The tighter your writing, the less work your editor has to do. If you have any questions, feel free to pop them below and I’ll do my best to answer.

What Makes You A Writer?

homebg

Are you a writer? What defines you as such? Is it that you have a qualification from a college, online or real-life? Are you well published, traditionally or Indie? Do you just dabble, popping out the odd poem or short story as the mood takes you, or are you a fully-committed career scribe, chipping away through hard time at piece after piece, with deadlines looming over your shoulder?

I know some who consider themselves writers, yet their output is sparse and sporadic; their most productive periods clustered around motivational workshops and competitions. They make no bones about needing these butt-kicking devices to provide the dynamic and inspiration to produce.

Maybe that’s what it’s about. Maybe it’s the ones who wait for inspiration to strike that need something like a competition or challenge deadline, or the work ethic of a day-long workshop to open the floodgates, to release those trapped disparate, unexpressed threads that bounce around the skull day after day.

So should the question be: Are you a proactive writer, rather than one who passively cruises between creative events? Do you divide your day into writing and editing blocks? Do you sweat and swear through gritted teeth, wear out a strip from one wall to another stalking through problematic plot twists, pound at those keys until the lettering vanishes and your fingers ache, wish the toilet wasn’t so far down the cold hall, or that you weren’t so addicted to the cosy cushion of tea or coffee?

Are you published? If so, does that make you a writer? Do you submit or release on a regular basis? Do you need to be accepted now to a traditional journal or publisher, or is it credible enough to post to your own blog, or self-publish into the ether of Amazon, Lulu, or Smashwords? Does your adherence to the highest quality, or your belief in your own editing and formatting abilities add kudos or demote you to the ‘lower level’ of a writing wannabe?

Do you spend hours critiquing your peers as part of a writing group (online or real-life), providing constructive and considered feedback while enhancing your own skills of the craft? Have you lovingly collected an active craft library over the years, with your well-thumbed favourites never gathering dust? Are you immersed so deep, smothered by the highs and lows, the joys and torments of achievement or failure, rewrite after rewrite, red-pen blindness, cramped shoulders, suffering snow-blindness from the constant glare of the laptop screen?

Are you afflicted by conflicting emotions as you bring your characters through their own turmoil day after day, while battling through the No-Man’s Land of crippling self-doubt, doing your utmost to follow your own inspiring words while wishing it would all come as easy as it seems to do for so many others?

Have you fallen victim to the siren-like wiles of the World Wide Web? Do you recognise the realities of modern-day promotion, and the importance of creating your author profile across the social-media spectrum? Have you screamed at your inability to switch off the internet, convincing yourself that you need to have it to hand for research and marketing reasons?

Do you have the discipline and the desire to stick with it? To plough through the frustrations of day in-day out work, work, work? Do you care that the best editors, agents, and publishers aren’t queuing outside your door, scrambling to sign you up? Are you willing to fight through such crap, keep on writing, and persevere even though there’s no real likelihood of you being ‘discovered’ in this lifetime?

If so, if you’ve answered yes to any number of these questions, then you’re nothing less than a writer of the highest regard; a Spartan warrior of the pen, willing and ready to carry the fight across all battlefields, losses and victories, because you basically can’t live without it.

All that, for me, constitutes a writer. Someone who strives to improve their craft, to gather valuable experience through hard and ongoing graft, to share and mentor through peer interaction, and to live the creative life, even if it doesn’t always bear fruit or bring the credit one might deserve.

What makes you a writer?

The Case for Rewriting

untitled (16)

When I first heard the phrase – ‘Writing is about rewriting’ – I went, ‘Huh?’ The way I saw it, the main thing was to get that story down, finished, complete, at last! I mean, there’s no doubting the satisfaction and sense of exhilaration felt when ‘The End’ is written or typed after that closing line. There’s little as good as being able to say, ‘I’ve finished my story. Wuhoo!’

Then what? Can it be sent off to be immediately battled over by a horde of hungry agents? Err…I don’t think so. As all writers know, generally after hard experience, you get one attempt – one chance, which is why it’s essential to bring your story to its most polished state possible before considering your editor, or if you’re bull-headed enough to skip an editor, submitting it to an agent.

How is this polished state achieved? Well, there are several ways. If you’re part of a writing forum, you could post your story or excerpt up for peer appraisal and hope to receive constructive feedback. Be prepared, though, to risk getting burnt by flaming critters who might see it as their duty to beat down aspiring writers for any perceived SPAG or style infringement. Or you could as easily be sent off on the wrong path with unqualified advice that your plot needs to twist this way or the other, or that your story needs to heighten/lower the horror/love/fear factor. Yes, you risk a lot putting it out there, unless you’ve a particularly thick skin, or are fortunate enough to have built up a good team of crit buddies.

Also, when it comes to sending material off to agents, it had better be ‘Ready to Go’, or as close as possible, because the day is long gone when an agent will take you by the hand, provide an editor, and basically do the work for you. Nope, they want submissions that have the work already done, simply to lessen the graft they have to do and, of course, the expenses they’ll have to fork out on what might prove a hefty risk.

So, where to begin? A good question, and quite an easy one to answer, in my opinion. Your first draft is down, time to move to the next phase. My personal practice with short stories and novels is to put the first draft away for a relatively short period of time – maybe three months – just enough to create the necessary sense of objectivity required when facing work that you may be emotionally, and egotistically, close to. In saying that, not all of us have the luxury of being able to do such a thing, but any time spent away from the first draft is time well spent.

You want to have a fresh look at it, and this can’t be done immediately after you’ve been working on it night and day for who knows how long. If you can, put it in a drawer, take a chill pill, and go work on something else for a while. Then, when the time comes, get your dictionary and thesaurus out, make yourself comfy, put your non-distraction blinkers on, and away you go.

The way I do it is to read the draft through several times. The first read is simply to get a sense of how it feels; how it’s sitting on its own ground. If something sticks out, keep away from it, but make a brief note on a separate sheet – page and line number will suffice at this stage – you don’t want to be unnecessarily distracted from your first reading experience. The important thing happening here is that your subconscious is soaking it all up – taking in spelling, grammar, and style errors, plot flaws, character inconsistencies, etc, etc. You’ll appreciate this when you’re reading through the work again and an editing issue jumps out. Your inner watcher has it all listed on your behalf.

Ok so, time to get the red pen out and go on the first attack. During this phase the thing to focus on is each specific sentence in its own right; beginning, middle, and end, one sentence at a time. Is it active? Is the verb strong? And if not, does it still work? Noun/verb/noun – subject/action/object – something does something to achieve something. Read it aloud and see if it stands on its own or if there are weighty adjectives or adverbs that need to be whacked out of it. Go for strong descriptive verbs instead of those awful ‘telling’ adverbs. And remember, this isn’t your final draft so don’t be afraid to get in there and take those unnecessary ‘supports’ out of it.

Still focusing on one sentence at a time, zone in on redundant words or phrasing and chop them down. If someone ‘sits down’, cut ‘down’ – same with ‘stands up’. If someone ‘shrugs or nods’ there’s no need to tell us how they use their shoulders or head to carry out these actions. If it’s at all obvious, leave it stand alone, strong and clear. No point in showing us an action or observation, then tell us what we already know.

Look for repetitive words or patterns, often words or phrases that have become favourites with us. If a sentence, or paragraph, has repetitive words or phrases, take time out with your thesaurus/dictionary to find a suitable alternative. As you read through, spending time on each sentence, you’ll notice how one might repeat something touched on a paragraph back. If that’s the case, cut and rewrite. Take no prisoners, your reader wants strong, active writing, not to go over something they’ve just read a moment or so before.

Check for negative patterns that pull readers out of the story, such as consecutive sentences/paragraphs with the same beginnings: She/He, They, I, John/Mary. A little consideration goes a long way to creating variety. If three consecutive sentences begin with She or I, simply change the second to break the pattern. The same goes for beginning paragraphs. Take a look at a line of beginnings down the page and see if a pattern stands out. Do many of the paragraphs begin with the same word? If so, get in there and tweak.

Search out gerunds/participle phrases, where a sentence/phrase begins with an ‘ing’. If there are more than one in at least two paragraphs, step back and rewrite. Such beginnings are a fecker for tripping the reader up. Don’t get me wrong, we all use them, but few and far between is the right way to go, in my opinion. The same goes for the likes of ‘was’ and ‘were’. An ‘ing’ word usually follows ‘was’ or ‘were’, so creating stronger phrasing helps cut the need for them.

Watch out for the likes of ‘that’, ‘just’, ‘really’, ‘suddenly’. They’re crutches that we do not need. Cut them out and allow the writing stand on its own strength. Once you’ve pushed through these barriers you’ll never look back.

Remaining with one sentence at a time, check for punctuation. Are commas being used properly? Is there a natural pause? Are run-on sentences necessary? Can you chop them back so each clause stands as a statement in itself? On the other hand, would a series of short sentences work better combined into a multi-clausal sentence? This is where reading aloud helps, or getting a trusted friend to read your work back to you. It takes patience, but is well worth it for seeking out those aspects of your writing that are weak.

images (31)

When you’ve read through your draft, marking all candidates for cutting/rewriting, it’s time to start again. Yes, that’s what rewriting is about… rewriting. Use a different coloured pen, because this time it’s about the paragraph. Does it work? Is it strong? Active? Clear? Because you can see things from a slightly larger perspective, you can now determine if characters are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Are they being consistent to their actual character, their voice, their characterization? Are they acting/reacting as you wish them to, in a way that moves the story forward? Are they achieving their objectives, or reacting appropriately if their endeavours are being blocked? Is the paragraph making sense in relation to what’s gone before?

If there’s anything needs fixing here, mark it – make a note, and move on. Don’t be tempted to jump back onto your laptop/pc to fix it ‘now’. Hold off until you’re finished your hardcopy review, then apply to your hard-drive document one phase/colour at a time. This way everything is kept specific and tidy, and you don’t lose sight of where you’re at.

After the paragraph run, it’s time to focus on each scene. There may be several of these within each chapter so be sure to mark the beginning and end of each one. You’re looking for consistencies again, in story, plot, and character. It’s essential at this stage that ‘fluff’ is balled up and shot overboard. By fluff I mean scenes where nothing of importance happens. If it doesn’t move the story forward or add to the character’s learning arc, then seriously consider cutting it. Fluff is usually a ‘Darling’. You know what they are, I’m sure – we all have them and absolutely hate the prospect of cutting them when we got such comfort from writing them. You’ve got to be brutal and decisive. Cut and move on. You’ll benefit, as will your story.

In a story, especially a novel, everything must ultimately connect in order for things to move on. The sequence of events must be credible and believable. They must work. Character actions and reactions must be fully developed to justify events that lead to it and, of course, those that follow. Everything must be justified. Everything. That’s why it’s so important that ‘fluff’ is recognised and targeted.

A good example of fluff is dialogue where characters chat about the mundane; the weather, or an itch they can’t get rid of, or the price of tomatoes. Boring! If it’s not pertinent to the story, the plot – if it’s not moving things forward – cut, cut, cut!

So once all that’s done, sit your bum down and get to work applying everything to your hard-drive document. Please don’t forget to work on a copy. So important that your original is kept safe in a folder of its own. Once you’ve applied your notes, my advice is to take a week or two off before returning to begin your next draft. This is the stage where I would normally put the work out for peer critique, but be sure to proof it well beforehand. Nothing like posting work up only to get a slap on the hand for silly mistakes you should’ve caught during your review.

Enjoy!

Solid Reasons to Hire a Professional Editor

Why would you bother getting professional help with your novel? You’ve been writing years, learning your craft, pumping out short stories to beat the band, even playing around with a few in the hope of developing one into a novel.

You’ve spent the last few years gaining invaluable experience, building your knowledge of the many tricks of the trade that might help lever your creation above the ever-expanding canopy of the writing world.

From feedback acquired from trusted family and friends, it’s obvious to you that you know what you’re at, and that it’s about time you put your main project out there – released to the world – your dream come true – a published author at last.

You’ve focused on those first three chapters, giving them the added polish you know they’ll need if they’re to garner sufficient attention from a busy agent or publisher. The synopsis is also laboured over, as is the blurb and query letter. Hard work, but well worth it, and though you’re something of a realist, you’re pretty confident your submission will hit the mark; sure to impress enough to elicit a positive response.

You send it off with fingers and toes crossed, hopeful, but also a tad nervous. It’ll take a while, but you’re willing to wait it out as you work on the rest of the manuscript. They’re going to want that, after all, so it’ll need to be in the best shape possible.

one-does-not-simply-edit

One day, during a break in rewriting, you take up a printed copy of your submission and decide to read through your favourite part, the section you’re positive will sell the whole package to the agent. You’re enjoying a nice cuppa as you read, feet up and chilled out. Then your blood runs cold when you notice not one, but two errors on the same line. Two! How in the name of all that’s divine could there be two errors, let alone one?

You put the cup down and move over to the window so the lack of light won’t have you fooled. A voice inside tells you it’ll be okay, that it was just a once-off, or a twice-off, but another, darker voice from somewhere deeper screams into your heart and soul when you pick a page at random and trip over a ‘too’ instead of a ‘to’. And it doesn’t end there. No, typos pop their ugly heads up on every page. Every page!

With clenched everything you acknowledge that you’ve gone and made a huge error, believing that your manuscript was ready-to-go, when it’s now blatant that it wasn’t even off its feet. Why, oh, why didn’t you send it to an editor? It’s not like there’s a shortage of them, what with so many freelancers about. Why in the hell did you believe your friends? Friends? What kind of friends would tell you your life’s work was fine – even great – when it so obviously wasn’t?

Of course, you know you can’t blame your family or friends. They’re the last people who want to hurt you with the awful truth that your darling book isn’t as good as you thought it was. Biting hard on your wounded pride, you take the first chapter to a writer you know, and more or less beg her to read over it and hit you with the truth. Three days later you get those pages back, each one dripping red ink. What the…? The writer, out of the goodness of her heart, has also included a brief report. The story is good, even solid, but there are issues: point-of-view, setting, pace, characterization, dramatic tension, not to mention grammar and punctuation.

You are dumbfounded, to put it mildly, but she hugs you and tells you there’s nothing uncommon about your situation. All work needs professional editing, even after being self-edited. She says that no matter how experienced a writer you are, you cannot depend on yourself as the ultimate sentinel, especially when you are so close to your project. She even tells you she suffered a similar experience, way back, but she doesn’t like to talk about it.

So you ask her to recommend a reliable freelance editor, and she advises you to get Googling – do your research to locate one who’ll suit you and your work – read testimonials from writers they’ve worked with, and avail of their free sample-edit offers.

Now you have something to give serious consideration to, and you’re adamant that you’re going to get the funds together to hire that professional editor you should’ve gone to in the first place. There’s a long road ahead, but now that you know where it leads, your heart is lighter and you don’t feel so bad about the silly schoolboy error you made.

The moral of this story? Don’t leave things to chance. Once you’ve brought your work-in-progress as far as you can, hunt out an editor that you can work with. It’ll be well worth it in the end, and your readers will thank you.

What’s your opinion? Do you believe writers should hire an editor before releasing or submitting their work? Leave your comment below.