Finding a Manuscript Editor

Ah, the daunting task of finding an editor. And not just any editor . . . the right editor. The one who will mesh the best with you and your style of writing. From knowing what kind of editing your manuscript needs to understanding pricing, it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.

findingamanuscripteditor

First things first:

  1. Ask for a sample edit.
    Most editors will provide a free sample edit, generally up to a certain word or page count. This is a great way to gauge if you and your editor will be a good fit; it gives you an opportunity to take a look at what kind of feedback the editor gives. Did they mesh well with your particular voice? Did they allow your writing to keep its unique tone and voice, or did the editor try to mold it to fit their own voice? Did they miss any glaring errors? Was their feedback constructive and helpful, or was it condescending?
  2. Find out what kind of experience and/or qualifications they have.
    Have they worked for a publishing house? Do they have many years experience, or are they just starting out? Keep in mind that’s there’s nothing wrong with opting for someone who’s just starting out; in fact, it may save you a few bucks. You might find college students or even professors who freelance part-time. I, myself, am a college student, majoring in English and Creative Writing with a concentration in fiction, and will soon be offering editing services — keep checking back!(Personal experience: I once made the mistake of not finding out an editor’s experience/qualifications. She had a good price on manuscript evaluations, so I figured, why not? I was looking for feedback beyond beta readers on a manuscript I’d already done several rounds of revisions on. Some of her comments made it sound like she barely dealt with the public — quite condescending and closed-minded. Also, her feedback was all over the place and contradictory. She came across more like somebody who just likes to read as opposed to a qualified editor. Fortunately, I was only out ~$20 and a lesson learned.)
  3. Know what their main focus is.
    What type of editing are they most comfortable with? Proofreading, copy, or developmental? Substantive/line? Fiction or non-fiction? Genre? Some editors may focus solely on one or the other, while some may do more than one. What’s also important is to know what type of editing your manuscript needs. Proofreading should be the very last step, while developmental should come first.
  4. Find out their pricing before asking for a sample edit.
    Don’t waste their time and your time by asking for a sample edit before finding out if they’re out of your budget.

Finding the right editor, the one who meshes well with you and your writing, can make all the difference in the editing stages of your manuscript. Working with the wrong editor will make the whole experience unpleasant (and potentially cost you more money if you end up having to hire a different editor — I’ve been there!). Take the time to make a list of potential editors and ask for sample edits, and make sure to keep an open mind to editors.

Here are some extra resources to help you find the right editor:

The Editorial Freelancers Association: www.the-efa.org
Standout Books: https://www.standoutbooks.com/how-choose-right-editor/
The Creative Penn: https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2014/07/14/how-to-find-the-right-editor/
The Write Life: https://thewritelife.com/how-to-find-an-editor-crucial-questions/

 

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Point of View: First

Now that we’ve gone over the basics, let’s talk about each viewpoint in more detail. If you missed the first post on the basics of Point of View, you can check it out here.

First Person POV is something many people either love or hate.. Writing in First — and, more importantly, doing it well — can be a bit tricky. Done poorly, it will draw your readers out of the story and, most likely, force them to put your book down before they even get to Chapter Two. But, when done well, using this POV can truly bring your story and your characters to life.

1peephole-lighted-eyes-person

The pitfalls:

  • It’s harder to show, not tell. (If you need help showing instead of telling, visit Showing vs. Telling: 10 Resources to Help you Show, Not Tell)
    It’s easy to fall into the trap of walking your character through every step they take:
    “I stood and went to the cupboard. Then I took out a mug and poured myself a cup of coffee.” This is telling. While some telling is necessary, an entire story like this would be pretty boring.
  • It’s easy to let your own voice slip into the narration and take over your character’s voice.
  • It locks you into one character’s perspective. (We’ll touch on head-hopping and using multiple first person’s POV later.)
  • Your reader can only know what your character knows, sees, or experiences, making it a little more difficult to work in descriptions and setting. An additional downfall of this is that it can create a vacuum of filler words: I heard, I saw, I felt. This slips back into telling, not showing. These filler words distance your reader from the story.

This is not to say, however, this POV can’t be done. Below are three timeless works of fiction that are written in First — two of which are my absolute favorite books. Some examples of first person:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Now, for some strengths of writing in First:

  • It’s intimate. Readers get a firsthand look into the mind of your character and experience the story on a much closer level, as if they’re watching the story unfold through their eyes. This can really evoke the reader’s senses and pull them into the story.
  • Great for unique voices. To Kill a Mockingbird is a good example, with its story told through the eyes of a child — Scout.
  • Readers can get a feel for your character’s history, or even the setting, such as using a Southern U.S. dialect.
  • An unreliable narrator in First can create amazing plot twists and intrigue in a good thriller or mystery, such as Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn or The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Fight Club by Chuck Palanhiuk is an amazing example of an unreliable narrator.

 

Some tips for writing in First:

Utilize the five senses. The bubbling champagne tingled on my tongue. His cheeks were rough against my fingertips, giving a stark contrast from the softness of his lips. The deafening discord around me — from the cheering fans to the screaming guitar blaring from the amps — drowned out even my own thoughts.

Give your narrator a unique voice. While your narrator doesn’t have to have a strong accent to the point of marring the narration itself (think Lennie from Of Mice and Men), they shouldn’t sound stiff and robotic, unless, of course, your narrator is a robot. Make them sound human.
An interesting read is Flowers for Algernon, a story about a learning-disabled man who goes through an experimental trial to raise intelligence. As readers, we see his intelligence grow through the language of his diary entries.

Know your characterKeep in mind their history and back story. Where did they grow up? What sort of education did they have? What is their personality like? Are they abrasive and rough around the edges? Or gentle and kind?

 

Other things to keep in mind.

Head hoppingWhile some more popular books or series head hop, know that it can be jarring for readers. Yes, it’s a way to get around the limitations of what your character knows, but some might consider a bit of a cop-out. (I recently read Me Before You, which involved several instances of chapters narrated by different characters. I found those chapters boring or irritating — I found myself wanting to get back to Lou’s chapters.) Personally, I’m not a fan of it. The one book that I’ve personally read that did two different first-person POVs was Gone Girl; the first half of the book was told by one character, the second half by the other.

Your narrator doesn’t have to be your protagonist — peripheral narration. Think Nick Caraway in The Great Gatsby. He’s a first-person narrator who isn’t in the midst of the action.

Don’t be afraid to play around with different points of view and narration types. If one doesn’t work out, consider it good practice!

 

What are your thoughts on First-Person narration?

Wednesday Writing Warrior: T.G. Campbell

Welcome to another edition of Wednesday Writing Warriors! Today I have crime author T.G. Campbell.

TSW: Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

Campbell: I’m the middle child of five and, as we were growing up, it wasn’t uncommon for my siblings and me to watch a crime drama on television with my mother. We would all discuss, and try to figure out, the mystery unfolding on screen. As I grew older, and I’d exhausted the young adult’s section in the local library, my mother introduced me to Agatha Christie’s books. I was hooked from the very first word.

It was Christie’s books, and the many years spent watching police and crime dramas on television, which birthed a dream  in me to become a police officer. Unfortunately, due to various reasons, I was unable to realize this ambition. Rather than dwell on something I couldn’t change though, I decided to turn it into something positive. If I couldn’t be a police officer I’d write about one instead.

My first attempt at writing was actually a series of (short) scripts for a crime drama called the Sunsdale Murders. It featured a broody, female Detective Chief Inspector, called Colette Campbell, at its center. Needless to say, these scrips have never seen the light of day since!

My best friend, Jenny, always had words of encouragement for me whenever I’d produce a new ‘Sunsdale’ script for her to read, however. I wanted to repay her for this unconditional support by writing something especially for her. I also wanted to challenge myself to write a mystery like one of Agatha Christie’s. I therefore borrowed Writing Crime Fiction by H.R.F Keating from my local library, studied the mechanics of the classic detective story which were outlined within, and wrote Death of a Kindred. It was only forty pages long—and featured detectives with ludicrous names—but it was, nonetheless, a complete murder mystery. I presented it to my best friend for her sixteenth birthday—much to her delight—and discovered a newfound addiction for writing mysteries. My friend and I are still best friends to this day and, yes, she still has her copy of Death of a Kindred.
TSW: In which genre do you classify your writing?

Campbell: Primarily crime fiction. My current works are all set in London in 1896 though, which gives me a compulsion to provide as much of an accurate portrayal of the clothes, real-life-places, technologies, etc., as possible.  I want to transport my readers back to the era in addition to challenging them with the puzzle of a good murder mystery. As a result, my writing may also be classed as Victoriana, crime-historical fiction, and historical fiction.
TSW: What books/short stories/novellas/poetry have you published, or what projects are you working on?

Campbell: Currently, I have two published books featuring the Bow Street Society: The Case of The Curious Client and The Case of The Lonesome Lushington. They are volumes one and two, respectively, in a long series I have planned.

There are also three short stories, currently published in eBook format only, which also feature the Bow Street Society. These stories form a sub-series of mini mysteries, designed to be read on the go, called the Bow Street Society Casebook. The aforementioned stories are, in order: The Case of The Shrinking Shopkeeper, The Case of The Winchester Wife, and The Case of The Perilous Pet.

I’m currently working on the third book in the main series—to be published in 2018—and a Bow Street Society Casebook short story collection. The collection will include the published stories above in addition to two, previously unseen, stories. There will also be a ‘notes from the author’ section, explaining the inspiration behind the collection, the real-life historical context of the plots & places, and my reasoning behind the mysteries’ creation. This bonus feature also appears in The Case of The Curious Client’s second edition, and will feature in the forthcoming second edition of The Case of The Lonesome Lushington.

Aside from my fiction writing, I also write a regular, monthly feature for Fresh Lifestyle Magazine. I was invited to write for the online magazine after The Case of The Curious Client won the magazine’s Book Award in April 2017. My feature has covered a wide variety of topics since it begin in May, including the tradition of street food in the Victorian era, Victorian era haircare techniques, and interviews with fellow authors John Bainbridge and Richard Jones. John writes Victorian era-set thrillers, while Richard has written numerous books about the paranormal and conducts regular historical tours and ghost walks around London.

Using some of the material from my extensive research, for my Bow Street Society books, I also wrote a list for Listverse entitled Top 10 Little Known Facts about Victorian Era Scotland Yard.

TSW: What is your favorite writing resource, be it a book, website, program…?

Campbell: The Queen’s London: A Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the streets, buildings, parks and scenery of the great metropolis in the fifty-ninth year of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria by Cassell & Company Limited. It is a vast volume containing photographs of Victorian era London, along with descriptions to accompany each image. The reason why this is my favorite writing resource is because it was published in 1896—the very year my books and short stories are set! This was pure coincidence, but this source has been invaluable when forming a picture of a real-life place for the reader—specifically a picture which is true to the Victorian era incarnation of that place.

I found this source on Lee Jackson’s Victorian Dictionary website. The website itself is a veritable mine of literary and journalistic sources, from the Victorian era, about London.

 

TSW: Are you a plotter or pantser?

Campbell: I am, without a shadow of a doubt, a plotter. The crime fiction I write follows the classic “clue-puzzle” blueprint of the crime fiction golden age of the 1930s/1940s. Agatha Christie was the Queen of this type of crime fiction. It places as much emphasis on the puzzle, i.e. the mystery, as that which is placed on character development, setting, dialogue etc. It’s very important to me that my readers are able to follow the various clue trails and, in doing so, have the opportunity to solve the mystery. Rather than constantly dupe my readers into believing false information and/or leading them to a false solution, I strive to give my readers enough information so they may make an educated guess by the time they reach the “big reveal”. When the readers’ suspicions are proven right, the reader may be given a tremendous sense of satisfaction and enjoyment from that satisfaction. For me, this is what classic “clue-puzzle” mysteries (or cozy mysteries, as they’re referred to today) are all about.

I therefore have to plan out the mystery for each book/short story I write in order to ensure the reader can follow the trails. It also helps me organize characters’ alibis, red herrings, and the detectives’ journey from problem to solution. For me, the crime scene is the departure point for the reader and detectives alike. From there, I guide them both along various paths in the garden, i.e. the mystery. These paths may converge and separate at various points along the way but, ultimately, they will all flow into one path which leads both the characters and detectives to their final destination—the solution.

TSW: Can you give us a glimpse into your writing routine?

Campbell: I rarely write an entire first draft before I start the next stage of self-editing my work. I used to write an entire first draft and then start to edit it into a second draft but I, honestly, found it too difficult. With the many twists and turns a mystery story may take, I found I couldn’t hold the entire draft within my head while editing it. When I started writing The Case of The Curious Client, I decided to make things easier on myself. I wrote each chapter within its own Microsoft Word file. Within each file I’d write the various sections (or scenes), following my master plan.

After writing the first draft of a scene I would leave it, go away from my computer, think about the scene’s various elements, e.g. character developments, dialogue, descriptions, clues etc., and iron out any inconsistences in my head. When I returned to the computer, I would make the necessary changes. I would keep doing this until I was satisfied it was complete enough for me to move on. A lot of my ‘writing’ is actually done away from the computer and within my own imagination. Even though it sometimes feels like I’m watching a scene from a television program on repeat.

After all the chapters are complete, I put them together and take a day to do a full read through from start to finish. After this, it goes to my Beta Readers, followed by my editor. More editing and tweaking always follows, right up to the point where I hit ‘publish’.

I know a lot of other writers may frown upon my methodology when it comes to my initial drafting but it’s the method that works best for me. Due to the fact I write my chapters in separate files, I don’t keep a running tally of my word count. Actually, I have no idea of what my final word count will be/is until I put all the chapters together into a manuscript. I find keeping track of a word count as restrictive as trying to hold an entire first draft in my head!
TSW: What do you find to be the hardest part about writing?

Campbell: The technical side—that is, formatting. I’m very fortunate to have found an excellent editor in Susan Soares though. She’s taught me a great deal about this side of the process. I think I find the technical side the most difficult because everyone has their own opinion on what it should look like. Style manuals, articles, blogs, vlogs, even Facebook writing groups all have rules on how a page should be laid out and the whole show vs tell debate.

While I do agree quality should always be paramount —and that there is a minimum standard of quality all authors should strive for—I’m reluctant to automatically bow to the ‘rules’ of others simply because “everyone else does it”. Popularity doesn’t always equal quality. I therefore analyze the advice/rules I’m being given and decide if they make sense and/or are something I’ve seen done in traditionally published works. 9 times out of 10 I roll with the advice/rules. The rest of the time, I go with my instincts.

TSW: What does success look like to you?

Campbell: Someone who is so engrossed by my writing they feel the suspense and intrigue, smell the scents of Victorian London’s streets, know each character intimately, and feel a desperate emptiness when they finish reading my book/short story. Even if just one person experiences this while reading my work, I would’ve achieved success.
TSW: Are there any writers who inspire you?

Campbell: Agatha Christie —of course! I’ve also recently discovered the books of John Bainbridge. His Victorian era thrillers, about an avenger called William Quest, keep me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. John’s works don’t get the widespread readership they deserve, which is a shame. I’d recommend the William Quest books to anyone who enjoys action, intrigue, and adventure—even if history and the British Victorian era aren’t their usual go-to topics for their reading material.
TSW: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned on your journey as a writer?

Campbell: Negative—even brutality harsh—feedback/reviews can be just as important, if not more important, than positive ones. They have the power to guide a writer back onto the right path by helping them identify what’s not working in their writing. Sometimes, pride can blind us to reality. Putting aside our pride and accepting we were wrong—despite our best intentions and hard work—can be the hardest thing to do, especially when you’re an independent writer. If you achieve this though, it can be very enlightening and very rewarding. It will also make you a stronger person and a better writer in the long run. Remember, failure is only an option if you choose it to be.

About T.G. Campbell:

T.G. (Tahnee Georgina) Campbell is the creator of the Bow Street Society—a fictional group of amateur detectives operating in Victorian London in 1896. Each of its civilian members has been enlisted for their unique skills or exceptional knowledge in a particular field, e.g. illusions, architecture, art etc. The Society feature in several published books and short stories. T.G. Campbell also writes a monthly feature for Fresh Lifestyle Magazine, covering a variety of topics from Victorian haircare to street food. She has published Top 10 Little Known Facts about Victorian Era Scotland Yard on Listverse. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of Winchester (Jane Austen is buried in that town’s cathedral). She’s previously worked for a charity supporting witnesses attending criminal court, and a project assisting current and ex-offenders into paid work or training. She enjoys doing extensive research for her writing, including visiting museums and locations in and around London on a regular basis. She currently lives in a city just outside London with her canary, Tweeps, and an extensive collection of souvenir cups.

Connect with T.G. Campbell at:

www.bowstreetsociety.com

www.twitter.com/BowStSociety

www.facebook.com/BowStreetSociety

https://listverse.com/2017/01/15/top-10-little-known-facts-about-victorian-era-scotland-yard/

http://www.freshlifestylemag.com/book-award-the-case-of-the-curious-client-a-bow-street-society-mystery.html