What I’m working on…

After trashing my book (remember, I told you about it here), I’ve put it back together enough that it’s now gone off to my editor for a structural look-see. Rather than do a full structural edit, at this point it’s about working out whether I’m on the right track.

You see, what I’m doing with this one is splitting it into three short novels – almost novellas in length. They’ll each be around the 50,000 word mark – about the length of a Sydney commute. Because they’re three different stories occurring in the same timeframe, there are crossovers that I have to keep an eye on through the editing process of each.

Each character is not only telling her own story, but also giving her perspective into the story of the others. Confused already? You wouldn’t be alone. In drafting no.2 of this series (at the moment untitled, so I’m referring to it as Tiffany), I’ve already worked out at least three places where I Want You Back (Callie’s story) needs re-work and layering. Callie herself is still feeling a tad passive – so I suspect more will need to be made of her motivations.

Anyways, the plan is to release them all a month after each other – which essentially means that I’ll need at least two ready to go before the first is published.

Yes, that does put a certain amount of pressure on me. While I Want You Back is off getting the assessment treatment, Tiffany is being drafted. I’m giving myself just a month to do this.

What I’m discovering as part of this process is that in writing quickly, not only is my voice coming through more clearly, but I have less time to faff about and deliberate over whether I’m doing the right thing, or not being clever enough. I have less time to second guess myself.

Sure, it makes the reviewing process a nightmare, but as they say, you can’t edit words that haven’t been written.

As well as madly drafting Tiffany, I’m also building the story for Alice in my head and gathering ideas for the covers and titles.

These three books (or book-ettes) are sequels to Baby, It’s You, so not only do I want to keep the cover design the same, I also want to add that same feeling of light and fun to the cover.

In the month prior to release date of I Want You Back, I’ll run a special promotion on Baby, It’s You, as for the publication date itself? I’m aiming for September, but that will depend on how much work I need to do to get I Want You Back to publishable standard.

I’ll keep you posted on that one…

Finding an editor – and how I found mine…

business dog typewriter

So anyways, I realised the other day that I haven’t contacted my editor yet to book in this year’s edits – not that I’m anywhere near finishing the first draft of I Want You Back just yet. I’ve found that if I set myself deadlines – much like I would have if I were contracted to a traditional publisher (remember, we talked about that last week) – I work towards meeting those. If I don’t have deadlines, I tend to drift rather aimlessly – and that isn’t good if you have, like I do, a production schedule to meet.

I was telling someone about it the other day and they asked the question I get asked more often than you’d think: how did you find your editor?

It’s a good question. To begin with, I had in mind a few considerations:

  • I wanted to work with someone who had worked on commercial fiction in the traditional publishing world
  • I wanted to work with someone who had worked with indie authors
  • I wanted to work with someone who had worked with chick lit/commercial women’s fiction
  • I wanted to work with someone who actually enjoyed reading chick lit and women’s fiction
  • I wanted to work with someone who I thought would also be in my target audience
  • I wanted to work with someone based in Australia
  • I wanted to work with someone who “got” my voice and my story and who could help me make it all come together
  • I wanted to work with someone who I could work with…yes, that does make sense…and who I could work with in the long term to improve my craft

Armed with this information I went looking:

  • I popped the search term “freelance editor” into Linked In
  • I put the request out on Twitter
  • I read the acknowledgement pages in books that I really enjoyed
  • I googled the terms “freelance editor” and “how to find an editor” and landed on the Freelance Editors Network.
  • I checked out the website for NSW Writers Centre (of which I’m a member).

Then I went through profiles, checked out their website links and made a list of people that I thought I’d like to work with. Then I emailed them.

Price was an important consideration, of course it is – self-publishing is a business, and businesses have budgets – but ultimately, ticking the boxes above were more important to me.

There you have it.

Who do I use? The delightful Nicola O’Shea from ebookedit.com.au. Now, excuse me while I get back to the business of writing – my deadline is now locked in.

Want to know more about the editing process? You might also like What To Expect From A Structural Edit and What To Expect From A Copy Edit

Wish You Were Here: the copy edit…


So anyways, my copy edit* came back during the week and, as always, it looked scarier than it was.

My editor (Nicola from ebookedit) marks up the document in word, inserts comments here and there, and even occasionally makes me giggle with some of the remarks she pops in. My role is to review and accept (or reject) the grammatical and spelling changes, tighten any text that needs tightening, consider any comment that’s been made (and write the suggested alterations), and come up with alternatives to eyebrow raising. Man, my characters did a lot of eyebrow raising in this book!

Wish You Were Here has been a little more challenging to write than my previous two, in that Max, my heroine, is English, and most of the story is set in England. To get into her character and write in her voice, I had to write in more of an English voice.

Some things were no-brainers: courgettes instead of zucchinis, supper instead of dinner, football instead of soccer, flip-flops instead of thongs (although my hero, Richie, is a Kiwi and he wears jandals…just saying). Max also drinks more tea than coffee. Others weren’t. As an example, people tend to talk about going up to London, but is that strictly correct when the Cotswolds are north-west of there? Nicola also asked whether Labrador puppies appear in tissue commercials in the UK- as they do here. I’m pleased to confirm that the appeal of Labrador puppies in tissue commercials seems to be universal.

I used doona instead of duvet, paddock instead of field, and undies instead of boxer shorts (for that last one I browsed the men’s underwear section of the H&M UK catalogue…and the Marks & Spencer catalogue too…just to be sure…). Another time when Max wondered whether Brad (remember him from Big Girls Don’t Cry?) was game enough to make a particular comment. Nicola reminded me that this was also something an Aussie would say. In case you’re interested, Max wondered instead whether Brad was brave enough…

When Richie thrust his hands into his pockets, strode out of the room and shut the door more quietly than he probably would have been warranted to, Nicola wondered how he managed to do so with his hands still in his pockets. Yep, never under-estimate the value of a good edit.

Other than lots of grammatical stuff to correct (my attention to detail is seriously bad) and comments like those above, there have been minimal changes I’ve needed to make- perhaps some extra strengthening of a couple of closing paragraphs. As far as copy edits go, this one has (so far) been relatively straight-forward. My biggest challenge has been to come up with alternatives to that eyebrow raising my characters do- and they all do it! If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them…

What’s next?

I need to finish the copy edit, complete the proof-read (probably twice), play around some more with the blurb, and write my acknowledgements. Then it will be time to send it all away to have the file converted for kindle, ibooks, kobo and print.

We’re nearly there…

*If you want to know what to expect from a copy edit, check out this post



What To Expect From A Copy Edit…

closeup of a pencil eraser correcting an error

Wish You Were Here is about as done in the structural editing stakes as it can be. I’m doing a final pass through for the big stuff and then it’s off for copy edit. I’m also sending it off to my beta (or first) readers at this time too.

I remember when I first got the copy edit back for Baby, It’s You. It was terrifying- this marked-up document full of deletions and comments. The page was full of them. Every page was full of them. I started to sweat. Seriously.

As I plodded through the first chapter though, it got easier. Most were minor grammar and punctuation changes- commas instead of semi colons, quotation marks the wrong way round (something scrivener tends to do for conversations where the sentence starts with S) that I hadn’t picked up on. Others were style changes to keep things consistent. Some were comments with suggestions to tighten the words.

It’s a detail and consistency thing- and I’m the first to confess that I’m crap at both detail and consistency.

When it came time for Big Girls Don’t Cry to come under the attention of the track change equivalent of the red pencil, I had a better idea of what to expect.

So, what exactly is a copy edit? The difference between them is a trees and forest thing. In a structural edit, the forest is of interest; in a copy edit, it’s the trees.  A structural edit looks at the big picture: plot and flow and characterisation etc. A copy edit, however, is about detail, style and consistency.

In a copy edit, the editor will go word-by-word, line-by-line, page-by-page through the manuscript,  looking critically for errors, issues, typos, clarity, repetition, cheesiness etc. As an example, at one point in Big Girls my leading lady, Abby, says something like ‘I had plenty of leave up my sleeve.’ Really Jo? Really? I’d completely missed it.

Then there’s the pacing and clarity thing- a tiny rearrangement of words can sometimes make a whole sentence read so much better. Occasionally, Nicola will suggest a change: ‘re-worded, edit ok?’ – at other times she’d leave a comment: ‘I think this sentence needs work.’ It’s about placing the words in the location and order where they will be of the most service.

Putting all of this together, the process of copy editing is time consuming- and that’s why it’s also the most expensive part of the self-publishing process. If you’re even half as detail-challenged as I am, it’s also a step that you can’t afford to miss- especially if you’re an indie author.

As an aside, I was reading a book the other day- traditionally published, where I counted no few than around six errors- jarring errors. Ironically, one was in a chapter about editing. The book was beyond fabulous, and I forgive easily, but given the money that traditional publishers have for editing and proofreading, it’s also not a good look.*

I use the same editor- Nicola from ebookedit– for the copy process as well as structural editing- but you don’t have to. I do- partly because I’m lazy and don’t have the time to go out and look for another editor and go through the whole getting to know you and your work business. Mostly though, it’s because she “gets” what I’m trying to do, the story I’m telling, and she understands my voice- and that is invaluable.

Because most editors charge by the hour, you can make it cheaper by ensuring that your work is as clean as it possibly can be before it goes out. Ebookedit have some suggestions to help you through this. The link is here.

If you’re working with someone for the first time, most editors will ask you for a sample of your writing so that they can quote you an approximate figure. Some will set a maximum price, some will not. Before signing the contract with your editor, make sure that you know (and have budgeted) for the maximum charge.

Check also whether your editor is doing one pass or two of the document- it does make a difference to the cost. If your manuscript is non-fiction, there could be a lot of fact checking required- in addition to the grammar, spelling, style etc. A second pass will pick up the details missed on the first round.

When she was working on Baby, It’s You, before proceeding too far down the track, Nicola sent me a sample chapter she’d edited- just to ensure that I was ok with the style and method she was using. I was. This step wasn’t necessary for Big Girls Don’t Cry.

A lot of authors will say that the best way to copy edit is by printing out the manuscript and going through it manually. This doesn’t work so well for me- I like to work straight from a document with all the changes marked up. I can then deal with each change in order. The whole idea of a red pencil and a manuscript is evocative, but not practical for me. You could be different. My point? Check how your edit will be done, and the method by which it will be returned.

What’s next?

While Wish You Were Here is off being copy edited, I’ll work on the cover. I have some ideas to send the designer, but more on that next time.

*If this post contains typos or grammatical errors, please see this as a reason why I invest in a good editor!


What to expect from a structural edit…

What to expect from a structural edit

So I’ve almost completed the structural edit for Wish You Were Here. There’s work to be done- of course there is, but on the whole, I’m pretty happy. Thankfully Nicola, my editor, likes the story and the characters- so that’s a great big sigh of relief from me.

The biggest piece of rewriting this time around has been in the second half of the book- mainly to do with the way in which I bring my characters together. Nicola has come up with some ideas to strengthen this and make it more believable.

Naturally there’s more throughout the manuscript as well, but none of it rankled with me and all of Nicola’s suggestions have made perfect sense. The story will absolutely be in better shape once I’m finished.

The hardest part of the structural edit process is the first time you get your edit back. The book you’ve laboured over has issues that need to be corrected. What’s worse, someone is telling you about that. It’s the literary equivalent of asking ‘Does my bum look fat in these jeans?’ and receiving an honest answer: ‘Actually, yes, it does. And your tummy is hanging over the top; the pockets in the back are doing you no favours; the colour is a tad 2015 and you might want to reconsider the waist height at your age.’

Here’s the deal:  you’re paying your editor to tell you what isn’t working with your book. 

What’s a structural edit, I hear you ask? Rather than looking at grammatical details, typos and spelling issues, a structural edit does a deep dive into:

  • Pacing
  • Plot
  • Theme
  • Characterisation
  • Motivations
  • Voice
  • Perspective/ Point of View
  • Consistency
  • Readability

A good editor should be able to provide suggestions that shape and organise the manuscript- with a view to improving the flow of words, and the overall telling of the story. A good editor should be able to do all of this while keeping in mind my- the writer’s- intention.

What you should get back from a structural edit is:

  • A report giving you an overall idea of the shape that the manuscript is in, the parts that the editor thinks works…overall…and the areas that don’t.
  • A marked up copy of your manuscript with constructive comments and suggested alternatives or rewrites.
    Some editors will split this into two parts, and quote for each separately. In these cases, you’ll get a report or assessment done on your manuscript, an opportunity to put the suggestions into practice, and then the structural edit will be an additional step. This can be good if you want to prepare a manuscript for submission, have no idea which direction the story is heading in, or simply want to know what track you’re on.

Generally speaking, your structural report should help you look under the covers of your manuscript- see the wood amongst the trees…so to speak. It may contain suggestions regarding moving chapters, changing tense or perspective and possibly sending your characters in a different direction than you had planned for them. Some suggestions you’ll agree with, some you’ll dig your heels in about.

The end point to all of this is to make your story the best that it can possibly be.

Your editor will usually quote you an approximate price based on word count and anticipated hours. The more work your manuscript needs, the longer your structural report and the higher the price…it’s that simple.  Therefore it makes good economic sense to have your work as tight as you know how to make it before sending it through.

What’s next?

Copy edit- when those pesky grammatical and spelling issues are highlighted and corrected. My editor is busy, so to make sure I work to deadline, I booked that in when I got the structural edit back.

In between, I need a cover…and to confirm my publication date.

I’ll keep you posted on that.

I use Nicola O’Shea from Ebookedit for all my editing.

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