Category: Editing


Whose Approval Matters to You?

Last night, I was speaking with an unpublished author who confided a very common fear: that self-publishing isn’t really publishing, because as a newcomer she wants that stamp of approval that comes with a publisher’s imprint.

Now, this author isn’t one of mine, and in fact isn’t even in my category, much less the SF&F genre. She’s a nonfiction author who has written a self-help/motivational book that, frankly, sounds interesting. (And I rarely say that about motivational books, since I find them to be . . . well, less than motivational. Literally the last good one I read was about eight years ago, and it was very atypical.) But this author’s fear is not only understandable, it’s very common.

It’s also part of a misconception. See, as a reader, you naturally look up to authors and their publishers (or, even if you don’t because they suck, you feel that they suck all the more because you’re not able to treat them with reverence). These are professionals. Their opinion has weight, and you would love to be their equal, or at least the rookie on the team. Their recognition is what proves you’ve succeeded.

Not true. Very, oh so very, not trueContinue reading

ant-man-thor-poster-1In my review of Ant-Man, I mentioned how the movie couldn’t make up its mind as to whether it was a caper film or a superhero origin story. I laid out the reasons why those two types of stories are, if not incompatible, then at least problematic to mix together. I also mentioned I might do a post on how I might have adjusted the movie if, for some strange reason, they came asking for my advice.

So how would I have done the movie differently?

This is actually a more dangerous question than it might appear. I’m a prose editor. I’m a pretty good one. I’m also pretty good at analysis, developmental/structural rewriting, and closing plot holes. None of that means that I’m good at scriptwriting. Visual media is a very different ballgame. I know just enough about the differences to talk about them, and not enough to actually put them into practice. I’m a professional editor, but I’m an armchair amateur when it comes to script-doctoring. I know my limits and I’m not going to pretend that expertise in one form of fiction extends to another.

So, disclaimers aside, here’s my armchair amateur opinion about what I’d have done if I’d been asked to give a developmental edit (also called structural editing) on the film.

Spoiler Warning Continue reading

Some years back, I evaluated a manuscript for a publisher. It was a Civil War historical mystery novel, and the Civil War is not exactly my area of expertise. Yet I sent the chief editor seven pages of notes on the book’s historical inaccuracies and plot holes. The editor later told me that, while reading through those notes, she turned to someone else in the office and asked “Who is this guy, Sherlock Holmes?”

It remains one of the funniest moments of my editing career, because it really wasn’t that difficult to do. Almost all of the notes were things that were easy to research. The author had the days of the week wrong in reference to the Battle of Fort Sumter. The date of Easter for the same year was wrong by a month. Currency values were closer to 1980s instead of 1860s. The depiction of proper police methods felt more like Dragnet at times instead of a period when investigative police was a rare thing.

The one and only reason why what I did was unusual was that I’m a knowledge junkie. If I don’t know something, I still have a pretty good idea where to look it up. I have lists of experts to contact, on anything from astrophysics to horse care, from the history of international law to how to sew a dress. My browser’s bookmark bar is a mostly-organized collection of links leading to various topics that I collect, thinking they might be useful someday.

The comparison to Sherlock Holmes is true, but only in this respect: I observe, I collect, and I don’t like being bored. None of that is especially unusual. Anyone can do it.

And if you’re a writer, you should do it. That doesn’t mean that if you want to write a book, you have to become the Phantom of the Library, haunting the stacks and shunning the light of day. Rather, it means you should always keep an eye out for things that are useful. Scratch the surface of almost any topic, and you’ll find something that makes your writing-sense tingle.

Here are some tips to get yourself started.  Continue reading

Some years back, I implemented a new system for submissions. I never look at unsolicited manuscripts anymore; I simply get too many, even though no one (okay, few people) would confuse me for a publisher. I had to put in some form of winnowing process. Many freelancers and small presses require a nominal fee, since even a simple five-dollar payment encourages people to make certain their manuscript is in good order before “wasting” their money.

I wanted a different process, one where no one had to send me money if I wasn’t going to definitely give them value in return. I also wanted to encourage writers to clean up certain common mistakes that I kept seeing over and over. (And over, and over . . .) They all had to do with structure.  Continue reading

As I said in my review of Shanna Swendson’s Enchanted series, I wound up with a lot more to say that was really appropriate for a review. Like many of my posts, it’s a long one, clocking in at over three thousand words, but it’s aimed more at writers than all readers. And, I promise: spoiler free! (Well, except for the romance angle.)

So, without further ado, here’s my analysis of this new favorite series.  Continue reading

I have several writing axioms that I keep repeating to people. Even editors need editors; real life doesn’t need to make sense, fiction does; writing is an art, not a science.  Continue reading

The Reason for the Silence

So, another long period of no posts? Oh, I’ve been around. You just can’t see me . . .

Actually, a large part of the reason has been that I got an offer on a full-time job that has morphed from being simply a managing editor for a new journal to . . . well, a lot more. My skills as an editor are a large part of it, but my new company is also interested in using me in other ways. It’s really very exciting. I won’t be working with fiction, but it’s really surprising how many ways my creative writing experience is helping to move their project forward.

So what does that mean for this blog, and the Novel Ninja Freelance Editing business? Well, the blog is still going to continue, and I’m still going to accept manuscripts. Odds are, though, that I’m going to be even more picky about what I take on. The new job will mean that I won’t depend on income from NNFE, but I still want to continue with my passion for stories.  Continue reading

Submission Stress

One of my authors just submitted a book. Well, I say she’s one of mine, but so far we haven’t engaged in actual financial business. She’s an old friend that I give advice to and help craft things. I haven’t had time to go over her book, but I’ve seen her writing and I hand-picked her for an upcoming series I’m managing next year (so she will be one of my authors, officially, in about six months). I’ve also helped her craft her cover letter, pitch, and so on.

She just bit the bullet on a submission she’s been putting off for literally years now. Now she has to wait for up to a year to get a response. It can be an intimidating thing. In fact, it can be a stressful thing — for good reason, though not a “good enough” reason. Continue reading

When to Use Dialog Tags?

Dialog tags are sometimes tricky to use. When to use them? Why? Where? How much?

I’m not going to assume you don’t know what dialog tags are. I’m not even going to go into grammar and whether you should ever use “said” versus something else. I’m just going to give you four rules of thumb that I give my authors.  Continue reading

Having just spotted another one, I decided to detail this particular peeve. I can’t say it’s a personal one, because I’ve never met an editor who said they didn’t mind it.

If you send in a query letter and/or manuscript and say that your work is copyrighted, I’m 99% certain to reject it. It’s very insulting and shows that you are an amateur. Continue reading

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