Editor v. Beta Readers: A Comparison

20180507_093600So I’ve written in the past about manuscript swapping with beta readers and about whether it’s worth it to pay for professional editing. But  for the latter, I had never actually had a professional edit of an entire manuscript, so I was mostly going off what other people had to say on the matter.

But a few months ago, I actually did the thing. I shelled out for a real live professional editor to go over an entire manuscript. As a result, I now feel a liiiiiittle better positioned to talk about professional editing- I mean, one experience isn’t a lot, but it’s more than zero. Since I’ve now had manuscripts edited on both ends of the spectrum, I thought it might be most helpful for you lovely readers if I did a compare-and-contrast of the two.

In a lot of ways, the two experiences felt very similar. In both cases, I selected someone that I thought would be a good fit for the story and who had time to squeeze it into their schedule. I did a final pass on the manuscript and then sent it off and sat in a flaming torment until I got a response. At this point in the game, both of the scenarios felt very similar, except for two differences. One, I was paying for the professional edit, so I was chewing my nails about money, which I tend to do. And two, I didn’t know the editor on a personal level like I tend to know my betas, so I was a little tiny bit uncomfortable sharing a work in its entirety with a stranger. Just a tiny bit. (I guess there was a third difference in that I sent it to one editor and I usually send out to betas in batches, but the wait didn’t feel any more or less torturous for that.)

One thing that professional editing really has going for it is a quick turnaround. The editor gave me a two-week time table. (She had a family emergency come up which knocked it back an extra week, but three weeks is still a fair bit faster than I typically hear from most beta readers.) So if you’re in a hurry, going with a pro might be the better option for you.

Next, already briefly mentioned, is the monies. Professional editing is expensive. It varies a lot from editor to editor and project to project, but it being expensive is especially true if you need a lot of work, have a very long story, need a rush job, etc. This stuff ain’t cheap. Beta reading, on the other hand, is free as far as money goes, although it usually comes with the expectation that you’ll return the favor at some point with your own time and editorial eyes.

I have had a lot of beta readers, and I have had only one professional editor. I can say without reservation that beta reading is a bit of a mixed bag when you’re first starting out. Sometimes you get really good betas that make you wonder why they’re not professional editors themselves. But sometimes you get gushy I-loved-it-it’s-perfect betas that, while a nice pat on the ego, isn’t super helpful to improving your manuscript. And sometimes you get the betas who… don’t… beta at all. (I know things come up, but if you’re just not going to read a thing, you should really let the author know as soon as you do instead of just letting it hang silently in the air for several months.) Most people fall somewhere in between these extremes.

I can’t say any of that for sure about professional editors. And I’ve winnowed my beta team down to a solid team that I trust and they are amazing. That said, I felt like I didn’t get as much out of the professional edit as I typically do from my favorite beta readers. Even if I don’t count all the back-and-forth weirdly-specific-question-and-answer sessions I tend to do with beta readers (Since I didn’t feel comfortable asking for that from a stranger who was expecting to get paid for her time, I didn’t ask much of anything.), I still felt like I got more from my average beta reader than I did from the editor even before I would have moved on to this step. If I’m being completely honest, I was disappointed, and the odds are low that I’ll be making this choice again any time soon.

All of this said, this is one small experience and maybe I just had a bum experience. (I mean, the lady did have a family emergency. It’s possible her mind was just somewhere else at the time- namely a hospital bed.) Lots of people out there swear by their editors, so don’t take my one small experience as the Gospel truth.

Anybody else out there have any experience with professional editors, good or bad? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear about it!

Until next week, happy writing!

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Happy 2019!

resolutions*flings confetti* Wahoo!

Another year down and I haven’t managed to overdose on lemon sandwich cookies and kimchi brine yet! *fist pumps* Man, 2018 had a lot of madness and utter rubbish, but here with are with another shiny new year. Let’s not screw this one up, guys!

All things considered, last year wasn’t too embarrassing as far as resolutions go. I got pretty lazy on my health goals, but that’s somewhat to be expected, given how lowly I prioritize my own well being. (Stop that, Jill.) But other than that, things weren’t too shabby.

Numbers-wise, I hit my reading goal, and with a couple extra books besides; I even hit the stipulation that half of them be nonfiction! I did write up two new first drafts (Copper and Box of Bones) but only managed to edit one first draft into a second (Sacrifice); but I knew from about October onward that this would be the case, so I’m trying not to beat myself up about it too much. (Because man have I got excuses for the tail end of this year.) Sadly, I totally faceflopped on my goal to write twelve short stories by writing a grand total of three. *sad trombone* But in a shocking turn of events on the last day of the year, I actually hit the rejections goal! *soccer stadium cheer* I even managed one extra rejection (yay?) for a total of forty-nine.

Honestly, for my writing stuff, I think I’ve about maxed out my productivity in my current stage of life. So I’m pretty much just setting a repeat on last year’s reading, writing, and publishing goals, with just a few minor adjustments.

Once more, I’d like to read twenty-four books, with half of them being nonfiction. This year, I’m planning on leaning a little more heavily toward the editing side of things since I have about a million first drafts lurking around my hard drive; I hope to edit three ugly early drafts (probably Blood and Ebony, Quicksilver Queen, and A Cinder’s Tale, but I’m flexible) and to write one first draft of something new over the course of the three NaNo sessions. I’m also reining back on the short story drafting, just letting those evolve on an as-needed basis without a specific goal in mind. And I’m sticking with my forty-eight rejections for the year goal because, augh it hurts, but it seems to be working for me.

So that’s it! I’ve broken each of these goals down into quarterly, monthly, and daily goals to help keep me ticking along a little more smoothly (and maybe eliminate the need for New Year’s Eve miracles, haha). So I have a plan. Let’s see how badly I wreck it!

How about you guys? Any big writing resolutions? Or little ones? Let me know- I’d love to chat! Happy New Year and happy writing!

Making SMART Goals

1002400711 Fort Fourth_22I love me a shiny New Year. And I love making a new set of goals. But here I sit, New Year’s Eve, and I haven’t quite come up with my goals yet. This is a bit of a role reversal for me, since me husband already has all his goals stated and written down, with a plan for how to chase them down.

Me? I’m still wandering around in the weeds. I usually make one overarching goal each for several aspects of my life, and then break them down into monthly or weekly goals, so I’ll probably do something like that.

In my endless quest to consume the entire internet (spoiler alert: it’s not going well, they keep making new stuff), I came across an article recently about making SMART goals. Maybe you’ve heard of this already, but just in case you haven’t, here’s the breakdown:

Specific Goals shouldn’t be a fuzzy, be-a-better-person sort of aspiration. Give yourself a clear direction with a well-defined endgame. Making the goal to “get good” at the tuba isn’t going to cut it. Be specific.

Measurable Part of that specificity is in the numbers. Dates. Pounds. Hours per week. Dollars. Make your goals such that you know when you have hit them, and then celebrate those victories.

Attainable I am the queen of crazy pie-in-the-sky goals, so this one is one I need to especially keep in mind. Yes, of course I would love to be empress of the universe by 2020, but let’s be real, it’s going to take me way longer than that to assemble the necessary imperial fleet.

Relevant Sure, I could make a goal to run a mile a week, but honestly? That’s just not something that I care about and not a thing that fits into my idea of who I want to be. A goal like that would flop because it isn’t relevant to where I want to take myself.

Time Bound This is true in every aspect of my life. No deadline, no achievement. If I don’t have a do-or-die date, it ain’t happening.

I already knew most of this stuff, but it’s nice to have a cute little acronym. Makes it more memorable.

Another thing that makes goals more memorable? Writing them down. I asked my husband what his goals were for last year and he had no idea. He hadn’t written them down. So probably some time around January 20th or so, they were gone, with no hope of being completed.

I got my hot little hands on an advance copy of a book called The Art of Finishing by Annah Searle.  (You’ll recall that she was kind enough to write a guest post for me on this very topic back in October. You should go check out her blog, The Art of Pure Living.) I’ve just started reading through it in the ongoing struggle to force myself to be a better person and I’m planning on integrating the tips in the book into my goal making this year, particularly in the workbook.

Whatever I end up going with for my goals- which I’ll definitely have ready to share next week, along with how I did on last year’s goals- I’ll keep you lovely folks posted on all my pratfalls and faceplants.

See you next year! 😀

Secret Krampus

Secret Krampus

 

BY THE WAY (this is not by the way- this is completely off topic), a quick note:

Whatever your chosen holidayic affiliation, everyone has something to celebrate this time of year! Once you dig down through the crust of consumerism, stress, and glitter, don’t we have a lot to be thankful for? Don’t we??

Many people choose this time of year as a time to turn outward and think of others. And there are lots of ways to do that! Endless charities are out there doing fantastic things for the less fortunate. My four favorites to throw monies at are LDS Charities, Charity: Water, Red Cross/Red Crescent, and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). But it’s easy to find any movement that has meaning to you! There are dental charities, farming charities, charities to help abused animals, charities lifting women out of poverty and economic dependence, charities dedicated to disaster relief, pairing abandoned unusual pets with new families, getting people with special needs a trained helper monkey, you name it!

No dollars? No worries! There are lots of ways you can give to your community (however big or small that may be) without spending a cent. Blood donations through hospitals or local blood banks are easy, safe, and save lives. And hair donations through organizations like Locks of Love  or Wigs for Kids don’t even hurt- and some salons will ship it for you! Donate your time to help teach a child to read at your local elementary school. Donate your voice by singing at an assisted living center or children’s hospital. Donate your muscles to help build homes for the homeless and give hope to the hopeless. Even just donating your attention by amplifying requests for service or donations via social media can make a big difference in the lives of our communities’ most vulnerable neighbors.

Giving can seem hard sometimes, but everyone has something they can give. And when all of us work together, everyone is lifted up! Happy holidays, everyone!

Cheat Sheet: Prepping Your Work for Narration

Here’s our second week with audiobook extraordinaire, Melanie Francisco. If you missed last week’s post, On Being an Audiobook Narrator, you can find it here. Enjoy!

As I said last week, I feel like I have a handle on what kinds of writing professional editors let out of their publishing houses these days. Most of the things you want to do here should happen in the polishing stage of your novel. Here are my 5 best tips to help you get your best audiobook.

  1. Tighten the tension in your paragraph.
    1. The thing is most people “helping” you tighten your work don’t know what they are talking about. Here’s what you need to do. Delete all words that are implied by the action of the surrounding words. A sentence that reads: The dog yanked on the leash, pulling it taut until it popped out of Lacy’s hand. Becomes” The dog yanked on the leash until it popped out of Lacy’s hand. Because “pulling it taut” is implied by the action.
    2. Make your action verbs strong and delay the point of your sentence to the end. Simply put, in the real world something happens and then you react (or fail to react). It is this tension in every sentence, every paragraph, every scene, every plot that propels your work forward. Keep dragging your reader through your sentences, paragraphs and scenes to end with a punch. Rinse, repeat. Example: Maria wrapped Julie in a big hug, after carefully setting down the doll, when she heard the good news. Becomes: Maria carefully set down the fragile doll to wrap Julie in a hug when she heard the good news.
  2. Trust your narrator. Your narrator wants the best production. It’s their reputation on the line. They want more work, they want to sound good, they want you to sell a lot of audiobooks. They better they sound, the more books you are going to sell.
    1. If you are listening to your book, and they say something slightly wrong, it’s OK to let it go. It’s a balancing act between getting your prose accurately on the recording and the damage I’m going to do if I have to re-record that sentence. It breaks the flow; my voice won’t sound the same; and although you and your listener may not know in the moment that’s what happened, it’s why they won’t buy my next book, or yours. Make sure it doesn’t happen over and over again. I’m not changing your prose on purpose, I’m caught up in your world.
    2. On the other hand, for every hour of produced audio you hear, I’ve probably put in about 10 hours of work. Mistakes get made, things slip through. So, if there is a flub up, speak up. Big ones need to be addressed.
  3. Simple tenses for your verbs, simple present or simple past. I’ve found most editors put out simple past as the default mode. This will help you tighten your sentence tension. Helping verbs usually help you into the passive voice. I just cut them out. (See Tip #1.)
  4. Dialog Tags: Use them or use action. Missing dialog tags actually only happen in very short spaces in traditionally published books. I’ve read loads of them by now, when you include all of the auditions I’ve gone on. Just use the tags. Most frequently what I see, there is dialog, and then there is movement, exposition, or something else in between the dialog.
  5. Download Audacity, and read a chapter of your work into it. Ideally this should be done about 30 days after you think you’ve finished polishing your novel.

 

I do cheat sheets and technical tips every week on my blog, The Write Hobby.  Come join me. www.writehobby.blogspot.com

On Being an Audiobook Narrator

Hello, friends! We have guest posts this week and next, both from the ever fantastic Melanie Francisco- part author, part narrator, all awesome!

MicrophoneI wanted to be an actor growing up. I got my first taste of the acting life behind a curtain being a puppeteer in my church’s youth puppets programmers. This is also the same program that turned me into a writer, but I digress. I took acting classes in junior high school the first chance I got, which was in ninth grade, when I had an elective opening. And I loved every moment of being an actor, but I walked away in college for a multitude of reasons. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the semester I went and auditioned for every single production at my college and got, nothing.

I had known for a long time, that acting was a competitive field, and that “No” was heard far more frequently than “Yes.” I didn’t want to be part of the #MeToo movement. I was warned over and over again, to get any kind of regular work, you did what had to be done, you took your turn on the casting couch, and you kept your mouth shut. It was a path I did not want to walk down. So yeah, I was kind of glad to be out. There were things I didn’t want to do. And I figured, if I had any kind of talent, I would have at least gotten one of the background parts. I wasn’t upset about not getting any parts. I just took it as the universe’s way of telling me that I was meant to be on the path I was already on.

Twenty years later, in my capacity as a part time freelance editor, I was researching ACX as a possibility for one of my clients who can voice her own work pretty well. When I looked into what they had to offer, I cruised through the books available and I found one I wanted to narrate. And all of a sudden I realized, I already had everything I needed to try out. So, I did. I didn’t get that book, but I got a near miss in the form of a nice note from the author saying someone else had a bit more skill in pronouncing some of the French words. Since I don’t speak French, I understood and moved on. I found more books that I wanted to read. I auditioned, and auditioned. Like that semester in college, I set myself a time limit for how long I was willing to take the no, and then, I was done. After three more near miss rejections, I landed a contract on my 10th audition, not even a month after I started auditioning. By the time my kids got out of school and I had to shut down production for the summer, I had booked worked all the way through this February.

Working as a freelancer in this field, is much the same as working as a freelancer in any other field. The same set of challenges of trying to negotiate a reasonable deadline based on your ability. Having to learn on the fly a skill you didn’t know you needed until you already took on the contract. And not knowing if your work on this book, or that book, will pay off.

And it has many of the same rewards. I work from the comfort of my husband’s closet, I set my own schedule, and I take off the days my kids need me. I work on both fiction and non-fiction books.  I choose what I want to work on, although, honestly, I’m not all that picky about some things. (Which is my way of saying, there is definitely rated MA work on my profile for language, sex and violence.)  I’m extremely picky about other things, like what kind of theory is being proposed in the non-fiction world. If I can’t get behind the idea of the work, I just let someone else take that one. It isn’t fair to the author to get a halfhearted narrator, and it’s just a slog for me to read hours of stuff I don’t like.  I try to get a good idea of what kind of content I’m being asked to read before I audition, and I have never turned down a offer, yet.

I’ve read works published by independent authors and books that have been traditionally published. After a few such books, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the type of writing a traditional publishing house editor lets out of the door, and how any writer can get better at their craft. They are really great at putting the tension in a scene or a sentence. The job of an editor is to polish the writer’s work, to make the writer sound like the writer, but better. The work of a great editor is to convince a writer that they would sound better if they did a few simple things to strengthen their writing. It’s easy to lose tension in your work, but it isn’t hard to put it back in. You don’t need gimmicks, or to follow the latest slip-shod advice (ever tried to get rid of all of your adverbs.)

So stay tuned for next weeks’ Cheat Sheet…

Can’t get enough of Melanie and her wisdom? You don’t have to wait until next week! Follow her on Twitter  and check out her blog at . Happy writing!

Proud and Not Proud: A NaNo Confessional

nano-winnerSo I did it! Yaaaay! I spent about five days this month not scrambling behind the curve, but one of those days was the 30th, so yeehaw, I’m a winner.

Buuuut… then I spent December 1st going through and deleting all the utter garbage that was only kept around because I needed the words. I had files and files of things that I deleted because it was of no value to the current draft or its future editing. It was just junk. Filler. Fluff.

I’m kind of conflicted about this year’s win. Yes, I wrote over fifty thousand words, and I’m proud of that. But in just that first sweep of cutting the fluff? That was nearly eight thousand words. Eight thousand words. I could have been typing sdf sdf sdf sdf sdf sdf and the final result would have been the same. So… less proud of that.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little hard on myself. A lot of that stuff was freewriting that I did to try and unstick myself from a gunked up corner of some scene that wasn’t going anywhere useful. And for the most part it worked, getting me going on things that actually were pertinent to the story. It wasn’t all completely useless.

But then I must also admit that some of those words I counted were a report for work, drafted up in a file within the NaNo document before being sent off. Not a lot. But certainly more than the 350 excess words I found myself with at the end of the month. There’s no way I can kid myself into thinking those were in any way helpful to my story.

So what do I consider a victory here?

I love NaNoWriMo. It usually comes right when I’ve gotten incredibly lazy with my writing (which seems to happen every fall and early winter). It’s a great kick in the pants to get back in gear and like I mentioned earlier, I have done every session since I first became a mom, so there’s a bit of sentimentality in my doing it as well.

NaNo is wonderful for a lot of reasons. It helps me get back on track with my writing. It is something that I can do with my friends. It forces me to move forward even if I want to stop. It gets me a lot of words that I probably wouldn’t have written otherwise, or at least not nearly as soon or as quickly.

But there is another side to NaNo that doesn’t get talked about as much. In addition to all the awesome things I get from NaNo, I also get really lazy with my craft. Writing more words is always better than writing good words.  I take time away from the people I love and the jobs that are meaningful to me, and I put that time into writing- at least in part- fluff and filler. Standards for the meals I feed my family and the state in which I keep our home fall off drastically. I don’t practice music. I don’t read. I don’t exercise.

The WIP itself has some serious problems too. But since I didn’t possibly have the time to work through the plot holes and figure out consistent and plausible and clever ways for the characters to behave, I just plowed forward and hoped I would think of something later. I wrote an entire book in which I have no idea what any of the characters even look like. Eye color, skin color, hair length, nothing. Because who has time for careful consideration in November? I’m more concerned with churning out endless streams of garbage in a desperate word grab than in actually making something that I’m proud of.

Now, maybe I’m just thinking like this because I’ve been having a hard time with depression this winter. I’ve also been stressed out at work for reasons that have nothing to do with writing. For months, I couldn’t even go to bed without my husband because I would just lay there in the dark thinking about how I’m ruining everything that is important to me. So I can’t completely blame all of these negative feelings on NaNo when my head is clearly not in a good place right now.

All the same, I am well aware of the things that NaNo is good for, but historically overlook the things that it is not good for. Maybe there are times when writing in a mad frenzy of literary abandon isn’t the best thing for my story, or even for me. Maybe sometimes having an ambitious goal can sabotage the very thing I’m trying to achieve. Maybe focusing my efforts on attaining a certain number of words may come at the cost of telling a coherent story.

I love NaNo. (Have I mentioned that yet?) So don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll have many years of reblogging and belly-aching to enjoy while I slog my way through future Novembers. But maybe, just maybe, if one of those Novembers is especially busy and I am especially unprepared, I’ll be a little more forgiving if I feel the need to just sit one out. After all, I didn’t get into writing to churn out words. I got into writing to tell stories.

How about you readers? Do you have any thoughts on NaNoWriMo, or even on just the pros and cons of quantifying writing goals? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear your ideas!

Until next time, happy writing!