1. jshack57
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    jshack57 New Member

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    Suggestions for copy and/or style editors

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by jshack57, Aug 25, 2013.

    Hey Everyone! I'm a newbie writer and have just completed my first manuscript. It's a chic lit fiction novelette at about 30K words. Looking for a copy editor and maybe a style editor to polish it up. Any suggestions/recommendations? Thanks!
     
  2. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I would say that you should avoid proofreaders and so forth; most of it is a waste of money. Instead, try and polish it yourself - it will improve your skills as a writer, as you can learn what does work and doesn't work, and therefore you can use your knowledge and experience when writing later writing projects.

    If that isn't an option (although I strongly recommend it), look around your local area and see if you can join a Creative Writing club. Once you're settled, I'm sure you'll find someone who you like, and then you can novel-swap. You can also do this online, but be careful; you don't want someone nicking your manuscript!

    Bottom line: don't waste money on editors and proofreaders.

    Extra bottom line: learning to edit your book yourself is part of being a writer. James Michener once said, "I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter."

    :)
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as one who actually provides such services, i nevertheless warn all new writers against paying to have their work professionally edited/rewritten, because it's just tossing money down the drain...

    chances that you'll ever recoup the sizeable amounts a good editor has to charge are less than slim to none, since not even the best editor alive can guarantee that the ms will ever be published or, if by some miracle it is, that it'll make enough money from sales to make up for what the editing cost...

    as wisely advised above, if you want to be a successful writer, you must be able to edit and polish your own work... period!

    on the issue of ms-swapping, however, i have to disagree... that would be a case of the blind leading the blind, as another beginning writer can't be expected to give good/valid advice while being in need of same...

    and 'nicking your ms' isn't something you should be worrying about, because who's going to be stupid enough to steal something that's not marketable due to writing so poor it needs someone to 'fix' it?... and even if someone did, what are they going to do with it?... if they miraculously find a publisher to take it on, or they self-publish it, they can be sued and possibly be prosecuted for fraud, to boot...

    cases of actual proven plagiarism/stolen book mss are so rare you'd be more likely to win a major lottery than have it happen to you...
     
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  4. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    You're right about the novel-swapping, I hadn't thought about it like that. And as for stealing work, I thought happened more than it apparently does, so I stand corrected.
     
  5. jshack57
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    jshack57 New Member

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    Thanks for all your thoughts everyone. This helps a lot. I've read in a lot of self publishing books that at least paying for the minimal copyediting is essential because there are so many self publishing works (the route I am taking) out there with an unpolished look due to stupid mistakes.

    When we look over our work—even with a fine tooth comb—as many times in the editing/rewrite process as we do, we tend to miss minor errors here and there. Sadly, and annoyingly, I'm a perfectionist. But getting another set of eyes on it through a Creative Writing Club would certainly help and save the cost.

    As I'm sure both of you have experienced at the beginning of your careers, I am still discovering my point of view, my voice as a writer. With that, I'm not always sure I'm using the correct punctuation so the sentence is as strong as it should be. My main concern is semi-colons versus commas. I know that if both parts of the sentence are independent clauses and can function on their own, a semicolon can be used instead of a comma. But as a reader, I don't find that many semicolons in fictional works, nor do I want to keep encountering them as it does interrupt the flow a bit. Any suggestions?
     
  6. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Indeed. I've only been writing properly for four years, but my voice is definitely clear in my work now. Every piece of work you write, complete or not, will progress your style and voice. I used to use many em dashes in my work a year ago, but that phase has passed. I still use them more than most writers do, though. I know what you mean with semi-colons; I just used one. :p Seriously though, they are generally sparse in most works, especially in young adult and below. In my experience, you must never use them in dialogue; it just disrupts the flow too much. However, I've found them extremely useful in narrative, as I find different punctuation breaks up the flow a bit - in a good way. In the end, as long as you know how to use them, it's just down to style. If they look out of place or don't work, chuck 'em.

    But don't be shy to ask questions; we are here to help. As long as you don't post any of your work before you meet the site's requirements, you're all good. ;)
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Fahgeddaboudit. Learn to do your own editing. If you need to use a writer's handbook to check your rules of punctuation and grammar, do so.

    These are core competencies for a writer. You must be capable of editing your own manuscript.
     
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  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with this. However, I'd add the suggestion that you should ALSO get feedback (differs from editing) from readers as well. Choose readers who are either experienced critique-givers, able to see beyond their own reading preferences, or folks who would normally read the sorts of stories you're telling. You'll never know for sure if your story impact is what you want it to be, until readers encounter it and tell you what they think.
     
  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You should be worrying about semi-colons vs full stops, not commas. A semi-colon is used when there're two related sentences that can nonetheless stand as separate full sentences in their own right. I am of the impression that in the US, they don't like semi-colons, and I'm not sure about the UK. Personally I'd write it how I like, as long as it's grammatically correct. If you're self-pubbing, it won't matter. If going for an agent, no agent's gonna ditch you because you use semi-colons, and the agent who's picky enough to disregard good writing and a good story all because of one semi-colon (which is easily edited out) probably isn't someone you wanna work with!

    I disagree with mammamaia though re manuscript swapping being the blind leading the blind. By that logic, no one should bother with beta readers, and the entire writing workshop on this forum would be utterly pointless. But no, we usually learn better in groups and there're a lot we can learn from our peers - we will all make different mistakes and be good at different things, and even professional, excellent writers will make mistakes. To encourage us to see each other as blind is to elevate ourselves beyond our ability and pure foolishness. Humility is the best teacher. And everyone has a first book, everyone's gotta start somewhere - the supposed "blind" writer whom you've swapped with could well have a manuscript that an agent would take on tomorrow. The bad writer might have an excellent head for good stories, and the technically perfect writer might be abysmal at coming up with a sensible and exciting plot.

    In the end, get whatever feedback you can through whatever means - no feedback is useless. And regardless of whom you ask, whether the novice or the pro, no one can actually teach you which piece of advice to ignore and which to take on, and in what way it should be applied. That comes with experience and confidence. Whether MS-swapping is really "the blind leading the blind" has got nothing to do with that.

    What I would say is - swap with someone whose writing you respect and enjoy. You're more likely to take their advice seriously and there's a lesser chance of hurt feelings, and of course, you'd enjoy the reading process more too. If you swap with someone whose writing you do not respect, when the negative feedback comes, you'll have every excuse to dismiss the feedback, because you'll always reduce it to "Oh they don't know what they're talking about - look at what they've written here in their own story!" And that would defeat the point of swapping in the first place.
     
  10. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    On a personal level, I've found that the problems I have with self-editing is that I know the story too well and read what should be there, rather than what is there. Sometimes, it helps to read the story backwards. Start with the last word of a paragraph and read back to the first word. It'll help you check for things like misspelling and to a lesser degree, missing words and punctuation. Also read out loud, rather than to yourself, and give yourself a few days between editing to defamiliarize yourself a bit. Those are all things that have helped me. I'm sure however, that Mamma has a thousand more useful tidbits and tools. Speaking of which . . .

    @mammamaia, is there any way that we can get a thread started by you dealing with tools for self-editing? By that I mean things like strategies for reading, ways to make sure you catch punctuation mistakes, how to train your eye/mind to catch homophones and check them, etc? I think it would be a great help for me personally, and probably quite a few others as well.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    gosh! :eek:

    though i'm flattered that you'd ask, ec, anyone can start such a thread for members to contribute their own 'tools' to...

    but if you meant a 'sticky' as an 'authority' or whatever on the subject, i'm not sure i could actually list exactly what i do in so many words, since it's just second nature to me and always has been...

    basically, what i tell folks to do is to read over their work as if it was written by their worst enemy... and, truth be told, we writers are often our own worst enemies... o_O

    if i were to force myself, i suppose i could come up with a few additional basics... have to give it some thought...
     
  12. criticalsexualmass
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    criticalsexualmass Active Member

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    My problem is that i live in a small town, in a wasteland of smaller towns. The area is rural and most only have a high school education. I don't know a single writer within a 2 hour drive. The one i know that's 2 hours away has received several chapters for beta reading purposes, but has only given any real effort to one chapter and has made herself unavailable. I have edited and polished my work, but without some outside help I'm not going to improve much more than i have up to this point. I have one person locally, an attorney, that reads some of my stuff and is quite helpful. That's it.
    I have also considered hiring an editor to point out some of the things that will be a problem when i query an agent. If i can't get assistance any other way what do i do? I can't post here because i want to at least keep my publishing options open. It's impossible to edit something and polish it when you have no experience with what a purchaser will be looking for.
    The only option i can see is to spend the money and go to a writing workshop/convention/conference in a larger city. Which means paying for fuel, hotel, meals, etc. This will cost more than some of the editors I've priced.
    Would you guys advise the writing conference instead? At an even greater expense?
     
  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that a conference isn't going to help with this problem at all. It would only be for a few days--improving your writing takes months and years, plus I doubt that a conference would help much with basic copyediting.

    You could read books about writing, grammar, style guides. Study every point until you fully understand it and can write examples using it.

    You could regularly participate in the review room here. I realize that you don't want to post the work that you want to publish, but if your writing still needs work odds are that you'll learn a great deal from the comments on a piece that you write specifically _for_ the review room. People's comments would point you to the next thing to study.
     
  14. criticalsexualmass
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    criticalsexualmass Active Member

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    I thought a conference might hook me up with people that i could exchange work with more readily. I know the conference itself will only provide a limited value. I've written 1 1/2 novel length drafts at this point, I've edited them somewhat but can't get far enough away from them to know if they will work for another reader. It's pretty disheartening
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i am an editor who provides fee-based services and i always advise new writers to not hire an editor... the reason being any money you spend on an editor will be money down the drain, because even the best edit possible will not guarantee your work will be accepted by an agent or paying publisher and the chances of that happening for a new and unknown writer are nearly nil to none... also, many of the 'editors' offering their services are not capable of turning out professional level work, thus are not even worth what they charge, will not do a good enough job to satisfy agents/publishers, to boot... and true pros worth their fees have to charge much more than beginning writers can afford, to begin with...

    i also mentor aspiring writers and although i am working on a major long term project, i still have time to at least take a look at your first chapter and give you some feedback on the quality, plus suggestions on how to upgrade it, if it's not up to marketable levels... so drop me an email if you are brave enough to face what may be 'the awful truth'... ;)

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
  16. criticalsexualmass
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    criticalsexualmass Active Member

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    I may take you up on this, I NEED the awful truth for one of my works. Can't make it work and i don't know why
     
  17. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Who does? I live in a big town. But how many successful writers are thrilled at the chance to sit down with a newbie and talk about what to them are kindergarten items? If you want to know why they're not, read this. And as has been pointed out, asking people who haven't been able to sell their work how to write for publication is an exercise in futility.

    Here's the thing:

    1. Writing fiction for the printed word is a profession. We don't learn any profession by consuming the product.
    2. In our primary schooling we are taught the techniques of nonfiction to prepare us for eventual employment.
    3. Each medium has unique limitations and strengths imposed by the medium. For example, because the page reproduces neither sound nor picture, the techniques of verbal storytelling, stagecraft, and film are not applicable.
    4. Watching TV didn't teach us to be screenwriters. Eating doesn't teach us to cook. And, reading did not teach us to write fiction. Product and process are two very different things.

    So...you want to be a writer? I applaud you and wish you success...as a result of acquiring the skills and specialized knowledge the pros take for granted. And for a reasonably priced way to get there in the smallest of towns, several options.

    1. The free approach: Have your local free library call in a copy of Jack Bickham's Scene and Structure. Jack is a university professor and chaired the legendary professional writing seminars at Oklahoma University. He also wrote and sold about seventy-five novels.

    2. The gentle approach: Debra Dixon was one of the students at those seminars and has had a successful writing and publishing career. Her GMC: Goal Motivation & Conflict covers the same areas as Bickham's. It doesn't go to the same depth, but it is a very easy and warm read, that make you feel as if you're in conversation with her. It's not free.

    3. My favorite: Dwight Swain taught with Bickham, and as a lecturer used to fill auditoriums. He goes into great depth on the why of things, to make you better understand how to manage a given tool. At times some may find it a bit dry. His, Techniques of the Selling Writer (also available in Kindle format), when applied to my own work, resulted in what sales I've had. And since I am the slowest to learn, that's pretty good. You can pick up a kind of Swain Lite for about $5 in the form of two hour-and-a-half audio files that boil down his all day workshops on writing and character building. It's worth the price of admission for the anecdotes he relates. And as I listened, I was moved, several times, to say, "This man is a freaking genius."

    Hope this helps
     
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  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you're a brave [and wise] soul, csm!... 'come by' any time...
     
  19. criticalsexualmass
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    criticalsexualmass Active Member

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    Hey thanks for the tip on the audio files! I have the book, dog-eared and highlighted, and every time i read from it he makes writing seem so obvious and simple. I think the audio files will be more useful, though. It's hard to apply an entire book to every sentence, or even remember enough to apply. If i can shove it through my ear hole instead of my eye holes it might get sorted more fruitfully in that whiskey-addled filing system i keep in the ol gulliver.
     

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