#SaystheEditor Please Edit

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I opened my inbox the other day to find mail from a client. We’ll call him, of course, Steve. And Steve lurks around here, so don’t be surprised if he outs himself, or hopefully is laughing too hard to do that ’cause I’m about to poke fun at him while making a serious point.

The subject line on Steve’s e-mail said, “Please edit”

Now, from anyone else, this would have been a turn-off. But Steve and I have been working together for years now (He’s one of my favorite clients) and he had originally been hoping to have this book done a year ago. A year!

But what I read into his subject line was something that had been echoed earlier that same week by Stevie, who it turns out is a new client (and thank you to the existing client who referred her, as Stevie is a doll and fast becoming a favorite client). And that’s this: you guys get to a point where you can’t stand to look at your manuscript anymore, and so you’re all too eager to get it off your desk and onto mine.

That’s fine. In Stevie’s case, it came with a set of nerves. This is her first time through the editing process and it’s new, it’s scary.

But for Steve… well, I read a lot of frustration into his comment. I read the whole, “I’ve been staring at the words on the screen and staring and I know I can take it further, but I’m damned if I can see how or where right now, so let’s call in the help and…” and I imagine him throwing his hands up and making unintelligible growling noises.

Or maybe that’s just my kid who does that when he runs low on words and high on frustration.

Yet the point remains: How do I know when it’s time? What happens if I push myself to that point of being too frustrated to speak, and by the time my awesome editor is done with it, I’m STILL not ready to look at it again, but I’m trying to build a readership here, and I’ve already taken more time than I wanted to with this book and… and… and…

Breathe.

Trust yourself. Trust your story, your manuscript, your method. And then breathe some more.

It all works out, and whether your trepidation is from newbie nerves or experienced enlightenment, the only person who can say you’re ready for editing is YOU. And usually, you say you’re ready when you get to that point where you just can’t look at it anymore, you need a break, you need some fresh input.

Beta readers can be good at this stage. Or not. It’s all up to you.

Anyway, I’ve got Steve’s manuscript here, I laughed with fondness at him when I saw that crazy subject line, and for those of you who think you’d never be THAT rude to your editor, well, spend more time with me. Because I know Steve, I don’t think it’s rude at all.

If anything, it made my fondness for the guy grow.

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Featured New Book Spotlight: Still Empty!

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Still?

Yep.

Look, it’s simple: I want to feature YOU. And your book, of course. Okay, mostly your book.

And a song that makes you think of your book.

That’s it. It’s that simple.

So tell your friends. It’s free, unless you want a specific date (and it’s always free for my editing clients).

It’s supposed to be quick and easy. One question. In. Out. Done. And it’s one that should be fresh, one that doesn’t get asked by every single other interviewer out there.

Here’s the details. Really. Spread the word. Hog the spotlight, if only for a week.

You deserve it.

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#SaystheEditor A Writing Prompt!

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Ripped from real life!

I am having some remodeling done, and I walked into my powder room and found this (okay, this is a staged version, as the actual stick of Old Spice disappeared with the workmen).

And… go. Let yourself be inspired.

As always, leave a link in the comments or email me a Word file if you’d like direct and private feedback (yes! Free editing! I figure I am telling you to write it so the least I can do is give you constructive feedback on it).

And if you get the piece you write published, by all means, drop in and share the links!

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Susan Speaks: Feed the Beasts!

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June was, editorially, a slow month. For some reason I have yet to figure out, June ALWAYS is a slow month in terms of editing work.

But it gave me plenty of time to do other stuff — although not everything on my To Do list got started, let alone finished! — and one of those other things was making the media rounds. I hope you’re having as much fun with it as I am, because now I present to you some tips on feeding teens, compliments of US News and World Report.

It’s now mid-July and the summertime slam has begun, so this is probably it for a while, in terms of press. I’ve got manuscripts stacked up in the queue, which is a very very good thing. Keep that happening, keep sending in your own hard-crafted works, and keep referring me to your friends and colleagues. I’ll even take a few enemies, too, so long as they are mentally stable.

At the end of the day, I’m an editor and I love what I do. But it’s fun to fill the gaps with a little bit of press, even if it’s not press that’s directly about books and editing. That’ll come.

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Featured New Book Spotlight: … is empty?

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I KNOW.

It’s summer. It’s July, so that means you all are sending me your manuscripts to edit, not your One-Question Interview to post. And that’s good because, hey, I’m editing and making money but it’s bad because I want to feature YOU. And your book, of course.

So tell your friends. It’s free, unless you want a specific date (and it’s always free for my editing clients). It’s ONE QUESTION, although I’m told it’s a hard question.

But it’s supposed to be quick and easy. One question. In. Out. Done. And it’s one that should be fresh, one that doesn’t get asked by every single other interviewer out there.

Here’s the details. Really. Spread the word. Hog the spotlight, if only for a week.

You deserve it.

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#SaysTheEditor You Might be Wanting the Wrong Thing

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I see this one from time to time, and after thinking about it, I think it’s a misguided desire.

Now, this obviously isn’t something that comes direct to my inbox from a potential client. Nope, those folks (you guys!) are savvier about what they want, and are usually coming to me via a referral, or because they’ve read this here blog and like me and my approach to fiction and to life.

It’s the job wire, the setup where authors send a request to a larger group of editors who belong to the e-mail blast, and the editors have to bid and win over the author. Usually, the poor author is totally overwhelmed with the number of entries and queries they get. So I think they add “Must have experience with a publishing house” as a way to weed out what they think are the hobbiest editors, the people who have sketchy credentials, who will charge large amounts of money and mess up their manuscript. I get that. I respect it.

Unfortunately, they are boxing themselves out of some of the best partnerships they could be making.

Sounds counter-intuitive, I know. After all, an editor who’s been with a publishing house — THEORETICALLY — has extensive editing experience. And they know what it takes to construct a novel for maximum effect.

Except…

I’ve been hearing for over ten years now that editors at publishing houses don’t really do much editing. They don’t have time, torn between meetings and working with their clients. As a result, they want books that are as close to publishable as possible. They aren’t using the expertise being sought by these editor-hunters.

Think about that: Editors don’t have time to edit.

One other thing to consider is that two types of literature have developed: the confined boxes that traditional publishing loves, and the imagination and boundary-pushing fiction coming out of many in the self-publishing world. I work daily on manuscripts that the big houses won’t want because the manuscripts that cross my desk don’t tick the right boxes and don’t follow the current trends. This includes my client, Steve, who just quit his day job to write full-time. (Think about that.)

I get that saying “You must have worked for a publisher” seems like a weed-out technique. I sure didn’t bid on that job, even though the project itself sounded right up my alley, because I’m not going to change this author’s mind. Not in a quick e-mail.

But I also don’t regret not having a background at a publishing house. I love to play with words. I love to work with authors. I love having the freedom of living life on my own terms. I love being able to focus on the manuscript in front of me and delve into what it needs, without making it conform to a checklist so it’ll fit neatly into a marketer’s box. And I’m a better editor for having that freedom.

That author limited himself and excluded me from his future. His loss; it’s my busy season and you guys are starting to line up. Because you guys? You know what’s what. And you don’t want to conform to a checklist and fit into a box… unless it’s a box of autographed books purchased by a huge fan.

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#SaysTheEditor Time to Celebrate!

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Nope, we’re not celebrating me, although of course I’m WORTH celebrating, and you all should celebrate me (and refer your friends and yourselves to me. Have I mentioned I’m hankering for a really good erotic romance author right now? I am. Totally. Preferably someone prolific, but keep reading to see why).

I got word the other day from one of my clients. Let’s call him Steve. Steve does some really hard work on his manuscripts, and his world building is mind-blowing (and then some). He writes series that are strong, compelling reading. And he’s an absolute joy to work for and with.

Of course, he’s got his writerly ticks that I try to beat out of him. Who doesn’t? (And that’s a trick question because the answer is that if you don’t have a writerly tick, you’re not human.)

So I was very pleased to get a note from him that he’s managed to build enough of a career with his books that he’s quit his day job and become a full-time writer.

Yes, boys and girls, these success stories ARE still possible, even in the current crowded marketplace and ages of 99c box sets that are great exposure but lousy royalties.

How did Steve do it? By being prolific. By working hard on every element of his books and series. By having an innate understanding of what it takes to tell a great story, a gentle touch on the action scenes, and an ability to draw strong, likeable women who are vital to a male-dominated world. (No calls for your version of political correctness here, folks. It takes all kinds to rock the world, and no one’s saying you have to read and love these books. Plenty of others already are.)

Steve WORKS.

That’s the bottom line.

No whining (at least to me). Just work.

And it’s paid off.

So my heart swells with pride as I congratulate him again. And the editor in me drools at the thought of what’s to come, now that he’s a full-time writer. I hope his fans are drooling as hard as I am.

His present can be your future. Go get it.

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Reopening the Featured New Book Spotlight and Lines of Distinction!

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Even though the site redesign isn’t finished, I’ve been able to get into the broken control panel long enough and consistently enough now that I’m willing to go for it and reopen my promotional offerings to my author friends — old, new, and just-made.

Here’s the word about the Featured New Book Spotlight. One question! How hard can it be? (Apparently, pretty hard.)

And here’s the word about Lines of Distinction, for you guys who like to make graphic teasers and/or who’d just like to spotlight their books ’cause you’ve written a book worth spotlighting.

Remember: Read the pages. Follow the directions. They are easy.

Spread the word. A new book only needs to be new to my audience, you know what I’m saying here?

So stop in. Come by often. Tell your friends.

Let’s get more attention for you guys. In an increasingly crowded market, you guys deserve it. And did I mention it’s free?

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Smashwords Summer Sale!

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It’s that time again! The Smashwords Summer Sale!

I know I’ll be perusing the offerings and loading up my ereader with books I’ll stress about not reading in a timely fashion — why don’t you join me? We’ve got all month for this ebook goodness, so c’mon! Let’s get some deals!

If you haven’t caught up on the Trevolution, all my books are FREE this month. Go pick ’em up.

Of course, you know by now I’m a HUGE champion of the value of reviews, so be sure to say thanks for the freebie by leaving a review. At Smashwords, at GoodReads, at that big behemoth of a bookseller that sells more than just books these days and now runs the national economy. You know who I mean; the point is that it doesn’t matter — leave a review!

Yes, even a negative review helps, so be kind if you need to, and be as constructive as possible. Some of us only read 1- and 2-star reviews!

That, of course, extends to my own books. But really. You’re not going to find 1- or 2-star reads on my page. Nope.

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#SaystheEditor You Deserve Better Than This

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I woke up the other morning with my good eye swollen shut and an unsolicited e-mail in my inbox. A so-called publisher was looking for editors. The scope of the work was unclear, there was no pay rate given, there were errors in the body of the e-mail — we editors may be important in the life cycle of a book, but not so important that our job title should be capitalized — and… then I noticed it.

Immediate recoil.

I’ll paraphrase, but it comes down to, “Most of our authors are first-timers and experience has taught us that first-timers don’t know what the hell they’re doing, so your job is to do this work for them, without teaching them, without guiding them. Just shut up and do it for these incompetents so they can earn a ton of money and you can earn some amount that we won’t divulge. Oh, and here’s an unsolicited attachment.”

Like I said, that’s a paraphrase, but the essence is there: Our authors are too stupid to do the job.

WHY would any person want to partner with someone who treats them like this?

Oh, I know. Because the person on the other end is promising them lots of success and money. Which is what I confirmed when I Googled the publisher and… wow. Red flags all over the place. They are revolutionary in publishing! Their authors are featured in major media outlets! Services and seminars to teach you how to do this!

And then I noticed the typos.

But know what I DID NOT SEE?

A link for submissions. Apparently, the only way to get your book published by these people is to attend one of their seminars.

Right there’s the final red flag. You should never have to pay to attend a seminar about something you can easily research for free.

For me, though, that final red flag happened much, much earlier. It was in that implied slight to the author. That you guys aren’t smart enough or good enough or experienced enough to know how to write compelling back cover copy about your own book. Why would you ever want to work with someone who doesn’t respect you and your creative talents? Why would you want to partner in business with someone who looks down his (the company’s figurehead is a man) nose at you?

You are better than that. You deserve to be treated better. You deserve to be respected for your vision, for your hard work putting words down on a page, for your dedication to your craft.

You deserve to be taught, to be guided, to be corrected, to be respected.

You deserve to be helped in your quest to make the best book possible.

Don’t be lured in by the siren’s promise of money, and gobs of it. Don’t be lured in by a flashy, slick website and sensationalistic copy. Publishing is a business. It is incredibly hard work, mastering the craft of writing, putting words down on a page until they form a story, revising and shaping that first draft into something you’re proud of, putting yourself out there to critique partners and beta readers and hearing that you’ve got a ways to go yet, hiring an editor (Hey, pick me!) and hearing you aren’t there yet, and then finding your production team, then your promotional team, then seeking reviewers…

Publishing is HARD. Don’t be suckered by promises of an easy path through it.

You deserve better than these scammers. You really do.

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Susan Speaks: A Personal Note

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Despite having blogged pretty extensively about my eye injury, I think of myself as a pretty private person. I don’t talk much about my kids, for example, although clearly it’s my kid who introduced me to my new love for Ultimate Frisbee. So you guys know I have kids. They exist, mostly offline. My daughter is more of a social media person than my son, who’d be perfectly happy to never hear anyone say, “But you NEED a Facebook page!”

But every now and then, I talk about my kids. Like here. In the New York Times.

Yes, the New York Times.

They asked, so I answered, and here you go. What my young people — I can’t call them small anymore, since they’re both taller than me — are up to this summer.

You, ahh, might want to refer me around as the freelance editor par exellence that I am. These activities ain’t cheap, and college is on a lot of minds around here!

(And, as always, join the conversation by letting us all know what your kids are up this summer. Do I really need to tell you that?)

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Susan Speaks: Help Save My Sight

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I like telling you guys about interviews I do. Usually, I am out and about talking about writing, about fiction, about being an editor or (more rarely these days) being a writer.

But these aren’t usual times, as all of us know.

And so I’m talking to other people. New people. People who love to help spread the story of my January 29016 bicycling accident. That’s because I am not fighting a genetic illness. I’m not obese and dealing with Type 2 Diabetes. I’m not any of those things certain factions of the health care legislation community points to as drains on the medical system.

Okay, I’m a woman. But beyond that.

The thing that journalists love is that I am an accident victim. Something happened — and we’ll never know what, according to my concussion doctor — and I wound up with an injury that will never fully heal. I’ll never have 20/20 vision out of my damaged eye again. I require ongoing care to make sure I can maintain my vision. Because something happened.

I’m a pre-existing condition of the worst kind: the accident victim.

And accidents can (and do) happen to anyone. Life happens, you know? And I now need ongoing medical care.

I have never been hugely political. But now, I find I have to be. My joke about renaming the business to Cyclops Editing: I do with one eye what everyone else does with two is… not so funny when faced with the reality that I’ve spent a year and a half fighting to save my vision. My house, my career, my freedom.

So, yes. I’m asking you to join me. Here’s the latest article about what the proposed changes to our health care system will do to not on me, but others. Amy Zellmer did a great job writing it. Now, I’m asking you to read it. To think about me. To think about yourself, and what would YOU do if this bill passes and you have an accident of your own.

Share the link. Encourage others to see it. To stand up for all of us, really.

Because tomorrow, it can be YOU lying on the floor with a hand over your eye, screaming not at the pain but at the horror of what’s just happened, even though you have no idea what just happened. All you know is that it’s black like you’ve never seen black before, that the image of a pink-taped handlebar is forever seared on your brain as it came closer, that the feeling of inevitability flooded you and held you down and allowed it to happen.

Because tomorrow, it can be you coming out of a surgery with no one waiting for you at the hospital, no one who can or will tell you how long it took them to clean your eye up, no one there to hold your hand when the resident, cute as he was, tells you that yes, you’ll be able to drive with only one eye, as though it’s a foregone conclusion that this is your new future.

Because tomorrow, it can be you who follows the surgeon’s instructions like you’ve never followed instructions before, and it can be you with the miracle outcome of an eye, of vision in that eye.

And because tomorrow, it can be you who goes from being perfectly healthy and riding your bike to, in an instant, needing ongoing medical care for the rest of your life, but you don’t know, thanks to the government’s crazy ideas, if keeping your vision means losing your house, your scant life savings, the business you’ve worked so hard to build up and nurture and grow.

Yes. You can be where I am, and that’s why this fight really is about every single one of us.

Join me in it.

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#SaystheEditor How You Present Yourself Matters

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Hope you guys are glad I’m back, even if it’s only temporary.

So here’s the deal. A couple weeks ago, I saw on Facebook an appeal from an author for reviewers.

Not a bad place to look for reviewers. Except…

Well, you KNEW there would be an except. Admit it. And this one, well, it’s one thing to forgive a typo. Facebook is ridden with them and I have yet to meet a grammatically correct meme (although they might be getting better, oddly. Maybe. Might. Or maybe it’s that I’m not on Facebook as much as I had been and so simply see fewer memes).

If I didn’t manage to distract you with that aside about memes, you know where I’m headed: the request for reviewers for the author’s new book was… well, the grammar sucked. And frankly, it didn’t make me want to read his book. In fact, it kinda made me want to undo our connection because clearly, he’s not smart enough to hire me and he’s not careful enough to consider that a potential reviewer might take a look at his poorly worded post with its not-so-charming errors and… expect the same between the covers of his new book.

And that’s the thing: I see authors all the time who undermine themselves this way. Bios with typos. Book cover copy that makes no sense. And the commas! Is it so hard to know when to set off an author’s name in commas and when not to? Cripes. Ask your editor for help if you’re not sure.

If they won’t help you with the little stuff, or they want to charge you an arm and a leg for it, maybe they’re not the right editor for you.

Don’t be this guy. How you present yourself matters.

Check. Double-check. Whatever it is that you’re going to put out in the world, make sure you’re presenting yourself the way you want to be viewed. In this author’s case — I’ve followed him for many years — he’s usually smart, funny, and creative. This post made him look uneducated, crass, and certainly not smart, funny, or creative.

And if you need help, drop me a line. Because I believe that part of making the best book possible is that how you present yourself matters. And that means I’m glad to help you present yourself as smart, funny, and creative — or however you choose to appear.

It’s your choice. But success is hard enough to come by as it is. There’s no need to make it even harder.

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Susan’s Publishing Tales: Market Suggestions Needed!

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If you haven’t seen me looking for market suggestions at various spots over on Facebook, you’re missing out!

The story is a fun one, of course. I was talking to one of the boy’s classmates, who told me she’d had a final with the essay prompt of “puddles.”

After not writing for so long, something in me woke up.

I wrote two pieces. One won’t come out under my own name, I don’t think, but either way, it’s being held for the launch of a bigger concept.

But the other? Like nothing you’ve ever seen from me before.

And… I’d like to take a crack at submitting it around before I put it up on Wattpad and let you all read it for free. Because I like it. And I’m proud of it. And I want to share it with a lot of people who are new to me.

It’s been so long since I’ve been on this end of publishing that I don’t know any markets, any calls for submissions, any anything, for the most part, and certainly not for something this special. So… I’m hoping you guys can help me out and make suggestions for a market or three.

It’s a flash piece, about 1400 words. It’s about grief, love, redemption. The girl says it’s happy, too.

Anyone got ideas?

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Susan Speaks: And we’re back?

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So. It actually happened more in the middle of the A to Z challenge, but I woke up one day, went to check my blog dashboard and… it was missing.

So I got a hold of my awesome web designer and she… didn’t have good news. The site, she said, was broken. Beyond repair.

I’d been putting off a redesign (yes, the white on black is going to be history!) and… well, I couldn’t put it off anymore.

If you’re on a reader, you’d need to click through to see that nope, the new design isn’t done yet. What had been the end of May/early June has been pushed back to July. But what I’ve seen so far has been really slick. Jen lives near me; we’ve had dinner as part of some Pittsburgh groups before, and… she’s nailing the design. It marries a new, slick professionalism with the fonts, the colors that are quintessential West of Mars. And like I said, no more white font on black backgrounds. Even I found that hard to read, and now with the eye? Ugh. I’ll be glad to see that go.

Now, after being told that the site was broken beyond repair and use, imagine my surprise when I came to visit my dashboard the other day out of morbid curiosity (I think I needed something to be pissed about, since the things I’m currently pissed about aren’t things I can change), and… yes! There it was! My dashboard was back!

I don’t know how long it’ll be here, so I’ll try to take advantage when I can. And yes, I’ll have a party when the new design goes live and offer celebratory editing rates or something. I don’t know. Too early to make those decisions, and I’m still pissed about those things I can’t change, and well, my website isn’t the only thing in my life undergoing a facelift right now.

The A to Z posts that never got posted have been saved for next year’s A to Z Challenge. There were only three of them, and I already have a bunch of topics listed. I also have a whole slew of posts that I need to write and post…

Right now, it’s about those facelifts, those things I’m pissed about, and thankfully the constant influx of work that’s been keeping me busy and driving the business to some good, profitable places. I might be able to afford these facelifts!

Keep my editing queue full, and I’ll check in here more often between now and the new site design’s launch date. Worst comes to worst, I won’t be able to post anything. But given that I’ve managed to get in here a couple times now, I expect… hit or miss. And for a site that’s supposed to be broken beyond anything, I’ll take it.

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Through the Window #atozchallenge

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Quite possibly, the only Hanukkah song I’ve ever liked is the one that begins,

In my window where you can see the glow
From my menorah, on newly fallen snow

Menorahs have nothing to do with this post. Windows, however, do.

And that’s because I want you to stop and think about windows. About how you use them in your fiction.

Specifically, are they used as a diversion? To show that the character is ducking out on a difficult subject at hand? Is the author using the view out the window as a distraction from something that is difficult to write?

If not, are windows a way of bringing a bigger element into the scene? Do they widen the world-building? Does a lack of windows tighten the pace, the tension, the world-building?

Yep, on one level here, I’m talking about a literary device. It’s one that most authors aren’t aware they are using, because we’re told to use all our senses, and so it makes sense to expand those senses to what’s going on outside. Is there nothing in the house to feel? Then add some wind blowing outside. Nothing to smell? Add some flowers.

(First off, however, an author does not have to actually use all five senses in every scene. At least, not by the time the final draft gets uploaded. That’s a great exercise for first drafting and finding your way to the heart of the story — the puke on the page! — and then, as you revise, you can craft and shape out many of those unnecessary details.)

So think about your own work. Think about what you’re reading. (Because you ARE reading, right?) What purpose are the windows serving?

And if you’re using them to dodge something that’s difficult for the author or the character, is this a spot that could use a deeper push? Go and and get uncomfortable; you can always walk away if it’s too much.

But you can also come out with something brilliant.

Let me know how it goes for you.

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To Ooze Unctuously #atozchallenge

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One of those people who insist on living in my house and eating all my favorite foods has signed up to take a creative writing-fiction course next year in school. (To be fair, he does keep me in cookies, which he bakes himself.)

This really isn’t a post about food. It’s about how I groaned when I heard this. Not because I don’t want my kids to learn how to be good writers, especially of fiction. And not because I think all they need to do is read my blog and they’ll know how to be great writers.

But because there’s something about high school and teaching creative writing that puts an emphasis on big fancy words. Like Unctuous.

And the purple prose. “Shit,” he swore!

Oh, I can go on.

On the one hand, it’s great to take a bunch of high schoolers and encourage them to expand their vocabularies. But on the other hand, using words like unctuous is a dead-on signal to me that I’m dealing with a young writer. Someone who is still learning craft and is going to need… well, to have these sorts of words beaten out of them.

Now, fancy words like unctuous aren’t necessarily bad. I have come across spots where they are dead-on the right choice. But those spots are few and far between. I mean, say it. Unctuous. It leaves a slime coat on your tongue, does it not?

Yick.

So here’s the point: sometimes, simple is best. Not all the time. But most of it.

And here’s the rule: don’t use fancy words and fancy language to impress your reader. Impress your reader with your knowledge of craft, of your ability to plot well, develop characters they want to spend time with, to write dialogue that rings true. And to use the right descriptive words, no matter how mundane and boring they are. (Did you see that? Mundane. Some would consider that word on the same plane as unctuous.)

Short and sweet today. Because I need to go find something to get the unctuous slime out of my mouth. But somehow, I have a bad feeling that if I go into the kitchen, my cupboards are going to be stripped pretty bare.

I do have young people who insist on living with me, after all. And they don’t like unctuous food any more than I do.

But they like the cookies even more.

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Don’t Lose Your Voice #atozchallenge

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I see authors worry about this fairly often. They complain about it, too, when it actually does happen — and it DOES happen.

The dreaded bad freelance editor who edits out the author’s own unique voice.

Now, we can spend a long time struggling with the concept of “What is voice?” — it’s a nefarious thing, hard to pin down and explain. In the short version, it’s the voice your narrator takes up in the manuscript. It’s the unique signature you as a writer develop, although an author’s voice can change from book to book, depending on that particular book’s need.

In short, it’s the signature of the book. And it should be unique to the book and to the author.

That’s why authors get upset when a freelance editor removes it and makes their book sound like it’s not something produced by them. Voice is personal. It’s also important.

So do I really need to tell you that an editor who changes your own personal voice isn’t doing you any favors? An author should walk away from a first read of a set of edits both exhilarated and maybe intimidated by the job still ahead. They are often frustrated with themselves, for having missed so many small errors. (How did I type SHE there? Manuel is clearly a HE!)

But they should never, ever feel like an essential component of their book has been altered beyond recognition.

This is why getting a sample edit is a good idea. No, it won’t reveal everything, but it’ll give you an idea of what the editor is looking for. And yes, you ARE free to say, “Thanks, but I don’t think we’ll be a good fit.” (Hell, I’d rather hear that than, “I’m going with someone cheaper.”)

You need to know before you spend money if the editor is going to alter your voice.

Get recommendations from friends and peers. Ask for samples. Walk away if they won’t offer you one.

Save your voice. It’s what makes you uniquely you.

And personally? I like you just the way you are. Changing your voice isn’t my aim. Hell, I’ll take the extra time to make my suggestions sound just like you! Because, remember, I can’t help you make the best book possible if I’m imposing my will over yours.

It’s YOUR book. YOU’RE the boss. Freelance editors can only help, offer suggestions, teach points of grammar, and plead our cases. But it’s YOUR book.

It’s YOUR voice.

Fight for it.

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Tip Me Over! #atozchallenge

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Here is one I see All. The. Time.

Authors who put out a book, maybe two, and are immediately disappointed in their sales. Maybe they’ve done promo for it; usually if they have, it’s been minimal, sending out review copies and getting upset when they fall in the Black Hole of Reviewers, never to be heard from again (it happens more than you’d expect, and to everyone. Even me and Jett over at The Rock of Pages).

Keep writing, I always tell these antsy authors. Put more novels out. Build your network of contacts, and build your network of readers. But definitely put more novels out. Good novels, too, not garbage that you’re putting out to hit a magic number.

Since I began networking with other authors around the time I started self-publishing (in 2008, for those of you keeping track), one thing has held true: the tipping point for a novelist is around 5 to 6 novels.

What’s the tipping point?

It’s when you have enough books for sale that, if you market one of them, will somehow stimulate sales for the other four or five.

For some reason, you need five or six novels — not short story collections; sorry, folks! — on the market and available for readers to buy before readers will read one of your books and gobble up your backlist.

Why is this the magic number? I have no idea.

But I’ve seen it time and again.

That means you’d better get busy. And some editors, like me, love prolific authors. You guys keep us busy, and we’re here to be kept busy.

Really, there’s nothing to fear. Don’t fear bad sales. Don’t fear screwing up.

Okay, fear putting out a bad book… and then take steps to put out the best book possible.

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To Series or not to Series #atozchallenge

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Even before the rise of self-publishing as a viable publishing platform, authors were increasingly turning to writing series. Deadlines were getting tighter, but the worlds were familiar. The characters were familiar. And the readers wanted more.

Other than the deadlines, the other factors make sense. For a writer, being in a familiar world means you don’t have to engage in new worldbuilding, which is time-consuming and, frankly, hard. Same with building new characters, although the good series introduce new, fully rounded characters who you love just as much as the original players. Or maybe you love to hate them; it’s all good.

But there’s, of course, a flip side, and that’s the ability of the reader to keep up with all the series they are reading. Personally, I gave up trying and get to certain series when I get to them. The only one I may actively keep up with is Stephanie Plum, and that’s because I can take it out of the library and read it in a day or two. That’s hardly the sort of criteria you are looking for, authors!

For a young writer, just beginning to establish him or herself, series can be attractive endeavors. Not only do you have the ability to continue to expand one singular world, rather than reinventing it with each new book, but you can also continue the growth of your main characters, and that’s one of the best luxuries of a series. There’s lots of room to play, and you can put your series out as a box set, or offer the first for free, as a loss-leader but as a hook to sell the rest of the fun that follows.

Of course, there’s a downside, and that’s that the series doesn’t ever find its audience. If that happens, you have wasted a lot of time and effort on your project. And sometimes, a lot is an understatement.

But there are things you can do. You can write the best book possible. You can hire really good editors who can not only fix your mistakes but teach you how to stop making them, and who can teach you a better command of words and the craft of writing. You can hire formatters so your books look fabulous on all the various reading devices out there (including phones). Cover artists, to help catch a reader’s eye. And, of course, a really good marketing team who can do more than line up blogs for you to visit.

Yes, it’s expensive. But if you’re doing this across a series, the costs… some of them can be spread out across the series, such as marketing. Some have hidden benefits, such as working with the same cover designer until you both know what the next three covers will look like before you’ve even plotted them.

Like everything in publishing, to series or not to series is a crapshoot. But readers seem to like them, and keeping your readers happy is always a great way to retain readers and expand your sales.

Besides, really good characters are the sort you want to be around, and writing a series is always a great way to spend time with people you love to be around.

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