Tag Archives: best book possible

Says the Editor: Verb? Adjective?

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Is it a verb? Is it an adjective? No! This is a picture!

Seriously, though…

I had an interesting experience I wanted to pass along, because it’s about worldview, and it’s about word choice, and it’s about how every person brings something different to a piece and to the use of language, itself.

You see, I have a short story. I’ll be telling you more about this short story in the near future, but for now, let me say that I wrote a short story and I’m working with an editor on it. Yes, even editors use editors! (That’s because we understand the value of a second set of eyes, and we understand that it’s money well spent, and we understand how a fresh perspective (dare I say worldview can help us produce the best book — or in this case, short story — possible.)

And I used this phrase: At last, we quiet.

Or something like that. 😉

And my editor wanted me to change it to At last, we quieted.

So I took a look. Because I brought her on board to help me, right? And… I realized that the piece is in present tense, which is kind of rare for me but there it is, and approving her change means… a tense change right in the middle of the piece.

I pointed that out to her. She looked it over, thought about it, agreed, but said something about the phrase still bothered her.

I took another look, both at her request and because, frankly, I was intrigued.

And it hit me. She didn’t like that I was using quiet as a verb. So I changed it to an adjective by adding a verb in there and we were both happy.

It was a few hours later that it hit me what a brilliant change that wound up being. It’s one of those small, subtle changes that no one will ever be aware of (although now that I’m pointing it out to you, you might), but it’s a verb that echoes back to the genesis of the story, the action that sets the character on the path that leads us to the point where she finally quiets.

But hopefully — and this is what really good writing does — that one small word change, that one insertion, will give the reader a more complete reading experience, will heighten the emotion even if they don’t know the hows or whys they got there. That the reader will come away with a bit of extra satisfaction that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

This is why we use editors, friends. I sent her the best story possible. She helped me make it better.

More to come about it, so stay tuned.

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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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Best Book Possible: The #atozchallenge

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With the introductions out of the way, let’s talk about what every author wants to produce: the best book possible.

Some authors really are good enough to sit down, pound out a draft, go over it once or twice, send it to their editor, make the tweaks and fix the mistakes, and put it on the market.

Most aren’t.

Which means that producing the best book possible is going to take time. It’s going to involve figurative amounts of blood and guts and literal amounts of sweat. You’ll lose sleep over it. You’ll lose sleep because of it. You’ll take naps in the name of letting your subconscious work.

And you’ll sit down at the computer time and again and put down fresh words. And even more, you’ll sit down and craft the words you’ve already written.

You’ll push yourself to the point of being sick of your own words, your own story, the characters who chase you through your days and your dreams. And that’s when you’ll send your baby out to a beta reader, maybe, or an editor definitely, and hear words that always seem harsh and cold.

But you’ll dive back in anyway.

Because the best book possible isn’t going to hatch out of an egg. It’s going to take work. It’s going to take humbling yourself. It’s going to take pushing yourself beyond what you thought you could do, into places you dream of going.

And once you’ve done it enough times, you’ll hit a groove. You’ll approach that process where you can pound out a first draft and have it be almost ready for publication. That’s experience talking. That’s learning your own process and if you need to start a book with an outline or if you need to simply sit and let the story unfold around you. You’ll learn which instincts to trust and which internal monologues to ignore. And you’ll learn to win the battle against Inherent Writerly Insecurity.

It’s a lot. Writing a book isn’t easy, and the avalanche of bad books that are being published — by ALL publishers — shows that all too clearly.

Fortunately for you, there’s help along the way. And we’ll delve into that help later in the month.

For now and for always, focus on writing the Best Book Possible.

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