To Edit or Not to Edit

Last week, Steve Evans responded to my post about fair eBook prices. It got me thinking about the writing and publishing process, and the reason why I expect to be paid for my work. I realize, it wasn’t the writing itself, but rather the stuff that comes after writing which turns the whole thing into work.

I Enjoy Creating

I enjoy the entire creation process. This includes developing plots, creating characters, writing, and even developing book covers. Oh… what fun I have! I have 4 novels which are 75-95% finished with the first draft, a few more that are in the 50% range, and a host of other ideas floating around. However, when I think about going back and polishing those books, my motivation falls flat. In fact, I don’t even want to finish them when I think about having to prepare the for publication. So, I have some choices when it comes to getting my books out there.

Outsource

I can outsource the stuff I don’t like. One of the things business owners should realize is they don’t have to do everything. What they’re unable to do or just plain don’t want to do, they can outsource it to others. For instance, I can pay someone to critique my works, pay for a proofreader, editor, and marketing person. However, the key word is pay. 🙂

One thing everyone realizes is that resources are limited. There’s a cost benefit to pretty much every choice we make. If I pay someone to do all the things I don’t want to do or am unable to do, there are other things I won’t be able to afford to do. And I’ll be honest here. I don’t have a few thousand dollars to blow per book with little chance of recovering the costs.

To Hell with It All!

What Steve really got me thinking about was why I continued to do things I didn’t enjoy. It’s not like I have to prepare my books for publishing. In fact, I can write my first drafts and shove them in a virtual drawer, if I wanted.

On the other hand, I’ve been feeling rather guilty… especially when it comes to the sequels to Shadow Cat. I really feel as if I should finish what I started, and get those other two books out. In fact, book two is pretty much written. While polishing it, I thought about feedback I received from Shadow Cat, and wanted to make sure I didn’t make the same mistakes. So, I went back and rewrote a section. Now the whole thing needs to be reviewed for consistencies. The final book is at that 75% stage… so I’m pretty close with being done with them all… but then I’m in the to hell with it all stage. I just don’t feel like going back and reviewing and polishing them. So why should I continue doing things which make me unhappy? 🙂 There’s enough unhappiness in the world. I don’t need to add an optional unhappiness to my list.

To Hell with My Reputation?

Then again, I can take that attitude and do something different with it. I’ve read quite a few literary agents say they see books on the market which aren’t ready for publishing. I wholeheartedly agree with them. Dare I take my not quite ready drafts and put them on the market? Just the idea feels me with anxiety.

I talked to my husband about the pros and cons of doing that. The reality is I have works I’m sure someone would like to read. However, they’re unlikely to make it into readers’ hands if I’m stuck on preparing them for publication… at least if I continue to work on them to the extend they satisfy me.

However, I can write my first draft, then do a pass or two before sending it off into the world. I can stop obsessing over getting each phrase to sound just right.

What Do You Think, Readers?

Literary agents have their own viewpoints. However, they aren’t my market, readers are. From the reader’s standpoint, would you rather see an early draft of a story or bypass the story all together? I ask because I’m in the to hell with it stage. The works I’m just on the edge of completing will either be filed in the virtual folder or I’ll likely finish them and do some rudimentary passes before sending into the world.

Is it better to get the work out or to slave over the work with the chance it’s just not going to get the attention it needs to be “ready for publication?”

What are your thoughts?

Authors Helping Authors: Self-Editing

We didn’t get a Friday Authors Helping Authors post. So how about a Sunday extra by yours truly. 🙂

I have a confession to make. Despite the pressure to hire an editor, I forwent one with Shadow Cat. Yes, it’s true. Shadow Cat has never visited a professional editor. I’m still waiting for someone to tell me to run it through a proofer. My mother told me last week she found one error in the first 100 pages. Another writer mentioned I’d spelled “entrée” as “entree” in chapter 2.

I cringed when those errors were pointed out. Were there more? Most likely. After all, I’m not perfect.

“Have you found any more errors?” I couldn’t help but probe from time to time.

One or a couple was the typical response after finishing Shadow Cat. Of course they could have overlooked some. They’re not perfect either. 🙂

So I told myself, three or four errors wasn’t bad. Please let it only be three or four errors. [crosses fingers] A traditionally published book gets looked over by several people and still has errors in it. Doesn’t justify shoddy work, of course, but it does allow for the human factor to come into play (within reason).

So why you ask did I forgo an editor? The simple reason is I’m not in the position to shell out that kind of money. For a 90K+ piece of work, we’re easily talking in the thousands of $$$. The salary of a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) doesn’t quite cover that. And let’s face it, kickass editing doesn’t guarantee a financial return.

HOWEVER, I still value presenting the best foot forward. I don’t want people to look at my work and label me as unprofessional, sloppy, or any other unpleasant adjective. So I do the best I can, and now I’m going to share with you the tools I use to do it.

*****

I do my writing through a program called StoryBox, which includes a spell check feature. I typically use it to spot check while writing, but for the big editing, I still prefer MS Word. The red underlines really catch my attention. Plus it includes a grammar check. I export my work into an rtf file, do a quick spelling/grammar check in MS Word, then I import my work back into StoryBox.

I edit my work in sections (usually a scene). For me, it’s just easier to work in pieces. And since I use StoryBox, I can set the status to First Draft, Second Draft, Final, or Done for each scene depending on the stage I’m in. By the way, StoryBox is inexpensive—$35 last I checked. You can try before you buy, so it’s virtually risk free. I have to say, I’m quite satisfied with the program. I wish I’d know programs like that were available when I first started writing, because MS Word definitely isn’t designed with the novelist in mind.

My most important tool when editing is text-to-speech. It’s easy to overlook errors. Often our minds read what we expect to see rather than what’s really there. Some folks say to read the work aloud, but even then I sometimes read what I expect. Not with text-to-speech software. The program reads exactly what’s there (with a few oddities). Not only does it help me pick up silly errors the spelling/grammar checks miss, but also ensure the sentences and paragraphs flow well.

 

Bryan added with a winked.

 

Why in the world spelling/grammar check doesn’t catch that, I don’t know. My eyes might miss it, but my ears give me another chance.

If you’re using Windows, you likely have a feature called Narrator. It’s rather computer sounding, but it’s free. SAHM, remember? Free is good. The way Narrator runs is so flakey, it’s almost worthless as it is. So why in the heck am I mentioning it? When implemented in a program, it’s effective.

StoryBox has text-to-speech which uses the Narrator program. Ctrl + Shift + s toggles the feature on and off. If you don’t have StoryBox, shame on you. That’s okay though, you can create a macro for MS Word which also uses Narrator. Before Mark Fassett added text-to-speech to StoryBox, I relied on the Word macro and still do from time to time. Here is an online tutorial that shows how to set up your own macro in Word.

Autocrit is the next tool I use. Usually I sandwich Autocrit between two sessions of text-to-speech. Why? Because after I make corrections, I want to make sure what I’ve done still sounds right.

So what is Autocrit? You know how you send a work to some critters and they highlight EVERY SINGLE “was” or cross out EACH and EVERY adverb? The list goes on, but if you’re like me, you probably chafe under those kinds of critiques. “To be” verbs, adverbs, “that,” and other overused words have their place in writing. The key is not to overdo it. That’s where Autocrit comes into play. It ferrets out those overused words and gives suggestions to eliminate some when you’ve gone overboard. YOU get to choose which ones to keep and which ones to ditch.

Since I’ve started using Autocrit, I’ve become more aware of the weaknesses in my writing. Autocrit offers a whole list of features that I’m not going to go into. Depending on your strengths and weaknesses, you might use some more than others. For me, Overused Words is my big thing, but lately, I’ve been visiting the Pacing feature. If you have a problem with putting too much back story in your work, that’s a great tool. There’s a free membership for Autocrit if you want to check it out. It’s very limited, but it’d give you a chance to decide if it’s for you. Paid membership ranges from $47-117. For me, it’s worth every penny. Have a look see at my opinion, if you’re looking for Autocrit reviews.

So I’ve done all I can do to make my work shine—spelling/grammar check, text-to-speech, and Autocrit. I’m done, right? Uhm… no.

Next, you need the people factor. That’s right, critters. Those extra pairs of eyes make a world of difference. Do your sentences make sense? Is your plot unfolding nicely? Oops, you missed a typo or misused a word. Plus critters can tell you what works and doesn’t work. And trust me, YOU are not the best judge for this stage. No matter how great you are at editing, you cannot possibly know how others will view your writing unless you’ve got some kind of supernatural insight.

I prefer at least three different people to view my projects. The more the merrier. But remember, you are the author, so it’s up to you to decide which advice to heed. You DO NOT have to implement EVERY change or suggestion. Chances are, if you let critters take over your work THEY WILL DESTROY IT. Why? Because much of the opinions are subjective, but if several are saying the same thing, it might indicate a problem.

I top everything off with another text-to-speech round. So that’s that.

Even if you have the funds to pay an editor, using these tools can save you money. Some editors pay according to the time spent on your work. The crappier the draft you send, the more it’s going to cost you. Others charge by the level of editing. A basic proofreading is going to be a lot less expensive than a line-by-line copyedit, and the cost for a deep edit or rewrite is enough to cause my mind to reboot.

Also, if you use the self-editing tools before sending your work to critters, I guarantee your helpers will appreciate the effort. Critiquing can be very time consuming. The critters I work with are writers and have their own projects. If they’re like me, critiquing isn’t the highlight of their day. It’s not a pleasure read; it’s work. We do it to help one another and because we need help ourselves. It’s a cost-saving tradeoff which works to everyone’s benefit… or so it should. 🙂

So a quick rundown of the tools:

  • Spelling/grammar check
  • Text-to-Speech (available in StoryBox or create a MS Word macro)
  • Autocrit
  • Critters (please don’t tell them I called them tools) 🙂

What tools do you use which are invaluable to your editing process?

Guest Post: L.K. Rigel on Editing + Giveaway [CLOSED]

If you’re an indie author, you’ve probably heard it before, “You need an editor.” Quite a few individuals offer their editing services, but I’ve had a hard time finding folks to make firm recommendations. Lucky for us, L.K. Rigel joins us today to share her experience with working with her editors.

My Editors

by

L.K. Rigel

I recently published the second book in my In Flagrante Apocalypto series. The first book, Space Junque, was edited by Anne Frasier/Theresa Weir. The second, Spiderwork, was edited by Cara Wallace. Being two completely different human beings, the experience was completely different.

Both of them made the book they worked on better than could have been otherwise.

Theresa is a best-selling author with years of experience both writing and editing. My short story Slurp was accepted to the Halloween anthology Deadly Treats, to be published by Nodin Press next fall. She edited all the stories in the anthology.

Theresa brings a lot of gravitas to the relationship. I trust her judgment. More than editing a book, working on Space Junque with her was like taking a graduate seminar on writing and me being the only student.

Cara hasn’t published any novels or edited any anthologies. She has a master’s degree in English, years of experience freelance editing, and a highly analytical mind. She is an amazing blurb writer. I will never struggle over a blurb again. I have found blurb heaven, and its name is Cara Wallace.

Because I wasn’t taking a graduate seminar from Cara, the editing process went a lot faster with her. And in these heady days of indie publishing, there is a lot to be said for speed. On the other hand, I had a few continuity questions from a couple of thorough readers when Spiderwork first came out. The questions were spot on — enough so that I added another 4K words to the book.

Another beauty of electronic publishing, being able to make corrections and changes.

I enjoyed both styles of editing. What kind of editing experiences have you had? What do you look for in a dream editor?

LK Rigel is the author of the novella Space Junque (In Flagrante Apocalypto 1) and Spiderwork (In Flagrante Apocalypto 2). Her short story Slurp will be included in Deadly Treats, an anthology edited by Anne Frasier coming September 2011 from Nodin Press.

Rigel’s writing has appeared in Literary Mama and Tattoo Highway.

She lives in California with her cat Coleridge.

BONUS: Ms. Rigel is offering goodies! One lucky winner will receive a copy of her latest work, Spiderwork. As a special touch, if the winner doesn’t have a copy of Space Junque (see my review here) she’s offering that also. Don’t we just love starting at the beginning of a series? 🙂

So how do you win? Simple. Fill out the Form

The rules!

  • You’ll earn 1 point for completing the form and additional point if you tweet and leave the link.
  • You may tweet once per day after your initial entry for an extra 2 points. Use the same form. :)
  • Comments are appreciated, but only entries from the form count.
  • Giveaway ends Friday, January 21, 2011.
  • Please read the giveaway policy for the nitty gritty.

Anxious? Find Space Junque at Barnes & Nobles || Amazon || Kobo || iTunes and Spiderwork at Barnes & Nobles || Amazon || Kobo || iTunes ||

NaNoWriMo – Update 4

One of the hardest things about writing my WIP is the fact the first draft sucks. I can only give NaNo part of the blame. Cause the first draft of my Shadow Cat novel also sucked. Not as bad, but pretty close. After a year of on and off editing, I believe Shadow Cat is starting to come together. I still have a lot of trimming, editing, and revising, but I’m confident the finished product will to my liking.

I have to remind myself that it’s okay that Alley Cat (NaNo WIP) has scenes that won’t remain and a lot of scenes that’ll need rewriting… not just editing but a thorough reworking. One thing I can say about NaNo is it’s given me the getterdun attitude. Something I haven’t felt since Aug-Oct 2009 while working on the first draft of Shadow Cat. It’s a great feeling to know I’ve written two novels, even if neither are ready for publication.

Once NaNo is over, I’m going to work on the edits of Shadow Cat while finishing Regina’s Story. Remember Brandon’s Wife from Control Freak? Yeah… that’s the one. Then it’s on to writing the sequel to Shadow Cat which only has about 10k words thus far. As I mentioned earlier, I skipped to the third and final book (Alley Cat) for my NaNo work because I’d yet to start it.

I think if I alternate between editing and writing a book, I can really give a serious go at a writing career.

This week went by quite well. I met my 2300 goal M-F everyday except for Wednesday. And even then I came in close with 2k. I even made a pretty good run on the weekend adding 3624 words. I ended my week at 47425 words.

As far as my novel itself, it’s coming to an end. I’ve filled in most of the blanks. By this Wednesday I hope to have my 50k which should complete my first draft of Alley Cat. Perfect timing, cause I believe November 25 (Thanksgiving) is also the first date participants can validate their entries.