Interview: R.C. Rutter on Editing

I’ve seen it; you’ve seen it. Self-publishing nightmares where authors take Do It Yourself (DITY) to a new level as they attempt to edit their own works. 🙂 Please welcome R.C. Rutter as he reveals pitfalls and helpful tips on editing.

Tell us a bit about your work.

My name is R.C. Rutter and I am the author of the fantasy novel Cave of Forlorn which is available in Kindle (ebook) and (paperback). When considering all the options of publishing, it became obvious that the best method to publish is as an indie author/writer. Yes, there are challenges but the rewards far outweigh the negatives.

Okay, I’m an indie writer; I’ve bypassed the editors at the traditional houses. Now I’m stuck finding a way to get my own work edited. How important is editing for indie writers?

Lack of editing or poor editing are the main reasons indie book writers have a bad reputation. Imagine trying to read a book that is full of grammatical errors. Or perhaps, the verbiage is correct but the story line falters; characters appear and disappear at will; or change locations
without moving. It would be very difficult to read a book like this. Yes, I have personally seen all of the above and more. Editing is a must!!!

Copy editing, line editing, proofreading, etc – what’s the difference?

All of the above terms define different levels of editing. Definitions will vary somewhat depending upon the person asked but we can summarize editing as follows:

Line editing is another term for copy editing. This is the tedious editing that looks at spelling, style, punctuation, grammar, and usage. This is done line-by-line in the book.

Overall editing: Story flow, character development, etc. Is it well written? Is anything missing?

Proofreading: final check of layout and punctuation (final step of editing to possibly catch anything that was missed in the line editing).

How much can a writer expect to pay for editing?

The cost for editing will range from several hundred to several thousand dollars depending upon the services requested.

Money’s tight. What are some cost saving techniques for writers wanting to present quality work?

This can be a very dangerous route to take. With very few exceptions, a writer cannot edit his or her own book. When writing the book, you already have an image of what the characters and scenes look like so you will have a tendency to gloss over or fill in the words in your book, ergo missing errors. If you take this route, I would recommend that you set aside the book for a minimum of thirty days. Don’t look at the book, don’t think about it. Then pick it up and do a quick read through, marking any problems. I am a firm believer in the barter system.

Do you have a service or product that you can trade for editing? Use your imagination!

An alternative is to give your book to someone for editing, perhaps a friend or family member. Can you trust that person? Would they give out copies of your work? Would they put their own name on it and publish it?  Would they steal your characters or storyline? Think carefully before you answer. You have just spent x amount of months and years writing.

As a test of your writing, give the first few chapters to people who are well read on your subject matter. Try to avoid anyone who thinks you are wonderful as that will cloud their judgment. Ask for constructive feedback. If they ask for more to read; that is a great sign that you are on the right track.

Do not overlook the title. That is the first impression! (And cover art as well!).

Where do I find editors?

The unemployment line! Yes, the major publishers have all reduced their editing staff and freelance editors abound. Local sources can be found at writers groups. Unfortunately, there is not one concise list and anyone can claim to be an editor.

It seems like people are advertising their editorial services at every turn. What are some tips on choosing an editor?

Experience and efficiency are paramount. A timeline should be discussed regarding the approximate date of completion. The date has to be fluid. The more work required, the longer it will take. An editor should have experience in the genre of the book. You must check references and examples of pre- and post work.

Any additional advice on editing?

When you think you are done, put the book aside and leave it for a few weeks. Then go back and do a quick read checking once again for story flow. Once you are satisfied that it is ready, you can then scope out the different ebook publishers to ascertain their required formats for uploading books. Will a MS Word document suffice? HTML? PDF?

Did you think writing a book was going to be easy?

For more information, where might folks find you?

Cave of the Forlorn is available at Amazon

I scurd

<——First off, I added a subscribe by email link on my left sidebar for those who want to keep up to date on my ramblings. 🙂

Now for the real post. My mama warned me about getting into the wrong crowds. The pastor preached about the media I put into my head. They were right.

It all started with Zoe Who? and her crazy ideas of selling books in the Walmart parking lot. I mean really. That Zoe girl has a lot of nerve filling my head with ideas and such. Who does she think she is?

I was perfectly unhappy to wallow in my pile of rejections. After all, I only revised my query letter about 36 times. Maybe I’ll revise twice today just to outdo Brad.

Seriously though. I’d stopped writing for a long period of time. A couple of months I’ll say. The whole traditional publishing thing is such a downer. You know it took me a two and half months to write the first draft of Shadow Cat? I was so excited and motivated. I’d beaten the odds and finished a book. How many people could say they’d done that? Yet I’ve still to finish another book.

Then I got into the critique groups, which are invaluable for developing prose as long as I don’t let them take over my work. There’s always more to learn, but I’m getting there.

I’ll be honest though. Eventually I did stop participating in critique groups. The negativity really dragged me down. There was always someone who didn’t like something about my characters or the way I laid out a scene. No matter how many changes I made, someone was always unhappy. Just too many hands in the pot. I guess that’s why agents tell their clients not to read book reviews. Then again, that goes back to not letting critters take over my work.

Okay, I’m rambling. So, I’ve tried to be strong. I’ve played the game. I’ve gotten my fair share of rejections. And you know what? All it’s done is sap my will to write. The whole process of doing the traditional publishing route is just so exhausting. Not just that, but depressing. I have a few works in process now and dread the idea of going through another query round when I finish. I’m confident in these works in progress.

I’m excited about these pieces, like when I finished Shadow Cat. I don’t want to feel about them the way I feel about Shadow Cat. Just the idea of opening the file makes me apprehensive. The phrase “not good enough” comes to me again and again.

Funny thing. In my mind, I still think Shadow Cat is a great storyline. Deep down, I still love it. I know many writers look back on their old work and think it’s crap. But I haven’t gotten to that point yet. I’m still wondering why agents don’t want it. One agent was kind enough to give me insight after reading my query: “I’m a little oversaturated with shapeshifter UR and PR and this one doesn’t stand out as anything fresh or different.”

As a PR junkie myself, I can understand that. It takes a bit to get me revved about PR these days also. Yet, I’ve not read any stories like mine. Of course that means nothing since I haven’t read EVERY PR out there. 🙂 Still, my research shows it’s yet to be done. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just wishful.

I know, I know. Get on with it. You’re probably thinking, if you’re book rambles like this, it’s no wonder you’re not published. 🙂 So what I’m getting at here is, why can’t I self-publish. I’ve had readers in critique groups excited to read more after the first 3-5 chapters. I get apprehensive about posting more than the first few. It’s just a bit too public for me to feel comfortable offering more. But perhaps they’d enjoy the rest of the novel too.

Lately I’ve gotten a boost of motivation at the idea of not having to go through the traditional route. But like I said, I scurd. I don’t want to embarrass myself by publishing crap. The appeal of traditional publishing is having many, many eyes on my draft before going to print. I also don’t want to bore readers with scenes that drag. But as someone so close to my work, how do I know what’s what?

Then there’s editing. Who will I get to edit my work? So many people advertise editing services, but I don’t know where to start. wah wah wah. I can go on, but you get the point. I’m just so overwhelmed with the venture, it’s paralyzed me into inactivity.

For you self-publishing gurus out there. How did you get started? What was the first step after writing your book (and polishing it, of course)? Someone needs to publish a non-fiction called “How to Self-Publish a Book that Doesn’t Suck.”

Now for a bit of a self-advertising. I am looking for a beta readers. If you’re interested in checking out the first three chapters of Shadow Cat, fill out the Beta Reader Form or go to my Got Beta Reader? post for more information.

So, share with me your fears and successes of self-publishing. Offer advice. I’m listening. 🙂

When to Cut/Revise

Editing is an ongoing process for me. I just can’t seem to stop myself from making bitty changes here and there. I really dislike editing, but I seek perfection. Like that’ll happen. haha I continue anyway in the hope I can make my manuscripts just a wee bit better.

Then there are my problem sections. These are parts which I simply have to cut or do a complete rework. How do I know I’ve come to that moment? Simple, I hit a spot in my work which I absolutely hate to edit. I can look at the chapter for days on end, dreading it, hoping I make it to the end. These scenes really just need to go. Cause really, if I can’t stand it, what makes me think a reader wants to suffer through it? 🙂

The thing is cutting massive chunks of my precious material hurts. It hurts a lot. What if I need those parts later? Besides that, I’d worked so hard to get them down in the first place. Well tough! Sometimes writers just have to let go. I have to let go! And so I do it! I cut those parts that I cling to like lifelines. Cause really, they’re not saving anyone. In fact, they’re more like weights dragging my manuscript underwater.

Okay, I’m talking a big game here. I’m really a pack rat and have a hard time throwing away ANYTHING. So what do I do? I have a special folder I keep all my discarded scenes in case I need to bore myself at some later time. It’s my way of letting go without letting go.

So! How do you know you need to cut a scene or seriously revise it? Is it easy for you to do away with your not so great stuff? What methods do you use to do it?

Repost – Software Review: AutoCrit

7/7/2010 Looking for Autocrit reviews? I’m actually recycling this software review post this week. I did vacation last week with little computer activity and now am having computer issues. I’m writing this snippet from my husband’s computer and hoping I’ll get my computer up and running soon. Anyway, all this leads up to no new products tried this week and maybe not next week. So, I do have this product that I tried previously, and still enjoy quite a bit. It’s great for new and old writers trying to identify their problem areas. I actually subscribe to this service and use quite often. So the snippet from the website:

Dear Fellow-Writer,
If you are writing a book, the AutoCrit Editing Wizard will dramatically improve your manuscript. I guarantee it.
My name is Nina Davies, I’m a published writer, editor, and creator of the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. The Wizard is an instant book editor. With a click of a button, it shows you the weaknesses in your manuscript.

Originally posted 3/31/2010:

A few days ago, someone in one of my group lists mentioned an editing program called AutoCrit. I use critique groups for the most part. They’re very helpful with making sure the story flows and reducing distractions. However, critters are also very subjective. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it‘s not. In the end, it‘s up to the author to sift through all the critiques and determine which advice works best for their work. Then, the author ends up trying to incorporate the select advice into their work.

So, back to AutoCrit. How does it work for the author? For one, it‘s objective. It provides an objective assessment of the work and highlights problem areas. AutoCrit offers three Free Reports: Overused Words, Repeated Phrases, and Sentence Length Variation. Try them out now. The Overused Words report was what got me hooked. As a new writer, I’m not always sure what’s awesome writing and what’s just okay. I’m learning just like everyone else. AutoCrit is an excellent tool for new writers learning the trade and experienced writers looking for a quick tool to assess their work.

For example, many new writers overuse adverbs -ly words. AutoCrit determines an acceptable number of adverbs allowed in a piece, and when the writer reaches the limit, the software highlights it as a problem area. It DOES NOT recommend eliminating EVERY adverb, as a writer might find particular critters suggest. But it does recommend a reduction in the number of adverbs. It‘s up to the author to decide which to eliminate, if they choose. The same is for other overused words’ was/were,’ ‘ it/there,’ ‘ just/then,’ and many more.

Members receive added benefits: Repeated Words, Dialogue Tags, First Words, Names and Pronouns, Repeated Phrases Summary, Combination View of Overused & Repeated Words, *Cliché Finder, *Redundancy Finder, *Homonym Highlighter, *Readability Suite, *Change definitions, *Difficult Sentence, *Complex Word, *Pacing Monitor.

*Available only with platinum membership.

I had a difficult time finding editing software, and very few allowed users to try before you buy. One software, WhiteSmoke, I spent a bit of time with. Like AutoCrit it requires an internet connection. WhiteSmoke worked very much like the spell grammar check available in MS Word, but included additional feature. Not a bad program, but my experience with it seemed as if it were designed more for technical writing than creative writing. The suggestions were very formal, and not always accurate (like MS Word). If I were a technical writer, I might consider that over AutoCrit, but I’m not.

I also tried HEALaDoc; at least I loaded it on my computer. There seems to be some compatibility issues with some versions of Windows. Repetition Detection was another I tried. It‘s very simple program which does what the name says. I liked it, though it didn’t offer all the benefits of AutoCrit. Analyzer does what the title implies. However, it offers absolutely no suggestions, just statistical reports on your work. It‘s up to the writer to interpret the results and apply it to his/her work.

In the end, I found AutoCrit to be the most well-rounded software for my creative writing needs. But don’t take my word on it. Check it out for yourself. AutoCrit

So, what’s with all the yellow highlighted words in my text today? I took the liberty of running this document through AutoCrit, and these are the results. Below are the suggestions AutoCrit had for me. Now this is not an all inclusive list, I only included the items with check boxes, and deleted the rest for brevity.

  • generic descriptions                            6 Remove about 5 occurrences
  • initial conjunction                               6 Remove about 3 occurrences
  • it/there                                            24 Remove about 19 occurrences
  • just/then                                             6 Remove about 3 occurrences

Update 7/7/2010: Anyway, it’s a product I recommend. I’ve yet to find one as tailored for creative writing as this one. If you know of one, feel free to share. I’d love to get my hands on one which is a downloadable software program. I’ve given WhiteSmoke a try (review here), but still prefer AutoCrit.