Where Do I Find an LDS Editor?

I asked myself this question last February and after looking at many sites in Utah and outside, too, I wasn’t able to find what I was looking for. All of the editing services I found were doing it the old-fashioned way of having the writer print a manuscript on paper and mailing it to them. They would then mark it up and mail it back.

I wanted someone who used the “change tracking” and “review/comment” utilities in most word processors to do the work. I wanted to just email the editor my document, have them mark it up and email it back and I then work the edits in the document, accepting some and rejecting others.

Finally, I went onto KSL.com and posted a job with these qualifications. I received about 25 hits of which five were qualified. I then sent them a document to edit and they sent it back. I made my choice from that.

It worked out very well. We went through the entire book and now it [self-published].

Makes me wonder how you do this.

I pretty much do it the way you described. Almost all my work is electronic until we get to the press proof stage.

As for finding an LDS editor, they’re all over the place. Editors: Want to put your links in the comments?

Finding a Good Editor by Tristi Pinkston

Part 1: How to Work with an Editor

[LDSP note: So many of my clients have made a bad match with an editor. I once had a self-published author who approached me about traditionally publishing or distributing their book. After reading the first chapter, I told them they needed to have it edited. They told me they’d already spent $2000 on an edit. And it was horrid!!! Incomplete sentences, verb tense issues, punctuation… My heart just broke for them. Editing is very much a “buyer beware” situation. I am very glad Tristi wrote this post and I support every sentence 100%!]

Yesterday, I blogged about how to work with an editor. Today, I’m blogging about how to look for—and find—a good editor. Perhaps I went about that backwards.

As a note of explanation, yesterday’s post was applicable to every author, whether they are self-published or traditionally published. Today’s post will be most beneficial to authors who either self-publish or are looking for a freelance editor to help them prepare to submit traditionally—once you sign with a publishing company, they will assign an editor to you, so you will not need to search for one.

So, let us begin. You’ve finished your manuscript and you’ve sent it through some trusted readers. You’ve incorporated their feedback, and you are ready to send it to an editor. How should you go about this? What should you avoid?

There are some fantastic editors out there, some pretty good editors out there, and some (quite frankly) frightening editors out there. About ten of my clients were badly burned by their editors, came hunting for help in desperation, found me (makes it sound like they had to be desperate to end up choosing me …) and sent me the manuscript after their editor had worked it over. In each of these cases, I have been appalled at the kinds of mistakes left in the manuscript. No editor worthy of the title would ever have left a manuscript in that condition. So it is with that in mind that  I write this blog today—to help you avoid that kind of frustration.

How do you find an editor?

You can go on Google and do a search for freelance editors, but word of mouth always has been and always will be the best way to find a good or a service. People love to talk about their good experiences and their bad. Ask your author friends who they use and recommend. Ask them who they do not recommend. And after they have given you a name or two, ask them the following things:

1. Did the editor treat them well?

2. Did the editor charge them a fair price?

3. Did the editor turn the job around when promised?

4. Did they deliver the kind of edit they promised?

5. Did the editor make any mistakes in the edit, and if so, were they apologetic, or did they get defensive about it?

6. Did the editor explain things clearly? Were they open to questions, and did they answer them respectfully?

7.  If they could change one thing about their editor, what would they change?

After you’ve spoken with your friend and you feel good about the answers they gave, visit that editor’s website and find out the following things:

1. Have they posted a list of books they edited? Are you familiar with any of their previous work? Note: Some brand-new editors are awesome, so if they don’t have a huge list of titles. That’s not necessarily a bad sign.

2. Are their rates compatible with what you can afford, and are they reasonable? Reasonable: $1.00 a page is not unheard of for a new editor, while $3.00 is pretty typical for a seasoned editor. The amount of work that will go into the edit also comes into play—some editors charge a little more if the edit will be complex.

3. Do they offer a sample of their work? Many editors will do a few pages for free, or will do twenty pages for a reasonable fee. This gives you the chance to see if you like their style, but it also gives them the chance to see if they like working with you.

4. Do they work with your genre? This is key! Don’t waste your time querying an editor who doesn’t work with (or enjoy reading) the genre you write, or who doesn’t do the type of edit you need.

If you still like what you see, contact that editor and ask them any other questions that might have risen to the surface. These might include:

1. How long does an edit usually take?

2. Do you ask for money down?

3. How long do I have to pay my bill? What methods of payment do you accept?

4. What system do you have in place just in case one of us is unhappy with the arrangement? (The author should be happy with the editor, but the editor should also be happy with the author.)

5. When is your next available slot?

6. What format should I use when sending my manuscript?

Some of these questions might be answered on the editor’s website, but feel free to ask any others that might be important to you.

You may find the most awesome editor right off the bat and fall madly in love with them and never leave them, or you may find that search to be a little more tricky. To help weed out the editors who will not be as beneficial to you, I suggest:

1. Take them up on that free sample, if offered. If they don’t offer one, be gutsy and ask. Say, “My friend (insert friend’s name here) recommended you, and I’d like to see if our styles are compatible. Would you do a three-page free sample for me?” If they give you lip, they probably aren’t the editor for you anyway. If you don’t care for their style from those three pages, you can thank them for their time and be under no obligation to hire them.

2. If you get a sample back and it just doesn’t seem right to you, ask another editor for a sample, and send in the same segment. Then compare the two. Of course they’ll each point out different things when it comes to the subjective parts of editing, but they should both find the same typos, etc. If you find that the first sample doesn’t match the second and is missing several important corrections (or the second sample doesn’t match the first), that will tell you who is going to be the more thorough editor.

3. Google the name of the editor and see who might have posted positive or negative comments about them online.

4. Make sure you have an out if the editor didn’t come with enough recommendations to make you feel comfortable. Start with a fifty-page edit, and if you like what you see, finish it out. Any time you have doubt, start with a partial. You don’t want to get halfway through an edit, decide you can’t stand each other, still have money owing on one side or work owed on the other, and create a really awkward parting of the ways.

This needs to go two ways. If the author can’t work with the editor, or if the editor can’t work with the author, either one of them should have the option to pull out. But discuss this before you begin any work. Know what the parameters are for that type of situation.

Now, I’m probably making this all sound a lot more complicated than it really has to be. Most authors get referrals from their friends, they trust that editor, they work well together, and they don’t have any issues whatsoever. But we don’t all have author friends with great editors, or maybe that editor is booked and we need to find someone else. These tips will hopefully help you to narrow down what you need and aid in the search for that editor you will love to work with for years to come.

Tristi Pinkston is the author of nine published books, including the Secret Sisters mystery series. In addition to being a prolific author, Tristi also provides a variety of author services, including editing and online writing instruction. You can visit her at www.tristipinkston.blogspot.com or her website at www.tristipinkston.com.

How to Work with an Editor by Tristi Pinkston

Believe me, I know how you feel. You’ve written a book, it’s taken you months/years/decades, you have large chunks of it memorized because you’ve gone over it so many times, and when you look at it, you see a big pile of blood, sweat, and tears.

It represents all the nights you went without sleep, all the television shows you gave up, all the nights out with friends you missed, the stomachaches you got . . . you have given your all to this book, and now it’s time to turn it over to someone else. You’re tense. You’re nervous. You wonder what they’re going to say. You are, understandably, on pins and needles, and yes, you’ve got your barriers up a bit. You don’t want to get hurt, and so you go into the edit with caution. Again, believe me, I know. I’ve been there.

I’ve also been on the editor’s side of the table. Actually, quite a lot more than I have the author’s side—I have written 14 published books, but I’ve edited a couple hundred books, so the ratio is a little lopsided there.

I’d like to share with you some things I’ve learned about the editor/author relationship from both sides. It’s my hope to help you avoid some of the pitfalls that a lot of new authors (and myself) have encountered on their journeys.

1. The editor is not your enemy.

I have to tell you, I’ve had some clients approach me like they thought I was a lion, and that everything I said was geared specifically to hurt them. There was this one experience, a few years back …

The editor’s job is to take what you have created and help you make it better. That is the only thing on the editor’s mind. They don’t wake up in the morning, rub their hands together, and say, “How can I make my author miserable today?” You might feel wounded when they ask you to rewrite a sentence or to rework a character’s motivation, but in the end, they are doing their best to help you look your best.

2. The editor is usually right.

If you have chosen a good editor (and again, we’ll be discussing that tomorrow), he or she has done their research and they know what they’re talking about. You can put a level of trust in them that they have looked up the answer to your particular question and they are leading you in the right direction. Good editors double-check when they have a question. They ask questions of other editors as need be. They keep Google and Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com up on their computers so they can be sure that what they’re giving you is their very best effort.

3. The editor is sometimes wrong.

Editors are humans, and humans make mistakes. There are times when your editor may make a correction that you know isn’t right. The way to handle this is to talk to them respectfully and explain your point of view, including links to your source, if available. If you have a good working relationship with your editor, based on the respect you show each other, you will be able to discuss it professionally and come to an answer that works for both of you.

Whenever there’s a disagreement, it’s important for both sides to share their feelings. Again, this should be done professionally, with the understanding that neither side is trying to be hurtful.

If you know you’re right, don’t hesitate to make a stand. Most editors are professionals and they will listen to you without the need for an unpleasant “discussion.” If you are proven wrong, be willing to concede the point.

4. It’s personal to the author, but it’s a job to the editor.

Editors take their jobs very seriously. They think about their authors, they’ll fall asleep mulling over plots, they might be out grocery shopping and all of a sudden realize that they need to go back and tweak that one sentence. They care very much about what they do. However, at the end of the day, they don’t have the depth of emotional attachment to the project that the author has.

The author knows that book inside and out. Like I mentioned above, it represents so much more to them than just the story on the page. They can look it at and say, “I remember the day I wrote that scene.”

When an editor makes a cut in a scene that’s very important to the author, it can feel like the author’s throat has been cut instead. It’s painful, especially when the author worked really hard on it. But keep in mind, the editor is making the suggestion based on what works for your story, and what works in the current market. Don’t take it personally. Step back and think of it from a different perspective. Be willing to consider that maybe it does need to go.

5. Ask Questions If You Don’t Understand

Your editor is there to help you, and if they make a comment you don’t understand, ask them to clarify. If they aren’t being clear, they aren’t doing the best job for you. Don’t feel stupid if you don’t get what they mean—they might use specialized editing terms you don’t know, or perhaps they are just approaching it from a different angle. Any time you are unsure what they are saying, ask for clarification. You should understand their viewpoint on every aspect of the edit.

6. You Are the Steward of Your Story

At the end of the day, this is your story. It’s up to you to decide how it should go. The editor is there to help you make it even better, but it’s your task to implement those changes. The trick is to understand what changes are absolutely crucial to make (I have had clients reject some very basic grammar and spelling changes … um, don’t do that) and what are, perhaps, more a matter of personal opinion. I urge you not to disregard good advice just because it’s not what you were thinking. Weigh everything that is said to you carefully. Put ego to the side and be willing to see your book from a reader’s perspective and from the market’s perspective. At the same time, know what’s most important to you and what you’re willing to sacrifice and what you’re not.

There are times when you will need to make a certain change in order to conform to what your publisher has asked. They might say to cut an entire scene that means a lot to you, or to revamp a plot line that is important to you. In a case like that, be willing to talk with them and see if you can compromise. Why do they want you to make the change, and can you arrive at a solution that will please both of you? Sometimes it’s a matter of making the motivation more clear, or heightening the conflict, or making the scene less filler and more usable content. Talk it over.

The editor/author relationship is one of the most important you will form in the writing industry. Authors need editors. Editors need authors . . . kind of hard to be an editor without something to edit. When both parties approach their jobs with professionalism, with an attitude of teamwork, with the willingness to put ego aside to work toward the greater good (and what greater good is there but an awesome book for the world to read), it can be an unbeatable combination.

Come back tomorrow when I discuss how to find an editor and how to make sure they’ll be a good fit for you.


Tristi Pinkston is the author of nine published books, including the Secret Sisters mystery series. In addition to being a prolific author, Tristi also provides a variety of author services, including editing and online writing instruction. You can visit her at www.tristipinkston.blogspot.com or her website at www.tristipinkston.com.

Editing Fiction by Rebecca Talley

“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” – James Michener

That’s editing in a nutshell.

Some writers prefer writing the rough draft and feeling the creativity as it flows through their fingers. Other writers enjoy the editing stage and believe that’s where the real magic lies. Which do you prefer?

Writing the first draft can be fast and furious. You may find it difficult for your fingers to keep up with your brain as your brilliance pours out on the computer screen. Unfortunately, for most writers, the first draft isn’t always brilliant. In fact, very few writers can produce a saleable first draft. That’s when editing becomes a writer’s best friend.

Once that story is down on paper, or on the computer screen, it’s time to edit it. How? There are as many ways to edit as there are to write. No one way is right for everyone and you must find what works best for you.

Here are some different ways to edit:

One Pass. Some writers get their first draft down as quickly as possible and then let it rest for a few weeks, or a month. After the rest period, they go back and edit every single word, phrase, and paragraph to make sure it says exactly what they want it to say. This pass through their manuscript is grueling, but it only takes the one time and then it’s ready for submission.

Several Passes to Add Layers. Other writers edit their manuscripts multiple times. In each pass, they specifically add a layer to the story. When they feel they’ve added enough layers, they’re finished and ready to submit the manuscript. Some writers may edit their manuscript dozens of times.

Edit While You Write. Another possibility is to edit while you’re writing. Some writers won’t go to the next scene until they feel the previous scene is in its final format. These writers want to get each sentence right before they move on to the next sentence. When they’ve completed their manuscript, it’s ready for submission because they’ve spent so much time editing while writing.

Which works best? It depends on your own unique writing style. The important aspect is to make sure that the final manuscript is the best that it can be before you submit it to a publisher. Whether that takes you one pass or many, or you edit as you go, it doesn’t matter which process you choose as long as you find the process that allows you to submit the very best manuscript you can.

Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. She now lives in rural CO on a small ranch with a dog, a spoiled horse, too many cats, and a herd of goats. She and her husband, Del, are the proud parents of ten multi-talented and wildly-creative children. Rebecca is the author of a children’s picture book “Grasshopper Pie” (WindRiver 2003), three novels, “Heaven Scent” (CFI 2008), “Altared Plans” (CFI 2009), and “The Upside of Down” (CFI 2011), and numerous magazine stories and articles. You can visit her blog at www.rebeccatalleywrites.blogspot.com.


Is Your Book Really Ready for the Public Eye? (or Your Turn to Tell Me I’m Up in the Night)

I read a lot of books.

And by “a lot,” I mean I easily read 100-150 complete books a year (first page to last), and probably twice that in sample chapters, which I then do not finish because I can tell in the first few pages that the book is not my thing.

I have a Kindle, which makes reading so easy. I can carry an entire LIBRARY of books with me wherever I go.

When I got my first Kindle, back when it was newly released and one of the coolest gadgets on the market, eBooks were somewhat limited. It was a frequent experience to go to Amazon looking for a title, only to find it wasn’t available for Kindle yet. This was especially true with LDS fiction.

Now, though, eBooks abound and I can often find the digital book available before the print version. eBooks have also become the low-risk way to enter the market for small publishers, indies, and self-publishers.


Well, not always.

What I’m finding (based on a lifetime of reading and years in the publishing industry), is that the easier it is and the less expensive it becomes to produce a book and bring it to market—and let me tell you, compared to the “old days,” print-on-demand and eBook production is E.A.S.Y.—the lower the overall quality of that production.

See, if it’s going to cost someone $10,000 to produce a title, they are going to make sure it’s as close to perfect as they can get it! A manuscript will go through multiple readers before its accepted for publication to make sure it’s a viable story and that a reading market exists. It will be read carefully by professionals who edit books on a daily basis, and who are up on what’s selling and what’s not. It will be edited for content and for grammar, multiple times. Professional artists, graphic designers, and typesetters will be hired to create an appealing cover and interior design, to encourage a browsing reader to pick it up and give it a consideration. And then, before going to press, it will be proofed again. Once it goes to press, those files will be coded for digital readers—usually hand-coded by professionals who know how to customize the code for individual e-readers. The end result is a beautiful product that enhances reader enjoyment.

But, when things get cheap and easy, and a book can be brought to market for $100 or less using print-on-demand and one-size-fits-all eBook coding, an attitude of casualness sometimes creeps into the production process. I’m seeing this attitude most in smaller indie presses and self-publishers. People who have no idea of design try to create their own covers. They “typeset” their books using Microsoft Word, trusting that the grammar and spellcheck will catch their mistakes. (Impossible!) Others hire their aunt who teaches English in high school. (Entirely different skill set.) And they use Smashwords to create their eBooks.

While some authors also have a great eye for design, and Word and Smashwords can be used successfully if you really know what you’re doing, and some aunts who teach high school grammar actually have professional editing skills—99%* of the books created this way are never going to reach their full potential. They will end up in people’s “books to finish reading someday” pile. And the second book by this same author or small press is going to get a pass.

Yes, yes. I know all your friends are buying your eBook and telling you honestly that they absolutely love it. But think for a minute… Do they really love your book or do they love you? And do their feelings for you color their perception of the book? (If they’re human, it will.) Do they have the skill set to accurately assess your writing? Are they mediocre readers who are satisfied with a less-than story? Can they produce something with impeccable grammar and tight writing themselves?

Unless you are getting lots of sales and rave reviews from people who have no idea who you are—they’ve never met you, don’t follow your blog, aren’t your friend on Facebook, have never tweeted you, aren’t participating in a contest about you or your book, and do not have any other vested interest in your success—then you cannot fully trust the feedback you’re getting.

Authors. I’m not saying don’t self-publish and I’m not saying don’t go with a small indie press. Just please, please, please have your manuscript professionally edited before you offer it up to the public. My heart just breaks with the number of authors I’ve seen lately who have gone this route and had AWESOME ideas, that just weren’t ready to be released to the general public.

And the end result for me? I’m actually purchasing fewer books. Where I used to buy a book with an interesting backliner, feeling that even though I may not love it, it will be a decent read and I can trust I’ll get a quality, professional product, now I hesitate. Now, I download the sample chapters on my Kindle and if they don’t grab me, that’s it.

Readers, are any of you feeling the same way or am I just entirely too picky in my reading habits?

(Feel free to comment anonymously if you like, just be polite)

*Okay, I admit this statistic was pulled out of the air and completely based on personal experience rather than scientific data.

Will Editing Break the Bank?

A question from the comments on this post:

Considering the low profits made on LDS books, can you ever break even in royalties to make up for the cost of paying an editor?

Good question. Depends on the book and how well it sells. If you’re with a small press, maybe not. If you’re with one of the larger publishers, then yes, you can make back your editing costs, plus some.

A friend of mine edits for a mid-list LDS author who has her edit every book before she submits it to her publisher. The author’s books are usually around 200-250 pages. My friend charges her by the hour, rather than the page and it’s usually around $150. I don’t know what the author’s book sales average, but she keeps coming back to my friend so I assume it’s worth it to her.

Finding a Good Pre-Submission Editor is Not Easy

I’m thinking about hiring an editor for my current manuscript. Would you recommend that? How would I find a reputable editor? What are the price ranges?

Do you need an editor?
Some writers need pre-submission editors, others only need readers to help with content flow and to catch a few typos here and there. To determine if you need one, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I getting rejected a lot? Have any of the rejections mentioned that your book needs editing?
  • If accepted, does my publisher require many rewrites? (This isn’t always accurate as some publishers should require rewrites, but don’t.)
  • How are you on grammar skills? Do you laugh when you read Annette Lyon’s Word Nerd posts because you “get it”? Or do you think, “Gee, I didn’t know that?”
  • Do your readers send back lots of comments and questions about your story line?

If you’re thinking you need an edit, it might be something you’d want to try. (Although, many writers who could benefit from it the most don’t realize they need it.)

Finding a good editor.
Finding a reputable editor can be difficult. It’s sort of like buying your first computer—you don’t know what you don’t know, so you take a lot on faith. Sometimes that faith is misplaced, skills are misrepresented, and prices are inflated.

I rejected a book once because it needed soooo many edits. (Incomplete sentences, mis-matched subject/verb, story line jumped all over the place, misspelled words, wrong words.) The author was quite upset because they’d paid $2,000 for a professional edit.

I’d recommend talking to people you know who’ve had editing done and see who they recommend as good. (Again though, if they really need editing, they may not know a good edit from a bad edit.)

Look at their experience and portfolio.
You’re looking for someone who edits books like yours—not newspapers or magazines or scholarly papers. You want someone who is current with the trends, who reads a lot, and who loves words and stories. High school English teachers are not necessarily your best bet, even if they are very strong in grammar.

Find someone who has a few years of experience and who has happy, successful repeat customers. Many editors will have their clients posted on their website. If not, ask for their client list and contact the people who they’ve edited.

Ask to see a sample of what they’d do with your book.
Many editors will give new clients a free edit of their first chapter or first few pages. If they don’t tell you right off, ask them what their sample edit would have cost you, so you can see what you’ll get for your money.

Look at what they’ve done. Does it make sense? Does it make your book better? You may want to share their edits with other authors or people who read a lot. Get their feedback. Again, be careful because some readers will be emotionally attached to you and will tell you they like the unedited version best. Make sure those you get advice from are more concerned with helping you create a good book than with sparing your feelings.

As to price, it’s all over the place. Some editors charge by the hour, others list their prices by page. A per page price is going to give you a better idea of how much it will cost you.

This isn’t always a get-what-you-pay-for industry. I’ve seen really good editors who only charge $1 per page, and really bad editors who charge $10 a page.

The cost also depends on the level of edit they do—whether they’re doing a basic proof-reading or a complete, in-depth content edit. Don’t be surprised if they ask to see your mss before giving you a quote.

When you do decide on an editor, ask for a price guarantee on the job so you won’t be caught off guard by the final bill.

As I read through this, I realize it may not be very helpful. It only gives you a ballpark and cautions about what to look out for. I’m sorry about that. Ethically, I can’t really recommend specific people or companies here. (Although, readers, you’re welcome to do that in the comments.)

Good luck.

Writing Tip Tuesday: Paragraph Length

This tip was prompted by a question:

At my last writers group meeting, I was told that my paragraphs were way too long. Can you give me an idea of appropriate paragraph length? Is is a certain number of sentences? How do I know when to make a new paragraph? Help!

First, let’s define “paragraph”.

Short answer: A paragraph is “a distinct portion of written or printed matter dealing with a particular idea.” (Dictionary.com)

Longer, more detailed answer: CLICK HERE.

A paragraph can be anywhere from one sentence (even one word) to a dozen sentences or more. In today’s world, shorter is better. (When editing, I frequently add paragraph breaks; rarely do I suggest combining paragraphs.) When a reader sees a page that is all one paragraph or has one long paragraph after another, they stop reading. It’s visually overwhelming. Breaking your text up into paragraphs makes it much easier to read.

So, when do you start a new paragraph?

  • When a new person speaks
  • When you start a new topic
  • When you move to a new time or location
  • When you need to give your reader a break or rest
  • When you want to create a dramatic effect

Grammatically Correct, But Oh So Wrong

While editing my WIP I came to the realization the my characters often begin to. They begin to cry. They begin to run. They begin…well you get the point. At first I laughed because it was funny. Do these guys ever get around to doing anything? Then I realized it wasn’t so funny because I was the one who did it and I had to fix it. Thank heaven for the search function. That got me thinking. So I searched for started to, able to, and seems to. (I blush at how long this took.) So now my characters run, cry, jump, eat, etc. It reads better but I’m wondering…what other problems are lurking in my WIP that I skim over because I’ve read it so many times? (And my wonderful readers have missed too?)

So here’s my question. What problems do you often see in manuscripts that are grammatically correct – yet awkward? Do you have a list of common errors that writers should search for while editing?

All of your examples fall under the category of “passive voice”—something that should rarely be used. Pretty much any verb followed by to is passive. Other indicators are verb phrases that use a form of be—such as am, are, been, is, was, were. Also look for the phrase by the or just by after the verb. CLICK HERE for a great list of passive tense verbs.

One note on passive voice: Sometimes it may be appropriate. For example, in first person dialogue. The key is to use it consciously and for a specific reason.

Other common things that I see and regularly delete or change:

  • author’s favorite words (varies by author)
  • too many adverbs and adjectives
  • of (as in “He jumped out of the window.”)
  • overused words—just, that, however, so, because, although, etc. (CLICK HERE for a great list of examples.)
  • names that end in s—this is a personal thing. It’s just so visually awkward to make possessive or plural
  • another personal peeve—irregular verbs that have been forced to be regular, for example, lighted. I change it back to lit.

(P.S. Everything went as expected. All is well.)

Self-Editing Before You Submit

Julie Coulter Bellon class on self-editing was wonderful! Oh how I wish I could make her notes into a booklet and make it mandatory reading before submission. (Julie, we should talk. . .)

I cannot tell you how many manuscripts I’ve rejected over the years due to the issues Julie discussed in her class. (Lots and lots.) Too many errors will cause a good story to be rejected simply because of the time it would take to clean it up.

Julie covered basic editing (CLAW—4 Secrets to Self-Editing) and Deep Editing. Just a few of the items she mentioned were:

  • Spelling and grammar errors—run your spelling and grammar check but don’t rely on it to find all the mistakes.
  • Watch out for too many adverbs and adjectives, inconsistent tense and subject/verb confusion, clichés and repititious words, and POV problems.
  • Let others read your mss before sending it out.
  • Print and read a hard copy. On-screen editing is not good enough.
  • Take a break (days or weeks) and come back to it when your eyes are fresh.
  • Create a checklist of things to look for that are specific to you—your favorite overused words and phrases, your problem areas.
  • Create a big picture checklist, covering things like voice, chapter hooks, character motivation, story timeline and other things an editor will be looking for.

It’s very important to send your very best, highly polished work out.

No-No’s That Stop an Editor Cold

Janette Rallison started her class at LDStorymakers with a statement that all of you should understand: Agents, editors and publishers will continue reading your manuscript until you give them a reason to stop.

Any of the items listed below are reasons to stop reading:

  • Problems with POV
  • Improper use of dialog tags
  • Starting your book too far away from the world-changing event that propels your characters
  • Lack of character motivation and/or goals
  • Sentence structure and grammar issues

Janette went into detail on these and other no-no’s and gave examples of correct and incorrect ways to deal with them.

Before you submit, be sure to check and double-check your manuscript for these things.

P.S. Conference photos are up.

Light-handed Editing in LDS Novels

Thanks so much for all the great work you do on the LDS Publisher blog. I really enjoy reading it. [You’re welcome.]
I’m an aspiring LDS fiction author. I’ve been studying a lot about writing and have attended several writing conferences. It’s kind of ruined reading for me. When I read, I see so many mistakes, it’s distracting.
My question is this: Why are established LDS authors not held to the same standards as those of us who are trying to break into this business? I’ve been reading [Amy Author’s] newest book. I see so many mistakes she makes. On one page I counted 14 unnecessary “that’s” she could have left out. There are POV problems all over the place, and lots of other things which I’ve learned and been taught are incorrect.
I look forward to your insight.

Yes, well. You’re never going to find a perfect book. Not even ones that I’ve edited and/or published are error free. (Gasp! I know. I’ve burst your bubble and shattered your high opinion of me. Sorry.) However, light-handed editing has been one of my issues with LDS publishing, even before I became a publisher. Twenty years ago, I did book reviews for a local paper and I hated reviewing LDS novels for that very reason. The basic plot might have been good, but the writing was so poor you couldn’t get through the story. That is part of the reason LDS fiction has gotten a bad rap.

Things have improved since then. I read a new LDS fiction release last week (not published by my company) that had almost no errors in it. It was great. The quality of editing varies between publishers. IMHO, some companies are nearly always weak in that area, while others are usually strong. However, even the strongest sometimes put out weakly edited books.

Why? Because once an author is established, it’s harder to force editing upon them. They argue with you over every little thing. Plus, you know their book will sell based on the strength of their name, and the publisher wants to get it out fast, so they sometimes cut corners in this area. (This happens in the national market too. I can think of several authors whose writing have declined as they’ve gotten more popular.)

So, to answer your question, why were there so many mistakes in the book you mentioned? Because someone got lazy—either the author (who can’t really edit out the “that’s”–that is what editors are for), or the editor.

Other posts that touch on the topic of editing can be found here, and here, and here. And here’s one from an author’s perspective.

Where Do I Find an LDS Editor?

I have recently completed my first fiction novel. I have looked at the entries in your blog under editing, and the second posting talks about the how and why of editing, but not the where. Would you mind sending me a link or two of where I might find a good (free or paid) LDS editor? I would like to get the manuscript in a nice, clean state before submitting it to LDS publishers. I had thought of just finding an editor of any kind, but I would prefer somebody who understands LDS doctrine pretty well because of the content of the book.

I am really happy to see that you recognize the need for an editor. All authors should have their mss edited by someone with experience before they submit.

Free editing can often be found through writers groups. Sometimes you can trade editing with another member of the group who has some professional experience.

While I know of several excellent LDS editors who do freelance work, I do not feel comfortable recommending any in this type of forum. However, I’m happy to let them recommend themselves. If any readers offer freelance editing services, please post contact information or links to your blogs or websites in the comments section.

Editing Induced Dyslexia

I’ve heard people say that if you read your story backwards it makes it easier to see the mistakes. Isn’t that hard to do? I mean, reading the words backwards makes them different words, doesn’t it? Even if you start at “The End” it would read, “Dne Eth.” How can that help? Thank you. (yes, thinking up these questions is way more fun than folding laundry or cleaning boogers off the wall–please, don’t have another contest like this for a while so I can get caught up with my housework!)

Ha, ha!

Actually, reading your manuscript out of context is a great way to look for mistakes. I generally take it one line or paragraph at a time (reading the line forward) from the end of the novel.

Another help is reading it out loud. To another person. When I read out loud to just me, I tend to ignore myself.

What are some other tips?

Do You Need Professional Editing?

Is it worth it to pay a professional editor before submitting to publishers?

It depends on how clean your skills are.

First, you always, always, always need several content readers to go through your manuscript before you send it in. These should be fellow writers, your critique group and/or others who are well read and who have no emotional investment in protecting your fragile psyche. These readers should do what we call a “content edit” to evaluate your story, characterization, flow, style, plot, etc. to help you find inconsistencies and plot holes. They’ll probably also pick up a good portion of your grammar mistakes and typos.

Second, you always, always, always need someone to do a copy/line edit of your manuscript before you send it in. If you’re highly skilled in editing yourself, then you can probably get by with a proofreader who has a strong grammar background. This could also be a fellow writer or someone in your critique group.

If however, you know you have difficulties, or you don’t know anyone with the appropriate skills who’ll read it for free, then yes, hire someone. Make sure they have credentials and experience–a high level of grammar and writing skills; an idea of what is currently selling (as in, they read a lot of popular writing, as well as the classics); and happy, repeat customers who have been published.