Be a Better Writer--WORKING WITH AN EDITOR

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Be a Better Writer--WORKING WITH AN EDITOR

Post by glorybee » Sat Apr 25, 2015 8:55 am

Since I retired almost six years ago, I’ve been freelancing as an editor. Many of my clients are present or former FaithWriters; others have found me on Facebook (as Superior Editing Services). Over these past six years, I’ve compiled a mental list of things I wished my clients knew before our editing collaboration began, and for this week’s lesson, I decided to share that list with you.

I also reached out to several other editors I know for their additions to this list. There were some things that we all agreed on, others that were only issues for one or two of us. I’ve included them all, and if any of them seem to conflict with each other, I’d recommend that you clarify it with your own editor when you’re in very early stages of the process.

So…if you’re getting something ready for editing, here are some things to keep in mind.

1. If most of your writing so far has been for FaithWriters, you should keep in mind that the single-spaced, block paragraph format you’re accustomed to using here isn’t the preferred format for most editors. Send your MS (manuscript) to your editor double-spaced, with indented paragraphs, and with no extra blank space between the paragraphs, please.

2. For those indented paragraphs, use the ‘tab’ key—don’t indent manually using repeated hits of the space bar. Better still, if you know how to select a format for your MS that automatically indents paragraphs, do that.

3. Use Times New Roman, size 12, throughout the entire MS. Don’t use any fancy fonts, and keep formatting to an absolute minimum. Additionally, don’t include pictures, illustrations, pretty borders, and the like. Those are things that can be worked on once the editing is done, and you’ll want a designer to do that. They interfere with the editor’s job, though.

4. There should only be one space after each period. If you have a hard time re-training yourself to type that way, use the ‘find and replace’ function of your word processing program to get rid of all the extra spaces at once.

5. Before you send off your MS, use spell check and grammar check, but don’t expect them to catch everything or to always be correct. If grammar check suggests a change, consider it carefully, but don’t automatically make the suggested change. Your best resource for finding errors is you—read your MS out loud. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll find that way.

6. Try to find two or three friends who will do a read-through of your MS to catch typos and other glaring errors before you send it to an editor.

7. If your MS is non-fiction, be sure that you’ve cited everything that needs to be cited (quoted passages, scripture) and that you’ve obtained any necessary permissions (for lyrics and the like). Know and use the correct format for citing scripture and quoted material from other sources.

8. Understand the different levels of editing. If you Google “levels of editing,” you’ll find that every site has a different list and a different way of defining what happens at each level of editing. So here’s my greatly simplified list (but certainly discuss this with your editor):

a. Proofreading—the editor looks for typos, misspelled words, errors of punctuation, grammar mistakes, and the like.
b. Medium-level editing—includes proofreading. In addition, the editor looks for sentences or paragraphs that need to be re-worked for any of several issues (awkwardness, voice, word choice, tense, POV, among others).
c. Substantive editing—includes proofreading and medium-level editing. In addition, the editor examines such issues as character development, plot consistency, fact-checking and research, some suggested re-writes of problem areas.

9. Some editors use different terms for these; you’ll want to be sure that you and your editor are clear on what is needed. If you think all you need is proofreading, and your editor thinks you need medium-level or substantive editing, be prepared to take a deep breath and let it go. I’ve had people ask me to proofread their MS—but that’s not what I do. In fact, I’d find it impossible to just proofread a MS—and I’ve never once been given an MS that only needed proofreading (although often that’s what the writer thought it needed).

10. To continue the thought from the previous point: there’s a famous quote that’s been attributed to several different writers, from Faulkner to Wilde to Chekov. Kill your darlings. Whoever said it, the meaning is clear—in the editing process, you’re going to have to be prepared for the deaths of some of your favorite things in the MS. Trust your editor. You hired her because she knows what she’s doing. Come to an agreement with her about disputed passages/plot points/characters—you may decide to resurrect some that she has slashed (but try not to). She knows what she’s doing.

11. An editor won’t do a total re-write. If you need that, or if all you’ve got is a barely-fleshed-out idea, hire a ghostwriter.

12. Have a thick skin. When I’m editing, I rarely take time to note passages that work, so you’ll see lots and lots of red ink and slashes. It may seem as if your editor is overly critical. Don’t take it personally and don’t fight with her, saying that your previous readers loved that passage or that you always thought a semicolon went there.

13. If your editor points out something about your writing that she frequently has to tweak—stop doing that thing. Let her teach you.

14. Learn how to use the note feature of your word processing program, and how to accept or reject changes.

15. Expect to come up with a contract, and to pay at least some in advance. Discuss payment plans and mutually agreeable timelines for different stages of the contract to be completed. If there are extensive re-writes, expect to pay extra. All of this applies even if the editor is a good friend. Contracts may seem unnecessary or awkward with your friend, but editing is her job. Please don't ask her to do something for you for free.

You’ll notice that I didn’t include here what you should expect to pay an editor. Fees vary widely, depending on many factors: the level of editing needed, the urgency of the timeline, whether there will be additional MSs from the same client (among others). Each editor sets her rate and her payment schedule according to her own factors. My custom, for example, is to do 1,000 free words before I set up a contract with a client. That way I can determine how much editing will be needed, and the prospective client can see how I edit and if that’s what she actually had in mind. Once I’ve done the free 1,000 words, we discuss all the terms of the contract. I’m open to negotiation of my fee, and I occasionally give discounts for large jobs.

Other editors will have their own procedures for determining how much they’ll charge for a given job. FaithWriters has several experienced editors; if you go here and scroll down a bit, you can read about each one.

Now that you’ve read this—any questions? Comments? Did anything here surprise you?

If you've worked with an editor, is there anything you'd add to this list from the writer's point of view? Anything that you wished the editor would have done differently? Anything that made the process easier for you? (If that editor was me, go ahead and gripe about it. I can take it.)
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Re: Be a Better Writer--WORKING WITH AN EDITOR

Post by Laurie » Sun Apr 26, 2015 8:35 pm

I'm currently working with an editor. One thing I appreciate is that she asked for a sample first so she could get an idea about the work involved and then she sent me a quote based on that. It's good for both author and editor to know what to expect from the start.

I assume you suggest double-spacing to make it easier to read. Do editors usually ask for that? As far as the font, I can understand that fancy fonts and other things are a nuisance during editing. The default font in Word these days is Calibri. It seems easier on the eyes to me. Why is Times New Roman preferred?

I appreciate the track changes feature in Word. I think it works well for both author and editor.

Sometimes the "red ink" stings a little, but I'm well aware that my writing needs help. My pieces are better after they've been edited. :)

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Re: Be a Better Writer--WORKING WITH AN EDITOR

Post by glorybee » Sun Apr 26, 2015 9:09 pm

Laurie wrote: I assume you suggest double-spacing to make it easier to read. Do editors usually ask for that? As far as the font, I can understand that fancy fonts and other things are a nuisance during editing. The default font in Word these days is Calibri. It seems easier on the eyes to me. Why is Times New Roman preferred?
Yes, it's much easier to edit when the MS is double-spaced, especially when Track Changes is on. Otherwise, that right margin gets way too cluttered. I don't know about all editors, but I always ask for double spacing.

In addition, published books--at least print books--are still printed in that format (double spaced, indented paragraphs). And I've just had a look at my Kindle; it seems to me that e-books are also published in that format. Again, this is purely personal preference, but block paragraphs seem workbook-ish or overly business-y, while indented paragraphs just feel more polished and warmer. I admit that that's entirely subjective on my part.

Times New Roman is definitely my preference, and may not be every editor's preference. I'd recommend that writers ask their editor what font they prefer before sending off their MS. Of course, the writer and the designer might choose from hundreds of fonts for the actual published book (if it's a print book)--but for the editing process, TNR (or your editor's preferred font) is better.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--WORKING WITH AN EDITOR

Post by Laurie » Sun Apr 26, 2015 10:44 pm

Thanks, Jan. Good to know.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--WORKING WITH AN EDITOR

Post by Sibermom65 » Mon Apr 27, 2015 9:18 pm

Is the "no illustrations" just for the editing or should the MS be sent to a publisher that way?

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Re: Be a Better Writer--WORKING WITH AN EDITOR

Post by glorybee » Mon Apr 27, 2015 9:46 pm

Sibermom65 wrote:Is the "no illustrations" just for the editing or should the MS be sent to a publisher that way?
I'm sorry, but I don't know the answer to that question. My expertise on the whole process stops with editing, and I've never worked with a publisher or a publisher's agent.

I can say that what makes sense to me is that an edited MS would go to an agent or a publisher without the illustrations--perhaps with some notes about what the illustrations are to be, and where they'll go. It seems to me that if it's going to be published traditionally, the publisher will have in-house designers they work with, and will collaborate with you and the designer for what illustrations would work.

Hopefully someone who's had experience with this will chime in with a more definite answer.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--WORKING WITH AN EDITOR

Post by RedBaron » Tue Apr 28, 2015 6:05 am

From what I've read/heard, it depends on the publisher. It's something that would have to be checked on with each publishing company. Many larger publishing companies have in-house artists that they prefer to work with. I took one of those by-mail writing for children courses years ago, so it may have changed since then, but they said that (at least for children's books), unless the author was also the artist, publishers almost always used the in-house artists.

With ebooks being a possibility, you can do pretty much anything you want. However, you would have to make sure you own or have permission for the illustrations being used. You can't just grab an image off the internet.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--WORKING WITH AN EDITOR

Post by Shann » Tue Apr 28, 2015 12:21 pm

This is an outstanding list Jan. Thank you so much for doing this. It's brilliant and definitely will make both editor's and author's work easier. I received a MS once, which included one chapter. I based the need for editing on that first one, (In fairness to me, it was all I'd been given, though I know better now.)

After I went through and did a sample and price quote, the author sent the rest. It wasn't even remotely ready to edit. It only consisted of an interview with questions from one person and answers from the author. It turned out to be quite frustrating on many levels, so if I may include a tip for editors, after you do a samples, scan through the MS and see if it is the same quality later on or take your sample from the middle.

I've also encountered MS where the first chapter needed little editing and the rest need extensive editing. My guess is the person had someone else edit a sample chapter and then decided to come to me for whatever reason. If you don't click with an editor, that's fine, but don't use her work as your own later without compensating her.

Another thing I've done is give the author a sample of the different types of editing I might do, along with my suggestions on which one I'd recommend.

I've discovered that it is hard for me to do just a basic edit or a proofread because I do want to teach the person so the next time she writes, she won't make the same mistakes. Upon opening, seeing the comments can be overwhelming, but once the author reads my explanation of why I would do it a certain way, it takes some of the sting out.

Thank you again. This is brilliant. I'd love to copy and paste it and use in the future if you wouldn't mind.

SiberMom, it makes it extremely difficult to edit with pictures in the MS because it messes the spacing all up. If you are going the traditional route, like Shari said, check what the publisher is looking for. Many prefer to use their own illustrators (which I'm so thankful for because I can't draw a stick figure.) If you are going the self-publishing route and have someone doing the formatting, it may be easier for them to have the illustrations in one file and the text in the other.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--WORKING WITH AN EDITOR

Post by Vonnie » Tue Apr 28, 2015 12:41 pm

What is "Track Changes"? I have Microsoft Word Starter 2010 and I really have problems with this program to get it to do what I want. Any suggestions on a better program.

I like all your information and have heard most of it before in classes I have taken. Thanks for the info. LaVonne

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Re: Be a Better Writer--WORKING WITH AN EDITOR

Post by Shann » Tue Apr 28, 2015 12:48 pm

Oh Vonnie, it is the most amazing tool. It took me a while to get used to it, but now I can't imagine editing without it. Here's a link that describes it and how to use it to its optimal value.
http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/offi ... 0b5202199b

There's even a Youtube video on it:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUf-IxzXyVk
If you need more help, send me a PM and I'd be happy to help. (I hope you don't mind Jan as I know how busy you are)
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Re: Be a Better Writer--WORKING WITH AN EDITOR

Post by Vonnie » Tue Apr 28, 2015 12:52 pm

Thanks Shann! I have to go to work now, but will sure look into it when I get home tonight. Blessings! Vonnie

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Re: Be a Better Writer--WORKING WITH AN EDITOR

Post by glorybee » Tue Apr 28, 2015 12:58 pm

Vonnie wrote:What is "Track Changes"? I have Microsoft Word Starter 2010 and I really have problems with this program to get it to do what I want. Any suggestions on a better program.

I like all your information and have heard most of it before in classes I have taken. Thanks for the info. LaVonne
I'm not familiar with MS Word Starter 2010, so I can't tell you where it is, but I can describe how it works.

If a client sends me an MS and I edit it with Track Changes off, it's no different from just editing my own document. For example, if I see that she's used 'there' instead of 'they're,' I can just delete 'there' and type in 'they're'. But when she gets it back, she won't be able to see what I've changed, because I did it in 'black ink.'

But with Track Changes on, every change I make is indicated in red in the MS. Additionally, if I delete something or change the formatting (or any of several other changes I might make), it's indicated in the right hand margin, in red.

Look in the top tool bar of your word processing program--it's probably up there somewhere. Once you find it, pull up an old document, turn on Track Changes, and make a few changes so you can see how it works. It's a very powerful editing tool.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--WORKING WITH AN EDITOR

Post by glorybee » Tue Apr 28, 2015 12:59 pm

Shann wrote:Oh Vonnie, it is the most amazing tool. It took me a while to get used to it, but now I can't imagine editing without it. Here's a link that describes it and how to use it to its optimal value.
http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/offi ... 0b5202199b

There's even a Youtube video on it:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUf-IxzXyVk
If you need more help, send me a PM and I'd be happy to help. (I hope you don't mind Jan as I know how busy you are)
Thanks, Shann. I'm actually not that busy these days, though. :)
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Re: Be a Better Writer--WORKING WITH AN EDITOR

Post by glorybee » Tue Apr 28, 2015 1:20 pm

Shann wrote:
Another thing I've done is give the author a sample of the different types of editing I might do, along with my suggestions on which one I'd recommend.
Can you give me an example of what you mean by this, please? Sounds like it might be helpful.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--WORKING WITH AN EDITOR

Post by Shann » Tue Apr 28, 2015 2:12 pm

I'll take a portion of the MS and only do the basic editing. Then in the next section, I'll give an example of how it might flow better or how to tighten a piece up. If the piece needs a soft rewrite (in my opinion) I'll give an example of that as well. I often will include both raw and clean copies too so the author can get a better feel of how it reads with my suggestions. I'd say a good 90% of the time, after seeing the clean copy, the author wants to go with what I call a detailed edit or what you might call substantive. They still have the final say in everything, though.

Also, keep in mind that the majority of people I work with have little to no writing experience. Often they will share their testimonies and someone tells them you should write a book. But they don't have any experience writing nor belong to any writing groups like FW. It's mainly for someone going through what I call a vanity press. They just want to be published.

If I can find a sample of it and the person doesn't mind, I'll post it here to show you want I mean.
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