Respect Your Readers (Don't publish a first draft) (via @ayvalentine)

Amanda Valentine talks about self-published work and some problems with final product quality she's encountered:

Here’s the thing, though—the writing wasn’t bad, at least not irredeemably so. The book just wasn’t finished. It was someone’s first draft. Sure, it was probably proofread by a few helpful people, but it was obviously never seriously edited. What I was reading was a proofread first draft, not a final product. For example, each character was introduced with a paragraph that sounded like it came from an outline—she looks like this, her interests are this, her strengths are this—and each brought the plot to an uncomfortable halt. Combine that with a painful abuse of commas and some uninspired dialogue, and a couple chapters in I just gave up

She's right: a good editor (hell, even a mediocre one) contributes significantly to a story. I'm not even going to list the ways, in case an editor yells at me for leaving one out. Amanda provides some examples of collaborative improvement in writing projects that she's encountered.

Personal experience with editors compels me to tell you: read this story in full. (Here: http://www.ayvalentine.com/2012/04/respect-your-readers/)

How To Think Like an Editor

Jeanne Kisacky talks at length about the crucial skill of self-editing for writers. In order to do this well, you need to think like an editor, which can be a terrifying, dangerous state to impose on your mind (just from the editors I've met). Oh, I kid, I love you all. Please don't red-pen my precious, precious words!

In my experience, however, good editing is not just a product of piecemeal strategies, but of a particular mindset. Editors think differently about writing than do writers.

Jeanne elaborates on these four points, and I think anyone who writes and needs to edit their own work (that's basically anyone who writes) would benefit from clicking through to the article:

  • Check Your Ego at the Office Door
  • Trust Your Reader’s Instincts and Train Yourself to Act on Them.
  • Justifications Are a Sign It Needs Editing
  • Keeping Your Entire Book in Your Head

There are also some resources in that article to find out more about training yourself to be a good self-editor.

Link: http://writerunboxed.com/2012/03/04/how-to-think-like-an-editor/

Proofreading Tips (via @duolit)

The duo over at DuoLit asked Randall Davidson from www.proofreadingservices.us to write a quick tips article for do-it-yourselfers. Proofreading isn't easy, and if you don't have access to or can't afford a professional, the task comes down to you (or a friend who is also not a professional).

Self-published works are not subjected to the watchful eyes of professional editors, leaving the job of proofreading in the hands of the writer.

I won't spoiler the ten items, and the headline of the article does promise that this will ensure your work is flawless. I don't have that much confidence in my perfection, so I'd still advise caution. But things like...

  1. Allow some time to pass. [...]
  2. Simplify whenever possible. [...]
  3. Format your text. [...]
  4. Have someone read the text to you. [...]

...and more, will certainly go some way to cleaning up the kind of basic typos that I see when I do slushreading of unsolicited submissions. (I removed the extra detail in that list; you will have to go read the article if it sounds interesting.)

One of the comments to that article points out that you can have Adobe Acrobat read back your writing to you, which could seriously help. I'm pretty sure that Mac OS X has full text-to-speech support as well. Worth investigating.

DuoLit also has a services page. I don't want to wait until Sunday to post it, so I'll just do so now. They provide a lot of the self-publishing services that traditional publishing houses hide from authors, and that self-publishing authors can find daunting (and so they should): http://selfpublishingteam.com/services/ and specifics here: http://selfpublishingteam.com/services/a-la-carte/

Check it out here: http://selfpublishingteam.com/10-proofreading-tips-to-ensure-your-self-published-works-are-flawless/

Finding an editor (and treating them well) - via @BothersomeWords

I found this blog post via Angela Slattery's blog (to which you should also subscribe, as it is quite useful). Bothersome Words is a provider of literary services (eg. proofreading, editing), and wrote an article comparing hiring editors to hiring any tradesperson. This in itself is a worthwhile read, but what particularly struck me (reading writing-related posts with Literarium ever-watchful over my shoulder), was the introduction:

There are many ways to go about hiring a freelance editor to help you with your fledgling manuscript or document. You can trawl through the Yellow Pages, check Google, contact your local Writers’ Centres or dip into the directories of numerous Societies of Editors.

Just as there are hundreds of tradespeople to choose from, so there are hundreds of editors. So you narrow it down. You look for editors who specialise in your subject area. Maybe you take advice from fellow writers, get recommendations.

Finally, you have a list of people who you think would suit your manuscript. So what next?

What's next is you hire the services of someone like Bothersome Words. But of course, finding Bothersome Words is one of the problems we hope Literarium will solve.

Lucas and I are aiming to be able to provide that directory of services, sortable and searchable by as many different tidbits of metadata that we can think of. Do you have a fantasy romance novella of 15,000 words? We can bring back all Editors in your state that accept fantasy and/or romance and work with projects of that size. Literarium will speed up that initial process, cutting out all the clumsy googling, yellow-page hunting, writing-list bothering and friend haranguing.

Why? I'll end by quoting from my own comment on the post:

[...] I see a massive boom in self-sourced literary professionals now that self-publishing digitally is a much more viable path; illustrators, typesetters, proofreaders - all the services that would once have been provided inside a publishing house. [...]

That's why. :-D