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ASP 34: Expert Editing Advice from Team Writership

Quote of the Day:

“You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you, and we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.”

– Arthur Plotnik

Today’s guests are Alyssa Archer and Leslie Watts from Writership.org, whom Steve has met previously. Alyssa and Leslie will actually be working with Steve on the book that he is currently co-authoring with Hal Elrod. Leslie does developmental and structural editing, and also does some proofreading.

Why is the editing process so critical to a book’s success?

Today’s readers are quite discerning. If your reader comes across too many typos, your book is going to be put down. This is why you need people to tell you what doesn’t work and how to fix it.

How do you make clients comfortable working with you?

We try to treat our clients with honesty, while also being kind and sensitive. We demonstrate our working/editing style by critiquing five pages of a fiction book on the podcast The Writership Podcast. This makes listeners and potential clients familiar with the way that we work.

Ultimately, editing is about meeting the author where they are on the page. When pointing out sentences or paragraphs that need to be changed, we try to provide suggestions and explain why we are making them.

What are the differences between editing fiction vs. nonfiction books?

The editing processes for fiction and nonfiction books are similar, but nonfiction authors will often engage our services at different times depending on what kind of help they need.

Both kinds of books essentially tell a story, but the goals of each book are different. Thus, you need to edit to the author’s intention. In the end, you want to make the books stick.

Why do you need to rest” your manuscript before sending it to an editor?

You need to turn away from your draft before looking at it again. This way, you can actually see what’s on the page and not the things you think you’ve written. Alyssa uses an emotional gauge to determine the amount of time for “rest” (usually three to four weeks) before looking at her first draft again, at least for fiction: “If you’re not embarrassed by your early efforts, you started too late.”

Why do you need beta readers, and how do you find them?

Beta readers can give you valuable feedback on your books. They are typically people who read your genre, and they give feedback as readers instead of editors, which is an important distinction.

You will want to give them specific guidelines (what part did they love, and what part did they not like so much?), and encourage them to be honest with you.

One great way to find beta readers is to reach out through your mailing list. You can also find them any place that people in your genre hang out.

What are the differences between developmental editing, copy editing, and proofreading?

The developmental edit is the structural edit—the process of polishing and finalizing your story’s layout and direction. The time it takes for a developmental edit depends on the book and author.

In fiction, the developmental edit is where you build and relieve tension. In nonfiction, it is the stage where you order your information develop your credentials, and establish why readers should read your book.

Copy editing is the process of polishing the manuscript from a flow and grammatical perspective, but it is important that throughout the process you respect the author’s voice and intent.

Proofreading is the final read through, looking for typos and anything else that might have slipped through the cracks.

Check out Editorial Freelancers Association Editorial Rates to get an idea on how much you need to pay for quality editing.

What are some of the most common mistakes writers make that editors should catch?

  • Echoes – Intentionally or unintentionally repeating a word or phrase in close proximity.
  • Adverbs –Overuse of adverbs can pull the reader out of the story. Use of an adverb also indicates that the verb is not very strong.
  • [Independent clause] [Participle] [Phrase] – Definitely try to avoid repeating this structure.

How do you work on a project?

We really work on a case-by-case basis. We sometimes work alone on a project, and other times we work on them together (though not on the same piece). We review each other’s work, which helps to build in an extra level of quality control.

How do you get started with the process?

We ask a lot of questions, and ask what kind of editing authors are looking for. We also ask for a writing sample to help us determine how much time the project is going to take us.

There’s a flurry of questions at the beginning, and then we’ll work on the manuscript. We’re always available to answer questions from authors.

We link up with many of our clients through The Writership Podcast. That process is actually quite simple and effective:

  • Authors who want the first five pages of their books critiqued send in their submissions.
  • We take all fiction genres.
  • We both go through each submission and make suggestions.
  • We review it on the podcast, and pick five or six things to talk about.
  • We start with a quote and end with an editorial mission, so the listeners can apply what they have learned.

Recommended sites:

Final Tips:

When reviewing your own manuscript, read it aloud. Keep an eye out for common typos and errors, and look for the verb “to be”—“is,” “was,” or “were”—and see if you can find ways to make the book stronger.

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