Category Archives: Proofing

Self Editing: Eveything you need to know

I had planned a post at some point similar to this, but when I read the talented Sharon Zink’s page I decided to share it.

Sharon is an amazing writer and I have had her on my blog. She also does the same job as me in that she offers manuscript appraisals; the same level of detail.

So I decided to share this link because it really is a masterclass in writing and everything on here is exactly the kind of thing I say to clients all the time when I assess their manuscripts…

Take heed fellow scribes!

I am now about to write the homecoming chapter on Pelicans… this is exciting, it’s the final chapter when we reveal the last of the missing pieces… and it’s raining so I am loving the sounds of rain on the roof as I write! The morning goes pitter patter… ❤

Have a wonderful day everyone!

http://sharonzink.com/writing-tips/all-first-drafts-are-sht-so-heres-a-masterclass-on-self-editing/

 

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Friday’s Editing Tips [Formatting]

While formatting will be changed for Kindle and the like, it is good practice to get into a submission-ready standardised way of formatting your work as you write. Then change fonts and spacing if required by whoever you are submitting it to but generally most follow the same basic guidelines.

Here are some tips from a handout I like to share:

A Few Simple Tips For Formatting

 

Always check the guidelines for submission with the publisher or agent. Likewise, always check the rules and the submission guidelines when submitting to a competition or anthology. They will have their own in-house styles and rules. However as a rule of thumb the most preferred formatting is:

  • Times New Roman (Ariel sometimes)
  • 12 point
  • Double Spaced (remove extra space between paragraphs)
  • Double speech marks – although some prefer single (some even say if they want straight or curly!)

(Just make sure you are consistent.)

  • Rugged right (justified leaves gaps in the text) and editors usually prefer this as it appears too uniform otherwise. This is using the ‘align left’ tab not the ‘justify’ tab.

 

Paragraphs

The default tabs in Word are usually fine (sometimes they might ask for certain indents but not usually), set for double spacing (sometimes 1.5) and click box – don’t add extra space between paragraphs for the whole document. Start the piece or a new section to the far left, then indent for new paragraphs. Look at books as this will give you the idea:

e.g.

And so it began.

It was the summer of 1974…

 

Use an indent for a new paragraph or speaker (also includes reaction by a speaker so the reader can easily follow the conversation).

If you change scene, extra line space – no indent.

For a large time gap or point of view change also consider using asterisks for a larger scene break.

 

… She never stayed to hear his reaction. She couldn’t watch the man she loved just walk away. Not today. Not ever.

***

Peter drank. Perhaps not always the best answer but today Peter drank to forget.

 

Here we changed point of view. The formatting tells the editor/reader the switch in point of view was intentional. Again look at the way books do it and be consistent in your text. You will find your own style.

 

Dialogue

Always indent when a new person speaks unless it’s after action:

Peter stood and looked along the line of bushes. “What the hell was that?” he said.

Avoid hanging saids like:

Peter stood and looked along the line of bushes. He said,

“What the hell was that?”

(Move it up onto the same line.)

Again look at books. If you’re given another character’s reaction to what a speaker says start like a new paragraph.

e.g.

“It looks nothing like an alien or a lion,” said Joe blushing.

Peter dug his hands into his pockets and shook his head at Joe.

 

Thoughts are sometimes also expressed like dialogue. This is completely unnecessary for a single viewpoint character narrator when it’s clear it’s all his thoughts (so you can also lose expressions like he thought.) But excursions in a third person narrative to direct first person thoughts or with an omniscient third person narrator it is preferable to use italics. These make it clear it’s thoughts and differentiate from dialogue.

e.g.

He heard it again. Only this time followed by a shrill sound, like a bird maybe. It put him in mind of a parrot screeching but longer notes, more persistent. Whatever it was it wasn’t going away – (all character thought)

It’s going to get me – (switch to first person direct thought).

Rather than:

He heard it again. Only this time followed by a shrill sound. “Maybe it’s a bird,” he thought. “Maybe like a parrot but more persistent.” He stood back. “Whatever it was,” he thought, “it wasn’t going away. It’s going to get me.”

 

If you get into the habit of using the correct formatting it makes it easier when you submit and it also tells the editor you do know about writing – it’s far more professional. It also shows them you know how to follow rules which is essential if they decide to publish you. It’s surprising how many writers don’t read. Read as much as can not only do you then pick up the right way to format but you also see what works best.

 

Also make sure you use things like hyphens (-) to connect words and en dashes (–) to separate clauses and em dashes (—) for interruptions

Also for ellipses do not use three or more full stops control-alt-period (…) not (…).

 

Make sure you follow the guidelines, so if it says no identifying marks, remove your name from headers and footers. If it asks for page numbers at the bottom, insert them in the footer. If it asks for Ariel font, no indents (The Costa Prize does this!) and saved as a PDF, then do exactly as it asks.

 

Make sure you follow the rules of competitions: themes, word counts, previous submissions etc.

 

Have a great weekend everyone!

Ready to write

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Here to Help

I have had a request for a subject which I plan to post about later this week. If anyone else has a request for something to do with the nuts and bolts of writing, about publishing, how the process works for example, even about my own writing, then please feel free to make a suggestion. I tend to get up and write whatever is in my mind and sometimes it’s more than other days! So please do get in touch.

I also wondered, since we have not done it for a while, if anyone has a small 500-word piece they would like critiqued here on-line for Fiction Clinic, if so we can do it at the end of next week. Please email me writer@debzhobbs-wyatt.co.uk

And also not had someone In The Spotlight for a while so if you have a novel/short story collection you want to plug and tell us about your writer’s journey particularly, then please do get in touch. I can’t feature them all if I get too many but I can certainly choose!

I also wondered if anyone out there wanted to post a Book Review of something you have read recently really that had an impact on you. I saw the shortlist for the Costa Prize was announced yesterday and I hope to start ticking off some of those books. LIST

Also here are the novel ones:

2014 Costa Novel Award shortlist

Neel Mukherjee for The Lives of Others (Chatto & Windus)

Monique Roffey for House of Ashes (Simon and Schuster)

Ali Smith for How to be both (Hamish Hamilton)

Colm Tóibín for Nora Webster (Viking)

2014 Costa First Novel Award shortlist

Carys Bray for A Song for Issy Bradley (Hutchinson)

Mary Costello for Academy Street (Canongate)

Emma Healey for Elizabeth is Missing (Viking)

Simon Wroe for Chop Chop (Viking)

Any appeal? Perhaps someone out there wants to take one of these and read then review it? It would be interesting to see what is deemed good enough to make this prestigious list? Any takers? Let me know which book you want to read and perhaps we can each take a different one? I did this with the Commonwealth Book Prize when they had it and I loved reading them all and I also chose the same winner!

I do like this blog to be a place where we can not only have me waffling about my own work, but to cover a lot of subjects that will be helpful to both readers and writers.

One day I have told myself I’d like to make it onto one of these lists. That is my goal and now I have said it out loud it has to be. Right?

And one final thing before I go and write the last three or four chapters of Isle of Pelicans (well rewrite and perhaps not all of them today!) — I have decided, in honour of my novel’s first birthday to offer a super low special rate on novel critiques this side of Christmas only. If you have something you want me to copy-edit, write a detailed editorial report, the same type of thing I do for Cornerstone — and throw in a synopsis review and help with your query letter, do it now! 100,000 words usually £300 is only £225! The offer is only for work sent now and will be limited to the first few received.

Here is the LINK.

Please do post your suggestions here in response to my questions and make this blog work for us all!

Have a great day everyone!

Do what you love

 

 

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Keeping the dream alive … responding to criticism

I was reading an article this morning about how we receive and how we give feedback and criticism and it made me think.

As a writer I am no stranger to having my work picked over. Fortunately those who have, have always been encouraging even if there was plenty to address.

I also give feedback as part of my day job and I like to think I have developed a style that is encouraging and empowering, but at the same time, honest. It has to be.

What I did was look at what I want from a critique, honesty first and foremost, but no point in saying what’s wrong if you can’t offer a fix, an idea, a suggestion. This is where I think various things combine — me being a writer myself, the fact I work in publishing (albeit on a small scale) but I have worked with lots of stories and lots of writers to know what works, being a reader helps, and my MA alongside numerous other courses so I have a strong grasp of what works and what techniques to use to make things work better. And like you, I return to books and I read magazines and I make sure the advice I give is as solid as it can be.

I once had someone critique my work who just said things like — nah, boring, cut, don’t believe you — and no offer of why or how. I found it demoralising. And I vowed I would never do that or make someone feel that way.

Yes I have worked on manuscripts by very new writers that need a lot of work, but handled right, the comments and suggestions and advice make it clear they have a lot to learn, but a good teacher empowers and makes the student want to learn, and doesn’t demoralise or make them feel like giving up forever.

It helps I am, a ‘people’ person, or I like to think I am, so I approach the job with passion and enthusiasm and do go the extra mile for people. I love it when they tell me they can see the improvement and when they start to have success.  And since I have my publishing contacts, the various projects I am involved in, like CafeLit, I do offer ways to kick-start careers where I can and have suggested they submit to various collections.

Not everyone can teach, I like to think I have the balance right between honesty and encouragement. All I can say is it seems to work and we start the official first full week of work this year, I have a full board of jobs and lots are new clients, as well as familiar faces — so I look forward to what we can do together.

2014 is going to be a great year, come along and see!

Have a great week everyone!

1455061_614034055330223_967283944_nPs the kindle version is still 99p!

 

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Here we go … setting your writing goals

Yay it’s a shiny new year! Don’t spoil it!

I don’t know about you but I love the feel of a new year. I used to see it as a way to start over with new paper, clean diary, new goals but now I see it more as a restoration of the default setting and to make sure I am still on track.

Resolutions are usually broken within a couple of weeks so I prefer to think it terms of setting realistic goals and this can be at any time, but then pushing yourself to achieve. If you see it as a chore you will never succeed. If you  just keep making lists and moving the writing one down further, or pushing deadlines too much, the initial relief you feel will fade and you will still feel like a failure.

I am very driven anyway and I remember spending new year’s with  friend a few years ago and one of the first things I did in the new year was buy a copy of Writers & Artists Yearbook for that year and say — I have to stop getting rejected and I will do what it takes to find me an agent or publisher. At the time I think this was with the infamous Colourblind and I adopted a new approach by being more choosy in the agents I contacted. While I soon learned at the time my writing was not quite there, the agents who did look at it mostly asked to see the rest of it and it was certainly better than my send to all approach as a novice!

When I knew it wasn’t good enough I then set out new goals and took more courses and in my case studied for my MA too. I went back to short stories to learn the craft. I was determined and still am. But an important lesson I learned was that like evolution and indeed ecology, we must adapt to a changing landscape in order to move forward.

At this melancholy time of year we often look back. So look back at some of your earlier writing as this is a wonderful way to see how far you’ve come. We never stop learning.

So here’s some advice for those with manuscripts and the dream  that this will be the year, how much have you worked and reworked that MS? What has the feedback been like? Are you still trying to flog a — no I won’t say it, are you still trying with the same novel you wrote ages ago? There comes a time when you have to move forward with the next one, as I had to do with Colourblind. That isn’t the same as giving up, it’s learning, adapting, taking what you learned from each step and progressing and one day you will come back to that MS with fresh eyes and be able to do it justice. You will see why it was rejected.

I am a lover of lists and I live for the dream, but not just the realisation of it, the ride to get there which is why I say you should celebrate every success along the way, it’s all part of the journey. And we never stop learning.

For me as well as my having to keep telling people about my book (still 99p on Kindle it seems!) and planning the LA trip etc, I am now having to focus on getting the next one submitted and being prepared for rejection because it will come — but let’s hope this is the year I find me an agent.

We need goals, but just don’t set yourself ones that mean flying before you have learned to walk, the oh sod it, let’s just self-publish this anyway approach. You know what I mean, sending it out there when it’s not quite ready. It is a long ride, but if you want it you will get it.

And anyone who missed my Essex twang I was invited onto a Radio Show on New Year’s Eve. Funny as I follow a couple of Essex radio stations on Facebook and that morning it had asked for people to sum up their year in 5 words. I chose: My dream finally came true. And in a short follow-up said why. Apparently it was read out on BBC Radio Essex and I was picked up for the Mike Forrest Show that goes out to 39 local radio stations in the BBC! So that was a great way to end the year. Oh and when you listen, sorry George Clooney! I only meant he is too old to play Gary in the film (since Gary is in this 30s) I’m sure I could find a role for him and no way is he too old, oh George … fine!

Mike Forrest Show 31/12/2013

(about 23 mins in)

Welcome to 2014! 

Come fly with me!

NYE

PS if anyone wants to contribute a piece to CafeLit here is the link: CL

Bridge House are now open for short story submissions: BH

And if you want me to start up Fiction Clinic on the last Friday of the month, I am seeking 500 words that need a little online TLC. |Email them to me

Oh and I have revised my prices on novels and novella work finally on my website but there is still an introductory discount for new clients

Tomorrow I will share a link for a little guest blog post I did!

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Fingers in lots of pies …

Although I  see myself first and foremost as a writer, my editing and critiquing  job also plays very much into that and I am quite convinced that it has made me a better writer.

Editors  comes from all sorts of backgrounds, some have degrees in English, some studied journalism, some learned by being hired by a publishing house. And very much like writing, when I started to work as an editor I was lacking in self-confidence because a part of you always feels like a fraud! Am I really qualified to do this?

Scientific writing was very much a part of my job for a lot of years and creative writing was a hobby until the obsession took over. I learned to edit or perhaps first of all critique by being part of a group and later studying for my MA in Creative Writing. Working at Bridge House Gill kindly gave me free rein on a number of projects and taught me the basics of copy editing. I then did a course on copy editing and proof reading although ironically I found it hard to get the assignments done in time as I had too much copy editing and proof reading work! But the course taught me mostly what I’d already learned although the proof reading symbols were new and I often have to use with one of the publishers who hires me regularly.

I think the biggest validation has to be repeat business and I have so much of that both privately and with the small presses that hire me. My confidence has perhaps not soared to tackling a big publishing houses but then do I need to? I am a writer who edits and crits and publishers books and does workshops to fund the writing career and I don’t want a career solely as an editor.

I still feel like a fraud sometimes — as if I should have a degree in copy editing or something, if one exists, but I keep being re-hired so I guess the doing is the proof in the end. And like writing, I continually learn from the process.

I also worry about missing things but since I have also worked with an editor I see that to as humans we always miss some things. That’s why you have a copy editor and a proof reader and often you need more than one.

It is great though that so many clients say nice things — phew and of course a huge validation came from an agency’s approval of my work.

So I feel happy and confident in my role.

That said, I can not tell you how many times I have read the stories in the new Wild n Free book, even before the document went to the designer, to try to avoid lots of changes post design. I had another set of eyes on it as well and still when I read the PDF this weekend I found a fair few things I’d missed! And it also requires checking pagination, uniformity of headers, contents same headings with capitals in the same places throughout and in contents etc. There’s more to it than you realise! And I wonder if I looked at it all again today what else I might see? I hope nothing. But it went for the final stage with these corrections to the designer yesterday and I will have one final look before I sign off on it and send it to the printer! I worry about children’s names and check and double-check so many times it’s like checking you have your passport at the airport and I know the heart rate will be up when I finally press that button to upload the book and later when I accept the hard copy proof!

Sometimes I wonder about this phrase ‘jack of all trades’ and would love it if I could employ external editors and proof readers on projects like this where I am too close to be as objective as I might like. But since I lose money on this project usually I can’t afford to do that! I hope the end result will be perfect but I have  come to learn that nothing ever is quite perfect! Although I do beat myself up and have paid for revisions because I know there is a grammar error I missed!  I guess what being this ‘jack of all trades’ at least has taught me, on a small-scale anyway, is  how publishing works and I know this also helps a huge amount.

It is a busy old time for me as it seems there are FIVE titles out next month connected to yours truly! How’d that happen?

The biggie of course and enough in itself is the novel.

The same day I hope Wild n Free Too is out.

Around the same time I also hope the Springbok Anthology I co-edited and have a story in, is out.

Around the same time as well the eBook with my winning Bath Short Story (no not a story about a bath!) is out.

Oh and while it is supposedly out I am still waiting for my copy of You, Me and a Bit of We from Chuffed Buff Books that is out about now!

Woo hoo! November looks like one big launch party!

But I still have to work and do lots of marketing things and also at the moment, as well as sorting all the details for my launch events, our writing group has a showcase evening the week after my Bangor launch. So while I will take a lesser role and work with the team I did write a press release and am sorting copy for posters etc. And work out a running order for the event. It is all go but I love it!

Anyone who is in Wales or would like to come to my Bangor launch I am attaching the poster below. Also in Welsh on as I live in a bilingual society even though I have to confess to my Welsh being no more than a few diochs and panads! (Look it up!) So many thanks to a friend for the translation! Posters now in situ. A few more still to be walked around!

So yeah it is busy — but would I have it any other way? Of course I bloody wouldn’t!!! And Welsh friends — the Bangor Cellar Writing Group Showcase evening is October 30th, 7 pm at the Gwynedd Museum & Art Gallery (near the library) and all welcome to that as well! I will have a poster soon!

All this and I am also plugging the new Paws Competition! What fun!

 

Have a great week all!

Bangor flyer English

 

Bangor flyer welsh

 

Ps Essex people, the launch is on November 22nd a poster will be on here for that as well!

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Ramblings on being ready to submit …

After all the excitement of the cover reveal yesterday, and then as it turns out, the publisher had given me the not quite final cover which only added to the excitement and led to another reveal later, (yesterday’s post now has the correct image) and (pause for breath) we go live with the single today that will be free to download (optional donation to charity) — emergency post with link later, (yes this is all one sentence!) — I will calm it all down a notch now before I get tucked into the novel-writing.

Phew. Breathe.

I was pondering the dos and don’ts of the submission process and there are many such posts out there. I won’t give a step by step common sense list — only to say one thing — ALWAYS FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES TO THE LETTER. And that includes how you format your work. Get it right. Hard copy proof it for typos etc. You know all this and if you don’t — you should. Points finger, tries to look like a school teacher. Fails.

No what I was pondering was this need to have it now mentality and one of the many reasons some writers choose to self-publish — because rejection hurts? What can I say — it really does. Now I know this isn’t the only or even the main reason we self-publish but it is why a lot of us do — so don’t think this is a statement against self-publishing because it’s really not. Really really. Honest.  Shakes head, nods head, shakes it again. Oh dear now I look like a stuck chicken. I think it’s great this option is available. Truly. But (always a but) — what popped into my frazzled, on the computer far too long without breaks yesterday brain was that I think of a lot of the reason why some material published isn’t as good as it can be is we submit too early. Yep really.

I say this from my experience as a very small publisher, but also, mostly in fact, from my editing and critiquing work. Writers tell me they have their novel finished and want my help and in some cases are primed and ready to start seeking a publisher or the all elusive agent (they do take people on, don’t they? Now and then? Might be an urban myth  — she jests with tongue in cheek.) If the MS is an early draft and by that I mean, first to fourth even, and a first novel — there’s a reasonable chance it’s a few edits away from finished. Finished is a bit of a myth too. Also said with tongue firmly stuck to inside of cheek. The big question is knowing when it’s ready.

We all think it is and then it’s not and end up with so many versions of it. But this is process. This is needed. Really. If you can’t cope with writing the same novel about 8 times (average I’d day) then you might have a problem. It’s in the getting it right I derive great pleasure and so can you and I know many of you do!

All I’m saying, if I have a point in my apparent, going too fast with excitement, supposed to be calming it down brain this morning, is there are  key thoughts I want to share (it took this long to get to it! Now there’s a lesson in editing!) — here they are:

1. If your MS is an early draft it’s probably not ready.

2. If your MS is a much later draft, it’s probably not ready — but if it is almost ready then a publisher/agent might take a chance on it.

3. If your MS is rejected with standard rejections and not whispers (as someone put it so well on FB yesterday) of almost there it’s probably not ready.

4. If your MS has never been critiqued or copy-edited by someone who knows, and is a first novel in particular,  it’s almost certainly not ready.

And — 5. If you decide to self-publish and any of these apply, do yourself a favour and at least have the work critiqued/copy-edited to address why it was rejected before you put it out there — especially, let me repeat, if any of the above apply.

And last, but not least, 6. Don’t publish it too early. Make sure you have gone through several edits and it is as good as it can be (and that means the critique/copy-edit) to be as sharp as possible — if you want to sell books beyond the first one (which will always sell to family and friends) aim for longevity and think future sales.

On that note if your chief aim is to seek an agent, then remember they want you for your career, not just one book and that’s really important.

Of course if your motivation isn’t to secure an agent/publisher after self-publishing, or to self-publish your way into a bestseller and you’re doing it purely for fun and that’s enough — ignore all of the above! But it’s not why most of us write. Is it? Except for the fun part, which it should always be — right?

God, where did all that come from today? Too much caffeine. Or not enough?

Going off to write and await a phone call from my publicist. (Showing off now, always wanted to say that, and it is actually true! Claire from Parthian is calling be about launchy and press things this morning) Woo hoo! Never get used to it! Keep it fun. Always do it because you love it. Really, truly, honestly.

Act your shoe size. It helps!

And today!

And today!

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