Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Working With Editors: The Working Relationship

Here's the next post in the series on working with editors. Today's entry is on the working relationship between writers and editors, and how to make the most of it.

First, it's best to send your best work to an editor, otherwise you waste time and money. Once you polish the draft, here are some tips:
  • Referrals are preferable, even in a nonpaying arrangement.
  • Problems will arise, so professionalism, even with friends, is key.
  • Don't react immediately when you see the corrections, which are likely to be more extensive and different than you thought. Instead, put the manuscript aside for a day.
  • When you come back to it, review all the observations before passing judgment. Then test the changes by implementing them. Most often, you'll see improvement.
  • If you're still in doubt, write out your questions and review them before sending them to your editor, making sure to use the opportunity for clarity and not to sni
  • Each writer-editor relationship is unique, so don't be surprised if your experience differs from that of others even when you're working through a referral.
  • At some point the honeymoon will be over, but this can be an opportunity for the relationship to mature. How you handle it sets a precedent for how you'll handle other aspects of the writing life, like reviews and publicity.
  • Remember, this is a business — for both of you.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Editors: Three Basic Types

Editors come in various flavors, but there are three basic profiles — development, content or line, and proofreaders:
• In a nutshell, development editors scrutinize for big ticket items: character, plot, theme and transitions. They consider other aspects, too, like grammar, punctuation and spelling, but their strength is the big picture.

• Content or line editors scan for the big picture, but they're looking largely for whether the writing flows, scenes make sense and the story generally works. They also watch for grammar, punctuation and spelling.

• Proofreaders, the good ones, get out the magnifying glass. They're detail-oriented and look for errors you pray don't show up in the draft you send to your agent. Some development editors recommend using proofreaders before sending the final draft.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Editors: Why Work With a Pro?

Writers often opt for professional editors and literary agents often recommend them, especially for first-time authors, because mistakes, simple and complex, are easy to miss.

Simple mistakes (grammar, punctuation, spelling) can be easy to fix, but complex problems (plot, theme, character development, transitions) can be tricky. An editor with knowledge in these areas can be invaluable. So can one with a thorough knowledge of grammar.

Working with a pro can save time, money and aggravation by showing you sooner rather than later the recurring errors that may be keeping your work from publication.

You may want to take your work to the next level, and a professional editor can provide the necessary perspective.

It can be an investment in your future. Writers often invest in master's degrees and conferences, but degrees are expensive and time-consuming, and you may need a more personal touch than conferences allow. A good manuscript edit educates you in areas of weakness.

Although publication is never guaranteed, not even for authors with multiple books in print, your chances improve as your work improves. You can also gain notice from publishers who would otherwise pass on your work because it lacks polish.

Professional editors have contacts in publishing, and many have worked in the field. Not only can they offer wisdom about those relationships, but some also provide referrals if they like your work.

Here's what editor Beth Bruno says: "If the author doesn't effectively engage the mind and heart of the reader, the work probably won't find its way to publication."

Visit Beth at Beth Bruno at Book Editing

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tutorial: Making the Most of Working With Editors

At some point in our calling as writers we'll work with an editor, maybe a professional hired to review our work, or a friend we've asked for help. For the next week, we'll focus on tips for making the most of this relationship.

There's a fallacy about editors that those who can do, and those who can't teach. But good editors understanding writing, the writing process and writers. Many write, too. Your editor probably won't become your best friend, but should strike a balance between professional objectivity and nurturing your talent.

Here's a good example from writer, editor and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association board member Beth Bruno. "Whether editing fiction or nonfiction, I focus on enhancing the author's voice, style, tone and content, always keeping the reader in mind."

Visit Beth at Beth Bruno at Book Editing

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fine-Tuning the Short Story: With Christiana Langenberg

This Word for Words segment features multi-award-winning author, writer and professor Christiana Langenberg. Also an award-winning short story writer, Christiana has authored the compilation Half of What I Know, and a number of short pieces.

In Half of What I Know, Christiana shows the results of fine short story writing, and discusses the challenges of that genre.

AA: What do you find most challenging about writing shorter pieces?

CL: Several things. It can be difficult to follow the initial impulse to write a story and trust that eventually the characters will reveal the plot, etc., to me as they themselves develop.

AA: What types of things do you have to decide?

CL: Point of view (usually first or second for me, though occasionally third) and then figuring out if there's going to be something particular about the way the narrative is shaped can also take lots of rumination (I long ago discovered these things can't be rushed).

AA: Do you adopt any techniques to help with the process?

CL: I try not to talk about stories when I'm working on them because I feel it takes away the energy from the writing. I also do not show any of my close editor/friends any drafts until I'm fairly sure the story is nearly completely finished. I then use feedback to fine-tune certain scenes or images and to verify that the beginnings (maybe more importantly the endings) work. Another couple of revisions later, and the story is usually ready to send out for publication.

For Christiana's Half of What I Know, visit Christiana Langenberg.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Re-Vision and the Cold Light of Reason

Meet multiple award-winning nurse poet Cortney Davis. Also the poetry editor for Alimentum literary journal, Cortney has authored Leopold’s Maneuvers and a number of poetry books. Her latest book is a series of essays, entitled The Heart's Truth: Essays on the Art of Nursing.

An active and working caregiver, Cortney finds joy in the revision process of writing.

AA: Give us a sense of your writing process.

CD: I find that, at least for me, the writing process is one part inspiration, one part making-my-self-sit-down-and-do-it, and two parts revision. I've discovered over the years that I really don't like to write—until I get into it.

AA: That's an honest appraisal. Take us through the process after the initial idea.

CD: I might have an idea or an inspiration, a vague and amorphous "something" following me around, but until I make myself sit at my desk and get to work, that inspiration goes nowhere (and can so easily be lost). And I can find plenty of excuses not to get to my desk: plants to water, bills to pay, floors to sweep, phone calls to return. But when I finally do get to writing—perhaps hours or even days later—-hen the creative process takes over and I'm in another world. Hours may go by, but it seems as if time stands still.

AA: What happens in the next stage?

CD: Once that initial "blob" of writing has been done, once I have a rough draft or two of a poem or an essay printed out, I must let that initial work rest for several days. If I try to revise or edit too soon, I can kill any piece of writing. It's as if that initial creative burst, that fire, has to have time to cool before I can sift through the embers.

AA: That's an important point. We've all ruined work by going back too soon. What happens then?

CD: A few days or a week later, I can return and, in the cold light of reason and craft, re-vision the original work and make it better. Although I drag myself kicking and screaming to the initial writing process, I love to revise. There is nothing better than spending time re-reading, re-thinking, going deeper, looking at sounds and words and sense and taking that initial raw inspiration and turning it into something that goes beyond the first impulse, beyond the self.

AA: Nathalie Goldberg mentions "re-visioning" as well. What happens when you hit a dry spell? Or do you hit dry spells?

CD: Alas, I'm a slow writer; sometimes there are no inspirations, and so I must force myself to sit and stare at the empty page until something happens. There are plenty of times that an idea might arrive, but it falls apart in my hands or I can't do it justice. Rarely, very rarely, the urge to write is so strong and compelling, and a poem comes so rapidly, that it takes my breath away. Those are the shining moments every writer lives for. But, usually, my creative process is a plodding one.

AA: What's your advice to writers in general?

CD: Do the work; let it rest; look again and revise, all the while hoping that all my years of trudging have taught me something: to do the work even when I find it difficult, to have the patience to wait, and to trust that mysterious inner voice that shapes the final product.

Visit Cortney at Cortney Davis