Beginners’ Self-Publishing Salon with Jay Artale & Michael La Ronn
In a follow up to last month's podcast about writing tools, writing styles, and writing challenges, Michael and I discuss the different types of editing that beginning authors should familiarize themselves with. We chat about your role as an author in the editing process, and the role that editing plays to ensure you're creating a professional product.
Here's a summary of the topics we covered:
- Three steps to manuscript editing
- Beta Readers
- Professional Editing
- Definition of the different types of professional editing:
- Developmental Editing
- Copy Editing
- Proof reading
- Working with an Editor
- Editing Challenges and Tools
- Editing Resources to brush up on your editing knowledge and understanding
Being an indie author isn’t about conforming to a cookie-cutter approach, it’s about finding out what the options are and then choosing the best approach that works for you – and that’s what Michael and Jay are here to help with. They discuss what has helped them achieve their writing goals, which author challenges they've faced, and how to overcome them. They offer up simple insights for writers who want to become authors, or authors who are new to self-publishing.
Listen, Watch, or Read
Watch our broadcast, listen to the podcast, or read the transcript of the show below.
Listen to our Beginners’ Self-Publishing Salon Podcast on Soundcloud
Subscribe to our Ask ALLi podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, Player.FM, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or via our RSS feed:
Watch our Beginners’ Self-Publishing Salon Broadcast on YouTube
Each month we’ll be discussing a different aspect of the self-publishing journey from a beginning authors perspective.
Next Month’s Topic: Book Cover Design
Read our Beginners’ Self-Publishing Salon Transcript
Jay: Hi, this is the Beginners Self-Publishing podcast and I’m Jay Artale and I’m here with my co-host, Michael La Ronn. Morning Michael.
Michael: Morning Jay, how are you today?
Jay: I’m doing good, thank you. So, today we’re going to talk about book editing. We’re going to look at three steps to manuscript editing. There’s self-editing, beta readers and professional editing. So, Michael is going to give us a brief overview of each different type of editing and then we can dive into them into a little bit more detail. And then cover how these different editing types apply to beginning authors. And also looking at what your role is in the editing process. But, before we dive into that, let’s talk about what you’ve been working on this month, Michael?
Michael: Sure, well I have officially finished my galaxy maverick series, so, that’s nine books and one short story that’s going into the universe. So, I’m really excited to close the lid on that series and move into the next thing. I’m also working on a short story that’s going into a space opera anthology that I was invited to participate in. So, I am finishing that up as well. And I’m looking forward to being able to talk about that in the future. But, right now, that is my biggest news, I’m just kind of reflecting on what I’ve done and what went well for the series, what went well for the launch, maybe some things that didn’t go well and just getting ready for that next series. How about you?
Jay: So, have you got good metrics in place that you measure your success and what worked and what didn’t work?
Michael: Yeah, I have sales metrics in place. I don’t focus too much on that, I really just focus on the professionalism of the product, what kind of relationships I made with other authors in the genre, what felt really good when I was marketing, what didn’t feel really good and I just kind of go with my gut and carry that over into the next series.
Jay: You mentioned a really good word there, professionalism, and that’s really relevant, the topic today is about editing because in order to get your books to look professional you have to have them edited at some level or another. And actually, at the moment, I’m still working on my poetry book and it’s being edited at the moment. Now, with it being a poetry book, the type of editing I’m having done is purely based on punctuation. Because with poetry, it’s very subjective and it’s how I want it to be read. And I’ve been reading my poetry over and over and over again, so many times that I’m fed up of it. And I think that’s the time when it’s time to publish, when you’ve had enough of reading your own work [laugh].
Michael: Yeah, there’s only so many times you can go over your manuscript, right, at some point you’ve just got to open the door and just kick it out, just get it out in the world. Congratulations, that’s exciting.
Jay: Yes, I’ve kicked it out to an editor, purely for, some of the poems I wrote have got no punctuation whatsoever and some have got lots. And so, I’ve given it over to an editor because this is my little passion project, I’m second guessing myself on some of these poems, I think, because I read it so much, I’m not really hearing them anymore when I read them. And I think that’s part of the challenge, when you’ve written a book, that you can’t, you don’t see your own mistakes anymore, do you?
Michael: No, and that’s, the old adage is certainly true that you are the worst possible judge of your work. You just don’t know how readers are going to accept it and you just have to trust the process and trust that you are writing the best book that you can. And let the readers decide, right?
Jay: Yes, that’s definitely it. Yes, so that’s a good segway into editing and looking at those three different types that we’re going to look at. So, self-editing, beta readers and then professional editing, and obviously within the professional editing segment there’s a lot of different types of professional editing and that’s what Michael is going to dive into a little bit more on that. So, let me walk you through the different types of editing and then Michael, if you can just give us a brief overview of what these mean? Especially as they relate to a beginning author and whether they’re relevant for beginning authors and fiction and non-fiction, does that sound good to you?
Michael: Sounds good, I’d be happy to do that.
Jay: Ok, so let’s kick off with self-editing. So, you’ve written your manuscript, you’ve finished your first draft, then it’s time to dive back in and self-edit.
Michael: And when you are self-editing you are in the phase that you just described so eloquently Jay, where you are looking at what you’ve written, you are making sure that it makes sense, you are taking out parts that don’t make sense or parts that disturb the flow of your story. You are looking for typos. So, it’s looking at everything and just making sure that you can give you editor or your beta readers the best possible product. And it’s really important that you focus on this self-editing because the more mistakes that you fix in the self-editing, the less it’s going to cost you when you hire a professional editor. The self-editing, I could talk a lot about that just because there have been a lot of books that have been written on it. And I think as an author, it’s the part where you spend the most time with the editing. And I think it’s the part where you can maybe get into the most danger because there are two sides of the spectrum, right? There is, you just write the book, and you don’t edit it, you just send it off to the editor. No self-editing or anything like that. Then there’s the other side, which is what I call editing purgatory. Where you think that your novel has to have a hundred drafts before it’s right and that it’s never perfect and a lot of beginning authors fall into either side of that spectrum. And so, it’s important to remember that it is your job to self-edit, right, but it’s also your job to make sure that you’re producing the most quality with the least amount of time. So, if it’s your first novel, just remember that it’s probably going to take you longer to self-edit but just don’t get paralyzed with a hundred drafts or fifty drafts. Just try to set a goal for yourself and say, I’m going to get this done in four drafts and then I’m going to send it to my editor, no matter what.
Jay: When you self-edit, do you do it on screen or do you print a copy out and do it on a hard copy with a pen?
Michael: I do it on screen. Everybody has to do what works for them, right?
Jay: Yeah. Because I used to do it on screen but now, before I send it to beta readers, I print a copy out and I know that some people, when they do self-edit, they listen to a recording of it. You can get Scrivener to read your draft out to you, it helps me pick up on some grammatical errors and wrong words and things like that, that maybe spell check hasn’t picked up on. So, once you’ve done your self-edit and you’ve got it to a point, do you include beta readers at that point, after your self-edit, before you go for a professional edit or do you leave beta readers to the end?
Related Articles on Self-Editing
Michael: Personally I don’t use beta readers anymore. I used to use them heavily in the beginning of my career just because I wanted to make sure that I was writing good stories and that they were resonating with readers. If I were to use a beta reader today, I would use them before I sent it to the editor. And the reason for that is because it’s, when beta readers look at your story, that’s very similar to the first professional edit that we’re going to talk about a little bit later, which is developmental editing, right? Because beta readers are exactly that, they’re readers. They’re going to be looking at the story, they’re going to be looking at how the characters made them feel, how the story made them feel and you want that kind of feedback before it goes to an editor so that when the editor is looking at it, if you don’t have a developmental edit, that they can edit the grammar and you know that the story pieces are all set in place before it starts editing.
Jay: Yes, because I use beta readers. I didn’t for my first couple but now, I do each time and I love the kind of feedback that you get because it’s very personal feedback that is based on one person’s perspective of how they see your book and that’s what readers are. Every reader reads your books from a different perspective, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, you know? People pick up on different things. And so I can send one book out to ten beta readers and get something completely different back from each one. But then there is the challenge, you get all this different feedback and you’ve got to kind of juggle and make that assessment of what you want to implement, obviously any kind of changes or grammatical errors you want to implement but then there’s a kind of style feedback that you get from beta readers that sometimes it doesn’t even fit with the tone or the style that I’m going with. So, that’s really one of the important things, that when you are a beginning author, that you take the input and the feedback that you’re getting but then not abdicating all responsibility for your book and making sure that the feedback that you are getting, that it needs to be applied or you know, some of it just needs to be pushed aside and it’s not relevant because it’s just one person’s opinion of your manuscript.
Michael: Yes, think about it like this. You are the captain of your ship and a captain can’t operate the ship without a crew and the crew is going to give you feedback. The crew is going to have different responsibilities in their every day roles but at the end of the day, you still steer the ship and you still go down with the ship if it hits an iceberg. And so, when a beta reader is giving you feedback, just know that you have the final executive decision but make sure that you pick the right people to be on your ship, right? That is the most important thing that you can do. Find beta readers that are in your genre. If you have a beta reader, if you write science fiction and you have a beta reader that reads romance [laugh], the feedback you get may not always be relevant or adequate for your story. So, that’s another thing I would call out.
Jay: Yes, definitely. For my Alzheimer’s poetry collection, I went in search of people that had either written related books, to get their input on it or people that I knew that had parents that had Alzheimer’s or lost parents to Alzheimer’s, for my target audience perspective. So, I got lots of great feedback for that and I got some really good feedback and I made some changes and switched the order of poems around and it, you know, sometimes you get too close to your own story or your own manuscript and it’s difficult to see, but then when someone points something out, then it becomes really evident that you know, that this does work better. But you have to be careful not to get too many peoples opinion, I think.
Michael: I usually never get more than five beta readers, that’s not a hard and fast rule. You can have as many as you want or as few as you want. But I found in my personal experience, when I was starting out, that once I started getting over five, one, it was kind of hard to coordinate them all [laugh]. Because it does take a lot of work, if you are going to do beta readers, just to make sure that you give them a deadline, that they get the book back to you in time for the edits and things like that. But then also giving them a focus and what you want them to focus on too. Because you don’t just want to hand them the book and say hey, read it and tell me what you think. You also want to give them a little bit of direction so that they can start thinking about that while they’re reading too. So, you definitely want to embrace that productive discomfort that they give you [laugh], when they give you their feedback because it’s important.
Jay: Yes. And I find beta readers are really helpful in non-fiction, when you’ve got a topic and making sure that the content flows and it doesn’t become confusing to follow what the key message is in the book, and you know, going in too much detail about the one thing and not enough about another. So, I find them really useful for non-fiction and I think at a very minimum that if you are writing a non-fiction book, that, you know, at least get them out to a couple of people that know that niche and know that topic, to be able to give you some valuable feedback.
Michael: Oh I agree. That’s a great call out too because there’s also the marketing angle of it too, right? If you can find someone in your niche, making sure that what you’re writing is relevant to them and making sure that maybe your messaging and your marketing is correct, is a really important thing. Yeah, for non-fiction writers, I would definitely not rule out beta readers. I would just be a little bit more focused in how you go about getting them and making sure that they’re in your core audience.
Jay: And there’s lots of articles on the blog about beta readers and where to find beta readers, how to go about them, how to give them the instructions so that, like Michael said, that you don’t just give them the book and say read it and let me know what you think. How to give them instructions, how to work with them. In the show notes when we do the blog post on Friday, will include the links to those blog posts for beta readers so that, if you haven’t thought about a beta reader before and you want to explore that topic a bit more, that goes into all the detail that you need.
Related Articles on Beta Readers
You know, we talked about self-editing. We talked about beta readers. And now we’re going to talk about professional editing. So, Michael there is three different kind of core categories within professional editing. So, maybe you could give us a brief overview of each one of these three? Developmental editing, copy editing and proofreading? And then we can dive into each one of them in a little bit more detail? So, let’s kick off with developmental editing, what is it?
Michael: Sure. Well, developmental editing is what I would say, the most intensive process. It’s basically when the editor looks at big picture. They look at story, they look at character, they look at plot. They look at pacing. They look at everything that flows together. All the different building blocks that makes the story the story. And they basically break it down, and they rip it all apart and they help you put it back together. So, it’s editing at a very big picture level. Usually it’s the most time intensive. Usually it’s also the most expensive. And when I say expensive, I mean it’s really expensive [laugh].
Copy editing is what I would recommend that all writers start with. And that is, it’s medium picture, because I can’t think of a better phrase. It’s medium picture where they’re not going to necessarily look at the plot or the characters. They’re going to look at your story line by line and make sure that it adheres to certain standards. So, a lot of editors will use the Chicago manual style. This is making sure that your sentence structures make sense. Making sure that your pacing and your dialogue, that the technical mechanics, really, is what they’re looking at and making sure that that is good.
And then we have proof reading which is the least time intensive and also the least expensive. And that’s where they’re simply looking at spelling, grammar, any typos and just trying to clean up anything that maybe the copy editor missed.
Professional Editing Recommendation
Jay: So, when you write your fiction books, do you go through the developmental, copy edit, and proofreading process for each one of them?
Michael: No, I’ve only done a developmental edit on my very first novel. And the reason I did that on my very first novel was to make sure that I was playing by the rules [laugh] and to make sure that I didn’t have any major blind spots that I wasn’t aware of. So, that was a fun process. It was expensive but it was fun. And it took a lot of time. If it’s your first novel, go for it, you know, it’s worth doing just to get your feet wet with an editor that’s going to take the time to work with you and make sure that your story gets to where it needs to be. But it is very expensive. And I personally start with copy editing and proofreading. Just because I found that a developmental edit, it’s probably like two copy edits [laugh]. The money that I’d spend on a developmental edit, I can pay two copy editors and produce more books faster. But every author is different, every author is at a different spot in their journey.
Jay: So, the big thing here is around budget and you should really do the editing that allows you to work within your budget and also achieve your goals. And I think one of the biggest challenge with beginning authors is the budget or maybe they’re not even sure that they want to be an author and this is their first foray into writing a book and getting it out there. So, at a bare minimum, what would you recommend for a beginning author? What editing process do you think they should go through? So, they’ve finished their manuscript, they don’t have a lot of money, what are their next steps?
Michael: At a bare minimum I would recommend copy editing and the reason I would recommend copy editing and not proof reading is because at the end of the day, you have to bring a professional product to the market place, right? And so, one of the things that we talk about at ALLi is making sure that you’re producing the most professional product possible and that you are using editors. If you do not spend the money to get a quality edit, it is possible that readers may not want to continue reading your book or your series and so, you’re going to be better off in the long term, spending the money now to make sure that you get the book edited and it is as professional as you can make it so that you don’t have to worry about re-editing it or spending the money to fix some of those errors down the road. So, I know it’s a hard message for some people to hear because copy editing can be expensive but that would be my bare minimum recommendation.
How to Find an Editor
Jay: Yeah. And I think part of the challenge is, when people are going to spend money on their book, they want to make sure that they’re getting value for money and also, you know, expert advice. So, I think one of the biggest challenges for beginners is how do they find the right editor for their books? So, do editors generally focus on a niche? Like, there’d be a romance book editor or do they span across multiple genres?
Michael: It depends, there are some editors out there that are generalists and have edited for the big publishing houses and can pretty much do anything and there are some editors out there who only like to edit steampunk or they only like to edit romance. And so, if you are writing in a genre that is specialized, then my recommendation if you can, would be to find someone who is familiar with your genre. The easiest way to do that, just go on Amazon, look at the top one hundred in the genre that you’re writing in, look at the books, make a list of all the editors that they used. And then reach out to the editors, find out what their rates are, request a sample edit so that you can get a feel for their work and you can get a feel for how you guys might work together. And then at the end of the day, balance what you can afford with quality. So, that means that you may not be able to afford the editor that Hugh Howey uses, for example, right? But you don’t necessarily need that to start out. Just balance what you can afford with the best value.
ALLi Partner Members
Jay: So, one of the benefits of being an ALLi member is we have partner members as well, and the partner members offer a service and usually they offer a discount to ALLi members. So, I know we have lots of editors and proofreaders that offer that service and they offer them out to the general public as well but as part of being an ALLi member, they offer deals and discounts, so that you can actually save money by coming to one of the partner members that’s been vetted by the ALLi watchdog team. So, it’s not just editors, it’s proof readers, there’s cover designers, different production, different distribution, people that handle distribution. So, that’s one of the best ways of making sure that you’re getting an editor that has been vetted and approved and reaches a certain set of standards. So, if you’ve got authors, you know, authors love the people who edit their books or design their books, then personal recommendation is always a good place to start as well.
Michael: Oh, absolutely. Personal recommendations are important to, and I love that you talked about the ALLi watchdog service because this is one of the areas where authors have to be a little careful right, because there are editors out there who, for lack of a better a word are a little unscrupulous and will fleece you. So, you just have to make sure that you pick the right person for the job and if you don’t know who you can trust, then definitely use the watchdog service. It’s something else I want to talk about that’s really important and I talked about it a little earlier but, it’s really important and I can’t stress this enough because I’ve worked with probably a dozen editors, it’s really important to hire the right people. I guess that I can’t stress this enough because I’ve hired the wrong people and I can tell you what happens when you do that. But hiring the right people is important because when you hire the right editor you can trust what they’re going to tell you right, you can trust they going to be honest and straight-forward with you when they’re looking at your story. When you hire the wrong editor you’re not get, it’s not like a cover design, when you get a cover design and it’s ugly or it doesn’t work. You know right away that it’s probably not going to work, when you hire a bad editor, you don’t know that you hired a bad editor until three, four books down the road when you hire a new one. So, that’s why it’s really important to make sure that you get the right people on board, the people that are really on board with your story and can help you. Sorry for the long rant there. I’ve been there, I’ve been burned, so, it’s just really important. It can be expensive, I know, I know it hurts the wallet sometimes but, just spend the money and you’ll be able to make the money.
Considering Your Budget
Jay: It’s kind of the chicken and the egg thing you know, as a beginning author you maybe don’t have the money to spend on a big editing budget, but if you don’t spend any money on getting your book edited, it will go out there and it’s poorly edited, or not even proof read. You’re going to end up with some bad reviews on Amazon or Goodreads and people are quick to point out when there’s lots of grammatical mistakes or when there’s holes in the plot and everything. Those reviews don’t go away, so…
Michael: That’s true, they don’t go away unless you un-publish your book, and nobody wants to do that right, you know. At a bare minimum you know when you’ve got a competent editor when in your book reviews, no one says anything about typos. That’s when you know that you’ve got an editor that has done their job.
Working With An Editor
Jay: Have you got any tips for working with an editor, you said that you mainly work with copy editors. So, is there a way, what’s the approach? Do you give them the manuscript, do you give them any instructions or do you just hand it over and they know what to do?
Michael: Yeah, I give them some instructions. I am pretty good about telling the editor up front what I need. So, I have just written enough books over the time, over the last few years to know where my weaknesses are and I’ve got an editor that does a pretty good job of knowing, she’s edited a good portion of my books. So, she kind of knows where my weaknesses are and kind of what things to focus on, but, something that is very helpful when you’re working with an editor is to give them what’s called a stylesheet. And a style sheet is essentially a big list of all of the proper nouns and character names and places that take place in your book. So, that the editor can verify that you’re using everything consistently. So, if you have a character whose name is Michael, but it’s Micheal with a eal instead of the standard ael, you want to give that to your editor and let them know that upfront so that they can make sure that you’re using it properly right? And world names, all that stuff will help them just understand, ok, here are all the proper nouns, here are the things that I need to be checking. I found that has been a very helpful tip, particularly for copy editors.
Challenges with working with an Editor
Jay: Ok, any challenges of working with editors?
Michael: Yeah, there’s the perennial should I agree with this or should I not agree with this change that the editor recommended? Here’s what I say to that, that’s a common question that often comes up is. Well, what if I don’t agree with anything the editor says, or what if I agree with everything the editor says, I think it all boils down to hiring the right people so, if you hired the right editor and they make a suggestion. Trust that suggestion is probably coming from a good place. So, what I always tell people is, disagree, but then commit. So, maybe you don’t agree but commit to finding maybe a middle ground. That’s what I call productive discomfort. The editor is not always going to agree with everything that you write and you just have to commit to finding that middle ground. Editing for me, this is just my perspective on it, I try to spend as little time on it as possible because the editing, it uses so much of the opposite part of your brain that the creativity comes from. And so, I find that I spend too much time in editing, my creativity suffers. So, once I’m done with everything, I easily just send it off to my editor and I’m working on the next novel. It’s just something that has worked well for me at the time, and it works well for me now. If you’re a beginning author just starting out, I would recommend that you invest all the time in the editing just so that you understand how the process works and you can spend less time on it the next time around.
Beginners' Books about Editing and Self-Editing
Jay: Have you read any good books about editing or self-editing or anything around the editing process that would be good for beginners?
Michael: Oh yes, I’ve got a big, nice long list here actually. So, a couple, I’ll just pick from it. The one I would recommend first that a lot of people start with is:
- Self-Editing by James Scott Bell, now James Scott Bell has written, he’s an award winning writer, he’s written a ton of writer’s digest books. All of his books are great, but that is one I would recommend that you start with.
- Self Editing for Fiction Writers, by Rennie Brown and Dave King, that’s also another go to book that you will hear about on a lot of writing blogs and podcasts.
- The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. It’s a classic book, it was written a long time ago. It’s something that I would recommend people read just to understand what it is. But don’t glue yourself to the rules because writing has changed over the decades.
- And the final one that would read to help you stay out of editing purgatory would be The Pursuit of Perfection, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. It’s more of a treatise on why the pursuit of perfection is a bad thing and why spending the time on fifty drafts will hurt you in the long term for your career. And it gives you some tips on how to get through your editing faster without sacrificing that quality right, because that’s important.
Jay: So, Pursuit of Perfection, you know, that’s a topic that we talked about last time when we were talking about writing and how to get your first draft done. It is that fear of putting it out there, that first step of putting your book out there. That’s one of the reasons I like beta readers is that before you’ve given it to an editor to get that professional edit, you’ve given it to beta readers to get that personal input. And it’s like baby steps, and then you give it out to a professional editor and then you give it to our readers you know. So, it’s a step by step process. That’s a really good approach rather than just writing a book and putting it out there, not just from a professional standpoint, but for your own confidence as a writer to get that feedback from different people about what they liked and what they didn’t like.
Michael: Yeah, and when you’re starting off. I loved that you said baby steps because that’s exactly how you should treat it, one step at a time, tiny little steps that ultimately result in publication. Because there are a lot of steps to this, I mean we talk about editing and we’re going to talk about plenty of other topics. There’s so many different facets to being an author that you really do have to just break it down and take it step by step don’t you?
Jay: Yes, a blog post series that Orna did for NaNoWriMo, for their “you’ve written in now what”, series that she took everybody through the seven steps of publishing and the one thing that she said
when you’re doing a self-edit is don’t go in there with your critical red pen first, go in there with your positive green pen, like what did you like, as you’re reading through that first draft of your story, and you’re doing your own self-edit, what bits of the story do you like? You know, what resonates, it could be a word, a paragraph you know, a feeling or something, so, looking at things at a positive before you go in there with a red pen and start crossing out everything that you don’t like. READ THE ARTICLE HERE
Michael: Oh, mindset is so important. It’s very important, especially for beginning authors when you don’t have that confidence and you haven’t been through the process, approach editing with the mindset that you’re going to be successful. Not with the mindset of, oh my god, how am I going to not look like an idiot today right. Because at the end of the day, I promise you when you publish your novel and you look at it a year from now, and you just pick up paperback off your shelf and just kind of glance through the pages. You’re not even going to know what parts you struggled with. Like I can pick any book off my shelf today and I can look at it and be like ok, it’s kind of cool. I don’t remember, oh my gosh, I agonized for hours over this particular scene with this character. Just know that that you’re never going to remember in the future what you struggled with.
Jay: But that’s the great thing about being a digital author and getting your ebook out there is that you know, you can always go back in and tweak it.
Michael: Yup, you can always make changes and you can always fix typos that you find two years from now. Anything is game in this new world.
Jay: Are there some editing tools that you use when you do self editing that would help beginner authors?
Michael: From the most part, just Microsoft Word spell checker, but even then you’ve got to be careful because the spell checker is not smarter than your average author. So, I usually just turn off the style recommendations and just strictly look for typos. But in terms of tools, I don’t use any tools, I’m not, I guess I’m not on the band wagon of using applications and things to help you fix typos other then spell checker but I have heard people use Grammarly and Pro Writing Aid and tools like Hemingway to some success. So, if that’s kind of your thing, if you think that might help you, you know, I would encourage you to check those out. They’re usually pretty affordable and, you know any typo that any of these services can help you find is one typo that the readers aren’t going to find.
Jay: I like Grammarly and I really like Hemingway as well and I use them for blog posts and I think for short form, they work really well for editing and grammar and everything. But whenever I put a full book in there, it becomes really overwhelming. And I know you can put it in chapter by chapter but when you write seventy thousand words or a hundred thousand words, the recommendations that they have are not always in keeping with the style or the tone of the novel or the book that you’re writing. And it can just, then you can what’s that word, analysis paralysis.
Michael: Yeah, it’s true. I like that you made that distinction though because for non-fiction, absolutely, you’re a hundred percent correct. I would consider Grammarly and Pro Writing Aid and Hemmingway. But nothing will make your writing wooden faster than using a system like that because as far as artificial intelligence has come, systems still cannot help you with pacing, they can’t help you with character, they can’t help you with emotion and they’re just using the standard rules of the English language that everyone is using in High School, right. And so, if I, I’ve always felt if you listened to those a little too much that it takes out the parts of your writing that make you, you. And it takes out the parts of the writing that the readers identify with. So, as a fiction author, it’s not that you shouldn’t use the tools, you just have to be careful on how you use them and making sure that you’re not taking out your voice and character and all the things that make the story great in the first place.
Make Magic with 26 Letters
Jay: You know what, you just said something then that just got me thinking. We’ve got twenty-six letters to work with. Isn’t that amazing, that we’ve got twenty six-letters and then however you shuffle them up, you’ve creating those sentences in words and books and different people’s perspective and you’ve got different peoples imagination going, it is kind of crazy.
Michael: It is kind of crazy.
Jay: I know we all know those twenty-six letters but it just, sometimes we need the reminder it’s like, how many different ways can you shuffle those letters around to create something new and fabulous and something engaging that the reader wants to read?
Michael: And the possibilities are endless too. No one’s ever written the same book in the history of humanity as far as I know you know. No one’s ever written the same book and so that’s also why you have to remember not to rely on rigid rules and structures because it’s that experimentation, it’s that fun you can have when you’re writing a story is what readers love. Because no one’s written a same book.
Jay: So, anything else that you want to cover in editing before we wrap this show up Michael?
Michael: No, just to do your research when you’re looking for editors and just make sure when you’re going through the progress that you don’t agonize over it you know, have fun. Editing sometimes can take the fun out of writing, but don’t ever let it take the fun out of the process. If you’re finding that it’s not fun, if you’re finding that the editor is disagreeing with everything you doing, just fire him and find another editor you know. Nothing is set in stone in this industry. Like I said, just have fun. There’s so many good people out there that you know, never feel like you’re stuck is what I would tell you.
Jay: And become part of the community, you know, the more you know the more educated you get about editors and finding a good editor. You’ll find one that is right for you, so never suffer somebody that you don’t gel with, that you don’t value their feedback because why should you pay someone that you don’t value their feedback. So, try it, if it doesn’t work like Michael says, kick him to the curb and try somebody else. And keep trying because if you’re in this author gig for the long haul. You need to create partnerships, you need to create somebody and a working team around you that’s got your back and that’s got your best interests at heart as an author.
Jay: Right, well let’s wrap this show up. What are you going to be working on for the next month?
Michael: I’m moving into a new series which is always exciting, I am going to have LitRPG series that is going to be launching at the end of the year. So, I’m going to talk a little bit more about it.
Jay: LitRPG series? Sorry.
Michael: Yes, LitRPG so, for those that haven’t heard of it, it is basically a science fiction or fantasy series that takes place within a realm of a video game. So, it’s fairly new genre, it’s fairly popular right now and so, I’ve got a series that I’d like to write and launch by the end of the year. So, should be fun.
Jay: So, this video game that exists and you base it on the video game that exists?
Michael: No, you actually invent your own video game. So, you invent your own video game and you throw a character in the video game, and it’s got rules and it’s got mechanics and you know, lots of, it’s a little different then a maybe a science fiction story where maybe there are rules and mechanics, but this is strictly, it’s a video game. Everyone knows that they’re in a video game, so, it’s kind of fun.
Jay: Oh right, I’ve never even heard of it.
Michael: That will be a fun thing to talk about in future episodes then.
Jay: So, how many are going to be in this series?
Michael: This will probably be four or five books. I’m already done with books one through two, one through three. So, I just need to finish the last two and then will launch it.
Jay: You’re a writing machine.
Michael: I try you know, I have nothing else to do. How about you? What are you going to work on?
Jay: Well, my poetry book is being edited at the moment and I booked in a cover design over September so, I’m just looking at other books in my niche to try and see what the covers are like and what, something I’ve found with poetry books is that the back covers, what’s included on the back covers varies widely. Lots of poetry books have nothing but the cover, some have a poem, some have random stuff and some have author blurbs. So, and it seems like there’s no norm or industry standard for poetry books so just trying to work out what I want included on my cover, because obviously part of having my cover designed is providing the text for the front and the back, and I’m not sure what’s going on the back. So, that’s something new to me because whenever I’ve done non-fiction books, I know what I want on my back cover, and it’s easy to write.
Michael: Decisions, decisions right?
Jay: It’s fun, it’s the fun part of it. And then handing it all over to the cover designer and see what she comes back with which is going to be really good and I’ve pulled back from writing at the moment because I’ve just relocated from L.A back to Turkey so, just, that transition and moving around and getting settled in the house again has taken a lot of time so, Summer is just a little bit of a break time before we dive back into it. And also next week, Orna, David, Penny and I are having discussions around Indie Author Fringe so, our next Indie Author Fringe is on October 14th, so, we’re on countdown. Well, it’s less than two months away.
Michael: Yeah, that’s coming fast.
Jay: I know, that’s coming up really fast. So, once that kicks in, then all of my energies kind of go onto Indie Author Fringe and away from writing so, I’m enjoying the break before all of that happens. But we’ll have to entice you back again Michael, to do a session, maybe we can do a joint session or something?
Michael: Anytime, I’d be totally down for it.
Jay: For this next Fringe, it’s in Association with Frankfurt Book Fair, it’s around an author business and how to make a career out of writing and what other things you can do to make money and you know, use your skills so, it’s working towards helping authors achieve their goal of making this their career and becoming successful as an author.
Michael: Awesome, well I guess we should go ahead and wrap up this show here. So, you talked about you doing cover design, that’s actually going to be our topic next month, is cover design. So, we’re going to be talking about all things that have to do with hiring a designer, what to look for in a cover, how to work with the designer and how to make sure that you’re having a cover that is branded to the market place. But, to tie things up and ask a question of this month since we were talking about editing. Our question is:
How do you edit you novels?
You can drop us a comment on this show’s summary page below and if enough people comment you will also be able to see how others self edit their novels as well, which is always a helpful learning opportunity. And as always if you enjoyed this episode, we encourage you to leave a review on your podcast network of choice. If that helps us find more great listeners like you, and it also helps the other shows on our podcast network. So, thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next month, happy writing, Jay.
Jay: And to you, thanks very much. Goodbye.Find out how beginning authors should edit their books. #AskALLi Click To Tweet
Visit our Editorial Home page for more resource about the editing process:
- You can catch up on all of our videos on ALLi’s YouTube Channel
- You can listen to all of our podcast recordings at ALLi’s SoundCloud Channel
Interested in joining ALLi? Besides being able to submit questions to this monthly Q&A, there are lots of other benefits of being an ALLi member. Click this banner to find out more.