editing

CLOSING SOON: Please Make A Note Of It

This is just a note that as of September 1, 2017, I will be on hiatus from editorial work. I want to focus on my own work for a while, but will re-open to client submissions in 2018.  I have room in my schedule for the end of this month and August. Any work started before September 1 will be finished in contracted time periods. 

To learn more about my editorial services, or to contact me and get on the schedule, check out this page

IT LIVES!

285032_511761092179867_1397023959_nOMG I'm alive! No really, it was hit or miss there for a few weeks. Where have I been, you might ask? Well, I've been editing UNVEILED. And that has been a roller coaster. I'm sure that I've done something like this in the past, but I feel like I need to take you on the journey with me. Some edits are easy. Some are spiritual journeys. Some are slogs through hell. I leave it to you to decide for yourselves which of these describes developmental edits on UNVEILED.

It started last month when I read Danielle Poiesz's editorial letter. Now, when I sent her the manuscript, I knew it wasn't perfect. But a small part of me felt like the story was solid enough, good enough and that no major, load-bearing walls contained issues. Basically, I'd been able to convince myself:

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So, when I read Danielle's initial reactions and suggestions about the manuscript...well... I poured myself a glass of something alcoholic and slept on it. Thing is, I didn't even need that night of sleep to know that my editor was right about EVERY point she made. There were problems with character agency, likability. Certain scenes lacked emotional punch. Some rambled a bit. Others didn't flesh out the rules of the world enough. Danielle also felt that the book didn't explain enough of WILD CARD to help introduce new readers to the world of Cat Sharp. Not a damn thing Danielle brought up was unwarranted.

Taken down a few pegs from my hubris, I looked at the manuscript with Danielle's comments in mind. And there was only one way to describe UNVEILED at that time:

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I took Danielle's revision letter and scribbled a war plan into a notebook. Here's how I would address this issue. This scene could move here. This would be written out entirely. After I formulated a plan, I talked with Danielle and ran a few ideas past her, got some feedback and clarification on some of her notes. Together we were able to solidify a direction for whipping UNVEILED into some semblance of order.

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No, not that kind of whip.

Anyway...there was a plan. And I set forth with a "Let's rock this shit" attitude. I dove in that very moment. At the time, the manuscript was just over 72k words long. For the next 2 weeks I scrounged all the time I could--my daughter is home on summer break, so I have to do that whole parent thing...it is Job #1--by going to coffee shops or politely kicking my husband and daughter out of my house so that I could work my tail off.

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It took me two weeks just to slog through the first 6 chapters. I knew, though, if I could just get through those chapters, I'd start the snowball rolling. Besides, fixing a lot of the problems in Act 1 would straighten out the kinks in Act 3. So I doubled my bubble and toiled with the trouble of all that shit I wrote a couple of years ago.

Somewhen around chapter 18, I hit a wall. I don't know if it was hormonal (writing with depression can sometimes be a hall of funhouse mirrors, but that's a blog topic for another day), or if it was the moon or if I'd just had some bad sushi, but I spent a good week wallowing.

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The words wouldn't come. The changes didn't seem to help the fact that the book just plain sucked. I started second guessing everything...from my choice of verbs to the underwear I put on that morning. Nothing was safe.

Part of the problem (other than being chemically imbalanced from time to time) is that I've already written Book 3 of this series. And I think Book 3 is the fucking bees knees.

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For comparison: Book 2

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Book 3?

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Book 2.

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UNVEILED just refused to live up to its sibling. What the everloving fuck, Book 2? Don't you realize that even though I wrote you before Book 3, you're still supposed to be just as good or better than that rough draft?

sherlock no nonoGah! Stupid manuscripts that refuse to listen!

They make me so angry!

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This book SUCKS! I suck! I should never have done the Kickstarter. I should give up writing all together. I shouldn't be allowed to call myself a writer. How do I end the suffering?

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I sat down with people I love (and who love me) and explained that I've had them fooled. No really. I suck that much.  One of them proceeded to hit me repeatedly with a pillow. Then, this was posted to my Facebook wall.

10556310_10204105238344717_3137999754615161333_nThat was it. That broke the spell of my funk and I dove into the book with renewed gusto. I made this face a lot.

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In fact, between making this face so much and the teeth-grinding from going to bed still working out things in my head...well, I think I've aggravated my TMJ. Yeah. My jaw is killing me.

But, I digress.

I finished the first run through the book. I made all the major changes that needed changing and realized that I'd added more than 8k words.

Oops. But they were needed! So, I took a day and let my brain relax. Then I dove back in from page one on a proofread of sorts. I needed to make sure that all of my seams were smooth, that I didn't leave things dangling and that I'd kept up continuity what with all that remodeling I'd done.

Well...it looked about like you'd expect construction site to look. Somewhat messy with tools laying everywhere. I found continuity errors, shitty syntax and other issues. Well... to be frank, it pissed me off. I cursed like a sailor and a king.

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I went batshit fucking crazy until I figured the only thing was to put on a tiara and proclaim myself High Priestess of Tea and Trail Mix.

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Then... something happened.  Somewhere around my second pass through Chapter 21, I found this book's VOICE. I found its beating heart and tapped into everything that makes it live. I met UNVEILED's soul.

In that moment, I felt mighty.

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Yeah. I finished a second round of edits on UNVEILED finally feeling like it was meeting its potential. I did not, in fact, suck.

That was last week.

Since then, I've done another full pass of edits on the book. (Because while I was finishing that second run and finding all the good shit UNVEILED has to offer, I realized that I needed to tend to the beginning as well and make sure everything matched.) During THAT pass, I realized that I've got a few phrases that I use. Constantly.

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That's what you get for your constant overuse of simile and poorly constructed metaphor!

 

And don't even get me started on all the sentences starting with "Though I blah blah blah..." GAH!

And one to grow on!

I finished the third pass of edits last night--the book more than 11k longer than the original draft I'd sent Danielle--and emailed the book to my editor. With a few hours to spare on deadline day.

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Basically, I wanted to tell all of you this because a) it's entertaining, b) misery loves company but also c) there's a lesson here. That lesson is this:

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Also, I had a shit ton of gifs I felt like using.

Seriously. Editing can be affirming. It can make you stronger in your confidence, in your voice. Or it could break you. But only if you let it. Keep going. Keep writing. Keep pushing yourself to write better, to make that line fucking sparkle. Don't settle for a nickel sentence when you are capable of million dollar babies.

Keep going.

Remember, the tiny potato believes in you.

And so do I.

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Shop vs Edit

So, the Kickstarter for WILD CARD's sequel UNVEILED is going rather nicely. As of this post we are just $42 from 50% funded. WHEN we hit 50% I will post a video of myself eating/playing with fire, but only backers will be able to see it! If you've not checked it out, I encourage you to do so and consider backing it. I'll wait. *whistles* Tell your friends. Anyway, I wanted to comment on something here. Recently I was having a conversation with someone looking into self-publishing. She said that she had workshopped her novel and felt she was ready to hit the button.

WHOA! *tire screech, record scratch* Hang on there. It is my humble opinion (take it for what you will) that there is a huge difference between a workshopped manuscript and a professionally edited book.

For those who might not know what I'm talking about, workshopping is where you share your work with other authors (sometimes those who are already published in any myriad of ways) and polish your stories based on feedback they give. Workshops are great for craft-honing. You can speak your common language with other authors and get a sense for how your work holds up under scrutiny.

Workshops come in a variety of types, too. Some are personal gatherings in someone's living room. Others are special events at a local bookstore. There are also sites like Book Country. Hell, some are just unofficial online groups that email work back and forth.

As I said, workshops are fabulous for speaking writer-ese and a terrific place to dip your toe in if you've never had your work read by others.

However...workshops are no substitute for a professional edit.

I don't just say this as a freelancer, either. I say this as a fallible member of the human race who makes typos and develops emotional attachments to her stories.

A professional editor is a completely cold set of eyes. While your editor should be passionate about your project, she should also be able to be unapologetically ruthless with her critique. She needs to navigate your plot holes and stake a bright orange flag in each of them. Your editor is the one who says, "this confused me because you jumped from here to this conclusion without any sort of discernible arc."

One of the problems with us as writers is that we know how the story ends. We have it in our head. We know all the little inferences and nuances. And while that meaningful pop of an eyebrow on page 49 screams volumes to us that Jake really did kill Freddy, if your editor gets to the end and is still wondering why it's so obvious that Jake was the murderer....well, you've got a problem. Your readers won't follow your logic train with any more ease.

You need another set of totally objective eyes.

For me--and again, your mileage may vary--workshops are like Beta Readers 2.0. They are there for valuable opinion and storycraft critique, but not editing. You are the one implementing their feedback and even then you are still hobbled by your emotional attachment and the fact that you know this story inside and out.

You need someone else. Another level of scrutiny.

Now, some people are blessed with the ability to self-edit their books within an inch of their lives and they are amazing in that regard. But most of us mere mortals need help.

Workshops are great. Use them. It's not either-or. Workshop your book to make it the best it can be. THEN get thee to an editor to punch it up even more.

 

Announcement: My Shingle Is Out

grammar policeHappy Friday! If you've been paying attention this week, you've seen me teasing an announcement for today. Well, wait no more. As of today, I'm officially working as a freelance editor. That's right, you can hire me to critique and edit your manuscript. Allow me to address some concerns or questions you may have:

But, Jamie, does this mean you're going to stop writing and I'll never know what happens with Cat, Marius, Flynn and all those other awesome characters I love?? 

Fear not, my dove. I'm still writing, albeit at a slower (ie not breakneck) pace than previously. I've been working on C# at a blistering rate for the past two years and need to cool down a bit. And yes, I'm still writing for anthologies and working on a new project, but without a rush on it. But rest assured, you will read the entirety of Cat Sharp's story one way or another.

Come on, everyone knows that editors are just writers who suck. "those who can't do..." and all that.

Fuck that noise. Next?

Will you give my manuscript to your agent/editor/publisher? 

In short, no. Working with me does not guarantee you audience with any publishing professional other than me, myself and I.

Are you just doing this to steal my idea? 

*snort* No. I bribed your NSA agent for that.

Why should I hire you and not some other editor? In fact, why should I hire an editor at all?

Short answer: You need one. Everyone with hopes of putting their words out in the world needs one. No one can be 100% objective with their own work. At some point, you will need another pair of eyes on your manuscript. Why me specifically? Because I'm good at what I do. I've been beta reading and critiquing for a while now and, if I may take a moment to speak highly of myself, I am an excellent sounding board. I can help you massage your words and draw out the potential. The best part is that I come at every project with the mind of an author, a reader and an editor. We can talk about craft in no uncertain terms, terms your average beta reader might not be able to articulate. We can sand off the rough edges and polish your prose until it has a mirror shine. All while maintaining your authentic voice.  My strongest suit is critique and developmental edit. I'm also good at proofing final manuscripts.

 

For full details of what I offer, you can go to the new page on this site devoted to my editorial leanings.

ALSO... (yes, I have more news to share with you), I have the honor of being included in an upcoming anthology called Freaks and Weeping Children. Along with other talents such as Kristin Sullivan, Delilah S. Dawson, Karina Cooper and DB Starler, we are all hoping to bring you creeptastic cross-genre fiction. And we're asking you--yes YOU--to help us make this anthology become even more awesome. There's a Kickstarter page where you can donate and get your paws on some exclusive material. Also, if you donate at the $80 level, you can be a character in the anthology. That's right. Immortality is on sale for $80.  Please take a look and share the link with friends.

phxcc14And finally today, I'm pleased to tell you that I'm officially one of the cool kids attending Phoenix Comic Con. We knew that already, but yesterday I got my very own announcement picture and everything. *beams* And I'm on the main site! Under Phil Plait, even!!! DUDE!

So yeah, that's what's going on. I know some of you were *really* hoping for some news on Book 2 and when you can read the next installment of Cat Sharp's story. Believe me, no one wants to know the answer to that question more than I do. Still waiting and when I can tell you I will shout it from the sky.

Thanks to everyone who came out and played over at the Bitten By Books event this week. We had a good time and I hope to do something like that again soon. There's still time to enter the contest for an Amazon Gift Card and some poker chips. If, for some reason, you don't want to try for the free poker chips you can buy them directly from me here.

You guys are all rock awesome. Thanks for sticking with me and supporting everything I do. 2014 is going to be a busy, hella fun year.

J.

The Editorial Process in .gif Form

So, I have officially finished my first round of professional edits on my novel. *cue the fanfare and confetti cannons* I sent the manuscript back to my editor a full five days early, too! Considering that a few weeks ago I was terrified I wouldn't make my deadline, I'm pretty fucking stoked about this. And, because I like this blog to be educational and shit, I thought I would describe to you what this foray into working with an actual, factual editor was like. Since I can't do interpretive dance you get gif files! (Be thankful for this.) So! If you follow me, you know that in November '12, my agent and I got an offer of publication from Entangled Publishing. The contract was finalized in January of this year and much merriment ensued.

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The next couple of months were spent waiting for things to shake out. I was assigned a different editor and switched to another imprint of the publisher, so it took some time for me to hear from my editor--Editor McAwesomesauce. I was nervous because she wasn't the acquiring editor of the book. What if she hated it? Also? I've known Editor McAwesomesauce for a few years online. I respect what she has to say as a professional, but also as a friend. When I finally got my editorial letter, I was freaked out, excited as hell to get to work, and did I mention freaked out?  But mostly, I was just ready to rock this bitch.

When do we start?

If you've never gotten an editorial letter before, here's the thing: It's long. (Mine was eight pages.) It's full of developmental ideas from your editor talking about the structure of the story and their experience as a reader. Mine began with my editor telling me she loved the book. This made me all sorts of

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But then, there were more paragraphs. And seven more pages. They started off simply with ways I could improve the flow of the plot and enhance the veracity of the story.  I looked at the gremlins she wanted me to excise and thought

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As I kept reading the letter from Editor McAwesomesauce, I found a few points of her commentary that--while they might sting a bit--I agreed with. Strengthen this. Pull that back a bit. Okay.

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But then, we got to another area. There were these sections of the story that I loved. I'd poured so much thought and research and blood and--okay, maybe not blood--but I'd sacrificed many brain cells and some measure of a chicken (the nuggets) to make these sections glorious. And she wanted me to cut them. And I was all *record scratch*...

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Hell no! I thought. They are integral to the story and I cannot cut them! So I asked my beta readers, "What would you do if I got rid of this?" The responses ranged from

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tumblr_m7wb01GBb81qdjjrlSo, I talked with my agent and set up a conversation with Editor McAwesome. (Not only did I need to explain why this part was so important to the book--nay, to the series... to the world!--but I had some questions about her other points and wanted to run some ideas past her.) Thankfully, my editor earns her name and did not approach the conversation with an attitude of

tumblr_mnuhn4eVcY1qelb9co1_250so we were able to hammer out a few things. I explained some of where I was coming from about certain choices. We batted around some possibilities for changes. Then I said, "So this thing? It needs to stay." Then my editor did the unthinkable. She gave me a very valid, very clear, very solid answer as to WHY this thing I loved so so much had to be put down like a dog. Hearing her reasons...I sadly had to agree.

This is where you learn something important: Editors aren't there to put you down, but the exact opposite. They're there to make you better. (Just like your betas.) So, listen to them, even when you think you're right. In the end, you want your book to be the best it can possibly be. And while I love these parts that got cut, they needed to go.

So after our conversation, I opened up the manuscript and the first thing I did was cut my darlings. This left me feeling

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I'd taken a huge chunk of the novel out. Almost 10k words! Holy shit! I have to replace the content and come up with that many words and fix all these holes and and and in a month???

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I talked with my husband, betas, and chai about all sorts of anxieties and was lucky that no one pimp slapped me into oblivion. Then, when I'd finished freaking out (after like a day), I put my nose down and got to work. The next couple of weeks were like this (montage time!)

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*redacted...this is a family show*

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chompers? why are there chompers? who put those in this manuscript?

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When I'd made all the changes and poured my brain out through my ears, I sent the revisions to my agent and my betas for a quick look. I wanted to know that I wasn't crazy about a couple of things. As their notes came in, my reactions ranged from

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to

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and

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So, armed with some fantastic feedback, I settled in for the last push through the manuscript...sandblasting, trimming, sculpting and all that stuff. I poured a chai and I was all

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Until finally...FINALLY...I reached the end and could say, "This is it. This puppy is cocked, locked and ready to rock Editor McAwesome's stripey socks right the fuck off."

I put it in the email, took a good look at my imaginary friends and said, "Go us."

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So yeah. My sanity is shredded and my brain is spooled out on the floor like a cassette tape waiting for a pencil to reel it back in, but it's done. (And while I know it's not DONE done, this part is.)

Boo and verily yah.

Y'all are going to love this.