Editing Tip Tuesday

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Edit with heart.

Here’s the best advice I can give you: write a novel from your heart. Don’t worry about what’s popular or trending. If your book doesn’t move you, it won’t move anyone else either.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, you must feel your book deep in your soul. The message of your story has to be a message you feel passionate about otherwise it’s just another vampire story.

Here’s another piece of advice: learn your craft. Just because you want to write a book doesn’t mean you know how. I wanted to be a writer since I was seven. I wrote my first novel when I was twelve titled Just the Six of Us. I still have it. I’ve been a veracious reader my entire life. When I sat down in my thirties to write my first real book I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. It showed on the page. I’ve written six books and I’m working on number seven. Now, I know what I’m doing.

But knowing what I’m doing doesn’t mean I won’t make mistakes. I do. A lot. That’s why I have critique partners and an editor. You can’t edit your own book. You can make it better by yourself, but you want it to be great? You need experienced eyes on it. Don’t give it to Aunt Carol because she runs the library’s Thursday night knitting book club. Beta readers are for when that book is almost polished. I’ve used them too.

Any questions?

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10 thoughts on “Editing Tip Tuesday

  1. Hi Stacey,
    Yes, I have a question. Beta readers are to be used after an editor works on the ms? I thought they were the first eyes for the author…

    If an author hires an editor, what do the beta readers add?
    Thanks!!

    1. Hi Kim! Great question. I wouldn’t use beta readers as the first eyes for the author unless that beta reader is an author. A published author. Beta readers are typically readers who don’t write. Readers read with reader eyes and writers read with writer eyes. The first person or people who review your work need to understand the craft of writing a novel since there are so many moving parts. A reader might not like something in the story, but they won’t necessarily know why they don’t like it. A writer or better an editor, can tell you what isn’t working and why.

      This is my editing process. First draft, my eyes only. Second draft (sometimes only chapters at a time) my critique partners. They are invaluable to me. Third draft or fourth to the beta readers. (I don’t always use them) Or final draft after an editor sees it to the beta readers. I ask my betas questions like “when did you first like the main character?” My critique partners will tell me, “your main character isn’t likable at first. This is why.” Or “if you do this, your character will be more likable.”

      Does that answer the question? I could give you further examples of questions betas might not know to ask that an author needs to hear. If you’d like, email me off line.

  2. First Blood author David Morrell advises writers to “be a first-rate version of yourself, and not a second-rate version of someone else.” Chasing market trends is an utter waste of time; I say that as someone who’s worked in Hollywood for the last umpteen years, where the business model is exclusively about chasing trends. So happy to be free of that finally now that I’m a novelist.

    A masterful command of craft is absolutely essential. All aspiring writers should commit themselves to learning structure, genre, and characterization. And, most importantly, they need to give themselves the time — perhaps a decade — to practice and master those elementals.

    1. Mr. Morrell really is a smart guy. Sometimes it’s hard to get to the place where you are a first-rate version of yourself. If I’m talking to a newbie writer I’d tell them to start by reading their favorite author(s) and try what they do until they can find a voice of their own. You’re right. That does take time. It is said it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. I wish I had kept a time card all these years. 😉

      1. You know, it takes about ten years of study to be a professional-caliber doctor or lawyer, and I think the same is true of author: There’s a decade-long learning curve for most of us to really master our craft. We just don’t necessarily go to school for it, so we don’t operate on a timetable that actually measures our progress.

    1. For sure. I just printed my first-draft manuscript — a 500-page block of paper! When I saw it, I said, “Oh — there’s where my year went!”

      1. Exactly what I mean! 500 pages? I’m interested to hear what you wrote about. That’s got to be some story. Hopefully the edits will only take 11 months. 😉

  3. That’s just a double-spaced copy for proofreading; the book is probably closer to 300 pages in paperback form (I think it’s about 100,000 words). Escape from Rikers Island is a horror-policier about a cop and a gangbanger who have to join forces during a zombie-like outbreak among the inmates at New York City’s main detention center.

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