Category Archives: Editing

To Query…Or Not?

By Benjamin Hock

   To query or not to query? It’s really not a question for those of us who wish to have our stories published through a traditional publisher. It’s one step on a laundry list of things that need to be completed before those precious stories we’ve spent countless nights putting together can see the light of day.

    I’m not here to tell you how to query; you can type that into Google. I simply want to share what it’s like to send your precious baby to a complete stranger whose job it is is to play gatekeeper for publishers. Impressing just the right person in only a few short paragraphs is what stands between me and my book ending up on the shelves of my favorite bookshop. 

    Sending my first query was both frightening and exhilarating. Like every writer, I wrote and rewrote, questioning whether or not my query letter was up to snuff. I sent my first, and eventually would send them in batches, preparing for the 12 week wait, wondering if I would hear back and what they would have to say. 

Then, finally, I see it. Maybe this has happened to you. You’re at work or out with friends. Or maybe you just woke up and saw the notification flash on your phone. It’s a response from an agent and you open it…

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to consider your project. I’m sorry to say that I respectfully pass on yours. 

Agenting is subjective, and while I couldn’t take on your project, another agent may well feel differently.

Thank you, 

[Insert agent name here]

I begin to see this same form letter over and over again. I don’t know if every agent got together to come up with the verbiage for these or what, but they all seem to use it. At first the rejections are disappointing but the knowledge that my other submissions are waiting in agents’ inboxes preparing to wow them brings me hope. After the twentieth rejection it begins to feel personal. Fifty and I’m wondering if I enjoy the rejection, because why else would I keep this up. 

And to be clear, I don’t hold a grudge against any agent that passed on my work. Maybe they read my query on a Friday when their thoughts were on the weekend. Maybe they were having a bad day and nothing was going to catch their eye. Maybe they already had a similar book they were representing or just took on a big project. I’ll never know. But that won’t stop me and it shouldn’t stop you. 

Querying is both simple to do and emotional weighty. The physical act of sending a query today has never been easier. Finding agencies and their guidelines, understanding the template to follow, it’s all a snap. Preparing to hear that others don’t find my book as interesting as I do, well, that’s not so easy. Giving into the resistance that wants me to give up or back down or hide out would be a lot easier.

So why keep doing it? Why put myself through the emotional roller coaster of rejection after rejection? The answer is simple: I want people to read my book. I want to see it in the hands of teens in coffee shops, I want to share it at book readings, I want the characters to be brought to life in the imaginations of people who connect to them.

And even if I get a hundred rejections, a thousand, all it takes is one yes for a dream to come true. My job is not to judge the work or panic over its future. My job is to write the thing that piques my curiosity and do the legwork to advocate for it. I can do that; and so can you.

Finding the Right Editor

By Terry C. Misfeldt

Writers are confident people. They write because they have stories to tell or memories to share. They may struggle with editing their own work, however, so finding the right editor can be challenging. As a writer and an editor, I know both sides of the coin.

When I was the editor and publisher of Future magazine, part of my responsibility was to review articles submitted by staff writers and freelancers. Granted, magazines are a different animal than a novel, short story, memoir, or compilation of poetry. The lessons about editing remain valid.

My first task as editor was to read the piece with two considerations: 1) Was it readable?; and, 2) Was it acceptable for publication in the magazine?

The second task was to critique the article with a rough edit and then meet with the writer to help them understand why the suggested modifications would make their work more worthy of publishing. This is where conflicts arise between writer and editor. If I did not couch my comments in an acceptable fashion, the writer could easily stick to their guns and insist it be run as they wrote it.

Of course, I could never let that happen. My responsibility was to my readers, not the writer. If they remained stubborn, it never saw print.

So, how do you find the right editor? There are two steps.

First, you must know what you want the editor to do for you. Do you want them to edit for readability? If so, they need to know who your target audience is and, if they are good and know that market you are on the right track. If you engage their services, make sure you ask questions about why they make certain recommendations. Steel yourself for answers you may dislike. You have the ultimate responsibility of implementing suggested changes. Trust is a key factor.

Do you want them to edit for spelling, punctuation, and/or grammar? Most writing software programs are decent at catching some of these errors, so what you want is for them to catch the things that seem out of place. You may have writing the wrong word and not caught it yourself—and software will not catch that the word should have been written because writing is spelled correctly. Tip: Make sure you know what their rates are and check their work when it comes back to you. As an editor, I have often found that when one mistake is corrected, another one is created in the process.

Second. Do not go blindly into a relationship. Finding the right editor means asking questions and examining their work. Also ask how long they anticipate it will take them to turn your project around and get it back to you. You can give them a deadline…and they may tell you that is unreasonable. Like any consultant, you have to work with them and they need to know your expectations.

My goal when I published Future was to be the editor who turned projects or articles around quickly. After all, we did have deadlines to meet with each edition.

Editing Your Writing

By Terry C. Misfeldt

Part of writing is getting the words out. Another part is editing. Editing is an essential tool for every writer. It involves word choice, story flow, grammar, punctuation, and readability. Let’s look at those elements of editing, or should it be writing?

Word choice. When you write, the words you use are important. Some are useless and unnecessary and editing takes care of them. “That” is one of those words that can often be eliminated. Here’s an example with the previous sentence: “That” is a word you can eliminate. The other aspect of word choice is thinking about which word is most descriptive for the scene you create. The right words can be powerful in your story, creating an image in the reader’s mind describing emotions, building tension, or adding stress.

Story flow. Editing for flow involves reading the copy from a reader’s perspective. Is there a logical progression from one scene to the next? Does a gap exist causing your readers to give up on what’s going on? There are occasions when you are editing requiring you to move sentences, paragraphs, and perhaps even chapters to a better location in the story. Edit for your reader.

Grammar. There are software applications available to catch and correct grammatical errors when editing your work. As the writer, however, ultimate responsibility for grammar changes if yours. By the way, “the” is another often unnecessary word. Think about it.

Punctuation. Readers can be turned off my missing or incorrect punctuation—such as a dash instead of a comma, semi-colon; or misplaced colon: End a question with a question mark? End an exclamation with an exclamation mark! Use parentheses for (parenthetical expressions) in your work. Periods are the end of a sentence. Punctuation is a form of expressing yourself, so edit accordingly.

Readability. Scholars write at university level. Average reading levels for cognition suggest writers craft their writing at a third of fourth grade level. Editing for readability is about knowing your audience and writing for them. It can discourage a reader if they have to stop and look up a word they do not  understand, so keep that in mind when editing. It is okay to add a definition or describe intent to keep the flow going for your reader. Oops! In the second to last sentence, the words “have to” should have been edited out as unnecessary.

Editing is a constant challenge. There are occasions when a professional editor is beneficial.

Competitive Writing

By Terry C. Misfeldt

Writers of every genre should consider competing for recognition by entering contests. Competitive writing stretches a writer’s composition skills and earns them credibility when they win. Of course, not every entry is a winner but it is worth trying.

The first step is awareness. There are many sites online promoting various writing contests. Your job is to find one that falls within your bailiwick and gives you a chance to win, place, or show to use a gambling term.

Second, learn the nuances. Who are the judges and do they review every entry, or is there a screener who eliminates some of the entries to make the judging less taxing on the final judge? How many words (please stay within the guidelines)? What is the deadline? What format must your entry be in? Is there an entry fee?

Third, if you can, review previous winning entries. There is no guarantee that writing something similar will increase your odds because the judges are likely different, but it gives you a sense of what wins.

Fourth, choose if you want to participate and start writing. You want enough time to finish your piece and edit it before submitting. You might also want to research the judge to know what he or she has written. That gives you an idea of what might appeal to them.

Last, finish your piece and submit it. Make sure you follow all the rules and guidelines, then wait to find out if you came out on top. And do not worry. If you win, great! If you don’t, consider it a learning experience and try again.

The Marketing Side

By Terry C. Misfeldt

Professionals in the publishing business advise writers that the easy part of getting your story into print is the writing of it. The marketing side is the other half and should be considered the most important…unless you do not care how many books you sell and are only interested in holding that precious chunk of paper in your hands.

Trust me: The feeling of having a book in your hands with your name on the cover is an enviable feeling. It is symbolic of hours and maybe (in my case) even years of work to write, edit, re-write, edit, and think about what you have entered into a document in the hope they will be someone interested in reading what you have written.

That is where the marketing side rears its head. Go back to the simple process of thinking about who you have written your book for: Who is your audience? If you had a test reader from that target group evaluate your story and they were impressed, you know there is a good chance your book has a feasible chance of selling to that audience. Call it market research.

Now, how do you reach that group of potential readers to let them know it is available for purchase? Can you get in front of them through social media? It is a low cost approach to marketing if you can approach it wisely and avoid alienation.

For broader markets, consider media releases to home town newspapers, college alumni associations, fraternities or sororities, organizations where you are a member, family and friends. One-to-one E-mails can be effective in creating awareness. You must plug your book mercilessly and not be afraid to ask for a purchase. If you are hesitant to do this, think about a lawyer who hangs a shingle outside her office and wonders why no one is interested in hiring her.

The first principle of marketing is to make people aware of your work. If they are at all interested, they will check you out. Do you have a website where they can order your book? If they like what they discover (cover art, cover copy, blurbs, etc.) they will buy.

Blog about it. Tag everything you do with links to your selling page. Print up business cards with the cover on the back. This is the marketing side, and here’s an example: I recently published my first novel, Shevivor, which has an excellent cover designed by Angela Collier and is now available through Amazon and my website, https://www.terrycmisfeldt.com/shevivor. It is set-up for Pay Pal purchases.

Thanks!

Reading, Writing & Arithmetic

By Terry C. Misfeldt

This is about what is commonly known as the Three R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic but we’re not going to spend much time writing about Reading. We will cover how Writing can be improved with Arithmetic. It’s adapted from a Get Motivated Workshop presentation by Amy Jones.

One of my take-aways from the presentation was Amy’s comment that we all have 86,400 seconds in every day. There’s no excuse for anyone who complains they don’t have enough time in the day. It’s how you spend it that matters.

So let’s start with SUBTRACTION. Success as a writer is enhanced when you can subtract stuff from your life. Stuff like events, hindrances, and worry. Is it essential you attend a fundraising luncheon for a charity you’ve only a passing interest in supporting? There are things that may appear obvious for subtraction from your schedule–such as watching every baseball game of your favorite team on television–while others may be more subliminal like scrubbing the bathroom floor every day. Subtraction adds time to your writing itinerary.

Next is ADDITION. You may already have these in your regimen, but consider adding them if you don’t. Add things like Planning, Purpose, Passion, and Play. Yes, P words. Add some time for planning your projects…and your time for writing, re-writing, editing, marketing, and the business side of writing. Add more passion for what you’re working on because that gives you more purpose to accomplish your objectives. Add time for some recreation, too.

MULTIPLICATION. Multiply your expectations. If you can easily write 500 words a day, could you multiply that to reach 1,000 or 1,500 words with a bit more dedication to the keyboard?

DIVISION is important, too. You must be able to divide your writing time with your work, personal and family commitments. Relationships may falter if you lock yourself in your ivory writing tower 14 hours a day and neglect to feed the dog or spend time with your children.

Yes, writing involves arithmetic.

How Do You Know When You’re Finished?

By Gail Blohowiak

I recently listened to Walter Mosley on Wisconsin Public Radio in an interview on writing. Mosley is an acclaimed American mystery writer best known for his Easy Rawlins character. He answered this question for the interviewer.

This was Mosley’s final answer (which I paraphrase) ‘When I don’t find any reason to rewrite again, I’m finished.’ In the interview, he said he rewrites up to twenty-six drafts. That’s a lot of drafts. That’s a lot of rewriting.

I thought I was rewriting too much. I’ve switched my work from first person to third, or present tense to past tense. I played around with the format. I’ve reworked my word choices. I’ve written a scene as quickly as I can and later gone back later to fill in the details.

I enlisted alpha and beta readers for feedback. I’ve joined a critique group. I write and rewrite. I learn. I listen. Then, I write and rewrite.

I thought something was wrong with me! Not according to Mr. Mosley. My manuscript is progressing. I’m only on my sixth or seventh draft which means I have a long way to go.

Now, if I count the drafts from my first play (I am writing a novel from my three SPAM plays), I’m up to thirteen rewrites. I’m on my way, but still ‘not finished’.

So, I’ll go to my favorite writing spot and read, reread, write, and rewrite – maybe not the whole piece at one time, but surely certain parts.

I’m aiming for twenty-six rewrites now. Thanks Walter. Then, hopefully, I’ll be finished.

How about you? When are you finished?

 (I rewrote this piece in only eight drafts. (Make that nine drafts now.) It’s a short piece. I’m finished.)

Fishing & Writing: How to Tell the Difference

By Larry Wilson

Writing to me is a lot like fishing.

I pick a lake, bait, and the perfect rod and reel combo, watch the weather, venture out with a plan to catch my limit of walleye, perch or even a meal of bluegills. 

I head out with high expectations, ready for anything.

And I get skunked. Nada, Zip. Not even a bite.

Some days Lucy yanks the ball away, again.

I did do a little better than that on a recent trip to Fox Lake. The water was just a little green with August algae. Heck on some days it looked like pea soup.

The guy at the bait shop informed me “…getting Northern, a few Panfish but no Walleye to be found.”

The best-laid plans.

Likewise, a story outlined, researched, rough draft, second draft, edited, revised, re-written, and reviewed, then offered for critique, edited again and again, and submitted for publication.

Only to be rejected.

Why bother at all?

It’s like the mountain to a climber. It’s like chasing the fish. Because I need to.

It doesn’t take much to keep going. A bite here a nibble there. Catch a positive review from someone — encouragement from a peer.

I caught a bullhead-that’s something.

Some days I had to force myself to face the dawn, climb into the boat with coffee and bait and venture out in search of perch.

It’s the same with writing.

Put butt into chair. Bring coffee. Do whatever it takes to put words onto paper. Share with someone.

Repeat.

I need to savor the process, whether it’s waves lapping the boat, or tapping at the keyboard. Watching a bobber or reading the latest revision.

Breathe the fresh air or listen to old-time rock ‘n roll.

Right now I’m looking out the window watching the waves from an easterly wind blowing through gray clouded skies.

“When the wind is from the East, fish bite the least.”

So I might as well write.

Writing Perspective – Day 12 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 12: Typos

Welcome to today’s topic—Typos. You might think typos are easy to spot, especially if the word is misspelled. However, what about words that aren’t misspelled and are still typos. Spellchecker won’t catch those words.

Homophones are words that sound alike but have different spellings and different meanings.

Common homophones are:

Its, It’s

They’re, their, there

You’re, your

Peek, peak

Right, write, rite

Sight, cite, site

Read, reed

Other homophones that aren’t quite as popular are:

Poor, pour, pore

Breech, breach

Aye, eye

I’m certain there are a lot more than the few I’ve shown. If you’re not certain about the word you’re using, look it up. Get it right. If you don’t know how to spell a word, look it up. The most commonly misspelled word is ‘you’re’ and ‘your.’ Most people will use your when they mean you’re. The best way to know which is right is to say you are, then you know you’re is correct. If you can’t say you are, then your is correct. The same with ‘it’s’. If you can say it is, then it’s, is it.

I hope I’ve helped you with your typos.

Now practice your spelling and write a post. I look forward to reading your offerings.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Parts of a Story