Editing Your Book with Track Changes

When you work with an editor on your book, you will probably use the Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word. This can be a little daunting if you’ve never used it before, especially when you get a file back with more red on it than Sweeney Todd’s apron.

First, don’t panic. Remember your editor is there to help you, and those red marks are meant to be instructive, not destructive.

Schedule a time when you can go through your manuscript slowly. If there‘s a change you don’t understand, feel free to ask. Continue reading

Orlando: Editing Workshop

April 16 • 9 a.m.–4 p.m.

I’ll be teaching a full-day workshop hosted by the Central Florida chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. I’m calling it “Systematic Editing,” but it’s based on my Edit Like a Pro: Elements of Fiction series. I’ll walk attendees through the rigorous process professional editors use to evaluate and edit novels. We’ll look at 10 elements of fiction: Continue reading

How Much You Can Expect to Pay an Editor

When I wrote about where to find a good editor, I alluded to $500 for copyediting of a 100,000-word epic fantasy novel being a low-ball budget. So what is the going rate for copyediting or other such services?

In their book APE: Author Publisher Entrepreneur, Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch cite $1,050 as a reasonable rate for copyediting a 60,000-word manuscript. They note that “some people might argue that our costs are too high.”

Editor Pay

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Well, maybe some people would. But at $35 per hour, the rate cited is smack in the middle of the range given by the Editorial Freelancers Association. Continue reading

What to Look for in an Editor

Choosing someone to edit your book is like choosing someone to perform surgery on your child. You need to trust them completely. So how can you be sure the person you’re hiring is qualified? If, as I said last week, you asked other writers for recommendations and checked references, that should go a long way. But if you’re choosing someone out of a directory, or someone you’ve connected with through social media but without a recommendation, what can you look for? Continue reading

How to Know When You’re Done Editing

As I noted when talking about editing a novel, writers often fall into an endless editing trap. You could go over your manuscript an infinite number of times and still find things to improve—or at least change.

A client and I once made two rounds of edits on his book. If he had asked for a third round, I would have had this talk with him, but he beat me to it. “How many times could we go back and forth like this?”

I said, “We have reached the point of diminishing returns.” He’s a finance guy, so he understood my meaning. There comes a time when further editing doesn’t produce a better book, it just produces a different book. Continue reading

Identifying the Passive Voice

I’ve written before about When Passive Voice is Permissible. Strunk and White admit that “Use the active voice … does not, of course, mean that the writer should entirely discard the passive voice, which is frequently convenient and sometimes necessary.”

active passive voice

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But one of the biggest problems writers face in critique groups is the problem of partners who flag passages as “passive” when they’re really not. Often verbs of being (be, is, was) are flagged as “incorrect” or “passive.” They are not. They are not particularly strong verbs, but they are not passive in and of themselves. Continue reading

What Beta Readers Are and Why You Want Them

Once you have worked your way through the Elements of Nonfiction Editing Checklist, taking as many passes as needed to address the Personality, Presentation, Voice, Information, and Mechanics of your book, what next?

The first thing many writers do is run their manuscript past some beta readers or critique partners. Maybe both. These are two different things, so let me explain. Continue reading

When To Outsource Your Grammar

When we talk about the mechanics of a manuscript, we are ultimately talking about details: grammar, spelling, punctuation, and the like. Style is also a component of mechanics, as is manuscript format.

But remember that when I introduced the Elements of Nonfiction Editing Checklist I said it was in order of importance. There’s a reason Mechanics is the last category on the list. It’s the least important.

Which isn’t to say that it’s unimportant. Continue reading

Using Words as Words

Often when we’re writing nonfiction we need to refer to words in such a way that the term being used is itself the subject of the discussion, rather than the concept the term describes. If I say “My Sunday school students have difficulty understanding the concept of propitiation,” it means something very different from “English is her second language, so she has difficulty understanding the word propitiation.”

words

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When in your writing you need to discuss the word or phrase itself rather than the concept described by the term, put the term in italics. Continue reading

What Semicolons Are For

An editor once excised the semicolons from my writing with the marginal note “Death to semicolons.” He changed every one of them to a period.

Not every editor is so vehement about this much-maligned mark, but those who are may be provoked by the fact that so many writers don’t know how to use it properly.

Semicolon

This lack of accuracy may come about because some people learn that a comma is a pause and a period is a stop. One could readily deduce that a semicolon is somewhere in between.

Almost, but not quite. Continue reading