How to accept editing feedback

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Professor at work

Within the last few weeks I have been on both sides of the editing fence, in a non-professional capacity, and it’s been a fascinating and emotional experience.

It’s surprising how much this editing lark tugs at the heartstrings…probably because I was working with friends’ MSs, not an ‘author unknown’ whose work I could have viewed more dispassionately.

At first. there’s the realisation that I am holding someone’s hard work in my hands. I handle it like fine china whilst wearing thin white cotton gloves. Eventually, once I have carefully tip-toed through the copyright page and the dedication page – pages that look uncannily similar to my own – I get down to reading the actual story.

Fairly quickly, I begin to read it as an editor, albeit an amateur one. I discover small errors. There are the obvious typos, misplaced words that the spell checker skimmed past, stray aspostrophe’s 🙂 Those are all straightforward and easy to highlight. At this stage, I feel no guilt for messing with someone’s hard work.

But then there are the ‘clumsy’ sentences; the ones that find you circling the same spot on the page like a buzzard as you consider rephrasing; ‘The stars appeared in a velvet sky along with the shining object that as a child, the cow had jumped over – the Moon – just before the clouds began to roll in.’

I should emphasise that no-one actually committed that sentence to ePaper. It’s just an example…but it’s awkward, right?

But I’ve stared at many similar sentences, wondering if I’m just being mean, picky or plain British-awkward by even considering the idea of changing them. If I correct it, will it then jar with the rest of the MS? Will I have ruined the artistry that the writer sought to inject into the words?

Will it change the mood if I type it up as; ‘Clouds mushroomed along the horizon, building quickly, threatening to swallow the moon – my childhood inspiration – and spoil the cobalt, star-spotted beauty of the late evening sky.’ That’s more my style – but do I have the right to impose it on another writer?

Guilty questions begin to rattle my brain;

‘Do I leave that alone?’

‘Is it actually wrong – or do I just not like it personally?’

It’s the same thing when I read ‘Phil pushed himself off of the table.’  Brits hate this – but it seems to be normal in the US.

With some phrases, I wonder;

‘Is that how an American would phrase it – or is it wrong?’

Take; ‘He dropped the tailgate of the pickup and drug out the fishing nets.’ Brits would throw up their hands in horror – but in the US? I honestly don’t know if drug is an acceptable past tense form of drag.

If it’s speech, then I leave it well alone. Characters can talk exactly as they want to – unless I stumble across someone suddenly saying ‘I did not want to…’ or ‘I shall not do…’ when they would normally contract their speech.

Then we have; ‘The teenagers hung around the park most of the day, but one by one they began to slope off home.’

‘Would American readers understand that term? Is it too British? Should it be international-ised?’

It’s been pointed out to me that I use a lot of British English. Yes, that’s probably true, but short of avoiding all words that end in ‘-ised’ or changing them to ‘-ized’ and cutting out the letter ‘u’ from words ending with ‘-our’, I’m not sure of the best way around that issue. I am (mostly) English, my story is set in York, my main characters are (for the most part) English and at no point do they leave the country. If I was to convert my MS to American English, I would then be turning my back on the very ‘Britishness’ of my story. It’s a no win, no win situation.

I find myself thoroughly quandried, plus I feel a growing respect for editors who must straddle these intenational conundrua.

On the receiving end;

The edited MS arrives as an attachment – I download it and crack it open, wondering how much red I will see.  The first comment pops up, and I instantly feel (in turn and within the space of a few seconds) the following;

Irritation

Annoyance

Anger

Resignation

Acceptance

Determination

Purpose

Is it just me? Am I unique in that I see red because someone has dared to question my writing? I mean – how dare they?

Oh, they’re editing it for me. Fair enough.

The ire quickly fades as my Muse nods sagely and persuades me (diplomatically) that the editor could well be right and that perhaps a small change would benefit the MS.  So I sigh, I change it, I move on to the next comment.

It’s a hard thing, to accept the critique of another. If you’ve a thin skin, it feels as if someone is simply telling you; ‘No, you’re done that wrong.’ If you’re thicker skinned – and writers need to be – then it should be seen as ‘fine tuning’, as necessary as – for example – a haircut. The hairdresser may not actually hate your hair, but they still need to take off a little bit here and tidy it up there. It’s not personal.

But it can sure feel like it. >.<

Just think of it as the next little step towards presenting your best possible work to the world. Grit your teeth, thicken your skin, go get that haircut and let it happen.

So easy to say…so tricky to accept.

😀

signature plus n270

Writing is not for the impatient

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patience mrsmas

It’s now just over six months since I self-published my first novel, ‘A Construct of Angels’ and I have learned many a lesson in just that short time – and I know that I still have much to learn before I finally end up in a long wooden box.

The first lesson, as the title suggests, is to have patience.

L-o-t-s of p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e.

Writing is a long, slow process – even if you have just emerged, breathless, from a month-long NaNo sprint. Not only must you have patience in yourself in order to create that precious first draft, but you will have to watch and wait as your query letters flow first out, then back in as (hopefully) requests for the full MS or (more likely) rejection slips. There are many agents and publishers out there and the water must be tested with each one before moving onto the next. If you’re a nail-biter who doesn’t like to wait, then this will be a nervous time for you. Even if you choose to self-publish, then all the fun of formatting your book lies ahead.  And boy, does that take some patience!

The second lesson is to keep, keep, keep plugging away at spreading the word. Unless your sole ambition is simply to see your poem / artwork / novel listed on-line and you have no further desire to engage with it, you owe your magnum opus (or opus minus if you are less confident in its greatness) some degree of dedication towards seeing it flourish even briefly within the publishing world. As much as you’d love to imagine the scenario, there will not be a stampede of global proportions for your newly-published works. Yes, there could be an initial (and quite encouraging) surge as your friends, followers and family click ‘purchase’, but that interest is finite and unless you are very lucky, your eBook could languish in the doldrums for some time, only picking up the odd sale here and there.

Patience, my friend…spread the word as thoroughly as you are able via word of mouth and your (essential) author platform. If you tell everyone that you meet about your book, then you can rest a little easier knowing that you are doing everything possible to encourage sales. Last week, for example, I managed to generate some interest amongst the Polish community in North West England – something that seemed counter-intuitive at the time – because reading English-language books helps to improve their written English skills.

The third is to absorb every piece of advice from other authors, editors and publishers that you can. You don’t have to use it all as not everything will be relevant to your situation, but take note anyway. You never know when your self-published book might get picked up by a publisher and you suddenly need to know about contracts, or you may suddenly decide to begin giving away swag and have to find a printer or jewellery / fridge magnet maker in a hurry. There are always new skills to learn and the number of published authors is ever-increasing…as is the wealth of experience out there. Many of us have made mistakes, spent money unnecessarily or gone with the wrong publisher. Some are happy to relate their experiences and we owe it to them to pay attention and do things better. But all these lessons cannot be learned in a single day – and they do not arrive on our doormat in a brown-paper-and-string parcel. This is where our author platform becomes an essential tool, connecting us to our peers and more experienced colleagues.

Your book might be listed on Amazon / Kobo / Smashwords / Scribd (delete as appropriate) but at this stage the process is far from over. As my driving instructor told me on the day I passed my test; ‘Now you can really begin to learn how to drive.’

And so it is with publishing. Many lessons lie ahead – but so do many adventures.

keep calm plus author inside

The Next Big Thing

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next big thing

(A really BIG THING – loosely relevant image of the day)

I was very thoughfully tagged in The Next Big Thing  Author blog hop by Jon at  – what a great start to the New Year!

No, I haven’t seen a badge…despite back-tracking this award through several blogs.  I’m not sure that there is an official one, although I did borrow the image below from Michelle Proulx – hope you don’t mind, Michelle!

the next big thing

The Next Big Thing is part interview and part award, consisting of a series of questions about a writer’s latest work and how it came to be.

What is the working title of your book? It began as ‘Angels Instead’, partly as a nudge in the ribs towards the glut of vampire books and partly as a nod towards Robbie Williams’ song ‘Angels’ which contains the line ; ‘I’m loving angels instead.’  That line helped to drive this book from concept to completion, despite some very trying times.

What genre does your book fall under?  I originally categorised it as a paranormal romance but have since found out that it’s also an urban fantasy.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?  One sentence?  Sheesh…it took me months to condense it down to two paragraphs.

*taps side of mouth thoughtfully.*

Okay, here goes.  A paramedic accidentally pulls an angel to Earth, where she discovers that he has only six days to save humanity from a terrible fate.

Where did you get the idea for your book?  A combination of ‘what if…?’ questions that coalesced into one story.  ‘What if a dead body suddenly came back to life?’  ‘What if Hell launched an all-out attack on Heaven?’ ‘What if a human fell in love with an angel (as opposed to a vampire or werewolf)?’

Who or what inspired you to write this book? It began as a collaboration with a friend, but our diverging ideas led to my story becoming a prequel to the main idea and her story as the future events that would follow.  Sadly, she didn’t continue with her part.  I very nearly foundered too, but Robbie Williams’ song, echoing in my head, made me determined to pick myself up and continue with my prequel.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? The ‘Hell attacks Heaven’ idea was conceived in late 2009, but my part didn’t really take shape until March 2010.  I finished the first draft about a year later. 

What other books would you compare this story with in your genre? I deliberately haven’t read other Angel romances in order to avoid any story influencing and I haven’t found any Vampire romances that have a similar storyline, so I couldn’t really say.  I’d like to think my story was unique as it doesn’t feature any love-struck teenagers in high school, but of course, comparisons can always be made with other books.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  That’s an easy one to answer.  When I was writing my story I kept several celebrities in mind as visual character references.

jg

Janeanne Garafalo (The Truth about Cats and Dogs) would play Sara Finn, my main character,

How I imagine Michael might look

with Tom Ward (Silent Witness) as Michael the Angel.

rutger_hauer

A younger Rutger Hauer (in his Blade Runner days) would be ideal as the Aryan (the antagonist)

Alexander_Siddig

with Sara’s medical colleagues played by Alexander Siddig (Deep Space Nine)

Kyle McLachlan

and Kyle McLachlan.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  I tried to interest every genre-relevant agency in the UK for over the course of a year, but no-one seemed to be interested.  I was about to begin targeting the US agencies when the notion of self-publishing occurred to me.  I’d seen many articles about it and with a good deal of help from several bloggers, I self-published in October 2012.

What else about your book might pique your reader’s interest?  The notion that Angels are constructed from clusters of souls.  That and the fact that Heaven is dangerously close to losing the war with Hell.

Thank you for taking part in the Next Big Thing Author Tour.

And now comes the point where I pass on the TNBT baton.

I’m to nominate five writers and bloggers who inspire, entertain and motivate me on a daily basis.

I’m going to try to avoid duplication so I’m not including patwoodblogging or Nightwolf’s Corner or Unravelling my Mind as Jon just nominated them and they’d be answering the same questions twice.

Michelle Proulx, Candace Knoebel and James Calbraith have also recently been tagged.

So I hereby nominate;

Ryan Casey

Cookie 5683

Casey Voight

Introverted blogger

Writeminds authors

Briana at When I became an author

I have had so much fun in the short time I’ve been blogging – and I’ve learned a great deal in the process.  I look forward to learning more, sharing your experiences looking out for your latest (or debut) books in the various electronic outlets.

Write on in 2013!

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