When is writing classified as published?

The publishing industry has changed in a big way, thanks to the Internet, social media and self-publishing. While some aspects have opened doors to so many writers who would have struggled in a big way to become a published author, there are some aspects that have actually closed the doors to traditional publication paths.

Let me start by saying that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the self-publication path. There are some brilliant novels that have been self-published and some extremely successful writers that have taken that particular road. As long as you’re prepare to put in the hard work, self-publication can be a rewarding experience.

Regardless of whether you are self-published or traditionally published, you will need to get your head around marketing within today’s industry. It really is a self-promotion game, hence, one of the reasons that many have turned to self-publication. You put in all that effort and energy. You should reap the benefits.

However, there might be other reasons that you have your heart set on the traditional publication path. Perhaps there is a particular publishing house that you have dreamed of for as long as you can remember. Maybe your local bookstores refuse to consider stocking books that are self-published. Maybe there’s another reason altogether. Regardless of what your reasons might be, if you are heading down the road toward traditional publication, you need to be strategic in your release of sample writing. If you release the wrong bit in the wrong location, you may have inadvertently published your work without realizing it, killing your chances at traditional publication.

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Trick from the Editor’s Hat: Use Paper or an Ebook Reader

You spend hours/days/weeks editing and you’re struggling to get through it. Here is just one of the many tricks that I employ when editing both my own and clients’ writing.

Use Paper or an eBook Reader

I never do all my editing directly on the computer. The back-lit screen is too much on my eyes. The smooth reflective surface will catch the overhead lighting, adding to the eye strain. This is why I don’t use a tablet for editing either. They too are back-lit and reflective. No, when I can, when the size of a document permits me, I will print out the manuscript and pull out my trusty red pen, writing all over that printed document. In those instances where the manuscript is too large, say 100k words, then out comes my Kindle and I’ll read the document on that, adding comments and notes to the file as I go. (Yes, you can do that on a Kindle.)

Here’s the deal. When editing on good old-fashioned paper, our tactile sensations kick in and we see things differently. Don’t ask my why, I’m not a psychologist. All I know is that’s the way our minds work. Not only that, the illumination of a computer screen does add to eye strain; this is not good when you need to spend hours reading and editing.

eInk technology, the technology employed in the screens of traditional eBook readers, such as Kindle and Kobo, was developed with eye strain in mind, reducing glare and lighting, emulating the paper effect on eyes as closely as possible. While reading from an eBook, you won’t engage the tactile sensations as you would with editing on paper, but you can still read/edit for longer hours then if you did all your editing on the computer.

See other Tips and Tricks from the Editor.

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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016

Trick from the Editor's Hat

Trick from the Editor’s Hat: The “Was” Edit

When editing a manuscript, one should always be looking at ways to tighten the writing and language used. There are many tricks that one can employ. Here is one that I often pull out of my hat when editing.

The “Was” Edit

This editing technique is incredibly simple: search for every instance of is/are/was/were and ask yourself if can you reword that sentence to removed that instance of was-type words.

Considering the following:
Gary was working on the wagon.
Simple:
Gary worked on the wagon.
However, it’ll gladly admit that this edit is boring and not very inspirational.

But what about something not so obvious:
He was taller than me.
To remove the was, one needs to actually add a bit of detail, turning this tell statement into show.
He stood two inches taller than me.
The only down side with above line is that it adds words. If you write word-heavy, this could be a problem.

There will be instances where the words is/are/was/were will be necessary, so one should never do a generic delete, but it’s been my experience that in seven out of ten cases, the sentence can be restructure to not only get rid of the dreaded was, but to also give the sentence that something more.

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Trick from the Editor's Hat

Trick from the Editor’s Hat: Read Aloud

You’re staring at a manuscript that you have spent countless hours, days, weeks, preparing for publication or submission. It’s as stellar as you can make it. Or is it?

Here is just one of the tricks that I occasionally pull out of my hat when editing. This technique is the best method of making dialogue sound natural and will pick up the awkward sentences faster than any other method. There are times when I use this technique while writing too. It is one of the best tricks one can have stashed under their hat.

Read Aloud

You can read a line over and over again, but you still don’t see the mistake. It’s something incredibly simple, like a missing “the”, but you still don’t see it. Our eyes filter what our minds see. The eyes make the corrections needed and hence our brains don’t register anything different. However, when we read something out, vocalize the line, our brains work differently. And guess what… That missing “the” becomes obvious.

Reading aloud is one of the best methods that any writer/editor could have stashed under their hat. So many things can be picked up when one hears it compared to reading it.

If you are editing dialogue, it is highly recommended to read the passage aloud. Put on an accent, pretend you’re the character. Feel free to add in the body actions too. You will be amazed with the number of writers that on first drafts spell out words in full, but when they speak the line, here comes the contraction. Or you’ll hear how an accented voice can be written, changing the order of the words.

In a long section of narrative prose, you’ll hear if a sentence is necessary or whether it can be rephrased to give it more impact. And don’t forget that you’ll hear all the awkward phrasings too.

Some people feel self-conscious by reading out their stories, even when they’re in the room alone. Read to your cat or dog. Read to the parrot, however, be careful if that bird is likely to mimic your awkward sentence. No doubt they’ll pick up on the one phrase that you didn’t want shared with your family and friends.

Of all my editing tricks, I would say this one is the one I use the most, on client’s work and my own. My brain processes audio so much better.

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Trick from the Editor's Hat

Trick from the Editor’s Hat: The Backwards Edit

You’re staring at a manuscript that you have spent countless hours, days, weeks, preparing for publication or submission. It’s as stellar as you can make it. Or is it?

Here is just one of the tricks that I occasionally pull out of my hat when editing. It can be slow going, but it can help you isolate those awkward, sticky sentences and eliminate those beasts.

The Backwards Edit

During a backwards edit, you read a manuscript from the last sentence backwards to the first. When you do this, you’re unable to focus on the story; sentences lose their contextual meaning. As a consequence you focus entirely on the words.

Is that word really needed? Can that sentence be restructured to say the same thing, but in a tighter way? Is that sentence active or passive? Is that sentence even needed?

A backwards edit can be incredibly slow going, and is not something that I utilise very often. One has to be disciplined to the extreme to persevere with a backwards edit through a 100,000 word manuscript. It’s far to tempting to read forward. There will be sentences that make no sense, whatsoever, without the forward contextual information, but that’s the point. You’re editing without context.

The biggest failing with editing a manuscript in the forward fashion (from the first sentence to the last) is that the beginning of a story becomes so well edited that the editor/writer gets sucked in and fails to see the flaws in the later half of the manuscript. And sometimes, the story itself can be so gripping that one can forget that they were meant to be editing. By removing the context, reading backwards, you remove that threat.

However, backwards editing has one major downfall: you’re editing without context. Sometimes, that sentence or word is necessary for the context to happen. You remove the word/sentence and suddenly the whole scene falls apart. This is why backwards editing takes so long. Not only are you scanning back up through a passage, searching for where the sentence starts, but you’re also taking a brief moment to read the passage forward a sentence or two, to ensure that your edits still makes sense.

Backwards edits are NOT for everyone. Those working on early drafts should always edit in the forward. Early drafts often have developmental issues that need contextual reading to isolate and fix. No, use backwards editing with final drafts only, ensuring that a manuscript is ready for publication or submission.

And if you’re one of those writers that needs context for everything, the odds are you’ll quickly get frustrated with backwards editing and will give up only part way through. Reserve backwards editing for those passages that you feel need that something special, only a page or two. You’ll be surprised what a difference it can make.

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By all means, rush the process.

Writing a manuscript takes time; editing it takes even longer. However, rushing the process is the biggest mistake that any new writer can make. One spends months, if not years, pouring everything, including their heart and soul, into this body of work. It’s only natural to want to see it published — they have dreams. But dreams that are worthwhile require time and effort.

Editing a manuscript into something worth reading is not something that happens overnight. There are steps that every manuscript must go through before it finds itself as a book on the selves of your local bookstore. Rushing the process will produce shoddy work that will result in very bad reviews, and not just from those that hate your story.

There are several different flavours to this Rush-The-Process dish.

1) I’ve written this manuscript and my mother/husband/friend says it’s great. All it needs now is for someone to check the spelling and grammar, then it will be ready for publication.

Actually, no. Unless you have a husband like mine who is brutally honest, leading to many-a-fights about one of my manuscripts, you can never trust the comments from your mother/husband/friend, especially about early drafts. There will always be a certain level of developmental editing required: plot holes need to be filled; characters need to be fleshed out; dialogue needs to be tightened. There is an array of things that any manuscript might need; spelling, punctuation and grammar are last on that list.

2) I’ve gotten comments back from my editor and they recommend that I change this section in this way. Oh that’s easy… I’ll just search and replace. Then I’ll be ready to submit/publish.

Umm… No. When you get comments back from an editor and/or critique partner, that’s when your real work begins. You need to process what has been said and how to make the best use of it. This takes time. It is far from a search-and-replace job.

3) I’ve just had a request for a full, but I still haven’t written it. But I’ll just knock this out and pay an editor to help me whip it into shape. How difficult can that be?

OMG, you have no idea how difficult this is. First of all, one should never query a manuscript without the manuscript being completed. It puts undue pressure on everyone involved. When an agent/publisher asks for a full, they actually wanted it sent right away. They don’t have the time to wait around for you to actually finish writing and editing. For some agents/publishers, if you make this query-before-it’s-ready mistake, that’s your one chance with that agent/publisher gone — for that manuscript anyway.

Let’s say that you were foolish enough to actually query without a full manuscript ready to go, and let’s say that you did get that request for a full but managed to sweet talk your way into getting more time to finish. You better be prepared to have many-a-sleepless nights. As for that editor… Even if you manage to find one crazy enough to take on such a desperate contract, they are going to charge you an arm and leg, just because you chose to rush the process. Be warned now.

4) I’m self-publishing, but I can’t afford to get it edited right away. I think I’ll just publish it on Amazon. After a few reviews come in, I’ll take it down, then edit it.

Not the smartest of ideas. The real issue with this one is that once a book is published, it’s out there. You can never take it back. Readers are not likely to reread a book, unless they enjoyed it the first time. For some readers, poor editing seriously taints their viewpoints. And bad reviews… You never want to get a bad review simply because you chose to publish without editing. That black mark against your name will remain there forever.

If you are writing a non-fiction, and not just a memoir or some other narrative non-fiction, then okay, you might have a shot at publishing another edition of the book. Most people can accept that things change due to advances in technology; the new edition might include the latest research. However, different editions on fictional works? Different languages or anniversary editions? Yes. Just because you decided to edit? Definitely not.

I know it’s not something that a writer wants to hear, but you will likely hear it multiple times throughout your career. When you feel that manuscript is ready to go out the door, lock it away in that metaphorical drawer for a time, and don’t touch it — go work on something entirely different for a while. Some would say that you should leave a manuscript alone for months, but in truth, you may not have that amount of time available; several weeks should be sufficient. Once you have managed to distance yourself from your manuscript, then take it out again and read through the entire thing. If you don’t see anything that you’re just dying to change, then you know it’s ready to go. Then, and only then, start querying, or start the process of typesetting if you’re self-publishing. Basically, you need to make sure that you are 100% happy with what you have written before you send it out the door.

Regardless, whatever you do, please… Please… I beg you. DO NOT RUSH THE PROCESS!

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P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.

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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016