jessicasteiner: (Default)
No, really. I honestly forgot. I also wrote a lot of words.

I have 17,083 words, which I'm proud of! Nyla has finally figured out she has superpowers, and is pretty sure she knows how they work, however crazy and illogical it might be. Time to ruin her life! But that'll wait until tomorrow.

Today's tip: When you screw up, strikeout is your friend.

I try not to go back and revise, but sometimes you have a really amazing idea for a better way for a scene to go. It does take a while to edit, and I strongly discourage people from spending much time doing this. You can spend an hour going over a scene and only add a few words, or even lose them. That's an hour you could have been adding to your wordcount.

But sometimes you just have to. In cases like that, don't ever delete words you wrote. Strike through them (It's ctrl-shift-minus sign in Scrivener) and write the new thing. Of course, you might find bits of what you wrote before that you want to keep and fiddle around with, which is fine, but at least you won't lose the bits you actually don't want to keep.

They still count for your NaNoWriMo words, so don't rob yourself by using the delete key.
jessicasteiner: (Fangirl Moment)
This weekend I'm attending the Surrey International Writer's Conference for the second time. I went once before, 6 or 7 years ago, and it was a life-altering experience. Unfortunately, at the time I was working on a book that I have since trunked, so even though it got very good responses from both agents and readers, I never did anything with it. Then I went to law school.

It's nice to be back.

Yesterday I attended two master classes, one on subtext, which was basically about how to use word choice and things like that to set tone and convey character. The other was about editing. Though there wasn't really much in the second one that was completely new to me, I learned a lot at both classes.

Then there was a really terrible accident on the freeway and it took me over 4 hours to make a one hour trip home....

Today I attended a workshop on cliches in YA fiction and another one on diversity in fiction. The latter was by Jim C. Hines, who appears to be a thoroughly awesome individual. He'll be reading the first three pages of my novel on Saturday, so I hope he likes it XD!

As a side note, not totally unrelated: For various reasons, I feel like a number of forces in the universe are pushing me towards submitting OtherWhere for publication instead of self-publishing it, so that's what I'm going to do after this weekend. Wish me luck!

I think I'm going to be extremely tired, but very enlightened, by Sunday night.
jessicasteiner: (I Write Therefore I Am)
For all sections in this series, check out this post. I recommend reading them in order, but if you want to go straight to a particular concept, you can use the Table of Contents to find the right post.

After completing the first readthrough, it's time to read through the book again, but this time with a fine-toothed comb in hand (metaphorically speaking).

For OtherWhere, I actually did one read through and completed the next five steps all at the same time, but I strongly suggest that you do these one at a time the first time. It's difficult to learn these skills and do them all at the same time. Even for me, who had done this once before with Mortis Unbound, it was a challenge and a hell of a slog.

But anyway, on to the next step.

Step 4: Scene Cards

Get yourself a bunch of simple index cards - lined or unlined, depending on your preference. I punch a hole in the top right corner of each card, and get one of those little metal rings to keep them all together in order. A keyring would work, or a big paperclip all unbent and made into a circle. You'll definitely want a good way to keep them in order.

As you read through the book, create one index card per scene, and put it on the ring. For each card, you want to include the following:
  1. The scene number, in order.

  2. The point of view of the scene.

  3. The pages of the scene.

  4. One sentence, describing the elements of the scene.

I put the first three elements at the top, so for example, the first scene card for OtherWhere looks like this:
1POV: Omnicient1-3

The sentence requires some additional explanation. I don't just describe what happens in the scene. The purpose of the sentence is to make sure that all of the elements of a scene are present, namely:
  • A protagonist

  • An antagonist

  • A conflict

  • A setting

  • A twist

Ideally, your scene should contain all of these things. Someone should be trying to do something, and something or someone is resisting them or making it difficult. All this should happen in a place. And at the end of the scene, something should change or be revealed that changes the circumstances in a significant way.

If you ensure that every scene has all of these elements, your readers won't be bored, that's for sure.

If your scene is missing one or more of these elements, note that on the card, and move on to the next scene.

Next time we'll examine the setting of your novel in detail.
jessicasteiner: (I Write Therefore I Am)
I'm finally getting back to this, now! I hope you enjoy this series.

For all sections in this series, check out this post. I recommend reading them in order, but if you want to go straight to a particular concept, you can use the Table of Contents to find the right post.

Step 3: The First Readthrough

Now that you've prepared for your edit, and recaptured the original vision of your novel, it's time to see what you've really got - not magic this time, but despair and imperfection.

This should be a fairly natural read through the text, at approximately the same pace as a reader, though you will pause from time to time. You should not make any changes at this stage of the game.

However, it is an active read. You should be paying attention not only to the text, but to your own reactions. As you go, note the following five categories of things in the manuscript:

  1. What things don't make sense? Where does the story fall apart?

  2. Where do the characters really shine? Where do the characters disappoint you?

  3. Where does the world really work? What parts of your world-building have failed to hang together?

  4. Where do you catch yourself skimming or getting bored?

  5. What of the book really worked?

It's key to note down each item. Make a note in the manuscript, for each of these notes, and on the paper, write down a description of the problem or positive thing you've found. You might even make notes about possible ways to fix the issue.

I tend to use an alphanumerical code. For example, you might call this set of notes '1' and each of the types of things you're looking for, A through E. Number each page as well, and each note on the page. So the first note in the first category on the first page would be marked in the manuscript as something like [1A1 #1].

It's very important that whatever code or tracking system you use, that you be able to come to your manuscript later, see the code, and be able to cross-reference to the place in your notes where you describe what was wrong, or what was good. I know this may be somewhat confusing at the moment, but the point is to be able to get to the end of the whole editing process and be able to look back at each section and find the problems you identified at each stage, to be able to formulate the appropriate fix for every scene, every chapter, every paragraph. Without ways of cross-referencing and easily coming back to your notes after weeks, maybe months of work, you'll have a hell of a time doing that.
jessicasteiner: (Blank Paper)
It's the last day of May, and I'm exhausted after a very long week at work, so I thought I'd do a recap.

This month, I edited, formatted, and released two stories for 99c. I designed the covers for both of them, though I did have help from friends. One of them is a book of writing tips, and the other is a short story. The latter is actually selling quite well, especially considering I've done almost zero promotion.

I worked on my edit of OtherWhere. I'll be doing more posts about my editing process in the future, but right now I'm in the middle of a long slog that's not much fun. I'm about a quarter of the way through this particular slog. Once I finish it, I'll probably do another set of tips about what I did. So... hang onto your seat.

Most of my work this month was involved in finishing a 20,000 word novella that will be some point. I've also written a bit of fanfiction this month.

Now wish me luck. June is coming, and it's going to involve me clinging to sanity by the fingernails.
jessicasteiner: (Procrastination)

After finishing the month of April, I had a string of busy days. I think I needed a little time away from the blog, but I do feel pretty good about what I accomplished this month.

I finished the A-Z Blog Challenge, while at the same time writing about 15,000 words of a "short" story. The blog posts I plan to compile into a book, so I counted those words towards my Camp NaNoWriMo goal. The story I wrote is another story in the Grim Hunter series, and will be the last, and longest, story in the anthology I plan to release of all the stories to date.

I expect to have another 5000 words or so of the Grim story, and then editing and formatting begins.

The upshot is, I'm pretty pleased with the amount I accomplished this month. For the month of May I want to keep up a regular blogging schedule, finish the Grim story, and continue editing OtherWhere. Wish me luck!
jessicasteiner: (Fangirl Moment)
Today I'm going to talk about romance! Because it's a huge part of writing, so it deserves to have a post, I figure.

Now, I'm going to make one caveat, and that is that today's tip comes from the perspective of someone who really doesn't like romance novels. I love romance in other kinds of novels, but I have just never been interested in the genre itself. As such, my perspective here may not apply to that genre. But I'm pretty confident that they work for other genres that happen to contain romance.

I'm sure there are lots of other things I could say, but I can't think of anything at the moment, so here is what I want to talk about:

Never make a character whose only purpose is to be the romantic partner of another character

Every character you create should be a person. There's nothing more boring than realizing that a character was created only to be the partner of your main character, and that they really have no other role within the book than that. They should have desires outside of getting together with your other well-rounded character.

They should do more within the book than simply be the potential and then actual love interest of another character.

It's boring, and it sucks. I shouldn't have to tell you not to do it, but it happens all the time. So don't do it.
jessicasteiner: (Bad Writing Day)
I know I'm a day behind and... despite the fact that I've been preparing for a 5-day Supreme Court trial starting on April 29th, I will get through this, I swear.



If you're like me, you groan when you hear or read this word. I used to enjoy English classes only to the extent to which I was able to a) read a book that I actually enjoyed, or b) write a story. Analyzing books for theme was always one of those things that struck me as relatively pointless, or at least an exercise that was best left to people who liked that sort of thing.

However, identifying the theme of your own novel is really useful for a number of reasons. And I do mean identifying. You don't necessarily shoe-horn your theme in and then try to make your story fit it, but it should evolve organically and become clear at some point in the process. Sometimes, when you type 'The End', but maybe sooner.

So, a couple of reasons why identifying your theme is good:

1. It can help to unify a novel or series. If you know the theme of your series is something like "love can conquer all" then it's easier to ensure that the ultimate resolution of the story is in line with that philosophy. Doing that, will make the story tie together in a more satisfying manner.

2. It gives you something to talk about. When writing synopses, or back cover copy, or even just talking about your novel, it's really important to be able to explain what it's about in a short, intriguing way. Knowing the theme gives you a starting point for figuring out how to do that. Now, you probably won't actually describe the theme in such an explanation, but it can help to focus your mind so it's not just "well, it's about this guy, and one day he..." and ten minutes later your audience is glazing over.
jessicasteiner: (Constructive Criticism)
I'm catching up again! I spent the entire day yesterday in the car so there was no opportunity to do my blog post. So expect to see two posts from me today if I get a chance to do them both.

But on to the carnage.

Most people who've studied creative writing in any sense have probably heard the advice "Kill your Darlings". I first heard it when I was about 17, taking a creative writing course offered through my high school.

Though it seems like a fairly simple piece of advice, it took me a long time to really understand what it means. It means that just because a piece of writing is brilliant, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't cut it if cutting it is the right thing to do. You might weep at your prose, or fall utterly in love with a character, but you might still have to remove it from your novel.

If you ever find yourself editing and think "Oh man, this doesn't fit/I need to cut this scene/This character isn't necessary to the plot but I want to keep it anyway because it's just so great", then cut it anyway.

But save it. You may be able to use it later. That character you adore can be the main character in your next book. That prose you wrote that just killed your heart, maybe you can work it into something else. Or maybe not. But whatever doesn't fit in your current work has to go.
jessicasteiner: (Constructive Criticism)
I'll be doing two posts today to catch up! Yesterday I ended up working a 14 hour day and not getting home until after 8, then crashing, so I think I get a pass......

Today's tip is about editing, which is a huge topic! I couldn't possibly teach a whole course on editing in one post (which is why I'm doing a series on it, which will resume in May), but I do have a tip to share today.

Don't sweat the small stuff until you've fixed the big things!

One editing course I took likened this to doing plastic surgery on a patient while they're still gushing blood from the harpoon in their chest. When you edit, start by looking at the broad issues, like:

  • Does your plot work?

  • Do you have enough characters? Too many? Do they have a character arc that is resolved? Do all of your characters have a unique and important purpose in the story that can't be fulfilled by anyone else?

  • Have you fulfilled all of the promises you made at the beginning? Have you resolved all your sub plots?

  • Does your story build in tension slowly to a climax towards the end or is the pacing disjointed?

There are many other Big Things that you should look at, and you can probably easily add to this list. When you're starting to edit a novel, don't get bogged down in fixing sentence structure if the entire scene needs to be chucked out. You'll waste a lot of time, and probably not even notice the big overall problems if you're focused on the minutia. It's missing the forest for the trees.

My experience is that editing involves multiple passes through the novel, looking at broader issues first and then working my way down to the nitty gritty. It might seem like a lot of work, but don't worry about that! The novel will be far, far better by the time you're finished, and isn't that worth it?

Your first draft is nothing more than the scaffolding on which you hang the magic. Don't let the fact that it takes some work for the magic to happen seduce you into trying to publish scaffolding.

...I'm not sure if that metaphor worked, but there you go.
jessicasteiner: (I Write Therefore I Am)
Today's writing tip is about being consistent in what you do.

One of the biggest things I see in people who are struggling with their writing is that they don't work on it consistently. They might write a bit when they feel that inspiration hit, but then three weeks go by and they still 'mean' to get back to it any time.

Say you wrote 2000 words on that big day when inspiration struck, but that was the only day in a month that you wrote. You'd have 2000 words for the month. But say you only wrote 100 words a day, but wrote them every day. By the end of a month, you'd have 3000 words. By the end of a year, you'd have 36,500 words. Not NaNoWriMo, but better than a lot of people manage.

And most days, you'd write more than 100 words.

So try to write something every day, and to do it consistently. You'll be amazed by how much you'll accomplish.
jessicasteiner: (Procrastination)
Since this series is going to be very long, and managing all the links is going to be a pain, I've decided to do one catch-all post for all the sections, which I will update as I go.

I'm generally following the process in Holly Lisle's How to Revise Your Novel course, which you can purchase by following this link over here. I followed it strictly for Mortis Unbound, but now that I've done it once, I'm making changes and putting my own spin on it. I'll be describing it generally as best I can; however, I won't be reproducing the worksheets that I'm using here. If you want those and the full detailed instructions, go buy the course.

If you don't want to or can't afford to buy the course, my plan is to make these posts detailed enough to help teach you how to edit, either way. I hope these will be useful to people, in themselves.

The Posts

  1. Preparation

  2. Recapturing the Magic

  3. The First Readthrough

  4. Scene Cards
jessicasteiner: (Blank Paper)
For all sections in this series, check out this post. I recommend reading them in order, but if you want to go straight to a particular concept, you can use the Table of Contents to find the right post.

Step Two: Recapturing the Magic

If it weren't for Holly Lisle's course, I'd never have thought of this step explicitly, but I've found that it is, in many ways, one of the most important and useful steps.

Before you even pick up your book to read it again (and just as a note, you should have let the book rest for at least a few weeks - or a few months - before you begin the editing process) you should take a sheet of notepaper and write down what you wanted to get out of the story before you put pen to paper.

Write down the idea that first sparked the novel inside you, and the kind of book you wanted to write. Write down the sort of character you wanted your main character to be. Write down what kind of story you originally wanted to tell.

This will help to focus you on the kind of story you wanted to tell, the kinds of things that excited you about the story, and help you to reach the end goal of bringing this novel as close as possible to the novel you want it to be.
jessicasteiner: (Save the World)
For all sections in this series, check out this post. I recommend reading them in order, but if you want to go straight to a particular concept, you can use the Table of Contents to find the right post.

I've decided to do periodic (not necessarily regular) updates as I go through the editing process with OtherWhere. My experience is that people have a hard time with this editing thing. This is not my first time going through the editing process for a full novel in a structured way, so I'm hoping if I dig in and describe my process, it may help people who are flailing around, changing sentence structure and fixing typos and staring at their novel, with no idea where to even start with tackling the big problems.

Yesterday I finished my first read-through on OtherWhere, so this seems like a good place to start.

For full disclosure, I'm generally following the process in Holly Lisle's How to Revise Your Novel course, which you can purchase by following this link over here. I followed it strictly for Mortis Unbound, but now that I've done it once, I'm making changes and putting my own spin on it. I'll be describing it generally as best I can; however, I won't be reproducing the worksheets that I'm using here. If you want those and the full detailed instructions, go buy the course.

If you don't want to or can't afford to buy the course, my plan is to make these posts detailed enough to help teach you how to edit, either way. I hope these will be useful to people, in themselves.

Now then. So far, I've completed three major editing steps, which I will describe over the course of the next three blog posts.

Step One: Preparation

Preparing Your Novel

First I had to reformat and print out my entire novel. Yep, the whole thing. I'm a fan of the digital form, but I have found that it's just not as easy to do editing without a paper copy. Though it may seem like a lot of paper, I recommend that you do the same.

To format my novel for editing:

1) I made sure the whole thing was in a single electronic file, and turned on the "page numbering" function, so every page was numbered in the top right corner. You will be glad you did this. When I edited Mortis Unbound, I wound up manually numbering the pages, which is dumb.

2) I double-spaced the entire book. This sure uses a lot of paper - believe me, I sympathize, OtherWhere is nearly 380 pages printed out - but it really helps you read and notice mistakes, and also gives you more space for writing in changes. It's worth it.

3) I also formatted it so that the first line of each paragraph was indented, just like published novels, instead of having a double-return between each paragraph like a blog post. I tend to write my books and stories as if I'm intending to post them online (legacy of many years of fanfiction writing), but I fix that formatting before beginning a proper edit. This is optional, but it's sort of a page-saving measure to help counterbalance the double-spacing.

4) Finally, because during my first editing experience I cursed and wished I'd done this, I put a page break at the end of every scene. During the editing process, you may find yourself rearranging scenes, and it's a lot easier to do this if each scene is actually a self-contained series of pages rather than having chapter and scene breaks in the middle of a page.

Preparing Your Space

The rest of the editing preparation involves getting your space ready and gathering the tools you're going to need.

I like to do my editing at my desk in my office. I turn on music and I can spread out the worksheets and the binders. I just find that having a table is pretty important, though if you want to do it on the sofa, it's not impossible.

As for the tools, even if you're not going to go whole-hog with purchasing the worksheets, it's worthwhile starting a binder so you can keep notes in a self-contained place. You will want a place to keep all the little things you think of, not to mention all the problems you will find.

Get pens you like and which are fine-tipped, and don't run or smear.

I actually have one of those cheap plastic boxes they sell at Staples, which is large enough to hold all of my tools: pens of at least four different colours (most of them my favourite fine-tipped blue pens, but also a couple of other colours will be needed eventually), white-out, small sticky-notes, a tiny stapler, a small pair of scissors, and a roll of tape, and probably some other things that I can't think of right at the moment. I also have a package of basic index cards, and a container of those rings you can run through a hole-punched piece of paper to hold several of them together.

Also, having a 3-hole-puncher handy is helpful. And you'll definitely want a ream of lined paper if you're not going to buy the course and have the real worksheets.

Get all that together and I'll see you next time for the next step.
jessicasteiner: (Save the World)
Yesterday I had an internet outage at my house that lasted the entire evening (and in fact, it's still not fixed, and the tech is due on Monday morning. Sob).

I wrote a great deal more than usual, and I finished the first draft of Dale.

...There may be a connection here.

I've already got a lot of things that I want to change and improve, including adding an entire sub plot. Unfortunately I have no idea what it'll be about. However, I'm overall very pleased with how it turned out in a general sense. I'm letting it sit at least until May, I expect, when I'll pull it out again for the first polish.

In the meantime, I'm editing OtherWhere. I've also started writing a short story which I plan to submit to an anthology.

And that's the State of Jessica Steiner's Writing for tonight. Good night!
jessicasteiner: (I Write Therefore I Am)
The house hunt continues. The seller of the house we wanted decided not to sell at all. I'm pretty disappointed. I think it's sort of dickish to waste someone's time like that - all in all, I spent several hours going through the house, researching, discussing with family, going back to the house, and then writing up the offer - only to learn he'd already decided not to sell his house at all.

But life goes on, and I'm sure when we get back from our trip next week, we'll find something we like just as much. And we're pretty comfortable where we are. At least the rent is cheap and we have enough space to stretch out.

In better news, I had a two and a half hour conversation with my editor today. She's finished going through my manuscript and given me all of her notes. Some of them are substantive issues, others were copyediting things, and others were just things she wasn't sure about, which I can fix with a bit of rewording for clarity.

I learned a lot, and there wasn't anything that made me cry, so I'd say this was a success!

Nothing that she said will require a major rewrite. I'll need to fiddle around with some description and rework some character development. With the comments she'd made, I don't think I'll be needing to do a full copy edit, and I'm hoping to get a friend of mine to do the proofread.

The biggest change is going to be my title. She doesn't like The Sleeping Death, and frankly, neither do I. She had a few suggestions, but I need to check a few things before I make a final decision.

Just as a note, I haven't given a proper shoutout to my editor, so I want to do that, now. She's Marie-Lynn Hammond, a singer/songwriter and experienced editor. She's done a wonderful job, and is fair, knowledgeable, and was a joy to work with. I'll definitely be contacting her again for my next manuscript.
jessicasteiner: (I Write Therefore I Am)
I reached another turning point in projects, so I thought I'd do an update.

Today I finished the first draft of my [community profile] originalbigbang story, which isn't due until September or something, lol. I wanted to get it written and out of the way so I wouldn't have it weighing on my mind as I work on other projects, and I'm glad I did.

It's called Grim Opera, and is the fifth instalment of my Hunter Grim short story series, which is a series of gay erotica stories set in a post-apocalyptic world, depicting a love story between a vampire hunter (who is also a vampire) and his shape-shifting apprentice. I'll probably release the stories as an anthology someday. It was fun to revisit this world, and it definitely won't be the last time I do.

I got a little positive feedback from one of my beta readers for The Sleeping Death, which was nice to hear. I also got back into contact with my editor, who had been on vacation. I signed my contract, sent my deposit and my manuscript, so now all I have to do is wait.

I'm pretty excited. I feel fairly confident that the book will stand up generally to scrutiny, and I'm very interested to learn where I can improve it. I'm sure that my editor will have things to say, of course, and I'm sure I'll learn a great deal and that my writing generally will improve because of this experience.

I'm also a tiny bit nervous that it'll hurt a lot to get the feedback, but I have faith that Marie-Lynn will give me constructive criticism gently, and that it won't be in the vein of "this sucks, start over". Anything less shattering than that I can probably handle. After all, I've been writing fanfiction for over 13 years. I've gotten lots of unhelpful negative comments in my life.

In the meantime, I've started work on my draft of The Dreaming once again. I started this book quite a long time ago now, and I keep making a lot of progress in short bursts and then putting it down to work on other things. I'm determined to get it done without getting distracted this time, partly because I'm really getting excited to get started on my next project, which is my "Harry Potter in Space with Aliens" series. I'm doing character profiles for that series, whenever I don't feel like writing.

So that's where I'm at!
jessicasteiner: (Default)
This is the fifth and final installment of my series about hiring a freelance editor. You can see an index here and zero in on the topic that most interests you, or find all of the topics under the 'editing' tag. It may be the shortest of the series, but in some ways it's the most important.


Each editor's rates is, of course, set individually.

Some editors charge by the hour. Depending on their experience, they can charge anywhere between $20 and $50.

Others charge by the page. This seems to be more likely for small projects, such as resumes or academic papers. Though I didn't look too deeply into this, it appears that there's a base rate, such as $20, and then it goes up from there based on the number of pages in the project.

It appears that sometimes, particularly on the job boards, an editor will offer a flat rate for a large project like a novel. I suspect that an editor with few credits is willing to take a hit to the size of their paycheque in order to get experience editing a novel. I've even seen an editor offering her work for free, just to get the experience. If your budget is fairly small, this may be a good option, but you run the risk of not getting the best edit possible.

On the large job boards, it's fairly easy to cross-check different editors and compare how much they charge for various types of jobs, and it's worthwhile to check around if you're shopping for an editor, so you have a number in mind. However, my experience with the job boards was that the projects are generally smaller than a full-sized novel, so it's difficult to gauge how it will compare simply by looking at the listings.

Though it varies, getting a full novel edited is not cheap. If you think about it, it takes several hours to read a novel. Reading while taking notes and making changes can take many, many hours. A full, substantive edit can run upwards of a couple of thousand dollars.


It's important to see the terms under which the editor is going to work. A reputable editor will send you a contract, which sets out the work and how much it will cost. Scrutinize the contract - and by that I mean, read it. If there are bits you don't understand, ask. And if the editor isn't willing to clarify, run.

You shouldn't send your manuscript to someone - or several hundred dollars - unless you're sure that the person is legitimate. There are a lot of people out there more than happy to part someone from their money and not deliver anything.

Both you and the editor should have a clear idea of exactly what each of you is expected to do, and how much it will cost, before you begin sending money. Obviously for a large project where there is unpredictability in how long it will take the editor to get through the project, you may only have an estimate of how much it will cost, but you should have a good grasp of exactly how the final bill will be calculated. That way, neither of you will be surprised or angry at the end.

I will say this isn't advice only specifically for hiring an editor, but for pretty much anything you do that involves a contract.

How it Turned Out for Me

One of the people I was referred to seemed to click with me right away. I scrutinized her website and saw that she had some good credits under her name, justifying her hourly rate, which is on the higher end of the range I saw.

At her request, I sent her a plot synopsis and three chapters. She suggested that I do a Manuscript Evaluation, and quoted me $800, saying that it could end up being lower because my writing was generally good. She will be documenting her hours - good, and if she ends up taking less time than expected, I won't have to pay the full amount, but she does want half up front. I feel that's quite fair.

The entire process of finding her and deciding to hire her took about three days, so when I made the decision of who to hire, I wasn't quite ready to actually take the step and send off my manuscript. I had expected it to take quite a while to find someone suitable, who was willing to take me on. Because I was still working on my own edit, and wanted some people to read my novel before I sent it out, and my editor was about to go on holiday, we decided that the work would start in June when she gets back. So I haven't signed the contract yet, and I also haven't sent any money.

And that is the end of my series on what I learned while working on hiring a freelance editor. If you know something I've missed, please feel free to share! And stay tuned as I go through the process. I'll definitely have updates.
jessicasteiner: (I Write Therefore I Am)
This is the fourth installment of my series about hiring a freelance editor. You can see an index here and zero in on the topic that most interests you, or find all of the topics under the 'editing' tag.

Before I set out to do my research, I thought that there were basically two, maybe three kinds of edits. I thought there was a substantive edit, where the editor would go in depth about structure, style, characters, plot, and everything else. I knew this was a major undertaking (though I didn't quite understand HOW major, or how expensive), a copy edit, which I really didn't know what that was, and a proofread, which is basically just checking for typos, and which I wasn't sure was actually separate from copy editing.

Boy, was I wrong.

Manuscript Consultation

As an unpublished novelist, the first thing that most of the editors that I contacted suggested I obtain is a manuscript consultation. This isn't really an edit, but more of a general overview, giving me feedback about all kinds of things, from style to pacing. My impression is that an editor will give detailed notes on my manuscript, but won't actually go line by line and suggest fixes.

The idea is that for a first time novelist, you may not want to embark on a thorough substantive edit if your book simply isn't anywhere near publishable quality. As editors charge by the hour, if your writing needs major, major work, a full, line by line edit may be hugely expensive, because there will be so much that needs fixing.

A manuscript consultation allows you to get feedback from a neutral third party, which you can then take and try to either improve on that manuscript by applying the feedback, or chuck it out and start fresh if it's completely broken and not worth saving. Many people have never had anyone other than themselves or maybe a loving spouse or parent look at their work, so a consultation can be the first time they've ever gotten real feedback on things that they can try to improve.

Substantive Edit

This is basically what I expected it was, going over the book and doing a major review of macro-level issues, such as plot, structure, pacing, etc. Some editors will call this a structural edit, or simply a manuscript edit.

Stylistic Edit

Some editors offer this type of edit as a separate item from their substantive edit. Instead of looking at logical, structural items, the editor will help you to polish your own, unique voice and make it consistent throughout the manuscript. The editor also helps to smooth out the language by clarifying meaning and eliminating jargon that may make your manuscript difficult to understand. I have a feeling that editors who don't offer this service do this as part of the substantive edit.

Copy Edit

This is apparently the most comment type of edit that freelancers do, though it wasn't what I was looking for. The editor will go through line by line and correct grammar and sentence structure, clean up consistency problems, and fix punctuation.


Proofreading is the last thing that is done before the book is sent out to be printed. It's merely a process by which the editor ensures that no mistakes have been made, such as typos, in the final proofs. (A proof is basically a document that gives the printer everything they need to create a finished, printed book). They will check things like headers, page numbers and layout to ensure it all looks perfect, not just look at the words in the manuscript.

Other Stuff

Many editors also offer other services, such as project management (helping you to turn an idea for a book into a finished project), fact checking, and indexing.

Next time will be the last post in the series, in which I talk about pricing in more detail, as well as describe some of the legal issues that you should be aware of when hiring an editor.
jessicasteiner: (Default)
This is the third installment of my series about hiring a freelance editor. You can see an index here and zero in on the topic that most interests you, or find all of the topics under the 'editing' tag.

So once I was all organized and ready to go, I began my search. Being a simple-minded sort of person, I went to Google and typed "Freelance Editor" I think. And boy, there sure are a lot of them.

The first thing I discovered is that people hire people to edit a whole lot of things that I never imagined. Like resumes. I certainly know the value of having a good resume, and I had my mother and my wife look mine over for typos and did a lot of research about resume-writing when I was developing my first resume, way back in the mists of time. It never occurred to me to pay someone upwards of $30.00 to edit it. But I can see the value.

But money is for another time.

There seem to be two kinds of places where editors hang up their shingle, and depending on what you're looking for, you may prefer one or the other.

Job Boards and Organizations

There are a myriad of organizations that exist to connect freelance editors to people who want to use their services. There are huge advantages to these websites, such as:

  • Rating systems: Other people who have used the editors through the site can usually leave comments about their experiences, and rate the editors. Very useful in trying to choose a good editor for your work.

  • Searchability: The websites incorporate keyword searches, so you can search for editors who deal with your specific kind of project, instead of having to wade through every one individually.

  • Price Comparison: The nature of the website makes it easy to compare different editors. You can see how much they charged for different projects, to get a sense for how much they would likely charge for your project

The websites I looked at were: Edit Avenue and oDesk. They both have different formats and advantages. Edit Avenue was focused entirely on editors, but the projects were generally less than 20 pages, so I'm not sure if they actually take full-length novels. oDesk had everything from ghost writers to editors and many other kinds of professionals, but was very searchable, making it easy to narrow down the search.

The one downside I found from these websites was that - rightly or wrongly - I got the sense that the people there had less experience. They have a less professional feel than the individual websites. While I'm sure that many of the editors on the sites are highly competent and experienced, anyone can show up and hang out their shingle, though thankfully the sites also include a resume.

Ultimately, I didn't end up contacting anyone on the job boards, though I did note down several I wanted to contact. I'm sure if the steps I took hadn't turned out, I'd have contacted a few people on both Edit Avenue and oDesk.

Individual Websites

My googling also tracked down a couple of people who had created websites of their own. These are individualized websites, so they're all very different. One of them had a form that you could fill in if you were interested in getting a quote. Another had a blog that I snooped in as part of my research, to see if I felt any kind of connection with the person.

The websites had information about pricing, and about their experience. It seemed overall that people who had made their own website were more highly experienced freelancers, with significant credits to their name.

Beyond the more professional feel of having a website, I found that I felt a more individual sense of who these people were. As a result, I felt more comfortable diving in and contacting a few right off the bat, to ask for quotes.

I wound up contacting three people like this. I filled in the form on the one person's blog, and for the other two I simply sent emails outlining generally what I was looking for and asking for a quote.

Two people got back to me within 24 hours. Both of them told me that they didn't have time to take on my project, but offered to refer me to someone else who was equally experienced and might have the time. I took them both up on this offer, which takes me to the third section of this post.


When you think about it, the entire publishing industry basically works on referrals. There's definitely something about having someone say "Hey, this person is good" that just gives people more confidence. I found it very gratifying that the people who didn't have time to take on my project immediately turned around and referred me to someone they trusted.

I'm sure that the editor felt the same way, that a friend of theirs was putting me in touch with a writer that they thought would be a good fit.

I was careful to note down who had referred me to whom in my editing spreadsheet, so that when I contacted them, I could refer to the original person. I really wanted to be able to say "So and so suggested that I contact you", to create a connection. And one thing that I really wanted was to find someone that I connected with on a personal level, someone that I can build a relationship with. I wanted to find an editor that I could work with well, rather than having a faceless person reading my work and giving me suggestions.

Next time, I'll discuss the types of edits that one can hire a freelancer to do for you.


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Jessica Steiner

February 2016

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