My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Best Magic System (Poll Results Semifinal 2)

Next week we have lots of poll stuff that'll be going up, including our February poll nominations and our final round of the Best Magic Poll.

So here are the results from the second semifinal round of the Best Magic poll. Everything from His Dark Materials and up will be going on to the final round. Look for that tomorrow!

Thank you to so very many for voting.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Return of the Weekend Warrior

I'm going to start blogging on weekends again.

But Chris! I'm sure you're all thinking. You have so much going on. You can't possibly blog on the weekends and take care of people through chemo and have time for all those groupie threesomes! 

That's true. But there's method to my madness and it goes beyond simple sadism (at least this time).

1- I have a lot of fluffy posts to share. Ever since I stopped blogging on weekends, I've slowly but surely started to accumulate a backlog of low priority posts. Nothing vital, but just things like thank you notes from our donation beneficiaries, poll results, menu clean ups, revised older posts. Things that generally I would never want to use up a week day to post. Unless I want to post two or three times a day (I don't) I really need an extra couple of days a week where some of that lower importance stuff can go in (and the curious can dig around and look at it at their leisure).

2- It's probably going to be weekdays that are more often emergencies.  Though all I can tell you for sure about the next four or five months is that our regular productivity is likely to be low and sporadic, it seems like most of the really sudden emergencies that require either hospital runs or immediate childcare tag ins happen actually on the weekends. So those are more likely the days where I'm going to wave the white flag and admit I just can't get a post up.

So for the time being, at least, we're back on at LEAST Saturdays (maybe Sundays too) in order to keep everything running smoothly here, not spam several posts a day, and to keep the content at about the right place even given that some weekdays are simply going to disappear into "Childcare! Sorry!" posts.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Should I Hire an Editor? By Bethany Brengan

Should I Hire an Editor? (What to Look for and How to Decide If You Need One)
by Bethany Brengan

First a little background. I am currently a freelance writer and editor and have been for several years. Before this, I worked at a small independent publisher—first as a copyeditor, and later, as Editorial Director (a.k.a. “Person Who Deals with Author Meltdowns”).

I find that writers are often uncertain about what exactly an editor does and whether or not they need one. If you are in that boat, here are some questions to ask yourself.

  1. Where are you in the process? An editor doesn’t need to see your manuscript until you’ve done at least three thorough revisions yourself. I have worked with early versions of books before (because of time constraints or as part of a developmental edit), but it’s very time-consuming, and therefore, expensive. And usually, the advice that I end up giving to early birds is “Go back. Fix [specific things] and then contact me again.” You can save yourself some steps (and money), by vetting your own work as much as possible. Have you joined a writers group? Have you pawned off your novel on “friend who reads a lot and whose opinion I trust”? Let the work sit a little between revisions so that you can come back to it with fresh eyes. Professional editing, if you need it, comes later. Don’t let it distract you from writing.
  2. What are your publishing goals? If you plan to self-publish (and charge readers for the publication), I can almost guarantee that you will need an editor. (Some POD, hybrid, or self-publishers will offer a copyediting service. A handful offer more complex edits. The quality of and the amount you will pay for these services will vary. If possible, look through some of the edited books put out by the company before signing on.) One of the major hurdles to marketing a self-published book is to overcome the negative “vanity press” image a lot of readers still have. Poor editing is part of this stereotype. And sometimes, unfortunately, it’s earned. If I had a dollar for each time an author told me, “Oh, it’s almost ready to print” of a manuscript that then required moderate to heavy copyediting (never mind the content editing). . . well, I still wouldn’t be rich, but I could definitely throw a lavish tea party.
Most traditional publishers have in-house editors. This leads some writers to shrug and say, “Oh, well. . .they’ll fix that in editing, right?” Only if you make it that far. Publishing is a business. And every book is a risk. No matter how promising “the bones” of a manuscript are, a publisher won’t accept it if the cost of the editing hours required to clean it up is too high. I worked briefly in acquisitions at my small publisher, and since I was also the main editor, sometimes I’d look at a submission and see the months and months of work ahead of me and think, Nope, not worth it. That said, many traditionally published writers didn’t hire editors before submitting their manuscripts to publishers or agents. But they did make sure their work was in the best shape possible. And that should always be your goal.
  1. What type of editing do you need? Editing comes in a lot of flavors. Keep in mind that the following definitions are not strict categories and they often bleed into each other.
  • Proofreading. This is mostly for catching typos. This is usually what people mean when they say, “Oh, my great-aunt’s sister helped me edit my novel.” It’s an important step, but it’s considered the very lowest rung of the editing ladder (i.e., unpaid interns who also have to clean the office microwave do this). And it’s usually a last step rather than a first.

  • Copyediting. The editor catches typos, punctuation errors, bad sentence structure, confusing word choice, grammatical problems (e.g., subject-verb disagreement, changes in tense, dangling modifiers, etc.). The editor will also decide on more subjective areas of English (e.g., copy editor vs. copyeditor). Signs of a good copyeditor include: a well-thumbed copy of The Chicago Manual of Style and knowledge of several style guides and grammar texts. Copyediting may also include basic fact-checking.

  • Line editing. This is copyediting on crack. Not only will your grammar and punctuation be on point and your meaning clear, your sentences will sound good. Not just “correct” or “good enough.” A good line editor makes you sound like a smoother, more articulate version of yourself. This is about tweaking sentences that are correct but verbose and challenging descriptions that are clear but boring. This is about making your sentences sparkle. (Some editors will simply refer to this as a form of copyediting.)

  • Content (or structural or full-manuscript) editing. This is where you really get your money’s worth. Correct comma placement means nothing if your plot has the structural integrity of cooked spinach. Content editing covers everything a manuscript is about and made of. This might be as simple as moving a couple chapters and revising the introduction. It might be as intense as rewriting the protagonist’s motivation and character arc. It’s simply whatever the book requires to be its best version. Good content brings readers (and sells copies) in ways that great punctuation can’t. (Content editing is sometimes done as a separate process from copyediting, especially if intense revisions are expected.)

  • Developmental editing. I’ve heard content editing also referred to as this, but generally developmental editing is when the editor helps you develop your book. It’s sometimes just helping you work out your ideas before writing, and other times, it’s a close cousin to ghostwriting.

  1. What should I look for in an editor? Does the editor come recommended by another writer? That’s usually a good sign, especially if that writer can give you specific examples the editor’s skill. Many freelancer editors will give you a small sample edit for free or a minor fee. I find this sample to be the strongest indicator of quality. Are the comments on the sample edit clear and insightful? If there are line edits, do they make your work more concise? Do you sound like the best version of yourself? You want an editor who will be honest with you, who respects your voice as a writer but also pushes you. Especially if you hire a content editor, you need to pick someone you can question. (I love when authors challenge me on edits or ask for explanations. My family is tired of listening to me rant about semicolons.)
  2. I can’t afford editing. Am I doomed? No and yes. Kno-Pub the Terrible is not going rise from the Pit of  Obscurity and curse your manuscript to the Eternal Slush Pile. You are doomed to be creative and work hard. But you’re a writer, so this is the fate you’ve already chosen. If grammar and punctuation are  your weaknesses, start brushing up. Sites like Grammar Girl offer grammar advice in digestible bites. If you struggle with plot, I often recommend Story by Robert McGee (even though it’s technically about scriptwriting; I’ve yet to find another book that tackles essence of story structure so well). If your prose is clunky or overwrought, consider reading Beyond Style by Gary Provost. (I don’t agree with Provost on everything, but he’s great at explaining how to build pacing into your sentences.) Bribe beta readers with coffee and chocolate. If you’re truly desperate for an editor, find someone who is starting out (there is a group on Goodreads for connecting writers with editors). Sometimes, beginning editors will work for reduced fees in exchange for recommendations, but be warned, the quality of these edits varies widely. Also consider paying for a small section of edits (your first chapter or a query letter) from an editor you trust and gleaning as much as you can from the notes.

If you had questions about editing, I hope that begins to answer them. Now here’s some free advice for the road: You can end a sentence with a preposition (but that doesn’t always mean you should). In American English, commas and periods go inside quotation marks. It’s okay to break any of the rules, but only if it gives the readers something.

Bethany F. Brengan is a freelance writer and editor who reads too many comics. She is a contributing writer to Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder: Scholars and Creators on 75 Years of Robin, Nightwing and Batman (McFarland Books). Her poetry has appeared in The 2015 Poet’s MarketPoetry Quarterly, and The Crucible. She can be found at www.brenganedits.com and

If you would like to guest blog for Writing About Writing we would love to have an excuse to take a day off a wonderful diaspora of voices (even if they don't always agree with me). Take a look at our guest post guidelines, and drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

For Those Whose Breath Might Be Bated

We've had a medical/childcare emergency today that required massive amounts of Uncle Chris tag ins to prevent a warp core breach.

We have a wonderful guest blog that we'll put up tomorrow, and then on Saturday, some NEWS!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Last Chance to Vote (Best Magic Semifinal 2)

What is the best magic system in fiction?   

In order to keep the enthusiasm for this poll hot and fresh, the turnover is going to be very, very fast.

That means our second semifinal round is almost over already.  Tomorrow I'll tabulate results and put up the FINAL poll.

Everyone will get four votes (4). The top five names of each poll will go on to the final round. Before you simply vote for your favorite four, consider that, as there is no ranking of those four votes; each vote beyond one dilutes the power of your choices a little more. So if you have a genuine favorite–or pair of favorites–it's better to use as few votes as possible.

The poll itself is on the left side, at the bottom of the side menus.