Eight Useful Tips for Editing Your Book (guest post)

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Many thanks to Editor Mel Finefrock for supplying this great information.

From Caterpillar Manuscript to Butterfly Novel

Eight Useful Tips for Editing Your Book

By Mel Finefrock

Introduction

A caterpillar cannot become a butterfly without first undergoing transformation in a chrysalis. As an editor, I feel the same is true when it comes to shaping a manuscript into a publish-ready book. Though editing is multifaceted and even tedious at times, and therefore dreaded by many, it is crucial to the development of a strong text and, with persistent effort, can be manageable and even enjoyable. In this article, I will discuss the revision process through the lens of self-publishing, which is a fast-growing industry and which is becoming increasingly more accessible to those who aspire to immortalize their words on a page.

Where to Start?

Are you a new author aiming to self-publish? Are you feeling unsure about where to find an editor, or whether you can afford one? If you haven’t already, I’d suggest that you explore the many offers for editorial services on sites like KBoards. Working with freelance editors still costs, but it’s far more affordable for indie authors than other alternatives may be. Consider the investment. Maybe even talk with a prospective editor about whether (s)he offers payment plans. In the indie world, we are of the understanding that it takes some time for everyone, writer or editor, to get her business off the ground.

If it turns out that editorial services still aren’t in your budget for the time being, you may hesitate to move forward with your manuscript or, inversely, elect to publish without some sort of editing regimen beyond proofreading it independently. I highly discourage either course of action. You want your book to go somewhere, and you want it to be polished.

Words of Wisdom

The following eight tips are useful whether or not you plan to hire an editor in order to ready your manuscript for publication.

  1. Don’t panic. It’s natural to look at a manuscript of fifty thousand words or more in length and feel just a tad overwhelmed, but think about it this way–if you are the veteran of writing that book, you surely can edit it. If it helps, think of it like maintaining a garden. No matter if you don’t have a green thumb; bear with me here. You’ve planted and mulched; now you need to go back and weed, water, and dead-head everything so that your plants, flowers, or crops will stay healthy and beautiful.
  2. When it comes to grammar, spell check is your friend, but technology is not by any means infallible. One of my all-time favorite spoken-word pieces by slam poet Taylor Mali, entitled “The The Impotence of Proofreading,” perfectly illustrates and satirizes this issue. Hence, a combination of spell-checking and proofreading your work is the best self-editing regimen. Let’s say you’re a great storyteller but that you struggle with grammar and feel that spell check and the naked eye may not be sufficient. In that case, you might consult a grammar manual or even Google for those pesky dangling modifiers. A trick that even I use is to read things to myself aloud. If they don’t make sense, or I stumble over my words, it’s time to rework the syntax. Even then, we will often mentally correct an error on the page and miss it altogether, so maybe have a friend or family member read a passage aloud to you for extra insurance.
  3. Answer yourself this question: are you the type to edit as you go or to freewrite everything in a whirlwind and then come back to it? My observation is that too much of the former scenario can slow progress and that the latter lends to higher margins of error. What tends to work best for me personally is to do a little of both. Everyone writes differently, but if you’re looking to improve efficiency, try striking a balance between freewriting and editing as you go. This way, you won’t agonize over how to word a particular sentence, but you’ll catch glitches like a character’s brown eyes suddenly being blue for a few paragraphs and then going back to brown again.
  4. Don’t rush. You’re understandably excited to publish your manuscript, but the more time you allow for revision, the more issues will be resolved and the stronger your text will be. Lots of books begin with the great race that is NaNoWriMo, but you are not obligated to aim for a finished product in such a short amount of time, nor would I recommend it.
  5. Similarly, know when to take a break. I wouldn’t know this personally, because I don’t rely on computer monitors to read, but I’ve been told by friends, clients, and volunteers with the text conversion team at my alma mater’s disabilities office that they often feel more than a little cross-eyed after a few hours of hunting and pecking for grammar and formatting issues in a document. The refresh rates on monitors are bad for your eyes and can cause headaches. If you aren’t feeling your best, you aren’t doing your best. So get up, drink some water or hot tea, do a few chores or go for a walk, then come back to it later or even tomorrow. Maybe even consider printing a hard copy of your manuscript at an office supply store and attacking it with a red pen like you did back in grade school.
  6. Beta-readers are a wonderful thing. Even if you’re spot-on with spelling, grammar, and continuity, always pass your manuscript through multiple sets of hands. Solicit the opinions of willing friends and family just as you would a mentor, because sampling multiple perspectives from people of different backgrounds will help you get an idea of responses to your book. Consult other artists, too. Especially in the indie field, I see up-and-coming authors swapping critiques all the time, starting with places like Facebook groups or deviantART’s literature community. Forming relationships is important, because those connections may aid in building some publicity for you as well.
  7.  When enlisting the help of friends, family, mentors, and other artists, I recommend the discussion-based style of editing outlined in my editorial statement. In other words, if your schedule allows, avoid using track changes. Talk with your betas about the changes they’ve suggested. I personally have used this method for years, both officially and unofficially, and my clients have reportedly appreciated this style, because it fosters direct interaction with the text and helps them to understand why I’ve made a particular suggestion. Most importantly, I feel that this approach helps authors to improve and feel more confident in their writing, because they are empowered to have the final say in what happens with it.
  8. Edit your manuscript more than once. Yep, I said it. I can practically hear your collective groaning, but I have seen several books published that still had several grammatical and continuity errors, including alternate spellings of a single character’s name. In order to avoid hitting burn-out, I suggest taking some time between each round of edits. This inevitably prolongs the revision process, but holding a clean volume in your hands, I think, is the best reward in the end.

Conclusion

Many thanks to Keith for asking me to serve as a guest writer on his blog. I hope that my editing tips might be of some help to you all. Have any questions or ideas for a future blog post? Leave them in the comments!

Blogger Bio

Since graduating from the University of North Texas in May of 2013, Mel Finefrock has been following her long-time dream of working as a freelance editor. She has edited ten books, seven of which are the work of award-winning romance novelist, Krista Lakes. Mel’s greatest passion is art, which is why she loves working with authors. An artist herself, Mel writes songs and accompanies herself on guitar, has won awards for her poetry from UNT and the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, and even takes pictures once in a while, which might surprise many on account of her blindness.

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“Battlecruiser Alamo-Stars in the Sand”

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The cover for “Battlecruiser Alamo-Stars in the Sand” by Richard Tongue.

Stars in the Sand by Richhard Tongue
I’m always trying to go for an updated “Amazing Stories” type image with this work since I love that stuff so much.
Posters and high res here

Galileo’s Step Daughter by Amanda McCarter

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This is the cover for “Galileo’s Step Daughter” by Amanda McCarter.

The first of a Trilogy for which I am producing all the covers. This is the cover for "Galileo's Step Daughter" by Amanda McCarter. The first of a Trilogy for which I am producing all the covers. The style is inspired somewhat by the work Of Mucha.

I’m using key elements and characters from the story.
The style is inspired somewhat by the work of Mucha.

Posters available here: http://fav.me/d7vt28o

“To The Death” by Jerrold Mundis

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This is the cover for the collected stories of “Boris O’Hara” titled “To The Death” by Jerrold Mundis

"To the Death" by Jerrold MundisPrints and Posters available here.

After discussing the various elements involved in each story we initially tried a montage, but Jerrold decided he’s prefer to go for something with more action. Almost like a traditional pulp cover. 

It was quite a daunting subject  and I spent a lot of time collecting reference. In my fictional coliseum I wanted to include some of the Roman Gods so in the back ground you see Jupiter (King of the Gods) Mars (God of War) and Venus (God of love). I also felt it would need a great crowd bristling with excitement.

The battle is taking place in the late afternoon, the sun casting the long shadows and  bright light slashes across the crowd, through the breaks in the canvas overhang.

The gladiators battle as the woman looks on, wondering if she will have to live with the grief of losing her love and remain a slave to the older warrior or if her lover can set her free.

You can learn more about Jerrold Mundis and his work here

 

“Battle Cruiser Alamo – Sacred Honor” by Richard Tongue

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When Richard approached me to do the cover for the latest book in his highly successful Science Fiction series, I have to say I was a little intimidated."Sacred Honor" by Richard Tongue

The covers I’ve done for this series prior to this one I consider to be some of my best work.

How was I going to top what I’d already achieved?

I needn’t have worried though. As soon as I read the brief my mind was filled with ideas. and this is the amazing thing about working with Richard.

He has such a powerful vision., and it would bring out the best in any artist.

” The specification for Sacred Honor is a wind-swept plain, with a pair of officers looking up at a ruined, obviously alien statue – one of them Marshall, the other the woman from the cover of Price of Admiralty. (That goes back a bit!) They’re wearing uniform trousers and warmer brown jackets, pistols holstered at their belt. There is a red sun in the sky, casting a faint light. As for the statue – I haven’t got any fixed ideas on it, but I’d like it to evoke that old ‘Ozymandius – King of Kings’ quote. It is old, very old, and crumbling away; some pieces of it are on the ground, there’s a strange mould growing across some of it, pieces missing, that sort of thing.”

I immediately looked up the poem:

Shelley’s Ozymandias

“I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

And as I opened manga studio 5 I began to think about lost and extinct alien civilizations.

First came the wind swept plain and the alien sky. Distant alien mountains. Next I began to sketch the ancient alien statue. I thought of the Egyptians, I thought of the of the great Frazetta as he painted the work of Egdar rice Boroughs, and I began to feel a great sense of loss for the civilization that was now expired.  This emotion found it’s way into the statue I was drawing who I realized was now screaming in despair.

Finally I placed the witnesses to this tragedy, the brave explorers of Richard’s space opera. I landed their ship and sent them exploring the strange and ancient world.
Once the visual was completed I forwarded it to Richard. It looked like this: sacred honor layout 1

 

Well fortunately Richard liked it and so I went on to complete the work. As you can probably see I made a few minor changes but I think it came out well.

To be honest this kind of work is why I got interested in painting in the first place and I hope it inspires the sense of mystery and the intense desire to know more about the story that it does for me.

You can keep up to date with Richards work here: .http://richardtongue.blogspot.co.uk/

Posters and prints of this image are available here

“Spitfire Station: Triple – Cross” by Richard Tongue

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“Triple – Cross” is the cover for the first book in Richard Tongue’s “Spitfire Station” Series.

The setting is a seedy bar on a Space station.Triple Cross by Richard Tongue

Richard asked for a “film noir” type feel to the image.

The protagonist was to be seen drawing his gun while keeping hold of his drink, meanwhile behind him a glamorous singer/dancer is observed by the bar crowd.

In order to get the feel I went for deep contrast in the lighting, but everything looking a little subdued by a mass of cigarette smoke (just like in the old movies).

I also realized that  on a space station (that is spun to achieve gravity) it would likely be a low gravity environment. So everything had to have that slow motion feel.

The dancer would be taking advantage of her low weight and able to make extraordinary moves while singing.

The protagonist drawing his gun  knocks over the table and chair and the drinks almost float into the air.

Through the space station window, If you look carefully you can see a nod to the “Battlecruiser Alamo” Series.

To keep up to date with Richard’s books you can follow his blog here: richardtongue.blogspot.co.uk/

Prints and posters available here

“Different” nominated for Fantasy book of the year

This is great news

Frank Mundo’s Different nominated for Fantasy book of the year at Big Al’s Books and Pals! WOW!Frank Mundo's Different

Please Vote here It’s easy On the page just above above the comments is a survey. Just log in with email or Facebook & it’s under fantasy books

 It was a really exciting job, not like anything I’d ever done before.

Here are a few of the many illustrations.Different0001 Different0004 Different0006

 

John DeJordy’s “Transitions”

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John gave me the following Brief:John DeJordy's "Transitions"

“The setting is an elegant library with carved rosewood–as if the Sistine Chapel and a library crossed.

The focus, though, is on a painting hanging on the wall.

It is of a woman, wearing an beautiful, full-length gown as if going to a ball, and she is holding a deep-red rose. She has long, black hair and green eyes.

The portrait should have Diane sitting down, looking toward the spine of the book. Behind her, in the painting, a forest green (or some green that looks nice) tapestry with a unicorn (just enough to recognize it as such, if possible.

Diane has a slender nose and hypnotic eyes, and a wonderful smile. The smile is important. It doesn’t have to show teeth, just obviously a smile. She should be wearing a corset. The library, which I assume would be mostly on the back, would be of books and scrolls.”

To create the library I started with the amazing free “3D Mandelbulb Ray Tracer”.

Its an amazing tool and it lets you create extraordinary images with a little patience.MANDELBULB

I made multiple renders and edited them together to create the basic structure and then went on to add lots of details.

Inspiration can come from many places.

Johns Blog can be found here: http://johndejordy.com/
and his facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/john.dejordy

Posters and prints of this image here

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