The third Serious Writer Tour Stop was held in Tallahassee, FL this past week and we were so encouraged by the amazing people we met. It was truly a pleasure to teach the classes, but more importantly, to spend time getting to know the attendees.
As is tradition, Michelle Medlock Adams got a group shot with her selfie stick!
If you’re excited about a Tour Stop coming to your area, be sure to sign up for our newsletter. Each week we send out valuable content and upcoming event information. We also give away free courses and prizes!
Writing nonfiction carries a promise to the reader that not only extends to the book as a whole, but also within chapters, and to be nitty gritty, the sub-headings as well.
If you pick up a book called “Get Out of Debt in Six Months or Less,” you expect the author to share tips and strategies to do just that. Inside of Chapter One, titled “Sell Everything You Own and Live in a Van Down By the River,” the author is promising to share not only how to significantly reduce your possessions, but how to relocate to a waterside location.
If the author talks about reducing credit card debt in this chapter, a promise has been broken and subconsciously, the trust factor wanes.
Introducing the Boomerang Method
After you’ve written your first draft (remember, Stephen King says that first one is just for you) you get to play with the content. Move it around. Delete it. Add subheadings. Fill in gaps. And make sure that everything you’re talking about in the chapter relates back to the promise of the chapter.
It must boomerang.
The chapter title, subtitle, and opening lines throw out the promise…and the rest of the content strengthens and explains that promise by always relating it back. Boomerang!
As the author, you set the tone and parameters for your topic and your audience reads in good faith that you’re going to provide them value. One of the biggest mistakes we make as authors is trying to cram too much information into our articles, posts, or chapters. When we overdo, we aren’t digging deeper into the content, instead, we’re only scraping the surface like a rake across a zen garden.
This is easily understood when it comes to chapter content with clear boundaries. In my dating guide, the chapters on Red Flags, Kissing, and Modesty may have had a little bit of crossover, but not much. It was easy to know which stories went in each chapter and which tips and dating rules to include in each.
The trickier part was making sure that the subheadings were always appropriate within each chapter. Guidelines on how to navigate the engagement months didn’t boomerang to the promise given in the chapter called Confidence, and so on.
This may seem like we’re focusing on extremely nit-picky details, but I believe this is one of the marks of great writing. The next time you’re editing your work, look at sections inside your chapters. Are you relating everything back to the specific topic at hand? Are you giving information without explaining to your reader why it needed to be in this specific chapter?
I’ll admit this is one of the hardest parts of self-editing for my own work, and it’s often the feedback I’m looking for with my first readers.
Every story matters.
Every word matters.
Grab your coffee, your water bottle, or whatever drink is closest to you and raise it with me. Here’s to great writing and high standards. Cheers.
Bethany Jett is the Co-Owner of Serious Writer, Inc., and Vice President of Platinum Literary Services where she specializes in marketing, nonfiction proposal creation, ghostwriting, and developmental editing. Her love for email funnels and social media led to her pursuing her Master of Fine Arts degree in Communication with an emphasis in marketing and public relations.
When we think of our writing goals, we often focus on what we actually have no control over.
“I want to be a bestselling author.”
“I want to be published with Harper Collins.”
“I want to sign contracts with this agency.”
Those are great dreams and I hope they all come true for us, but honestly, we have no control over what someone else offers us in terms of representation or contracts. We also have no control over our readers purchasing our books. What we can do, however, is set goals based on what we can control:
“I’m going to do x, y, and z marketing strategies to sell a huge number of books.”
“I’m going to send a proposal to Harper Collins.” (Check submission guidelines — this is just an example!)
“I’m going to query this agent.”
Attack your Goals the SMART Way
The SMART method assures that your goals are actually things you can accomplish.
Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant, Realistic Time-based (deadline)
There needs to be room for WOW, so make sure to hold on to your hopes and dreams!
We had several guests pop in and share their writing projects and goals, and I know I found encouragement (and some great ideas) from what they said! Below the replay you’ll find our guests’ goals and some of the action items they’re using. Enjoy!
Our Awesome Guests
Have a book published at the end of the year.
Randy segments his day into four different ways: edit, write/rewrite, learn, and plot in a room with no electronics and transcribes them into snowflake. Also writes 1500 words every week to a mentor who critiques it and sends it back.
(1) Working on a book launch with SCWI.
(2) Either start a new series or continue with her current one.
Market to the parents. Homeschool groups. Maybe write some curriculum.
(1) finish writing devotions
(2) editing novel
(3) finish writing proposal
Breaking her day down into 15 minutes and trying to get stuff done; continually editing
Working on four different projects “Serial Launch Program;” Has been a paid writer for over 10 years. Get the writing done.
Three different guest writing opportunities. Stop calling her work a “project” — spending an hour and a half working with seniors telling their stories. It will be a training program. Been approached by a geriatric center to implement throughout West Virginia. Scheduled out the implementation for individuals, putting it on Udemy, and finishing the system for the facility.
(1) Protect time.
(2) Write a specific letter to a specific person a week.
(3) Main writing goal: have first drafts of book 3 and 4 in my series done.
(1) Practice saying “no” and choose to do things that are in his gift-set and relying on his congregation to use their gift set. Through the end of the year, not pick up the stuff he’s let go of during the sabbatical. Have margin.
(2) From Lori Roeleveld’s class at Blue Ridge – Write letters of encouragement to younger people in your congregation – and let them be the best writing you do. It blesses someone directly.
(3) Book launch tonight to sign books. Indie publishing. Goal is four books, so will write the next two books together and publish within 4-6 weeks together.
Anna Floit, owner of The Peacock Quill, (sweetly named in honor of her grandmother) started with Tyndall Publishers, worked with Thomas Nelson (who is now with Harper Collins), and has continued to build her career with big name publishers and authors, as well as writers ready to indie publish.
She started working with Lifeway recently as an editor on one of their production magazines—the September issue of Home Life magazine. We’re thrilled to have her today on Writers Chat. Check out the replay, the links, and the paraphrased transcript below.
Macro vs Micro Viewpoints
Developmental substantive editing—“The Macro View” means making sure the work flows and makes sense, studying characters if it’s fiction, but that’s where the focus is on the editor’s end. Anna will also wordsmith it along the way to make it more clear.
Proofreading is “The Micro View,” which consists of grammar, punctuation, and line editing.
Fun fact: In her book Twirl, Patsy Clairmont credited Anna!
1. What sparks your eye in a pitch from a client?
Since I’m not an agent, acquisitions editor, or publisher, I’m not looking at a manuscript to see if it’s publish-worthy. My job is to make authors to look their best. At that point, it’s up to an agent or acquisitions team to see if the book is marketable. Whatever an author brings, I put it into shape.
If it’s a self-publishing author, I give suggestions from a reader’s perspective. I really believe everyone has a story and that every story matters. It’s my job to validate my authors. All I’m doing is spitting and polishing! I maintain my authors’ voices so it sounds like them and not me. If an author uses the same word over and over, I teach them lessons on the thesaurus.
Work that I turn down is against my value system.
A lot of work is done through referrals, so there’s a bridge there. I also have an inquiry page on my website to help understand the project better.
2. How should an author choose an editor?
Understand the value of a great editor.
Editing is really time-consuming. I don’t think a lot of people understand the methodology that goes into it. Grammar rules change all time, like the comma before the word “too.” She versus her…the world would be a better place if people used pronouns correctly! Often the price reflects the time and knowledge.
NYT Bestselling author Jon Acuff recommends to spend your money up front. “You have the rest of your life to market this book, so spend the money on an editor.”
A lot of editors do charge for sample edits because those are working hours. A friend’s grandfather always said, “If you hire your friends, pay them more.” It’s such a different opinion than what most people do.
Anna says, “I change passive voice into active voice a lot, and then let my writers know why I’m making the change. ‘As a child, my dad told me…’ That means it happened when the dad was a child. It should read, ‘When I was a child, my dad told me…'”
Question: How do you know when you can use passive voice? Sometimes it’s the only thing that works.
Anna: I try to change the verbs into active. Passive voice uses a lot of helping verbs and I try to get rid of them whenever possible. Sometimes they just work, though.
Know your audience, know the rules…but sometimes they can be bent to say something better.
3. If you’re working as an editor, how do you determine your rates?
Anna: Usually there is a range. A developmental edit with research is more expensive than a proofreading edit. I go by word count because fonts, margins, and font sizes are all different. On the low end, $8 for every 250 words. On the high end, it goes to $14 for every 250 words. I can often pick up through email communication if the person is a good writer, or if the project is going to take a long time. I’ll look at a sample chapter to get an idea of their writing style. There are a lot of factors.
Working with a bestseller changed my rate. Just like an actor gets paid more after they win a Grammy, this is our craft, and we have to do the same thing as we grow.
For someone starting out, you want to make sure you’re within the industry standard. Maybe start at the $4 per 250 word mark for proofreading to get some clients under your belt.
BONUS #1: Are there red flags that authors and writers should look out for when hiring an editor?
Someone who doesn’t:
Listen to what you want
Pay attention to your voice
Show interest in you, just interested in having work
Anna: I like to build relationships with my authors. I don’t use e-lance or sites where you’re someone behind a computer. I want to get to know the person I’m working with and be accessible. I do have guidelines in place. Even if I’m working around the clock, I don’t normally send emails outside of typical working hours so I don’t give the impression that I’m on call at all times. I don’t want to let anyone down if I’m not answering their emails at nine o’clock at night.
Expectations and communication are important, so if someone isn’t willing to do that for you, it could be a red flag.
BONUS #2: What is a blog editor and what do they do?
It’s typically around 500 words of copyediting—basically editing posts before they go live. It’s important to have a consistent voice and look polished. You may not be a writer but need to have content on your site. Having a professional editor look through your work can help clean up and find anything that’s missing.
Format: 12 point, Times New Roman, 1” margins, Full Justified
Certain Rules and Guidelines: how to use numbers in a document (written out one through one hundred. After that they can be numeric.)
Don’t use all caps to emphasis. Use italics.
The Oxford Comma — having a list of more than two things. The Oxford Comma goes after the last item in a list. It eliminates confusion by having it there. Also called the serial comma.
No double spaces after punctuation.
Reprinting and republishing is really expensive, so try to catch everything on the front end. Anna recommends her readers hiring a proofreader after her to sweep up.