So, you want to be a writer? It takes talent and lots of hard work but the satisfaction is well worth the investment. Here are some common mistakes that every writer makes:
Using Passive voice
Passive voice is a common technique used in speech and writing. It can sometimes make your content incredibly wordy or vague, but when the action of describing something belongs more to what someone else does than where they are doing it at any given time.
One of the top common writing errors is spelling. You might think it’s silly, but that’s just proof of how important spellingreallyis! Sometimes even your spell check can miss spotting homonyms- which means you need an expert eye for this kind of work to get things right on paper (or screen).
Wrong word usage
Using the wrong word can have serious consequences. If you don’t know your vocabulary, then these mistakes will often follow suit and mean something else entirely! For example “compose” means both make up a musical composition as well as form by gathering parts into groups or sections that are related in some way.” A small change such as this could result in an entirely different meaning being conveyed altogether depending on how it is used.
Parallelism is a critical element of good writing, and it’s easy to fall short when using bullet points. You should always start every point with similar words because your readers won’t understand what you’re trying to say if there isn’t symmetry between the sentences or phrases within them; this also helps make sure that they’ll be able to follow along without getting lost!
The most common use for an apostrophe is to show contraction, as in don’t or could’ve. This can be confused with possession and takes away from the meaning of your sentence if it’s used incorrectly; though sometimes this misuse might make sense.
Even the best writers have made mistakes before. But it’s important to learn from them, correct your errors and make sure they don’t happen again in the future. AI tools can help with this as well, check out online tools that can help any writer.
The goal of any writer, editor, or otherwise is to have their work read as quickly and effortlessly by readers. It’s important that you’re able to hit those high notes because if not then people will simply stop reading! But don’t worry there are lots of ways to self-edit your own writing (so even when an editor isn’t available), they can still enjoy what was written without feeling too frustrated with how difficult it might’ve been understood due in large part thanks to all these tips below:
Paper over screen
You can find spelling mistakes, sentence fragments, and run-ons more easily when reading your words on the printed page because they are easier to spot than trying to track them down against a bright computer screen; you might even want to change up some formatting if that helps give an alternative perspective of what’s happening in each paragraph.
Do you hear yourself?
As a writer, you want to make sure that what comes out sounds witty and intelligent. But how do we know if our writing actually does either? The best way for me as an author was when I heard myself talk back in real-time while editing. Listening to how your writing sounds can also help you listen for lines that don’t sound right, like characterless sentences or overuse of particular phrases. Sometimes a writer doesn’t realize their sentence structure is poor until they hear it read aloud.
Edit each line
When you’re editing your own work, it’s important to look closely at the words that were written. A good editor will systematically go through every line of a piece and I suggest doing this as well so any outstanding issues can be found like grammatical errors or typos before they become distracting in tone with other aspects of content. It is a tedious process that may seem difficult but when done properly these tasks should not take too long-just patience!
Take a break
We all know the feeling of staring at our computer screens wondering what we are doing with our lives. When you first start writing, it’s easy to get wrapped up in your thoughts and not see what is written. Stepping away from the document will allow for a fresh perspective that can help with improving sentence structure as well as creative issues like clutter or lackluster subjects.
Editing your own work isn’t easy but finishing the job by making changes on paper can feel satisfying. While most would argue that you cannot beat a professional editor here are a few online tools that can help any writer.
Cristel is “Saving the world from bad writing, one project at a time, all while drinking copious amounts of coffee.” Cristel is part of the Serious Writer team, lending her editing expertise to writers at conferences and online. Mentoring and coaching authors through the editing and proposal process is what makes her shine. She is also a member of The Christian Pen and owner of The Editing House, where she edits manuscripts and other projects for the Christian industry. Managing editor for Decapolis Publishing in Lansing, Michigan for 7 years. Editing reviewer for CBA for 5 years. Editing for Elk Lake Publishing for 4 years. Deep POV edit is her specialty.
Does everyone need to hire an editor for their work?
Well I hope that everybody who’s listening or watching loves coffee. Because I actually spend my Saturdays over at Starbucks and there are actually three other authors that are there on Saturdays doing writing. We’ve had some wonderful chats, and every single one of them are indie authors and they all will pay for the editing because they know that there are errors in their babies. They realize their focus is just the writing. They want to tell a story, and they want to tell a good story, but they may not necessarily be good at some of the grammar, and some of the specifics that make it easier for a reader to understand what they’re saying. Even before you submit for a proposal, make sure it goes through a professional editor.
Where should the editing process begin?
I think that the last few clients that I’ve worked with have been writing long enough that they actually get people that are good readers that are friends of theirs that they call beta readers. They will send it out and have a friend of theirs read it and make sure that there are no questions in their minds. Beta readers are kind of the first line of editing, and it’s usually just a friend that loves to read. If an editor gets something that’s already gone through that process, it makes my job a whole lot easier. The less amount of time I have to work on a project, the cheaper it is for the author to get the job out there.
I think that the one thing that I enjoy doing the most is actually working with authors as I’m working on their book. I usually make a phone call as soon as I take a job, and I ask some very detailed questions. One of the ones that a lot of people don’t know how to answer initially is “when you’re reader is done with your book, what do you want them to feel like? What are the takeaways that you want them to have?” I’m honored to walk alongside an author in “birthing their baby.”
What are your pet peeves as an editor?
I think the hardest thing is people who are just extra wordy and they don’t need to be. I think people just want to read how you would have a conversation with someone. I think just telling people what’s in your heart and doing it in a conversational style makes it so much easier.
Basically words that we repeat a lot like, “that, and, of, very.” I just got done editing one where every other sentence was an exclamation point. The more exclamations, the more question marks and the more ellipses that you use, the less powerful they are.
What are some things new writers should know before going into the editing process?
We (as editors) are the watch guards of what you want your reader to read and come away with. So if I can make sure that I know the knowledge you want the reader to have at the end of the book, or the feeling that you want them to come away with, I can be that watch guard. I think probably the hardest part for a new author is having an editor ask them to go places they don’t want to go. Especially with a brand new author, I end up kind of holding their hand as we walk through. There’s a thing called a substantive edit. A substantive edit is where I literally dig deep into your story. Does the timeframe match? Are the words that you use correct for the time period? I have to walk hand in hand with an author and ask those kinds of questions.
What are some things writers should remember when submitting to publishers?
Always if you’re going to submit to a publisher, the very first thing that you need to do is you need to download a copy of their style sheet. Their style sheet will tell you how they want the document set up. Most style sheets will also tell you what the word count needs to be for each of their genres. If you submit based on their style sheet, you can pretty much be assured that they will at least read it. They will at least get started with it.
What is one piece of advice you would like to give to an aspiring author?
Don’t be afraid, and don’t be discouraged when an editor changes something. Don’t be afraid of the editor’s marks and changes. All they’re trying to do is make it better. Don’t feel threatened by it.
Oh no! Not editing! Writers dread the process, but editing is a necessary part of publishing a great book. Listen to the interview with Catherine Jones Payne of Quill Pen Editorial Services and her perspective as an author and editor and how a great professional extra “set of eyes” can change and impact a book.
In this episode:
Catherine shares her background and how she got into editing.
What does Catherine enjoy about editing?
Why does a writer need an editor?
What are the different kinds of editing?
Catherine shares about her own writing – mermaids, murder, and mayhem.
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.