First, a little background.
I searched for a long time to find someone I felt comfortable with before handing my book over, but I knew I wouldn’t publish without getting a thorough clean up from a professional. This step came after a dozen beta readers and a jillion revisions, more than three years into my project. Like so many times, I figured it was done and all it needed was some tweaking here and there.
After our initial contact, Jennifer sent me a short agreement to sign, I sent her my creation and then tried not to think about it too much.
In less than a month, she provided me with three final docs: an overall critique, a detailed line-by-line edit in ‘tracking’ format, and a finished version with all edits accepted. Her use of the tracking feature made it easy to ‘accept’ or ‘reject’ each edit and/or comment.
Word’s tracking feature makes the changes in red, so it’s kind of like getting a paper back from your English teacher. It didn’t look too bad, I thought initially. I could make the revisions in a month.
It turned out to be more like five months. Jennifer’s feedback helped me see the weak spots in both plot and character. I knew the only way to create more tension between the antagonist and my MC was to increase the evil Professor’s presence in the story and I ended up weaving three additional chapters into the book.
But Jennifer was also generous with praise when she liked certain passages. I felt like I was getting her perspective as both an editor and a reader.
I was extremely happy with the results of Jennifer’s work. She was friendly, yet professional and communicated well during the process. She gave me a time frame for finishing and let me know once or twice that she was on track. She actually completed it one day early.
I feel very fortunate to have found Scribe Consulting and highly recommend Jennifer’s work.
Here’s my interview with her:
How did you become an editor? What’s your background?
Ever since I was a kid, reading and writing were among my favorite activities. At Western Michigan University, I spent one semester thinking I might be a business major, then threw all caution to the wind and decided to major in English Literature. I was lucky to graduate at a time when the economy was fine, and I fell into a nonprofit communications position, not really knowing anything about the field, but my writing and editing skills made it a fine match. At the same time, I was volunteering for a new biweekly local newspaper, and soon I was named their editor in chief. I did that for a few years and then eventually worked as editor of a larger local business magazine.
But as the years went on, I missed writing fiction (something I did a little of in college) and I began to work on my own fiction again, taking classes and participating in critique groups. I also began seeking outside editing jobs, to help other writers with their writing. To this day, my favorite job was one I had in college, working as a writing consultant and helping other students with their writing at WMU’s Writing Center. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I quit my job to work on Scribe Consulting full-time, and I am lucky in that I’ve been able to somewhat recreate my favorite job at the Writing Center and work with writers every day.
Tell us about some of your recent projects.
I’m currently working with a writer on a theory he’s developing that takes a new look at how megalithic construction was done in Ancient Egypt. That’s been interesting, for sure! I also recently finished editing a book by Scott Brent on interviewing for a job. It wasn’t your typical book on interviewing and it’s been great to see his progress in self-publishing his book. It’ll be out this summer. I receive the “Help a Reporter Out” emails everyday and keep an eye on what kind of sources reporters need on any given day. Because of that, I helped Scott get featured in an article on Monster.com (http://career-advice.monster.com/job-interview/interview-questions/pharma-sales-interview-tips/article.aspx), where he was able to share some of the tips from his book. We couldn’t have asked for a better outlet; the people reading that site are exactly his audience. It only took me thirty seconds to forward the opportunity, and it makes me happy to see clients showcased in that way.
What common errors in grammar do you see most often?
Misuse or lack of commas is a frequent one; some people use too many and some eschew them entirely. When to use hyphens is another one. Heck, there are even some rules that I have to look up every time, like the difference between further and farther or lay vs. lie. Sometimes the sneakiest errors are the ones you don’t see right away, like accidentally typing “weather” instead of “whether.”
What bugs you the most in the area of poor writing?
If a writer is open to feedback and interested in learning how to be a better writer, chances are, I won’t be bugged, no matter what shape the writing is in. Writers who are unwilling to accept feedback on their writing do bug me, but luckily, none of my clients are really that way, since they are coming to me on their own accord. I’m a firm believer that any writing at any level deserves a critique from an outside person before it sees the light of day. My own writing is far from perfect, and I meet regularly with a critique group as well.
Name 5 things that you feel give a character strength and interest.
- Conflict. Make getting what your characters want mean they have to do something they don’t want to do.
- Action. In real life, we only think about doing something crazy. In fiction, your characters should DO something crazy.
- Flaws. A character who doesn’t have flaws is a boring character and not a very sympathetic one.
- Regret. It’s a real human emotion, and it can add some interesting depth to your story.
- Perseverance. If your character’s goal is important to him/her (which it better be), he or she should stop at nothing to accomplish it. Whatever the character runs into along the way may surprise you as the writer and makes your story interesting.
Name 5 things that you feel give the plot strength and interest.
- Tension. Make every page have some sort of tension.
- Raise the stakes. What will happen if your protagonist doesn’t get what he/she wants? Is it important enough for the reader to care, too? Make sure it is.
- Real dialog. Write dialog the way you hear it. It’s choppy sometimes.
- Twists and turns. Try to throw in a few unexpected twists, but don’t make them so unbelievable that they don’t make sense in the end. Make sure you’ve given subtle clues leading up to them.
- Subplots. Adding a sub storyline to your main plot can help relieve tension and add extra depth.
Note: both of these lists were heavily influenced by Donald Maass. All of his books are awesome: http://www.maassagency.com/books.html
Do you write? What genre?
I’m currently working on a Young Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy novel, and I hope to finish my 439th draft this year and start sending it around to literary agents again. I love reading the Young Adult genre and wanted to take a stab at writing in it. I’m also currently working on a nonfiction book proposal with a former colleague that would be considered narrative nonfiction. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for both projects! Beyond that, I also do a lot of business, marketing, and PR-type writing.
What kinds of editing projects are you seeking from writers?
I’m comfortable editing almost anything, from fiction to nonfiction and everything in between. I do generally ask for a sample and always try to do a quick sample edit before any agreements are made, so there are no surprises on either end.
How can they find you online?
My website is www.scribe-consulting.com, and I hope to be launching a blog soon on that site with tips for writers. I’ve noticed a lot of my clients are seeking different roads to publication, so I thought it might be useful to gather some of their advice and lessons learned in that blog. I also recently started a Twitter account for Scribe Consulting (@scribecons), where I’ve been trying to push out interesting articles and tips.
You’ve heard it before, but I’ll reinforce the advice to get a professional edit before releasing your book to the public. As Dean Wesley Smith says, “Think like a publisher.”