Working with professional editors

My friend edits books. I pay her. She's professional, right?

Probably not.

Just because someone edits books for money doesn't necessarily make them professional. And yes, I know that just getting paid technically elevates one from the amateur to the pro status level, but that's not what this article is about.

The difference between someone who edits full time and someone who edits as their side gig:

  • Part time editors are typically very cheap (in comparison) as they need a high volume of clients to build their name and portfolio. For the part time author, that might work out just fine. But for serious writers looking to replace their day job income, we need to look elsewhere.
  • I've read dozens and dozens of stories of part time editors missing deadlines, returning less than ideal quality of work, and ghosting clients altogether. That's obviously unacceptable.

So a full time pro editor won't do that?

Nope.

Here's the difference I see more often than anything:

  • Working with a full time editor means your project is how they pay their bills. That means your work gets done, and it gets done on time and with a high standard of quality the first time. 
  • Life can't "get in the way" for a full time editor like it does so often with part time editors. I've read countless stories of people saying things like, "my editor took 6 weeks to return my book, and I found 22 typos in it! Help!" or "my editor got sick for 2 weeks and can't work on my project, who should I send it to now?"
  • Full time editors certainly have things come up in life. Death in the family, tattoo got infected, lost all their teeth in an MMA fight, whatever it might be, but that doesn't slow them down for weeks and weeks like it typically does to a part time editor. That's the main concept I've seen a lot of entry-tier writers getting confused. If you want quality work done on a professional timeline with no random delays and a 0% chance of ghosting, you have to go with someone professional. Also, the quality should just be better. But that's a topic for another day.

The last 3 books I've tried to read have had some serious issues...

I understand that many self published authors have little to no budget for editing and proofing. Many people try to edit their own manuscripts. As you can imagine, editing your own work isn't a great practice. How do you know if you wrote some absolute shit? How can you be sure that you catch every typo and grammatical mistake? I am by no means a flawless editor or writer, but some of these will make you shake your head.

Here are a few examples of things I've read in the past few days. Some of these sentences are worse than others, but all of them should have been flagged by an editor. 

Sentence 1: "Dirt coated the skirts, revealing the age and abuse that this building had survived through."

Where do I begin? Firstly, survived is redundant with through. You could simply chop the last word off and be ok as far as that error is concerned. The second issue with the sentence is one I find in a ton of self published works. The word "this" should be saved for textbooks. It hijacks the reader's attention away from the vivid imagery and reminds them that they are reading a book. I'll probably rant more on that later.

Sentence 2: "He wanted to dip down below and meet this man, ask him several questions."

Not surprisingly, sentence 2 comes from the same book as sentence 1, only a paragraph later. When I was reading, I resolved to keep going after the first glaring sentence, but gave up after the second. Again, "this" could easily be changed to "the" and some sort of connector needs to replace that comma. Perhaps, "He wanted to dive down and meet the man. Maybe he could ask him a few questions."

Sentence 3: "She decided to definitely not mention [character], because any mentions of her always upset [character], and [character] was still considering what to think about what [character] had said."

I took out the character names to somewhat hide the book. A few good rules to follow are such: if a sentences takes longer than 1 breath to read aloud, cut it down. Also, don't repeat large words within the same paragraph, much less the same sentence. Those rules aside, a few other things bother me about this line. Considering what to think about -- so... she is contemplating HOW to contemplate something else? What?

Sentence 4: "As a child, [character] was told about the Bogeyman. It's a fictional monster or entity that laid under the bed. An imaginary creature used by parents to frighten children - to teach them not to suck their thumbs, and generally to deviate from bad behavior."

First of all, you don't need to explain urban legends. You especially don't need to explain the Bogeyman. Saying "monster or entity" is useless. If you really want to make the point that the Bogeyman might not be a *monster*, just say that. Otherwise, you are wasting words. The second half of the section has a redundancy issue as well. Deviating from bad behavior includes thumb sucking. Plus, as mentioned before, you don't need to explain the origins of urban legends! Also, saying that the Boogeyman lays under the bed isn't nearly vivid enough. Unless this is children's horror, that monster needs to lurk. Maybe prowl. Perhaps he could hunt under the bed. Anything except lay there and chill out.

 

Let's talk about the word this. I performed a few searches on very successful eBooks (I have their pdfs) to see if perhaps I am the only person on Earth who hates the word this. It seems that I'm not alone. Outside of dialogue, several famous fantasy novels don't use it a single time. Sci-fi has the same results. I tested a few others and found the word only once outside dialogue, and it was used appropriately. When I see the word, it jars me. It takes me out of the moment. It makes me instantly hate the author for derailing my journey. In almost every single case, the word can easily be changed to the.

 

In closing, my advice is to hire a professional editor. Can't afford the $200+ it might cost? Don't publish until you can afford it. Releasing something with glaring mistakes will only make potential readers hate your work and never support you in the future, no matter how skilled you become.  Sacrifice up front and reap the rewards later. 

Quotation Marks and Other Instruments of the Devil

I was reading a book last night when suddenly, I came upon very strange looking punctuation. The book is horribly written trash, the apparent standard for the big presses these days, but it felt well edited. Or so I thought.

Without giving away the book, here is basically what they wrote: "Blah, blah, blah, ghost and shit, OMG teen drama, blah, blah"."

That's right - they have 3 punctuation marks... In a book that is consistently ranked in the Amazon top 1,000. Next time someone berates small press for poor editing, I really want to hand them this garbage and see what they think.

Anyways, what's the actual rule for quotations and punctuation? The error above isn't the only one I've seen. Many authors (and presumably editors) are baffled by the required location of punctuation involving quotes.

Here it is: unless you have a rather uncommon sentence structure, punctuation goes inside the quotes.

Looking for more specifics? Here is a website that beautifully explains the rules.

And of course, since the Brits insist on doing everything their own way, England basically throws all expected grammatical conventions out the window.

Interview with Evan Camby

Evan Camby

 

What got you into horror? Have you always been a fan of the genre or did one particular work pique your interest? 

 

From a very young age, I preferred horror and the macabre to anything else.  I remember one year I missed a lot of school because I got very sick, and I spent the days in bed watching a marathon of old Vincent Price films.  Many of them were based on works by Edgar Allan Poe, which guided me towards his books.  I read everything I could of Poe's and he was my first, biggest influence.  I loved the way he created such rich, Gothic atmospheres even in very short works.



On of your stories, Hat Man, deals with night terrors. Do you have any personal experience with sleep paralysis or other terror-inducing sleep disorders? An interesting phenomenon occurs during the hallucinations triggered by sleep paralysis where the brain has trouble recalling the face of a remembered person and thus places a hood or dark hat over the character in an attempt to make the blurred face appear logical. 

 

Hat Man is definitely based on night terrors I had when I was young.  In fact, 80% of what Bernice lives through in Hat Man are things that actually happened to me.  I have read all the scientific explanations behind sleep paralysis and night terrors, and I do think there is a physiological component to them.  However, no one will ever be able to convince me that there isn't also a supernatural element to what I experienced.  




Have you ever used a Ouija board yourself? If so, how did it go? 

 

I have, with a childhood friend.  We both loved ghost stories and anything spooky, so we played with it often.  The only thing I can remember happening when we played was that she would get terrible migraines almost every time, which is part of why we stopped altogether.  Another reason we stopped was a story that her mom told us.  Her mom said that when she was a little girl, she played with the Ouija with her friends, until something happened that scared them out of it.  One of the girls she played with had recently lost a family member who, by all accounts, was not a nice guy.  So, they asked the board what happened to him, if he was in a better place, that type of thing.  She told us that the board suddenly shifted under their fingers, and then spelled out "Satan knows" before sliding across the room and hitting the wall.  Of course, she might have made the whole thing up,  but that story coupled with the migraines was enough to scare us out of playing with the Ouija anymore.  I haven't picked it up since. 




Almost everyone experiences some type of terrifying, unexplained event. What's yours?  

 

Other than the night terrors, which were truly terrifying, I have experienced a lot of strange events.  I'll pick one from when I was a kid.  I grew up in a house set back deep in the woods, with big windows all over the first floor looking out at the trees. My mom says I used to stand at the windows and smile and wave outside. One day she asked me who I was waving to, and I said, "All the people."  Now, no one was outside.  At least, not that she could see.




Do you believe in ghosts? How about spiritual beings such as angels and demons?  

 

Definitely, I believe in all of them. I don't think that this life is all there is and that there is a lot we don't know and can't prove.  There is real evil in the world, both natural and supernatural.  I also believe there is pure good and love that counteracts that, whether it's angels or God or whatever your particular beliefs name it.  



When you first started writing horror, how did your friends and family respond? 

 

It's not a surprise to anyone who knows me.  Most little girls play with baby-dolls--I had a plastic skeleton who I named Skellie that I carried around.  My parents are a little shocked, though, that I remember the night terrors so vividly, since it's been over twenty years since I first had them.  



What has been the most difficult thing that continually plagues you as an author?  

 

Self doubt is a huge obstacle to getting words on the page.  What I've learned to do is "brain dump"--just get it all out there.  No matter how terrible that first draft is, you can always go back and change things, edit, add, subtract.  My advice to writers who struggle with the same issue is to give yourself permission to suck.  Really, it's OK if what you put down is terrible at first.  None of it's permanent, it's not as if your first rough draft will be tattooed on your body forever.  But if you don't at least start somewhere, the words will never make the jump from your brain to the page.  


What is the most unique advice you've ever been given by another professional in the writing world? Did that advice prove to be useful?  

 

I read an interview where Stephen King answered the question, "What makes a talented writer?" or something along those lines.  I'm paraphrasing, but basically he said that if you write something, and someone pays you for the story, and you then take that money and pay your light bill with it, he considers you talented.  I love that.  It takes the pressure off of setting out to be the next Hemingway, and lets me have fun and focus on being a storyteller who people pay to entertain them.  That's something I can be proud of, too, it's not all about Pulitzers and The Paris Review.



If you had to pick one author for your writing to be favorably compared to, which would you pick? What elements from other writers do you try to incorporate into your own writing?  

 

In my dreams, Vladimir Nabokov, simply because of his mastery of the English language.  As far as my genre goes, Stephen King knows how to tell a great story and create realistic, flawed characters, and that's my main focus in writing.  The fanciest prose, scores of allegories, and a dreamy, stream-of-consciousness style of writing are worthless if you can't tell a story worth a damn.  I want to entertain and help people immerse themselves in the more visceral and scary elements of the world in which we live, and he is the master of that.

 

Lastly, where can we find your stuff?

Amazon * Twitter