Archive for the editing Category

Tip: No More Scare Quotes

Not sure if you should put quote marks around something? Is it dialogue or a direct quote? If not, forget the quote marks. They are most overused form of punctuation. Quote is short for quotation, so quote marks should be used only to set off a quotation in nonfiction. If you’re writing a novel and using quote marks for anything but dialogue—take them out.
Writers like to use quote marks around words they consider special. Old school editors call them scare quotes, a way of alerting readers Read more

Easy Editing Tips

I’m fine-tuning the novel I just finished, and these are some of the edits I’m making. They can help you as you write or edit your own novel.
1. Get rid of unnecessary prepositional phrases. When you read back through your manuscript, watch for phrases like on the table, toward the door, near the wall. These phrases bog down your writing and often add little to a description. Readers can make a lot of assumptions. If two guys are standing in the driveway talking and one points at the tires, readers Read more

Fiction Editing Proposal

I just sent this proposal to a prospective client, and I thought I’d post it here as well—in case anyone is considering my services and would like more detail.

I’m willing to undercut the industry-standard rate and edit for $2.25 a page. By page, I mean industry submission standard: double space, 12-point Times font, with approximately 1.5 inches of white space (including footers) on all sides.

An 80,000-word novel should print out somewhere around 325 pages, depending on how much back-and-forth dialogue you have. $2.25 a page at 325 pages is $731.25. Which sounds like a lot of money! If it makes you feel any better, I’m paying someone to edit my current 347-page novel right now. She’s charging me $28. per hour, with no cap and no estimate of cost.

Another option is to pay by the hour at $25 an hour. This will work out to less money if your novel is pretty clean to start with and has a lot of back-and-forth dialogue. (Expository pages are denser and slower.) Also, if you only want proofreading and syntax suggestions (no plot/structure feedback), then the per-hour rate will save you money. Even when I work per hour, I put a cap on the project. In this case (325 pages), regardless of which pricing structure you chose, the cap would be $731.25.

I’m also willing to peruse the first 20 pages and see how it goes. If it’s moving quickly, I’ll recommend a per-hour structure. The last novel I edited was 110,000 words and took about 32 hours. A 75,000-word mystery would likely take around 20 hours and cost $500 or less.

Other details: If you send me the Word document, I’ll print it here and mail the hard copy edits back to you at my expense.

I would love to edit your novel, and I hope I can work something out with you. I have references! Please contact me if you have any questions.

PS I posted a blog about commas on the Blood-Red Pencil, if you want a peek at my editing style.

Easy Effective Edits

I’ve been editing the first draft of my new novel, and I became aware of some changes I consistently make—for the better. I’ll share them here, in case you find them useful.

1. I get rid of the word “it” and replace it with the specific thing that I’m referring to, even if I just named that thing in the previous sentence. “Jackson reached for his Glock. The weapon felt heavy in his hand” is better than “Jackson reached for his Glock. It felt heavy in his hand.” In verbal communication, repetitive use of “it” may be acceptable, but in narrative writing such lack of clarity is ineffective and often confusing.

2. The same is true of overuse of pronouns. So I’ve also consistently replaced “she,” “he,” and “they” with the specific name of the character(s). Sometimes it feels too formal to use the character’s name three times in a paragraph, but if the character, say, a guy named Jack, is talking about the suspect, a guy named Vinnie, then referring to either of these guys as “he” can be confusing to the reader. This is a point that Stephen King makes in his great book On Writing.

3. The third most consistent edit I make is to tweak individual scenes so that they read like mini-stories, with mounting tension, a climax, and a conclusion. The exception to that structure are scenes at the end of chapters, which I often leave with a revelation, a hint of a revelation, or a great deal of uncertainty (aka, cliffhangers).

The Writing Habits of L.J. Sellers (as if you wanted to know)

I got tagged (thanks Marvin) for telling you all about myself, so here it is:

1) Computer, longhand, or other?

The only thing I write with a pen are lists. I have loved computers for writing anything and everything since the first day I sat down at one.

2) Coffee or tea?

Both! And lots of it. I start with strong black coffee (grinding the beans and all), then switch to green tea (lemongrass or jasmine), then drink licorice tea at night.

3) Day or night?

As my blog’s subhead says, “First thing every day.” I can, and do, write at night sometimes, but I struggle with it. (See April blog entry: Shaking It Up.)

4) Favorite genre to write?

I write what I love to read: mystery/suspense. I also write comedy for my standup routine, and I have written three comedy screenplays. I love writing comedy, but it’s very hard work. Some people manage to combine crime and comedy, but for me, they’re like oil and water, and I just can’t mix ‘em.

5) Pencil or pen to edit?

I edit my own work on screen, but I prefer to edit other people’s fiction on paper. I use three writing utensils: the black pen mark means “make this edit,” the pencil means “consider this syntax edit,” and the yellow highlighter means “look at this repetition or inconsistency.”

6) Unusual writing quirk or trait?

I wish I had something funny or cute to tell you, but I don’t write naked and I don’t wear hats for inspiration. In truth, I write very lean. My first drafts are mostly action and dialogue. Then I have to go back and fill with more detail and characterization.

7) Writing from home or writing in a cozy café?
I use an ergonomic keyboard, I can’t function without a mouse, and my workstation at home lets me stand up and work for periods throughout the day. In other words, I’m spoiled. Why would I go anywhere else?

8) Music or silence while your write?

Years ago, I could write with three boys playing Nintendo in the room. Now I like it quiet. But I’m going to try Karen’s suggestion of certain music for certain scenes.

9) Favorite motivational writing quote?
My own: Life is short. Get it done.

10) Favorite bookmark?

I use one of my own for THE SEX CLUB. It reminds me that I can write too.

11) Favorite fictional character of all time?

Tough question. Who comes to mind today is Irwin Fletcher, made famous by Chevy Chase. I loved the books and the movies! He’s a great example of combining crime and comedy.

12) Most admired living writer today?

I can’t pick a living writer because there’s too many. My favorite writer of all time though is Lawrence Sanders. He’s incredibly versatile and always entertaining.

And I tag Charlotte to go next.

Being Faithful

As I drank my coffee and checked my list of things to do this morning, I vacillated about how to structure my day. A six-hour freelance editing project was sitting in my “in progress” file, waiting to be started. I was raised with the “work first, play latter” mantra, so my left brain kept telling me to do the freelance work and get it over, then work on my novel. But my novel beckoned me too. Secrets to Die For is so close to being a finished rough draft that it’s like being near the end of an exciting book and not wanting to put it down.

Then I remembered the August blogging challenge and opened my blog. And there were my words, “Write First, Clean Later.” Of course, I get paid to freelance edit, so it’s not exactly in the same category as cleaning, but still, “Write First.” And so I decided to be faithful to myself, my mantra, and my novel. Writing this blog is the only thing I doing before getting to work on my novel. But it’s writing, so it counts.

Five-Time Readers Favorite Award Winner!

LATEST REVIEWS

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The characters were compelling, the procedural work was dead-on, and the story was enthralling. Definitely recommended.”
~Michelle Gagnon, author of Boneyard
The author expertly intertwines multiple story lines, presents readers with fully realized characters that readers will feel they know, and keeps the action and suspense levels high. That’s a lot to expect from an author but L. J. Sellers delivers.” ~OverMyDeadBody
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