Writing Advice

  • Wasting your money on a copyedit or proofread?

    Wasting money on a copyedit or proofread?
    Wasting your money on a copyedit or proofread?

    There’s a problem I’ve encountered with a number of my developmental editing clients.

    They paid for a copyedit or proofread of their novel or memoir and only then sent their manuscript to me.

    Why?

    I think there are a number of reasons:

    • Writers don’t always know the correct order of editing (which I deal with below).
    • They got a copyedit/proofread but it was later suggested they needed a critique too. Ouch! Money wasted.
    • They published the book (without a critique) and then needed to pull it to improve it.
    • The copyeditor/proofreader wasn’t honest about the type of editing that was needed.
    • The copyeditor/proofreader was honest but the client ignored it for any number of reasons.

    I’ve also noticed that some clients are sending me formatted books that are still early on in their development.

    This can sometimes make the editing a little more difficult.

    It’s best to send manuscripts with double-spaced text, but some people are sending single-spaced documents that already look like ebooks. Not so much space to leave margin comments.


    Are you wasting your money on a copyedit or proofread?

    Developmental editing requires rewriting parts of the book.

    You might have to restructure the book, change parts of the plot, delete scenes or chapters.

    If you have the book copyedited first, you’ve totally wasted your money because you’re going to have to have the book edited again, once the developmental editing is complete.

    Here is the editorial timeline:

    • Critique partners/writing groups/beta readers.
    • Professional beta readers if you choose to use this service.
    • Developmental editor – either a critique or a full developmental edit.
    • Line editor/copyeditor.
    • Proofreading is the final stage to check everything is correct and spelling and formatting are consistent, etc.

    You don’t have to go through every layer of editing here. You could choose the following:

    • Writing group/critique partners
    • Manuscript critique
    • Proof-edit

    This would be cheaper though it wouldn’t be as detailed. Still, if you’re on a budget, it’s worth bearing in mind.

    There is absolutely no point in paying for copyediting and proofreading when you’re still working on the plot and bigger picture issues.

    Seriously folks, don’t do this.

    Some of my writers have completely wasted time and money on copyeditors and/or proofreaders. Indie publishing already has costs. Don’t make it more expensive than is necessary.

    You want the best book you can deliver to readers, but you also don’t want to get ripped off in the process.


    Want to try a free sample developmental edit?

    I’m currently offering a free sample edit of 2000 words. This will include an editorial report and track commenting in the margins of your manuscript. If you’re interested, you can contact me at: karen@indiecateditorial.com

    The manuscript should be in Word. I will consider a pdf or Google doc, but please let me know first if you can’t provide a Word doc. It’s the standard file format for developmental editing.


    Other IndieCat posts you might find useful

    Social media blockers

    Don’t make this mistake on your author website

    Boost your writing with the Pomodoro Technique

    How to order the stories in a collection

    Why your book cover design matters

  • Don’t make this mistake on your author website

    Social media icons: don’t make this mistake on your author website.

    A while back, I watched a great webinar on website design by Gill Andrews. I ended up buying her book, which has bite-sized chapters which get straight to the point.

    One thing she made me do was to remove the social media icons at the top of my website. And I’m here to tell you: don’t make this same mistake with your author website.

    I was reminded of this yesterday in the middle of a business mentorship thingy from Ash Ambirge. I was one of the lucky beta folks who signed up, so I’m currently wallowing in all sorts of useful information.

    Anyway, she also recommended removing these icons from the top of your business website page.

    But, ha, thanks to Gill, I’d already ticked that one off my list. The icons were gone.

    Gone, gone, gone.

    Which is just as well because two of the three accounts were neglected and the other one is my nemesis. (My nemesis, if you’re interested, is Twitter.)

    So, what’s the problem with your site visitors seeing your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram icons?

    Well, apart from the fact you might be neglecting some of the accounts, so do you really want potential readers going over there? Guess what? That’s not actually the worst of it, though it’s not great.

    No, here’s the bigger reason.

     

    Social media icons are outbound links

    If your social media icons are the first things they encounter when they land, they might just be tempted to click one of those icons.

    And, folks, that would be terrible.

    Terrible.

    Those icons are outbound links. They are teleporters. Your visitor has now been teleported to another site.

    Slap yourself with a wet kipper.

    Cause you and I both know those social media sites are designed to be addictive.

    How many website visitors are already longing to go back and check their Twitter or Facebook account anyway, to see what’s happening?

    Far. Too. Many.

    Don’t give them any more excuses than they have already.

     

    Teleporting new visitors to Twitter is bad!

    If you’re an author with a website, you don’t want your new website visitor to be offered a range of teleportation destinations that takes them AWAY.

    It’s like installing a revolving door with the word ‘exit’ in Twitter and Facebook icons.

    Because that’s what you’ve installed – a revolving door. Or, an exit right next to the entrance.

    Or, just a plain old teleporter (and believe me, they’re old to those of us who watched the original Star Trek, or who’ve spent time in Second Life).

    Don’t do it!

     

    Think you can compete with Twitter? Ha!

    I know having people follow you on social media would seem to make sense, but that’s not what’s likely to happen.

    Seriously, it won’t.

    Because… you can’t compete with cat videos and the latest news.

    Your website visitor will forget about you right after they go ‘check out’ your social media account. Those top trends will catch their attention, or maybe you’re tweeting a hashtag that interests them.

    Then, click, they’re gone!

    Yes, your website may still be open in one of their browser tabs, but so are a million other things.

    A million other things they will never return to.

     

    Here’s the solution – remove the teleporters!

    So, what do you do on your website?

    First up, you remove those teleporters at the top of your home page.

    The ones that present an invisible doorman who says, “Hey, nice to see you, now here’s the way out!”

    Remove them.

    Now.

    Don’t wait until whenever.

    Get rid of them.

    And here’s the bigger reason why. It’s not just that most website visitors will spend mere seconds on a site before they leave (and you don’t want to push them out the door any faster). No, there’s another very good reason.

     

    New visitors need time to get to know you

    If they’re new to your site, they don’t know you yet. So, why would they follow you? There are so many people to follow. So many shiny accounts.

    You need to ensure that you hook their interest in you first.

    That means your website has to hold them for longer than a few seconds. You want to entice them to pull up a chair and browse your site.

    You want them to get to know you and your work.

    And you want to remove anything that will push them out the exit fast.

    This also means you need to watch where you place outbound links.

    You want your website visitor to have time to look around before they get tempted with anything clickable.

    So, where do you put social media icons?

    I have personally removed them completely for the time being, but you can put them at the very bottom of your page, in your footer. That way, your visitors have the chance to read your content first.

    And if you’re finding social media addiction is interfering with your writing time, here’s an old post I wrote on social media blockers. I use Cold Turkey – the free version. There’s a paid version too which I haven’t used.

  • 9 reasons why you don’t need an editor

    9 reasons why you don't need an editor
    9 reasons why you don’t need an editor

    So, you want to publish your novel yourself. Here’s 9 reasons why you don’t need an editor.

    Reason #1: Your novel is perfect as it is

    Yeah, umm… probably not. Next…

    #Reason #2: Your mother loved it. LOVED it

    Is your mother an editor? If she is, does she have the objectivity to be honest with you? Or might she worry that being honest will wreck your relationship?!

    Reason #3: Your best friend promised to give you feedback

    There’s nothing wrong with getting a friend to read your book. BUT, if they’re doing it as a favour, you have to wait until they’re ready. When they made that promise, they never factored in the length of the book, how long it would take them, or their own confidence in their critical skills.

    In fact, once it lands in their inbox, they might well procrastinate until the cows come home.

    Likewise, beta readers often vanish, don’t bother to respond, or fail to give sufficient feedback. If you have good beta readers, they are worth a lot, but they’re not editors and once you’ve ironed out their concerns, that takes you to the next level.

    The next level involves technical issues like structure, point of view, head hopping, show versus tell, and a whole bunch of other things.

    There are so many balls to juggle when you’re writing. Did you drop any?

    Did the beta readers or your pal notice that someone exited stage right on page 83, never to be seen again, even though they kind of seemed like an important secondary character?

    Reason #4: Editing is a waste of money

    Here’s the thing, if you’ve written a novel, you’ve already put a huuuugeee amount of time into it.

    And time, as they say, is money. You could have made other choices on how to spend your time. For example, you could have set up a side hustle. But you decided to write a book instead.

    So, you have invested a lot of time, energy, thought, ambition, and hope in your work.

    Why?

    Do you hope people will buy it? This means putting it into the marketplace where it has to compete with other books. Potential readers can download a Kindle sample and check it out. If there are problems with the opening chapters, they will bail out.

    If you don’t mean to send it off to an agent or publish yourself then it’s true you don’t need an editor. There is one exception – if you want to do better next time. Then it might be worth investing in professional feedback to take your skills to the next level.

    Then again, you could save money and join a good writing group.

    Reason #5: I’m shelling out for a book cover. What more do I want?

    Bad covers can kill reader interest. Good covers still need good content.

    Imagine a reader excited by the cover art, the genre, the blurb, only to give up before they get to the end of the first chapter.

    Maybe your story fails to start, the characters are boring, or your worldbuilding is taking over the book.

    Maybe your story is just plain boring, and they want to throw the book at the wall.

    As a developmental editor, I’ve had indie authors come to me after their book has been published, so I can fix their mistakes. So, they still needed an edit after all.

    Reason #6: I’m only doing this as a hobby

    And that’s fine. Some people genuinely don’t care if anyone reads their book.

    For some people, writing a book is on their bucket list, and once it’s done, it’s over. In which case, you might well choose to skip editing.

    But if you’re hoping that book gets some readers, it’s probably best to get some input.

    Reason #7: You don’t need to spend money to publish a book these days

    It’s true you can skip editing, design your own cover, do your own marketing, and so on. You might have a free blog you can use and you have Twitter and Facebook for promotion.

    But, here’s the thing, so do loads of other people. Thousands upon thousands of them.

    Have you ever hung around the #writerslift hashtag on Twitter? So many people promoting their books in the desperate hope that they’ll grab a few more readers.

    Often they’re promoting more to other writers, who don’t necessarily have the time to buy or read all those books.

    You need to appeal more to readers.

    Yes, readers can also be writers. But whoever you promote to, things like cover design, genre, plot, and sample opening pages will be the deciding factor for a lot of people.

    To beat the competition, your book needs to be polished, and that includes editing.

    Reason #8: Your novel is a staggering work of genius already. Who needs a fucking edit?

    Who indeed? Well, you, actually. No one writes a genius novel, perfectly polished, no flabby bits, plot holes, saggy middles, or weak endings. No head hopping.

    Oh wait, was the head hopping deliberate? Like a stylistic choice?

    Uh-huh.

    Reason #9: Some mate on Twitter says you don’t need an editor and they’ve never used one

    Did your mate do well with their own book? Might they have had an unfortunate encounter with an editor? Perhaps they’re still gnashing their teeth over negative feedback and now they have an axe to grind.

    Some people do display a strange amount of anger towards editors. It’s almost as if they think editors are out to get them, destroy their cherished dreams, murder their first-born child (their book).

    In reality, most editors get into this business because they love reading and they love books. They feel passionately about helping writers become better authors. They want to see their clients do well.

    Still, there’s no law that says you need an editor.

    The truth is, for indie authors, you can do what you want. You can choose where to focus your attention – marketing, cover art and design, the various levels of editing, etc.

    There’s no doubt that addressing everything comes with a price tag attached. A price you don’t have to pay when you have a traditional publisher to cover the costs for you. So, compromises may have to be made. Corners cut.

    It might come down to leaving out a round of editing or relying on beta readers to try and pick up your developmental issues.

    If you see indie publishing as a business, then you will definitely come to understand the costs of doing business.

    In business, it’s normal to hire contractors. In serious indie publishing, it’s no different. Budgeting for this is a topic for another day.

    So, there you have it, 9 reasons why you don’t need an editor.

    But if you are looking for a developmental editor, you can check out my post on the difference between a developmental edit and a manuscript critique.

    Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash

  • How fiction writers benefit from swipe files

    How fiction writers benefit from swipe files
    How fiction writers benefit from swipe files

    What is a swipe file?

    Swipe files are well known in the copywriting business. When you come across a really good piece of copy, you save it to your swipe file. Then, when you are stuck for ideas, you have some inspiring writing to check out. So, want to know how fiction writers benefit from swipe files?

    Inspiration, not plagiarism

    To dig deeper into the copywriting example, the aim is clearly not to plagiarise. Swipe files are positively encouraged in the copywriting world. All writers have fallow periods when it comes to inspiration and original ideas. Examples of how to do it well excite and inspire. They can release us from writer’s block. They remind us of why we write in the first place.

    Swipe files help all writers

    So, how does a swipe file help a fiction writer? Or a poet, for that matter? The key is to take note of writing that particularly inspires you.

    For example, there are passages in The Great Gatsby that I’d put in my swipe file. It could be the opening of chapter three when Nick attends his first party at Gatsby’s house. Or it could be the fabulous final page or so of the book.

    Your swipe file could include inspirational prose, or even examples of technical mastery. Perhaps you were blown away by a horror short story and the way the author built suspense. Maybe it was a science fiction story that showed how to mix big ideas with credible worldbuilding and characterisation. Or it could be an erotic short story that showed how to write sex scenes effectively and without the usual cliches.

    Likewise, there might be some poetry that inspires you. It could be the rhythm of the language, the imagery, or something else.

    What to do with your swipes

    There are some days when you’ve run out of ideas. Or you’re suffering from imposter syndrome. Or maybe you’ve run into a technical problem – your sex scenes suck big time. Too much worldbuilding at the beginning of a short story? How do you introduce your reader to your Martian colony in a way that is both fast and credible? If it’s a short story, you have even less time and space to waste on details. Every word counts.

    This is why short story swipe files are particularly great. But you could just save a single scene that blew you away with its brilliance. A combat scene that was well-choreographed, a great dialogue scene that revealed character or plot. A great description of location or character that was vibrant rather than boring.

    Keeping examples in your swipe file allows you to pull them out and study them when you run into a problem. Feel your dialogue is dull and inspiring? What about those fabulous dialogue scenes you saved from Novels X and Y. Study them, get inspired. It’s not about copying.

    Where to store your swipe file?

    Swipe files can be kept on a computer or stored in a box file on your shelf. You might have both, for digital files and physical copy cut from a newspaper or magazine.

    If you have a physical book collection, you could keep one shelf as your ‘swipe shelf’. Where you store the most inspirational material, including stories you’ve printed off or photocopied. You could keep these in a box file.

    Swipe files are fuel for ideas

    Whether it’s a technical issue you’re struggling with or just general inspiration, swipe files are a great resource. If you want to get into science fiction, you could start saving your favourite SF short stories and explore what it is you admire about them. Check out the premise – it could be something big, or even a beautifully simple idea.

    Also, don’t forget non-fiction. An informative article on the future colonisation of Mars? Save it. It might take you a while to get around to referring to some of your swipes, but the material will be there when you finally need that dose of inspiration.

    And that’s how fiction writers benefit from swipe files!