Sorry I’ve been MIA a lot for the past month or so. I promised to talk more about the big project I’ve been working on that has derailed a lot of stuff I’ve had going on. It’s finally time!
In honor of NaNoWriMo starting, I thought I’d start this series to add a bit more to the ‘writer’ part of A Writer Cooks. If you want to see more after November, please let me know you liked it by leaving a comment! Or suggest what topics you’d like to see tips on.
No, I’m not technically your editor (though I can be, just click the ‘Hire Me’ link at the top!) but if you want to write and be published, your work will need to go through an editor at some point. Knowing some things to work on will really help you out and save your editor some time.
I am a freelance editor, have been for 2–3 years now, and I edit a lot of terrible stuff. Harsh, but true. So many people just finish a first draft and send it off, thinking it’s the editor’s job to fix it. Well, technically it is, but I can’t see the big picture of your work if I have to fix dialogue tags and commas every few paragraphs. It’s the writer’s job to make their work the best they can, and then it’s the editor’s job to polish it up some more.
Here are five simple tips for things to watch for before you send your work to an editor.
Nothing brings me out of a story faster than inconsistency. That goes for story, dialogue, grammar and formatting. When you make a choice in your story, stick with it. If you have your character in a foreign country arriving somewhere by taxi, don’t have her leave the scene driving her own car. I’ll be going, “Wait, what?” (true example from a book I edited). If you call the character’s car red in one sentence then blue in the next one, it just looks sloppy (another real example). And if your characters are drinking scotch, don’t say a few paragraphs later ‘they raised their wine glasses’ (ditto).
Formatting and grammar are other things you really need to be consistent with. Don’t indent some paragraphs and not others. Don’t use italics to denote thoughts and then use quotes later on. This is one of the areas where you don’t have to be correct, for example with indenting. Just make it all the same and it can be fixed later.
2. Word Choice and Vocabulary
I lied. Word choice can bring me out of a story faster than inconsistency. Don’t bring out your thesaurus while you’re writing except in an important case (I’ll explain later). If you use a big word that the majority of your readers don’t understand, you lose something. You’re going for a very specific meaning by using that word, and your readers won’t get that meaning if they don’t understand the word. I’m not saying dumb your writing down by any means. Just keep your writing understandable for the most part. Most readers aren’t going to put your book down every other page to look a word up in the dictionary (though I do, to make sure the word really fits the context). This is a stylistic choice though, so I don’t edit big words out (unless they don’t mean what you think they mean).
I edit a lot of romance. And I mean a lot. Clean, steamy, whatever, it pays the bills. It’s thanks to this that I can’t read romance anymore for the most part. When writing a sex scene (or any scene really), word choice matters, it sets the tone. Something about clinical terms for the naughty bits takes me out of the scene. There’s a fine balance between crazy euphemisms (true story, I edited a book with more than 40 different names for male parts: don’t do that) and an anatomy dictionary. In my personal opinion (others may differ), it’s better to leave them out altogether and leave a little more to the imagination.
3. Repetition and Monotony
For the love of all that is holy, pick up your thesaurus once in a while. Not to find a new way of saying something, but to make sure you’re being varied in your language. I’ve worked on several books by one particular author who is in love with the word ‘gaze’, and eyes in particular. In a book of about 130 pages, just the word gaze was used 81 times. The characters were always locking gazes and throwing gazes and cutting gazes and meeting gazes. Their eyes were stormy or electric or heated depending on the current mood. Please don’t do this. I know the eyes are the windows to the soul, but body language says a lot too. Use more senses, don’t remind us of the hero’s amazing green eyes on every page. We get it.
This goes for anything that appears in your story. Don’t use synonyms for everything, just make sure you’re mixing things up a bit. Don’t have every character use the phrase ‘oh man’ or ‘oh boy’ in their dialogue or thoughts. If you want to repeat something like that, especially if it’s the way you yourself talk, give it to one character to repeat as a catchphrase. If everyone does it, you’re not letting your characters have unique voices.
4. Basic English
This is farther down the list because it’s something that most people get right, but it is incredibly jarring to see when it goes wrong. This can happen because the writer has English as a second language, or they just slept through English class a bit too much. Please make sure that you’re using words correctly. Malapropisms happen a lot. This is the kind of thing like ‘for all intensive purposes’ or ‘doggy-dog world’ (for all intents and purposes, and dog-eat-dog world, respectively). It comes down to basically knowing what you’re trying to say and understanding the common phrase for it instead of parroting what you think it might be.
Also, every editor’s pet peeve is probably the common words used interchangeably, like to/too, they’re/their/there, accept/except, and etc. It’s important to brush up on these if you want to write seriously. No one really cares if you use them wrong online, but you might form bad habits that carry over to your writing.
I know editors are also called proofreaders sometimes, but please don’t send us your first draft that you haven’t even read through once yourself. It’s clear to us when you haven’t done it. I recently edited a book where every other paragraph had words missing, usually ‘the’ or pronouns, and some sentences just made no sense at all. One read through before you send it in can make a huge difference, even better if you or someone else reads it out loud all the way through. You’ll hear any mistakes loud and clear.
Questions? Comments? Clarifications? Please subscribe if you want to be notified the next time one of these posts go up, and leave me a comment about what you think about these tips. If you have a writing or editing question for me, feel free to ask. And be sure to check out my ‘Hire Me’ page to see what I can do for you.
Happy New Year!
I’ve been looking forward to the new year for quite a while. I’ve already made my plans for what I want to accomplish. It’s quite a list, so I’m hoping overachieving will at least get a few things done.
- My overall goal is to be more productive this year. I’m as guilty as anyone about falling into the YouTube/Pinterest/Facebook trap while online. I want to set up my website blocker to be useful and actually turn it on when I need to work on stuff.
- I want to write every day. Even if it’s not 500 words a day, I want to make some progress.
- Read every day. I have a large book list to get through this year, since I want to revisit the books that really inspire me to write. I’ll post the book list later on.
- Study. I want to take 20 minutes every day on each of the subjects I want to study and hopefully be quite good at by the end of the year. These are French, nutrition and web development.
- Speaking of web development, I have big plans for my blog so keep an eye out.
- I have a list of food goals I want to work on, found in the second list of this post.
- Watch a huge list of movies I’ve missed out on over the years. These are mainly cult favorites or just interesting movies I’ve wanted to check out over the years. Movie list posted later as well. I knocked one off already last night.
- Work more on home care. I want to get on a cleaning schedule, or at least complete one task every day.
- I also want to work on keeping up with personal care things a bit more than I do already. These are things like keeping up with exercise routines, drinking more water, grooming tasks I put off more often than not, stuff like that.
- Stock up around $5 every week. We’re planning a huge purchase of stocking up on food this weekend, so I won’t need too much week to week for a while.
- Eat more fruit. With a lot of food stocked up, we’ll have more money to spend on healthy snacks.
- Try to eat veggies at every dinner if not more than once throughout the day.
- Food prep weekly. I really felt very prepared the week that I chopped and stored tons of ingredients and snacks for the week. This can include making rice in a large batch for the week.
- Make more things from scratch, like bread, dried beans and veggie burgers.
- No food waste. Make sure I use up all things like fresh greens and potatoes before they go bad.
- Try new foods often. Self explanatory.
- Hit nutrient goals. I’ll be tracking my meals for my weight goals, along with vitamins and minerals in them, and I’d like to work on getting the nutrients I’m more deficient in, like folate and B vitamins.
What are your goals for the year? Am I crazy with too many?
A week from today we’ll be leaving on our mini vacation. It’s not much, just a quick trip to see my grandparents for my grandmother’s birthday, so my husband can meet my extended family. So we’ll be away for my birthday on the 19th.
On Labor Day we drove an hour and a half to spend it with my aunt, uncle and cousins. My parents surprised me by having my aunt make a cake for my birthday, the same kind that she made for our wedding. Yum.
One of my cousins has an archery set, so I got to shoot a bow and arrow for the first time ever. Unfortunately, I suck at it, and I have a giant bruise on my forearm to remind me. Note to self: when offered safety equipment, take it.
I’m a bit accident prone. Along with that bruise I have one on the same elbow from slamming it on my desk. Also, yesterday I made Green Pepper Casserole, which is a dish that I cook on top of the stove and then put in the oven in the same skillet. After taking it out of the oven, I placed my finger on the handle and felt excruciating pain as I burnt I don’t know how many layers of skin off of my index finger. Same arm as the other two injuries. It’s a wonder I’ve never broken a bone yet.
Other klutzy accidents:
- I have a scar on my forehead from when I fell on the corner of a coffee table when I was 7. I had to get eleven stitches.
- I have a smiley face scar on my right thumb from reaching into a cabinet to turn on my N64. Would love to know who thought it was a good idea to leave picture frame glass under the TV.
- I had a cut on the same thumb during my wedding because I stabbed it with a thorn making my bouquet.
- Pretty sure it was that same thumb that I accidentally closed in the hinges of a heavy bathroom door when I was a kid.
- I fell at my cousin’s wedding rehearsal while carrying a vase. Cut my knee, one of my toes and a finger. My fault though, I was wearing loose platform sandals.
- While wearing those same sandals in Boston a few weeks later, I went splat on the pavement while going to get food. I no longer own those sandals.
Just over two weeks until my birthday! We will be out of town for it though. Still, birthdays are exciting, I get so excited for mine even though I’m older.
I finally got someone to read a novel I’m close to finishing and they gave me some great feedback. Not that I need more work while I’m trying to finish drafts of other novels, but it’s a good step. (BTW if anyone is interested in beta reading it as well so I can get more opinions and feedback, let me know.)
Did a ton of work today. I edited basically an entire story this morning and a third of the way through another one.
I’m thinking about taking on another project of working on a food/cooking ebook. It will focus on seasonal produce and ways to cook it. Would anyone be interested in that?
I was nominated for the Beautiful Blogger Award by All-Round Better Me! Thank you so much, I’ve never been nominated for anything before!
The rules are simple: link the blogger who nominated you; list seven random things about yourself; nominate seven creative, beautiful bloggers; notify the people that you nominate.
Oh dear, seven things about myself. I used to do this on here so hopefully I don’t repeat anything.
- Despite being a cat lover for as long as I can remember, I’m much more of a dog person now. I’ve never had a dog, but I’ve wanted one for my entire life. I still love cats though.
- I have basically no sense of smell. I can smell some strong things, like rotisserie chicken, popcorn and skunks (ew), but generally I have to stick my nose straight into a candle and still can’t get much of a scent. But in spite of that, gingerbread is one of my favorite smells in the entire world.
- My biggest pet peeve is bad grammar. I don’t mind things like in chat, but if you’re typing literally anything else, especially if it’s your job, you should know the difference between your and you’re, and they’re and their. Grammar is hard, I get that, but there’s no excuse for stuff you should have learned in elementary school. This is especially true for guys on dating sites, ‘your hot’ is not an acceptable first message. That’s like right under writing a resume, first impressions are everything.
- Speaking of, my husband and I met on OkCupid. I joined when I was 18 and forever single, and started going on dates when I was 20 after the worst breakup in history. I met a lot of great guys along with a lot of jerks then finally my now-husband messaged me. And the rest is history.
- I was single until I was 19. Not a single guy ever asked me out or showed interest except a couple guys in college. But those are very long stories. I’m very shy in real life and I even asked two guys out. They said no.
- One of my least favorite things is politics. Growing up it was just boring, now it’s idiotic. I rarely vote, only when there’s someone I can believe will do a good job, not just because he’s better than the other guy. I’m also Independent, I don’t like either side very much.
- I love musicals, all the way from Wicked (seen it three times, once on Broadway) to Glee. I’m not the kind of person that has to have music playing all the time, but I do love to sing. Not that I’m particularly good at it. I can carry a tune but I probably wouldn’t win American Idol anytime soon.
Now for my nominations:
It was such an honor to be nominated for my first award, check out the nomination post here.
Does anyone else feel like they go through cycles of not knowing what to do with yourself and then nonstop stuff? After we got back from the honeymoon on July 27, we had a whole week to ourselves where literally nothing happened. He was off of work and somehow I had no work to do despite letting my clients know I was available. It was a long, lazy week.
Then on Monday, I had jury duty (which they didn’t actually need me for, thank goodness) and my long time editing client had a lot of work for me and then asked me to do a very large project. Then, if that didn’t keep me busy enough, another client popped in and asked me to edit 10 stories! Where was all of this work when I had nothing to do? Such is the life of a freelancer I guess.
Life after the wedding has been fine. Everyone keeps asking us if we feel different, but really things are just going back to normal. We’re happy to finally be married, but it doesn’t change much in our day to day lives. Only legal stuff has changed, like waiting for my new social security card in the mail with my new name on it so I can get my new driver’s license so I can change everything else with my name on it. Seriously, why isn’t there a government office where you can just do a ‘marriage name change’ and they take care of all of this for you? It’s not like it’s uncommon.
This isn’t Thrifty Thursday, but I have to say: I know buying in bulk is awesome, but why does my store do the most random ‘buy 6 get this price’ sales? I don’t need 6 bottles of salad dressing. I don’t have room to store 6 loaves of bread. No one needs 6 – 59 oz bottles of tea or 6 – 60 oz bottles of juice. I mean, I guess that stuff won’t go bad that quickly and if you have a big family it could be useful, but why not more sales on stuff you buy individually like yogurt?
Shopping the sale papers is so much easier if you’re one of the people who buy name brand, processed foods. If you’re trying to eat whole foods, most of the produce is stuffed on the back page and there are only a few sales for pantry staples. And coupons are very few and far between. But hey, if you need 6 bottles of toilet bowl cleaner, this is your week.
Now back to work, I have to get a lot done before tomorrow where I have limited computer access. Next month we’re taking a short vacation to visit my family as well, and sometime soon I need to get my wisdom teeth out. That’s still not done.