Are you ready for an Editor?

You’ve done everything for your story.  Your rough draft has been spell checked, sent to beta readers, edited by you, and spell checked again (and again, and … you get it).  Is it ready for an editor?  Do you need to use a professional editor?  How much will it cost?

On my blog, I’ve got interviews with editors who can tell you what they do and more.  Some editors charge by the word and some by the hour.  Here is one organization’s suggested fees –  I’m sure other organizations have something similar. 

Is your manuscript ready for an editor?  If you can’t take it any further, yes.  If you’ve edited it to the point where you know it isn’t going to get any better with you looking at it.  It’s time to seek outside help. 

Do you need to use a professional editor?  That is up to you.  Only you can answer this question.  Are you a grammar and punctuation geek?  Do you know the rules and follow them?  Do you know when you can break them without making it harder for the reader to understand what’s being said?  If you don’t or aren’t, get an editor. 

One thing I recommend when choosing an editor is to ask if they will do a sample.  If they do, it helps you to see their techniques and skill.  You don’t want to send someone a couple hundred bucks and find out they miss more than you did.  If you are trying out several editors, send them the same sample and see who gives you the best results. 

There are all sorts of ways to find an editor.  The question becomes is the editor you find going to work well with you?  With most online writer’s groups, all you have to do is say you’re looking for an editor and you get a dozen (or more) people offering suggestions. 

Professional editor organizations are out there as well.  Again Google is your friend here – use it to find a variety and then check out the organizations to see if they offer a list of editors.  You want one which has been in existence for a period of time and offers a feature to search their members or in some way find someone who’s interested in doing work for you. 

I’ve done editing and do a few jobs (no this is not a plug to do your editing).  It’s time consuming, difficult and complicated.  Editors are people – a good one will catch most of your issues but you need to be realistic. They will miss things. 

When working with an editor, here are a couple things you should know:

  • No book is without error whether traditionally published or self-published there are always errors in there.
  • Editors – even freelance ones – need to pay their bills, pay them for the work they do.  Be clear about your expectations and your budget.  Talk to them about their fees – don’t expect a discount.
  • Editors – even freelance ones – are not going to be available 24/7 as soon as you email or text them.  They do have other clients and a life. 

Obviously you don’t want to be taken by a bad editor but if you use your due diligence you should be able to find a good editor to work with.  Take the time to get to know your editor and the type of work they do.  Budget appropriately and pay promptly.  You’ll be on pins and needles while they edit but you should end up with a better product than you had before you sent it to a professional.

If you have a writing question you want answered or discussed, use the contact form to let me know.

What Genre?

One of my biggest mistakes when I wrote my first book was to write a manuscript longer than any publisher would take in that genre.  I didn’t even think to go look at what romance writers were producing.  I wanted to tell a good story.  If it was good enough, it wouldn’t matter if it wasn’t the word count the publishers wanted, right?   WRONG! 

Harlequin – probably the biggest publisher of romance novels has an array of categories but the one common thing to all categories – they have a specific word count they publish.  My novel – close to 150K – didn’t fit any of them because it was too long.  Try taking at least 50K out of a book.  It broke my heart to do it. 

There are other reasons to research your genre.  It might direct you to which POV you use – some genres are almost exclusively 1st person.  Others are never 1st person. 

Reading your genre also helps because it tells you what tropes are always used (and may need to be avoided or used but in a unique way). 

Google is your friend when it comes to this.  Look for organizations which feature your genre.  I know what you’re going to say – I’m bridging multiple genres.  Well good for you.  Look up all the genres you’re bridging.  If one of them is 50K and the other is 100K you may have to compromise somewhere in the middle. 

It’s about more than just the length your novel should be.  Researching the genre for your novel allows you to have information about who reads the genre, where they get information about the genre, and more.  This is really valuable marketing information. 

Other things to look at – what are the covers like; what is the sexual or violence content; or what are the chapter headings like. 

ParentingPatch [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

Go to the local library and look at all the books in your genre and take note.  What colors are used for covers?  Blue may be common – so do you want to use blue?  Or will using a different color make your book stand out? 

Look through the same genre on your favorite book buying site.  Look at prices, descriptions, and all the details. 

This sounds like a lot of work.  It is.  It can be a pain but if it ultimately helps you produce a competitive product, it’s worth it.  As you write more books you’ll have to do less research if you write in the same genre. 

Researching your genre may not feel like it’s sexy but it is a key step which feeds into all levels of writing.  It can help you avoid overused tropes for your story and determine how long your story should be.  Research will aid you in formulating a marketing plan – yes you should be thinking about marketing before your book is published.  It helps to inform you in who is likely to read your novel and how you can reach them.  Research is key in many aspects of your writing. 

Alpha or Beta

Critique is a part of writing.  You have to put your book out to get other people’s opinions.  It’s one of the hardest tasks because those people may come back and say hard things or worse indifferent things. 

It would be great if everyone LOVED your stories but the reality is they won’t.  Criticism is something you’re going to have to get a thick skin about.  It’s easy to justify and explain but if your readers aren’t getting it – it isn’t written well enough. 

The best advice I ever got was to not say anything (or hopefully you’re doing it by email) and read it, get annoyed, and then go back later and consider all they say.  When I took a writing class where we had to submit a piece, everyone had to read it, and then during class discuss it.  The author of the piece had to silently sit there and take it.  Hardest damn thing ever.  However, it taught me to really listen. 

I’ve done critiques for people who provided a list of questions.  I hate them but I can see how they will help an author.  I like to read and just give my opinion but this author wanted these specific questions answered so I did.  You can ask questions like:

  1. Did the story hold your interest from the beginning?
  2. Did you relate to the main character(s)?
  3. Did the setting suit the story?  (or maybe genre specific questions)
  4. Did the story lag at any point?
  5. Were there parts of the story which annoyed you?
  6. Were there any time sequence issues?
  7. Were the characters / plot believable?
  8. Was the dialogue believable?
  9. Was there enough description?  Too much?
  10. Was the conflict believable?
  11. Did the ending satisfy you?
  12. Did you find yourself skimming?

You can always Google to find more questions but you can certainly expand on any of these.  These questions do help give specific feedback. 

One thing I don’t think should be asked is about spelling, grammar, or punctuation.  If they notice and comment, great but they aren’t your editor and you may or may not be confident in their editing skills.

Now there are sites (aren’t there always?) where you can go to get feedback.  Here’s an article which gives a list of sites where you can get feedback on your writing.

If you use one of these, make sure you read the fine print and they will actively work to prevent people from taking your work and either using it in its entirety or stealing parts of it.  This is one thing you need to be cautious about – plagiarism.  When you put your work in the hands of other people, you want to be able to trust them.  It would be nice to say – no one would take my stuff but please don’t be naïve.  Here’s an article about an author who did just that.

I have a small group of beta readers.  Three of them respond promptly and with a fair bit of reliability.  I get three separate opinions (often contradictory) but I use their input to shape how I edit and change my stories.  In discussing my stories with my beta readers, I’ve been able to brainstorm ideas on changes.  It’s made me a better writer by taking their input. These beta (or alpha or first) readers are invaluable if you trust them and are willing to listen to the critiques they give.

If you have a writing question you want answered or discussed, use the contact form to let me know.

Analysis is Good

With your rough draft done, the next steps are all sort of intermixed.  There are a number of steps you need to do before you even go to an editor.  I know you’re saying but isn’t that what I pay the editor to do?  Editors are expensive. The cleaner your manuscript the better. 


First steps for me are a spell check, search for commonly overused words (I have a list), and reading through.  These are big steps (mostly) that take time. 

First thing – do a spell check.  Take the time to look up the rules / errors your word processing file shows you.  FYI – the word processor is not always right. 

There are a bunch of websites which will help you analyze your writing – some for free and some cost.  Grammarly is the one most often discussed.  I’ve used it peripherally.  It seems acceptable though I think you need to have a good knowledge of grammar to know whether you should accept or reject the appropriate corrections.  It works very like MS Word’s spell / grammar check. 

Analyze My Writing is another site   You copy and paste your writing sample into their software and click on different buttons like basic text statistics, common words and phrases; readability; lexical density; passive voice; and cloze test.  The most useful of which is the passive voice.  I’ve not used this a lot but when I tried the common words and phrases it didn’t work. 

Slick Write is another such site  This one intrigues me.  I’ve played with it a little bit.  Across the top it has features; structure; quotes; vocabulary which all give analysis but along the side it has another set of tools all of which help you analyze your writing. 

Another option to look at is to find what words you use the most – frequency of words or phrases appear in your document.  Write Words out of the UK has a tool  You paste in your text and press a button and it tells you.  Now obviously words like the, a, and are going to be more frequent.  In general, you don’t want to use the same words to describe things.  Now if you have a character who has a catch phrase – like “Sweet potatoes” obviously you’ll take that into account. 

Once you have this analysis on your writing, you use it in editing to improve your writing.  Rarely do I catch the words I overuse when I’m writing my rough draft – it’s always during the editing phase. 

When I do my searches for overused words, I highlight them (I use Word and you can search and replace words with highlighted words) so when I do my paper edit I can reword (hopefully) to reduce the  number of times I use my list. 

For my first novel, I didn’t have that list of words.  In fact, I didn’t know any of this so my first novel could use a rewrite.  This is meant to give you a leg up to use a tool like those I talk about above (and there are MANY more) to help you produce a better book. 

I’ve been self-publishing for four years.  When I read my first books, I sort of cringe because my editing procedures were not as good or as well developed.  Even now, I’m looking at the tools above and thinking I should add in one or maybe two of these to see what the different sites catch.  It probably needs to be one of my steps I do habitually. 

The last step is a read through.  I have to have mine on paper.  I can do a read through on the computer but I find I don’t catch as much.  With it on paper, I take more time, catch more things, and rewrite more.  This is what works for me.  Maybe you read better on your phone or the computer.  Maybe you have to do a headstand… okay maybe not.  My point is you have to do what works for you.  Find out when you are most edit conscious and how you can catch those quirks you don’t like in your writing. 

If you have a writing question you want answered or discussed, use the contact form to let me know.

Fast or S l o w

Pacing – what is it and why is it important?  It’s how fast your scenes read.  I know you’re going to say – I can’t control how fast someone reads.  My response is – to some extent you can.  Passive / active voice play a part but so does sentence structure and length.  Here’s a good article on it with the typical 5 points to fix everything. Even though I’m not a fan of those types of articles, this one does give some good points.

Long sentences and longer words slow down your pace.  Here’s an example of what I mean:

            After Sam did stretches, she stepped onto the track and loped around getting into a rhythm. 

            After Sam stretched, she ran easily finding her rhythm.

The first sentence is sort of meandering and slows the pace down.  The second sentence is quicker. 

The same can be said for dialog.  Dialog makes a scene go fast.  So if you’re characters are talking and the scene is too quick, you can slow it down.  Sample:

            “We need to be careful,” she said.

            “I know,” he said.  “But we have to help Joey.”

            “He’s always in trouble,” she said.

            “This time is bad,” he said.

            “I don’t like it,” she said.

            “I know,” he said.

            “But you still want to help him,” she said.

Now that reads pretty quick.  Short sentences and little description means the scene is going to read fast.  Now if you want to slow it down you can make the sentences longer or you can add description.

            “We need to be careful,” she said putting a hand on his arm.  She gazed up into his dark eyes, saw the worry in his frown.

            “I know,” he said patting her hand. He looked out the window as he considered her words.  “But we have to help Joey.”

            “It’s Joey, you know he’s always in trouble,” she said. Moving to the closet to grab their jackets. 

            “I know he is but this time, I think, it’s bad,” he said taking his brown jacket and slinging it around his wide shoulders.   

            “I don’t like it,” she said pausing before putting on her black leather jacket.

            “I know,” he said taking her jacket and holding it for her to slide her arms in.

            “But you still want to help him,” she said looking over her shoulder at him.

The second adds details and description while slowing the pace down.  The difficulty is finding the balance between the fast pace you may want and being able to get all the description in that you need.

This is where you make an effort to have more active voice (if not all) than passive voice. You have to ask questions like – do we need to know that she’s wearing a black leather jacket?  Is it important to the story?

It may sound ridiculous but it’s looking at every word to determine if each word and each detail is needed.  There’s a middle ground between the longer and slower pace.  You can have some quick dialog and then throw in the details which are needed before going back to the faster paced dialog. 

It is all dependent on the mood you’re trying to build.  If it’s a tense moment leading to a fight / action scene, you may want to pick up the pace.  If it’s not you can stretch it out a little. 

Do you need black leather jacket?  Maybe later you use that black leather jacket to identify her in a crowd or among the injured or ???  If you need it, add it.  If not, you could maybe just say leather jacket or just jacket.  Only you as the author can make that decision. 

If you have a writing question you want answered or discussed, use the contact form to let me know.

Passive Vs Active

My grammar nerd is showing so be warned – grammar heavy post.

Image by alan9187 on Pixabay 

According to passive voice is one of the two voices of verbs.  A verb is in the passive voice when the subject of the sentence is acted on by the verb. 

Again according to, active voice is one of the two voices of verbs.  When the verb of a sentence is in the active voice, the subject is doing the acting. 

Does that make sense?  Maybe or maybe not.  Do you know what a subject is?  So this takes me back to grammar school but the subject of the sentence is the person place, thing or idea doing something. 

Simple sentences

I went to the store – I is the subject

Samantha hit a homerun – Samantha is the subject

These two simple sentences are both in active voice.  The subject – I or Samantha – is doing the action. 

Image by creozavr on Pixabay 

Passive voice typically involves the BE verb.  There are so many of these and I’m not going to bore you with what the names for each are but here are the different forms – be, being, been, am, is, are, was, were.  If you see these words, the sentence is typically passive

I could give you all sorts of examples of passive voice vs active voice but I’m not a teacher and don’t want to put you to sleep.  Let me just say my go to place for explaining grammar type things is Purdue OWL  Here’s a link to one of their pages on passive voice

What I will say is when you’re writing – or more to the point editing – passive voice slows your pace down and isn’t good for certain types of scenes.  Are you going to be able to get rid of all the passive voice in your story – probably not.  But in key scenes – like fight scenes – it’s best to keep the passive voice to a minimum.

Why?  Because it’s more direct.  It adds to your writing to keep it in active voice.  The pace is faster – particularly in fight or battle scenes.  When you write in passive voice, you slow things down.

Passive voice – The sword was expertly wielded by the warrior. 

Active voice – The warrior expertly wielded her sword.  

In passive voice, you slow down and the pace is slower like this:

            The sword was expertly wielded by the warrior.  Long swipes were made by her as the enemy approached.  The enemy was killed by the warrior.

Now in active voice the pace is faster:

            The warrior expertly wielded the sword.  She made long swipes with her sword as the enemy approached.  She killed the enemy.

As the eye follows along, the reader is (hopefully) gasping with excitement as the warrior steps into battle. 

There are times for passive voice.  If you have a really fast paced scene and you need it to slow down a little, you can use passive voice to slow it down.

The more you remove the passive voice, the better the story will read, the more on edge your reader will be.

If you have a writing question you want answered or discussed, use the contact form to let me know.


In my Prose Stylistics class, we had to write a paragraph using only active verbs and no passive verbs.  In case you don’t know passive verbs are the “be” verbs like is, are, was, were, will, have been, had been, etc.  Here is a good link for passive voice if you want to learn more:

The instructor wanted us to watch a pitcher or jockey or some other sports event.  You all know me I am so not a sports person.  Instead I wrote about Vicki cooking.  Here is the sample:

            With a jerk, she flipped the onion, peppers, and garlic in the pan.  The smell invaded the entire house as she stirred the fry pan filled with fresh herbs and vegetables.   The chicken breasts sizzled as she added them to the mix adding another layer of scent lingering in the house.  Steam billows from the pan of noodles bubbling next to her mixture of deliciousness.  With an experienced hand, she spills in cream for the sauce.  She tilts the spices in with a practiced air, knowing the exact amount to add without getting a measuring spoon.  The food simmers burbling and expelling tantalizing fragrance that makes the mouth water.  With a gush, she empties the noodles into a strainer and then plops them back into the pan.  She scoops out the noodles and tops them with the chicken and sauce for a delicious plateful of sustenance.    

There is no passive voice in this paragraph at all.  I used all action verbs as requested in the assignment.  Passive voice shouldn’t be completely driven out of our writing but there is a time and place for it.  Here is the different between two sentences


With an experienced hand, she spills in cream for the sauce.


With an experienced hand, the cream was spilled by her for the sauce.

As you can see active voice is more direct and interesting.  It keeps the reader’s attention by keeping the action going.  My professor was not happy in class because no one was talking about the use of passive voice.  She slammed down the stapler on the table and made us write about it using no passive verbs.  I hate busy work and this was definitely busy work.  Many of those who wrote about it in class described the stapler but I took a little different tone.  Here it is:

            It waits silently, prepared for the next invasion.  Flat and thin, they slip between the guard posts.  The general slams down and the sentries impale the invaders.  The invaders escape embedded with two spikes and a rail. 

I will concede you can’t really tell that I’m talking about a stapler but at least it amused me while I did the busy work.  The professor seemed to enjoy my little bit of fantasy.