Copyediting. Why I didn’t pay someone to destroy my fragile confidence.

Blog Copy editors

My book is my baby. I love it, I created it and I’ve nurtured it. Now it needs to be cleaned up and ready to present. At first, I thought about hiring someone to edit my book for me. I wasn’t in a confidence place yet to open up and ask anyone I knew to do this. I was well aware that my manuscript needed a lot of tender loving care. A lot.

It seemed a daunting task so I began the arduous search on-line for copy editors.

What is a copy editor? They will read my manuscript, check for spelling and grammar errors. They will check my sentence structure for filter words and for flow, for continuity and plot holes (They might not call it that.) They don’t do this for free. I also found out after contacting a bunch that they will rip apart my manuscript. Tear it to shreds. So much that looks like they massacred a red pen or ten and hid the evidence on the pages.
I wasn’t ready to have someone apply their opinion and style to my work, I may never be.

For 136,000 words approx. (Keep in mind this is way over the max allowable word count, and before I revised it even once.) I received quotes from $2000 to $3500 Canadian for a basic copyedit. I even had one say unless I’m a master Russian author there was no way my book was good at that word count. How rude! That was a great criticism. Really it was because he pointed me in the right direction of word count reduction, which leads me down the right path of editing for me.

So I thought about this cost and what they do long and hard. I thought about it as I read through and spell/grammar checked my messy work. If I got a copy editor to revise my manuscript, it would no doubt be torn to shreds with a red pen. Then what? I fix it and have to have them revise again? That just got twice as expensive. I don’t have thousands of dollars to throw around. Nor was I comfortable with the idea of becoming dependent on someone’s idea of how my book should be. Mostly it was a cost issue.

I made two decisions. The first to take all of my spare time, and edit it myself. I do not have a degree in English so this was a slow and careful task. (Still in progress FYI)
The second. When I’m done editing as far as I can go and I don’t get any bites from Literary Agents in one year, I will revisit the option of hiring a copy editor. (I will write about my experiences surrounding Literary Agents in future blogs don’t worry.)

With every revision, I became more excited. It is shaping up and reading well. I can’t express how rewarding it is to work so hard on something that means so much. It wasn’t as scary or daunting as I first thought, and to be perfectly honest it allowed me to hone the story and make it more streamline. There are sequels to this, my first book, so I was able to go back and plant little foreshadow nuggets. I am glad the sticker shock forced me to re-evaluate my thinking.

My advice about Copy Editors.

If you need them and can afford it, it is your choice. I know they are very helpful.
In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t. I feel pride in all the work I’ve put into my manuscript. I could not justify paying someone thousands of dollars to tear apart my manuscript. Just remember nobody can tell you paying for help is right or wrong, if you need help get it. Free or paid is nobody else’s business. Just be careful and check their references first, check to see if they are legit or a swindler. You are hiring them to read and revise your work. Make sure they are the right person/s to do that.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Featured Image -- 9308Who knew some simple and overused words can cause a sentence to flop. I didn’t until I found out that I was plagued by them. Filter words are words that are useless and often change the tone of the sentence or even put it in the wrong perspective. They filter the sentence through the point of view of the character and it makes for awkward reading.  It’s a lot like parallel parking. You have a beautiful street with perfectly parked cars. Then along comes a couple rusty lemons that cram on in there, crooked and parked to close to the bumpers of other cars. It’s annoying, unsightly and can cause problems.

Example: Phillip saw the motorbike go by way too fast and thought it was so loud, he felt it in his teeth.
Filter words:  saw, way, thought, and felt.
Correction: The sound of the engine vibrated Phillips teeth as the motorbike sped by.
From 21 words to 13. It may not be how you would rewrite it, but that’s okay.

Clearly, they can be a pain. So what did I do about them?

First, I searched for lists of Filter words, super easy to do.
Second, I used the search feature and one by one went through finding all of them. I evaluated the sentence and either removed, replaced or rewrote the sentence. This took weeks to do.

After a while, I would come across a sentence like the example above. I learned to recognize the poorly parked words, and pull them all out all at once. There were times when I would revisit a sentence a few times because of different words and I would laugh at myself, fix it properly, and keep going.

This filter word removal was incredibly useful. It allowed me to see and familiarize myself with the useless words and learn not to use them. (That’s the theory, I’ll probably still use them.) I was able to take my word count down to a reasonable level by removing and replacing these words.

Here are some of the ones I overused.

Saw – 139
Thought – 212
Know – 414 (knowing, Know, and knows)
See – 244 (Seen, seeing, sees)
Had – 653

I discovered the trick with filter words is to go right to the root. Instead of searching all the variables as with Know, knowing, known, knows, I only searched “Know” and got them all. So for, looked, looks and looking I searched “look”. You get the idea. Tedious yes, but man, it was fun to shape and reshape my sentences.

Did I have to get rid of all of them? No of course not, just the ones that snuck in and didn’t belong. I still have a few to go through, however, they are minor and seem to be within a conversation. As long as it’s how that character speaks I’m fine leaving them.

My advice about filter words.

I found it easier to use the “find” feature, and search and repair one by one. Don’t sweat them as you write I didn’t. This is part of what I call the “shampoo process of editing”. I can’t speak for other writers, but by the end, you might just find a bunch of unwanted words parked in your sentences. Don’t worry about it, they will help you write better as you pull them out. At least they did for me.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

Read, revise and repeat. The shampoo process of editing.

Read revise and repeat

The many facets of writing a book from start to completion and submitting for publishing is a wild ride. This is just one of the itsy-bitsy shiny edges I experienced.

Editing and revising, it’s a dirty job but it needs to be done. The first draft of my manuscript was a mess and it needed to be cleaned up. Even so, I took a chance and let a couple people read it. It was strange how nerve-wracking it was to wait for opinions. They liked it except for the errors and sentence flow.

I can fix that.

The idea of paying a copy editor to revise for me was tempting except for the cost. I thought it would be frustrating and arduous to copy edit my own book. I was wrong, it turns out when it’s your story it’s exciting and rewarding.

As I read, I found errors galore. At first, I thought perhaps I’m not cut out for this after all. That self-doubt lasted only a minute when I reminded myself that regardless of the outcome, I did this, I wrote a book and I love it. Spelling was a revision on its own, as was grammar, repeat phrase check, flow and of course there were details to add and take away.

Around revision eight I was optimistic, removing and trimming the loose ends, setting up foreshadows and making sure all the characters have a voice. Word count became an issue that helped me find the way to polish the story. I washed away the crap words that made the story flow frizzy and tangled.

My advice regarding editing your own work.
It is a long and rewarding process. Nobody likes dirty greasy hair, and nobody likes dirty greasy sentence structure. Take the time to read, revise and repeat.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

The “word count” down.

The “word count” down.

When all was said and done, I had a minor panic attack. I discovered my book is 15,000 words over the maximum allowable for my genre.
Totally fine right? Not so much. Word count matters.

I began the long process of editing. Finding the repeat information or sentences. I Cut the rambling and cleaned up sentences. Like a maniac, I watched the word count with an obsession for weeks. I calculated every day how many words I’d eliminated and how many left to remove to break the magic number.

The last page was done. I made it, almost. Still at 101 words over. I sat and stared at the screen. I’ll be honest I stared at the word count number.

Now what?

A little research turned up a list of words. Ones that are useless and often change the voicing of the sentence. They are called Filter words and everyone uses them. I took them out, fixed the sentences and found myself below by 1850 with 200 pages to go. Yes, I did a little happy dance.

My advice on word count. The words tell the story so let them, but make them count. If you go over, start your own word count down.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved