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Post Publishing Institute #7: I’m Free! Freelancing! (Part 2)

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Hello and welcome to Part 2 of my discussion on Freelance Writing/Editing. Or as I like to call it, FREELANCE WRITING: THE SEQUEL!

Attack-of-the-Sequels

The ONLY appropriate reaction.

Being a freelance writer, and all that it entails, is very busy work. When one isn’t editing someone’s work, or scribing the latest blurb for a fashion magazine, they have to self promote. I would go into more detail, but I touched on these in the previous blog post.

Instead, allow me to fill your mind with some new and exciting information. As you’ve likely guessed this post still has to do with freelancing, so you may be asking:

“But Zach, haven’t we covered this topic already? Surely you’ve beaten us over the head with all there is to know. How much more could you possibly have to share?”

Well fear not fellow writers and readers, for the world of freelancing is more vast than any Greek epic yet to be read.

"Good, good. Let the long windedness flow through you." -Homer

“Good, good. Let the long windedness flow through you.”
-Homer

Yes, it seems like I covered the gamut but did you know there are freelancers that specialize in what they do? In fact many in this line of work make a living through one type of writing/editing. And since the world of book publishing can always use a more help, these people can take jobs that would normally garner an employed editor/marketer’s attention.

Sarcastic Wonka

I certainly will, Gene Wilder.

Scared Wonka

Now while this may seem like total grunt work, it can actually be a lot of fun. Since book publishing has always been a relatively small market (some businesses having as many as 3 employees) with a small time budget (the yearly budget for most publishing companies is usually 1/10th the budget of one Hollywood movie.) they need all the help they can get planning, editing, writing, and even socializing with the author.

As such, here is a list of a freelance writer/editors many specialized jobs. Check them out and see which ones you jive with the most.

((Disclaimer: As a beginner, chances are you’ll end up doing many of these at once. Like I said before, it’s a busy job that doesn’t allow for slacking.))

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Job 1: Editor

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Figured i’d get the most obvious out of the way first. Being an editor means you will edit. Simple as that. However, how you will edit, what you will edit, and when it’s due, are completely up to the whims of your employers.

When taking on these tasks, always ask the basic questions: How much am I editing? What format is this editing under? (typically fiction is done under Chicago Manual of Style, but it never hurts to ask.) When will you need this done? What are you paying me?

Job 2: Coaching, Consulting.

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Another job that’s pretty easy to grasp. Rather than editing, this job means you’ll be working with the author to make the story better. Typically this falls under the workload of Line Editors, since they’re tasked with working out the fundamental ideas within the story.

Keep in mind, this job is highly personable and requires a great amount of tact and empathy. As many of my friends can attest, writers are not machines made to churn out epic novels for others amusement. They have feelings, wants, hopes, and dreams like any other human being. Understanding this, and being adaptable to your author’s needs, while finding the right way to discuss and motivate, is paramount in this line of work.

Job 3: Book Doctoring

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Sometimes an author falls way behind on a deadline. Sometimes the planned publishing process gets muddled or distorted. Sometimes a book needs a massive overhaul, but it’s too much work for even the most skilled editor on staff. So what do you do? You call a book doctor.

This tends to be the most stressful job for a multitude of reasons. First, you can likely expect whatever it is that’s handed to you will be a monstrous affront to all things literature. Second, it will likely be riddled with issues that need fixing, most of which may be so minuscule that only a keen eye can fix. Third, you’re likely not given nearly enough time to fix all these issues (I mean,heck, they needed a book doctor for a reason.)

It’s not a pleasant job, and half the time you won’t be able to make something half as good as you wanted it to be. Yet it does have its merits, and can be the most rewarding for both the gratitude and paycheck you’d receive.

Job 4: Collaborating and Co-Authoring

GearHeadsCollaborating

There are many reasons an editor/writer becomes a co-author to a work. Maybe your works inspired the author in question. Maybe your previous workings are a significant part of the writings. Maybe the author likes you a lot and thinks you should be signed on. Whatever the reason, Co-Authoring and collaborating connects you to the work on multiple levels, and can be a major boon to your publishing cred.

However, what this job makes up for in bragging rights it takes away in time. Anyone who has ever written a book can say that it was a major emotional, physical, and mental investment. Working with a second author can lessen the physical portion, but the emotional and mental investments are doubled to compensate. Plus, with two authors you may end up writing something twice as long, meaning the physical effort is doubled instead of halved. These assignments can also eat into your other projects as well. So proceed with caution when presented with these opportunities.

Job 5: Ghost Writing

ghost writing

I honestly couldn’t have found a better picture to describe this process.

Ghost writing is when an unknown/unannounced author writes the story, but another author’s name is signed onto it. Examples of this include many James Patterson novels, in which his many understudies write his books while he puts his name on them.

Now, before we jump the gun and say “That’s not fair. Who would be dumb enough to do that?” keep in mind the reason ghost writing exists. Often times an author will want to make a point, but feels their name is associated with too many things. Case in point, Mel Brooks wrote and directed The Elephant Man, but kept his name out so no one would mistake the movie for a comedy. In another example, M. Night Shyamalan allowed Will Smith to take credit as director for After Earth’s production so people would think it was a good movie.

In a way this is what ghost writing does: allow the author to make something they wish to write, but not have their name associated with it. Or, alternatively, it allows a new writer to get their start, but under a more famous person’s name so it’ll sell. No matter what happens, the one writing will always be appropriately compensated and, if you do a good enough job, it could mean greater opportunities and connections.

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That concludes the lesson on freelance writing/editing. Hopefully by now you’ll have amassed enough knowledge to get your start in freelance writing.

Remember, it’s a tough business out there, and requires a considerable amount of time and effort. However, if you keep at it, you’ll find a very rewarding career managed by no one other than you, yourself, and thee.

So what do you think? Have any of you done a job such as these? Have any ever needed someone to do any of these jobs? Do they sound like something you’d be interested in doing?

If you have questions, concerns, critiques, or compliments be sure to leave them in the comments below.

Until next time.

 

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Publishing Institute Post #5: Publishing in The Name of ________

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You’ve probably seen them in your hometown: Bookstores that sell a particular niche. A particular religious niche. A particular religious, but more often than not, Christian niche. These are the bookstores where you can’t help but wonder “Out of all the countless books that are published, how the heck do they find all these?”

Well, my dear readers, the answer is simple: Just as there are publishers for Fantasy, Mystery, and Paranormal Lovecraftian Romance, there are publishing houses that specialize in Religion books. No i’m not talking about people who reprint The Holy Testament or The Bhagavad Gita, but rather books that have an overt, observable religious theme to them.

(And yes, Paranormal Lovecraftian Romance is a thing. No I don’t want to look it up.)



(Fine here is an example, don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

As with every facet of publishing, DPI had a fantastic slew of women and men who took time out of their busy lives to educate us bright eyed would-be publishers. For this lecture, the man in charge was none other than the great Joel Fotinos. Say hello Joe:

Joel_Fotinos_Web
Look at that smile! With such an attractive picture you’d think he’s been all over the Religious publishing world. And you’d be right! This man held jobs in various Christian publications across the Midwest and even dabbled a bit in other religious houses (those stories, however, are not mine to tell). In fact, he is so well rounded he was the first to win “Spiritual Hero of the Year” from The Science of the Mind Magazine due to his magnanimity and outreach efforts.

For us at DPI we were fortunate to have such a splendid man lecture us on the Religious Publishing world. Though it may seem like a small time genre, religious publishing has never been stronger. In fact, Religious publishing has great potential for growth, and is more varied than you would think.

So, dear reader, if you plan to work for, or publish something of religious intent, allow me to provide you a handy reference list, taught to me by the man above (Joel, not the other one) with a little self added information. That way you may be a little more prepared in your future endeavors.

THE FIVE RELIGIOUS PUBLISHING MARKETS:

1) Christianity:

-Due to this being the most prevalent religion in the USA, this group actually is split into four.

A) The Christian Books Association (CBA): Conservative Christian Market, publishes books like Heaven is for Real and is a very black and white industry. Usually for Christian Tracts and Evangelical books. Examples include: CSPA and Thomas Nelson Inc.

B) The Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit (RBTE): Liberal Christian Market, for more “Spiritual Christians” or books with redemptive endings. Anne Lamott’s books are published here, as was Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. Examples include: Riverhead Books and Knopf Canada (the latter does more than just religious publishing.)

C) Catholic Publishing: This one overlaps with both the CBA and the RBTE, but as you could guess most of these books have a Catholic perspective to them. The books they publish tend to be sold in Cathedrals Catholic retreats. Examples include: Ignatius and TAN Books

D) Mormon Publishing: Also overlaps with the CBA and RBTE but with a Mormon perspective to it. Very insular, most books in these markets sell only in Mormom cathedrals and Mormon bookstores. Examples include: Eborn Books and Signature Books.

2) Judaism:

– The second largest market in America, this market is responsible for giving us amazing works of literature such as The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank), Everything is Illuminated (Jonathan Saffran Foer), and The Book Thief (Markus Zusak). While they’re not as big as the Christian market, this section makes up for it by being available anywhere outside of religious events and Jewish communities. Examples of Jewish Publishing Houses include: KTAV, Feldheim, and Gefen Publishing

3) Islam:

– I’ll be honest when I say I haven’t done much research on this sect of Religious publishers. However, I can say that they’re a growing market dedicated to dispelling the myths and misconceptions regarding their beliefs. If nothing else I say give a few of their books a shot, and maybe you’ll be surprised at what you discover. Since it’s small in America it’s difficult to find a list of notable publishing houses. However, the wonder blogger at Muslim Writers has compiled a list of useful places to start.

4) Eastern Doctrines:

– These are actually a bunch of different “umbrella houses” that kind of get grouped into one due to their size. Religions included in this market are :Buddhism (including Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana), Taoism, Hinduism and the Baha’i Faith. Famous books from these publishers include, among many others, a The Tao of Pooh (Benjamin Hoff), Siddhartha (Herman Hesse), and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert M. Pirsig). Popular Eastern Doctrine Publshing Houses include: New Directions and Wisdom Publishing

5) New Age:

– This is also a catch all term for a rather large group. It includes anything that’s gained a major following within the last century/half century. Usually includes anything involving Pagan, Wiccan, Near Death Experiences, Acupuncture, Tarot, etc. It’s a rather open ended market but it’s really picking up steam in America. Popular Publishing Houses include: New Leaf Publishing Group and Sounds True.

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Should you wish to pitch a book to any of these companies, keep this in mind:
Religious Publishing isn’t about publishing books, it’s about publishing content. The heart of the book, from the words on the page to the theme of the narrative, are what they consider when taking on a book.

So before you send your manuscript, ask yourself: Is my book on the level with this publishing house? Do I speak to the audience they wish to reach? Or will my book do better somewhere else?

Sure that seems obvious, but content matters. The heart of the story matters. No one at in the CBA  would consider taking a story about chakras, even if the protagonists are deeply religious. Chances are your manuscript is fine the way it is, but only needs the right house to publish and distribute it.

If you have any further questions or comments you’re all welcome to speak your mind below. Until next time.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2013 in Advice, Publishing Institute

 

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Publishing Institute Post # 3: Of Tea and Editors

Tsunami Tea

Imagine miles of tea! Stacks of cups everywhere! Every type of tasty tea you could possibly imagine! The water of which is like a tsunami of delicious warm beverage barraging your senses with soothing thoughts and boundless comfort!

If the above sentence made you shudder with excitement chances are you love tea… or have a certain proclivity toward exclamation marks. (I won’t judge.)

If it’s the former, you’re probably a tea enthusiast and that’s okay. Tea, as I’ve learned, is a wonderful drink that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Why, ask my friend Lauren. She likes tea…

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Scratch that… my friend Lauren LOVES tea. Before I met her in person she introduced herself on the DPI Facebook group. She fit right in with the rest of us, detailing her love of social dancing, Doctor Who, and all things English on our massive “Get To Know Us” post.

Seriously, I think the whole thing, comments and all, is over 50,000 words.

We had our first major conversation over lunch one day, and I can tell you it won’t be one I forget anytime soon. In the brief period of exchanged words I learned that she seemed to have the delicious brew understood from the inside out  And she could tell you about it too! From where it comes from, to what goes with which. From the types of food best eaten, to why it even exists. So deep is her passion that, when she’s not working to become a publisher, she’s co-managing her own tea business. If you have time I suggest checking it out here and here.

So why all the praise? Well, if I must be honest, without her I wouldn’t have a post. Not today, heck not even for a while.

See, I don’t drink a lot of tea. I know less about tea than my ten year old cousin (he thinks Instant Coffee/Tea is the best *shudders*). To me, the brew was not much more than tasty hot leaf juice, but that’s like saying Cake is just surgary bread. Much to my enjoyment Lauren taught me that tea was so much more than that, and since then I’ve been enamored with the stuff to an almost unhealthy extent.

At the same time, I’ve learned a lot about Editors in the publishing profession. Unlike the Freelance Editors I described in an earlier post, these are the people who are employed by a Publishing House. If/When your manuscript is approved, these are the people with whom you’ll deal with until you have the finished project.

Now when I say deal with I don’t mean it as a “these are the threshold guardians threatening your chance for fame and fortune.” Instead I’m referring to them in the sense that they exist to help bring your manuscript to it’s fullest potential. In a sense they are become not only your teacher, but also your partner, and student, for you both have much to gain from interacting.

You may be wondering why I refer to your Editor as “they” rather than “he” or “she.” Well the thing is, like many people, before I came to DPI, I thought there was only one person who does the job. .After several editing workshops I discovered this is not the case; inf fact, like tea, they come in all of flavors. On a rudimentary level they all perform the same job, but what exactly they do is different depending on the department. Daunting as it sounds, if your manuscript is good chances are you’ll only need three with which to work.

So, in an effort to shamelessly show off my new found tea knowledge, and help you all get to understand these editing types. I put together the following list.

EDITORS LIKE TEA

1) The Aquisition Editor – Green Tea

At the front line of the Publishing world, it is the Acquisition’s Editor’s job to make sure anything that gets accepted is worth publishing in the first place. In a sense these editors are the jack of all trades, for they have to think of the manuscript as a whole. This will be made clearer with the other two types of editors.

The reason I liken them to Green Tea is because of their diplomacy. In countries around the world, Green Tea is used both for energizing and relaxation the drinker. It does not contain as much caffeine as black tea, which is why it’s often used for nerves, but if you’re calm and need a pick me up then this is your drink.

What does this have to do with editing? Well, the Acquisitions Editor doesn’t just work with the author but also answers to the various sects of the Publishing House. As such, a good Acquisitions Editor must be visceral in both demeanor and energy. They know how to put their time to good use and are capable of changing to suit both the author and market. All the while they manage to keep to their principles, for flexibility is inherent in who they are.

Also because the ones I’ve met seem to like sugar. (Edit: Don’t drink your Green Tea with sugar. Honey tastes a bajillion times better.)

2) The Line Editor – Black Tea

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One of the newer types of Editors, the Line Editor is tasked to seek out anything problematic in the manuscript. These are the people who will likely tell you when a plot device falls flat, or when a character is unneeded. They’re the ones who look at your story like it was a puzzle, and all the while they make sure the pieces fit the right way.

In some senses, Line Editors are the ones who will get the most out of your story. Like you, they invest their creativity and taste into the manuscript so it can be told in the most appropriate manner. This, however, makes them heavily opinionated and even a bit pushy. Sometimes they’ll suggest making drastic cuts to your story, and sometimes may ask you to rewrite entire arcs.

Harsh as that may sound, if you can convince them the flaw has a purpose (not fully explained, or necessary to a theme, etc.) then they may be willing to work it out. It is for this reason I liken them to Black Tea, a beverage known to be high in flavor and caffeine. No matter how good you are, a Line Editor will make you think, make you work, and will do so while coaching your every word. While you can add milk to the mix, and soften a line editor’s mood, the fact remains that the tea is black and your manuscript may need work.

3) Copy Editors – Oolong Tea

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Strong, Oolong Tea does not go well with sugar. It is not softened with milk, and is a very specific type of tea with a very specific type of stigma. Unlike the other two, which are made with leaves, Oolong comes from specific herbs. Yes the flavor may vary, but ultimately Oolong tea is Oolong tea, and enjoying it means taking it as it is.

The Copy Editor is a lot like that. For them, they don’t have the luxury of being flexible or diplomatic. They don’t have the honor of speaking to the author and asking if certain changes are alright. What exactly do they do? Why, the answer is simple: They proofread.

See, while the Line Editor handles ideas and the Acquistions Editor talks the talk, the Copy Editor has a specific playbook by which their job is done. Armed with countless dictionaries and reference materials, theses are the people who make sure you dot the i’s, cross the t’s, and hope to whatever God they worship that you use the Oxford comma.

I could speak more about this brew of Editor, but I think i’ll save it for the next post.

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So that’s the Editing Profession in a nutshell. Believe it or not some places have more than 6 types of editors, all of whom are either offshoots or freelancers. However, all of them will always answer to these three, for they are the backbone of the creative side of your manuscript.

That being said, I hope this was as informative to you as it was for me. Should you wish to go into editing as a profession I recommend picking up the following books:

  • The Chicago Manual of Style: ALWAYS get the latest volume of this one. All manuscripts in America are judged by the Chicago Style, so knowing this will be half the battle.
  • Editors on Editing (Gerald C. Gross) : Self explanatory, but it serves as a fantastic book on the insights of publishing. Do no miss this one, lest you feel going into the profession blind is a good idea.
  • The Elements of Style (William Strunk and E.B. White): A classic guide to writing style. Usually referred to in the publishing world as Strunk and White.
  • An Excellent College Level Dictionary: No that isn’t the title, I mean actually go get a good dictionary. Try to find one that is a 1,500+ paged hardcover. If it comes with an etymology even better. However, no Editor would be caught dead without a handy dictionary.

And with that you are on your way. Remember, education is an important tool. For those who work with books this fact remains truer than ever, especially with the advent of E-books and Self Publishing sites. It never hurts to glean more from your desired path, and if you learn to enjoy something new in the process then so be it.

That being said, it’s time for me to put down the laptop and pick up that hot cup of tea beside me. This one’s for you Lauren.

Cheers!

Until next time.

 

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Publishing Institute Post #2: What’s an Agent? Why should you get one?

Golden Gate Bridge

(Warning: the following lesson may not be appropriate for those who want to self-publish or send excerpts and short stories to magazines or publishing books. For everyone else: enjoy.)

So picture this:

Many moons ago you had an idea, nay, an urge to write. For weeks you slaved over details, world building, character creation, and crafting. You’ve received good and bad advice. You’ve struggled with writer’s block. You’ve neglected the dirty dishes in the sink. After an undefined period of time, you’ve finally done it! You’ve written a novel. Now all that’s left is to send it in to a publisher right? After that the big bucks come flowing in… right?

Wait… Why am I not getting any feedback? (I sent it to like… seven Publishing houses)

Why is my story being ignored? (I worked so hard on it. I even bought books on writing)

Why won’t anyone take me seriously? (I swear I showered last night!)

If the above sounds like an exaggerated version of you, do not lose hope. It’s not that your story is bad, or that you’re unlikeable. It’s that you have no representation.

Now you might be wondering: What the heck is this nut talking about? Representation? Isn’t my skill enough?

It’s a fair question, but have you ever heard of Nikolai Tesla? The man was a genius, crafting marvels of scientific wonder and shattering the per-conceived notions of his time. He’s the reason electricity works the way it does, and is partially responsible for the name of an amazing 80’s heavy metal band.

"I'm on the highway to that one place full of bad people." -Heavily paraphrased by me.

“I’m on the highway to that one place full of bad people.”
-Heavily paraphrased by me.

Unfortunately, the man died broke and shamed. It wasn’t that his talent wasn’t enough, but that no one wanted to vouch for his brilliance. In fact, the man had most of his inventions stolen by a dude who crafted the lightbulb. The ones that weren’t stolen were disavowed or made infamous by a man with way more money and influence.

So what went wrong? Well it wasn’t that the man wasn’t talented, that’s for certain. Instead it’s that he wasn’t very well represented in his life. Had he the lauding and background we give him today things might have been different for good ‘ol Tesla.

Fortunately for you, dear writer, you don’t need to pass on to gain representation. The States are a much more forgiving place nowadays, and anyone with an iota of brilliance can gain the representation they need to help make their dreams a reality. How, you ask?

Why, with an Agent of course!

"You called?"

“You called?”

Wrong Agent…

Actually, the kind of agent i’m talking about is a Publishing Agent. Should one choose to go the traditional route, these people are your first step to getting your story published. Paid by commission, these men and women work tirelessly to make your manuscript as perfect a possible. All the while they act as a liaison between you and the Publishing company, ensuring you come out of the bargain with the best possible rewards and rights.

“But wait!” you might say, “What if this agent is no help at all? What if they try to steal my work I so lovingly crafted?”

Again another fair question. As writers we often feel wary with sharing with other people our works. It’s the ultimate paradox really, for we are careful with disclosure, but we want people to see and love our works. Thus I say to you, aspiring writers, if you wish to let others see your work, why not start with one who’s life goal is to help those like you?

See, in a previous article I talked about people who work by commission. Like a freelance editor, an agent works the same way. The difference: rather than be paid up front, the agent is paid when you are paid by the publishing company. In essence their entire livelihood exists solely because writer’s like you need representation. Thus many agents are more than happy to give that, should time or skill permit.

In addition to that, the very word “Agent” has quite the history in and of itself. It’s origin, agere, is the Latin word for “to set in motion, drive, lead, or conduct.” Seems fitting for one who tries to get your work noticed, no? Well wait, it gets better! In the 1550’s, the decade before Shakespeare himself was born, the term had a much more powerful meaning. According to the Online Etymology “Agent” meant “Any natural force or substance which produces a phenomenon,” a fitting definition for one who wishes to help stories succeed. Four decades later it meant “the representative,” again another fitting definition. It wasn’t until the 1910’s that the word became synonymous with “spies,” but I digress.

“Well they sound great and all, but where can I find one?” you may ask. Fortunately the answer is quite simple.

Take a novel you like, preferably one you’re novel resembles in tone or genre, and look at the dedications. Often times authors will acknowledge their agent in the dedications of their books. While this is a good start, there is also no harm in searching for agents online. Agents’ webpages and blogs pepper the internet far and wide. Oftentimes they’ll list what they’ve worked on and what they want to endorse. All it takes is one email.

Or,you could use this website: http://publishersmarketplace.com/

I mean… I guess you could look up your favorite books. Maybe the agent will be listed. I suppose you could pay for the full service, i’m told it might be totally worth it.

Like the picture above, an agent is like a bridge. They serve to connect what is naturally separate, in this case the writer and publishers. In addition they support those who wish to cross, as they will do for your manuscript as it goes to the publisher. If things pan out the bridge will help make it to the other side, and will even support you on the way back. That’s what bridges do, and I feel agents do that just as well.

And if your bridge is bad then you could always find another one.

—-

So that’s my word on bri- I mean agents. I know I said I’d talk about editors this time around but I felt this needed to be said first. I promise the next one will talk about the various kinds of editors that help shape your books to excellence.

In the meantime, does anyone have a personal experience with an agents? Have you ever found a good one? Are there any you find particularly exciting?

If you want, leave a comment below. Until next time.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Advice, Publishing Institute

 

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Pre-Publishing Institute: Things Your Editor Is Not

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Totally a picture of me… If I were a woman… and had money…

I’ve been reading a book titled The Chicago Manual of Style.

For those who don’t know, it’s basically everything you need to know about the technicalities of being a Professional Editor.

Seeing as this is a highly likely career choice, I read this book with much gusto. As such, many times I made this face while reading:

Shocked

And said this:

o-rly

And when people asked if I enjoyed reading it i’d respond:

relevant-to-my-interests

Now if you thought goofed around more than I read you might not be far from the truth. However, like a good student, I did in fact glean some useful information. The lesson that stood out the most is, in a nutshell, what an Editor is supposed to do.

Mind you, I did not say what an Editor is “expected” to do. If I were to do that I’d probably render half the book moot due to stereotypes. So, for the sake of my fellow readers and anyone else who dares to read this poor excuse for a blog, I shall list:

Things Your Editor is NOT Going To, Allowed To, or Will Do.

1) Your editor is NOT in it for the money.
-For some reason people my age think Editing is a lucrative job. They think that editors pull out their expensive quill pens from the 15th century, lean back on their authentic Shakespearean recliners, and draw strands of red ink across a page while huge stacks of money get delivered to them by the dump truck.

Hate to say it but editing is not the most high paying profession. If you’re an editor, chances are you’re paid by commission. Pay on commission means: you get paid whenever someone wants you to work for them, and you charge for your services. I don’t know about you guys, but living on $30-50  a commission doesn’t sound as glamorous when you only get 2-3 commissions a week, if they come that often.

2) Your editor is NOT out to steal your work.
-As someone who works via commission, getting work in the first place means your name needs to be known. When you business spreads via word of mouth/internet/smoke signal/etc. the most important facet is your reputation. The better it is, the more commissions you get: plain and simple.

So if an Editor, for some reason, thinks it’s a good idea to disregard International Copyright Laws and steal ideas from patrons, chances are they won’t being working for long.

3) Your editor is NOT out to get you.
-Remember what I said about reputation? In a way being an Editor is a lot like being a server in a restaurant. One who cares about their job only wants to serve and see other people do well. It’s this kind of selfless delusion that implies that some people might, for some strange reason, consider that the happiness of others is somewhat important. However, while a server may end up getting tips from stroking your ego, an editor’s job is much different. In fact, editors get by on constructive criticism, which is basically the same as your server telling you not to eat that steak because of your cholesterol.

Actually being an editor is a lot like being a coach: and I’ve yet to know of a good coach that doesn’t yell at his/her team every once in a while. If you don’t like it, you can always go to a different one, but please don’t expect them to lie and stroke egos if your work sucks. Being critical is their way of helping you succeed.

I could go on, but I find this list is sufficient. Besides, I have a lot more material to cover this month, especially before I head out for Denver on the 12th. Anyone with any follow up opinions or comments is more than welcome to contribute. If I got something wrong please don’t hesitate to scold me down below. And with that, I bid thee all adieu.

Until next time.

 

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Personal Project – Fire and Stone: The Cast, Basics

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“A good story can be weighed down by mediocre characters. Good characters can carry a mediocre story.”
– I don’t know, I can’t find the source. *curls into a ball and cries*

In all seriousness, I cannot stress your characters’ importance. But if I were to explain it in a simple fashion, then allow me to talk as if I were discussing a movie.

Let’s go with The Matrix.

I’ll be 100% honest. I saw the Matrix sequels long before I saw the Matrix itself. As such, the initial shock and awe of “this world is a fabrication” was lost on account of “Yeah I knew that already.” In spite of this, I didn’t want this to spoil my enjoyment of the movie. As such I went in with the mindset of “Let’s see how it gets there.”

Well, to be honest, I almost fell asleep half the time. Not to say Mr. Reeves isn’t a good actor, but I found more personality in my cereal spoon than his performance.

Keanu Spoon

And it wasn’t just Keanu. Morpheus and Trinity struck me as such wooden characters that I found myself caring almost little for anything they did. I even considered shutting off the movie until I got to the major “betrayal scene.”

For those who have watched the movie you know what I’m talking about. For those who haven’t seen the Matrix i’ll not spoil this for you.

In this particular scene a character does and says somethings that put the main characters in a real, tense, life-threatening situation. This character fascinated me so much, because I heard, in that character’s monologue, all their strife, anger, and the many layers that makes a human a human. I was enthralled by this person’s performance on such a scale that it convinced me to watch the rest of this movie.

Now, i’m not saying the Matrix was a bad movie. In fact, I highly recommend it to anyone. However, as novel as the world and plot were, it meant little when none of the cast members came close to that level of intrigue and humanity.

The same goes for writing your story.

Your characters are your actors, and good actors are those who make the audience believe they are real people. It’s why Heath Ledger’s performance as “The Joker” was so haunting, and why Marissa Tomei won an Oscar for playing a woman from New Jersey in My Cousin Vinny. However, in a writer’s world we are not blessed with being able to pick and choose who portrays what in our story.

So it falls upon us, as writers, to create those characters ourselves.

For my story, Fire and Stone, no two characters got more development than Nijam and Elhove. These two, a girl and boy respectively, carry the brunt of the story, and as such they hold the responsibility of being the most realistic. Getting to that point, however, meant that I needed to get to know them better.

Ever have an imaginary friend? Someone you talk to? Listen to? Gives you advice even though, deep down, you’re really just talking to yourself? To me, making a character is a lot like that. I’ll give you an example, a bit of written dialogue I had when I “interviewed” Elhove.


(This is after I asked about his dad)

Elhove: Well what do you want to know? He’s the Elect. People like him. He’s kind of a big deal.

Me: Yeah but do you like him?

Elhove: *shrugs*

Me: What does that mean?

Elhove: I don’t know… I don’t talk to him much.

Me: What do you mean? You’re his son.

Elhove: Only when it’s convenient, I suppose.

Me: Convenient?

Elhove: The last time we talked he scolded me for missing my studies. *covers his arm*

Me: Is that when he gave you that scar?

Elhove:  *glares* Let’s talk about something else.

Silly as it sounds this “interview” went on for a couple of pages. In that time I really got to know a character I made up, simply by keeping in mind what kind of person he might be. As I learned more about him, I looked up various psychology books about children and teens who go through similar pains, all in an attempt to make him seem realistic. Throughout the interview a lot of his answers surprised me, and though he was a figment of my imagination, I felt as if he were a real human being. Whether that comes across to others is a different story, but the fact of the matter is I tried my hardest with everything I had.

For the sake of telling a good story, a lot of work goes into the mechanics. Regarding characters I found you have to practically talk to them, and make them feel like real people rather than just a few archetypes smashed together. This wasn’t the only way I got to know my characters but it definitely helped round them out. Maybe next time I’ll go over more details as to how I get to know my actors and actresses.

In the meantime here are a few links that helped me better understand the people on the page:

http://solsticeapocalypse.tumblr.com/tagged/character-crafting (this tumblr has a wealth of writing information. Very helpful stuff.)

http://www.springhole.net/writing/marysue.htm (how to tell if your character is a “Mary Sue”)

http://www.pgtc.com/~slmiller/characterdevelopment.htm (your basic, catchall character writing site. Contains a good list I use)

—-

So do any of you have a hard time getting to know your characters? What tricks or tips do you do to help round them out? Have you ever had a character talk back? What do you think about Character archetypes?

And with that I bid you all adieu until next time.

 

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Trope Discussion – The Love Triangle

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Alex loves Betty.
Carl loves Betty.
Betty cares for both.
Alex and Carl want her to choose.
She can’t because she doesn’t want to hurt them.
Drama/Hilarity ensues.

The Love Triangle, one of the many tropes that act as a double edged sword.

I’m not going to sugar coat my feelings: At one point in time I considered this trope is more trouble than it’s worth. People I knew often defended it by saying stuff like “this happens in real life” and “you can’t help who you fall in love with.” True as that may be, anyone who has actually lived a love triangle knows how frustrating this can be. Whether you’re on the pining or pined for end, a love triangle brings about a certain level of stress no matter the outcome.

The other issue that concerns me is that this trope is often used as “1 can’t chose between 2 and 3” when in reality this trope can be endless in it’s execution.

triangles
For your consideration. The arrows show which way love is being given.

As shown above, the Love Triangle can be done multiple ways, and it has. Some notable examples are as follows:

2) Berserk, between Guts, Griffith, and Casca.
3) Archie Comics, Betty and Veronica to Archie.
4) The Wedding Singer, Where Julia and Glenn are engaged, but Robbie likes Julia.
5) Naruto, Naruto likes Sakura, Sakura likes Sasuke.
6) Wheel of Time, Elayne and Min over Rand.
7) Scott Pilgrim, where Scott dates both Ramona and Knives.

And so on and so forth. As you can tell, the examples and ways a Love Triangle can be handled is nearly infinite. Hence, my issue with this trope is not it’s existence but in it’s execution. When done well, it reveals an underlying strength or flaw the characters possess, and enriches the story with it’s multi-layered facet. When done poorly, it serves as pointless drama and does nothing short of aggravate everyone in the room.

So, fellow writers, should you choose to execute this trope, keep these things in mind:

  • This trope is highly volatile, and must be handled with care.
  • In real life this trope causes several issues, so keep them in mind at all times.
  • There are many paths this can take, as long as there are three it counts.
  • It’s been done to death, so be aware of cliches.

Keep this in mind and i’m sure both your sanity, your readers, and your characters will appreciate it.
—-

I spent this article explaining why this trope can be volatile so what tropes seem problematic for you? In what way? What’s the most common love triangle you’ve noticed? Is any one of them your favorite? Keep in mind this can be done for laughs, so how would you make them sound funny?

With that, have a nice day.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2013 in Advice, On Writng, Tropes

 

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