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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday: Writing Advice from Linda Morris

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! Author friend and freelance editor Linda Morris is visiting this week to share her advice for writers.

Welcome, Linda!

Hi, Mellanie! Thanks for having me here for Writing Tip Wednesday. I'm doing something a little different today: offering some insights and advice on the writer/editor relationship.

Somewhat unusually among authors, I've been on both sides of the editor/author relationship. I've been an editor or proofreader for nineteen years, which is totally weird because I'm only twenty-two. (Ahem. Obviously, child labor laws were seriously broken at some point, but I digress.)

In my career, I've edited hundreds of technology books, as well as lifestyle, medical, marketing, and other consumer titles. After critiquing fiction for several years, I've branched into editing it professionally in the last year or two as well. Here are my tips for a productive relationship with your editor:

• Remember that the editor is an advocate for the reader. If an editor finds your writing confusing, clunky, or awkward, a good number of readers likely will too. Don't shoot the messenger because you don't like the message. (This is coming from a messenger who has been shot more times than she can count.) Instead, try to put your ego aside and think about whether the messenger has a point.

• Realize editors are only human. They make mistakes. So do you. Don't go nuts over a missed edit. Fix it and move on. If it happens repeatedly, politely raise your concerns with your editor. If that doesn't resolve it, escalate your concern up your publisher's food chain, but remain professional.

• Save your "complaint capital" for things that matter. If you develop a reputation as a complainer who throws a hissy over absolutely everything, sooner or later, your editor tunes you out and no longer listens to your concerns. (Also, romance publishing is a small world. You may find yourself unwelcome at more than one publishing house if you develop a terrible reputation.)

• Don't be afraid to use that "complaint capital" when it matters. Sometimes, you'll be right and your editor will be wrong. When this happens, and it's something important, stick to your guns. You will have more credibility to fight (and win) battles that matter if you haven't fought tooth and nail over every picky detail.

These points apply specifically to self-publishers:

• If you're self-publishing, hire an editor. You need an editor. Trust me on this one. If you received a manuscript back from an editor and very little was changed, you probably had a careless editor. I am stunned at how many authors state on their Amazon page that their book has been edited for typos. A good editor does far more than simply eliminate typos or fix commas. That's a very low bar. A good editor teaches you how to be a better writer.

• When you hire an editor, hire one directly, not through a service or packager that caters to self-publishers. The upside of self-publishing is the control it gives you. If you use a service, you have no control over who edits your book or what their qualifications are. You're giving up control, just as if you were with a traditional publisher, but you're paying for it out of your pocket. Even if you love what your editor does to your book, you'll never know her name and will have no chance of hiring them for your next book. In addition, that service or packager is a middle man who takes a big chunk of your money for themselves, leaving little for your editor. You can save money and wind up with a better editor by eliminating the middle man.

• Don't expect your editor to work for little to no money. I can't count the number of times I've quoted a low rate to a prospective client, only to be told, "That's not in my budget." In editing, as in everything else, you get what you pay for. The only editors willing to work for peanuts are those with little skill and experience. If you can't afford to pay at least $2-3 a page for a copyedit, self-publishing may not be for you. (A page is generally considered to be 250 words.) You'll pay more for a heavy edit. Factor that in when making your decision on self-publishing versus traditional.

• Show your work to a prospective editor and ask for a sample edit before hiring. Sending a prospective editor a short sample accomplishes a couple of things. First, she can see how much work your MS will require and quote you an accurate rate. Second, you can see her work and determine whether it suits your needs. Keep your sample to no more than a few pages, however. That should be plenty to figure out whether you're a good fit, and no editor wants to spend hours and hours working on a client's MS for free, only to have the client back out.

So those are my tips for a great working relationship with your editor. If you have more, leave them in the comments. I'd love to hear them!

Bio:
Linda Morris is a writer of contemporary romance. She writes stories with heart and heat, with a joke or two thrown in. Her book Melting the Millionaire's Heart was an Amazon Top 100 Series Romance bestseller. The first book in Hard Hitters, her series about a fictional minor-league baseball team in southern Indiana, is High Heat, coming in June 2015 from Berkley.
When she's not writing, working as a freelance editor and technical writer, or mommying, she's doing yoga, reading, working in her flower garden, or baking delicious things she probably shouldn't eat. She believes that there are two kinds of people: pie people and cake people, and she is definitely one of the former. Her years of Cubs fandom prove she has a soft spot for a lost cause. A beat-up old copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss's Ashes in the Wind was her gateway drug into the world of romance novels, and she's never looked back. Check her out online at www.lindamorrisbooks.com or www.facebook.com/lindamorrisbooks. Follow her on Twitter at @LMorrisWriter.

Great advice, Linda! Thanks so much for visiting today!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

12 comments:

  1. Wonderful points, Linda. I especially like the one about banking your complaint capital. There are times when we need to stick to our guns, but those times need to be important.

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    1. In my mind, it's like picking battles with your kids, colleagues, etc. Compromise is part of being a grown-up! Thanks for stopping by, Jim!!!

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    2. Glad you stopped by and found it helpful! A little complaining can go a long way ...

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  2. Great post. I loved that, that the editor is "an advocate for the reader." We'd all do well to remember that.

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    1. I think a lot of writers expect the editor to be their advocate. Even more so than readers, the editor is an advocate for the story! Thanks for visiting, Liz!

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    2. Thanks for stopping by! When I work on a piece, I always try to look for the things that might yank a reader out of a story. Glad you liked the post!

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  3. For the most part, I've had awesome relationships with my editors. The one that broke down into a major conflict was over the editor really disliking one of my characters. She wanted to change her to be more likable. I wanted her to be difficult to swallow for the reader. Every time the character showed up on the page, there was a negative comment. I felt like I was being pummeled with the same point over and over and over. It felt personal. What I learned (since I, too, edit) is to make my point and move on. The author doesn't have to be hit over the head--multiple times--to see what your issue is. A good learning experience. BTW, I won that battle. The heroine's daughter is still a teen guaranteed to make every mother wince. You're right about saving your complaints for the big battles. Great post!

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    1. That's a tough call to make sometimes! Do you stand your ground because the story belongs to you? Or will the editor's suggestions make the story better? I'm glad it worked out well for you, Jannine!

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    2. Jannine, you've hit on a pet peeve of mine: editors (and some authors and readers) who want every character to be sweetness and light. That's not real life! Glad you won your battle.

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  5. Great points, Linda, and since I'm coming from the same place you are, I'm so glad you've made them. Particularly that the editor is an advocate for the reader.I'm an editor too and I want my clients to know that I'm only trying to make them sound as smart as they are--I'm not tearing up their work. It's important to respect the rules of grammar, even as we respect our author's voices...and their reader's ears. Nice job! Thanks!!

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    1. Nice to hear that another editor feels the same way. It doesn't have to be an adversarial relationship.

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