Indie Publishing: to hire or not to hire an editor.

I am an avid supporter of Indie Publishing. Indie publishing offers writers an opportunity to control the publishing process for themselves. You can manage release dates, sales prices, cover design, hiring your own editor that understands your style and helps to make your work shine. But all too often I come across books written by Indie publishers that have not been in front of an editor’s eyes.

As I read through those books I come across situations where the same word is used repetitively, commonly misspelled, or used in the wrong context. I come across plot holes and areas of confusion where it needed a bit of clarification. These types of mistakes are easy fixes for an editor with a trained eye. These mistakes are also the difference between a story shining bright and making its way into wide distribution or a story that gets abused by readers’ reviews.

Through a little research and getting to know other writers I’ve learned that there are a lot of writers who are intimidated by the editing process or simply don’t have the money for it.

For those that are intimidated by it, I take the time to ask and learn why. The responses are; they don’t know where to look, or they are afraid an editor will want to change their plot, their character or the way a character speaks, and lastly they only want an editor to do a grammar edit and they aren’t sure an editor will agree to do just a grammar edit.

I go through each answer one at a time. Where to look? Places to look include Writer’s Digest and writer’s groups on Facebook. If you haven’t already joined a writer’s group, do so. This is a great place to network and educate yourself about the writing and publishing world. Often in these groups there are files where editors have listed their services. Sometimes asking for referrals from other writers you know can be a good start. When I’m asked for referrals I offer a nine page list of editors that includes my name and services among many others.

The next response; they are afraid the editor will want to change their plot, their character or the way the character speaks. I think there may be a myth that editors are out to change your stories and mold them into something you won’t recognize as a writer. A good editor won’t try to change your story, your character or how your character speaks. They will make suggestions to improve those aspects if needed. As for dialogue, unless there are clear mistakes in spelling or flow the dialogue is left alone. Yes, it is okay for your character to say, ya’ll or gonna. If that is how your character speaks, then it needs to stay that way, so the reader knows the character may have an accent or cultural trait that makes them unique.

As for plot and characters; an editor may give suggestions about plot holes, areas that are too much dialogue or not enough action, or that a character may not be likeable. These are serious suggestions to consider in general because if the editor is seeing these things then the readers will too. But most importantly these are suggestions. Don’t be afraid to take what you agree with and leave the rest.

Another option I highly recommend is a beta reader, at least five of them. Beta readers are your first checkpoint to finishing the race with a victory. After you have finished a manuscript, send your script to at least five beta readers. Choose beta readers that are avid readers, that are honest with their opinions and if you don’t know anyone who would be a good beta reader, look in the files of writer’s groups or post a request for beta readers.

Beta readers will let you know important things such as; over use of words, character growth, natural dialogue, too much or too little of dialogue or action, did the story keep them interested, did it stay in the same point of view for the character or characters, and did the plot conflicts reach resolution? After your beta readers read through and give you the thumbs up or let you know what needs tweaking you can then send your script to an editor who can give you one of three options; a copy edit, a line edit, a developmental edit or any combination of the previous.

A copy edit will focus entirely on grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax, hyphenation, capitalization, factually incorrect statements and word inconsistencies. A line edit will focus on creative content, writing style and language such as; overused words, run-on sentences, repeating the same information in different ways, tightening paragraphs or dialogue for a more natural flow, noting scenes that are confusing, tone shifts, and words or phrases that will clarify your meaning. A developmental edit will focus on plot, setting, POV, character development, ensuring there is a balance of action and dialogue, pacing, and theme.

Do you need all of these edits? On your very first script I say, yes. It is important for your experience as a writer to see what a full edit has to offer you. I did a full developmental, line and copy edit on my first book and it made a world of difference for my writing, especially going into my second, third and fourth books. My style became clearer and I learned to overcome my bad habits.

As you hone your skill as a writer you’ll find that you may not need the full edit. That a line and copy edit will be enough. Now if you can’t afford the whole package there are alternative options. First, send your script to the beta readers. They will catch a lot of issues and grammar for you that you can eliminate before it even needs the eyes of an editor. Secondly, editors are often flexible with payments. You can ask an editor for split payments or what their payment options are. Lastly, at a bare minimum go with a line edit or copy edit. If you need to release your book a couple months later than expected to save up for an editor, do it. You’ll thank yourself later. It’s better to be patient and put out polished work that readers will enjoy rather than skipping the editor and cringing at the reviews.

Any work that you put out in public becomes a reflection of you as a writer and as an Indie publisher. The only leverage Traditional publishers have these days is that they own distribution to the brick and mortar books stores and that Indie authors don’t put out polished work. I believe the brick and mortar issue is only a matter of time before Indie authors are making it onto their shelves as commonly as Traditional authors are. As for the polished work. We can control that. We can make our work shine and show that Indie authors’ novels are just as professional and skilled as what a Traditional publisher releases.

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Story and Character Creation

As an author I get asked often, “How do you come up with your stories or your characters?”

The story is an easier question to answer. My ideas usually come from my dreams. I am an active dreamer and have very vivid dreams that are very much like watching a movie in my sleep. Full color, action-packed, people I don’t know, emotional conflict between me and those people I don’t know. Sometimes I have scenes that are so detailed and eventful that I wake up wishing the dream hadn’t ended. Those dreams are usually the kind of dreams that create a major scene in my book that often become the scene that sets the entire story.

In, Embrace the Dawning I had two separate dreams in one night that created the entire book. Yep, that’s right, one night. After waking up I fell back asleep and went right into dream two.

The first dream of that night created the scene where Kayci is brought to the rooftop by Adrian to learn and experience, The Dawning. In my dream I saw everything happen just as I wrote it. The vampires leapt off the roof, disappearing into the shadows of the tall buildings, leaving her standing there watching the sun rise. The second dream and second scene was when Adrian brought Kayci into the common room of the condominium for the first time, when she witnessed the activities of all those vampires. I could feel her shock and apprehension as she entered the room. I wanted to describe everything as it was seen and felt just like in the dream.

Those two scenes were the start of the book. I couldn’t stop thinking about those dreams and soon after the characters started talking inside my head. The itch to write those characters and those scenes were what inspired the first words of the manuscript.

Every author is called a plotter, pantser or hybrid. I am what is called a panster. I don’t know what is going to happen in my stories anymore than the reader does. How is that possible you might ask? I sit down with a couple scenes I know I want to happen in the book, but otherwise I just start writing and the character and story begin unfolding on their own. As I write, more scenes come into mind that I decide I would like to happen. I jot those ideas down at the bottom of the script or on a small notebook. Those scenes or events are not concrete though and often change. The characters’ personalities and choices often direct where the story is leading next. Often times the characters surprise me and do something opposite of what I had intended them to do. Ok, now you’re probably thinking, none of this makes sense. And you’re right, it usually doesn’t make sense to anyone who isn’t a writer. Just know, we as writer’s have movies going on inside our minds all the time and it’s our job as writer’s to be the scribes of those movies and do our best to put them into gripping descriptions to share with readers.

Now the characters. How do I come up with them? This is tougher to explain because I don’t even know where they all come from. But one thing I do know is that as a writer IĀ observe people and study people. IĀ observe facial expressions, body language, mannerisms, hair color, eye details, etc. I find people fascinating. What drives them to make the choices they do? Years of observing people, experiencing friendships, losing friends and loved ones, having my heart broken, loving with everything I have to give has given me three decades of experience in the actions and raw emotions of people. I take those experiences, observations and characteristics of people I’ve met or known and I use them in the characters I create.

Does that mean my characters are based off someone? No, my characters are not based off any real person. But I do nibble and take characteristics from different people and slip them into my characters to make my characters real, to give them real emotions and real personalities. Often times I can picture a character for the first time as if they just entered a room with me. That is how I begin describing them. I start with features first and then I begin revealing little details about their personalities. Are they shy, a spitfire, have an accent, emotionally aloof, emotionally expressive? Slowly the choices they make in situations start defining them as a character and a character you as the reader can relate to.