Working with an Editor

Kariss manuscriptsThey say that all good things must come to an end. Sadly, the same holds true in writing. As you turn your manuscript in to the publisher, you abdicate your position as ruler of your own fictional kingdom in favor of an advisor who tells you all the wonderful things you did wrong and how you can fix them. (For example, my editor would have asked me who “they” is in that opening line.)

But this “bad” thing doesn’t actually have to be bad. In fact, think of it as iron sharpening iron. Who knows your story and characters better than you? And who better to help you improve than an unbiased person who likes to read and knows a whole lot about writing and how to craft a story?

I am by no means an expert, but as I edit my second book, I realize how much I learned while editing Shaken. As you prepare your book for the editing process, here are some ways to prepare yourself, as well.

1. Check your pride at the door.

First of all, realize your editor is there to HELP you, not hurt you. Don’t take it personally. I thought I understood that, but I didn’t really grasp it until I received my first round of notes. Then my pride took a nose dive and shattered in a very ugly pile around my feet. This process is meant to refine both you and your story. I tend to write in a steady stream of consciousness, wrapped up in my story world. It takes someone looking at it from the outside to show me where the issues are and help me to change them.

2. Kill your darlings.

In Texas, we call this “killin’ your darlin’.” Your editor believes in your story, too, or they wouldn’t spend countless hours helping you. They want to make it better, but sometimes that means cutting important characters or scenes you love. This is the part I hated in the editing process.

It is challenging to dig into your story, delete scenes, and create new ones where you originally imagined something different. There were times my editor suggested a line of copy or dialogue that made me cringe, not because she wasn’t right, but because it wasn’t in the exact voice my character would have said it. Here’s where camaraderie came into effect. She could see the holes. I could keep the story true. We made a great team. Killing my darlings made my story stronger.

3. Fight for your story.

This may seem to contradict the previous point, but trust me, it doesn’t. Like I’ve said before, NO ONE knows your story or characters better than you. Here’s where discernment comes into play. At the beginning of the editing process, my editor asked me to cut several characters. No matter how much I played with this request, something didn’t sit right. So I fought for these characters, explained the role they would play in future books, and stood my ground. I knew keeping them would benefit the story. Once I explained their importance (and not just my emotional attachment), my editor listened and immediately replied with ways I could make these characters even stronger than what I had in mind.

It turns out that the characters I fought to keep have been some of the favorites for readers. If you know in your gut something needs to stay, fight for it. Just make sure to check your emotional attachment at the door and identify exactly why this piece adds to the story.

So, take what I’ve learned. Add your own insight. And I’ll add to the list after I finish this round of edits. I never want to be a bratty author who says I know best. I do want to collaborate. Yes, I know my story, but I need people who will help me make it better. I’m pretty excited about the possibilities. Bring on the next challenge.

What lessons have you learned while working with your editor?

The Curse And Gift of Being Called to Write

giftThere are days you totally get Jeremiah. He decides not to speak anymore, but the words burn like a fire shut up in his bones (Jeremiah 20:9). Even when you can’t write, the words burn inside, don’t they?

How often have you wished you were just normal? On those days where you’re trying to fit it all in: a full day of work, a kid’s basketball game, dinner and laundry, and somehow you’re supposed to find writing time too? There’s the agony of staring at a blank page and watching your book drop in Amazon rankings.

You’ve even decided to quit. Often. Finally, a friend or spouse tells you to stop tormenting yourself. “You’re a writer,” they say. “You know you’re not really going to quit writing. You always come back to it.”

So, if you can’t walk away from writing, isn’t it time to look at it from another perspective? “I suggest you learn to write not with blood and fear,” Jane Yolen writes, “but with joy. It’s a personal choice.”

And there is joy, lots of it.

First, you were chosen. Like Jeremiah, before you were in the womb, God chose you. Whether you started writing as soon as you could hold a pencil or didn’t begin writing until some life event pulled you to it later on, whether writing holds financial success for you or not, being a writer is a role you were personally designed for by your Creator. If that isn’t joy, I don’t know what is.

And then there’s what drew you to writing in the first place: the thrill of a coherent story coming together at last with characters who walk off the page; that zone, where reality falls away and you’re virtually swimming in your story world; and words become so sharp and real, you’d swear you could taste them.

You were the one blessed with heightened senses and the words to go with them. So while your walking partner says, “Oh, isn’t that pretty?” you see how the thick tree cover on the forest trail washes the sunlight green, and how the Spanish moss drapes from the tree limbs like ornaments. You have words to describe the warm breeze rippling across your face and how the coos of a mourning dove bring the summer evening alive.

You have the privilege of exploring and enfleshing ideas (ideas, by the way, you almost certainly would never have come to unless you’d spent day in and day out with your fingers on the keyboard). Writing brings the joy of discovering new worlds.

And when you’re done, and the book is published, you receive emails saying things like, “I read your book and was so moved by it, I turned back to page one and read it again.” Wow, you think, did I actually create something that could do that?

You did, because you were blessed. In spite of the tortuous days of staring at a blank page, and wondering how a person can be pulled in so many directions without being ripped apart, you were given a beautiful and multilayered gift by God when He called you to write. It’s a gift you love to give back to Him, and when you’re having a thorny writing day or month, you need to remind yourself of that.

Embracing Your True Identity as a Writer

Photo/KarenJordanAs I watch my grandsons, Ethan and Zach, make silly faces dressed in their costumes, I realize how much I act like them.

At times, I pretend to be someone else, wearing a mask to disguise my true identity.

Masked crusaders. Zach and Ethan often pretend to be superheroes with superhuman powers, fighting against crime or evil. But even though they enjoy their make-believe world for a while, they soon shed their costumes. Bored with one adventure, they put on other outfits–such as pirate costumes–and search for a hidden treasure or sail off to conquer another ship. Later, they may be fully decked out in their new football or soccer uniforms.

True identity. As a writer, when I masquerade as somebody or something else, I tend to lose my focus on reality. And with this cover-up, I sometimes unintentionally deny my true identity.

I may be tempted to hide behind a cloak of self-confidence, trying to compensate for my weaknesses and failures. Or I try to put on another mask to temporarily gain acceptance and approval.

Self-deception. My self-deception always directs me down the wrong path, leading me down a new road. And I find myself in places that I never intended to go. When I choose an identity that God never expects me to wear, I make regrettable mistakes and commitments. And I focus on my faults, instead of my blessings.

I’ve tried on the masks of SuperMom, SuperNonnie, SuperWife, SuperTeacher, and even SuperWriter. And I’ve suffered from stress and burnout. Then, I feel like a SuperNobody. When I try to become any of those super-characters in my own strength–instead of depending upon God for direction and strength–I fail miserably.

As I continue my journey as a writer, I pray that I will embrace my true identity and remember who I really am “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3-14). As a Christ-follower, I am unconditionally accepted and loved by God because of what Christ did, not because of what I can do for Him or for others.

101031.gkids copyI also plan to model my faith and beliefs for my grandchildren, so they will also know when to put their masks and costumes away and discover their own identities “in Christ.”

What has helped you find your true identify as a writer?

Photos/KarenJordan

How to Maximize Your Social Media Time

Early in my wanting-to-pursue-publication journey, I heard a woman give a talk about maximizing your time. She said, “Nothing you do should go to waste. If I see a movie, I’ll figure out a way to use it in my writing. I’ll write something about it.”

Social media conceptHonestly, at first, I did kind of give a big eye roll. Really? Nothing could be sacred, private, and free? Couldn’t my mind ever just have a void where I didn’t have to think about marketing?

Now, I might have changed my opinion on that somewhat.

Marketing is hard work. Author Richard Mabry once said to me, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” And this is the truth. When your book releases, there is usually a flurry of activity to launch your baby. But, there comes a time when you need to begin to focus on the next book while still keeping your other marketing activities going. This may be less about your book and more about growing your platform and social media presence.

Consider all your activities: can they aid in growing your social media? Can they give you a blog topic? Can something you do for fun give you a possible return on your time investment?

I recently read the book Fear Nothing, by Lisa Gardner. I wanted to read this book. Lisa is a favorite author of mine so I put most other books aside to enjoy her new releases.

On the marketing side, this is how I used my leisure time to help my social media.

1. I wrote a Goodreads review on the novel. This is good for authors. It gives people an example of your writing style and can help readers find you. After all, you likely write what you like to read.

2. I pinned it to Pinterest. Some readers/followers are more visual and I do find people repinning books from my boards.

3. I blogged about it– in two different places. My main blog is Redwood’s Medical Edge and it deals with medical accuracy in fiction. Fear Nothing had a character with congenital insensitivity to pain so not only did I blog about this particular medical disorder but I also did a post that was a review of the novel and some of its medical aspects. And now, I’m here blogging about how to use one activity to foster multiple marketing efforts. So, I guess that’s three blog posts.

Your activities should become the ultimate wardrobe, where all pieces can be mixed with one another. Ultimately, a book I read for fun ended up being used to build my platform (a medical nerd who writes suspense novels) and, hopefully, keep up interest in my social media.

What about you? In what ways have you used fun activities to maximize marketing efforts?

WordServe News: March 2014

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books releasing in the upcoming month along with a recap of WordServe client news from the current month.

New Releases

Debora M. Coty released The Bible Promise Book: Too Blessed to be Stressed Edition 9781624169885_p0_v2_s260x420with Barbour, a collection of selections from the original Too Blessed to be Stressed book.

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9780802409577_p0_v1_s260x420Roberta Kells Dorr released Abraham and Sarah with River North.

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SavedbyGracieJan Dunlap released Saved by Gracie with Authentic.

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Ken Gire released At Peace in the Storm with Bethany House Publishers.9780764208843_p0_v2_s260x420

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9781624168581_p0_v2_s260x420Paul Kent released Playing with Purpose: Baseball Devotions with Barbour.

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Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall released Mark of Evil with Zondervan.

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Ben & Julianna Zobrist with Mike Yorkey released Double Play with B&H Publishers.

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9781624166181_p0_v2_s260x420Mike Yorkey released Playing with Purpose: Racing with Barbour.

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New WordServe Clients

Shelley Hendricks signed with Alice Crider.

Leticia Yuzefpolsky signed with Greg Johnson.

Linda Znachko signed with Alice Crider.

New Contracts

Anita Agers-Brooks signed a contract with Barbour for her non-fiction project titled, Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over. Alice Crider, agent of record.

What We’re Celebrating!!

The Brotherhood Conspiracy by Terry Brennan is a finalist for Foreword Review’s 2013 Book of the Year Award, in the category of Action & Adventure (Adult Fiction). Foreword Reviews, the only review magazine solely dedicated to discovering new indie books, announced the finalists for its 16th Annual Book of the Year Awards. The winners will be determined within the next two months. The final announcement will be made Friday, June 27, in Las Vegas, during the American Library Association Annual Conference. There are awards in over 60 categories and cash prizes for the best in fiction and nonfiction. Here is the complete list of finalists and the listing for The Brotherhood Conspiracy can be found here.

Amy Sorrells’ debut novel How Sweet the Sound received a fantastic review from USA Today!

Set in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a time when the topic of sexual abuse was not a thing “talked about” in the media and for which victims were still too often treated as “deserving” of the crimes committed against them, this novel refuses to nicey-nice over tough and ugly realities. This story is, throughout, raw — but yet penned with a sweetness of prose that makes you want to keep reading, even when you know it would be easier to curl into a ball and weep for the brokenness of the characters therein.

Poignant switches of point-of-view between Anniston and her aunt, Comfort, show the reach of abuse within generations of the same family and stretch a reader’s heart to its limits. Simply put, it hurts to read this novel. It hurts to watch the characters go through what they do. It hurts to see family secrets exposed, revealing pain upon pain. It hurts to see them abandon true love and it hurts when they are seemingly abandoned by it — but how beautiful the pain when an ending so lovely and right redefines and redeems several futures at once.

This book will turn your emotions inside out and grip your heart with a clawed fist before pouring acid — and then balm — over the wounds. You have been warned. Now, by all means, go buy this unusually edgy and entirely moving inspirational novel and read it for yourself.

What are you celebrating on this writing journey?

Words from Another World

“Sticks and stones might break my bones but words will never hurt me!”

Wrong. As adults we’ve long since figured out that childhood nursery rhyme we sang to protect ourselves couldn’t be further from the truth. We no longer deny that words can be mighty painful. As authors, what both fascinates and challenges us is their power to change the world, and it’s all by Divine design.

scrabblePicture, if you will, the disciples of Christ sitting in an upper room waiting and praying, praying and waiting. Before leaving in the clouds, Jesus had promised to send them power to take His message to the ends of the earth. He didn’t tell them what this power would look like or how long they’d have to wait for it, only that they must.

Finally, after days and nights of waiting, after all the anticipation and questions surrounding this mysterious force Jesus had spoken of, after weeks of wondering what this supernatural aid might be and how they would wield it, God’s promise fire fell “as cloven tongues of fire.”

How strange. Fiery cloven tongues uttering words of an other-worldly origin.

I find it fascinating that out of all the body parts the writer could’ve used to describe this amazing scene when God’s fire power fell on man, He chose a human tongue. What a visual of God’s plan to employ these fleshy instruments of ours to speak from the understanding of one human to that of another, each one witnessing of the consuming fire lit in his or her heart.

That said, is it any wonder that we’re so strictly charged to monitor our tongues and the power of language?

How can we allow ourselves to use whatever words we want with whomever we want whenever we want, knowing that God has chosen these same tongues as holy messengers to take His gospel into all the world?

Hugs, Shellie

5 Ways to Drive an Editor Crazy

13761150586648bAs an aspiring writer, I thought editors had horns on their head and pitchforks perched beside their desks. After all, they sent me form “no thanks” letters after I’d slaved over an obviously brilliant manuscript. They ignored my letters and phone calls, and seemed to take joy in waiting months before replying to my oh-so-urgent emails.

Now, as both a seasoned writer and an editor for a large faith-based website, I’ve learned that editors are people, too. We love finding new voices to publish, and we try to be gentle when doling out rejections. Sure, we have our quirks, and we make mistakes. But mostly, we’re word-loving, gentle souls who find joy in a well-placed modifier.

When provoked, however, we can lose our literary minds. Several habits don’t just rub us the wrong way—they make us want to run down the street while still in our bathrobes, shouting Weird Al’s “White and Nerdy” until we puke.

Here’s how you can speed that process along:

1) Treat Guidelines as Optional.

      Don’t bother reading writing guidelines; don’t even visit websites or read back issues of magazines. Send a totally inappropriate submission. In your cover letter, tell the editor that while you’ve never taken the time to familiarize yourself with their publication, you’re sure that your work is perfect for them. file3781288474089

       2) Respond viciously to rejection letters.

      When you receive a letter stating that “your submission doesn’t meet our current needs,” fire off a hateful email, chastising the editor for his lack of taste. Even better: use bad language and post your vitriolic thoughts all over social media. (This habit works well if you never want to see your work in print. Those bridges are so pretty when they burn!)

      3) Never turn in an assignment by the deadline.

Deadlines aren’t set in stone; therefore, ask for repeated extensions, paying no attention to the panicked tone of your editor’s responses. Don’t worry that you are one of several dozen moving parts in the publishing of a website, magazine or compilation book. Take all the time you want—the world does, in fact, revolve around you.

       4) Take up all your editor’s time.

Ask repeated questions about the contract or terms of your publishing agreement. Don’t get an agent or other professionals to weigh in on your questions. Don’t network with other writers so that you can learn from their experiences. Pester the editor with texts (preferably to her personal cell phone, if you can dig up the number) about when your piece will be printed, how many readers you’ll get, etc.

And finally:

5) Refuse to accept changes in your manuscript.

Since you have received your talent from God, treat every word as His direct quote. Don’t let an editor make changes to your beautiful masterpiece. Fight over each letter and punctuation mark. Don’t choose your battles. Take offense at questions. Die on every single hill.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a nasty email to delete…and I need to look up the lyrics to a certain parody song.