The Good Editor

typewriter-584696_640 Every writer needs a good editor. There are no exceptions. Typing away at the computer may be a solitary adventure, but bringing a well-rounded story to readers is a collaborative effort with a lot of players on the team. One of the most necessary players is a good editor. This is so much more than catching a typo or fixing a sentence that ends in a preposition or realizing you meant effect and not affect. It’s more than knowing what AP Style or Chicago Style is and when to use what, where.

Keely Boeving, a freelance editor who has worked with me on one of my novels, said, “I consider myself an advocate for the reader. My goal is not to change a writer’s style or intent, but rather to draw it out—to help them say what they truly want to say in a way that resonates with readers. Translating what a writer conceives in their creative mind into words on a page can be tricky, and an external observer—an editor—can help facilitate the translation in order to help writers achieve their intent.”

A good editor gets you and can see where the story is going without the need to add in their own two cents’ worth. The really good ones are part fan who write notes about the parts they really like, part brave hero who can tell a writer they need to take out that beloved chapter, and part mind reader who can ask just the right question about that part you thought was clear.

Taking the time and investing the money in an editor can help you get an agent or a publisher to read past that first page. Not taking that step may mean a lot of rejections for a good story that just needed a little more work.

Some tips when looking for the right editor:

  1. Gather information. Ask for the editor’s background and do they specialize in your type of work. Ask them for names/emails of writers they’ve worked with before. Write a short email to the writers asking them about their experience. See if the editor has ever worked with your genre. Keely worked in New York for over four years and is now a part of the WordServe family, as well as working as a freelance editor.
  2. Be clear about your expectations. Talk about cost and when payment is expected. Be true to your budget and keep searching if someone is out of your price range. Talk about your timeline and whether the fee includes second or third rounds of edits. If you have a deadline that can’t be missed, say so up front and take no for an answer if you hear ‘maybe’.
  3. Talk about how you expect to receive the edits. Some editors and some writers still use the printed page. I prefer Track Changes and comments but I still run into people who don’t and prefer mailing that manuscript back and forth.
  4. When you get the edits back, read over them briefly and put the manuscript down. Go find something fun to do and let it go for a day. On my initial read there’s always one or two things that I don’t agree with at all… until the next day. Often, those are the changes that fixed something that would have tripped up a lot of readers but was pretty easy to fix. Don’t let that become the reason you don’t sell a work.
  5. Take what you like and be willing to leave the rest. There will be moments when a suggested edit changes the intention of a scene or the voice of a character. Have some confidence in your idea and know when to say no. Reason it out with the editor, as well. It could also be that the setup isn’t fully there but with some tweaking, your story gets stronger. If you don’t feel like you’re being heard, you have the wrong editor.

One last thing. Celebrate every part of the journey as a writer, including this one. You took an idea from your mind and put it down on paper. That’s a big accomplishment. Now on to the next step.

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Risking Rejection

Why are we afraid to fail? Often because we believe rejection exposes a gap in us. It points to something we don’t want others to see. It confirms what our suspicions tell us.

We aren’t acceptable.

As writers, we risk rejection from many different sources. Projects and people alike can make us feel unacceptable, and throw us into a pit of paralyzing despair. Any one of a myriad of things have the power to make us give up on our writing dreams. If we let it.Definition of Rejection

  • Literary agents can reject us.
  • Booking agents can reject us.
  • Publishers can reject us.
  • Editors can reject us.
  • Endorsers can reject us.
  • Influencers can reject us.
  • Reviewers can reject us.
  • Media can reject us.
  • Readers can reject us.
  • And through Self-deprecation, we can reject ourselves.

So how can you empower yourself to feel acceptable when rejection says you’re not?

Author Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall’s Blindness Didn’t Hold Him Back

Challenge your own viewpoint. Take a 180 approach and look at this specific moment as your personal catalyst for change, improvement, and a call to do better work. Jim Stovall, a blind author and movie maker, knows rejection well.

You’ve GOT to watch the video on his link to see what he says about giving up. Here’s a quote to give you a hint of the amazing story you’ll want to hear. “That big dream would not have been put inside of you if you didn’t have the capacity to achieve it.”

Author John Grisham

John Grisham’s Tenacity Made the Difference

Another powerful example of tenacity in the face of rejection comes from an author most of us recognize. Internationally acclaimed novelist John Grisham. He understands what it feels like to fail in front of professionals, but he chose to learn from his mistakes, and keep on keeping on.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you of the greatest victory that came from the greatest rejection of all. A book that was denounced, fought against, and even after publication, faced efforts to utterly destroy it. But yet, the words inscribed inside changed the world, and made it a better place. The book I refer to is The Bible. Aren’t you glad God didn’t give up.

So the next time you get a rejection letter, phone call, email, or text, remember these three things.

Anita Brooks Walking Bridge Photo

Is Success Waiting Around Your Corner?

1. The capacity to make your big dream reality is already inside of you.

2. Rejection prepares us for great things in the future, and reminds us to stay humble when we arrive there.

3.  Just because a few people fight against your efforts doesn’t mean you won’t come out victorious.

Maintain a teachable attitude, then act with integrity, humility, and tenacity. This is your big dream. Take courage, and don’t let anyone convince you it’s unacceptable. Risking rejection can turn that big dream of yours into something real. But only if you don’t give up too soon.

Do You Need to Schmooze an Editor or Agent?

I’ve attended over 7 writers conferences since walking the road of an author. One thing I’ve come to observe at these conferences is they way we interact with one another.

Editors and agents are seen as the gate keepers to our dreams. They are the ones who will accept our book and validate our work.

Janalyn Voigt and I at Northwest Christian Wrtiers Renewal

This is sort of true and sort of not. Editors and agents will let you know if your work is ready. They’ll let you know what you need to work on. They do not hold your dreams. You do.

Having our work published will not validate us. Only Jesus can do this. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your worth is measured by a contract and sales figures.

I’ve seen some writers completely crushed when an editor/agent declined on their pitch. I’ve been one of them. Jesus gently reminded me that He is my agent. And He’s yours if you’re willing to give your writing over to Him.

I don’t mean He will do everything. We still have to hone our craft, build our platform, and continue learning.

At conferences, I’ve seen editors and agents hunted down by well-meaning enthusiastic authors. They couldn’t get an appointment with the agent/editor they wanted, so they stalk them at meal times, breaks, in line at the bathroom….

I’ve had some wonderful chats with editors/agents at meals and in the hallways. But I’ve also seen a weary trapped look in their gaze.

We should never become so focused on what other people can do for us and our careers that we forget they are people and children of God first and foremost.

Take the time to ask them how they’re enjoying the conference. Chat them up like you would meeting someone at a neighborhood barbecue. Take the time to get to know them a little. They’ll eventually turn the conversation towards writing. After all, they’re there to discover great writers.

Even if they turn your project down, they’ll remember a friendly person. Later, circumstances may be different and your project will be the one. You can never go wrong investing in people and relationships.

You should spend some time schmoozing at conferences. Just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. If we look at every person and situation with the attitude of how we can help them, instead of how they can help us, we’ll get much further.

Have you ever made new friends at a conference? How have you helped someone else and had it benefit you unexpectedly?

Mentored by The Best Selling Author

Best Selling Author - Anita Brooks

I had no idea what I was doing.

I went to my first writers conference with zero expectations. I simply wanted to explore this crazy dream God had planted in my heart.

At my allotted appointments, I sat across from editors, agents, and publishers and said the same thing, “I don’t have anything to pitch. I just came to learn. Can you tell me what you think I should know?”

Every person demonstrated gentle patience and gave me a huge boost of encouragement. One discussion, spurred by a workplace pet peeve, kept me awake most of the night jotting down notes.

On the last day of the conference, I knew my life would never be the same. And I was right.

I flew home feeling overwhelmed. My mind swirled with a mix of anxiety and anticipation. A professional thinks I have potential. A professional believes my differences are a good thing. A professional requested a book proposal. I don’t know how to write a book proposal.

I was a long way from being ready to submit anything, and I knew it.

When I arrived back at normal life, I needed help. But where do you turn when you live in a tiny town in the Midwest? What kind of education can you get when there’s no college close? How do doors open when you have no degree or credentials in writing?

You ask the Best Selling Author of all time for help.

Wanting to do nothing less than excellent work, I got on my knees and asked God to personally mentor me. I figured since His book, the Bible, had sold more copies than any other book throughout history, I should try to learn from Him.

My schooling took months, even into years. I turned the television off and got to work. I spent hours soaking up assigned books on the craft of writing. I practiced with devotions, articles, and blogs. I listened to the professionals He sent to help me develop better habits. Then I re-wrote my devotions, articles, and blogs. Sometimes it took many copies to get the words and punctuation just right.

I graduated to the study and practice of book proposal writing. I wrote at least three dozen drafts while my Mentor patiently encouraged me to keep trying. All the while, prayer and a listening ear helped me maintain a teachable heart.

Only three years later, I signed with WordServe. Recently, I signed a book contract for the original non-fiction idea I’d had at the conference. This may seem like a long time, but in publishing years, it’s pretty fast.

Today, I still need my Mentor. He’s guiding my mind and hands as I finish my book for publication. Because of Him, I hope to write many more.

If you’re an aspiring or experienced author, I encourage you to call my Mentor. He’s available 24/7/365. His name is God, and he turns good concepts into strong books. There’s no better Muse than the one who created your mind.

Do you have a mentor? Where do you go for guidance and encouragement?

Anita Brooks - Best Selling Author

God’s Story – The Best Selling Book of All Time

A How-To for Meeting Editors

Book acquisitions editors are some of the busiest people I know and the most elusive. If they admit what they do for a living, people want to send them their grandmother’s self-published poetry or a best friend’s novel that she wrote in high school.

They aren’t flashy dressers. They don’t talk about publishing trends in the checkout line. And at parties, if someone asks them what they do for a living, they mumble and then wave at an imaginary friend. “Nice meeting you,” they say before darting to the other side of the room.

Then how can a writer catch a break? Ah, my dear contestant, you must know the secret lives of editors…not bees. Following are ways to meet an editor:

1. Make friends with other writers, especially those who have published at least one book.

They’ve made the leap, and many are willing to give you advice or help you achieve your dreams. Attend their workshops at writers’ conferences, listen carefully, and ask thoughtful questions. Learn the craft of writing and how to market a book while you write your manuscript.

Published authors know editors, and if you’ve written a manuscript that other authors like, they’ll be more willing to give you a recommendation or an endorsement.

2. With your polished manuscript in hand, query an agent.

Make sure to read an agent’s submission guidelines before you approach them, or pitch your project to an agent at a writer’s conference.

Attend the best conference you can afford. One of the perks of attending a conference is that you can request an appointment with an agent. Agents know editors, and they know whether your manuscript is ready to be published. Listen to their advice, and rewrite your manuscript if necessary. An agent can be your best ticket to meeting an acquisitions editor.

3. Acquisitions editors attend writers’ conferences as well.

They set up appointments with agents, and they take 15-minute appointments with conferees. Sometimes they will agree to critique your manuscript for a fee.

4. Attend workshops taught by editors at writers’ conferences.

Editors teach a variety of workshops that vary from character development to plot development to self-editing. They will tell you what kinds of projects they’re looking for so that when you get your chance to meet an editor, you’ll be prepared.

5. Attend meetings of a local writers’ group.

If the group is large enough, they will invite published authors to speak, and through the friendships you make with authors and other members of the group, you can support each other through the process of becoming a published author. If you don’t have a local writers’ group, consider starting one.

Finally, what’s the best way to meet an editor? Keep writing and improving your craft until someone takes notice of you. Editors love fresh, unique voices. You could be the next American Idol of the publishing world.

Flubs are not Fatal

Approximately 650 Christian writers have just returned from the ACFW conference in St. Louis. Some are celebrating agent/editor requests for manuscripts and are on an emotional high at the apex of the roller coaster we call the writing life.

Others may be feeling like they just slid over the edge and are plummeting down the steep hill into an abysmal, dark cavern. This feeling may be perpetuated by some flub on your part and you’re wondering if you and your career will recover.

Whatever fatal flaw you may be experiencing emotional distress over; it will likely not end your writing career. Unless you actually murdered someone… well, that might cause the ultimate demise of your writing dream through traditional publishing at least.

I’m here to share two “golden lessons”. Flubs are not fatal and the world of publishing is comprised of a small group of editors and agents.

My goal at one of my first writer’s conferences was to do several paid critiques. This was at a smaller, local gathering and I was just dipping my toes into the pool like a first time swimmer. I asked the conference director what I should submit. I still think he said “your best three chapters.”

I should have submitted my first three chapters.

Now, by the time I met with this particular agent over that critique, I had realized my mistake and apologized profusely. Surely, there was no saving my reputation.

It gets better.

Three years later I had an appointment with that same editor. I had polished the manuscript in those many months and felt confident that I had something worthy for her to consider. Just before our appointment, I attended her talk on writing edgy fiction and she made a point to say, “I really dislike when writers use rape as a plot device. Can’t you come up with something better?” My stomach twisted into a glorious mariner’s knot.

That’s right, my manuscript was about a serial rapist and our appointment was minutes after that talk.

I still went.

How do you handle these situations? Here are some of my suggestions.

  • Confess your mistake. Editors and agents are human just as we are and have probably made a few flubs themselves. Be open and honest about the mistake and move on.
  • Learn from your mistake. Don’t do the same thing twice. It’s not the fact that you made a mistake but your ability to fix and learn from it that is the mark of a professional.
  • Stay positive. If you think the agent/editor flubbed and it affected you negatively, don’t disparage them on social media. That same editor I met with twice is still working as an editor and was at the conference sitting one table away from me at the banquet. That would likely be a career ender.
  • Laugh about it. The writing life is hard enough. Self deprecating humor goes a long way in helping keep you sane.

Despite these gross errors in my writing journey, I still managed to acquire an agent and a publishing contract. And yes, it was that same novel.

What “fatal” flub have you had and how did you handle it?

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