Sunday, June 28, 2009

Where can you find a good Copy Editor?

Sorry for the long delay. I've been swamped with school (two more weeks and I'll have time to think again!).

Last time, I wrote about how important it is to work with a copy editor before sending your work out to agents. But where do you find one?

The best resource on line to find professional copy editors is at the site Editorial Freelancers Association. This is a professional organization for editors with a strict code of conduct. You know you'll get what you paid for when hiring an editor through the organization. The site has a comprehensive search engine that allows you to type in the qualifications you need in an editor. I searched for a copy editor who specializes in memoir who lives in California and found five people meeting my specifications.

You can also check your local college for instructors or students with excellent English language skills, but they may not be versed in the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the primary tool editors use for journalism and literature. I know many authors short on funds who have had success hiring a grad student.

Craigslist is another online resource where editors advertise. Whenever you hire anyone off the Internet, be careful of scams. Some people will take your money and never deliver what you paid for.

I found this great blog about copy editing called The Slot, written by copy editor Bill Walsh. Good writing, humorous, and full of information for editors and those in need of an editor. I particularly liked "What's a Copy Editor?"

We'll spend good money on a new outfit for a job interview and probably even get our nails done. So why don't we pay for quality editing before we send our work to an agent or publisher?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

You just wrote a fabulous book. Now what?

Congratulations! You've actually written, and finished, a book. Lots of people dream of being a writer, and a few of those will sit down and write something, but only a handful will complete an entire manuscript. Before you do anything else, relish this moment of accomplishment. You've done the equivalent of climbing Kilamanjaro. Good for you!

So what's the very first thing you should do before you start sending that beautiful book of yours to potential agents?


I cannot stress this enough: hire a copy editor. Even if you have a PHD in Literature or an MA in English, hire a copy editor. Even if you are the best speller in your entire State and you've got the spelling bee awards to prove it, hire a copy editor. Do not send your lovely novel to agents full of typos. It's like showing up for a job interview wearing a dirty blouse.

I'm assuming you've been passing chapters of your novel to friends and family for feedback, and I'm also assuming those friends and family have been giving you good writing advice (if not, you need to hire a different editor to work on plot and character development). But it shocks me when I see how many writers do not hire a copy editor for a final check of their manuscript. I get plenty of submissions ruined by spelling and grammar errors. Know what I do? Toss it. I am way too busy to work with an author who can't take the time to fix spelling errors. It shows me that they do not take their writing career seriously.

I hire a copy editor for my own writing, as well as for the books I publish via Medusa's Muse (although I don't hire her to edit my blog, which as you see could use the help).

The problem is that none of us can see our own mistakes; we are blinded by the words on the page (what I call writer's goggles. They work a lot like beer goggles). Everyone has this problem, and anyone who thinks they don't are fools. I'll bet you twenty dollars that even President Obama hires a copy editor for his written work.

Where do you find a good copy editor to polish your masterpiece? I'll explain that next time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Great Review of "What You Need to Know to Be a Pro"

My book just got a great review from the Midwest Book Review. Look for it on their website under the section Library Bookwatch: June 2009: The Writing/Publishing Shelf.

Review by James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review

When it comes to establishing a publishing enterprise, whether for single title self-published authors, or publishers aspiring to create a stable of authors under one imprint, there is no need to re-invent the wheel. Not when Terena Scott has written "What You Need To Know To Be A Pro: The Business Start-Up Guide For Publishers", a comprehensive but thoroughly accessible instruction manual covering all the elements of launching a publishing enterprise from choosing a name, to structuring the fledgling business enterprise, to creating a business plan, to such issues as licenses, financing, office space, and publishing project evaluation on a case by case basis. "What You Need To Know To Be A Pro" addresses working with authors from contracts to editing; the actual publishing of a book from editing to ISBN, to pricing. "What You Need To Know To Be A Pro" also has invaluable, 'real world' advice on launching a book; keeping track of inventory, royalties and taxes; and establishing how many book titles can be managed by the resources available to the publisher. Of special note are the insertions of practical advice from professional in the publishing industry -- including commentary by James A. Cox, the editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review and the author of this review. Enhanced with the inclusion of lists of 'Helpful Resources' including a list of 'how to' books, recommended publisher organizations, publisher oriented websites, "What You Need To Know To Be A Pro: The Business Start-Up Guide For Publishers" is particularly recommended to those new to the publishing field and will prove to be as practical and invaluable, as it is insightful and instructional.

The Midwest Book Review has hundreds of book reviews broken down into topics (cooking, history, fantasy, pets, crafts, etc) to help you find the right book for your interests. Publishers and writers should take a look at The Publisher's Bookshelf for a comprehensive list of books on publishing, book marketing, and writing.

I'm reading the review again and I'm just so happy I need to run around the kitchen and squeal like a five year old! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Why Don't People Read my Blog?

First, let me say to all my readers, especially those 16 who subscribe and have stayed through all my ramblings, how much I love and appreciate you. This post in no way belittles your support.

But now, I want to know something. Why is it that no matter what I write or do or say, Medusa's Muse is not one of the top blogs on publishing? This blog has been up and running for five years. I've done everything I'm supposed to do: visit other blogs, comment, share info, provide proper credit, write informative posts with the occasional just for fun bit, and give away books. No matter what, I can't get any more readers.

I'm asking because it's not just me who asks these questions. I hear other bloggers complaining of the same thing. They write great content, but no one knows their blog exists. And with the internet so crowded and stuffed with information, I don't know how anyone finds a blog. What's a blogger to do?

I found this article on Copyblogger which addresses those questions. Here is a snippit:

The Oldest Blogging Myth

“Content is king.”

It sounds good in principle. Produce a truly great piece of content, and you’ll get all the links you could ever hope for.

Maybe it worked too, several years ago. The Web used to be a fairly quiet place compared to what it is now, and it was easier for people to notice great blog posts.

But not anymore.

Now great is no longer good enough. The Web is full of so much remarkable content that bloggers don’t have enough time to read it all, much less link to it.

If you want links now, you need to be more than great. You need to be connected.

(Follow the above link for the full story. If you don't know Copyblogger, you need to check them out, and then bookmark them. Great stuff).

It's a great article with good advice, but I realized that I've been doing those things and I still can't get a date to the prom. If it really is about connections and "who you know," then the internet has turned into a giant high school and I'm back to being that Drama nerd everyone made fun of.

Fine! Me and my 16 nerdy subscribers can still have fun. Right guys?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Book Written on a Toilet Paper Roll

This is a brilliant idea:

Toilet Paper Horror Novel

It's a perfect example of thinking outside the ordinary. Of course this story should be written on a toilet paper roll because it is based on a Japanese folk tale about a creature who lives in the toilet.

We in the book world tend to hold on too tightly to our ideals of the hallowed halls of traditional publishing. But this is a new century, people. Dust off your creativity and think outside those halls.

Monday, June 08, 2009

San Francisco State

My Muse and I strolled the grounds of San Francisco State University today. It was freezing cold with thick, gray fog hanging on the treetops. A perfect, almost summer day in San Fran.

This is where I got my BA in Drama, back in 199... a while ago. I was a wanna be actress turned director, crazy about the theater, especially Commedia and Molier. My plan was to get my degree and run off to New York City where I would dazzle the world with the adventurous, one woman plays I would write, and where I would be discovered by Johnny Depp and then live happily every after.

Funny how life takes drastic detours.

But the theater taught me a lot about writing, and directing taught me even more about publishing. I got an incredible education on how to manage people, transform disparate elements into a cohesive whole, keep all the various pieces organized, and do it all under a deadline. I discovered back then that I am skilled in seeing the "Big Picture," something I continually work with as I create books.

And it is through my publishing that I am back at my alma mater, this time in the Orientation Mobility Master's Program. Laura's book inspired me to go back to school and become a teacher myself.

I am now enrolled in the Summer Semester intensive. I'm taking 6 units (two classes) in 5 weeks. It could be crazy, but right now I'm enjoying this calm before the stress. I'm back in the city I love. I get to spend the entire week doing nothing but schoolwork, without the interruption of being a Mommy. I'll be able to concentrate and might be able to hear myself think for a change. And on the weekends I go home to my daughter and hubby. I know it sounds weird, but this going to school in San Fran is like a vacation for me.

Unfortunatley I will have zero time to write, and my blog posts may get sporadic. Good thing I finished the first draft of the anthology and sent it to Jane and Rick. Jane will do her editing voodoo and Rick will start inserting photos for the stories. When I'm done with school, we should have a book.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Judging a Writing Contest

Several months ago I was asked if I'd be willing to judge a writing contest. The organization who asked me is well respected with a good reputation, so I said yes. Then I forgot about it. Three weeks ago I got an email asking if I could still do it, and then last week, I got a packet in the mail stuffed with entries. Luckily, it was a flash fiction contest, so they were all short.

I've never judged a contest before and it felt weird being a judge after many years of being a writer who never won a single contest (or any kind of contest) in her life. What made me think I could judge the worthiness of a story? But I rolled up my editing sleeves and got to work.

This was a blind contest, so I had no idea who the author was or where they came from; the writing had to stand on it's own, as it should. There were two other judges, one of whom I knew, but we didn't talk until we had narrowed the field to our personal top five.

How do you judge a person's writing? What are the elements that make a good story? And how do you set aside your personal likes and dislikes to objectively judge a story on its writing skill rather than just the content?

Start with what's easiest, the mechanics of the story: spelling, punctuation, grammar, tense, and structure. Once I had weeded out the stories with mechanical issues (about half! Come on, people! When you enter a contest have someone edit it for spelling mistakes), I could move on to the next issue: does it meet the criteria for flash fiction?

According to Wikipedia, Flash Fiction "is basically a complete story - having a beginning, middle, and end - which confines itself to a very low word count." This contest required that the story be less than 500 words.

I read each remaining story a second time, looking for structure. Did it have a clear plot, with a protagonist, a challenge or obstacle that the protagonist must cope with, and was the protagonist changed in any way by that obstacle? Did it have a satisfying ending?

This is where the problem of subjectivity comes in because what feels like a satisfying story to me may not satisfy the literary needs of another judge. Which is exactly what happened. Each judge had chosen different stories.

The discussion began. My favorite story was ruled out by the other two judges because they felt it wasn't a complete story, but one of the stories they liked didn't meet my requirements for a complete story. We narrowed our choices down to five finalists and then discussed the merits of each. There was one story neither of the other judges liked, but after I argued in favor of its strengths they agreed it shouldn't be eliminated. I also agreed to keep a story I didn't personally like, but which met the criteria of flash fiction. The back and forth and comparing of notes went on for days.

Finally, we agreed on our winners.

I think about all the various writing contests I've entered over the years and what the discussion might have been amongst the judges. Hopefully I made it to at least the top twenty (I ALWAYS triple check my spelling when submitting work). I have a new respect for judges now that I know how difficult it is to chose a "winning work." And ultimately, it really does come down to what a judge personally thinks should comprise a great story. No matter how many times you check your spelling, you can't get around that.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Draft One of Punk Anthology DONE

Putting a book together is my favorite part of being a publisher. I sit at my desk with a stack of story pages, freshly edited and clean, and I piece the manuscript together into a cohesive book. With a single author, the process begins from the first draft they send me. I make notes and hunt for the thread that ties everything together. Often the author can't see it, but has created the unifying thread intuitively. When I show them what they've created, the author responds as if I've given away the secret of a magic trick. They didn't realize they'd done the magic themselves.

This time, I've been working with multiple authors, helping them craft stories from their experiences as Punks. Many of these authors are not writers, but they all have great stories to tell. They had to be shown the basics of how to write that story down on paper in a way that will be clear and entertaining for the reader. Most of the authors who originally submitted their stories to me two years ago have continued to work on them, taking my feedback and revising over and over and over... until at last their stories are complete. Only a few dropped out.

And now it's my turn to take those stories and create a book.

I had to decide what order to place the stories. Which one will be first? Which on last? How do I intersperse the funny stories with the sad ones? Where do I put the poetry? How many images do we have? Every story has its own pacing and tone, so where I put it will change the overall pacing and tone of the book. How do they all fit together? Or do they? And if some don't fit easily, where do I want to put them to play with that conflict?

I'm sure I'll redo the structure of the anthology numerous times before I get the right pacing for the book. The book needs a beginning, middle and end. It needs conflict and resolution. Each piece provides those elements to the whole of the book. Putting them in the right order is the important part.