Write, Finish, Edit: A Writer’s Guide to Moving Forward and Finishing

We’ve all pictured the cloistered writer hunched in solitude over a notepad or laptop, furiously scratching out word after glorious word well into the wee hours. The brilliance flows faster than he can capture it on paper until the day he triumphantly types “The End” …

Well, that’s how we imagine it, but it rarely goes so smoothly! Writing a book is a big project and a long process, and the direction is not always obvious or easy. It’s common — even normal — for an author to hit roadblocks. Call it writer’s block, brain cramps or something else, but it gets us all at one time or another.

Let’s face it: We need more than an imagination and determination to get to the finish line. Sometimes we need outside intervention, and it comes in many forms. Here are some writer’s block-breakers you can seek out next time the creative juice stop flowing:

  • Inspiration. It can be as simple as a walk or a favorite song, or as stimulating as a brainstorming session with another writer. Enlist someone you trust to motivate you to think about your story in a different light.
  • Advice. Sometimes the inspiration is there but you just need specific, practical guidance to iron out the wrinkles in your plot, character development or story arc.
  • Unbiased feedback. Enthusiastic cheerleading feels good, but it’s not always what you need. If you’re relying on friends and family for feedback, you’re better off with brutal honesty … but how many people you know are willing to provide it?
  • Editing. Leave this one to a professional. While it’s fine to lean on friends, family and fans for the final proofread for typos, hire or trade services with a professional editor to do the heavy lifting. They’ll not only whip your grammar, syntax, punctuation and spelling into shape, but will also make sure your story is organized optimally for clarity and enjoyment.
  • Help finishing. There’s no shame in handing off your “baby” to another writer. Ghostwriters are a poorly kept secret in the literary world and extremely common. Odds are some of your favorite bestsellers were penned — either wholly or in part — by a ghostwriter. A talented ghostwriter is adept at adapting to your voice and creating a finished work that is everything you envisioned, or even better than you pictured!

When writer’s get stuck, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Writing consultants, editors, Publishing Consultants, proofreaders and ghostwriters all fulfill different needs, so figure out how extensive your manuscript issues are before deciding on a path to getting it back on track.

Not sure what you need to get over that writing hump? Visit us online at www.outskirtspress.com to chat with a Publishing Consultant or call us at 1-888-672-6657 to find out how to finish your manuscript and get it ready for publication.

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Why Do We Edit?

Editing is often described as the most painful part of the process that transforms a manuscript into a book. The immortal Stephen King implores his fellow writers, “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” This might be pushing the metaphor a little too far, but it’s not terribly far beyond the mark. But we don’t edit because it’s hard (self-punishment without purpose is not the name of our game). We edit because our first drafts are not always our best drafts.

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As self-publishing author Lori Lesko puts it, “The good news about self publishing is you get to do everything yourself. The bad news about self publishing is you get to do everything yourself.” And there you have it: self-publishing authors have to kill their darlings, and they can’t hire a contract killer to do so.

Or can they?

Lest this extended metaphor evolve past the point of no return into the plot for someone’s next crime fiction thriller, here’s the lie to that last statement: It is entirely possible, feasible, and relatively easy to not do everything yourself—and as an ardent and independent self-publishing author, you can even do so while maintaining your independence and your self-respect. We may edit ourselves because we sense the inevitability of our own mistakes—one or two slips of the fingers on the keyboard as we toil away—but we look for others to edit our work, too, because we’re not always the most objective observers about our own wrting. We look for a third-party editor because, when you or I have spent six months or a year staring at the pixels on our computer screens, it becomes difficult to pick out the plot hole on page 60 or the typing error on page 115.

Editors aren’t a luxury we indulge in; they’re a necessity. Guy Kawasaki, a self-publishing author and entrepreneur of Stanford and U.C. Davis extraction, writes that all successful self-publishing authors “learn that the key to a great book is editing—grinding, buffing, and polishing—not writing.” He’s not just referring to a book’s inherent strengths and weaknesses—its objective existence as a great book or a not-great book—but about perception and reception. As a business founder and entrepreneur, Kawasaki recognizes the value in being taken seriously, and the business and social capital an author can—and must—create by doing so in order to move books off of virtual or physical store shelves and into people’s hands. Editing, he postulates, is the way to make this happen.

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And he’s not wrong.

Perception, we’re often told, is reality. And while there might be some exceptions, it’s a general rule that readers are turned off by poor cover design, poor formatting, and poor editing. These factors and others collectively create the reader’s perception of a book’s professionalism, polish, and ultimately its value. Thus, a poorly edited book is likely to lose readers, while a well-edited book is likely to draw more potential readers by virtue of its good reputation.

The long and the short of it is:

  • Editing is important, both in terms of fixing small-scale issues and resolving large-scale difficulties, to selling books;
  • We cannot objectively edit our own work, and those in our immediate social circle often don’t have the experience or expertise to step in and fill the void;
  • Therefore, paying for professional editing services may be necessary, and it doesn’t have to break the bank or encroach on your independence.

As you set off to determine whether or not hiring a professional editor is something you need to do (and is something you can afford to do), take your time. There are plenty of options out there—everything from independent editors who advertise their availability online to professional editors who work with and are vetted by companies like Outskirts Press. Because the market for true and deep copyediting has diversified in recent years, the costs are much lower than they used to be, and there are a lot more options in terms of choosing what kinds of feedback you want to receive. The key is to do your due diligence in terms of research, and to trust your instincts when you get in touch with potential editors. You’ll get a sense rather quickly for when an editor is just in it to pay the bills, and when an editor is a true advocate for your book!

 

Why Do I Need an Editor?

There’s a saying in the legal profession: “A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.” The same could be said of a man who is his own editor.

An editor, first and foremost, represents a fresh set of eyes on an author’s work, allowing you to see your book as your future audience will see it. That’s something you can’t do on your own. Since the editor would be seeing it before it hits bookshelves, his perspective allows you to make much-needed improvements before embarrassing errors go to print. He is not only an invaluable sneak peek, but an editor also has very specific, extensive training and experience in the intricacies of language that will help you hone your manuscript and elevate it to new heights.

An editor will approach every manuscript with an agenda and with specific set of standards he needs to apply. As he assesses each manuscript, he’ll ask and answer a number of questions to guide him in the editing process:

  • Does the first chapter compel the reader to continue reading?
  • Is the grammar consistent and impeccable throughout the book?
  • Is the style and tone consistent throughout?
  • Do the facts of the story remain consistent?
  • Will the reader interpret the author’s message as the author envisions it?
  • Are there elements of the plot or characters that could be stronger or more compelling?
  • Is every scene plausible within the context of the story and genre?
  • Are there passages that are not necessary to advance the plot or character development? Are there additions that need to be made to advance the plot or define characters?
  • Does the ending tie up all the loose ends introduced in the story? Is it a satisfying conclusion?

An editor helps fine-tune these and other elements of a book, helping you uncover better ways of conveying your story – ways that keep people reading and provide them a more riveting reading experience in the process. An early investment in professional editing can end up paying off in the long-run with a higher quality book that garners good reviews and more (and more satisfied) readers.

Finish that book today and get published with Outskirts Press!

Receive FREE Editing when you start publishing today.

This month, enjoy our high-quality, basic copyediting service for free for manuscripts up to 15,000 words. Or a pro-rated discount of $210 can be applied to the service for works of greater length.

Any author who wants to publish a high-quality book and have it taken seriously needs professional copyediting. The professional copyediting service provides a thorough basic edit of a manuscript’s punctuation, spelling and grammar.

Start today by entering the promotion code EDIT2013 when checking out of your shopping cart while purchasing the popular Diamond package or the full color Pearl publishing package by June 15, 2013.

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AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT & SUCCESS STORY


“All in all, I was very impressed with the exceptional job your group did on my book and the cover pages were fantastic and have received notice from other authors and publishers.”

Randall Bennett became a Special Agent in 1987 and has received numerous awards and commendations, including the FBI Director’s Award for Excellence in International Terrorism Investigations, The Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent and Employee of the Year, The U.S. Department of State Award for Heroism, Spain’s Medal of Merit with Distinguished White Cross, several awards from the Pakistan Ministry of Interior, the country of Ukraine, and others from the U.S. Marine Corp, the CIA, DEA, ATF, U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, and many others. He is currently retired but continues to provide security expertise overseas as a contractor for the Diplomatic Security Service.

Randall Bennett’s memoir reveals his evolution from a new Special Agent to one of the most experienced in the U.S. Government. Bennett and his various teams approached each mission with intense focus, courage, and compassion. Taking Up the Sword relates the wide range of his adventures, from searching for narco-terrorist operations in the Colombian jungle with the true Tarzan of the Amazon, to rescuing abandoned family pets and a baby gorilla while protecting the American citizens in Kinshasa, Zaire, to risking his own life trying to save Wall Street Journal Reporter Daniel Pearl. It includes the actions that led to the capture of “The Dirty Bomber” Jose Padilla, as well as his nearly six years in Pakistan and a tour as head of security for the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Iraq. Bennett survived bombings, rockets, and assaults against himself and those he was sworn to protect throughout his highly decorated career, all while doing a job he loves. With an original and fascinating perspective, Special Agent Bennett takes you behind the scenes-to the jungles, deserts, mountains, and exotic back streets of foreign countries-where these elite and highly trained Special Agents do things that books are written about and movies are made for-quietly and often without recognition.

– Randall Bennett, author of Taking Up The Sword