The Editor’s Oscars

The editing of my collection of short stories is now complete and to celebrate I had a little Oscar Ceremony. There were three categories. Are you ready for this?  Here is category number one.

Nominees in the category for The Most Over-used Word in the Collection:

  • Think
  • Wonder
  • Realise
  • Understand

And the winner is:

alphabet-word-images-wonder

 

This simple word appeared it its various verb and noun forms a magnificent 100 times in the twenty five thousand word collection. Brilliant!

Nominees in the second category for The Most Empty and Useless Word:

  • Rather
  • Somewhat
  • Then
  • Just

And the winner is:

alphabet-word-images-then

“Then” is of course an old friend of the Editorial Oscars and it is reassuring to see its appearance in this collection. An objection made by “Just” on the grounds that it wasn’t fair was overruled.

And finally, the category you have all been waiting for. The nominees for The Best Title award:

  • Haunting Tales
  • Spook Me Out and Other Scary Stories
  • The Haunting of Jacques Ferrier and other Ghostly Tales
  • Simply Ghostly

And the winner, chosen by a bunch of semi-literate, half-sozzled book lovers is – hang on a minute, let me find the right card…

alphabet-word-images-1295488_1280

The judges chose this title for its modern, fresh feel and, as one voter expressed it – “gets away from all that gloomy Victorian stuff“. The author’s protest of “but I like gloomy Victorian” was met with uncalled for mirth and an unprecedented amount of catcalls and jeering. Needless to say, she was overruled.

I don’t know what you think. Does “Spook Me Out” do it for you? Let me know. Drop me an Oscar…sorry, no I mean drop me a line.

the-oscars-649825_1280

 

PS “Spook Me Out” (whatever!) will be on Amazon at the end of March at an incredible, unbelievable, once-in-a-lifetime little price.

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Indie or…?

The editing is finished; the photos all ready and the whole book “Close to the Edge” is ready for uploading to CreateSpace…or is it?

I was extremely uncertain about using an editor but I am willing to admit there was no need for concern. The whole experience has been helpful and positive. Caroline High (my editor) has worked through the mss and combed out all the nits – the odd or inconsistent spellings, the bits that didn’t flow well or where I’d left the reader a bit at a loss because I’d forgotten to tell them something earlier in the book. No matter how thorough and careful you think you have been I would recommend that at least a “copy-edit” is a worthwhile investment.

Now comes the snag albeit an interesting one. Not only did Caroline do a sterling job as editor she also approached a publisher on my behalf. Now I’m in no-man’s land; sample chapters and an outline are now with the local history commissioning editor. Today, she has written and said she Likes It and is putting the mss in front of the sales team and has asked a few questions about the potential market. There’s a long way to go and nothing is at all certain but do I “stick” (with indie publishing) or, if I get the opportunity, do I “twist” (with traditional publishing)? I have to say it’s one of the best dilemmas I’ve ever found myself ruminating about and, if you haven’t guessed already, I know which way I’ll go.

So, a waiting game for a week or two. Indie or Trad? It’s a cliff-hanger!

Aldeborough Road End 3.jpg

Labour Pains II

Approaching the end of the editing process for my book Close to the Edge, have my witterings in my last blog been justified?
Emphatically not!

So far, Caroline Chadderton, my editor has combed through my typos, inconsistencies and bits of burbling with tact and zeal. No blood has been spilled; no tears shed. Instead her comments have been both insightful and helpful. What is particularly spooky is how she picked up on points where I felt some unease-such as my predilection for using modern slang and idioms at inappropriate moments. The objectivity she has brought has also increased my ability to see things from the reader’s viewpoint and hence improve my explanations of certain events and issues.

She has yet to do the final formatting and let me have her final comments but all in all this has been a powerful experience and one definitely worth considering if you are going down the self-publishing route.

The next steps are to wrap up the permissions for photos and quotes which so far has been a bit fraught as I struggle to ensure I don’t infringe anyone’s copyright. Then there are the photos to caption, acknowledgements to make and finally uploading it all to Createspace. Oh yes, then there’s a pricing policy and a marketing strategy to work out. In between, there’s a quick trip back to the UK and I’ll try to finish my next Mag. Op. – a collection of spooky short stories. That’s me stitched up for the next three months. Christmas? What’s Christmas precious?

Labour Pains

Prolonged birthday celebrations mean I’ve been somewhat tardy in attending to this blog nevertheless I’ve not been entirely lost in jollity. I’ve started on what I hope will be the last twiddle phase of my book Close to the Edge.

I finally came to a decision about professional editing and have entrusted the book to a pro. How much she will slice and dice is yet to be seen but I confess, I await her verdict with some trepidation. In coming to this decision – to edit or not to edit – I read up on others’ experiences and talked to a few trusted friends and even to a “proper” author who lives here in the village. Opinion was divided but there was one area where agreement was reached –the number of poorly presented, formatted and copy-edited e-book offerings that are out there and that’s before the quality of the writing is put to the test. Even I, a late-comer to reading ebooks , have noticed this. I would say about 10-12% of those I’ve downloaded fall into the category of poor presentation with typos, photos that move from one page to another, confusion over homonymic words and so on.

I don’t want to fall into this category and even though I’ve combed my mss umpteen times I still pick up the odd error or the desire to tweak a paragraph here and there so perhaps professional copy-editing is essential. However, I’ve gone for the Full Monty to include textual/structural editing. It’s a more subjective element and I wonder how and how well I’ll manage the feedback.
Already I’m picking over the one piece of feedback I’ve had so far – and that is only based on a read through of the first and last chapters so that the poor lady could give me an idea of cost.

“You write with fluency and authority” she observed. Like a cat on a mouse I pounced on the words. Is that good? Or does she really mean I waffle on and sound like a bossy know-it-all? I’ve turned her words inside out and upside down to understand her “true” meaning. Why can’t I take them at face value? Shades of my schooldays when Miss Grey, my teacher, returned the obligatory weekly essay, garnished with red ink, with the comment – “Sheila you have let your imagination overrule the necessity for neat hand-writing and attention to punctuation.”
Have I spent the better part of a year only to turn out a pile of goose-poo? Would I be better taking up underwater-knitting? What do I do if I receive negative feedback or suggestions for changing parts of the book? Do I change them?

The obvious answer is…it’s my book therefore it’s my choice…and yet.

I’ve paid a lump out of a limited budget to someone who is well-established in her field with a list of credits a mile long, particularly for non-fiction. How confident would I feel about ignoring her opinions? Answer – I don’t know. In most areas of my life I’m a pretty confident cookie, but with my writing – it’s the opposite. Generally I shrink from exposing the waffling of an over-taxed brain to anyone – it is a miracle akin to the wine and water trick that I’ve had anything published at all. I’m guessing it’s the same for many writers.

So over the next few weeks this blog will be less about adventures in France. Instead, I shall be sharing the pains, the labour pains if you will, of the editing process and hopefully you’ll be in on The Birth of this masterpiece around Easter next year.

Close to the Edge

Close to the Edge

Heavy Editing

Finally I have the house on the market and looking all neat and tidy for the photos. What will come of it I don’t know but it has made me put my skates on and complete the editing of “Close to the Edge” my book about the life and times of Holderness coastal communities. The idea of to-ing and fro-ing from France to complete it ain’t too appealing.

After the first round of editing I found I had committed every cardinal writing sin and probably invented some as well. One that keeps creeping in is that of slipping into the passive tense which dulls the writing and robs it of a sense of movement. On my old version of Word there used to be a gizmo that not only counted words, paras and sentences but also told how many times I used the passive tense and, even more helpfully, gave the reading age score (Flesch readability) which I found a useful guide. Now on the new version – the one with the scrolling toolbar – I can’t find it anymore which is a pity.

So now the second editing round is over what have I discovered?  Above all that it takes plain foolhardiness to savage one’s opus. It is scary to see your words flutter to the cutting room floor, as it were. After round 1 of editing, I forced myself to scrap about one third of the book entirely because it was repetitive, stuffy and made the book structurally incoherent. After that I introduced completely new material and then shuffled around great wodges of text like they were chess pieces. Shall I put it there…or maybe…no…there..no? I hate to say it but often it went right back where it started from…but it needed to be done.  Overall, I have improved the structure of the book and by grasping the thistle and abandoning a strict timeline approach (which was even  harder to do than scrapping parts of it) I think I have achieved something nearer my original idea.

The book is an eclectic mix – people, places, events and stories relating to this changing coast – chosen for no other reason than they tickled my imagination.  I have struggled with the tone from time to time – whilst aiming for quirky and occasionally irreverent, I wonder if I am a bit too flippant. Time will tell when the feedback comes in. Above all though, I hope it transmits some of the affection I have developed for a part of England where no major event of national importance ever occurred; where the one constant is a hungry sea gnawing at the cliffs; where, over the centuries people learned to adapt, build their settlements anew or go under and where a big sky suddenly shifts from grey, melancholy and brooding to  glorious sunlight casting sparklers on the sea.

DSC00191

The book is on its way to some strict beta-testers and depending on their feedback I think it will need an editing Round 3 –in the hands of a professional editor. In the meantime, I’ll tidy my desk, sharpen my pencils, and start to play around with an idea that’s been buzzing around like an angry hornet for a few weeks now.

The Editing Bell Tolls

As of midnight yesterday the first round of editing is complete. I’ve de-blooped the bloopers; ruthlessly rooted out repetition and purged purple passages. Those sentences and phrases that, at the time, sounded good came across as pretty naff when I considered what purpose they served or in what way they moved the narrative on. It was painful at times with my fanciful self at war with the ever practical and objective one.

What am I left with? At best probably half a book. That’s not a problem since I garnered enough research material to decorate two tomes at least, although things on the domestic front being what they are, it may be a few weeks before I can actually sort and integrate it.

Although this is the second book I’m preparing for publishing, for the first time I can really see the value a professional editor brings to the process. First time around it was all a rush of excitement and enthusiasm and a belief in my own editing skills. The result was OK but it’s definitely time for a second updated issue. This time, partly because I have a whiff of interest from a publisher, I’m nervous. I’ve come to realise how easy it is to miss the most obvious gaffes. You just don’t see them. You know what you’re saying and what you mean so that’s what you see and read be it ever so obscure to anyone else. Methinks a professional edit will be money well spent.

From the outset, I intended to have a modicum of humour in the way I presented the history of this shifting coastline – indeed the title strap line is “an incomplete and often irreverent history of the Holderness coast.”  Those of you who follow my blog (and by follow I mean actually read) will have met snippets from the book and will, I hope, understand  when I say that as you read the tales of the Naughty Nuns or Fat Willy you are definitely hearing my voice and my interpretation of history. I’ve never felt that history should be dull or boring but have I over-egged it? Other books the publishers have produced are quite po-faced, serious and on occasions rather scholarly…not words that apply to my offering.

I’ve struggled too to find a consistency of style. Once, way back, I wrote a newspaper column based on my antics as a self-sufficiency disciple.  In time, I pulled these articles together into a book and did the rounds of publishers with no success. However, one publisher gave me some feedback to the effect that he “suspected the book was based on a series of articles and felt stitched together as a result”.  In his opinion turning articles into books never quite worked. After I finished this editing round I do think it reads inconsistently…a little “stitched together”…almost, dare I say it, like a series of blogs rather than an integrated piece of work.

One bright light is that I’ve resolved the issue I had with structure that I mentioned in an earlier blog. I’ve ditched the chronological approach and moved into a more topic based one. Despite what I’ve written above, that does appear to help the flow and fluency of the book.

So back to the drawing board or rather the writing table and yet there’s one thing I am pleased about – I didn’t think the book so dreadful that I consigned it to the rubbish bin. Maybe that’s where it’ll end up but in the meantime, I’m on that so-called steep learning curve and there’s work to be done.

The Return of the Native

I’m back. Did you miss me? The party’s over and I’m here at my desk with a head buzzing with a swarm of ideas, what-ifs and can-I-really-do-its. I had a great time in France renewing my acquaintance with the language, the food and, of course, the wine. This morning I’m putting in an offer on an eighteenth century village property which provides a self-contained rental apartment plus living quarters for me together with the most magical gardens and the whole embraced by glorious mountains. The property is somewhat shaggy round the edges but then who wouldn’t be after three hundred years? So, hopefully with a bit of goodwill, compromise and luck, the offer will be accepted and this time next year I’ll be moving to France – one more item to tick off my Bucket List.

On the writing front, editing of my Irreverent History of Holderness continues slowly and I realise how many bear pits I’ve tumbled into both in terms of content and the boring but essential grammar stuff. Just putting some distance and time between me and my manuscript has highlighted the problems and I have a screed full of to-do items in relation to checking research facts and figures. However, the biggest issue is one of structure and this is really taxing my ingenuity. At the moment the book is organised into chapters chronologically with each chapter covering a century and marking key events, people and places. However, this makes some chapters very fat and chunky and others rather emaciated. It might be better to organise by topic…I don’t know the jury’s still out. I think I will have to get some readers next to give me their views. So still a mountain of work to do yet with it but also a slight feeling of satisfaction too…or do I mean smugness? No please don’t answer that.

Oh yes and finally, whilst I’ve been away a surprising number of folk have kindly signed up to follow this blog. I’m gradually working my way through the emails to thank them. If I’ve not got to you yet I will but in the meantime thank you for your interest.