Monday, June 24, 2013

Ask Your Editor: Launch Dates -- Don't jump too fast

This will be a short post, but it's super-important. If you are self-publishing, don't set a launch date for your book until the editing is completely finished.

I can't tell you the number of projects I've worked on where the writer has been in a rush to get the editing done because their launch is fast approaching. This is not the scenario you want for your book. You want to give your editor enough time to really work with your book. And once your editor has worked through it once, you need time to go over what the editor has done. And then you might want to (really should want to if you can afford it) send it back to your editor for proofreading.

It's exciting, this business of writing books. Now that self-publishing has been made so easy and has become so prevalent, everybody wants to do it, and that's cool. But if you're going to labor over a book, don't force it out into the sunshine before it's had time to be polished. You want it to shine once it gets there, don't you?

Write. Leave it alone for a while. Go back to it and revise it. Let some beta readers have a go at it. (Maybe beta readers would be a good post, yes?) Revise it again. Then hire an editor. Go over the editor's work. Hire a proofreader. Format it. Hire a cover designer. Create a website. Launch your baby into the world.

But please, don't rush the launch. There's no need. Your book will thank you. And so will your editor.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dexter: Final Season Preview

The end is almost here. Dexter fans, are you ready to say good-bye? For better or worse, our favorite serial killer’s run is almost over. The new—and final—season begins June 30.

If you haven’t watched any or all of Season 7, read no further. There be spoilers.

The biggest question on my mind at the beginning of Season 8 is what’s going to happen to Deb? Who is she now that she’s killed LaGuerta and who will she become in the fallout? Deb already has serious self-esteem issues. What will this do to her? She’s not only lost all sense of who she thought Dexter was, she’s now lost all sense of who she thought she was.

Deb’s one constant she could cling to in her life was her job—that and her foul mouth that we’ve all come to love. She may not have a solid, dependable love interest. She may not have the solid mooring of her family. But she’s always had the job. How will Det. Debra Morgan be able to report for duty now that she has the blood of an innocent woman—another cop, no less—on her hands? (I’ve read enough about the upcoming season to know she forfeits her badge, but I won’t go into that. We learn it early in the first episode.)

Knowing she’s no longer a badge-wearing officer of the law doesn’t change the questions for me because Deb is still a cop at heart. I believe she still longs to be able to cling to the black-and-white world of law enforcement, where right is right and wrong is wrong and the bad guys pay, which is why the evolution (or downward spiral) of her character is going to be so interesting to watch this season. We all have to make a peace of some sort with the choices we make. Considering who she is at heart and who she holds closest to her heart, how will Deb ever make her peace?

And then there’s Dexter. My husband says he won’t be happy with the ending if Dexter isn’t in cuffs or dead. I still don’t know how I feel about it. One part of me agrees with him. Dexter is degenerating. The Code isn’t really working anymore. Maybe it’s time for Dexter to face the consequences of his actions. But another part of me wonders if he could bring the Code back to where it’s supposed to be. Could he go back to killing only those who have killed others and thereby “redeem” himself? Could he and Deb form a team? (No, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t think Deb’s built that way. It would destroy her.)

I care about Dexter. I hate the childhood trauma he endured. I admire how Harry tried to “save” his son by teaching him how to live with his “dark passenger.” I respect how Dexter has tried to right the wrongs society failed to right. My heart broke for him when Rita died and it melts every time he’s with Harrison. Dexter wants to be good. What will happen to him? What choices will he make? Is his relationship with Deb destroyed completely?

I’m looking forward to discovering what the Dexter team has in store for us in its final season. I’ll be talking about it here each week. Please join the discussion!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ask Your Editor: Capitalizing relative titles

Are you writing about your Aunt Helen or your aunt Helen? Have you gotten advice from my Mom or my mom? Do you know when you should capitalize relative titles, or do you just do what feels right? There are rules, my friends, and they’re pretty cut-and-dried, so here we go.

If you want to put a relative title in front of someone’s name, it’s fine to capitalize it as long as you don’t also put a personal pronoun in front of it.

Compare these two examples written correctly:
  • When we asked Uncle Harry about his health, he changed the subject.
    • “Uncle” and “Harry” are used together as his name.

  • When we asked my uncle Harry about his health, he changed the subject.
    • In this sentence, “my” and “uncle” are used as adjectives to describe Harry, but they are not used as his name.
These two examples are written incorrectly:
  • When we asked uncle Harry about his health, he changed the subject.
  • When we asked my Uncle Harry about his health, he changed the subject.

The same rule applies if you’re using the relative title without the proper name.

These two examples are written correctly:
  • If you want Mom to agree to the plan, we have to talk to her soon.
    • “Mom” is being used as her name, so it’s capitalized.
  • If you want my mom to agree to the plan, we have to talk to her soon.
    • Placing “my” in front of “mom” means “mom” is no longer being used as her name; it’s now a description of who she is.

These two are written incorrectly:
  • If you want mom to agree to the plan, we have to talk to her soon.
  • If you want my Mom to agree to the plan, we have to talk to her soon.

Any questions? Send ’em my way. Suggestions for the blog? I’d love to hear them.

I’ve got a get-ready-for-the-season-premiere-of-Dexter blog in the works. Stay tuned! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ask Your Editor: Is it "there," "their," or "they're"? Let's talk usage.

Some very basic, but very common mistakes I find when editing are usage mistakes. These involve swapping one word for another because they (very often) sound alike and spell check won’t catch them (although grammar check sometimes—and I emphasize sometimes—will).

Here’s a quick rundown of the most common usage errors:

  • Are / Our – These two don’t always sound the same, but often they do, which I think is what leads to their confusion. Practice your enunciation and I think you’ll confuse them less often.
    • Are – is a verb.
      • The chocolate ├ęclairs are my favorite. 
    • Our – is a possessive pronoun and indicates “we” own something. 
      • Our house is the first one on the right. 
  • Affect / Effect – There are some nuances to these two, but 99 percent of the time, you can rely on the following: 
    • Affect – is a verb. Think of it as another way to say “to influence.” 
      • How will the weather affect the town-wide yard sale? 
    • Effect – is a noun and can usually be thought of as the consequence (result) of something. 
      • What was the effect of adding salt to the recipe? 
  • All right – This is a personal pet peeve, and I really don’t have very many of those. “All right” is always, always, always two words. Always. And while we’re at it, so is 
  • A lot 
  • Farther / Further – Although they are both adverbs, there are distinct differences between how they are used. 
    • Farther – should be used to describe a physical distance. 
      • It’s farther to my grandparents’ house than it is to my aunt’s. 
    • Further – should be used to describe a figurative distance, or to imply something should be done to a greater degree. 
      • My English teacher drove me crazy because she always wanted me to take my literature discussions further than I wanted to. 
  • Its / It’s – Another pair that sound exactly alike and that have been confused for each other for centuries. 
    • Its – is a possessive pronoun indicating ownership. 
      • I think that dog has lost its bone. 
    • It’s – is a contraction for “it is.” 
      • Do you think it’s going to rain today? 
  • There / Their / They’re – Yes, these three words sound identical to each other, but they serve three very different purposes. 
    • There – is an adverb and indicates where something is located. 
      • My wallet is lying over there on the table. 
    • Their – is a possessive pronoun and indicates “they” own something. 
      • Do you know if their house is on this street? 
    • They’re – is a contraction for “they are.” 
      • Of all our friends, they’re the ones I like the best. 
  • Where / Were – Whenever this duo gets mixed up, it surprises me because they sound nothing alike. However, even outside the classroom, it’s a usage mistake I still see often. 
    • Where – is an adverb indicating place or location. 
      • Do you know where the game is tonight? That is where she said it was. 
    • Were – is a verb. 
      • They were going to call us later tonight. 
I could go on—and probably should—but this gets us started. I’ll probably revisit usage, but not likely in my next post. Maybe we should talk about voice … or formatting … or launch dates … What would you like me to discuss? Message me your comments and questions! 

Keep writing. Talk to you soon!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Ask your editor: Tips for writers

For two years, I’ve been working as a freelance editor. For the last year, I’ve been doing it full-time. I do most of my work using the Elance platform, and there I’ve edited hundreds of books and articles from people all around the world. One of the memoirs I edited last year, Michael Hurley’s Once Upon a Gypsy Moon, was sold to Hachette Books. An educational book I edited recently, Money and Teens: Waste Less, Have More by Wes and Darby Karchut, was named the EIFLE 2013 Children’s Book of the Year.

I share this with you for a couple reasons. If you’re a writer looking for an editor, you can click on the Elance link above to see in more detail the kind of work I do. If you want to have a conversation about the book or article or website you’re working on, send me an email and we’ll talk about where you are, where you want to be, and how I can help you get there.

The other reason I mentioned what I do for a living is that I’m going to start using my blog (when I’m not talking about my favorite TV shows, books, or people) to try and help writers who are working on their drafts and who might be close to the point of looking for an editor or a publisher or who might be almost ready to make their website live. I’m going to share some common problems I see when I edit and try and help other writers avoid making those mistakes before it even makes it to an editor. Some of my posts will be short and sweet; some will be longer. All of them will be geared toward helping to make writers better—to thin the weeds from their work.

Any questions? Shoot ‘em my way. Ideas for the blog—writing or editing questions you’d like answered? I’m listening.

And for you Dexter fans … the new and final season starts in a couple weeks. I’m planning on blogging my heart out for that. It’s gonna be hard to say good-bye to my favorite serial killer.