Today I am joined by Brenda Hill, author of three novels, several short stories, she also writes restaurant reviews and features for her local newspaper. Brainbench certified in Written English, she has edited for an indie publisher and belonged to an international critiquing group.
Her first novel, Ten Times Guilty, garnered a half point below the top rating by RT Book Reviews, and her second, Beyond the Quiet, hit Amazon’s top 50 bestsellers, Kindle edition, July 2011. Top reviewers praised her latest, With Full Malice, a thriller set in Southern California.
At some point during the writing process, many writers wonder if they need an editor. When they contact me, they usually begin with two questions: what does an editor do, and how much will it cost?
My fees are determined by the amount of time and effort I’ll need to invest to help an individual writer. Is s/he an experienced writer familiar with the craft who simply needs copyediting for typos, wrong word choice, or sentence structure? Or is the writer a newbie who needs all the expertise I can provide? Typically I ask for two or three pages, although I can usually determine the author’s level of writing within the first page. I base my fee on that level, and the work begins.
When I edit your book or analyze your 1st Chapter, I read it through and note my impressions. How is the flow? Are dramatic events—turning points—placed right according to modern story structure? Forget the myth that plot points are formulaic; they're simply places in a story where dramatic events should occur. Once you have a basic skeleton, you can build your individual story. After all, we humans have similar skeletons, but no two people, except perhaps twins, look alike.
During the first reading, I’m not overly concerned with typos, wrong word usage etc; instead, I’m interested in how the story is written. Is it interesting? Would I ignore the nagging clock to keep reading? If so, then I can concentrate on other elements—sentence structure, typos, etc.
If I’m fidgeting, wondering what’s on TV, thinking I should be cleaning the oven instead of reading, I wonder why. I go through the manuscript again and make notes: do the different acts have the necessary elements to invite me to continue reading? Does the story question intrigue me? Does it HAVE a story question? And answer?
Are there cliffhangers? Is the writing suspenseful? And dialogue—is it stilted? Stiff? Sound unnatural? Are the tags properly written? And most of all, does the first chapter seduce me into reading more? If not, what’s lacking? What's needed? Can I rearrange the writer’s sentences to transform the chapter into something enticing?
During the process of transforming a writer’s work, I’m careful to keep the original voice. I do not want the work to read as if I, the editor, had written it; I want the author’s voice to shine. I simply cut the excess and polish what remains as a diamond cutter transforms a rough stone into a sparkling gem.
Check Brenda's website for tips on writing, editing, and grammar: