Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Editing For Authors

So today, we're finally ready to make this announcement: that Editing for Authors, an editorial services company for self-published authors created by me and my crit partner, Erica Orloff, is open for business.

I've been working for self-published authors pretty much from the beginning of my career. In fact, for seven years, I ghostwrote books for a guy who started his own company just to self-publish his own books. We were extremely successful (for the world of publishing). Let me put it this way: he owned his own jet based on his book sales. Not bad, right?

Later on, I signed on as a contractor for the largest POD companies in the industry, where I provide editing services for self-published authors who select that option as part of their packages. I've worked with hundreds of authors on their books, which range in quality from needing loads of help to quite good. Especially lately, I've noticed that the quality of books crossing my desk seems to be rapidly increasing.

I think this is an exciting time to be in publishing ... it's not often you get to witness the mass democratization of a whole medium. But it hasn't been exactly easy to wrap my mind around what's happening. For one thing, having actually read enough self-published titles to have an opinion, it's true that many, many self-published books just aren't that good. The stigma against self-publishing was earned; it's not the product of snooty New York editors looking down their noses at rambunctious competition. It's because the majority of the books aren't very good.

And yet, that doesn't mean self-publishing itself has no place in the industry. In fact, it's growing more and more important as the stigma fades and people like JA Konrath and Amanda Hocking show that you can make good money and have a good career without a publisher. Like Erica said on her blog today, they're proving something that nonfiction writers have known for a long time: there is no single path to success in publishing, or even one single definition of success.

So looping back to Editing for Authors ... here's how I view the editing process: when an author hands over a book to an editor (or a critique partner), they are handing over something very precious, something they might have invested years of their life in and sacrificed time away from other pursuits to produce. It's not my job to tell anyone their book is good or isn't good ... it isn't my job to "fix" anybody's book (unless we're talking about grammar and spelling, in which case it's very much my job). It's my job to do whatever I can to help that particular book become the best book it can be.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I Knew This Was Out There Somewhere ...

So remember how I said I wrote my last book without an outline or a plot? 'Tis true. And it was essential for figuring out the characters and letting them breath and get some space. But guess what I'm doing on the rewrite?

If you said "extremely complicated plot spreadsheet" you'd be correct. I'm going to probably cut half or more of the existing text, shuffle plot elements all over the place, trim at least 10,000 words, and reduce the number of chapters from 55 to 26 (about). I'm tracking three main subplots throughout.

I guess I didn't shake my old habits as much as I thought :)

As I've worked on my own plots, I've always wondered how Rowling did it. I've read her interviews, and I even watched Oprah to see if I could get any glimpse into Rowling's actual process. For one thing, I'm weird like that. I'm endlessly fascinated by how writers work. For another, whatever else you can say about her books, they are complexly plotted. One might even say brilliantly.

So today on Twitter, guess what pops up? A page from the "spreadsheet" Rowling developed while she was writing Order of Phoenix (at least I'm guessing). And check it out! This is how you plot a 4,000-page book with dozens of characters and too many subplots to mention ...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It Finally Happened ...

This is crazy ...

For the past 15 years, I've used one particular word to hold my place in the documents I'm editing or writing. I remember picking this word and thinking, "It'll be safe because I'll never actually find it in a document or use it myself." So for the last forever, every time I start working on a project, I open the file, do a Find, type in my code word, and zoom right back to where I left off.

The word is "byzantine." I always thought it was kind of appropriate.

Well, today it happened. I opened up my current editing project, searched for byzantine and actually found that the author had used it in his manuscript. I'm still a little in shock. Years and years have gone by ... hundreds of books have passed over my desk in one form of another ... and this is the first one to use the word byzantine.

What's going to happen next? Palin for president? A call from Oprah? I feel nervous, rattled.