Thursday, October 19, 2017

Road Trip!


Today's regularly scheduled post has been preempted by a mini road trip I'm taking with my daughter this week. We may or may not pick up a bunch of Muppets along the way.

I'll see you all in two weeks! 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

"Sticker Shock" and the Cost of Edits

Put a group of editors and authors together on any online forum, and not only will you get five helpful suggestions for every three people involved, you'll get a large number of opinions on editing, what it means, and of course the dreaded C-O-S-T.

I recently joined a group called Ask A Book Editor, and have enjoyed the interactions and information exchange. Self-promotion is strictly forbidden, so it's simple Q&A with authors and other editors. Someone recently asked about free evaluations, cost per hour v. cost per word, and costs in general.

After participating in a lively discussion of "if you charge X, you're not charging enough," I thought I'd check out the Excel file that lists all the editors who are part of the site so I could explore some of these people and their pricing structure—just to see where I landed on the spectrum.

And . . . wow. I'm a cheap date.

I knew from talking with authors I've worked with that I charge about half of what many freelancers do. In fact, when I started working with Raymond Esposito, he said he'd paid exactly twice as much with another editing house before working with me—and I ended up re-editing the two books that other business had worked on. But what an eye-opener to see what some of these people rake in! My cost per word is, at best, half of that charged by others . . . but in the majority of situations I found that these people were charging three times what I do, sometimes with an hourly rate added on. One editor quoted rates "starting at .018 per word plus $45/hour," which sounded outlandish to me. And yet, these people are all working steadily.

Funny thing: there were those who were almost pricing snobs. Their opinion was that editors who charged amount (actually, what I charge, though I was a little embarrassed to admit it to them) were either incompetent or trying to undercut the competition. I am neither. I like to think of myself as realistic with what the average indie author can afford and is willing to spend. I've given what I think is a reasonable estimate after a free evaluation, complete with discount, and have had people say, "Oh, I had no idea it would cost that much, to be honest."

What do I say to that? "Um, did you look at anyone's prices prior to contacting them directly?" comes to mind, even if it sounds incredibly snarky. Because if it were me, and I looked at someone's site to get their contact information, I would check out the pricing, calculate what my particular MS would cost, and then shop around to come up with three to five editors of varying rates for evaluation. The cheapest estimate is not always the lowest quality; nor does a higher rate guarantee better quality. In general terms, these things may hold truth, but the work itself needs to be considered.

In another online group, an author was looking for an editor, and many people in the group mentioned Reedsy. One author said it was "expensive but worth it" and when asked about cost, she mentioned about $2,000 for a typical-length novel. I can understand that for developmental editing, but for copy editing & proofreading (the type she was quoting), I can tell you that most indie authors can not afford that—nor will they pay it. They'll either go cheap and hope for the best, or they'll publish without professional edits and will continue to promote the stereotype of self-pubs putting out subpar work. This is why I offer more affordable pricing with options. I hate the idea that talented work is out there, unedited. In all other aspects of life, we manage to find the money and time for things that are important to us—and yet when it comes to editing a novel into which you've put your time, sweat, imagination, and future writing reputation, there's an attitude of "It's more than I want to pay, so it's okay to go without this step."

I can't compete with Reedsy, and thankfully I don't have to. The authors I've worked with are determined to put forth the best product they possibly can, and I help them to do so. Is a big name like Reedsy worth it? I don't know, since I'd have to compare their work side by side to my own. I do know the editors I've spoken with (who have been approached by Reedsy) say they prefer to work as freelancers because Reedsy doesn't pay well. One guy posted a status update last night, saying, "That time when you took a low-paying job with a big publishing house, hoping it would lead to bigger, better jobs . . . and six months later, I got another from them, at half the rate they paid last time. Never again. I much prefer working with the author directly."

It makes me wonder if, when all is said and done, their [Reedsy's] editors—and perhaps those employed by other large editing/publishing houses—aren't making a whole lot more than I am. Except in this case, the author is paying the difference.

Read that last sentence again. If we're making about the same, why not cut out the middleman—the one who isn't doing the work—and pay the freelancer directly? I may be biased, but it sure seems more cost-effective to me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Book Talk with Lynda: Special Guest Brandon Ax


Hey, everyone! Today marks the beginning of something special, and I’m glad you’re here to share it. Back in the day when free time was in abundance (about three or four years ago), S.K. Anthony and I used to get together for coffee on a weekly basis and talk about all kinds of things bookish. Pure intellectual stuff, it was. Or something like that.

[Side note: If you ever have time—and brain cells—to kill, check out my Coffee Chat tab. But start at the beginning or it will never make any sense. Um . . . and starting with the first one doesn’t actually guarantee the subsequent ones will make sense, but it helps.]

Here I was, missing the days when S.K. used to break into my house (before she had her own key made), take over my kitchen, and chat with me awhile about everything relating to writing and reading. So I decided to invite someone over today to talk about book stuff. I thought about who would be too polite to say no, and chose Brandon Ax because he’s from the South, and we all know how polite southerners are. Right? Not only did he say yes (I knew it!) but he just so happens to have a new book coming out in a few days, so I won’t have to pull out my 3x5 index cards of Conversation Starters for Awkward Moments.

[Heads toward the kitchen.] Hmm . . . he’s actually waiting outside the door. How odd. I guess I’ll have to get used to guests waiting for me to let them into my house.

L: [Opens door to let him in.] Hey, Brandon! Welcome to the very first Book Talk with Lynda. Make yourself comfy and I’ll grab you a cup of coffee.

B: [Walks in and takes a seat at the table.] Oh thanks! Actually a glass of water would be great.

L: [Pours cup of coffee and plops it down in front of him.] Here you go! Drink up; I made plenty.

B: Um . . . thanks.

L: So hey, I’m pretty excited that the third book in your Light Bringer series is coming out on Monday. I’ve actually read it and I’m still excited because that means it’s official, and everyone else can enjoy it too. Are you feeling any sadness at saying goodbye to the characters?

B: [Nudges the coffee cup around.] There is a bit of sadness. Although who knows what the future holds. They have been a part of my life for so long I don’t know that I can truly stop telling stories about them. However, I am really excited about the things I am working on now. [Waits for Lynda to turn her attention to the oven, where something smells wonderful, and promptly pours coffee in the cat’s dish.]

L: I’m excited about homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast! They go so well with the coffee, and they’ll cheer up your sadness. [Hands over full plate.] So of course I have my favorite characters—seriously, Zander is my fave—but I loved the addition of new characters in Light Bringer. Some of them, I wanted to punch, but I’m sure you may have felt the same way. Have you ever had a bad-guy character where you were like, “Ooooooh, if you weren’t essential to the plot I would kill you so fast . . . better watch yourself, mister . . .”

B: [Takes a soft, warm roll from the plate and tries not to make too many “mmm” sounds as he bites in.] Well, I try not to write villains as much as antagonists. As such I get into their heads and find their motivation. In the end, although I don’t like the things they do, I understand where they are coming from. Having said that, there is a Weaver in the first book who made me contemplate interesting ways to kill a character. She was particularly vile and her motivations were pretty self-centered and obnoxious.  

L: She really was. I was hoping she’d get it good. And what if Lynn or Sidney or Connor or any of the gang starts talking to you again? Would this particular storyline continue somehow, or would you come from a completely different direction?

B: That’s the thing, right? They never really stop talking to me. There may or may not be a document. In this possible document, there may or may not be the beginnings of something. I will just have to wait and see what happens. I do have a prequel in the works mostly geared around Aiden. Also there are a few side characters in this last book who are screaming for a spin-off.  

L: What a tease. I would love any or all of those, so write as quickly and as often as you can. [Looks to the side as something whizzes by.] Whoa! Check out AndyAndy! I don't know what that's all about . . . that cat never moves that fast! But anyway, I know you're also an artist . . . does art have anything to do with what you're working on right now? And let me refill that coffee for you.

B: I'm really not that much of a—

L: Here you go! [Places a steaming mug in front of him.]

B: [Sighs.] Thanks . . .

L: So, those other interests and projects . . .?

B: [Watches the cat run laps around the table.] Yeah, I do a lot. I have always drawn, but I also love to paint and make clay figures. I have illustrated a book for someone and even dabble a bit in writing songs. Writing is my first love and will always win out, but I figured I could use some of those others here as well. So one thing I am doing as part of the giveaway is painting pictures so I can give away some prints. Would you like to see them? [Goes to grab another roll and promptly pours the coffee in a house plant.]

L: Are you kidding me? YES. I’ve seen some of your clay figures in the past, and think the book you illustrated has an adorable cover. Of course I’m a big fan of songwriting, too, and taking a peek at your paintings is naturally the next step. Doing a giveaway of the paintings is a phenomenal idea and I think your readers will really love it. What are you waiting for? Gosh, you’d think those two cups of coffee would have kicked in by now. Let me refill that cup while you grab your paintings.

B: But I—

L: Bottoms up, my man. [Lifts mug to “cheers” him.]

B: [Clinks mug in despair.] Thanks . . . Oh, by the way, can I have a glass of water, too? Because . . . coffee makes me . . . thirsty. Yeah, that’s it.

L: There you go. [Hands over a tall glass of water, almost dropping it as Brandon grabs frantically at it.] Hydration is the key, right?

B: Right!


 


L: Wow, these are great! Connor, Lynn, and Zander. But I thought you said you were bringing four with you.

B: I did. But now I can't— [Cuts off abruptly as AndyAndy races by with a painting in his mouth.] Never mind.

L: Uh . . . sorry.

B: [Sighs.] So I was thinking, it may be cool for people to read an excerpt from Light Bringer. I mean I wouldn’t want to spoil anything big, so some stuff may be redacted. In fact, it's in that file right behind you. [Waits for her to turn and pours full cup into her nearly empty one.]



L: That was . . .

B: Riveting—I know.

L: I’m still catching my breath.

So hey, everyone, I hope you enjoyed the very very VERY first Book Talk, with my special guest, Brandon Ax. And if you haven’t read Brandon’s first two books, Elemental and Ashes, then I have no idea what you’re waiting for, but you’re in for a treat when you do. Light Bringer will be released on Monday, September 25, so you will want to be caught up and ready to continue the adventure.

You can find Brandon at his website: Brandon Ax
At his blog: Writer's Storm
On Facebook: Brandon Ax: Author
On Twitter: @BrandonAx
And on Instagram: axbrandon

I’m here, of course, because it’s my blog and nobody invites me anywhere else. But you can also find me on my ERE Facebook page and on Instagram as easyreaderediting. Follow me to see what kinds of trouble I can manage on other social media (I post different things in different places), which basically means take your chances on being bored, or completely stunned and amazed.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Editor's Notes #38: Dialogue Part 3—Those @#$!$%^ Tags



This is the third and final part in my series on dialogue. Click HERE to read Part One—Regional Overkill, and click HERE to read Part Two—Sounding Real.

Book after book has been written about them. Blog after blog has featured articles with cautionary tales. And yet . . . the overly awkward dialogue tag still manages to work its way out of the garbage can and into manuscripts the world over.

In fact, while researching for this post, I was astounded at the number of articles I found which advocated "the death of 'Said'" and "making your dialogue more interesting with anything but 'said'" and other generally bad advice.

I'm not saying there's never a good moment for a shout here and there, but the advice to young writers on various teaching blogs & forums goes directly against the advice of best-selling authors, who sometimes advise to skip tags altogether as often as possible, and more often suggest "said" or "asked" as a way of making the tag disappear.

Personally, I tend to skim over dialogue tags when I'm reading, so I like the idea of eliminating them more often than not, unless the conversation becomes confusing. Maybe it's because I read decent books that use "said" and "asked" and, as promised by those high-level authors, those two particular words become invisible after a little while.

No one wants to read the old-fashioned (and thankfully, almost never used) "he ejaculated" as a dialogue tag. The more obscure tags will pull a reader from the story as physically as tipping him out of his chair. Think of how often you've read "blustered," "queried," "wailed," "bellowed," "quipped," and the like. I don't know about you, but when I read those words, in my mind the character is instantly replaced by the Skipper from Gilligan's Island, a blusterer & bellower from way back. Or suddenly the character is Lucille Ball, wailing her trademark waaahhh.

Elimination of dialogue tags in certain spots can be effective for quick back-and-forth action. If your characters are written distinctly, their manner of speech should indicate easily enough who's talking.

Another mistake inexperienced writers often make is to use dialogue tags that don't work in the physical world:

  • "I love you," she breathed. Nope. You can't breathe in while speaking. And breathing out is not the same as forcing air through your mostly closed vocal cords.
  • "Don't do that," he growled. Nope again. Try growling and saying anything intelligible. You're not Batman.
  • "Get over here, NOW," she hissed. Double nope. Hissing and speaking don't mix, and hissing sounds usually require the use of the letter "s." Just ask Harry Potter.
  • "What do you mean, you won't?" he barked. Nooooope. Unless it's a dog literally barking, and you understand that he sounds like arf arf woof woof grrr but you can translate it in your head like a foreign language, or—oh, forget it. You get my point.
So . . . to recap these three posts neatly: don't overuse regional dialect and slang, make sure your characters sound as real as the people around you, and make those dialogue tags disappear, whether literally or figuratively.

I'd love to know: Have you ever read a truly abominable dialogue tag? Have you written one you regret (or that your editor made you regret until you removed it)?


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Editor's Notes #37: Dialogue Part 2—Sounding Real


This is Part 2 in a series about dialogue. If you missed reading Part 1 where I talk about regional overkill and writing accents, feel free to check it out here.

I'm not sure how this happens, but for some writers, there is a major disconnect between conversing with people in real life and writing about people conversing. Why is writing dialogue so difficult for people who talk to others on a regular basis?

I think the major hurdle for many writers to overcome is making dialogue "proper" according to grammar rules. There's only one problem with that: dialogue rarely sounds grammatically correct.

Before you write dialogue for your characters, watch people for a while, and listen to them talk. Yes, I'm asking you to stalk a little . . . for research purposes, of course. I'm willing to bet you see at least a few of the following:

  • Contractions—Most people use contractions when speaking, and yet so many writers are shy about using them for dialogue. "I do not understand" sounds a lot more stiff than "I don't understand." I did edit a novel once with one character who never used contractions (much like Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation), but that was used as a distinguishing trait for a particular purpose.
  • Multiple Threads at Once—Any parent can relate to this. Or anyone who's looked at a chat window between S.K. Anthony and me. More often than not, there is more than one conversation going on at once, even if there are only two people involved. Somehow, we keep it all straight; conversation is rarely linear.
  • Mishearing—Conversations happen in a variety of places, and not all of them are quiet. Is your character talking on the phone, or are children playing around those talking? Someone is bound to say, "What?" at some point. My specialty, according to my husband, is talking to him from two rooms away in our house. I get a lot of responses that sound something like, "I can hear you but I can't understand you," and "You're not talking to me, are you?"
  • Getting Sidetracked/Self-Interruption—These two sort of go hand in hand. I get sidetracked all the time when I'm talking, and my kids make fun of me for it. I tend to be thinking of lots of things while talking, and this results in my sentence either changing midstream, or fading off altogether. Real conversation between me and my daughter in the car:
Me: I'm so thankful . . . [gets distracted by oncoming traffic]
Ellie: [waits a few moments, then speaks] . . . for . . .?
Me: [looks around] Four what? Where?
Ellie: Thankful. For. What. What are you thankful for? You never finished.
Me: Oh . . . I'm thankful someone's picking up your brother so I don't have to.

  • Body Language/Movement—These are essential in conversations. People don't stand straight at attention, facing each other to deliver their scripted lines in a tidy order. They move, they fidget, they pace, they do the dishes or fold laundry or any number of things. Sometimes their bodies reveal more than their speech does. S.K. Anthony did a four-part series on Using Body Language in Your Novel that shows how many ways your body language can help you or give away all your secrets.
  • Sentence Fragments—These differ from self-interruption or getting sidetracked, in that you don't need to be sidetracked to speak in fragments. People don't converse in the manner we all had to use in high school English tests, where we had to put our answer in the form of a full sentence. "What's for supper?" "Chicken piccata." You'll hear that as an answer far more often than "For supper, I'm making chicken piccata."
  • Age is Relevant—Children don't sound like adults when they speak (though they do come up with gems every so often), so don't write the six-year-old's dialogue as if she has the insight and wisdom of a sixty-year-old. Kids are pretty simple: they want things and are happy when they get them.
These examples are a fraction of the things to consider. There are awkward silences. Sometimes when people talk, they can't always recall the facts, so their speech is peppered with uncertainty and fishing around in their brains for the right word. Someone might always say, "Ya know?" between phrases.

Something I hadn't considered when writing this post is the dialogue info dump. I'm so glad I ran across this gem in an article by Janice Hardy on NowNovel. Her number one tip on writing dialogue is "Stop using dialogue for information dumps." She points out that starting a conversation with "As you know . . ." is ridiculous. If the other person knows, then why is Person #1 repeating it all? Her advice on how to tell if you're info-dumping in dialogue or not:
When characters share information, says Janice, "If the information is for the reader's benefit, chances are you're dumping. If the information is for the character's benefit (or detriment), chances are it's fine."
In the situation above, I always think of the boss who talks to his employee while perusing through the employee's file folder. "As you know, Joe, ten years ago when you were just a rookie, you took down that laundry-laundering operation singlehandedly even though your dog's cousin was going through psychotherapy for his issues with the neighbor's cat. I know that caused your divorce, but you can't keep blaming yourself by refusing to go to the laundromat."


Don't be afraid to read your dialogue aloud after you've written it . . . to "speak it out." It may sound natural or you may come to the sudden realization that it doesn't. Picture yourself saying those words to a friend (or an enemy, depending on the dialogue). Think of those awkward homemade commercials—Hey, Susan, you're looking so fit and trim! What's your secret? Is it that new 24-hour gym, Fat2Fit, at 123 Barbell Street?—and . . . don't do that.

People don't speak perfectly. Dialogue is not structured the same as a prepared speech given to a crowd, and is more often than not grammatically incorrect. Just let it happen and don't stress the specifics.