Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ask the Editor Free For All Day!

It's back again - The Ask the Editor Free-For-All

Last month's Ask the Editor Free-For-All Day drew 64 comments in all, a great response, but 4 short of the previous month's. Let's aim a bit higher this time! Throw out your best and trickiest questions and see if you can stump our editors.

In case you haven't a clue what's going on here, this is the day you've been waiting for. Today, you get to ask any silly question you want and not be embarrassed by doing so. You don't have to be brilliant. You just have to be needy, as in, I really need a question answered.
Here's how it works:

Today, and Every First Tuesday of the Month, The Blood-Red Pencil holds what we call the Ask the Editor Free-For-All. I scour e-groups, Facebook and other hot spots beforehand, putting out a cry for lost souls wandering aimlessly with unanswered questions. If you stumble across this blog without warning, you're still more than welcome to join in the fray.

Admit it. I’m sure many of you have questions you’d love to ask an editor. Maybe you’re submitting a manuscript or thinking of submitting one, but a fine point baffles you. You don’t want to sound like you don’t know the business, so it would be extremely handy to know the answer before you submit. Doing the wrong thing could mean rejection. Here’s your chance to get that answer and be a star.

Okay, maybe you haven't yet reached the submission stage. Still, there's a question keeping you from doing your best writing. It sure would help to get it figured out.

We here at The Blood-Red Pencil would like to put your minds at ease and solve your pesky problems. All you need do is ask and one of our able editors will answer. It's that simple.

To Submit A Question, Follow These Easy Steps:

Leave a comment in the comment section below. Make sure you include your name and blogspot or website not only for promo, but so we know you’re legit.

One or more of our editors will hop over during the day and answer your question in the comment section. If an editor feels your question needs a more lengthy explanation, you'll get a comment to the effect that an entire post will be devoted to the subject at a later date. If that's the case, you'll receive even more promotion. You may even be told where to send a jpeg of your book cover and/or yourself and a buy link.

If you wish to leave your e-mail address with your comment, you may, but it's not required. Because your question may require a follow-up, it wouldn't hurt if you do mention somewhere in your comment where you heard about our Ask the Editor Free-For-All. That way we can contact you so you don't miss the answer.

Remember to check back here not only for your answer, but also the answers to other people's questions. You never know what may prove helpful down the line. Since some of you are on Digest setting for your e-groups, questions and answers may carry on through Wednesday, and possibly Thursday.

As I mentioned before, don't be afraid your question might seem silly. We all start somewhere. That's how we learn.

Okay, bring on the questions!

Morgan Mandel


  1. Am I the first? So be it. Do you know of any place online that has a list of online magazines that are more likely to accept the work of newbies in the writing field? I haven't published for years so I feel that I qualify for the category and am a little leery.

  2. How can you find out sales numbers for a competing title? I'm working on a proposal and need some accurate figures.

    Thanks in advance. I'm a regular. I'll be back. Cheers, Simon.

  3. How does one start a story in the correct place? I know one shouldn't start w back story or all that laadidaa. My story starts w a garden party. All the relevant players are presented. A bit of tension, a bit of rubbing noses and then this long ago happened thing surfaces in the discussion (which amounts to a body in chapter 3). Chapters 1 and 2 amount to ca. 3380 words. Does the body appear too late in the story? Do all stories have to start with the body being found in chapter one?

  4. Oops! Forgot to mention, that I found you through Dani at Blogbooktours on FB :).

  5. Hi there.

    FYI...I mentioned this post on my blog today.

    Check it out and let me know if you approve.



  6. Thanks,Danielle, for the plug on your blog.

    Some of our Editors will be here shortly to answer questions.

    Morgan Mandel

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Marketing and selling my book has been a challenge, because it's expensive and time consuming.

    Do you know of someone who can guide me through the process so that I don't waste time and money? My book is on amazon.com :"Cut Your 401(k) Plan Expenses AND Keep More Of YOUR Money. Simple steps to cut plan costs, save money, and make monitoring your plan stress free"

    Thank you for any help that you can give me. Frank R. Cirullo

  9. Hi, thanks for having Editor Free-For-All Day! So exciting :)

    How does one become an editor? Take classes? Get a job as an assistant to an editor?

    I don't remember how I came across this blog, I've been reading it for months. Thanks!


  10. As to Simon's question - finding out numbers of sales of competing titles? I suspect it would be easier to learn how a Swiss bank account works. It is next to impossible even for one's agent to get numbers of sales on one's OWN book until which time as a publisher deems it is time for a royalty statement. It is highly unlikely you can get sales figures on someone else's title unless you talk to the author himself and he or she is willing to share said info.
    Now I have a question for the edtitors: Given the huge new rise in Indie Authors who are writng for and publishing for Kindle and Smashwords and other ebook platforms, shouldn't there then be a need for and a call for editors like you and I to have MORE business than less? I would think that Indie authors would be knocking at our doors a great deal more to get their self pubbed ebooks VETTED than not. This is a mushrooming exponentially growing area and editors should be in great demand, not less...so where is my business? Do I need to advertise my services more, and if so, where do I best advertise without going broke?

  11. Howdy. Love the blog, I've been following for a while now.

    Is it too cliche to write about a writer? It's easy and slightly convenient. I've read many stories/books where the protagonist is a writer. Is this just lazy?


  12. How close to a word count minimum do you have to be?

    I always write short and worry I won't have enough.

    If it says 80,000 is 70,000 okay or should you go find another place to submit?

  13. What's the best way to get a major newspaper like The Boston Globe to review your books if you write for a small press? Should I ask my agent to send my books to them?

  14. I think I'm still in the grammar and punctuation weeds--so here's my nit-picking punctuation question. Other than a quote within a quote, when should single quotation marks be used?

  15. Beth:
    My advice is to stick very close to word count guidelines. The agent/publisher would not state the word count if it didn't matter. If your work is too short it doesn't meet their stated needs and you are wasting your time.

    But rule-breakers are published every day. I recently read a blog where an agent said she'd rather take a super story outside her stated interests than a so-so story within them. The agent might help you develop further one aspect of plot/character development (which makes me wonder: has your book been edited?), although it has been my experience that these days, with so many manuscripts to choose from, they'd rather reject than revise.

    So there--I've been clear as mud!

  16. Rob,

    You've mentioned one of the worst combinations of beauty and ugliness that exists today: the ability of "just about anyone" to get "just about anything" published on Kindle or SmashWords.

    Liberty and Equality are parts of the motto of France, but they are also taken to be a large part of the self-pubbing movement. Liberty to publish anything, whether it is ready for publication or not, and equality as in, "My writing is just as good as anyone else's writing, so there!"

    We all know that last statement ain't necessarily so (with apologies to Porgy and Bess.) But, there are a lot of people out there who have no patience, or who think that their buddy from college who actually passed English Comp 201 without cheating, is qualified to be an editor.

    I am also an editor, and editing my own work is one of the most difficult things to do. It's difficult for most of us to properly edit our own writing, with very rare exceptions. (Too many people seem to think they ARE rare exceptions.) When you try to edit your own work, usually you are too close to it, too enamored of the storyline and your own prose, to be effective at doing so. That doesn't stop people from believing they can do it, though.

    But what do I know?

    Tony Burton

  17. Book Place on Facebook recommended this blog.
    I'm in the second month of marketing my book that came out in April. It's an eBook, but it is published in tradepaper too. I think I understand marketing from a single individual POV rather well--in other words no help from any one behind me--and I'd like to know what you think of all those free press release sites? I tried one and all I got back was a flurry of ads to spend more for further services. Are press releases even useful anymore? Especially, when you try on your own to get reviewed or mention in big publications, and get ignored.
    Rob, IMHO, the reason editors aren't getting much business is the fear of the author that they won't get much for the high price. An independent editor's opinion is just one opinion and doesn't guarantee a thing to publishers. Line editing and critiques for 20 or 50 pages can be obtained for free in too many places.
    Otherwise, it comes down to your marketing skills. Just advertising what you do isn't so much anymore, what else you can do for the client is the what sells.

  18. Christine:
    Pulitzer Prize nominated author Diane Johnson says to start a story as late as possible and end as quickly as you can. This speaks to concision and focus. James N. Frey, author of How to Write a Damn Good Novel, says to start in the world of the everyday, shortly before the inciting incident (that moment at which everything changes, which raises the story question). This helps create empathy for your character as (s)he faces the challenge set before her/him.

    If you are writing a mainstream novel that includes a murder as a complication, the murder can happen anytime. I am no mystery genre expert, but I've heard the same thing as you--that the murder should happen in chapter one. We have some other mystery authors at this site who I'm sure will weigh in.

  19. Candyland: What I want? More business (haha). The editors at this site aren't attached to any specific publishing house--we're independent developmental/line editors, not acquisition editors--so we try to help our clients make whatever they're interested in writing into the best possible product so they can attract interest from an agent or publisher.

    But I'll put on my fantasy hat and answer anyway. What do I really want? It's rare that I get a book that some one is truly passionate about. I've had a couple, and they stand head and shoulders above the pack. Many people think that they have an idea they can turn into a marketable book but the characters are as thin as the concept. I am happiest working on a manuscript where the author's love for her characters is imprinted on every page. That kind of love inspires the kind of hard work that will result in a successful venture. And I always want to be on a winning team. ;)

  20. Frank:
    This topic has "back of room sales" all over it. You need a speaking career, and if you already have one, you need to broaden it. Go to corporations, community groups, etc. and develop a platform. They should pay you for the talk and allow the sales of your book. Send press releases to talk radio and offer interviews. Look for professional sites that might add your book to their online reference lists. You can hire a book publicist, of course, but with a specifically targeted nonfiction book there is much you can do on your own.

  21. JDS: It's not cliche to write about a writer if you have something new and fresh to say!

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. We're getting lots of questions today related to "what should I write" and "what are they looking for" and I can only say two things. 1) write what you really want to write because then it'll be a better work and 2) ask the editors and agents. How? Get to know them through Facebook and Twitter. Once you connect with a few of them, even engage in some conversation, they become real people and sometimes you don't even have to ask what their wishlist is - you simply read them regularly and they tell you. Also sign up for agency newsletters - they also tell you what they want. That said, there is no simple and fast way to get an answer to your question. You have to be a bloodhound daily sniffing out clues. It's part of the job.


  24. Nice to see Tony and Rob over here - where did you hear about us? MMA?

    Cisse, my focus has been more on this blog than Blogbooktours since last summer. Good to have you here.

    I thought I'd also mention that Morgan from Book Place has been on the Blood-Red Pencil since we opened our doors a few years ago. Yay, Morgan. She's also the brainstorm behind this free-for-all.

    Now back to the questions - where are our librarians? They could answer some of these just like that *snaps fingers*!


  25. Frank, have you thought about a blog book tour hitting the company and personal blogs of investment counselors? Here's some basic info I put together about blog book tours:


    Hey, I'm not just using you as linkbait. ;) The basics are all there, except the yahoogroup I mention doesn't have a class going right now. Even the blog isn't active, but I've left it up so people can scroll through and get even more tips.


  26. Discovered you folks from a post at DorothyL.

    A grammar question that has puzzled me: Why are semicolons frowned upon in dialogue when they would be perfectly acceptable in the same sentence in exposition?

    Thanks, Jim


  27. Joansz,
    I always fall back on Chicago Manual of Style and the only appropriate use of single quotes it lists is quotes within quotes.

    Does anyone else have a different source you'd like to share with Joansz?

  28. Patg: I'm sorry I can't comment on the press release sites; I'm not familiar with them. But If you can write a novel and a query letter you can write a good press release, which is still vital for getting the word out about your book. Like everything else, the number of book reviews in mainstream print publications has atrophied with the decrease in print advertising. Check out Dani's info in her response to Frank about blog book tours.

  29. Hi folks!
    I was recently a guest here (discussing the debut of my own GREY MATTERS), and I used to work as a copy editor at the Boston Globe and still review for them, so maybe I can help answer Diane's question (how to get books reviewed). Ideally, your PUBLISHER should send ARCs of your book - more than one - at least three months prior to publication. I haven't seen the current book editor's office, but I remember the prior editor's office was always overloaded - mail crates full of books! The process then was that interesting ARCS (well reputed authors, books of local interest, intriguing debuts) were numbered by month on the back, and then assigned out - we reviewers can request books, but more often the editor will ask "You read X and Y, how would you like to review Z because it is the same genre?" or some such. And more than one should be sent because they'll keep one in house to check quotes, etc.

    Your agent or publisher can follow up but you shouldn't. Good luck! I was on staff and my last few books haven't even been reviewed. They just have SO MANY books, and not that much space (reviews run weekdays with a small review section on Sundays). Phew!

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  31. Jo - I think this is a usage question rather than grammar or crime fiction. I think the past participle (pled) is dying out in favor of the simple past tense. Just my thought, possibly wrong.


  32. OK, I'm a new editor on the blog. I'm one of the token librarians. I have a grammar and usage question, though.

    Lately, in newscasts, when discussing people who have agreed to take responsibility for a crime, the past tense PLEADED is used. "The man pleaded guilty on four counts of armed robbery."

    Why is the past tense of plead not pled? "The man pled guilty on four counts of armed robbery." That sounds so much more correct to my ear, but it is never used.

    Some of you crime writers out there who use the phrase regularly, help me with this one.

  33. I'm glad my network card is working here in Wisconsin on vacation so I can see all the questions pouring in!

    Our goal is to provide an answer for every question asked.

    Thanks for the kind words, Dani. You taught me a lot at your Blog Book Tours group. I'm glad I got in there when I could.

    Rob and Tony were alerted to our Free For All in my message to our group blog members at http://acmeauthorslink.blogspot.com
    I'm glad some of our Book Place people have responded, as well as Dorothy L members also.

    I'll check in here later. For now, I'm going to sit on the cottage porch with Our Little Rascal while it's nice out, before heading off to Lake of the Torches Casino. Slot playing is my vacation vice. I can't afford it all year round. (g)

    Morgan Mandel

  34. OK, I can't resist answering SJ's question... then I'll sit back down and go back to work (Dulcie mystery #3...)

    How do you become an editor? My husband, who also writes but now has a day job as an arts editor at a local paper, put it quite succinctly: You work as a writer, and someone in house realizes you are a responsible adult and drafts you!

    Me? I took a summer course at Columbia Journalism school when I wanted to take the next step - I'd been doing a lot of freelance journalism. But then, basically, yeah, what he said.

    - Clea
    (now writing mostly, but years on the other side of the desk)


  35. @ Kathryn
    So I've got these two options *tears her hair out*:
    1. Start w the garden party (in the world of the everyday, shortly before the inciting incident) where the body is found in chapter 3
    2. Start as late as possible as I can = body found in chapter 1.

    Only the body is badly burned (burnt?) and can't be identified right away but that of course creates questions and a frightening situation to the protagonist...

    Food for thought and spraining the brain *doing!* :).

    If anyone would like to chime in, I'd be grateful. I've now got 3 beginnings and my brain is about to feel quite baked :).

    Christine in Finland

  36. James -- My best guess from the writer's point of view: semicolons are not ordinarily used in dialogue because you can't "hear" the difference between a semicolon and a period when the language is spoken rather than read. The semicolon basically separates two closely related complete sentences, but when spoken, each sentence has a complete stop at the end. A period serves the purpose.

    I'd love to hear if one of the editors has a more official reason for this rule.

  37. Jo -- One error that I've seen often in newspapers is the confusion of "bearing" with "baring" in articles. Those reporters need a good dictionary.

    In the case you mention, however, my Merriam Webster says "pleaded" is the first choice for past tense and "pled" is the runner-up.

    I would use "pled" in my own novels because it sounds right to my ear (but now I wonder if my editor would change it). :)

  38. Patg: I would like to respond, however, to your comment that writers won't hire freelance editors because they can't guarantee results, and that an editor is only one opinion, therefore writers fear spending the money. I hope you will spread the word that these writers are expecting the wrong thing from a developmental editor.

    You are right, no one can guarantee results. Not even an agent or editor who falls in love with your book. So lets get that off the table.

    As to being only one opinion: how true! How many opinions will you rely upon to up your game, though, before your book becomes a mishmash of effort? Plus, an editor is not reviewing the book. Our ability to "like" the work is much less important than our ability to analyze it for successful components. We are picking it apart to see what works and what doesn't. There is real craft under there, not just opinion.

    I work with my authors to make the book the best it can be. Even if that role is to play devil's advocate, when the writer decides to carry on as planned, (s)he does so from a more informed stance. Publishing can be a crapshoot. Doing the best possible job on any one project not only builds character in you, but will make your next book much better.

    As Dani stated in one of her comments here, the most important ingredient to publication success is that extra energy an author adds when (s)he is on fire for the book. An editor can suggest plot/character fixes that would make the book more cohesive and satisfying but ultimately the choice of whether to make that change rests with the author.

    I think that owning that power is what scares most writers off from the notion of developmental editing. They want to pay someone else to "fix" it. Make it publishable. Someone they can blame when things don't work out the way they envisioned.

    So how can we editors empower anyone to make better choices?

    Education. Knowledge. Craft. This same writer might spend $1500 going to a prestigious writing conference and leave with some general knowledge, but still be clueless as to how to apply what they learned to their book. My evaluations can give you that entire workshop on the SUBJECT of your book. Theory applied to your specific circumstances. Developmental editing is part of your education as a writer.

    Education is a gift that keeps on giving. Choose your teacher wisely and you will not waste your money. Publishing is a speculative industry and the right kind of editing ups your chances considerably. Still, editing isn't a sure path to publication. It is an investment in self and in the work you feel called to do. Are you worth it? Is your WIP worth it? If the answer is no--why do you think someone will invest in publishing your book?

    Sorry, Patg, nothing personal meant. I will step off my soapbox. (And by the way: No one has ever accused me of having a lack of passion for what I do!)

  39. Jim:
    Semicolons are used to bind together two concepts in narrative but they are hard to "hear" in dialogue. In dialogue your quotation marks are built-in punctuation meant to bind concepts together; to create a pause, just use a period.


    Kathryn said, "In dialogue your quotation marks are built-in punctuation meant to bind concepts together. To create a pause, just use a period."

  40. Christine -- just to add my own take on your question, sometimes you don't know whether you've started your story in the right place until you have the first draft finished (or at least a detailed scene outline).

    You'll find all kinds of rigid rules to follow if you like rules, but the best advice says to read a lot of novels in your genre and learn how other writers structure their plots and develop their characters. Read debut authors and best-selling authors. Learn the basics of the story arc. Write the best first draft you can. Join a good critique group, and/or use an independent editor to help with revisions.

    Just to muddy the waters a little more: Does the dead body have to be in the first chapter? Depends on who you ask. :)

  41. Didn't see anyone answer the first question, from Glynis, so I thought I'd mention ralan.com, which is a site I've used for years. Ralan Conley basically aggregated a list of publishers based on scale (pro, semi-pro, and for-the-love), as well as publishers of books and adult content. It's one of the most comprehensive lists of its kind, and I'd think it's a good place for a person new--or even not-so-new--to publishing to start.

    I also just wanted to address the point raised about indie authors, editing, and self-publishing, especially Tony's, mainly:

    "whether it is ready for publication or not, and equality as in, 'My writing is just as good as anyone else's writing, so there!'"

    Thing is, if editors and publishers want to continue to hold the right to determine what's ready for publication and what's not, then the actual quality of acquired books needs to be at a high enough standard to justify it, and it needs to be there pretty much across he board. Editors are no longer solely concerned with what books are ready for publication, and to use the 'So there!'--like authors are saying 'Nyeh!'--seems misleading. Disclosure: I published a collection through Lulu.com. I don't recommend doing so to everyone, but to lump every indie author into that categorization is just not valid.

    Sure, a lot of authors could use a lot of help. But to paint indie authors, across the board, as amateurs not ready for publication is absurd. But more to the point, I think editors and publishers have to realize it's no longer under they're control; we're finally beginning to come to a point where writers can sell directly to readers without need for a middleman, and the way to continue to have business under that system is not to paint authors as amateurs who can't do things themselves; it's to recognize authors as empowered professionals and offer professional services to them by showing them the value of said services.

  42. General comment related to self-publishing fiction: Even English teachers and editors will miss problems with their own manuscripts that they would easily see in another writer's work.

    If your publisher does not provide content and copy editing as part of the publication contract, an experienced reader or editor can help. This applies to small publishers as well as ebooks and self-publishing venues.

  43. There have been some questions about promotion and marketing. I've never used it as a promotion tool, but booktour.com is an interesting site and it is free to post tour dates or apprearances. Does anyone else have experience with this web site?

  44. Okay, the book place on Facebook referred me here and I wish I had known about this a few months ago, but hey now I do! I am going to ask a question related to formatting a blog.

    What is a good word count for a blog? So not to make it to long, but not to short.

  45. I think that's a comment related to all fiction, Patricia.

  46. A couple of comments about indie editors. (Must check spelling of indie.)Self-published (and authors with small indies) ARE becoming very competitive because they are hiring independent editors to help polish their works. The stuff is good. Second question: why do you think independent editors don't have work? I've noticed more and more referrals lately amongst the good ones, because they do have plenty of manuscripts. I also see some very affordable prices and some healthy competition developing. If ever there was a time to get good help, it's in this economy.

    I hope I can get Clea back over here to answer the question about single quotes. All her dialogue was framed that way in Grey Matters and I'm thinking it's an British convention as opposed to American. Clea?


  47. Backstory. We could do a whole series of posts about that, especially in writing series novels.

  48. Jo, Booktour was started by the man who really put the fire under blog book tours some years ago. He had a whole online business around that concept. I've always wanted to find out why he completely changed his platform. I encourage authors to sign up over there. I get their updates and never read them. Heh.

  49. How much stock does an editor take with regards to punctuation, commas in particular? I have found that some like lots of commas, some not as many.

    My editor told me I had too many commas, so I took a bunch out. Then a subsequent editor wanted them all back in.

    Confusing? You bet. What say you?

    Katie Hines

  50. @Patricia
    You've cleared the water enough to get me started w the garden party :)

    And yes: "sometimes you don't know whether you've started your story in the right place until you have the first draft finished (or at least a detailed scene outline)."

    I'm about to finish my scene-by-scene outlines and acts I (all three of them, lo and behold!) Reading through the 3 versions of acts will probably open my eyes.

    "You'll find all kinds of rigid rules to follow if you like rules, but the best advice says to read a lot of novels in your genre and learn how other writers structure their plots and develop their characters. Read debut authors and best-selling authors."

    Doing that and seeing "rigid rules" bent a bit :).

    "Learn the basics of the story arc."

    Done that :).

    "Write the best first draft you can."

    Trying to w a baked brain :).

    "Join a good critique group."
    Seems there's no such thing here in Finland :(.

    "and/or use an independent editor to help with revisions."

    I've got a couple of writers and critiquers to do that, luckily.

    "Just to muddy the waters a little more: Does the dead body have to be in the first chapter? Depends on who you ask. :)"

    Didi you have to say THAT :D ?

  51. Pleaded versus pled:
    This is one of those instances where a good old strong Saxon verb has morphed into something different based upon its usage in the sentence. Sort of like hanged versus hung, or lighted versus lit.

    (Strong verbs change the primary vowel sound of the word to denote changes in tense, weak verbs add a suffix. Run/ran is a strong verb. Fix/fixed is a weak verb.)

    Hanged is the "weak verb" version of hang, and it means the act of hanging a felon. But if you place a telephone back into place and disconnect the call, you have hung up the phone (the strong verb version).

    Similarly, lighted means to set fire to something (He lighted the lamp), whereas lit means how well something is illuminated (After he lighted the lamp, the room was well-lit.)

    Howsomever, journalists for years have taken to applying almost universally the weak verb endings whenever they can. I suppose it is to avoid having to dance around and explain other usages.

    Soooo... both pled and pleaded are correct. In legal instances, you should use the word "pled" because that is the preferred legal form. But if someone is begging for his life, you can say either "He pled with the murderer," or "He pleaded with the murderer," and you will be correct. And if you are a journalist, probably you will write that "The accused murderer pleaded guilty yesterday," based on your paper's style guidance.

  52. Hello, I found this site through MMA.

    I'm having trouble balancing plotting and word count. The last book I finished I needed to be between 15 and 40K for the target submission. So I tried to plot the story to about 15K. It ended around 25K. Inside the lines, but not what I wanted.

    Still the main problem I'm having is that I usually can't seem to write enough. My stories are all short. I have an idea for a YA story and I'd like it to be long enough to make print. (I'm not sure how long that should be, 50K, 70K?) Anyway, the longest story I have written is 53K.

    I just can seem to gauge the length of a story before it is done and I'd like to plot enough for this one. Any thoughts or words of wisdom?


  53. Hi Katie -- the old comma question -- we writers ask that one over and over and still run up against agent/publisher preference.

    As a writer, I try to follow the rules to the letter in longer sentences, and eliminate commas in short sentences if the meaning is clear without the punctuation. Then I defer to my publisher's copy editor unless she wants to do something that will change the meaning of my sentence (which rarely happens).

  54. The pled vs pleaded question reminded me of a similar question regarding the use of dove for the past tense of dive, instead of dived. As Tony Burton mentioned, the choice is often whether you want to use the strong form of the past tense or the weaker form.

    The American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition says this about strong vs. weak verbs: "Old English had two classes of verbs: strong verbs, whose past tense was indicated by a change in their vowel (a process that survives in such present-day English verbs as drive/drove or fling/flung); and weak verbs, whose past was formed with a suffix related to -ed..."

    (Even though I'm not an editor, I hope you don't mind my jumping in on this specific. I find it fascinating.)

  55. Christine -- LOL. I make it easy on myself. Each book in my mystery series has two murders. One body is found at the beginning, and the other murder takes place later in the story.

  56. KJ -- Do you outline your stories before you begin writing? It might help if you set up your desired word count in a chapter or scene outline, making it easier to identify the places where you need to add a scene for tension or to flesh out a character.

    After you do that a couple of times, you'll have a better feel for word count and may not need the outline.

    I can't really speak to official word count requirements for YA novels, but the ones I read seem to be in the 60,000 to 70,000 range.

  57. Will, you're right, it does relate to all fiction. I've read a couple of novels recently by well-known authors published by big houses, and the editing wasn't thorough. Authors need to be aware and take responsibility for editing as well as promotion/marketing.

  58. Let me respond to Will's response to my response to someone else--I think.

    I didn't say that ALL indie authors are incapable of self-editing. I said "There are a lot of people...." But sadly enough, a high-enough proportion of them are like that, so that the ones who are not, who DO publish well-written, well-edited, well-thought-out books, catch the backsplatter from booksellers' and reviewers' disgust at the bad ones.

    I run a review site, and for over four years ran the Crime and Suspense ezine where we reviewed books. Yes, there are sometimes books from commercial publishers that have typos or other errors in them. And yes, commercial publishers sometimes publish dreck. But by far the higher number of problem books came from self-publishers and those who used vanity presses to produce their books. That doesn't mean they ALL were bad, but enough were bad that I can see how easily booksellers and reviewers are reluctant to take on self-published books.

    I'm not painting with a broad brush, but rather speaking from experience. It's not just my own opinion, either.

    Look, I don't say that a self-published book is automatically a piece of junk. But the individual who relies solely on himself or herself as an editor, or upon others in a writing group (who probably have not been published, either) to give feedback, is making a mistake. It's great to workshop your manuscript with your writing group. But unless they have experience as published authors, what gives them reliability and credibility to put the final stamp of approval on it?

    I am a publisher as well as an author. I have had manuscripts sent to me with the proud statement in the query letter, "I've had this edited by [my writers' group, my buddy who is an English major, a high-school English teacher, whatever], so it is ready to publish!" and the manuscript would be rife with errors, both substantive and grammatical.

    There are SO many books being published every year. The competition for the reader's attention and dollar is unbelievably fierce. Why would an author who wishes some degree of success hamstring himself or herself by not getting some professional editing help?

    No one, not one editor in the world nor one agent in the world, can guarantee that your book will be a success. Sometimes great books flop. And of course the opposite also happens. We all bemoan the idea of celebrities having bestsellers just because someone thinks they want to read a book written by someone famous, whether it is vapid or not.

    I self-edited my first novel. I thought I was good enough to do it. Man, was I ever wrong, and I'm a very good editor! I've learned a lot since then, and even though I am an inveterate DIY-er, I know my limitations.

    My wife and I are building a house, and I'll do the wiring because I have years of experience with electricity. But I'm letting someone else handle the roofing because that simply is not my area of expertise. Sure, I probably could do a passable job, but I would be slow, and I'd waste a lot of time, and ultimately I might (probably would) have leaks.

    Besides, even professionals such as doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc., know that they sometimes have to call in a specialist to handle certain aspects of their job.

    I'm not attacking anyone, but I am dumbfounded that so many authors seem to think that it is a sign of weakness or being needy to ask for professional help when it comes to their manuscript.

  59. James asked why semi-colons aren't recommended for use in dialogue when they work in narrative. It is because in dialogue most rules of grammar can be relaxed to make it appear more natural on paper. Short, incomplete sentences work better than perfectly constructed sentences with the proper punctuation.

  60. Plotting to word count -- I don't know that a writer can accurately plot to a specific word count. I think you can come close - within about 10,000 words or so, but the final word count of a book depends on more than just the plot. There is the texture of the story, which comes through adding details of setting and characters, and action and reaction. You plan the action - the plot -- but the reaction can sometimes lead to another reaction and you have a little more wordage. Then there is the matter of sub-plot points that can crop up.

  61. One more thing about self-published books and my review site: We DO accept self-published books for review, but we also do so with the caveat that the reviewer will be honest (but tactful) with the review.

    If you wish, drop by there.


  62. I've been a professional editor for 25 years, but I would never assume that I could edit my own work well enough to publish it. Even once a book is professionally edited, it should still be proofread by several people other than the author. The final galley of my next novel Thrilled to Death (from Echelon Press) is undergoing proofing by a group of my editor friends, and they're still finding mistakes. This novel has already been professionally edited and I've read it out loud. Everybody needs an editor!

  63. Christine, regarding where to start your story, it is hard to offer suggestions without knowing if those first three chapters are working. Are they engaging the reader's interest about these people? Is there a feel of what the mood and style of the book will be? These are important aspects of a good book, and not all mysteries have to start with the dead body in the first chapter. It really depends on the type of mystery and genre boundaries are getting stretched all the time.

  64. What Tony said, and can I use this over at the Blood-Red Pencil Editors page at Facebook? In fact, we may resurrect a number of these questions and answers over there - you all are so good!

    "... both pled and pleaded are correct. In legal instances, you should use the word 'pled' because that is the preferred legal form. But if someone is begging for his life, you can say either 'He pled with the murderer,' or 'He pleaded with the murderer,' and you will be correct. And if you are a journalist, probably you will write that 'The accused murderer pleaded guilty yesterday,' based on your paper's style guidance."

    This kind of stinkin' quotation with all the quote marks is exactly why editors are valuable! Other than that, the answer is perfick. ;)


  65. Even with a dozen readers and a couple of professional editors, errors can and will slip by. Just read this line in one of the crispest mystery books in print today:

    "I flip off the radio and being singing it out loud, to the tune of..."

    Nobody caught that "being" should have been "begin". Those are the ones that are easy to miss.

    I like to think of them as "spirit paths" so as not to offend the gods with perfection. ;


  66. I can verify that Tony Burton does accept self published books for GenReview as he accepted mine (This Time). I'm happy to say that his reviewer gave it a very good review. I did pay to have it professionally copy edited and I would strongly recommend anyone who wants to self publish to do the same.

  67. @Christine Hammar

    "Join a good critique group."
    Seems there's no such thing here in Finland :(.

    You can find one online, usually. You just need to know where to look.

  68. Dani, feel free to quote me about pled versus pleaded on your Facebook page.

    I love it when my amateur philology is helpful!


  69. Patricia - usually I come up the beginning and the end. Then I try to plot a few twists. After that, I just start writing and work my way from the start through each twist to the ending. When I do this I feel that the characters are more natural than if I tried to write a chapter by chapter outline. This way when my character does something and then reacts, I learn and get to know them. Then their next action will reflect who they are and who they are becoming instead of trying to force them into a boxed outline.

  70. I follow this blog. I think I first heard about it from another writer on FB.
    I'm wondering how you'd suggest going about a thorough novel edit after the first draft. I know my novel is rough! Where do I start? Plot, Description, Dialogue. . . And how do I go about it? I've done some editing, but never a whole novel from start to finish.
    I have two blogs, not writing related. www.thechristiannaturalist.blogspot.com and www.foodie4health.blogspot.com
    Thanks for your input.

  71. Christine, what genre do you write? If you write mystery, check out the online group called Guppies. You have to be a member of Sisters in Crime to join, but that are a great group. If you write Romance or some other genre, check with RWA or the appropriate group to see if they an online critique group.


  72. Terry, you asked about blog word counts. Sometimes I run long and sometimes short, but I've found that 500 - 700 words is a good length. Any less and there's hardly enough words to say anything. Any more and readers' eyes glaze over and they scan instead of read.

    When I have guest bloggers, I ask them to keep their posts between that range.

  73. KJ, personally, I don't worry much about the word count before I begin to write. I do a general mapping of the book. If I run short, which I often do, I go back and work on areas that need filling out. I find when I do the initial draft, I tend to do little description or I move too quickly through tense scenes. There always seem to be areas where I need to go back and fill out. You may find even bigger areas, like a plot point you forgot to tie up.

    As an editor, I've finished editing a manuscript and had to write a note asking the author what happened to such and such or where did a particular character go?

    One read-through could be dedicated to seeing where you're short or missing things.


  74. I'm finding that authors are hiring editors, whether they're self-publishing or going with a big house. I've edited both and areas in-between. When I'm approached to edit, I don't ask what the writer intends to do with the manuscript. No matter their intentions, mine are to work with them through edits until they're ready to submit, however they plan to publish.


  75. Christine, I have been a premium member with a wonderful international online critique workshop for six years now. It's Critique Circle and basic membership is free, but even premium membership is quite inexpensive. While not everyone who tries CC stays, it has come in first in Preditors and Editors poll for best online workshop.

  76. Courier is designed to look like typewriter output -- and I came across a blogging editor who hates Courier because they feel it embodies the outdated publishing attitudes of the typewriter era. Are there other fonts with histories in publishing? Do you know of any possible implications to using, say, Times New Roman over Arial?

    Thanks in advance.

  77. Hi! Heard about your post from the crime-writers Yahoo group. Awesome idea!

    So, I write science fiction/mystery stories. I'm looking for markets (for both short fiction and novels) and I find that while the science fiction/fantasy markets publish some mysteries and detective fiction, I never see the mystery markets publishing sci-fi. I can't really tell why that is, and it makes me wonder whether I'd be wasting my time pursuing anything other than sci-fi markets.

    So, do you have any thoughts about why this seems to be the case, and whether it might be worthwhile to shop some of my stuff around to the mystery-oriented markets?


  78. Thanks everyone for the great questions and answers. I've got another question. When you use a : and follow up with a list of things like roses, carnations, and ... When can you drop the and? Sometimes I notice the and/or dropped.

    Thanks in advance, Simon.

  79. I have an idea for a NF book. Do I have to do a book proposal? I really want to just talk about the idea with someone and see if it's an idea that will fly before I put together a proposal. Does that ever happen? And any good ideas on how to find the right person to have such a conversation with?

    I heard about the blog from Horrible Sanity, which is participating in the Third Annual Wordcount Blogathon, along with about 110 other crazy people like me. My blogs can be found through my website: www.landguppy.com

  80. "I'm not attacking anyone, but I am dumbfounded that so many authors seem to think that it is a sign of weakness or being needy to ask for professional help when it comes to their manuscript."

    I'm trying to find where anyone said any such thing and coming up empty.

    I never argued authors don't need editors. Quite the contrary; like you with your house, Tony, it's good to acknowledge you know wiring but not roofing, and it's good for authors to consider their own strengths and weaknesses and seek help accordingly.

    "But unless they have experience as published authors, what gives them reliability and credibility to put the final stamp of approval on it?"

    What gives agents/editors/publishers reliability and credibility? Usually just an English degree and a year or so experience, really. I mean, consider how one breaks into editing/agenting: unpaid internships, basically. From which one works one's way up, for the most part. And the unpaid interns and editorial assistants are often the slush readers, no?

    "We DO accept self-published books for review, but we also do so with the caveat that the reviewer will be honest (but tactful) with the review."

    Oddly, as a reader, I would hope that all reviews by all reviewers on any site were honest (but tactful) regardless of where the book came from.

    As an aside, I can't be the only one noticing that the people who claim most stridently that authors definitely still need agents and editors and can't get along without them are--you guessed it--agents and editors, can I be? I mean, as an author, I'd never go to press without having gotten a good copyedit, but only from a great editor.

  81. Will,
    Perhaps I read more into your comment than was intended, and if so, I apologize. But you read more into mine as well, thinking that I was making a sweeping generalization about all indie authors when I definitely was not. So, maybe we both made an error there.

    "What gives agents/editors/publishers reliability and credibility? Usually just an English degree and a year or so experience, really. I mean, consider how one breaks into editing/agenting: unpaid internships, basically. From which one works one's way up, for the most part. And the unpaid interns and editorial assistants are often the slush readers, no?"

    "Often" doesn't mean "always." But I think you'll find that editors and agents (the good ones, at least) have much more on the ball than you give them credit for. LJ Sellers said she has been a professional editor for 25 years. I don't know how long the other professional editors in this group have been at their job, but I started editing other people's work in 1994, when I was working as a technical writer and curriculum developer. I know other editors who have been in the business for years and years. Bobbie Christmas is one. Chris Roerden is another, with over forty years in the business. Their records speak for themselves

    And I don't know about degrees, but my masters is in Literature, something that may have an impact on my viewpoint on editing.

    When you use the word "editor," I get the feeling you're using it pretty broadly. I say this because you seemed to make a leap from book editing to acquisition editing (when you started talking about slush pile readers in the middle of a discussion about getting a book edited.) Acquisition editors, managing editors, copy editors, and book editors are all different jobs, although sometimes one person may perform multiple editorial jobs.

    You may make that observation about those who are stating that authors need editors and/or agents if you wish. (Personally, I don't care about agents, but we won't get onto that rabbit trail.) I am also a publisher, though, and the viewpoint I have is largely from having poorly written manuscripts submitted to me, where the author thinks the book is publication-ready. I don't really care where the author gets the MS edited, as long as it is done well, by someone qualified to do so.

    I might also make the counter-observation that those who are so angry about the selectivity of so-called "traditional publishers" and/or upset about the attitudes of acquisition editors or agents, are usually those who are unsuccessful at getting commercially published. Would it be mean-spirited to do so? Possibly. But no more mean-spirited than your observation that those of us here who say a professional editor is a wise choice, are merely trying to line our pockets. Besides, this is "Ask the Editor Free For All Day!" Who did you expect would respond to questions?

    As for the caveat regarding reviews: I have had angry emails from self-published authors about their reviews when they were less than glowing. I have not had that experience with commercially-published authors. That is why I couched it in those terms here. On the site, I merely say that the review will be frank and honest, regardless of who submits the book for review. I don't single out self-published authors to warn them.

  82. Landguppy, your question involves a rather complicated answer. It sounds like the person you'd want to talk with is an agent who could tell you if the subject would be viable as a nonfiction book. But... and it's a big but... agents aren't going to do the work for you. They expect you to come to them with a proposal. Putting together a proposal is work and a lot of research on your part, not theirs. Writers Digest put out a book called How To Write A Book Proposal. My copy is old, but if they have an update on it, I would recommend it. It will show you what is needed to put together a proposal and query an agent.

    If you talk to friends and throw ideas around, you may get a feel as to whether your idea is book-worthy, but you'll still have to research all the books in print that are on your subject, create a chapter outline of your book and all the other things that go into a proposal.

    There might be smaller house editors who publish nonfiction that you could speak with, if they have the time. You might do as much research as you can and then approach someone in your area.


  83. Thanks, Tony and also Rob, for adding your insights as editors, as well as any other editors who have chimed in that are not members of Blood Red Pencil.

    We appreciate your input and hope you participate again in future Ask the Editor Free For Alls.

    Morgan Mandel

  84. Landguppy -- The reason agents and publishers want to see a full proposal before they consider non-fiction projects is that they need not only the idea but also the information on competing books already published, potential markets, and samples of the author's writing, especially on this topic.

    Bouncing the idea off an agent or editor during a pitch session at a conference is an option. Even then, you'd best have the answers about competition, audience, and marketing on the tip of your tongue.

    Outside the traditional publishing world of agents and publishers, I'm not sure who you would go to for expert advice as it would vary according to subject matter.

  85. Will, I think Tony is speaking in generalities. All editors have dealt with writers who don't think they need an editor. I remember a rather lengthy and sometimes heated discussion at Twitter last year about just this issue. Numerous writers insisted that if one is any good at the craft, they don't have to pay for an editor. Most editors believe that a good, hard critique can only improve a manuscript.

    I'd also add that many traditionally published authors are very smug about self-publishing and don't believe there is any good self-published book out there. I can only say they better look at who is nipping at their heels, because it's the authors who are willing to get their books in tip-top shape who are giving you a run for the money. And that will only increase as the industry changes and the Internet creates more opportunities.

  86. John, I know that there is a lot of crossing and blending genres, but I have not seen mysteries with sci-fi elements being sold in the mystery section of bookstores. I have seen sci-fi stories with mystery elements in the sci-fi sections. That said, I am not an acquisitions editor, so my advice is to check Web sites of mystery publishers and see which ones may be stretching boundaries.

  87. Heidi C. Vlach said...

    "... I came across a blogging editor who hates Courier ... Are there other fonts with histories in publishing? Do you know of any possible implications to using, say, Times New Roman over Arial?"

    I have to agree that Courier is an awful font. However, there is a good reason that it is used for printed submissions. Courier is a monospaced font where every letter takes up equal horizontal space due to the serif structure. For this reason it makes it super-easy to calculate page counts for print runs. Editors/agents get used to reading in Courier so other fonts can feel jarring.

    In terms of implications of using other fonts: Comic Sans is a big no-no. It is one of the most hated fonts by many in the industry. Arial and Times are acceptable, but neither are monospace fonts and Arial, as a sans serif font, has a great variance between "i" and "m". In a long book with lots of "m" words that may well mean a few extra pages.

    Elsa Neal
    Blood-Red Pencil

  88. I tried to leave a question today and it didn't go through... boo hoo

  89. @ Ransom Noble & Joansz: Re Critique Groups.
    I write in Finnish and work from 9 to 5. It would be a daunting task to write everything first in Finnish and then translate it into English, but I'll certainly have a look at Critique Circle.

    @ Patricia: Yep. That's what's going to happen in my book, too. Body nbr. 1 in the beginning and body nbr. 2 later in the story.
    As this is the first book of my planned series, the garden party as the beginning feels right IMHO.

    @ Maryann Miller:
    "Are they engaging the reader's interest about these people?"

    The four persons (all writers) who read the first draft of the first act, said the characters were well drawn, alive and interesting. (I enclosed a list of questions for them to answer.)

    "Is there a feel of what the mood and style of the book will be?"

    I've tried my best: the mood of the book, as it's a Cozy, is rather peaceful. No bombs, no crashes, no blood. I'd say more pshycological.

    "These are important aspects of a good book, and not all mysteries have to start with the dead body in the first chapter."

    I agree. I've read many mysteries in my time and some have the murder happen/body found in chapter one, some later.

    Thank you all for your time and thank you, Blood Red Pencil, for this opportunity!

    Christine in Finland

  90. Heidi:
    I'd like to weigh in on the font issue--I hope you see this, as I'm responding a day late! I agree with what Elsa said, but my background in page layout suggests that Times New Roman is a much better option than Arial.

    Arial is much more tiring on the eye for a long piece because it has no serifs. You don't realize the importance of serifs until you do this simple exercise: Take the same sentence and print it out in both Times NR and Arial. Take a sheet of paper and cover up the bottom half of each sentence and try to read it. You'll find that the serifs give you a lot of extra information that help you quickly identify the letters.

    It's impossible to gauge how this will affect an agent reading your submission, but here is what we know: they read a heck of a lot, so unless they read your submission first thing in the morning, their eyes will be tired. As they try to work their way through your serif-free manuscript, they will not be able to assess whether it's your prose or the font making them want to stop. Why give them an added obstacle to loving your work? I'd stick with Times New Roman.

    Caveat: Arial can be easier to read on-screen, so you might want to use it for a short e-mailed submission (say, one chapter). But I wouldn't use it for an e-mailed submission of the full ms. Agents won't read that on-screen--they'll download it to an e-book reader such as a Kindle that is more like the printed page than a computer monitor.

  91. I saw Morgan's call for questions on the WPM list.

    My question is about period spacing in short stories and manuscripts. Back in high school (so long ago... the 80's) the keyboarding class (electric typewriters and computers) had you press the space bar twice after the period.

    Now with most manuscripts and short stories done on computers where the spacing is more uniform, it's not necessary to use the two spaces. But I still do it out of habit. :)

    Do editors get peeved by this? If so, it would be easy for me to do a find and replace but I wonder if it's worth it.

  92. About spacing at the ends of sentences: As long as the document is submitted to me as an electronic file, I don't care. With a few keystrokes I can do a search and replace that removes any unnecessary spaces. Then again, so could the author when he/she is through, thereby saving me the annoyance of having to do it.


  93. About the font question - Most of the time when you're submitting a manuscript either electronically or in print you'll find specific instructions concerning the proper font, margins, and other details that publishing house requires.

    Some won't even look at your manuscript if you deviate. So, I'd suggest you make sure to look for rules first. If there are none, then make your decision. I've noticed a preference lately for Times New Roman 12, but that may not be everywhere.

    Morgan Mandel

  94. And about dealing in generalities: Yep, probably so. Since there was no specific situation given, I had to deal in generalities. Of course, that means that there are always exceptions. The problem comes when so many people consider themselves or their manuscript to be exceptions, when usually they are not.
    * Generally, I think that any manuscript will be polished and improved by a good editor.
    * Generally, I think that the competitive nature of today's book market requires that you get your book manuscript to the best possible condition before publication.
    * Generally, I think that most authors are too close to their own work to edit it well.
    * Generally, I think that a professional editor will do a much better job of editing a manuscript than the author OR a critique group will do.

    And about the smug attitudes of commercially published authors: I also see a lot of self-published authors who are just as hostile and smug toward commercially-published authors. My feeling? It is unfruitful for either group.

    Commercially published authors need to understand that there is some really good stuff coming along that is self-published, sometimes surpassing commercially published books in quality, even if not necessarily in sales numbers.

    Self-published authors should realize that it's still competitive, and going it totally alone, without any outside help as to book design, editing, cover design, etc., can put their excellent prose at a disadvantage. It may not be fair, but it's the way it is.

    If my frankness has offended anyone, I'm sorry.

  95. I've published six mass-market novels through "commercial publishers," two story collections through a small press, and three books on my own. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. The primary advantage to self-publishing, all else being equal, is being able to control your content. You make it available and keep it in print, hopefully earning a lifetime and more of income. The disadvantage right now is you have an uphill fight to get on store shelves, but that advantage is rapidly shrinking as the e-book phenomenon expands.

    Of course, you'll always want extra eyes on your book, but a commercial editor is just that--commercial. They aren't necessarily improving your work, as their primary interest is in selling more copies.

    Scott Nicholson

  96. I am not alone this problem.
    Which genre to place your novel when it does not fit quite right into any?
    My Blazing Embers is a humorous (though not without poignancy) story about a granny who, after watching late night TV decides to try and get her hubby interested in more adventurous sex. A reader at a well known agency said how much she had enjoyed reading it but it was not a genre they dealt with. She gave me some suggestions for publishers. The publishers said their books were targeted at a readership up to 45 and it would not fit. If I reduced the age that much it would lose its uniqueness and much of its humour (the hubby is a bit of a bumbling gent but his wife is quite lively and humorous.) Do you think it should have a humour classification rather than Romance?

    A friend has a problem with his thriller story. It is delightfully humorous too.

    I also have a Romance that is about taboo love in the Church of England (two gay priests) When Angels Lie. It is not aimed at a gay readership, but a universal one. Eternal truths about love in a judgemental world (including the church). Love and Religion.

    Maybe these sort of stories should be avoided if I want to attract top publishers BUT I can only write as inspired.
    My largest work is a three story saga going back to post-war Britain - that time does not fit Historical Romance and certainly not Contemporary Romance.

  97. Scott,
    You said: "Of course, you'll always want extra eyes on your book, but a commercial editor is just that--commercial. They aren't necessarily improving your work, as their primary interest is in selling more copies."

    By commercial editor, do you mean professional editor? Or do you mean the editor who works for your publisher, who tries to put the final touches on the work?

    And excuse me if I'm wrong, but isn't the primary goal with most published books (fiction, anyway) selling more copies?

  98. I'm certainly not opposed to hiring and editor. I'd love one. But I realize I must do a lot of fixing up before I'm even ready for that. My question was about how a writer would go about editing after the first draft of a novel. After I get that done, I'll pray for the money to go the next step and hire an editor.

  99. Terri,
    One of the most practical tricks that I know of for copy editing (more than for book editing) is to wait about a week or two after you finish the book, then print the book out and read it back to front, annotating in the margins as you go. Reading the pages in reverse order will help keep you from anticipating and projecting what is being said, and forces you to think about what you are reading. It also will help you think about continuity, as when you read on page 213 that the barkeeper had red curly hair, but on page 190 you see that she was a blonde.

    It's important, by the way, to give the book that period of rest between finishing it and picking it up to read it backwards. If you don't, you'll tend to subconsciously fill in any blank spots or mentally correct them, rather than seeing them for what they are.

  100. I never thought of reading a book back to front for editing. I'll have to try it.

    Morgan Mandel

  101. Another helpful tip for those hard-to-spot errors like "being" for "begin" is to get software to read the m.s. out loud to you. Some eReaders (like the Kindle) will do this for you, too.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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