Friday, April 1, 2011

Q&A with The Lit Coach

Time for another round of Q&A with The Lit Coach!

Q: Do you have an approach or checklist for editing? I have a 500 page novel, my first, and I have just begun the editing process. Obviously, I want to address structural problems, dialog, etc., but as I'm starting, a few things surprised me. I didn't realize how much I love dashes or the word 'as'. So how about some basic guidelines for an editorial approach? Besides the big picture things that need to be addressed, I feel a need to deal with the glitchy things that may arise because of certain tendencies I may have developed. Linda K.

A: Everyone has their own approach to editing their work. My best suggestions, the method that works for me, is first reading for flow: does the story flow and make sense? Are there any plot and/or character flaws? Those are the issues you'll spend the most time addressing so address those issues first - you want your story to stand on solid ground before more work is done. And resist the urge to cut and paste edit - this is not editing and it's not writing. Readjusting plot and/or characters is major re-constructive surgery not getting your brows waxed. Take the time you need to recover those issues - because I'll tell you, people who deal with book development for a living - agents, editors, etc., can tell the difference.

Ok, so once those issues are addressed, go back through and clean up grammatical errors, typos, format, technical writing issues. This can also be time consuming. If you're able to hire an editor to do this for you or at least point out the mistakes, do it. Otherwise, go through your work with a fine tooth comb and address those issues when you see them, like those dashes and the word "as." If you can coax a few well-read friends or family members to break out their red pens and help you spot the errors, do that, too. It takes a village to raise a book. That's why acknowledgement sections in books are so long.

Then, Linda, after you've addressed all those issues, go through the work once more to check the sturdiness. Does it flow? Is the plot solid? Are the characters well-developed and will we care about them? No grammatical errors or typos? Is it formatted correctly? Then you're ready to start researching agents and crafting those query letters! Just remember, there is NO hurry.

Good luck, Linda!

Q: I have been blogging with Wordpress for just over six months. The blog is a creative writing blog and the question I have been chewing on is whether or not to self-host. I have had a couple of people tell me it's a pain [and I am technologically challenged]. However, there is so much I cannot do because I am not self-hosting. I am curious as to what you think. Margo

A: Most blogs you read are hosted by Wordpress or Blogger. Agent Kristin Nelson's blog has long been hosted by Blogger, mine is hosted by Blogger, Writer's Digest's, Robert Lee Brewer's is hosted by Blogger as is lit agent Rachelle Gardner's and a few others on my Guide to Great Blogs and Sites page (no, Blogger is not paying me to advertise for them). And I see a lot of cool blogs hosted by Wordpress (hint, my next Blog That Works is hosted by them).

Different hosting sites offer different features. On the bottom of this blog (if you're reading it on the site and not through email), you'll see a bar that will allow you to share the post via Twitter, Facebook and more. That option is available on Wordpress, too. On this site, I installed a box that allows people to subscribe to my posts via email through Feedburner. If you want more bells and whistles, I would urge you to hire a blog development specialist who knows the ins and outs of html code and adding special features. If you'd rather DIY, buy Wordpress for Dummies. I, personally, have Twitter for Dummies on my desk that is begging to be read.

Good luck, Margo!

Q: I have story lined my first novel. In the middle of my first draft, I see the end in sight, but want to present my best, most polished work.

Does it makes sense for me to hire an editor to help me with the first re-write before I attempt to send it out?

A: Yes. What I'm seeing on my end is not enough time spent in the editing process. Too many writers getting it "down" and sending it out to "see what happens." Let's just not do this anymore, writers.

Depending on your budget, you've got three options:

Hire a reputable editor/editorial consultant who's spent time in the book business to work with you through your novel. Not only will these professionals help craft your novel, they have an eye toward market, and genre dos and don'ts, which will help you when you're ready to approach agents and editors with the work, if that's the route you choose. Even with those who want to self-publish, I still say hire out and make sure the work is perfect - you still have to attract your readers with quality writing. Full disclosure, I offer these services.

Recruit some of your better-read friends to review your first drafts. Ask them for specific feedback - that's what you need to make your work better. Ask them, how's the flow? Did you notice any character flaws that need addressed? Where they likeable and vibrant? Are the villains multi-faceted? Is the plot plausible and always moving forward? Are there any points in the book that felt stagnant? What are your suggestions for improvement? It's rare a first draft will be "awesome" so let your friends know you can take the constructive pounding. That which does not kill us...

My friends don't read. Time to get new friends! Kidding. Partly. Ok, so nobody around you "has time to read." Check out some online workshop opportunities. Writer's Digest offers loads of online courses to help writers with the development of their work as does Gotham Writers' Workshop. If you can join a local writers' workshop with other writers at your level or above, supported at a university or just by a collection of writers who like to get together a few times a month to workshop, that's another great option to check out. If you just cannot afford to attend workshop online or at the university level and swear there are no writers within a 50 mile radius, start making new friends online in the myriad writing groups available on SheWrites, Writers Digest Community and Backspace for starters. If you're a children's writer, check out SCBWI- I've directed a client there in the past and she assured me it was a gold mine of inspiration, ideas, insight and new connections.

Keep in mind, this takes time, so don't get frustrated when progress to join a workshop or form one is slow going. Allow yourself that time, learn about this new process and stay focused on your goal.

Good luck, Maryann!

Thanks again for the great questions, writers! I hope I've shed some light on the right solutions for you.

Have a great weekend!



  1. is a great place to exchange crits.

  2. I just wanted to add a thought to the self-host versus blogger debate. blogs on blogger or (different from are not going to get indexed on google or any other search engine.

    If the goal of the authors blog is to attract a wide audience (outside your 200 friends on Facebook whom you browbeat into reading) then I think you have to buy a domain and self host. There are inexpensive options out there, and web development services that will build you a site for under $400.

  3. Thanks, LA and A.M. for the info!


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