Monday, October 29, 2012

Manuscript Critiques

In my last post I talked about the major conventional types of editing offered to writers. Today I’d like to talk about an editing service that I provide that I have previously not mentioned, manuscript critiques.

What is a Manuscript Critique?

A manuscript critique is a review of the author’s work. The process involves reading a writer’s book and providing a couple pages of overall feedback about their story. This feedback includes both content edits and a summary of common stylistic problems present in their manuscript. Unlike content and copyedits, this editing service does not provide in-text edits.

What are the Benefits of Manuscript Critiques?

There are three obvious benefits to this service. The first is that a manuscript critique locates the biggest problems in any given book. These are the areas that are most vital for the writer to fix and may make the biggest difference in determining whether a book is publishable or not.

The second benefit of manuscript critiques is an offshoot of the first: by identifying your problems as a writer, you are able to grow as a writer. I’ve seen tremendous growth when I succinctly lay out a writer’s problem areas. Subconsciously a writer might have always known those problems were present, but they needed to receive a second (and professional) opinion to make the edits.

The third and final benefit is that manuscript critiques are cheap. In an earlier post I went over the price of editing. I’m sure if you’ve read that post and were unfamiliar with the price of editing, you were astounded. Most of the averages fall somewhere between $10.00 to $40.00 per page! For manuscript critiques, American Editing Services charges $1.00 per page, one tenth the price of the low end of the averages.

Why are Manuscript Critiques Cheap?
Even though I charge per page, my rates are based on how quickly I can edit a given text. So, manuscript critiques are cheap because reading a book and writing up a couple pages of feedback only takes a few days. In contrast, copyediting and content editing can take up to a few weeks because I provide hundreds to thousands of edits and comments throughout a book.

What Does this Feedback Look Like?

Who Should Receive a Manuscript Critique?
Any level of writer qualifies for and can benefit from a manuscript critique because no writer is perfect, and a manuscript critique allows a writer to distill the most important areas of their book—and potentially their craft—that need to be worked on.

In conclusion, manuscript critiques are a fairly unique and affordable editing service I provide. I review a book and write up a couple of pages of overall feedback. I identify a book’s/a writer’s largest problem areas and offer ways to correct these weak points. Manuscript critiques, unlike most other professional editing services, are cheap, and writers of all levels can benefit from this editing service.

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Understanding and Choosing the Type of Editing that Works for You

Today I’d like to discuss different types of editing services and choosing the right one for you. Numerous writers have approached me, interested in receiving professional editing for their books, but when I'd ask what type of editing they were interested in, they were confounded. So, I figured it was time for a post that defined and distinguished a few common types of editing.

This post aims to inform writers about the different editing options available to them. I will define the major editing types; I will discuss who should utilize each type of editing service; and lastly I will explain my own thoughts on which of these services is most vital to writers.

What is Copyediting?
Copyediting, also known ironically (and aptly) as “copy editing,” is the most basic and well known of the professional editing services. Copyediting focuses on aligning texts with the best and most proper use of the English language. Among other things, copyeditors focus on formatting, spelling, grammar, punctuation, and flow.

What is the Value of Copyediting?
Copyediting polishes your words. This type of editing is valuable for writers who are satisfied with the substance of their books and want to clean up the language. Copyediting is especially valuable for writers interested in self-publishing and writers who are nonnative English speakers.

What are the limitations of Copyediting?
Unlike content/substantive editing and developmental editing, copyediting does not edit the meat of the text. This is significant because most of the writing I receive contains significant content errors.

Content Editing/Substantive Editing
What is Content Editing/Substantive Editing?
This type of editing focuses on identifying and fixing any errors in the material your book discusses. Unlike copyediting, content editing looks at the deeper issues present in a given text. For instance, are there too many characters? Does the story start out too slow? Did the character contradict his or herself? Are there holes in the story’s logic? I can go on and on.

When to Use Content Editing
The truth is that most writers need content edits to some extent. As writers, the story is all in our head, and it makes perfect sense. However, there are two things I’ve learned as an editor. The first is that we can easily see problems in other writers’ work, but we are blind to our own weaknesses as writers. It might reassure writers to know that even though I’m an editor, I cannot see my own flaws as a writer. No one is a perfect writer from day one.

The second piece of knowledge I’ve gleaned as an editor is that writers are their own best critic. If you are working on a book, how do you feel about it? I bet you love what your writing about, even if you aren’t yet satisfied with the language. And all those horror stories you hear—about how hard it is to get published? They happen to other people. Not you.

Wrong. You are your own biggest fan; you believe you have something truly spectacular that will revolutionize the literary world; you might even become a bestseller. All writers have this daydream at some point, and it is your job to believe in and advocate your book. However, while you are lauding your work, others might actually be cringing—and I’m not over exaggerating.

I’ve had numerous writers send me their work looking for a pat on the back, and most are disappointed—some even offended—when they receive the slew of edits I give. To them it appears I ripped their books apart. In reality I gave them content edits.

Why Does American Editing Services Call it “Content Editing” and Not “Substantive Editing”?
As an editor, I work with writers of all levels. Some are more informed than others, but, like I mentioned earlier, the vast majority of writers who contact me are unaware or unclear about the distinction between these different types of editing services. This is not something that any writer should be embarrassed about. I’ll be the first to say that I loathe terminology that creates in-groups and out-groups.

So, “content editing,” as opposed to “substantive editing,” made much more sense to me since writers could infer that this type of editing dealt with a book’s content. And yes, one could infer the same from the name “substantive editing,” but there was linguistically a smaller logical jump with the word “content.” Sorry for digressing on to such a dry topic—I almost fell asleep there for a second too.

Developmental Editing
What is Developmental Editing?
Developmental editing is exactly what it sounds like, editing and collaborating with the writer before and while the book is being written and edited. This type of editing is foundational, and major structural changes can occur with this type of editing.

Developmental Editing is does not include copyediting. It is not the editor’s responsibility to make sure the grammar and language is correct. This service instead focuses on making sure the message is conveyed correctly.

As you might have noticed, it sounds quite similar to content/substantive editing, so why are these editing services broken up? The fundamental distinction between the two is what phase of the book the writer is working on when they approach an editor. Some sources do actually group this editing style with content and substantive editing, so when researching a particular editor, make sure to read their definitions of their services.

When to Use Developmental Editing?
Developmental editing is mostly for writers who are at the beginning stages of a writing project. I’d suggest this type of editing for individuals who need professional assistance while they are laying out the book.

Other Types of Editing
There are several additional types of editing that I did not discuss in this post.  A few examples are line editing, proofreading, technical editing, and medical editing. These other types of editing fall outside my field of knowledge, so I am not your best resource if interested.

Which Type of Editing is the Most Useful?
Here’s the deal. If Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code hadn’t been copyedited, a reader still would have recognized it as a bestseller. Think of copyediting as a new paint job for a car. No matter what’s on the surface, a Ferrari is still a Ferrari. Now take the example of an unpublished writer with a questionable novel. Polishing the novel’s language might not make it more publishable. Just like a new paint job won’t change your busted up Fiat into a Ferrari. Content editing actually makes a book more publishable while copyediting simply makes it more presentable. If you’ve got a Ferrari that needs a paint job, then get copyediting; if, on the other hand, you’ve got a busted up Fiat, then get content editing, and we’ll make it drive a little faster.

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services

Monday, October 22, 2012

Interview with P.L. Jones

Happy Monday everyone! During my last post I discussed my client P.L. Jones’s new book, The Blue, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I now have the opportunity of presenting readers with an interview I had with the author over the weekend.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up mostly in Ontario but moved to Alberta when I was thirteen—I love Alberta, it has everything. I’m the second oldest of nine siblings. I have been blessed to experience so many things in life, and I was able to draw on those experiences when writing this book.

I have had many jobs but found my passion in nursing. I love working in the emergency department. I have the opportunity to meet so many people, learn new things, and help people during some of their darkest moments. I accidently discovered I have a knack for writing and telling stories. It’s a new passion in life that I cherish and am grateful I found—rather it inadvertently found me. I am surrounded by wonderful people and three hairy mutts. My life is full; I am a bucket of joy . . . I also have a very warped sense of humor that gets me through each day.

What inspired you to write this book?
Well, um it kind of sounds bad, but I was reading a series of books—which I paid more than a hundred dollars for and had committed to reading 1500 pages. I was so dissatisfied by the books that I threw the last one across the room in disgust. Ugh, flat, boring characters, a weak antagonist, and a maze of a plot to follow—I was so mad. How did this writer get published?

I got up to write a scathing letter to the author—which I’ve never done in my life by the way. I opened my laptop, preparing to let lose, when I saw I had Office Starter on my new computer. I opened it up to check it out, thinking I would use it to write my scathing letter. Instead I started writing—the story just flowed out of me. My ninja editor made the book legible.

I almost should write a thank you note to that author; the experience propelled me on this fantastic adventure. Life is strange; I find just going with it helps.

How did you come up with your topic?
The way humanity is going, something has to give, whether it’s Mother Nature or some maniacal terrorist, I think humanity is due. Then there’s the Mayan prophecy looming in December.

I had been intermittently watching Preppers on television as they prepared for various apocalyptic events. I’d also had a few apocalyptic dreams. Sometimes the ideas just came out of me from somewhere else—channeled. Strange I know. Some ideas I have no clue where they came from.

Your book is about a pandemic, and you are a trauma one nurse in the emergency department. How has your medical background played into your story?
All of my character’s backstories—namely their deaths—were lightly based on scenarios I’ve seen come through my doors in the ER.

In addition, ER nurses are frontline workers. If something was set lose, we would be the first to see it. The risk weighs heavily on most ER nurses’ minds. SARS, Hanta virus, and influenza are but a few germs brought through the door now, and new ones are always lurking around the corner.

My main character Sam is a nurse in the story, so that makes the story more legitimate since I have a background in nursing to draw from. Write what you know. Sometimes it was hard; I wanted to write a bit more or use technical terms, but I didn’t want to lose my non-medical readers.

In your book your characters have such distinct personalities. How did you come up with them?
Some are based on friends or work mates, and some through my cumulative experience with certain personality types (i.e. bad guys). Teak and Oakley (two of the book’s prominent characters) are real, as is Bruno, who is based on my Chihuahua—he has a personality of a lion.

Some names just came to me along with their personality. I have this old antique picture from the Garrick Bed and Breakfast; that’s how I came up with Garrick’s name. Sam was my first dog. Griffin came from my love of griffins and phoenixes. Christin came from my sister Christine. Kevin is actually my brother’s name. You get the idea.

Do you follow a writing schedule, or do you write when inspiration strikes?
I write when I’m not working, or right after I get off work. Fortunately, it was never a problem finding inspiration; the problem was stopping once I started. Working eight hours, and then writing for six to eight hours after work is not sustainable, yet I was doing it. I know what 4:00 a.m. looks like. I like the quite of the night.

Your story embarks from the prophesized “end of the world” based on the end of the Mayan calendar, December 21, 2012. Was it a challenge to meet that deadline?
Yes, when I started the book, I had no deadline in mind. As the book progressed, I realized it would be poignant to get the book out by December. Of course my ninja editor worked her fingers to the bone helping me achieve that goal. My publisher did a good job processing the book.

What was the hardest obstacle you had to overcome in your road to publication?
Working with a publisher for the first time—my learning curve was definitely high. Editing my book was a fantastic experience. My editor took time to teach me so much—remember I was a newbie. She was very patient. Being a self-published author is a lot of work. Just getting the book out there is challenging, but my passion is driving me.

What was your favorite part of publishing a book?
Really, truly, editing. Laura and I worked together and made the book better than I hoped. A different view and opinion (and punctuation) made my book what it is today—my editor rocked.

Will we see any sequels? What’s next?
Yes I’m already working on The Yellow, and I’m thirty pages in so far. I also plan on at least a few more after that. It’s hard because I want to write, but I also have to get The Blue into readers’ hands. It’s a fun juggling act.

Do you have any advice for people who would like to write a book but never have?
When I started this adventure, I had no idea where it would go—I just kept writing and stayed in the present. I believe everyone has a story in them, don’t worry about where to start, or if you can write, or what will happen (if it will get published)—just start writing. There are programs available to help you, editors are ninjas, and you can always self-publish until a traditional publisher finds you. Follow your passion and nothing will stand in your way. Remember you get to create anything, anyone, and any place—only your imagination limits you. There’s always Google if you get stuck. Just do it, and the future will take care of the rest.

You can find P.L. Jones and her newly released book at, on Facebook and Twitter.

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services