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You’re Going to Need to Hire an Editor

March 10th, 2014 . by Peggy

 (This is an excerpt from my book “Your Book Title Here“, available on the Kindle platform at Amazon.com, $2.99 USD.)

The editor is the one bit of outsourcing that I must recommend no matter how good a writer you are. With editors, you are paying for something that cannot be achieved any other way: objectivity.

Editors come from many paths. Some of them are language specialists, but many come from other, far more interesting sources. Some of them are industry experts, and some of them are teachers or business people. In my experience, the degrees on the wall matter very little to the quality of the service and work you will get. Instead, focus on their communication style. Do they seem to understand what you’re trying to achieve? When they read your work, do they make intelligent criticisms, and explain the reasons for them clearly? If so, great. You’ve got the foundation for a wonderful working relationship. Don’t just look for someone that agrees with you on everything. Not only is that not objective, but it means that they’re not telling you the whole truth of what they observe in the work.

Criticism is a big part of the editing process, and I’m here to tell you right now, get over any personal feelings you might have about the process. You have bigger stuff to care about, like creating a high-quality product. You need to focus on the big picture, not your personal feelings. Think early on in the process about your budget to hire an editor, and it will be easier to make happen.

Ouch! Peggy is really mean! Yes, I am. I’ve been on both sides of the editing fence. And now, I truthfully enjoy being the writer receiving help from the editor, because I can really see the improvement it makes in my final product: I’m actually becoming a better writer because of good editing. The thrill of working with someone who also believes in your book is so satisfying. You’ll know they believe in making it successful if they offer plenty of constructive criticism. This will happen for you too. I’m not saying it will be easy, but you will be better, and the praise you’ll receive as a quality writer will hopefully make up for any hurt feelings.

What does an editor cost? OK, prepare to be angry at me again: I can’t tell you that. The fact of it is, it fluctuates wildly. As I said, editors come from different backgrounds, and they all charge differently. Some charge by the word, and some by the hour. Some will only do certain types of editing, and the charges for different types of editing are also different. Some types of editors, like style and content editors, will only offer big-picture advice, rather than picking through your manuscript line-by-line.

At the very least, a copy-editing pass should be done before you finalize your work. This means just checking for things like spelling and punctuation mistakes, along with things like proper sentence structure and grammar. An abundance of copy errors will ruin the credibility of the entire work. However, I find that someone who can point out things like “You drag on a bit here,” or, “I would leave out that entire paragraph,” or, “You need to explain this further,” are extremely helpful, and that stuff is what really makes me improve. Simple copy-editing is also often better performed by a different editor than the one who does any style editing on your work. A fresh pair of eyes will catch stuff you wouldn’t believe.

Despite all editing you may have done, don’t freak out when the inevitable happens: your manuscript will still have errors. And I don’t just mean one, as there will probably be a bunch. Of course, you will only see them after the book has been sent to a major newspaper for review, or when your mentor is reading it. Relax. All authors cringe at this thought. It happens. Move on.

To read more from this book, please see http://www.amazon.com/Your-Book-Title-Peggy-Richardson-ebook/dp/B0098IAWRG.

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10 Things to Know Before You Write an eBook

July 25th, 2012 . by Peggy

My number one question of all time is, “How do I start writing an eBook?” Here are my top 10 recommendations.

1. Don’t buy any software or services.

Part of the reason I do what I do is to demonstrate to Authors that they really, really can do this all by themselves. As you’ll see as you get to know me, the approach I recommend is actually very simple. Besides, one of the biggest concerns you should have as you build your eBook business is to avoid creating dependencies. In the eBook business, those who build on a foundation of frugality are the ones that win in the long run. The only exceptions are an editor (non-negotiable, in my view), possibly a tech like me, and possibly a graphic designer for your cover. Otherwise, any halfway tech-savvy marketer really can do this from their kitchen table.

2. Start writing in a basic word-processor.

This is not the time to try to learn anything new. Your focus needs to be creating spectacular content. Avoid the distraction of fancy software by using something with which you’re already familiar. For most writers, that’s still MS Word. My fave happens to be OpenOffice, which is – you guessed it – FREE. It looks a lot like MS Word, and in fact, can open, edit, and save files right back to the MS Word .doc format. Just don’t go out and buy a new computer or think that you need to upgrade. Ironically, I actually spend more time for my eBook clients stripping out the hidden codes and back-end gunk from fancy software, than designing the actual eBook itself. I really do. And it’s a pain. Use what you already have and things will turn out much better in the end.

3. Don’t forget to do your research.

Before you move much farther past the beginning of your outline, be sure that you do some basic keyword research. This is how you find out if the book is even worth writing, because if there isn’t a market for it, why write it? Or, can it be tweaked into something that is marketable? Can you discover an opportunity that you didn’t know existed? Is the idea ahead of it’s time? Behind the times? Right at exactly the right time? I find that in about two hours of some basic – and fun – research, I can learn more than I could ten years ago in 6 weeks of work.

4. Don’t lose momentum.

When that muse appears, RIDE HER, ride her HARD, into the sunset. Your family’s opinion of your late-night writing sessions shouldn’t be allowed to phase you. So what if you drink a little more coffee or eat a few popsicles: just get ‘er done. If you’re in the mood to write, drop everything else. Don’t ignore inspriation, or you’ll bore of it quickly, and then it will never get written. (That boredom is the number ONE stumbling block I see in clients.)

5. Involve yourself in the book’s community.

By this I mean that if you’re writing a steampunk novel, by all means, join a steampunk society and go to the meetings. Business books mean getting out to networking meetings, and setting yourself up for speaking gigs. Poker books mean you should be playing daily, as part of some sort of group. Think of yourself as sitting in the center of a massive web. Look for opportunities to expand beyond your local geographic area, such as joining organizations that have expansion chapters, like Rotary clubs. And that’s just the (so-called) “real world”. Be certain that everyone in the online community related to your topic knows who you are. This is where social media comes in, as a way to easily integrate yourself and let people know about you. Very importantly, you should buy an eBook that is grounded in your community, perhaps the most well-known, and read it in the format in which you think you will publish. (Ie., if you’re aiming for a Kindle eBook, buy a Kindle version and read it that way, to familiarize yourself with the format. It’s surprising how many Authors come to me for help, yet they’ve never bought or read an eBook themselves.)

6. Buy the domain name, and secure social media ID’s in the name of your eBook.

If you haven’t hear me say this before, you need to buy the exact domain name of your eBook’s title. If the .com isn’t available, re-title the book. Setup a basic WordPress blog at that location and start making regular entries as you write, to build traffic to your site. Even if you never plan to write a single blog post or post a single tweet, at least buy or reserve the title, and your Author name, so that nobody else gets them, as yes, people will look for you by your Author name, the title of the eBook, and under any pseudonyms you have.

7. Start building an eMail list.

Please do NOT simply add people to your email program’s personal address book. Besides the fact that this doesn’t work, it happens to be illegal. (I’ll shortly have a revised version of my Cheat Sheet about this topic, which will explain all of this in detail.) Instead, use a free or low-cost account at MailChimp, aWeber, 1ShoppingCart, or even ConstantContact.com to manage this. It not only allows you to build a legal double-opt-in list, but also to offer things like free stuff when people sign up, and have really attractive-looking templates for your content. List-building will become a permanent, ongoing activity in your business. The sooner you start, the better.

8. Design the cover.

This might sound premature, but actually, it’s quite important. The sooner you can start talking about your upcoming eBook, the better. You’ll need to put an image of the cover on an information page on your blog, perhaps on your business cards, and of course, on social media. I have also printed out poster-size versions of it and put it on my vision board to inspire me to get it done more quickly. Or to brag.

9. Start looking for an editor.

You may need one of any of a variety of types of editing, from style and content editing, to simple copy editing, which is really mostly grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. The earlier you can form a relationship with this person, the better. As I said above, it’s a non-negotiable. The book must be edited at some point, and it’s probably a lot less expensive than you think. Objectivity is key – do NOT hire a friend or a family member. Besides ensuring basic writing ability, ignore any degrees on the wall. The most important thing about this editor is that you trust them. If you don’t, find someone else.

10. Write a proper marketing plan.

I don’t mean a series of unrealized ideas, but an actual written plan. I don’t mean a business plan, either, but a very specific marketing plan. And no, this doesn’t need to be more than a page. It must simply be concrete. (Concrete does not mean inflexible, by the way.) I use MindMeister.com, which is actually a mind-mapping tool, to create what ends up looking more like an infographic than a marketing plan. This allows me to change it when needed, and I can block out specific tasks that I need to complete in a certain order to make things move along. It also looks pretty darn sexy when printed out and posted on the wall.

While this is obviously not an exhaustive list, I think it covers the most important points. You’ll note that most of this is about setting up marketing tools for down the road, not actually about the writing. This surprises most of my clients that I don’t tell them how to write, or that I don’t start talking about how to use formatting for the manuscript. This is because all of that is secondary to your ability to sell it. Anything in the formatting can be fixed, modified, or more likely, is inconsequential anyway. What I want most for you is to realize the benefit of making these strategic choices up-front.

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6 eBook Tools That I Can’t Live Without

June 25th, 2012 . by Peggy

Part of my job is to try all sort of things that help Authors. Here, I’ll show you six things that I’ve personally tried, and that are really helping me with various things related to online marketing and eBooks.

1) Evernote is great for;

- web-based research, saving web pages

- take a pic of a white board, it saves it as searchable text

- recording audio notes to myself (using the associated FREE Android app)

- my to-do lists and perhaps even dictation on the go

2) Smashwords is great for;

- reviewing an excellent style guide when formatting your eBook for almost any platform

- uploading an eBook to multiple platforms at once, including Kindle and others

3) Audioboo.fm is great for;

- quick podcasts using only my Android phone

- interviewing Authors and Experts with no prep or notice

- immediate, no editing, low-tech

- finding other 5-minute podcasts to listen to, both at home and on-the-go

4) MailChimp is great for;

- growing and managing my email list

- designing and sending out really nice-looking newsletters

- pay only as I need to and my list grows

5) MindMeister is great for;

- outlining before I write eBooks, white papers, audio products, and blog posts

- setting goals and outlining the tasks I need to complete to achieve them

- org charts, planning websites, and even illustrating processes to clients

6) Visual Thesaurus is great for;

- the obvious (an interactive thesaurus like no other)

- brainstorming domain names, eBook titles, products, and keywords

- try changing the settings and watch things fly around!

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It’s OK To Make Mistakes With An eBook

February 22nd, 2012 . by Peggy

As far as business mistakes go – and I’ve made them all, I tell you – eBooks are one of the most forgiving projects you’ll ever attempt. Let me reassure you about how easy it is to dip your toe in the water without fear.

Let’s say that you write an ebook. You don’t do any market research. You create it as a PDF even though it’s 7300 pages. You forget the password to all of your social media accounts. You fail to correct over 1000 spelling and grammar mistakes in the manuscript. And, the cover design is just you typing the name of the cover in black text on white in MS Word. Yes, that would be a disaster in many other businesses, but in eBooks, all of this can be fixed.

I have re-released almost every title on which I’ve ever worked. The beauty of the eBook business is that it’s digital – nothing is carved in stone. If the title stinks, re-title it. If the cover sucks, re-cover it. Edit it. Shorten it. Promote it. It’s all one gigantic testing ground.

One of the key components to this mistake-proof endeavor is the concept of split testing. Not a new idea, split testing simply means that you try two versions of your project, with only a single difference between the two versions. Which one sells better? A or B? If it’s A, then you would drop B, and then take A, tweak it a single time, and then offer the next set of two things to test against each other. By constantly splitting the product in two, you hone it, perfect it, and all without delaying your product to market.

Never assume that an eBook is “done”. That does not happen. At least, not in any successful eBook business.

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Your Self-Publishing Timeline

September 10th, 2009 . by Peggy

Here’s a checklist to help you create a project timeline for your self-published book or ebook, and understand how long to allocate for each stage of the process.

There are two philosophies about when to release your book. One dictates that you should pre-determine a particular event or time of year with which to coincide the release of the book for best effect. This means picking a release date well in advance, and then counting backwards on your calendar in order to determine when you need to have certain milestones completed.

The second philosophy suggests that if your book is “timeless”, you can simply release the book on your own self-determined timeline, and take a more long-term, big-picture approach, because you’re in this for the long haul.

I suggest a compromise between the two: rather than just working along as in the second philosophy, pick a date that is practical for you to achieve, because otherwise, the book won’t ever happen. After all, every book project is for the long haul. Then follow this checklist to get the book ready in time. Rushing it rarely offers a concrete advantage, but dawdling doesn’t make you any money, either.

For a print book, the timeline must include printing, which frighteningly, relies heavily on someone other than you and your core team: Your Printer. Your printer will be your best friend on this project, so be certain that you call them as early in the project as possible (see #3 below for the best time to call them) and see what their press schedule is like. Press time can be booked over a year in advance for some large companies, but for small jobs, many companies adopt a “we’ll fit you in” sort of attitude. The print timeline is also determined by the style of book you choose, including options like hardcover vs. perfect-bound, paper choices, and so on. Your printer should prepare a clearly laid out quote with all of these options and discuss them with you in detail.

I love my printer so much that I feel I should tell you about Friesens, based in Manitoba, Canada. They have grown to become one of the largest book printers in North America, (the world?) and frequently print for the big publishing houses and many other American companies as well as their native Canadian market. My rep is an amazing guy named Gerhard Aichelberger, on Vancouver Island. (Reps are determined by where you live.) He’d love to talk to you about your print needs, and no, I’m not being compensated in any way for saying that. He’s just an extraordinarily nice guy who has repeatedly bent over backwards to make my Authors happy. All of the Friesens reps are great, and the company is made up of people that are more like a huge family than employees. There is no style of book that they cannot print, stock, and ship, and their quality controls are ISO certified.

Here are the basic timeline elements, with a sample time frame below in [brackets], based on an imaginary project where; there is only one Author, the subject is one with which they are already familiar, there is a marginal amount of additional research to be done, a simple design will be chosen, the book will be simultaneously paper and ebook published, and the Author intends to perform a combination of self-marketing and traditional print book marketing through retail channels.

1. Market Research

The most important thing in the entire project. This might take minutes, or it might take months. Don’t over-do it, but you should have a clear idea as to the size and viability of the market, how they are currently receiving information in this topic area (ebook vs. book, styles of either…) and what niches are still available for you in the market. Be sure to include keyword research in this section, and purchasing of appropriate domain names. (See my earlier post for choosing a domain name, which tightly steers your book titling process.) Secure your social media outlets, like your Twitter account and YouTube channel, along with your Facebook fan page. Brainstorm about more stuff like this day and night.
[2 weeks, including time to bounce the idea off a few people in your network. Future posts will tell you a bit about how I do this with my clients.]

2. Outlining

This feels like a grade school nightmare, but it is essential. Don’t skip it. It is almost as important as #1, because this is how you will know how many pages your book will be, how you can modularize it, how you will format/design it, what associated products you will create, how large a team you will need to help you, how much research help you will need, and much more. I can often complete an outline in a day-long marathon session, with the Author’s core team involved if necessary. This is also the time to secure things like your ISBN number, your UPC code, and so on. Get the technical and legal crap out of the way so you can get to the fun stuff. Set up your initial website, and start blogging. Make a video for YouTube – you’ll make more specific ones later, but start to build your audience.
[3 days, including adjustments to the marathon plan.]

3. Specification

This is the stage where you determine how long your book / ebook will be , how it will be printed (if at all), how it will be graphically designed (work with the designer to get a quote at this stage), how it will be marketed, how it will be sold (that is, the technical or real-world logistics), and many other items. Now that you know how long it’s going to be, you can calculate how many pages it will take up, based on a calculation involving page size, number of words designated or estimated per section, and how many words / illustrations / diagrams fit on the chosen page size. This means that you can now get a quote from your printer, and book your press time well in advance.
[1 day to 2 weeks, including a small amount of additional sales research. Our sample will be 2 weeks.]

4. Initial Content Development

Here’s where you start actually writing. Most clients who work through my process are extremely frustrated by the fact that they don’t get to start writing until now. My answer is: do you want to write, or do you want to make money?
[Time varies widely based on the working speed of the Author. Some people can write an entire book in a long weekend - I once wrote a 30-page ebook overnight, but I don't recommend that! For some, it can take months, but let's hope for something in-between. For our sample project, let's call it 6 weeks.]

5. Editorial Stage

There’s a lot of back-and-forth at this stage. Do not let this frustrate you. Your Editor’s job is to preserve your voice, but to make the data as saleable as possible. They should remain objective and be representative of your designated market. Usually, the book will be shorter when you get it back from your Editor, and you may have up to about 6 revisions on some areas, though more than 3 is not typically efficient. Do not indulge in dangerous emotional attachment to your content – it is only a product.
[7-10 days is often enough for a medium-length book that is essentially well-written to start with.]

6. Design

Once the content has been completely, 1000% revised, there are no more changes or spelling errors, no bits that you forgot, and your diagrams or tables have been laid out for the designer to re-create, you hand the manuscript over to your typesetter/designer. See other posts for tips for working with designers, but just be sure that there are no more changes to the content before you hand it to them, as changes after the design has started can be costly both in terms of money and lost time. Be sure to include time to design an appropriate website, hopefully in tune with your book’s design, to create wholistic and congruent communication with your reader base.
[1 to 3 weeks and up, depending on the length of the book and how clear you were in stage 3 with your design choices. Our example project will be 2 weeks.]

Tip: If you feel qualified to perform your own typesetting and design, it is often a good idea to actually write the book in the design template. Adobe InDesign and InCopy is especially good for this, but I have also successfully used open-source applications like OpenOffice.org. Writing in the design template allows you to see how words flow, gives insight into subtle things like aligning style and content, allows you to create flyouts and featured content more easily, and may help you spot trouble before you’ve gone too far.

7. Pre-Press

Some might say that this stage is not really worthy of a numbered point by itself, except that if there are any problems with the file that is uploaded to your printer, it can mess up a lot of other time frames. Ideally, this should be an invisible part of the process that takes minutes, but I’m adding this in as part of my “hope for the best, but plan for the worst” philosophy.
[Ideally, minutes. Possibly, a couple of days to figure it out and correct the problem. Keep in good contact with your printer during this time to ensure that you don't lose your press booking and that they are still on schedule. Our example project will not include any time for this.]

8. Printing

The day you send the book to the printer, you will not sleep that night, and will instead spend the night staring at the ceiling, wondering what you forgot, misspelled, left out, etc. I advise you to have a glass of wine or go to a movie and just try to get through it.
But remember, this is *not* the time to sit on your hands! If you have an ebook that was created at the same time as your print book, get that sucker out there are start hawking it – hard. Call the book distributors and retailers that you’ve been talking up and give them an update. Plan events. Create downloads for your website. Blog till your fingers bleed. Start doing interviews. Tweet like a songbird. Just keep building the momentum until it comes back from the printer and lands on your doorstep.
[2-3 weeks including freight, but this depends heavily on your printer's press schedule. The earlier you book, the less time you need to budget. Our example project will be 3 weeks.]

9. Safety Margin

It’s rare, but print errors happen. Freight gets lost, snowstorms tie up deliveries, and sometimes people just catch the flu. This time is your margin for error that ensures if you have promised delivery of the books to someone, you can deliver them early and look like a genius, or you have time to fix the mistake / wait for the snow to melt. Planning this time into your calendar at the outset will reduce a lot of stress, but if you end up with the books without delay, consider it bonus marketing time. Send out more review copies, get more last-minute interviews, do a few more talks or lectures, and just work it baby, work it.
[2 weeks in summer, 3 weeks if in winter, not because of weather, but because if you are printing at a busy time of year, you will need more time to get back on track. Our example project will be 2 weeks.]

10. Book Release Date

This date is not the end of your book journey, but the beginning. A well-designed book should have an active life span of 2-5 years, and perhaps a great deal more for an ebook, as it is a living document and can be revised to a new version any time, replacing the previous version on your website. You now have a full-time job of being an Author, and should continue to perform all of the marketing activities that you’ve been ramping up before this time, adjusting for market fluctuations and actively marketing your personal services alongside the book.

All of these time blocks, including the Safety Margin add up to: 19 weeks, or about 5 months. That sounds like a lot of time, and it is. I’ve seen Authors who work solo do it in less than 3 weeks plus press time, and it is of course possible to produce an elemental ebook overnight. 2-3 months is still practical for a paper book all in, assuming that there are no problems, and that the Author is decisive and well-prepared.

It’s up to you to process each of these stages and design a timeline of your own, but just be sure that you give yourself enough time to include proper market research up front, and a margin for error. The market research will guide you for the length of the project and steer every decision from content to design to printing to marketing. It’s first on the list because it is most important.

This was a long article, but I hope it’s encouraged you to think of your project in terms of the big picture – the picture where you are a successful, independent, and slightly wacky Self-Published Author.

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If your writing sucks…

September 9th, 2009 . by Peggy

Take this advice from William M. Akers, of YourScreenPlaySucks.com. Mr. Akers has been a professional writer for television, film and elsewhere for over 20 years, and he now teaches screenwriting at Vanderbilt University.

Here’s a link to an article by Mr. Akers, mainly about:

- how to get back into writing if you’ve taken the summer off,(“If you do not write every day, you are not a writer.”)

- not self-editing as you write (“If you write something and instantly hate it and erase it and feel worthless… hell, you’re never going to get anything done!”)

- how to avoid interruptions from your children (“They’re in therapy now, but I got my work done.”)

- what to do when you can’t think of anything good to write. (“Write crap.”)

He also reminded me of one of my favourite movie lines, from Finding Forrester: “JAMAL: Women will sleep with you if you write a book? FORRESTER: Women will sleep with you if you write a bad book.”

Enjoy!

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That Karrot’s Cake

August 25th, 2009 . by Peggy

Here’s the recipe for the carrot cake that I pictured on Twitter last week. So many of you have asked for this, so I’ll just post it here. What does this have to do with self-publishing, podcasting, writing, online marketing, or anything else that I write about? Once you taste it, you’ll understand.

With thanks to Joan Craven of Craven Communications, my very generous friend in Calgary.

Karrott’s Cake, originally from Enjoy: More Recipes from the Best of Bridge (the yellow one).

1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup corn oil
3 eggs
1 + 1/2 cups flour
2 cups finely grated carrots (I actually put in closer to 3)
1/2 tsp salt
1 + 1/3 tsp baking soda (who wrote this crazy cookbook, anyway??!!??)
1 + 1/2 tsps cinnamon (I used the Poudre Douce from Victorian Epicure and put in a bit more than called for)

The “official” instructions:
Mix oil and sugar, beat well. Add eggs, one at a time and bet after each. Sift dry ingredients and add to egg mixture. Beat all together until well-blended. Fold in raw carrots. Bake one hour at 300~ in greased 9×13 pan.

What I actually did:
I wanted to set this up the night before so that I could throw it together in the AM, so I grated the carrots, and added them to a bowl with all of the other wet ingredients, excluding the sugar, which I put in the fridge overnight. I then put all the dry ingredients into a second bowl, and sifted them through a strainer as I added them. In the morning, I just added the dry to the wet, folded only as long as was necessary to get it wet, dumped it in a pyrex pan sprayed with pam, and went to take my morning shower. By the time I had dressed and made breakfast for our guests, it was time to remove it from the oven. I iced it with bought icing and nobody knew the difference. (Uh, well, at least they didn’t until now.)

Eat well = write well!

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Editing the Landscape of Our Writing

August 4th, 2008 . by Peggy

I was awoken very early this morning by my neighbour’s new rooster. (Yes, she’s still my friend.) While trying to get back to sleep, I heard another sound – a gentle rustling and footsteps in my yard, outside my bedroom window.

I crept out of bed to see a young deer and her very brand-new fawn munching on Bracken Fern in my cedar grove. This was the smallest fawn I’ve ever seen. He was very darkly spotted, and his mother was gently licking him. He couldn’t have been more than a few days old. From my vantage point, he seemed only to be about the size of a cat. I must have made some sound, because he followed her as she quickly led him out of my view.

This morning is the last time that I may get to see such a scene, because today is the day that my yard will be excavated by heavy equipment. Our newly-built house will finally nest into the garden I imagined more than 2 years ago when I first walked onto this lot. The stumps of trees that we felled to build the house and deck will be scraped clean, like everything else here. And all of that Bracken will be gone by the end of today, pushed into a large pile of organic matter that will form a berm between the front of my property and the road. 12 hours from now, the food source on my property for these deer will be eliminated.

Building and construction are a lot like writing and editing. You plan, you imagine, but when it comes to actually doing it, you are forced to make compromise after compromise. Editing a large manuscript is arduous and sometimes full of agonizing decisions about what to keep and what not to. The “manuscript” of my construction project has been awful to edit because of outside forces like weather (the market), lack of available help (sub-contractors), and a huge distraction factor on my part. (Ironically, many of my days have been spent writing instead of finishing to build a house.) And once you’ve eliminated all the crap, you must be careful not to have robbed it of all character.

Living on a gulf island means that there are weeds in every garden – plenty of them – and I’m far, far from being the only food source for these deer. In fact, I rarely see them in my yard, and they are quite fat. (More than once has my husband suggested that he wished he still had his rusty .22 in the basement.) I’m not hurting them by pulling out stumps and putting up wire fencing. And so I believe a few weeds should be left in each piece of writing, especially in non-fiction, which often serves to keep the content light and more personable.

Today I’m ripping out thistle, scraping away long grasses and raking up piles of stones. But I’m going to leave a section of grasses and ferns at the end of my driveway still wild – just for the deer. They are so sweet and gentle, and I want to make sure that my garden is going to be welcoming to creatures like that. I don’t care about the weeds – they will flower and attractively greet visitors. Who wants to pretend to be perfect, anyway?

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Creative Collaboration – At a Distance

June 10th, 2008 . by Peggy

Working virtually often works extremely well in the Author – Editor relationship. I was recently made aware of a new escalation of this creative working concept by a friend of mine in the music business.

Adam Wakely of Strange Trax and Fuzz FactoryAdam Wakely is a pretty cool guy. He’s a talented brewmaster, has a devastatingly wicked sense of humor, and is a very talented musician to boot. His kids are following in his footsteps, and they will be able to make use of music technology in ways that Adam is just beginning to explore for himself.

Check out Adam’s latest successful experiment: a virtual band called Strange Trax. Adam and his band-mates Natalie, Adamz, Pooch, Beradley, and Web of Destress (where do these drummers get these wacky names, anyway?) have never met in real life. Adam’s brother Aaron is the final band member, who lives in the same town as Adam, but other than that, the entire band is virtual.

All the music is written, revised, practiced and recorded in different locations, including Canada, the USA, and the United Kingdom. Adam used his skills as a Master Music Editor and Recorder to make it all come together. I can’t believe how cohesive the sound is – not only inside each track, but between the tracks themselves. They have a consistent style, which is what it takes to snag and keep a following.

As the site states, “Is this a new step forward for the music industry? A new way of making music, with space and distance no object?” For all the writers who think that distance is an obstacle to making their book happen, think again. I sing a little, and I’m a lousy pianist, but man, can I edit.

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The Editor in the Family

April 27th, 2008 . by Peggy

One of the things I love the most about my job is that I get to become very involved in the lives of my clients. All of my clients are very interesting and complex individuals, and as a student of human nature, I’m always enthused by the idea of getting to know an interesting person on a very deep level, a level that perhaps not many others have. Over the course of the project, we do seem to develop a relationship that resembles that of a tightly-knit family.

Whether it’s stories about whacky things that happen to nurses, the worst thing that somebody has ever found on a previously-believed “dead” hard drive, or the moment when a client asks themselves a profound question that shapes their writing for years to come, I enjoy being there to hear all of it. It shapes my own writing, and my impressions of the world around me.
Editing is really about objective observation. We see the errors in grammar and punctuation that writers don’t, because we’re not emotionally invested in the material. (Or at least, we shouldn’t be emotionally invested.) When I realize I’m really starting to like a client and become friends with them – a difficult thing to avoid – I start to lose my objectivity. I’m then on dangerous ground, because I can best be an advocate for my client when I can see their faults, and help to correct those faults before the manuscript goes public.

But like any solid family, it’s interesting that we are usually able to find a solution that perhaps takes some compromise, but makes everyone happy in the end. The basis of a relationship that supports that is trust. I work hard to earn the trust of my authors. I offer them support in any way that I can – and I am always looking for support on their behalf. I want to be the best editor I can be for them, because they are doing their best to write a great book for their readers.

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