Buying an Editor

I'm always doing some type of research, looking for ideas for my novels, ways to improve my writing skills and reading what experts have to say about the writing and publishing process. Every time I run into a statement about editing, I a pit forms in my stomach.

My novel would benefit from a professional editing job. I've recently read enough unpublished works on Authonomy and other sites to agree with that for other people's work.

For example, I politely read the first few pages of a story, board with the descriptions, not really curious about what was happening. Then right in the middle of the second page, I read what should be the hook, what should be the very first sentence, not buried so far away from the beginning. I'm paraphrasing, but it went something like: “Why would he, a vampire, hide in a church?” A very good question and I was intrigued by the answer so I kept reading. Really, what would frighten a vampire? More importantly, what would frighten a vampire so much they'd seek refuge on holy ground? The book showed promise after that. A bit of editing and, well...

Another unpublished work I read lacked a voice, (point of view). I had no idea who was telling the story. The writer introduced seven people in the first three paragraphs. That's like going to a party where you don't know anyone, you get introduced to everyone at the same time and can't remember any of them as the party wears on. Finally, the voice introduces herself when she is born, on the third page. From there, it was much easier to read because I knew who was speaking. I suggested to the author to start the book with one simple line to establish the voice right away. “On the day I was born...”

So, I am wondering what things I should change in my book to make it better, none of the above because I understand and recognize those things. But I am certain someone who knows how to edit fiction can help me with pace, flow, plot and perhaps point out where I might have missed an important little detail that is clear in my head but not clear on the page.

I went looking for the price of freelance professional editing services and what it might cost. Big publishers have editors on staff, so that's one of the reasons authors don't get a bigger percentage. When I found the standard pricing, my heart sunk. Normal rate is $.02-.04 per word depending upon the type of editing (i.e. proofreading, copy editing, developmental or substantive, formatting, critique. See: for definitions.)

My book is roughly 125,000 words. Don't have a calculator handy? Let me do the math: $2,500-5,000. Yes, that is a whole bunch of money!

Another problem is finding an editor suited to the work being edited. I don't want someone who edits cookbooks trying to take on my romantic story. I'd hate to get comments for the love scenes on what “spicy ingredients” to add in what order or just how “hot” they should be and how long to “cook” until they are “done.”

So, I'm keeping my novel as is for now. That doesn't mean that sometime in the future I won't relent and get the thing looked at. For most new authors, the first novel isn't the breakthrough, much like an actor, the first part doesn't make them a star. I'll keep writing, because one day, I will find the story that people really want to read. I keep hoping for this series.

I love this particular story and need to finish book 2. I've decided on the title "Shadow Nature." It's moving forward one sentence at a time. I'm not stopping. I'm not giving up.

I'll keep you posted.

Tell or Show: Illustrated

I've read articles that try to explain the difference between a “tell” and a “show” in fiction writing. For whatever reason, they make it sound more complicated than it is. One person suggested reading an entire book just to find one “show” line at the end. How does that help?

I thought I'd give some examples to “show and tell” how I understand the difference. This is probably the most important skill a fiction writer can learn and one that I am constantly working on.

In my non-fiction how to books, I write step-by-step instructions:

Cut on the dotted line.
Glue down the flap.
Cut away the excess.

For all of these, I have a picture on the right hand side with arrows indicating what line, what flap and what excess. The words are the tell. The pictures are the show.

When writing fiction, I don't have pictures for the “show” so the words have to create the image in the readers mind. It takes more words, well chosen words, to make the image. Remember: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, don't use that many words for every moment. Pick the most important features of the picture instead. Use words to describe what part of the picture you are “pointing” to. You don't need to paint the entire picture every step of the way. Paint it one stroke at a time so the reader can build up the complete image.

Recently, I wrote an email to a high school friend explaining why I don't want to go to another high school reunion.

I could have said: “I've changed so much since high school that I felt uncomfortable being there.”

Instead I said: “The old personality felt like a small itchy wool coat trying to slip on my body and smother me.”

Can you feel my discomfort and empathize?

In my novel drafts, I tend to tell what the character feels. In rewrites, I illustrate what that looks like or feels like depending upon the point of view. The books are written from Brent's view so, I can illustrate what he feels. When he's looking at others, I describe what he is seeing.

Tell: “Emily showed distress.”
Show: “Emily tapped her front tooth with a fingernail while her other hand clinched up in a fist.”

Within the context of the scene and the dialog, her behavior makes even more sense. It's one brushstroke on the canvas for that scene.

Tell: “He felt hurt and didn't know how to tell her.”
Show: “He didn't know how to explain the lump in his throat or the tight knot in his stomach.”

My first drafts are often similar to scripts. I set up the scene, write the dialog, put in notes for the actors. Then I go back and turn the script into a series of pictures. Instead of using a camera, I use words.

I'll keep you posted.

An Author's Bio

For book submissions requirements, I need to provide an author's bio. I've put this off for too long. I should have written it before I published the book and included it on one of the back pages. Because I've never written one before, I did research. If I didn't, my bio would read something like this:

Carrie Olguin lives like magical wallpaper, working hard to compliment the furniture. She writes from the safety of her home office because she's shy and it's a great place to hide. Though she's been writing both fiction and non-fiction all of her life, she's too uncertain about her writing ability to rely on large scale professional publishing. However, when she needed to find a way to pay for her favorite hobby, she wrote and self-published pattern and reference books for the model horse hobby, a very small niche market. Since life is slipping by quickly, she decided to finally write The Tool series of novels, a concept that has been developing in her head since collage. She has absolutely no institutional education to support her qualifications to write science fiction, except for the fact that she loves science, technology and the fiction genres and wishes more of the books and shows she likes had romantic elements.

Would you read my book if you read that? I'd feel sorry for me, so it would be a pity purchase.
Here's professional recommendations on what to include in a bio:

  • Memberships in Writing Community: - I don't belong to any Writing Communities. I don't have much free time in the evenings to go to meetings and not much in the day time either.
  • Publishing credits: - My publishing credits have nothing to do with the sci/fi genre. My credits are all non-fiction (that would be all the books and CDs I've published).
  • Awards and/or recognition for work: I don't have any awards, didn't bother to try for the non-fiction. I didn't think it mattered as long as my books were selling. The only recognition I have is in my ebay feedback. 
  • Writing-related job experience: - All of my writing related job experience are non-fiction in nature, such as the equipment documentation and training manuals I did for my last job. This would be good for my tack books, but not for fiction. 
  • Education: - I have a BA degree in Communications. I thought this was a major achievement, until my husband made a comment about the degrees professional athletes earn. He said something like: “That guy didn't earn a real degree in collage. He earned, you know he got a Communications degree, cause all he really majored in was the sport that got him the scholarship.”

Yes, I was insulted. I worked hard to earn my degree. It wasn't easy. But if what hubby said is true, or at least believed to be true by enough people, then saying I have a degree in Communications is the same thing as saying I have no degree at all.

Other guidelines to follow for writing the bio, pretty much the same advice from all the different sites:

  • Always write in the 3rd person.
  • Use your name in the first sentence, the way you want readers to remember you.
  • Opening sentence, professional not personal – make something up that sounds like you are more than you really are. Freelance writer, artist, business owner.
  • Include any writing or critique groups you belong to
  • You are your own product. Sell yourself to the readers and publishing professionals.
  • Brag. Don't be shy. Tell people what you have accomplished.
  • It's okay to be eclectic with credentials. It's okay to include non-paying publishing jobs.
  • If no writing experience, focus on expertise.
  • Always tell where you live or closet large city nearby.
  • Mentioning family members and pets makes you more real and reachable.
  • Make yourself sound interesting.
  • Write down everything then reduce to high points down to one paragraph.
So I gave it a try:

Carrie R. Olguin owns an art and book sales business in Phoenix, Arizona. She earned a degree in Communications from UCSD, an experience that inspired the concept for Tool series novels. She's married with two adopted children. She's held different technical jobs, including Network Administrator and Technical Designer for cutting edge postal system equipment. One of her favorite activities is researching cutting edge theories and technologies. She's has published 12 non-fiction books. This is her first fiction work.

I hope I don't sound boring. I'll keep you posted.

The Alarm Clock

I prefer the dark quiet hours of night when all is still and my mind undisturbed by noises or bright light. My son is a morning person.

  • If he goes to bed at 7:30, he's energetically awake at 5:00AM.
  • If he goes to bed at 8:30, he's energetically awake at 5:00AM.
  • If he goes to bed at 9:30, he's energetically awake at 5:00AM.
On school days, I don't have to wake up until 7:00AM. My son tries to help. At 5:00AM he wakes me to let me know I can sleep for two more hours. At 5:30, he lets me know I have 1 ½ hours left. At 6:00 he's ever so thoughtful, letting me know I can sleep for yet another hour. At 6:30 he comes in every five minutes to give me the countdown.

If I'm not up by 7:00, he's on my bed and on top of me, bouncing and laughing and making certain I recognize the fact that he exists.

On weekends, he's just as helpful, with no concept of “sleeping in.” I haven't had to set my alarm clock in over five years. I'm not even certain why I bother to plug the thing in.

I'll keep you posted.

Weekend Research

I spent the weekend doing research again, looking for places to find friends and perhaps fans – one and the same I am hoping.

I searched the Yahoo groups and found a few that are active with people who read books related to SciFi/Fantasy and romance. My book doesn't fit exactly into a neat category – it crosses genres and breaks some of the “rules.” But I am certain it can find fans among these types of readers. The trick is getting them to purchase the book and have a read.

I've lowered the sell price for the book on my website feeling I have a right since Barns and Noble is selling it for less than the Amazon price. I lowered the price of the Kindle version, too. I'm beginning to think price is what I have to offer right now. In fact, I may have to buy some books to give away to people who read.

I've basically given up on Authonomy. It's not what I thought it would be. It's more like a reality game like Survivor where you make alliances and try to get ahead by playing the game. If I back someone's book without even reading it, they will do the same for me. Oh, well, I'll keep looking for the right place to be.

While searching the web I found an article that intrigued me on Copyblogger. Although most of this information pertains to non-fiction writing, I do need the information for my tack making books. Basically it said (I lost the link to the article so I can't post it directly):

“For success you need talent, luck and persistence. Pick any two.”

I don't have luck. I've never been lucky. Doors for me have never opened easily. I've had to work hard for what I have and I have to keep working hard to keep it.

So the two I need to pick are talent and persistence. I'm certain I have the talent to write. Every book I finish helps me hone my craft. I'm not the best writer but I'm certainly not the worst. If I'm wrong then see below.

As for persistence, well, I can be tenacious and I do have a stubborn streak. What I need to work on is self-confidence. I need to believe in myself and my work. Sometimes I have trouble with that. I have to make certain the little voice in my head tells me good things – even if slightly unrealistic and delusional. I have to become my number one fan, despite what other people say. I have to maintain the courage to stand up for my work – without insulting people along the way.

So that's my never ending chore. Hone my talent and believe in my work so that I have the courage to tell others it's good. Unfortunately, I'm a coward...

I'll keep you posted.

Hello? Anybody out there?

I realized that I have no idea if anyone is even reading my posts. I've turned this into some type of on-line diary.  And because I am a no one that nobody knows or cares to read about, this diary can remain a secret simply by being ignored.

How incredibly odd... All those warnings about posting things on line... How public it is... No privacy at all... Anybody can view it... Everyone can know about it... There's no copy right protection... If it's out htere you can't take it back...

The fact is, there is so much to read on the Internet, so many pages to view, that my blog resembles my life in many ways. I'm just another voice in the crowd where everyone is shouting. What can I do to get my voice to rise above all that madness to be heard?

I'll keep you posted.

Mother's Day

My son is eight years old. Yesterday, he got a small cup from the cupboard and filled it half with water. Then went outside to my rose bushes.

He pulled on the blossoms with his hands, trying to free them, breaking branches in the process. After many attempts, he could not pick any with stems long enough for the heads to peek over the top of the cup.

So he scattered the remnants of all the freshly picked flowers in the yard and went inside.

On my coffee table, I have an expensive silk arrangement of pink roses. He pulled out several stems and put those into the cup of water.

Then he brought me the cup of roses and said proudly: “These are for you, for Mother's Day.”

Awwww. How am I supposed to tell him how wrong he is?

I'll keep you posted.

Spring Time in My Backyard

Spring in the desert starts earlier than other places in the US, for example the suggested planting date for tomato seedlings is Feb12 and for other plants March 15. I used to have a nice vegetable garden before I decided to grow kids. The garden was less work.

With Spring comes the weeds... Plenty of weeds. I hate pulling weeds.

The birds have returned, busy building their nests. They sing, fight and fly without even noticing me. Sometimes I have to duck out of the way of a chase. I don't normally take the time to bird watch. Our birds are the common variety. Sparrows, hummingbirds, doves blackbirds and brown jays busy enjoying the gifts of a warmer sun.

Although, one time I spied two partridges walking about my back yard as if they owned it. Another time there were a couple of green love birds, obvious domestic escapees.

One day, I was outside doing yard work with our 10lb dog named Gizmo. She's a Lasa Apso Maltise mix, white with black patches. After weeding a while, my back ached, so I stood up to stretch, looking into the sky. I spotted a bird gliding in the air currents above me that had a wingspan of at least 6 feet. I watched for a while wondering what a bird of prey was doing circling around my back yard. Then it occurred to me, “Where's the dog?” I called her over quickly and when she was by my side looked up again. The big bird was gone.

I spied a pair of doves on our block wall fence engaged in their courtship. They moved in mirror image for a while then reached out to caress each other with their heads. The courtship lasted for five minutes. The actual physical exchange lasted for about a second. Off they flew as if fully satisfied with the encounter. I'm so glad I'm not a bird.

I'll keep you posted.