Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

I attended the wonderful Christian Author's Guild Conference, Catch the Wave, this last weekend, and I want to share some lessons I learned. Caution: This isn’t a post about editing, but it will help you in meeting with editors. The lessons I learned, are positive ones, taught to me by example.

At this conference, the attendees networked, and I believe they did very well. I met several delightful new friends. Yes, I said friends. I don’t set out to network for business. I want to connect with friends, folks that may or may not be able to help me. Therein is the key. When you attend a conference, 75% of your anxiety can be lifted if you look at networking as helping another. 

What can you, someone who paid to attend the conference and to meet with agents and editors, do to help others? Here’s a list of “pay it forwards” for conference attendees, faculty, and staff:

v   A prayer. I remember last year at a very big conference, I stopped and prayed for several individuals, and several individuals came alongside me and prayed. Several horrible events occurred to me at that conference (and I was staff), but I wouldn’t trade one minute of the time I spent because along with it came lasting friendships and prayers lifted to a Father in Heaven whose timing is perfect. I’m thankful to Him for those friendships. By the end of the conference, I was rejoicing, laughing, and joking because prayers lifted for me asked for joy and wellness. God delivered.

v   A smile. At larger conferences, the intensity level is enough to bring a person to their knees. Offering a genuine smile is like giving a person a pill for relaxation.

v   A hug. Wrap your arms around someone who has received bad news about their work in progress. Rejoice by embracing someone in a celebratory hug when they’re dancing around because an editor asked to see a partial or full manuscript. Just keep your arms open wide. There’s nothing like a hug to help a hurting heart or to show enthusiasm for another’s great news.

v   A kind word. We never know what other emotions another writer might be bringing with them to the conference. They may be attending the conference having left difficult situations at home. A kind word (and a hug) will minister to that person.

v   A recommendation. Yes, editors and agents who sit with you during meals do want to hear about your project. If they ask, give them the abbreviated version. Don’t hog the conversation. Let everyone at the table have a chance to talk to the faculty member at your table. If the conversation goes forward, and you get the opportunity to share a recommendation with the editor or agent regarding the work of another, be sure to do so.

v   A helping hand. Have you ever noticed the faculty and staff at a conference? They’re running to meet with people, to get their equipment set up for workshops, to find a bottled water before a presentation, and to complete a myriad of other details. Sometimes, just saying, “What can I do for you?” takes some weight off and allows faculty and staff to breathe. Faculty and staff, when you see an attendee struggling under the weight of the conference, coming alongside that attendee can make all of the difference in the world to that person.

v   Truth and the ability to handle the truth. If I’m attending a conference, I want the people who meet with me to grow. After all, they’re my old friends and my new friends. They deserve the truth—given to them in a loving manner. Attendees should brace themselves for some hard truths and realize that the person who brings it truly wants to help. You don’t have to take the advice, but graciously say thank you. At the conference this week, I found everyone gracious and thankful. They may have wanted to smack me, but they were, without exception, wonderful to me and my hard words given to them in love.

There you have it: pay it forward and happy editing.

Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

Have you ever met a person and no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t connect with him or her? Sometimes, an individual might carry themselves with a haughty tip of the nose as if they are looking down upon you. We might realize that they care nothing for ethics, morality, or legalities. On occasion, someone might just grate our last nerves, and we can’t figure out why.

Well, that’s real life. What about fiction?

There’s the old adage, “You never get a chance to make a first impression.” This is true in real life and in the lives of our heroes and heroines.

Don’t get me wrong. Our star characters can have flaws. They can fail at something, but 99.9% of our heroes and heroines should be likeable from the start of a manuscript. Don’t allow characters to make a bad first impression. Connect the reader to a hero and heroine by showing their good sides. Then, if a character fails, the reader will care enough to want him or her to do better.

If your plot is such that the hero or heroine has a drastic character arc, one which requires them to make an awful first impression, give the reader something that makes him care for the character no matter how small. In the novel, Mother of My Son (Harbourlight Books), author Rachel Allord introduces a heroine who does something most women would never think of doing, but the author shortly thereafter connects the reader with the character by showing us the life she has lived, the people who seem never truly to have loved her, and the one person who does lover her. The reader wants her to overcome the difficult childhood and to receive the miracle of redemption and recovery that only God can bring.

When editing your work, decide if the failures and flaws of your characters can wait a scene or two. If not, work hard to show that your main character is attempting to overcome that bad first impression.

Happy editing.

Make-A-Story™ - Monday's writing Prompt

Writing to spec – you’ve heard the term.  It means writing what the publisher wants.  Can you do it?  In our new feature - Make-A-Story™, we ask you to create a story with these elements.  The story can be set in any time frame, any length, must adhere to our guidelines and have our standard Christian world view.   

An autumn morning
Muddy dress shoes
A flat tire

Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

So an author has signed a contract for his work with a publisher and thus begins the editing process of the book he holds most dear. The author is excited to get the edits and to begin making the changes. Then…oh, no…the editor can’t really want to take that out of the author’s story. Wait a minute, the author has a reason for not including that information at that very moment. Really? The editor thinks this scenario can’t happen in real life? Why, the author was abducted by aliens just last week.

Yes, the editing process does begin. There’s a lot of give and take in edits. The author gives and the editor takes out. Okay. I’m only kidding, and I’m exaggerating above, but just a bit. Editors do sometimes ask authors to make tough decisions about their prose.

If that’s the case, how does an author approach an editor about suggested changes? First of all, I want to point out that editors are not infallible, but neither are writers. Also, editors aren’t changing an author’s prose simply because they can. Editors work hard to provide the author with a finished product he can take pride in. If the author gives a valid reason, most editors will cave.

For that reason, an author should look unemotionally and objectively at the edit and explain why he wants to leave it as is (STET), or why he feels there might be an alternate edit. After an author takes an unbiased look at the suggested change, and he feels that he has a very good reason for leaving it alone or making a change, he should then approach the editor.

Nicola Martinez, Pelican Book Group’s Editor-in-Chief says, “An author should always be professional and respectful, and when communicating via e-mail, err on the side of being almost ‘too nice’ in tone even when explaining a reason for disagreement.”

Open communication is the key, and, as noted above, sometimes the author may find that his reasoning is met with agreement. On other occasions, the answer will be no. At that time, an author will need to decide his next course of action, but that action should be taken with care and attention to the contract he entered into with the publisher. Again, Ms. Martinez says, “But remaining respectful and professional is the key because getting a reputation for having a bad attitude, being rude, or difficult to work with, or backing out of deals, can have lasting ramifications.” She also pointed out that the publishing world is small. Editors move from publishing house to publishing house, and an author may be quite surprised when he runs into an editor he once treated without respect.

*I feel it is very important to note that this post was not written to address any actions by any of Pelican Book Groups wonderful authors. The post is for informational purposes only.*

Happy editing.

Make-A-Story™ - Monday's Writping Prompt

Writing to spec – you’ve heard the term.  It means writing what the publisher wants.  Can you do it?  In our new feature - Make-A-Story™, we ask you to create a story with these elements.  The story can be set in any time frame, any length, must adhere to our guidelines and have our standard Christian world view.  

A train ride
A lost pair of shoes
A baby buffalo  

Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

Some grammar and punctuation issues are set in stone. A grammatically incorrect sentence will be corrected by an editor. A comma will be included before a conjunction when the conjunction separates two independent clauses.

Then there are issues that an editor might allow as style: A short prepositional phrase without a comma following it, a sentence that starts with a conjunction, em-dashes to emphasize a parenthetical clause. You get the picture.

There are still issues with grammar and punctuation that fall within a publisher’s style guide. What exactly is a publisher’s style guide? It’s a playbook for editors. Some publishers do provide them to their authors so that they can edit their manuscripts accordingly. A few items included in a style guide are:

OK versus Okay: In everyday writing, I refuse to use “OK.” I’m a curmudgeon in that regard. Pelican, however, uses the more fashionable and text-worthy OK. For that reason, when I edit, I have to do a find and replace because I will skip right over “okay” without even seeing the need to change. I want to point out that neither is wrong.

Commas: Some publishers want strict comma usage followed (with some leeway for style); other publishers prefer to eliminate commas if necessary (example: a comma before a short prepositional phrase).

Blonde/blond: This gets very confusing. You see blond is the color, but blond also denotes a male with blond hair. Blonde refers to a woman with blond hair. Publishers may ask that the correct usage be followed, which would mean when you are referring to a female with blond hair, you add the “e.” When referring to a male, you leave off the “e,” but when you are referring to the color of the hair (male or female), you use “blond.” Still, some publishers prefer using “blond” for any mention.

Semicolons: Pelican is very semicolon friendly, as long as they are used correctly and sparingly. Other publishers tell you that there is no room in fiction for semicolons, and I completely disagree. Semicolons are beautiful marks of punctuation—when used correctly.

Pronouns Used for God: Most Christian publishers require that authors capitalize pronouns for God. This sets Him apart and, in my mind at least, gives God the respect He deserves. Others prefer not to capitalize the pronouns.

Capitalization of Heaven and Hell: Seems like you would capitalize these as they are proper names for locations. The Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS) ndicates that in their general term they are “dwelling places, ideal states, places of divine punishment and thus they are lowercase." However, the CMoS does state that they are “often capitalized in a purely religious context.” Christian publishers would most likely look at these places in a “purely religious context,” but the styles do differ. Some capitalize Heaven and not hell. Others capitalize both, and still some capitalize neither.

American English versus Non-American English: Yes, there is a different. Most noticeable it is in the use of “s” and “z.” Example: realize versus realise. That usually doesn’t present a problem unless you’re an American publisher publishing a novel written by a non-American English author or if the publisher contracts with an American English author writing a book which takes place in a non-American English country and the author wishes to maintain authenticity. However, there are those words like toward/towards/backward/backwards/forward/forwards. The “s” is generally added in non-American English. The American English form is to eliminate the “s.” Some publishers want to retain the American English form, but since the non-American English form has slipped into American English, most publishers simply ask that whatever the usage, consistency is maintained. For that reason, as an editor of a publisher who allows both forms, I tend to keep to the American English form unless I am editing for a non-American English author or a book set in a non-American English country.

Other Style Issues: the form of plurals (example: Jesus’ versus Jesus’s), scene break symbols, chapter breaks versus page breaks, etc., are all matters of style, and a publisher’s style guide is helpful when deciding these issues.

When self-editing, it is always best to follow The Chicago Manual of Style (current 16th edition). Editors are aware when their house prefers an in-house style, and these matters are usually changed by the editor in the editing process. However, returning authors can always assist their editor by requesting a style guide and utilizing it, especially if their work has been contracted by that house.

Happy editing.

Call for Submissions: Easter Lilies

Easter Lilies badgeNow, through September 30th, submissions are open for Easter Lilies stories. Easter Lilies is our annual special release. Each year, one Easter Lilies story will be released on each day of the Easter Triduum. (Yes, only three stories per year.)


2013 Defining Scripture for Easter Lilies is: Solomon 2:2 "Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens."

Submission Guidelines:
  • Easter Lilies are historical or contemporary romances. In addition to adhering to the guidelines for the White Rose imprint, the following is also necessary:
  • The defining Scripture for the year must be used as a basis for the story. (This scripture will change each year on October 1st)
  • Stories should be between 15,000 and 25,000 words.
  • Both the hero's and heroine's points of view may be incorporated, however, we'd like these stories to be "hero-driven", so ideally, stories should focus on the hero's love developing for his heroine. These stories may be historical or contemporary, but they must be set around the Easter holiday.
  • Heroes and Heroines should be between the ages of 25 and 35.
  • In addition to using the current year Easter Lilies scripture as the reference, some symbol of the Easter Lily must also be incorporated. Easter lilies have long been a symbol of purity, motherhood, the trumpet herald of the Angel Gabriel as he visited the Virgin Mary, of resurrection, and more. (Feel free to research and use different symbols. These are listed as example only). How you incorporate any of the symbols is up to you. Whether it's an actual flower that the hero gives to the heroine (or vice-versa), or a piece of jewelry, or a spiritual experience. The use is up to you. Perhaps your hero is a Christian musician who plays the trumpet. Perhaps your heroine has lily earrings that have been passed through her family. Perhaps your hero had a "resurrection" of his faith through some experience past or present, or maybe your heroine is a mother. How you incorporate the Easter lily symbolism is up to you. It can be subtle or overt, but it has to be there.
Please visit our submission guideline page to access the Easter Lilies submission form. Do not use our regular submission form to submit Easter Lilies stories. 

Thanks...and we're looking forward to reading your submissions.