In Your Corner: Common Spelling Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

typo errors spelling mistakes

Have you ever made a spelling mistake?

Well, you’re human (probably), so I’m going to guess that you have. I definitely have. Just the other day, a friend went through a chapter of my latest manuscript and pointed out at least five typos and other errors which had slipped entirely by me.

So, how do we avoid these pesky little guys, spelling mistakes?

The first step is to recognize them for what they are: your brain being highly efficient, not deficient. Research indicates that typos and other errors rarely come from a lack of knowledge or training, but rather from the brain being focused on something else, like narrative, plot, characters, time management, and so on and so forth. These are higher order processes, really quite sophisticated, and as such they take a lot of brain power which otherwise might be spent looking for other things, like typos. Your brain is a beautiful and efficient thing, with certain priorities it doesn’t always share with you, but that’s okay. Just … don’t kick yourself too hard for each typo your friends catch when they read your manuscript. (Yes, I tell myself this, too. Every day.)

The second step is to know which mistakes are the most common. That way, you’ll be–yes–more efficient at catching them. There are struggles that come from words being similar in shape and sound but having different meanings, like foreword and forward. This is called a homophone error. One implies direction (forward) and one is a structural component of a book which serves as a preface or introductory note, usually including the “whys” and “wherefores” of the thing. Complimentary and complementary are also homophones. One means to deliver praise (complimentary) and one means to accessorize well or that one thing works well with another, as in complementary colors. These kinds of errors are what Google was invented for; never be ashamed to look up a word if you’re afraid you might not be catching all of its nuances!

Other common errors include trouble with suffixes and morphemes (substituting “-able” and “-ible” or “-ance” and “-ence”), defying the so-called ‘laws’ of spelling (i before e except after c, u always follows q, et cetera), mixing up how to pluralize tricky words ending in f or y, and composing adverbs. These are common struggles, particularly for people who did not learn English as their first language, and the only way to improve on these is to keep writing. A lot. And to keep a reference guide on hand, like this Business Insider article on these language acquisition-related errors. And again, don’t feel shame about hopping on Google for these.

The third step is to fix the errors yourself, if you can. Don’t rely on spell check for this, since Microsoft Word and other word processors rarely understand nuance, or know how a whole sentence fits together and which words do not fit. (Sometimes it will highlight perfectly acceptable sentences as grammatically broken, and not highlight sentences which need some work.) You should always proofread your work, but you want to make sure you do this after you finish getting all of the ideas out of your head. Some people prefer to set aside five or ten minutes after each daily writing session for this process, but the ideal time is after the whole manuscript is done and you can sit down and do it all at once. That way, you won’t struggle with continuity issues. Also, it’s just … more efficient! Keep a reliable resource to hand–something more comprehensive than that BI article, like the Chicago Manual of Style (there are pocket editions) or the Associated Press Style Book. I really like the MLA Pocket Style Manual, which is what I used in college. They’re updated every couple of years, these resources, so update your collection appropriately.

The fourth and final step is knowing when to let go. As in, when it will be more useful and efficient to place your manuscript into the hands of a professional editor. Trust me, this is no easy decision! The tendency is to feel resentment, or fear that the editor will change the material substance of your work in a way that will make it … less yours. But that’s not what editors are for, much less copyeditors, the professionals who dedicate their lives to examining other peoples’ writing on the sentence level. Know the difference before you go in–we’ve written about editors vs. copyeditors here on SPA before–and choose accordingly. But do choose! Friends and family make for excellent first readers, but you really do need that trained eye on your work if you want to catch the peskiest of all errors, because your readers will find (and mind) them even if your friends and family don’t.

Writing is hard. Finding errors is harder still. But …

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: How to Rewrite WITHOUT Going Off the Deep End

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? FAcing the manuscript, the first draft, with the question “What’s next?” dying on our lips, and a growing realization sitting like a lead weight in our bellies: Rewriting. That’s what comes next. The Elysium Fields of publication seem to hurtle themselves back into the distance, once so close we could almost touch them, and that’s how we find ourselves staring at our computer screens at six in the morning, wondering how not to tear out our hair over the rewrite process.

I have some thoughts on that.

  • Take a clue from your normal writing habits.

This is assuming you have writing habits, of course. I’m an extremely disorganized writer, which means I’m writing at all times of days, usually in my pajamas with a cup of tea, but sometimes with a bowl of pretzels. Still, take a clue. Rewriting is often a point of contention because it doesn’t feel like “real writing”–it feels more like butchering something you produced while doing “real writing.” So put yourself in the same creative space, frame of mind, and habitual place as you would if you were generating new material–and make the leap to recognizing rewriting as an opportunity for creativity, too. Maybe if you feel the way you do about “real writing,” you can trick yourself into resenting it less! That’s my theory, anyway.

  • Pay attention to your body.

Some of the writers I went through school with ascribed to the “starving artist” stereotype, churning out reams of paper on old-school typewriters at 3 AM fueled solely by cigarettes and certain controlled substances. These authors were incredibly productive–to a point. They were also complete emotional wrecks who could do nothing else with their days than write (often disorganized) manuscripts. But you and I? We can’t afford to burn the candle at both ends, to let ourselves be eaten up by life-destroying fuels like these. We have lives and families to take care of, that we delight in taking care of, when we’re not writing. So writing, of course, has to take its place among an ever-changing, always difficult to manage, list of priorities … and the only way to manage them all is not to go off the deep end. So: pay attention to your body. You will produce your best work, and leave the most room for life outside of writing too, if you take care of this collection of bones and blood vessels and brain cells to the best of your ability. Write healthy, with a full meal under your belt and a full night’s sleep just over with. Don’t rely on anything that’s not good for you to be your brain fuel–even the seemingly harmless caffeine, which in point of fact is a strong bowel irritant and likely to break up your concentration with a half dozen bathroom breaks each writing session. (It also, naturally, will dehydrate you–even if you’re constantly chugging caffeinated liquids.)

  • Alternate between a “GET-UR-DONE” attitude & a more forgiving one.

Look, for some people, it’s never going to be fun, this rewrite thing. But constantly punishing yourself for not getting it done is counter-productive, and will leave you feeling more and more dissatisfied with the whole process over time, just as constantly forgiving yourself for not working on it will also snowball into a giant lump of self-loathing and regret. So: set yourself some deadlines, and carve out some time just to slam away at that keyboard. But also: establish some boundaries within which you can forgive yourself for not being as productive as you’d like, and etc. Always remember that rewriting, like “real writing,” requires moderation in all things. So alternate between those driven and those relaxed modes of working, and you’ll find yourself chipping away at the monolithic manuscript, despite your fear of the thing.

  • Accept change.

Duh, right? Only … no. This is actually the hardest part: reconciling your original vision for a book with what’s coming off of the page before you. There’s no more obvious place or time for this to happen than during the rewrite, when your analytical mind is hard at work trying to sew up loose ends and fix flaws. But producing something with a mind of its own isn’t a flaw–it’s a natural consequence of creating interesting characters who evolve past your original vision and into something greater, more complex, and … different. If you can, take a step back and admire the reality of what you’ve written instead of wasting time and energy bemoaning the departure from your intent. Then approach your book the way a professional editor might, from a mindset of: “This is what I’ve been given to work with, so how can I make it the best possible version of itself?” instead of feeling cheated of something different. You’re your own harshest critic, remember? And whatever you’ve put on the page, predicted or not, changed or not, is magnificent and wonderful–and we’re proud of you for it. Work with and not against this new and wonderful thing! You won’t regret it.

rewriting

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Conversations: 9/9/2016

RIGHT EDITOR vs WRONG EDITOR

… or …

The Match Game

 

Because I’m an editor AND an author I know I’m not the right editor/assistant for a whole lot of authors. That being said, I’m comfortable saying that I am an excellent editor/assistant for many authors. Those writer/authors are the folks with whom I share a passion for the genres of mystery/suspense, historical fiction, and sci-fi; uplifting poetry and art/photography; memoirs and expressions of Faith in true stories, miracles, and encouragement in daily life. Seeing these books finalized and in print is a wonderful feeling. Even more delightful are the times I’ve heard Readers say that a specific book was medicine to them—helping them realize that life’s pain is lessened by life’s joys even when we’re unaware of them.

Today, I’ll share a few thoughts about TYPES of editors and their niche in the editing world so that you can decide for yourself the type of editor your project needs.

  • We’re most familiar with the Copy Editor. This person corrects questionable grammar, makes suggestions about repeated word usage, and looks at the style of your writing.
  • A Copy Editor may also do Proofreading which looks a bit harder at verb tense usage, how writers use numbers, capitalizations, punctuation and, of course, correct spelling.
  • The Format Editor takes your manuscript and places it in the necessary program (PDF, etc.) required for publishing—whether newspaper, magazine, online, ebook or printed book.
  • There are also Research Editors who will confirm the references you’ve used and—if requested—make certain quotes are accurate.
  • Content Editors are often called the melting-pot of editorial services. They look at your manuscript as a whole; get to know you as an author and your author voice; and review/edit accordingly. This means, the Content Editor does their best to keep the author’s voice alive whether the punctuation or verb/tense is perfect or not.
  • Another style of editing is that of the Critique or Development Editor. This person helps a writer build their book from a basic idea, outline or partial draft. They work more closely with the writer—through multiple drafts—and can become an advisor on many book-related topics.
  • A Substantive editor, much like the Critique or Development Editor, will work with writers to improve their fiction manuscript. Both Writer and Substantive Editor work to clean up story elements such as plot, character growth/changes, dialogue, voice, setting, word choice, sentence construction and syntax, and pace—anything that could improve the strength of the manuscript. Working with Point-of-View is a big element helping the Writer re-focus on the Big Picture of their story as a whole.
  • Lastly I will mention the Ghostwriter. In 2014 NPR did a story about a ghostwriter who had just completed his 70th –yes seventieth—ghostwritten book project. Many years ago the concept of allowing someone else to write your book for you was a backroom discussion only to be shared with the publisher who was part of the contract.  NOT SO TODAY. Those who “do” ghostwriting are superb listeners who can hear the voice of their clients and write-in-their-shoes making it possible for Author and Ghostwriter to enjoy their everyday jobs.  Thus the reading public benefits from the best of both worlds—the “story” of the Author and the expertise of the Ghostwriter.

book pages

And there you have it—a comprehensive list of editors who are available to every writer should the need arise.  If you’re looking for an excellent editor match, talk with publishers and self-publishers.  Their current databases will give you the best options. ⚓︎


Royalene

ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

From the Archives: “5 Tips for Finding Errors in Your Writing”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: March 23rd, 2010 ]

1 – Utilize an editor

The most common mistakes are minor, such as misspellings or incorrect use of punctuation. Other common errors are incorrect word use (their, they’re, there). A professional copyeditor is adept at noticing and correcting these kinds of mistakes. Do not make the mistake of relying solely upon a computerized spell-checker, which cannot tell the difference between “worse” and “worst” since they are both properly spelled words. Use an editor – a human one. Good self-publishing options will provide copyediting and other more advanced services. Be sure to ask your rep.

2 – Get a second (and third) set of eyes

Even if you do not wish to pay a professional, anyone who reviews your writing will find mistakes you invariably miss. Since you are overly familiar with your own work you are much more likely to miss obvious mistakes because your mind already knows what it is supposed to say, rather than what it actually says. When someone else reads your work, they have no preconceived notions about your writing. In addition to finding mistakes, other people may offer helpful suggestions to make your business writing stronger.

3 – Come back to it later

Do you wait long enough after writing something to begin editing it? Many writers edit their work as they write it. Not only does this slow down the creative process, it increases the chance that your mind will ignore blatant errors in deference to your intentions. Once your brain thinks a paragraph is free from errors, it tends to overlook any new errors that are introduced during the rewriting process. Put your writing away for several hours, days, or weeks and revisit it later. After some time away from your work, you will be more likely to read the words as they appear on the page, not as you envisioned them in your mind. The mind is error-free, the page is not.

4 – Read your material backwards

You are only familiar with your writing in one direction – forward. Reading your material backwards makes it seem entirely different and fools your mind into ignoring the intention and only concentrating on the reality. Furthermore, your critical view of the writing at its most technical level will not be corrupted by the flowing exposition you have massaged into sparkling prose. When you read your manuscript backwards, it becomes a collection of words. Without contextual meaning, the brain has nothing to focus upon other than the words themselves. Mistakes literally jump off the page.

5 – Read your material out loud

When you read words aloud, your brain must slow down and concentrate on the material. How fast can you read the following sentence? The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs. Now how fast can you read it out loud? It takes at least twice as long, and those precious milliseconds sometimes make all the difference between a typo that is missed, and one that is caught and corrected.

As a popular Internet posting informed us in 2003, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wtihuot any porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. But try raednig tihs out luod and see how far you get. An extra bonus for reading your material out loud is that you may discover stumbling blocks like awkward sentence structure and choppy dialogue.

Writing is weird and hard … and sometimes we just can’t make it work without a little help from a third party, be it a casual acquaintance or a paid professional.  Those pesky little demons, typos, seem to slip under the radar at every opportunity––and there’s no way to catch them all, since every author has unique and quirky “characteristic typos.”  I, for instance, have a tendency to self-edit in the middle of writing a sentence, and doing so often leaves relics behind: duplicate words, confounded sentence structure, and incomplete thoughts.  One of my closest friends, a trilingual émigré from France, has a wholly different weakness: transcription errors and run-on sentences.  Still another friend is prone to switch tense and person faster than Marvel churns out movie plotlines.

On the subject of typos:

“If we are our own harshest critics,” asks Nick Stockton of WIRED magazine, “why do we miss those annoying little details?” The answer may be more life-affirming than you think.  Writes Stockton, “The reason typos get through isn’t because we’re stupid or careless, it’s because what we’re doing is actually very smart.”  He goes on to quote psychologist Tom Stafford of the University of Sheffield.  “When you’re writing, you’re trying to convey meaning. It’s a very high level task,” said Stockton.  The reason we miss typos is because we are too smart, instinctively and unconsciously, about how we process information.  Expediency requires our brains to distill language down to its component parts and to extrapolate or guess rather than literally consider each letter on a page.  Stockton says it much better:

“Generalization is the hallmark of all higher-level brain functions. It’s similar to how our brains build maps of familiar places, compiling the sights, smells, and feel of a route. That mental map frees your brain up to think about other things. Sometimes this works against you, like when you accidentally drive to work on your way to a barbecue, because the route to your friend’s house includes a section of your daily commute. We can become blind to details because our brain is operating on instinct. By the time you proof read your own work, your brain already knows the destination.”

Today I went to the movies with a friend, and despite having discussed (in detail) beforehand how we needed to pick up cheese from the grocery store on the way home to make omelets later, I found myself well past the turnoff before it even computed that I was supposed to be doing something other than following instinctive muscle memory.  All this to say, I feel the truth of Stockton’s words on a profound and immediate level.  And as an author, I’m well aware of just how prone I am to skip my characteristic typos.

The original 5 tips are still relevant

… but it’s just as important to understand why typos happen and to recognize three key things about them:

  • everyone makes errors;
  • these errors are unique and originate from somewhere that makes sense for each person; and
  • you are not a successful author if you magically avoid making any typos––you’re a successful author if you take steps to address the reality of errors in your writing and trust the tried-and-true editorial tips above to catch them.

It’s so easy to fixate on finding errors before you hand your manuscript off for other people to read, but in all reality part of the reason authors find early readers is to help with the editorial process!

tips for editing

If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

From the Archives: “There’s a Problem with Your Book”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: March 1st, 2011 ]

Your book published. Your family and friends have bought it. You’re excited…until they call you to tell you there were so many grammatical errors in the book that it was difficult to finish reading. “Oh no, I should have paid for copyediting”. Now you run the risk of “looking” unprofessional in the author community.

Too often authors are faced with the decision to either save their pennies or invest in editing services. They decide to bypass the editing. Fast forward to publication and many authors wish they would have made the extra investment. Even if you have gone through your manuscript with a fine tooth comb and had friends or family look it over, you’re almost guaranteed to find mistakes at publication. As a matter of fact, when you pay for professional copyediting services, the editor normally still has a 5% margin for error. With that margin of error from fresh and professionally trained eyes, imagine the level of error from amateur and familiar eyes.

When asked what they would have done differently when self-publishing their book, most authors agree they would have invested more money into professional copyediting and customizing their book cover.

So, I’m sold on the need for copyediting service, what do I need to know about working with an editor? Here are a few tips/things to keep in mind when you hire an editor:

  • Proofread and spell-check your work before sending it to an editor.
  • Remember that Editors are human and many work with about a 5% margin of error.
  • There are different levels of editing intensity: basic, moderate, and extensive.
  • Basic copyediting typically catches about 70% of errors in a manuscript.
  • As a self-publishing author, don’t focus on what the editor didn’t find, but rather what WAS found.
  • Review your manuscript again after you receive it from the editor to check for errors they may have missed.

If you want to be a successful author, it is important that you take the publishing process very seriously. That includes investing extra money into creating a polished product.

by Cheri Breeding

The topic of copyediting and the professional-grade book is not a new one to us here at Self-Publishing Advisor, but back in 2011 when Cheri first wrote her post it was not yet the standard by which most indie books were judged.  Since then, the industry has evolved, and we’ve written several times to try and sort out what copyediting might mean to the current aspiring self-publishing author.  (You can read those posts here and here.)

copyediting

Because we tackle this topic on a regular basis, it’s less helpful to rehash those posts than it is to do something a little different: I want to show you the difference between a professionally designed and copyedited book and one that hasn’t seen as much love and care put into its production.

Let’s start with covers.  To start, first let me say that it’s no exaggeration that there are two terribly designed self-published book covers out there for every good one.  All you have to do is look at the templates people are choosing from …

… to see why this is so easily and so often the case.  A professionally designed cover makes all the difference to your book’s impact on potential readers, and all the difference as to whether they actually choose to pay to purchase it.  Here are two neat examples of self-published books I’ve seen recently that I felt immediately drawn to for no other reason than the fact they are beautifully designed:

What I love most about these two examples is that they put the lie to any claim that genre fiction leans easily toward poor design.  Cazanav’s book is billed as paranormal fantasy, and Taylor’s as literary fiction––but if anything, Cazanav’s is sharper, more specific, and more revealing of the book’s content and tone.  That’s a good move!

So, let’s assume you’re sold on a professionally-designed cover.  What happens when you crack the spine and turn to the first page?  Does anything change?  Yes and no.  As Kyle Beshears writes on his blog, there’s real value to investing time and money into getting the exact design you want inside of your book as well as out.  Beshears chronicles his entire journey to self-publication, and points out that his choices––which always involved taking the cheapest option, even if it meant sacrificing untold hours of time and labor for his entire family––is not, in the end, a path worth following for many indie authors.

cover_comparison

Just getting the title page of his book to look the way he wanted (above, on the right) was a lengthy struggle.  Paying a little money up front doesn’t just ensure you get the design you want––it ensures you have an active advocate or team of advocates working for you and on your behalf to make sure your book is as beautiful as you’ve always hoped.

On a paragraph-by-paragraph basis, copyediting does for your sentences what a graphic designer does for your cover––which is to say, a copyeditor will whip your lines into shape and help you revise your book into something even stronger, and more compelling, than you could do on your own.  Relying on friends and family to be early readers is a good move, but relying on them to bring the same expertise and incisive vision as a career copyeditor who has been in the publishing industry for years and years is not such a good move.  Copyediting isn’t about changing what you do––it’s about making sure you create the best book possible and shifting some of the burden of perfection and hyperspecific industry insight off of your shoulders so that you can spend more time doing what you love: writing new books!

If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

In Your Corner : Speaking Out and Speaking Strong

For those of you who are new to self-publishing and who are new to writing book-length manuscripts as well, the act of cultivating of a resoundingly authentic and consistent voice can present a particularly difficult (and ongoing!) struggle.  What is voice?  And how do we go about cultivating one, much less stick with it through chapter after chapter while negotiating other, competing concerns?

Voice, simply put, is your personality made manifest in the style, characterization, plotting, and point of view that emerges over the course of your book.  Voice is the unique approach that distinguishes one author from another, even when they’re writing the same story.  Voice sets Jackson Pearce’s Sisters Red apart from Marissa Meyer’s Scarlet apart from Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber apart from the Brother’s Grimm and their transcription of the original Red Riding Hood tale.  Distinctive voices allow us to revisit even a familiar, beloved storyline and get something new from it each and every time.

But authors are very rarely the written equivalent of a Maybelline commercial: nobody, and I repeat, nobody is “born with it” in the sense that a kitten is born adorable and fire is born when a lit match touches a candlewick.  Which is not to say any of us use cosmetics companies as standards for authorial experience, but we do sometimes fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to other authors that we respect and admire as if those authors were delivered into the universe with the tools and skill and voice requisite to connect them with their readers in later life.  It simply doesn’t happen that way!  And a captivating voice, like every other aspect of good writing, takes time and work to acquire.

david mccullough

In order to develop clear thinking and therefore a clear voice, an author must do two things that might, at first glance, seem contradictory: pay close attention to detail, and relax into the writing process.  Whoa there, you’re thinking.  I can’t do both at the same time!  And this may in fact be true: everyone’s writing process looks different.  (And mine, I must admit, even looks different from one day to the next.)  Whether you apply yourself to both of these things at the same time or separately doesn’t matter so much as ensuring that you do them both at some point.  And I personally lean heavily towards relaxing first, and then applying a microscope later––but some authors prefer to go into the drafting stage with a rigorous outline and a bundle of research already in hand, which is perfectly wonderful too.

The benefit of paying close attention is that you’ll notice when your voice changes.  I find this particularly applies when reading aloud a passage I’ve written, although that might take more time than you have if you’re reading an entire manuscript.  Keep a weather eye out for shifts in tense, plurality, characterization, and vocabulary as well as sentence structure as you go along––a sudden jump in any of these things can give a reader pause, and halt the flow of your prose.  And sometimes, these shifts slide completely under the radar; after months or even years of writing our manuscripts, we as authors simply cannot edit our own books!  It becomes impossible to hold both the big picture and the finer points of editorial expertise in mind when writing––we tend to either fixate on all the little flaws that only we can see, or our eyes skip over plot holes and inconsistencies in voice because we know what’s going on and our minds fill in the gaps automatically.  This is where a professional editor, like the ones I work with over at Outskirts Press, comes in handy.

Editing is not optional for the dedicated author, but there are all sorts of reasons––including the ones stated above––why we need to seek out fresh sets of eyes in addition to our own during the editing and revision processes.  Casual editors and first readers, such as friends and family, can be useful during the early stages, but what we all really need––what self-publishing authors specifically need––is someone on hand who can recommend changes based on years of experience and a wealth of industry expertise.  Not to mention, someone who will help you spot the points in your manuscript when you need to circle back around to a consistent voice.  A good editor may recommend changes, but ultimately, the author’s wishes and vision for a book are respected––and that is what is published.  A captivating voice is, when push comes to shove, something that taps into a shared relationship between author and text … and that sort of relationship cannot be manufactured.

voice in self publishing

Which brings me to my second point.  To create a unifying and consistent voice, an author really must relax and let the inspiration flow uninterrupted.  Jack Kerouac’s On the Road may be an extreme example of continuity in writing leading to continuity in voice, but it does illustrate the point that whatever you can do to limit your exposure to emotional and physical disruptions while writing––do.  Kerouac locked himself away for three weeks while he typed up the continuous “scroll” that would eventually form the base manuscript for his book, but you don’t have to go to such extreme measures to write a good book or to relax into the writing process!  You know the boundaries of your own mind and attention best, so you know what must be done to cut through all of the white noise generated by everyday life.  And not to harp on like a broken record, but seeking a professional editor for your book will lift the burden of obsessing over the details and leave you free to do what you do best: write.  That’s it, that’s really it: you write books, and you’ll write better books when you’re “in the zone,” or when you’re physically and emotionally free to stack word on word until something beautiful and unexpectedly perfect happens––and you have a book.

Writing is hard.  Writing well is even harder.  But you have a voice that the world needs to hear, and a book that the world needs to read.  And always remember:

You’re not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

GUEST POST: Rob Mangelson of Outskirts Press on Editing

Every once in a while, we have the pleasure of featuring a blog post written by an expert outside of our small circle here at Self Publishing Advisor.  This week, we get to hear from Rob Mangelson, an independent contractor and marketing professional affiliated with Outskirts Press, a hybrid self-publishing company based out of the Denver, Colorado area.  We’ve actually run across the folks from OP before–as recently as two weeks ago, as a matter of fact–but here we have a chance to catch a few words direct from the source, so to speak.  So with no further ado, here are some of Rob’s thoughts on the subject of editing.


A professional editor is your last, best hurdle before sending your book off to publish. While it may seem an optional service, there are compelling reasons why you may not want to think of it as “optional” – not when your reputation and product quality are at stake.

editing

It’s humbling to submit a highly personal work to someone we imagine gleefully buying red ink by the barrel. However, in this case, red ink is your best friend. Here are three ways your investment in a professional editor will pay for itself:

  1. An editor is your best beta-tester. Your book is your product, and there’s no better way to “test” your product before it goes to market than with a professional editor – more than one editor, if it’s feasible. A test run of how your product might perform in the marketplace more than pays for itself, allowing you to tweak your writing and marketing to reach the right readers and keep them hooked once you do. In a perfect world, every publishing author would have the luxury of both an editor and a team of beta readers, but if you have to choose, hire a pro.
  2. Editors help you get your point across. You know what you mean to say – but will readers understand the ideas you’re trying to get across? There’s no way to know until you get someone “outside your head” to view your work from the perspective of a potential reader. This is one of the main missions of the editing process, and one that ensures that your words have the intended effect on the intended target audience so you can resonate with readers – and sell more books!
  3. Editors see “invisible” problems. By the time a book is close to finished and nearly ready for publication, most publishing authors have gone through it with a fine-toothed comb, often multiple times. But no matter how thoroughly and how often you review your own work, even the most conscientious authors can become blind to errors in their own prose. Even a couple of minor errors in your book can destroy your credibility and hurt your sales, making the services of a professional editor well worth a modest investment.

Remember, editors are, like you, avid readers and writers with the added advantage of having expertise in their field. Use that expertise to your advantage to get the most polished product possible. You’ll never regret it.


Thanks for reading!  Keep up with our guests and our archival visits by watching this space every Tuesday!

Self Publishing Advisor

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