Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Liz Bailey Shares Her Top Five Editing Tips

Editing your novel - five top tips

1.      Read it like a reader.

You’re wearing a different hat when you read over your draft novel.  Like your characters, you have to switch viewpoint.   It’s no longer your baby.  As a reader, you are free to like some bits and dislike others.  If you can look at the thing from this angle, you’ll notice the flaws at once.  But you’ll also notice the parts that work.

A reader doesn’t watch out for anything specific.  You don’t find her thinking, “Hmm, this author isn’t too hot on pacing.”  If the story sags, the reader just skips to get to the good bit.

So don’t read with a list of craft points in your head.  Just read in the expectation of enjoyment, like you would with someone else’s novel.

2.  Read it in as few sittings as possible.

Make time for a nice long wallow in your own book.  The faster you read it, the more you’ll recognise problems.  Sketchy reading means you aren’t carrying all the strands of the story in your head and you’ll miss things.  Make like it’s unputdownable, and take the same breaks you’d take as a reader - to eat, drink or sleep.

And you know what?  Maybe it will turn out to be unputdownable.  And if it turns out to be a wallbanger, at least you’ll be wise to that!

3.      Make brief notes.

As you go, you’ll need a pad and pen.  Jot down the page number and the briefest possible comment.  Examples:  pg 42 - don’t head-hop to Alex.  pg 65 - why hasn’t he noticed her mussed hair?  pg 82 - para on why Gail furious - confusing, rephrase.  Ch 5 - boring and saggy.

If you try and write too much, you’ll pull yourself out of the story and lose freshness as well as continuity.

4.      Write yourself a critique.

Once you’ve finished the reading, write down your first impressions about what’s good and what needs changing.  Put in any ideas you have for improvement.  This is just a bulk up for your page numbered notes and gives an overall view of the text.  You’re not trying to write an assessment report.

Trust yourself on this one.  You’re writing for readers and you’re a reader.  Your snap judgement is likely to be correct. 

5.      Tackle easy changes first.

Now you’re wearing your editor’s hat.  It’s daunting to try and fix major changes.  Let it simmer for a few days first.  Then fix a few easy things as a warm-up.  Once you start making changes, you’ll be into the rewriting process and it won’t feel so tough.  If you can’t work out how to change something, leave it and do a different part of the book.  Editing is like working a patchwork quilt: you build it up in small sections.  So it doesn’t matter where you start.

Once you start, though, keep going.  You don’t want to lose the benefit of your overall reader viewpoint.

Let’s get editing critiques under the author’s control

I’ve launched an assessment and mentoring critique service to help unpublished novelists achieve publication standard.  My main criteria are for authors to have choices about how much guidance they need, to make the service affordable and to be available for discussion afterwards.

Whether you want a read and general assessment of where you’re going and what needs looking at, or an in-depth critique with chapter and verse, you decide.  You can try me out with a chapter or two to find out how much help I’m likely to be.  And I’ll accept staggered payments to make bigger commitments more affordable.

If you want mentoring help through the writing process, that’s available too, and you can opt out at any point.  I’ll encourage you to write to deadlines you can work with and unstick you if you get stuck.

You choose.  Email me for more info on and there’s a blog coming shortly.

As for my credentials, I’ve just changed genre from historical romance (18 published titles with Harlequin Mills and Boon) to historical crime.  I wrote, edited and polished the first book in just over four months and landed an agent in six weeks - watch this space.  I’ve had a lite lit novel in the Booker list, and I’ve read and critiqued for the NWS, run numerous workshops and seminars, and I’m a long time drama teacher.

My unpublished novels amount to millions of words - I’ve learned the hard way.  But you don’t have to.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

August Releases

Little Black Dress
Publication date - 5/8/10

Tia has reinvented herself but will her secret past as Big barb come back to haunt her when she meets her unrequited teenage crush once more?

Mary Nichols - THE FOUNTAIN
Allison & Busby
August 2010
George Kennett aspires to be somebody in his local community and is not above shady deals to bring this about, in which he expects his wife, Barbara, to collude.  It is George's dishonest scheme to get the contract to instal a new fountain in the Market Square which brings everything to a devastating climax.

Liz Fielding - SOS: Convenient Husband Required/Winning a Groom in Ten Dates
(Cara Colter)
Harlequin Mills & Boon
6 August
Revenge is a dish best served cold but someone forgot to turn off the pilot light.

Gwen Kirkwood- A HOME OF OUR OWN
Severn House
24th August
Avril has promised to make a home for her twin brothers.
Dean Scott is proud but he has few prospects and a possessive mother.
Can the two keep their promises and self respect.

Noelene Jenkinson -LOVING LUCY
24 August 2010
Lucy McCarthy returns to Australia from her work with UNICEF in Indonesia for her father’s funeral, only to discover that she is not his daughter. Old school friend, Flynn Pedersen, supports her and their former attraction is rekindled. Can each set their pasts aside and learn to love again?

Whisky Creek Press
Bored school teacher takes her brother's place and runs off to sea to seek adventure
- and she finds it !

Dales Paperback (large print)
15th August, 2010
You could say this is what Kate (and Matthew) did next, when their siblings were
almost grown and flown, but this is also a memoir fondly remembering my pantomine
days in Kent - and sending feathers flying...

Mills & Boon
August 2010
Hardback £13.99
Homeless and Penniless, Rosamund is forced to marry Harry, Lord Portman.  In return for a comfortable life, she must produce an heir, but far from sweeping her into his bed, Harry seems determined to keep her at arm's length.

Louise Allen -THE DISGRACEFUL MR RAVENHURST (Talking Book edition)
HMB (Whole Story Audio Books)
August 2010
We hear the notorious Mr R, while searching for a stolen artefact,
has had his attention caught by the unlikeliest of treasures...

August 8
Fern Jenkins' life is changed for ever when her brother is killed in action and her father dies in a mining explosion. Turned out of their home by the ruthless pit owner, Fern and her mother Wynne are forced to seek a new life in Cardiff. Whilst Wynne finds work in a factory, Fern attends the local school. But here she is bullied and is soon selling flowers outside Cardiff Central station to help make ends meet. When her mother is taken from her in an influenza epidemic, Fern has no one to protect her from her violent and possessive uncle. She longs to escape from the brutality and squalor around her and make something of herself. But with no money and her only friend away at sea, there seems little hope of her ever leaving her life of poverty behind, let alone finding the love she so yearns for...

Lesley Cookman - MURDER IN THE GREEN (Audio Book)
Libby Sarjeant in her sixth adventure goes down among the Morris Men.

3rd August 2010
Love? Might as well ask for the moon. But a man can dream…

Samhain Publishing
On the very day Jonty Stewart proposes that he and Orlando Coppersmith move in together, Fate trips them up. Rather, it trips Orlando, sending him down a flight of stairs and leaving him with an injury that erases his memory. Instead of taking the next step in their relationship, they’re back to square one. It’s bad enough that Orlando doesn’t remember being intimate with Jonty—he doesn’t remember Jonty at all.