How I edit: paper vs. electronic formats

Ever since I went freelance and started critiquing manuscripts directly for authors, I’ve had people submit their manuscripts to me via email. It’s easier, and I don’t have to worry about publishing my home address on the internet.

However, I’ve always been an on-paper editor when it comes to the first developmental edit. When I’m reading on screen, I’m parsing out the sentences and paragraphs–I’m line editing and copyediting. It’s a completely different editing mindset. So trying to do big-picture developmental edits on screen was trying at first. And now I’ve realized why–that’s part of my process. It helps me to separate the early developmental edits from the line and copy edits–and it also allows me to physically be moving from page to page more quickly, and to page back more quickly, and so forth.

So from now on, for full manuscript critiques (which are full developmental edits, with notes in the margins, line edits in the text, and an editorial letter addressing big-picture issues), I think I’ll give people information on how to mail the manuscript to me after we’ve agreed to work together. That is, you’ll email me the first three chapters (three chapter critiques will remain electronic), then I’ll decide whether I’m the right editor for the job and give you an estimate if it looks promising. If we agree to the estimate, I will give you the mailing address for sending the manuscript–which will also give you the option to pay by check, for those who don’t want to deal with Paypal.

Hopefully this will be an improvement in the process for both you and for me. It will organize and make the process more efficient so that I won’t have to enter my changes into Word (which is time-consuming), and for most people it doesn’t matter whether comments are hand-written or in Track Changes. And it’ll make things easier for those who don’t have Word, as well.

The TBR pile

My desk is still groaning under the workload that I’m catching up on (finishing up another manuscript right now, about to send out the editorial letter, then on to more!), so I haven’t had much time to do much else. Hence the reason I haven’t posted in almost a week–not much to report. I’ll have more to report once I catch up and can finish the other things I have waiting for me, which aren’t work so much as kinda-work-related-fun. Such as:

  • Halfway through Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce ([ljuser]tammypierce[/ljuser]). I liked her Alanna series, but I LOVE this latest series in the Tortall world featuring Beka Cooper, one of Alanna’s ancestors. The narration on the audiobook of the first book, Terrier, was just awesome–I’m not sure where the narrator’s accent was from, but it fit the story perfectly. I’m a slow reader in print, though–probably because I do so much reading for work–so I’ve had it for a week and I’m only about halfway through, like I said. But so far, that halfway part is good stuff.
  • ARC of The Maze Runner by James Dashner, which I had a little tiny bit of a hand in, so it’s excited to see the end product. (True story: I wanted it. Couldn’t acquire it for a multitude of reasons, had to say no. A week later, James sold it to Delacourt. Delacourte! [picture me there, fists to the sky, like Stephen Colbert] I’m really glad to see he found an editor who saw the vision of the book and took it probably farther than I could. So far, everything about the book is far and beyond better than what I read in manuscript form. Which it should be! That’s what the editorial process is for.)
  • ARC of I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells. He’s big in Europe. 🙂 Seriously! His first YA thriller came out already in England, though it won’t be published here until next year. The concept: a kid who is a sociopath but is trying not to grow up to become a serial killer. Creepy stuff! I haven’t read this book yet, but I’m excited for Dan, who is a personal friend, and looking forward to the read.
  • ARCs and full books of How to Ditch Your Fairy, Graceling, Skinned, Wintergirls, Skin Hunger, The Thief, Nightmare Academy, Kiki Strike, The Lightning Thief… the list goes on and on. Actually, all in that list were final books–I’m way behind, still, on my reading. I thought going freelance would give me more time for reading, but instead I find that I spend even more time working just to make ends meet, so when I’m done working I just want to do something else! Hence the anime craze lately.

What are you reading lately?

Can’t afford a prom dress? Check it out from the library.

Galesburg, IL is a town I consider my second hometown–I went to elementary school there for several years, and my mom has lived there for most of her life. I’m actually from Galva, a little town about 1/2 hour from Galesburg, but I spent a lot of time in Galesburg growing up to visit my mom after we moved back to my dad’s house, and of course every time I go home I spend a lot of time there visiting my mom.

The Galesburg Public Library was my library. The children’s room is where I discovered Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, the Hobbit, Judy Blume, and Garfield (it was the 80s). We were there during the summers practically every day–we would walk there from our apartment on the edge of town (it has to be at least 3 miles, but my big sister, little brother, and I made that walk a lot–I’m not sure how we did it, except that it was the only way to get there, with only one bus route in town and at a time in our lives when we didn’t always have a working car; with a single mom who often worked a lot, if we had a car and she wasn’t going to the library with us, she had the car with her at work).

So it was a nice surprise to see this article in School Library Journal, showcasing how the Galesburg Library has a program to share prom dresses with girls who might not otherwise be able to afford it. My own senior prom dress cost $5 on a yard sale, and was a good two or three years out of date (bubble skirts aged quickly in the late 80s/early 90s!) so this program hits pretty close to home for me. Galesburg and the towns around it have been hit hard economically for decades–this is nothing new; we’ve been dealing with a bad economy since the farm crisis in the 80s. The local foundries in several towns have been gone since the 80s, and the hog market (the main animal product of local farms) has been pretty dry since the late 90s. My dad drove Butler steel beams for construction sites on long-haul for 17 years after we lost our farm in the 80s, and now Butler is gone. My aunt worked at the Maytag plant for over 25 years–as did several friends–and that plant shut down back in 01 or 02.

As you can imagine, there’s a reason I don’t live near home–there are just few jobs to be had, and there haven’t been for years. So it’s always nice to hear good news from home–and it’s even better to see that good news in a national magazine. I’d love to hear job news for my friends still living closer to home, of course–but it’s still great to hear that despite the area’s economic troubles, people are making sure that a milestone experience for many teen girls is a happy one.

Upcoming events

This Wednesday (as in, two days from now) I’ll be speaking at the Salt Lake Public Library for the monthly SCBWI meeting. That’s at 7pm, at the 4th South main library. Topic of the evening is the state of YA and children’s fantasy and science fiction.

In a couple of weeks I’ll speak in Layton, UT at the Barnes & Noble, for the Wasatch Writers chapter of the League of Utah Writers. That’s Monday, April 13, at 7 pm, 1780 Woodland Park Drive in Layton. Topic: what I do as a freelancer and how I work with Tor as a consulting editor.

Later this month, I’ll be at the LDStorymakers conference in Provo.

Then on May 2, I’ve been asked to come to The Dragon’s Keep in Provo  as a creator guest for Free Comic Book Day.

If you’re local, hope to see you at some or all of these.

The writer’s toolbox: grammar

A random thought that has occurred to me as I’ve done a number of critiques in the last few months:

A lot of people say that grammar doesn’t matter because the editor fixes that anyway.


The voice of your book is shown in how the narrator uses grammar. Oh, a typo here or there isn’t going to make a difference–yes, copyeditors catch that.

But if there are so many spelling errors and comma splices and syntax errors that it’s impossible to make out just what the meaning of a sentence (or paragraph) is, you’re undermining the story you’re trying to communicate. Writing is all about communication, and to communicate well, grammar plays a vital role. It seems pretty basic to me that if you want to tell a story well, you need to know how to construct a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter, etc.

Just thought I’d throw that out there as something to think about. Grammar is part of your toolbox. Use it.


I just hired an intern. Or “hired,” more like–she’s just doing this for the experience. But it’ll be great to have a little help every week with organization and reader reports.

Also, my reading backlog is slowly clearing out this week and next–if I have something from you to consider for Tor, you should either be hearing from me soon… or maybe not so soon but sooner than later. If it’s something that I will be taking to the next level of consideration and doesn’t need further work, it might take a little more time, of course. For those that I might have questions on, hopefully we’ll be discussing those in the next week or two. Thanks for your patience.

And wow, there are a lot of you out there who need critiques this week! That’s wonderful! I’m glad to help. But given how much attention I’ve gotten due to LTUE last week and Cynthia Leitich Smith’s interview, I’ll be a little slower than normal due to volume and the need to juggle other non-critique projects. It’s stretching to a 2-5 business day turnaround at the moment, though it fluctuates. Thanks for your patience, too.


Had a great Christmas Eve with a friend watching the extended edition of The Two Towers, then slept in Christmas morning, opened the presents my grandma and sister had sent me (vintage Whitman’s candy tin! It’s so fun–my grandma’s been collecting them for years and decided to start giving them out to grandkids who might like them), then spent the rest of the day with friends. Christmas in my family is big–well, my family is big, so Christmas tends to be big: everyone goes to Grandma’s, goes to church with her for the midnight service, stays up late to stuff stockings and play Santa, and then gets up early to watch the little kids open their presents. It’s been changing over the last few years as travel becomes more expensive, but I’ve always loved being able to go to my hometown and spend it with family. Since I couldn’t make it home this year, it was nice to be able to spend it with friends.

Yesterday afternoon I came up to Salt Lake to visit another friend, and ended up staying the night because the blizzard moved in and there was no way I should be driving in that wind and snow and ice. So I crashed on the couch, and I’m hoping to get home today. I knew it was a possibility that I might not be able to drive home, so I brought a change of clothes and loaded the kitties up on dry food and water, so they’re fine, but I want to be able to get back home in time for anime night! I have more Wolf’s Rain… I think. It might not be coming until tomorrow. And I need to put my office back to rights and finish painting the last corner. It looks so nice! I think I’m going to run out of paint, so I’m trying to go thick on the visible parts and hey, if it’s white behind the ceiling-height bookshelves, well, I have to repaint when I move out anyway, right?


Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and that as Kwanzaa begins, Hanukkah ends, etc. that you’ve all had a good time with family and friends. Looking forward to the new year!