Editor Interview Number Four – Kris Kendall

Hi, welcome to the Library of Erana and thank you for talking to us today.

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your editing experience. Thank you so much for having me. I’m Kris Kendall of Final-Edits.com. I’ve been editing for indie authors for about four years now and have had such an amazing experience. What started out as an occasional project has turned into my obsession. It’s so much fun!

How did you get into this line of work? I started with just offering free services to friends who were writing Twilight fanfiction but needed a little help with the proofreading. And when I say friends, I mean strangers that I stalked because I loved their stories. I built a few close friendships there that led into the business I have today. It’s been quite a ride!

Are there genres you refuse, if so why is that? I generally refuse religious and non-fiction work. I just can’t get into those and it’s hard for me to edit a book I don’t like. Even when you’re being paid, if you aren’t interested in the topic, it’s hard to be objective about what’s “boring” or what should be rewritten. I’ve had a few religious books slip through and I was very outspoken with my opinions on how I thought readers (well, me specifically) would react to their messages. Those clients haven’t been back. LOL. 😉

Are you also a writer?  If so do you self-edit or do you use the services of another editor? For the first three years of editing, I held onto the longtime opinion that “I could never write a book.”

However, I started working on a Mature YA book over the past year so I guess now I can say I’m a writer. I’ve learned a lot of what to do and what not to do by reading so many other authors that I feel it’s worth a shot. I might be terrible at it but I have to try at least once. When I’m done with my book, I’ll definitely use an editor. I have a few friends that will beta read for me and then I’ll hire a professional editor to really clean it up. Not only is it hard to self-edit but by the time I’m done, I’ll probably be sick of reading it.

What are your opinions of self-edited work by authors? Don’t do it. No matter how ‘meticulous’ you think you are, you will miss errors that your brain fills in. It might be references to sections that you’ve deleted and forgot about or just missing words that you don’t notice. Every book needs an objective set of eyes to review it at least once before it’s published. Some authors can get away with publishing first, editing, and then republishing but that usually only happens after many bad reviews have come in. Every one or two star review will hurt your ranking so it’s not worth the risk. A few more weeks could save a lot of heartache in the long run.

Please could you tell us about the process involved with editing for, say, a 100k word manuscript. Well, I still have a full-time “day job” so my editing schedule is probably slower than someone who can do it all day long. So, a 100k word manuscript will usually take me 2-4 weeks, depending on how “life” is going. I start at the beginning and use word “track changes” to mark it up. Unless it’s just a high level proofread, I look up every word that I’m not familiar with and spend a lot of time on the Chicago Manual of Style website.

I’m no grammar nazi so I have to look up the same rules about comma usage and hyphens and compound words on a daily basis. You’d think it would stick but I always feel better when I look up a rule (even if I’ve looked it up 100 times before) just to make sure.  I also make a lot of notes to the author about where I’m confused or I think something is out of character. It’s so easy to have a phrase (remember “sure, sure”) that is a signature of one character but then when other characters start using it, it’s not always intentional. Sometimes just a simple “did you mean to do that” to the author will make a big difference in the flow of a story.

What is the difference between proof-reading and editing? For me, a proofread is really about finding errors but editing is taking the book to the next level. It’s pointing out where something is missing or confusing and rewriting sentences to flow better. Those aren’t necessarily errors but the book is better when a word isn’t repeated four times over two sentences.

I try to read slowly when I’m editing so I’m really “hearing” every word in my head and paying attention to details like the time of day or the placement of body parts. For example, if the woman is resting her left hand on the guy’s waist, she probably isn’t also biting her left pinky nail in the next sentence. Silly things like that can stop up a reader so I try to find those things and adjust them before they leave my desk. Just changing it to biting her right pinky nail isn’t going to change the intention of the story but now it’s physically plausible.

Do you have part of the process you really enjoy? Is there a part you don’t? My favorite part is when I find a major plot hole or inconsistency that could have really ruined the story. It doesn’t happen with every book but sometimes an author just forgets about a detail or changes something that has a ripple effect and when I can catch that and save that book from a string of bad reviews, I feel like it’s worth all the long nights I put into it.

My least favorite part is having to constantly look up grammar rules. LOL. I didn’t like it in school and I don’t love it now….but that’s part of the job.

Outside of your work as an editor do you read for pleasure? Constantly. I can’t really fall asleep without some kindle time. Sometimes it’s only twenty minutes but other nights I can read for hours. The worst is when I’m still reading when the morning alarm goes off. Those are usually rough days.

If so do you find yourself editing the work as you go or are you able to “switch off?” I do notice typos in almost every book I read (self-published or not) but I can ignore them for the most part. If it’s a really good book with really bad mistakes, I’ll often write a note to the author and offer to edit for them…sometimes for free. It breaks my heart when a good book gets trashed because the author had a bad editor or no editor at all.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as an editor? Look up everything. If you aren’t sure about a word, look it up. I use merriam-webster as my bible. However they spell it is how I spell it. Same with commas and hyphens and semicolons. If you aren’t sure, look it up. It only takes a few minutes and will make a huge difference in the quality of your work.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-edit? Be prepared to get some negative comments about typos. No matter how many times you read it, you’ll still miss a few (or a lot). I know budgets are tight and it’s hard to justify paying an editor for a book that might not make a penny…but if you think you have something that people will buy, you’ll regret not getting it up to par at the beginning. Also, and this might sound harsh but it’s true, indie authors tend to get a bad rep for having lots of typos and every book that goes out without a proper edit just makes it that much harder for the indies to be taken seriously. If you can’t afford an editor, contact a local high school (if your content is appropriate for those grade levels) and ask if they have any students that would be willing to help for $50. You might be surprised what an AP English student can do. It might not be perfect but it’ll be better than nothing.

(Want proof? How many typos did you find in this post? I self-edited it twice! 😉

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Indie Block Party Post 7 – Writing Tips and Advice

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This week focuses more on sharing advice and resources than actively promoting our own books. Hopefully we can all learn from these tips and find useful links and suggestions. Most of the authors I meet are a supportive and helpful lot, which is just as well as writing itself can be quite lonely and frustrating. I have learned a great deal, and made new friends within the writing community. Shared information is valuable, knowledge is power.

Share your most helpful writing tips and advice. What do you know now that you wished you had known when you started writing?

New writers are given an awful lot of information, much of it contradictory and it is very difficult to know the good advice from the bad. Experience is a great teacher!

Here are my top 6 tips:

1)    Keep writing. This is seems to be consistent advice from all the sources I have seen. A single book is great but it is hard to build a fan base with just one title and if readers like your work they may well look out for other articles and stories. I do as a reader. As your writing experience grows you will learn what works and what doesn’t. Write for anthologies, write for your blog or someone else’s or write for research. Yahoo Voices have many interesting blog-type articles and it is a way to build a fan base. Researching for your novel? Great, use that research to help others. There are lots of anthologies looking for submissions (see links below) and some pay, although some don’t. Even the free ones are useful in getting your name out there and are writing practice.

2)    Have a thick skin, you will need it. There will ALWAYS be someone who doesn’t like your book, will be offended by it, hate the characters or simply not get it. We do not all like the same things, if we did the world would be boring indeed.  Bad reviews hurt, but most books have at least one and unless the reviewer has a personal issue with the author (which occasionally happens) then it is one opinion. Reviews are just that – opinions, which can be as varied as the books they discuss.

No writer likes to be told their book sucks and it can be hard to deal with. One of the best pieces of advice is don’t comment, or if you feel you must then be polite, thank the reviewer for their comments and move on. Commenting, especially negatively will do far more harm, go and rant to your best friend, yell at the wall, go for a walk and release that is one person’s opinion only. The next reviewer may love the book. Even negative reviews, except the spiteful ones, have useful advice.

It is hard to work out how much store readers put on reviews, many do look and most simply filter out those which either say nothing or the obviously spiteful or overly gushing ones, but in a couple of studies I have done reviews are surprisingly low on the scale. A good cover, a synopsis which pulls in the reader and recommendations from friends seem more important. If the book is selling don’t worry too much.

3)    Write the book you want to write. Now I am sure other writers might disagree with this tip but not all. Forcing a story to work, editing out important plot ideas or making characters do something they wouldn’t do may well make the story weaker. Write the book YOU want to read. Would you enjoy it? If the answer is yes then go with it. A forced plot will show itself to be just that.  It may depend on whether you are intending to self-publish or whether you are intending to submit to a publishing house of course and whether you intend to get an editor.

4)    Write the best book you can. No book is perfect. Even best sellers have typos which slip through, weak plots or naff characters. However if you are an indie the threshold seems to be higher…there are plenty of posts and threads berating indie self-published books as being substandard. In some cases this is true, we have all seen them but there are very many books which are great, yes some may be a little rough around the edges but the good stories and talent are out there. There are plenty of traditionally published books which are awful. That said releasing a book full of typos, terrible grammar and weak plot/characters is not advisable. Spellcheckers are useful, but invest in a dictionary, a thesaurus and a writing guide. If you can find beta readers or critique groups then do so.

If you decide to self-edit then put the manuscript aside for a while and write (or read) something new. You will see the work with fresher eyes. I know from experience I see what I think is there not what IS there. If you can afford an editor then it is advisable to consider it, but there are great books which have been self-edited. If you choose this route be thorough, it may take several passes through. Although earlier I said write the book YOU want you do need to be strict when editing. It is easy to get carried away and go off on a tangent. Does the scene add to the story/characterisation/world-building? No – then lose it.

5)    Research and plausibility. This is rather dependent on genre of course but willing suspension of disbelief only goes so far. Fantasy gives a lot of scope, especially magic but it still needs to be consistent. Research gives the writer credibility, if you say something works which we KNOW doesn’t work in that way then at the least back it up in the story with some plausibility, or better still find something which people know does work that way. Gravity is gravity. Research medieval battle, weapons and armour, field medicine, herb-lore and such like if you are planning a fight. Movie fight scenes look great visually but aren’t really that accurate. What damage DOES a long sword do? What IS the range of a long bow. You needn’t go into too much detail in the book, but knowing if your archer can hit that bad-guy lurking in the Dark-lord’s tower is helpful. Books can educate, and encourage people to research for themselves, especially if set in a certain time period but accuracy is the key. Of course many readers won’t go on to research or have any interest in the origins of the long bow, the war horse but some might. Besides research is great, it is amazing what you can discover!

6)    READ THE DAMN MANUAL! Really I mean it. Spend a bit of time not only reading writing guides but the FAQ of KDP, Smashwords, Lulu or wherever it is you choose to publish. It will make life a lot easier. There are several free books available – ‘Publish your work on Kindle’, ‘How to Publish on Smashwords’ for example. Most of the sites have extensive guidelines and forums. That is another thing most people have struggled with whatever it is you are struggling with so search the forums for answers. You are now a business person as well as a writer and it helps to know what to do.

What do I wish I had known at the beginning? Marketing is HARD. Where is the line between being a spammy needy author and promoting in such a way that people will check out your books and not be annoyed? Well that depends on who you ask…some people hate any mention of the product, some don’t mind a small amount and some say as much as you can do is the way to go. If I find the right level I will let you know.

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