Querying Agents: Should you Hire an Editor First?

So you’ve completed the first draft of your novel, edited it the to best of your abilities and now you’re ready to query. Maybe you’re further along than that – perhaps the rejections have started rolling in and you’re wondering if you should hire a professional. And here is the important question: Would hiring an editor help you get representation from an agent or perhaps even lead to becoming published?

After my recent one-to-one with an editor I’ve battled with this question. Some of the advice I received resonated with my gut instinct. Great. Whilst other parts I’ve debated with my betas, toyed with changes and generally procrastinated over. Who’s opinion should I trust more, someone in the industry for 20yrs or just little, blundering novice, me.

On Friday I attended a writing conference with a fellow blogger from Uninspired Writers and we had two agents from Greene & Heaton give us their opinion on the matter. Working with any professional can be a costly matter, which may well be outside of many writers grasp.

But a far more interesting point was; agents are used to working with writers who have a rough draft, it’s their job to know how to edit a manuscript to make it shine. Provided your MS is polished to it’s best and has no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. By implementing an editor’s changes you’re effectively adding a third persons subjectivity to the mix. You may end up editing out parts that the agent would have loved and add elements they hate.

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These points aligns with previous advice I’ve heard, which is, by working with an editor before submitting your manuscript, it is no longer authentically yours. Because it has been enhanced by someone else. The agents may well assume your work is up to scratch only to discover that it is not.

I think these pose an interesting conundrum. Who amongst us wouldn’t want to jump the queue and get ahead? But is that really benefiting us in the long haul. On the other hand, having areas in our manuscript highlighted as weak by an editor, critique partner or beta, especially if we had a niggling feeling it was, can only benefit us.

Remember advice is subjective, an agents preferences is subjective, heck this blog post is subjective.

Listen to that inner voice and have faith in your journey. If you want to work with an editor, do it and learn from it. If you’re struggling with someone’s feedback, because you believe those elements are integral to your story, listen to your gut instinct and leave them in your story.

You are the master creator of your world – in fiction and reality.

Fantasy writer Lorraine Ambers blog banner

Have you heard similar advice from professionals? Or have you worked with an editor and known in your heart their changes would help or hinder your story? If so, share them with me, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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Writing The Perfect Opening Chapter… and what not to do

The first chapter of your novel is important; its where you’ll hook your reader, introduce your protagonist, hint at the antagonist, reveal their goal and introduce the stakes. And that’s not all, writing the first chapter will set up the rest of your novel, linking all of the plot points together.

Are you overwhelmed yet? I know I am. I thought I knew how to write a great first scene. Turns out, I was wrong and in today’s post I’ll tell you why.

We’re constantly told not to open with a clique start: No starting in the middle of a battle scene, waking up from a dream, or with lots of internal monologue while your character does something mundane like washing the dishes.

But we’re also told to show the character in his ordinary life, just before a pivotal point which will start the story and raise the stakes. BUT make sure it’s not the inciting incident, because that comes a little later. What?

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The first chapter should focus on your main character, don’t clutter the scene with secondary characters, unless they play an important role. Eeh?

Make sure you give the reader all the details; age, weather, time of year, appearance, their fears, a goal and, of course introduce the stakes. BUT don’t bog down the scene with exposition. Right?

World build: Know the rules of your magic system and adhere to them. BUT don’t throw too much at the reader and confuse them.

Start with an action scene to hook the reader, something to show the character actively engaging with the world around him, be careful not to write a passive character that gets led alone. BUT remember the reader doesn’t know the character yet, so why should they care if they get killed in battle.

Please, no prologues. Unless it adds to the story, them yes give the reader a prologue.  Ahh, screams at the conflicting advice and throws a fluffy pillow across the room.

Whilst wending my way through the S**t storm of conflicting information, I wrote a great chapter, but I also got it seriously wrong. I did not ask, Why should the reader care about my Main Characters?

You see, I’d used the checklist of Do’s and Don’ts, but completely forgot the power of empathy. We need our readers to become invested in our characters, right from the start.

And there we have it writer friends, there is no one-stop-post to fix your first chapter. It takes persistence, a continuation of building upon your craft, getting honest feedback, and practice, practice, practice.

Never give up, my writer friends. I believe in you.

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Please share your experiences of writing that all important first chapter, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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The Five Stages of Receiving Editorial Feedback

As much as we desire the truth about our writing it can be painful to hear the truth about our work. Of course, it can help us grow and become better, it how we learn and develop our craft. It’s a necessary part of the experience. If I’m being honest, I feel as though I’ve passed a benchmark in my journey, because I’ve dreamed of working with an editor, I just hadn’t expected such clarity from a brief one-to-one at a book fair.

Here’s a fun infographic poking fun at a writers experience of receiving critical feedback from an editor and the emotional process they go through. I hope you enjoy.

What have your experiences with editors been like? Good or bad, let me know if it helped you grow as a writer, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

How to Write a Synopsis Novel Story

How to Write a Synopsis

The thought of writing a synopsis is enough to make dread swirl in our guts. After months of plotting, writing and editing – we’re finally faced with five things that stops us in our tracks.

  • Novel title
  • Pitch/Logline
  • Blurb
  • Synopsis

In this week’s blog, I’ll be breaking down the elements needed for synopsis writing. Hopefully – removing your fear of how to craft one. It’s not hard… honest. It’s simply a different process.

One thing I discovered while writing my first synopsis, is that literary agents and publishers wants the complete story. So don’t leave them hanging with your story. Reveal the climax and ending.

The one page synopsis is intended to communicate to agents and publishers that you have a complete plot and character arc. They’ll be able to identify if the story works as a whole.

EE card Synopsis Writing Novel Craft Story

Tell the story. Keep it simple. I like to skim through my novel jotting down notes of plot points: Action & Emotion. From the notes, I begin to shape my synopsis. The notes highlight the important story elements. Always write your synopsis in 3rd person, even if the novel is 1st person and write in present tense.

Think of this as more of a technical paper, it’s a factual explanation of the events that drive your story. Don’t evoke your writing style and voice.

Set the stage by providing the setting and introduce your main characters (Protagonist and antagonist). Always introduce each characters NAME in full capitals, the first time they’re mentioned. Then include where the story starts and identify the inciting moment. But keep it simple. Use a few well-chosen words to evoke meaning.

  • Person
  • Time/Place
  • Action
  • Consequence

From there we begin to flesh out the details by revealing what the protagonist and antagonist are planning to do. Showing how, why and when are they going to do this. Don’t include side quests, additional characters or plot twists – unless they’re vital in explaining the story arc. There will be practically no backstory or description, it will clutter the synopsis.

Finally, it’s time to reveal how the story ends and how it was achieved. Remember to link it back to the inciting moment.

Author Lorraine Ambers YA fantasy romance

© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2018.

 

YA fantasy romance Author Lorraine Ambers Desk Beta Readers

Working with Beta Readers

Getting our writing critiqued is a vital learning process for writers. Through feedback, authors can mould their novel into a piece of work that’s coherent and has marketable appeal. Beta Reader’s response can help to judge which part of your book will work for your audience and those that may not.

I’ve wanted a Beta Reader for quite some time, but had no idea of how to go about it. Can we rely on our family and friends to be honest? Probably not, I tend to sugar coat things for those I care about.

How do we find Beta Readers?

Blogger Ari Meghlem recently asked this question on Facebook. Reaching out on social media is a great way of finding Beta Readers. It’s daunting. It requires bravery and a little common sense.

Finding the right reader is a vital first step. There’s no point in asking someone to read your genre if they don’t like it. Their feedback will be less than helpful. Ask questions and build a relationship. Your ideal reader should be similar to your target audience.

Debut Novel NA fantasy Author Lorraine Ambers Beta Reader

Here are my 3 tips for working with your Beta Reader.

 

Give Guidance

Develop a list of questions that you’d like answered. These might be about plot, pacing, strength of character, or the organisation of the stories concept. Your checklist should meet the specific needs of each book you write. As a great starting point for question inspiration, go check out some of my ideas on these Pinterest boards.

Learnt to love negative feedback

Not everyone will like your work. So you shouldn’t revise your book based entirely on one person’s perspective. Gaining different points of views can help pinpoint the areas that need working on. And as hard as it can be, ask yourself: Will addressing the issues make your book better? Sometimes accepting the truth hurts, but that’s how we grow and learn. So remember to thank your beta readers, and embrace their feedback.

Return the Favour

Offer to work in tandem with your BETA reader. Or consider returning the favour at a later date. By reading someone else’s work you can gain experience at reading with a critical eye. This will be invaluable when editing your own WIP.

I want to say a huge warm thanks to Ari for agreeing to beta read my first novel, her feedback so far has been fantastic. You can read Ari’s previous guest blog post Here.

Thanks for reading my post. Do you have any tips on working with beta readers? If so, please share.

Author Lorraine Ambers Web-Banner YA fantasy book review romance

 © Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2016.

 

Author Lorraine Ambers Books Reading Literature

Do you Misunderstand Literature?

paper pen writing novel author fantasy Lorraine Ambers

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Penfro book festival in Pembrokeshire and took a couple of writing workshops. The first one has lingered in my mind. The class was Making Words Workby author Hilary Shepherd. Her novels are In a foreign country and Animated Baggage.

I arrived ten minutes early to Hillary’s workshop. We discussed her experience with different editors and I confessed my excitement and apprehension of one day working with an editor. The prospect of how someone else would interpret my novel. In that moment I made a small connection with Hillary. Our conversation fitted nicely with what she wanted to convey during the workshop. That the right words can transform our writing into something wonderful, and by editing our work we can fine tune it to be clear and concise.

fairy book girl fantasy - Rachel Adams
photo credit: Rachel.Adams Once Upon a Time via photopin(license)

I understood the concept of the class but it threw me back to my English literature days. My English teacher and I clashed on most of my reviews. Humph!

I’m not alone in this. My daughter complains of the injustice of being misunderstood. Her teacher regularly asks her to interpret someone else’s writing but doesn’t agree with her answers. (I guess it’s a family trait.)

Book Reading Edit Write Literature

I remember this all too well, it was a common occurrence during my GCSE’s.

How can there only be one correct version to literature? Surely everyone garners a different perspective? We all have different tastes and quirks. Some of us may prefer the long descriptions of Dickens, whilst others love the beauty of emotions and the tug of heart strings.

Hilary gave us excerpts to read. It was easy to see what didn’t work. Yet harder to define what was great. I appreciate and admire great writing, but emulating it in my work is a different matter.

Instead I’ll strive to learn through vicarious reading, the practice of writing. Perhaps one day I’ll look at each piece of craft and dissect it with knowing eyes.

Author Lorraine Ambers YA fantasy romance
© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2016.

 

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#Editing – Removing crutch words

In the last #Editing blog we looked into Developing characters, if you missed it why not take a look. Next time we’ll be delving into emotional beats.

The first draft of my YA fantasy novel was finished. I’d succeeded in writing the story, working towards The End, scene by scene, until the book was complete.

Yay! It’s a fantastic feeling. An accomplishment of hard work, creativity and a dash of doubt.

If you’re working towards that goal, keep going, you can do it.

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So, what happens once you reach the finish line? It’s time to edit, revise, cut, add and alter your first draft. Working it until it’s the master piece it deserves to be.

Today I’m highlighting crutch words. Or in my case, an over use of body parts. How many times did I write heart, lips or eyes in that piece?

I’m talking about particular words that you’ve peppered your page with. You’ll being to notice the words you rely on. With diligence you can begin to remove them from your work.

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Edit out crutch words. Jot down a list of your culprits and search your document, preening them out. Try rewriting the sentence using different words? Ask yourself; do the words adding any meaning to the sentence? Will its removal, alter the story? Can the crutch word be replaced with an alternative description? Eliminating the obvious eyes sores before our readers identify them.

#TIP. Word document has a Find tool that searches and highlights them in your manuscript. Making it easy to alter or remove.

Air caution, when using the thesaurus. While its function is invaluable to us authors, it runs the risk of stripping our unique voice from the story. I must admit to replacing a word for a recommended substitute and losing the original meaning by not understanding the definition.

Hey!! I’m a creator of worlds, not a master literary knowledge. (Perhaps one day I’ll be both.)

My last tip is to read your work aloud. We’re often too close to our work to see fault. But by sounding out the writing, our brains have the ability to process the information, thus picking up on the crutch words. I find that reading out to my critique group gives me extra awareness. I’m guaranteed to find at least one more, even after a thorough edit.

An editor will spot these for you. Unfortunately, they won’t do the revision for you.

Yes, it’s tedious and hard work but with persistence your writing will improve.

What is your main crutch word? Don’t be shy. I love it when you share your thoughts and opinions.

 

 

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#editing – Developing characters

When I embarked on my writing journey I thought reaching The End of my novel would be the hardest hurdle to jump. Like my protagonist, Princess Alicia, I was naive. Blood, sweat and story arcs were merely the beginning.

I tried editing and revising my MS as I went along. Inevitably by the time I’d completed the novel, my knowledge had grown, my skill set sharpened and my craft had been honed. Meaning my early work needed an overhaul.

 

Beauty of Life. Quote Lorraine Ambers writer

How to create believable, well rounded characters? Try asking your characters some key questions helps to identify them. What are there likes, dislikes, what do they fear, what’s there hobby or passion, who’s there family?

I like to use Pinterest to develop my characters looks, fashion and settings. It’s an ideal playground for formulating the initial ideas to grow a character. With the added bonus of visual stimuli to remembering eye and hair colour, sense of style and interests. It may seem like I’m pratting about on the internet but its research. I’m a fantasy writer; where else would I get images of otherworldly figures?

fairy quote character traits Lorraine Ambers

You’ll be able to distinguish there negative and positive character trails. Add a backstory that fills out the characters life and combine them together. Most of the information won’t make it into the novel but it will guide there choices as they move through the story.

One of my grey areas was my protagonist Alicia. Her internal voice was spot on but her dialogue came across as mousy and boring. The truth was; until the book had been completed I wasn’t sure of her journey, of how she’d grow and develop. Let alone where I wanted her to start. In hind sight drafting a plot would have overcome this problem.

Another tip is to imagine speaking to your character. Or at least imagine it’s the character answering the dialogue. When you know your characters like they’re your best friend, you’ll know how they’d react in a situation and what they’d say; in some cases what they wouldn’t say. Sometimes the tension from silence speaks volumes in a scene.

Got any other tips, ideas or techniques to share with me? Please add them to my comments. I’d love to hear from you. 🙂