Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Guest Post by an Editor

Since announcing my book deal, a lot of people have asked me if I had an editor help me with my manuscript, KILLING RUBY ROSE, before I landed my agent and signed with Amazon Children's Publishing. The answer is YES.

Over a year ago, I met Natascha Jaffa at a writers conference. After talking for awhile, I discovered that 1) we live very near each other in Henderson, Nevada and 2) we needed to be friends because of her awesome editing skills. She seriously caught things that twelve others before her had missed. Things that would have made me look like a total rookie-idiot. Basically, she's the shiz. (See, I still need her help because I make up stupid words).

Without further ado, here's Natascha:

Revising Your MS in 10 Steps
Natascha Jaffa
Thank you, Jessie! I’m honored to be a guest on your blog today.

So a little bit about me. Aside from being married, having a new baby and being allergic to chocolate (gasp!), I have two careers; editing and writing. Luckily, they go hand in hand. In both worlds I’ve been through so many manuscripts, I’ve discovered two reactions when it comes to revising from authors.

Some forge onward through suggestion after suggestion from their beta readers and critique partners while others go into panic mode and shut down (we all know critiques can hurt). I’ve seen both. Many, many times.

Either way, you’re ready to revise and I’m here to help you avoid that major meltdown of, “I’m crap. My writing is crap. And this book is crap.”, by taking baby steps. Ten baby steps, in fact.

1.     Print out your manuscript. Easy peasy. Anyone can do this. And for those, like me, who HATE paper (seriously, I hate the feel of paper), working on paper is much easier on your brain and your eyes during revisions. You’ll see what I mean further down the list.
2.     Set your manuscript aside for a minimum of two weeks. I personally prefer one month, but that is usually because I have several projects going at one time and have scheduled them in one-month periods. Go work on another project and let this one stew. The reason you need to do this is to get perspective on your work. It is almost impossible to self-edit and this is coming from an editor AND a writer. You need to take a step back and take a deep breath to clear your head, making this possibly the most important step throughout the process. With a clear head you will see things/mistakes you didn’t before.
3.     Read your manuscript. Get a notepad, a separate document opened on your computer, sticky notes or however else you want keep track of ideas and make notes along the way. You are NOT going to make any changes to your manuscript at this time. By approaching your manuscript as a reader and not a writer, you can make sure the story flows, you have enough detail or too much and fix any major holes.
4.     Go ahead. Make the changes. Incorporate all of those notes you’ve taken. Maybe you’ve had to replace some scenes, add characters, or get rid of them. Make sure tension, flow, goals, motivations and conflicts are all present. Clean up your dialogue because you don’t want it to sound like the dialogue from Abduction (did anyone else see that movie?). For me, this is the most difficult part; making the story make sense because I tend to write chapters out of order. To get a better handle on this step, check out this great list:
5.     Justify every scene. My clients have such a hard time with this. It’s hard, but you have to cut the fat. Deborah Coonts, author of Wanna Get Lucky?, once told my RWA chapter that she knows why every word, sentence, paragraph, page and scene is in her novel. You need to too. Take a look at each scene in your book. Does it progress the plot forward? What importance does this scene bring to the whole of the novel? Is it developing character? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, neither will a reader and it needs to go. Sometimes, that means cutting whole chapters, which I’ve had to do. Ouch.
6.     Tighten your writing. A reader does not want to read, “he said/she said” at the end of every piece of dialogue. Editors don’t want adverbs or a sentence you’ve written in twenty words that could have been said in ten. Your story is set. Now, make it sound better. Use conjunctions, get rid of “that” when it’s used as a filler and avoid repetitive words, phrases and actions. The more succinct your writing, the better. Consequently, this cuts down your overall word count, but an agent, editor or publisher will appreciate it more than having 1,000 more words.
7.     Copyedit. You’re in my world now! The best piece of advice I’ve ever put into practice is to play 52 card pick-up with your manuscript. No, you’re not going to throw it up in the air and dance beneath them. Although, that would be fun. With this step, mix up every page of your MS. Separate those pages into 10 random piles then draw one page at a time and correct those mistakes. Grammar, spelling, typos, sentence structure, etc. With this technique, you’re getting a better perspective because you’re not getting caught up in the story.
8.     Submit to your critique group. The best way to see if your manuscript is ready for an agent/editor/publisher is to get multiple perspectives on your work. Others will catch what you haven’t and give different insight. Don’t have one? Start your research in your local area, your writing groups or even hire a freelance editor (umm, like me).
9.     Make the changes. Now, you have some, at least what I hope is, great feedback. Your critique group, beta reader or your editor has helped you tighten your writing, fix grammar and spelling mistakes, clarify POV and much more. Contemplate each suggestion. Does it work for the tone you’re trying to accomplish in a particular scene or chapter? Will it strengthen the plot or character or take away? Make sure the changes you make are ones you can live with and believe in.


10.  Celebrate! You’ve reached the end! Reward yourself for a job well done with a well-deserved break. And maybe some chocolate.

Natascha Jaffa established SPJ Editing in 2011. With a degree in psychology from Utah Valley University and a bachelors from Nevada State College, she considers herself a teacher rather than solely an editor and strives to help new and veteran authors reach their publishing goals.

Her recent projects include books placed with SirenBookstrand, Evernight Publishing, The Wild Rose Press, Secret Cravings Publishing, Ellora's Cave, Beyond the Page Publishing and Melange Books. She continues to actively build her client list and is currently seeking work in the following genres: Romance (historical, romantic suspense, paranormal, category, contemporary, erotic), urban fantasy, women’s fiction, mystery, thrillers, science fiction, fantasy and young adult.

Published in romantic suspense, she writes under the pen name Nichole Severn and can be reached through her website,, email:, Twitter @spjediting or Facebook (SPJ Editing).

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday Quickie: Track Your Stats

Good Monday to you all! And even if it's not's "good enough" for another installment of:

The Quickie

This is where I  post a QUICK WRITING TIP. A writing skill everyone should know. Whether it be technical or creative, useful or not, I'm gonna give it to you! You're gonna be humming the Usher song, "Love In This Club."

Or not. Here's the Quickie for today:


There are several websites that allow you to do this for free. The one that I use is They provide easy to follow instructions and over a dozen different ways to analyze the effectiveness of your blog/website.

But listen up extra close if you are querying or going on submission. Don't you want to know if the agent of your dreams is checking you out? Wouldn't you like to be informed as to whether an editor at Random House or Amazon Publishing is perusing your site? Couldn't it be extremely helpful to know which pages and posts they are spending time on? The answers to these critical questions and more are a resounding YES!

After I saw that an editor from Scholastic had spent a significant amount of time on my severely lame "ABOUT ME" page, I decided to spend some time improving that MONUMENTAL oversight.

So go get a stat tracker and start stalking the people who are stalking you! Peace!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Donate and Karma Might Make Your Wildest Dreams Come True

Several weeks ago, friend/best-selling author/writing mentor Dave Wolverton had a tragedy in his family when his son, Ben, was in a longboarding accident. Now Dave is looking at over a million dollars in hospital bills.

Today is the day many of us in the writing blogosphere have selected for a:
To learn more about this, GO HERE
Just remember that even small donations can make a BIG difference. And we're doing prizes for those that are willing to help by spreading the word or by making a donation!

See my sidebar for the link to donate. And also visit Leigh Covington's blog to enter a rafflecopter giveaway to win one of Dave's books.
I'm not PROMISING a 100% karma-return-on-investment (possibly in the form of your wildest writing dreams coming true), but I'm also not denying it could happen! 

Word to your mothers!