Category Archives: Editing

The 7 things I learnt from reading a badly written book

Last night, I was up at 4am reading a terrible book on how to be a successful Etsy seller. It was so badly written that I tried to find the author and offer them my services but they had no obvious social presence and I think the book was not something anyone had spent too much time on. It was one in a long line of marketing books that are priced low and designed for a quick sale.

I also read one or two very well written books by people who genuinely had experience in selling and wanted to share it with others. 
The well-written books inspired me to share with you some things I would have told the badly-written book’s author if they’d been around. If it helps anyone then it will have been worth it.

So here they are:

The seven things I learnt from badly written books
1. With a good / professional book cover, you’ll get some readers even if your book is terrible. If your book and cover are both good then you’ll have a much better chance of keeping those readers.

2. Make sure your chapters are numbered consecutively. 
The chapters of the bad book went from 12 to 14 with no 13. It didn’t inspire me with confidence and it wasn’t even the worst thing about it. There were also numbered sections interspersed throughout the book and not confined to the chapters. I was very confused.

3. Website names are proper nouns so you don’t need to use ‘the’ in front of them. 
The Facebook or the Etsy is just wrong.

4. If you’re going to copy and use text straight from a website you’re writing about, make sure you format it so that it’s obvious it is not your writing; indent and leave space above and below, or use quotation marks at the beginning and end of the text.

5. Use specific examples rather than general talk around an issue. For example, if you’re writing to tell people about how to promote their shops on etsy, give examples and directions.



Bad example from a book that shall remain nameless – I have not skipped any content, the following is the entirety of what was written in that section. I read the whole book and there was no better advice:

“The Etsy has millions of buyers and a variety of business stores with them; therefore, you will get lots of opportunities to sell your products. You can work without prior experience because the experts in the team and online labs will help you to grow your business.”



Good example from a helpful book:

“The Etsy Blogs should be your last stop, because it is going to be important to remember what you learn there. Under the Blogs tab are links to the Etsy Blog, Etsy News Blog and the Seller Handbook.

You may wish to scan the News Blog and see what is going on, but the Seller handbook is the real reason that we are looking at this tab. The handbook contains dozens of outstanding articles for both beginning and experienced Etsians. The articles are provided by the Etsy staff. They focus on providing tips to organize your business, price goods and develop your brand.

Before I built my shop, I read all of the applicable posts in the Handbook. There is a lot of information that can help you to develop a profitable business on Etsy. There are two final pages to visit: 1) Etsy Seller Guidelines at https:// www.etsy.com/ help/ article/ 4507 2) Etsy Seller FAQs at https:// www.etsy.com/ help/ topics? ref = help_faq_suggestion”

(From – Etsy Empire by Eric Michael)

6. Make sure your first page (at least!) makes sense. Get someone else to read your work for you. There’s a lot of talk about beta readers these days, which is just a way of saying people who will give you feedback. Don’t ask family and friends unless they like your genre or style of writing. They’re bound to be biased.

But who else can you ask because for most of us, we only know and stay in touch with family and friends? Maybe ask your friends then but try to ensure they like the kind of thing you are writing about and are able to provide useful feedback. If not completely unbiased, they could at least provide a sense check on your writing.

7. Remember to provide your contact details such as your social media accounts and any website details. Don’t use URL shortcuts because they might stop working.

I hope these are helpful in some way. It would be nice to think that my 4am frustrations with books that aren’t great, weren’t for nothing.

Some other helpful tips can be found in this Book Helpline ebook.

Opening scenes: Yippi-kai-yay story lovers – lessons from Die Hard

Die Hard may seem an unlikely way to learn what makes a great introduction but you would be amazed. There is a reason why this movie is a classic and has an 8.2 rating on IMDB.

Everything you need to know about the protagonist and his biggest flaw are revealed before the credits even say DIE HARD.

DieHard

A plane touches down.
A man is gripping the arm rest of his aeroplane seat and the passenger next to him gives him some advice on how to “survive air travel”: walk around barefoot and make fists with your feet. He says,”Trust me, I’ve been doing this for nine years.”

The advisor looks up at John McClane as the latter gets his baggage from the compartment above and is horrified at the gun in his holster.

“It’s ok, I’m a cop. Trust me, I’ve been doing this for 11 years.”

John takes down a huge teddy bear from the compartment.

As he moves past a flight attendants, she keeps his glance longer than she should. He looks back. Then looks after her.

The credits say DIE HARD.

In the two minutes, you have just been given all the information you need about the movie:

  • The main character is a cop. He carries a gun.
  • He is taking a big present which is the clue to the fact he hasn’t seen his children in a while
  • He is taking this flight despite not wanting to – he doesn’t like flying
  • He finds other women attractive so his marriage is in trouble, and
  • At some stage he is going to take his shoes off and be barefoot

If you’ve seen Die Hard then you know that his bare feet are his achilles heel, as such. Once the bad guys realise that he’s not wearing any shoes they can take advantage of it and cause him a lot of pain.

All this foreshadowing and introduction took two minutes. Most people watching won’t realise how detailed the opening scene has been because it is interesting. We want to know more. This is tough guy Bruce Willis carrying a gun and a teddy bear and not liking being on a plane. Where is he going? What is he doing?

—-

So how can Die Hard help you with your opening scene. Here are the tips:

  • How can your scene be made compelling?
  • What does it say about your story?
  • How does it progress your story?
  • It’s a setting, a scene in its own right and a potential mirror of the ending.

Die Hard is based on the 1979 book by Roderick Thorp, Nothing Lasts Forever. The opening scene in the book however starts in a taxi that gets rear-ended. The Black driver has to get our protagonist to the terminal in 20 minutes but the guy who hit them is a maniac who is not letting them go. Leland, the protagonist, then tells the driver that he is an ex-cop, current security consultant. In this way we find out what the protagonist is willing to do, what he’s about, and the taxi driver gets set up to appear later in the story as well, just like in the movie.

The introduction is a bit longer than in the movie, which screenwriter Jeb Stuart changed to him already landing in the plane. Stuart knows a thing or two about action and suspense and he also wrote the screenplays for Lock UP featuring Sylvester Stallone, and the Fugitive with Harrison Ford.

He is excellent at knowing how to make the opening scene interesting, compelling, informative and useful. The useful part is the foreshadowing that you won’t realise is a vital bit of information but your subconscious will remember it and when it happens it will make even more of an impact.

You don’t need an action novel to use all these elements. Try it out on your opening scene and let me know how it goes. I’ll happily provide feedback.

Deluded in Love by Rema King, freelance editing

I have been a freelance editor now officially since October 2015 but haven’t shared too much more other than my aspirations to help people. One thing I have stopped worrying about is being a kind of vigilante evangelist who tells every writer she’s read how they could fix their book. I’ve stopped primarily because my friend Judith pointed out that not everyone can afford to have their work edited, and then I realised that it would be cruel and not helpful at all. So I’ve stopped my ambulance-chasing editing ways.

Instead I thought I’d just share with you some of the books I have edited. I freelance with BookHelpline.co.uk and Deluded in Love by Rema King is one of the works I’ve been involved with.

Suzanne Sinclair is a single parent and up-and-coming celebrity who is plagued by traumatic memories of her abusive past. When she meets Carlton Patrick, an ex-convict, she’s drawn into a world where, deluded in love, she exposes herself to deceit, betrayal and ultimately, murder. Suzanne reminds us we must be careful what we wish for, because we might just get it.

Take a look at the book trailer, if you’re so inclined. This is a great book and I feel great about being able to tell people about it.

You can find the book on Amazon and Rema’s Facebook page is here.

Book Surgery: editing services

August 31 is the six year anniversary of Ephemeral Digest. In that time I have been a book reviewer, Books Editor and a writer. My first job after six years of university was as head of documentation at a software company. I read through style manuals and wrote and organised help text and testing documents. 13 years on and I am still copyediting work on magazines, for charities and for corporate and personal clients.

Trabajo

As a Books Editor I receive self-published books that I just can’t review or write about because they lack professional editing. I decided two months ago to offer editing services so that I wouldn’t have to be tempted to provide unsolicited criticism.

I have obviously not being offering my help loudly enough because I continue to receive manuscripts that I just can’t promote. I am therefore setting up a service to not only provide editing services but also a book surgery to help authors understand how to unlock their potential

Right there.

The biggest problems I have encountered are, in no particular order:

  • Poor cover designs
  • Mistakes in the text – whether spelling or grammar
  • Holes in the plot
  • Weak and inconsistent characters
  • Incoherent and irrational structures
  • Dialogue that isn’t believable and isn’t consistent
  • Police and other services’ procedures that aren’t accurate

I can help fix all the above or find you someone who will.

At the end of each month I will present a Book Surgery that assesses one piece of written work and offers advice on what to do next. To apply, email joanna@ephemeraldigest.com with the subject Book Surgery. You can also fill out the form at the bottom of this page.

For a professional editing service, I offer the following:

Copyediting

I will check your text for spelling, grammar, understanding, and consistency.

Editing

Whether you are working on a fiction or a non-fiction manuscript, I can provide feedback on what will make your work even better. Before you send anything to a publisher why not have a professional pair of eyes check that everything is in order.

Use the following form to ask for the Book Surgery, sample edit or a quote. Typical cost is £100 for 20,000 words. Sample edits are free.

[contact-form subject=’Editing services’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Message’ type=’textarea’/][/contact-form]

Being positive and offering editing services

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Almost two years ago now, I started to hunt for every book / fictional work that mentioned or was set in Bristol. I turned this into the Best Bristol Novel search. It turns out the best way to do that was to become the Books Editor of a magazine. Since I only write about Bristol authors or relevant Bristol fiction, I overwhelmingly come across more and more Bristol novels.

I also come across novels that could do with some editing. A friend book blogger tells authors that she only accepts professionally edited works but I often get sent books unsolicited so I don’t have much choice. I can’t find it in me to send back criticism or what I feel would be good advice, because however well-intentioned, it still feels like spreading negativity.

Instead, I will focus on what I can do, let people know that I offer editing services ranging from copy editing to story structure suggestions.

If people feel they need some help with their writing then they can contact me at joanna@ephemeraldigest.com for a quote or some advice. This isn’t just for Bristol writers and sending me your manuscript doesn’t mean that I will write about you. This is a service I am offering so that when I receive something full of mistakes I won’t have to point them out. (Aside: Would you point them out?)

For a wider range of what is available to writers, also check Book Helpline (Disclaimer: with whom I occasionally work**) for a comprehensive description of what they offer in story advice and text editing.

Unsolicited advice

Now here is some unsolicited but relevant advice: If you are going to send your writing to an agent or a publisher then check with a professional about whether it needs some editing. It doesn’t have to be me but it should be someone. Don’t ask your friends or your writing group as they are more likely to be nice to you. If you send me, or any editor, work that it is self-published and riddled with mistakes or bad writing then it will be a wasted chance to get reviewed or to get coverage in the media.

There is a lot of competition out there so don’t waste your opportunity to get published professionally.

For a quote, contact me at joanna@ephemeraldigest.com.

** For who afficionados, Sentence First has some good news.