Today my guest is fiction editor extraordinaire and award winning blogger Helen Ginger. Helen teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. In addition, her free ezine, Doing It Write, which goes out to subscribers around the globe, is now in its twelfth year of publication. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Helen is the author of 3 books in TSTC Publishing’s TechCareers series. She’s also an Owner/ Partner, Webmistress and the Women’s Marketing Director for Legends In Our Own Minds®. What she gets asked about most often are her three years as a mermaid at Aquarena Springs. Swimming with a shimmery tail, picnicking underwater, performing synchronized ballet, blowing air bubbles … all year round, even in the winter.
Comment on this post through August 24 to be entered to win Helen’s critique of the first 50 pages of your manuscript.
Today Helen is going to share with us her unique method of editing and coaching that makes novelists better writers.
What’s the most common mistake you see in manuscripts?
Overuse of the passive voice. Most often, that involves the word “was”. For example,
I was going to the store when I was waylaid by my neighbor who was out walking the dog. You can change that so it’s more active, so it draws the reader into the immediate scene: On my way to the grocery store, a neighbor and her pony-sized Lab stopped me so she could replay last night’s church supper and her dog could maul my purse.
Active verbs entice writers to paint a picture, a visual for the reader. It also tells us more. She’s not just a neighbor with a dog. She’s a church-goer. She’s talkative. She has a huge dog. Her dog is either not trained well or is very friendly and a connoisseur of leather.
Usually when I edit, I change some of the passive voice into an active voice as examples, but I don’t do them all. Instead I leave a comment telling the author to work on getting rid of the passive voice, whenever possible.
But doesn’t an editor correct the manuscript?
Isn’t that what she’s paid to do?
The writer pays me to edit, yes. If I correct everything, then the writer doesn’t get the chance to learn and practice better writing. And the next book will have the same mistakes and the writer will have to pay to have those mistakes corrected. When I work with a writer, I don’t just read the manuscript, make edits, send it back and move on. Sure, I’ll work on another writer’s manuscript while the original writer is revising. When the first writer is done, she can send it back to me for a second read or a third. By the time she writes another book and asks me to edit, she and I know she’s a better writer. Because of that, I can lower my rate for her because I know editing her book will take less time. This is why an editor who coaches ends up being more valuable than an editor who does all the work. It’s also the kind of editor you’ll encounter if you work with a publisher.
Another reason why I don’t rewrite all mistakes is because I am not the writer. What I envisioned when I read — I was going to the store when I was waylaid by my neighbor who was out walking the dog. — may not have been what the writer saw in his head. He may have been thinking of a drinking buddy walking a miniature Schnauzer. An editor doesn’t rewrite the story. She works with the author to improve it and get it ready for publication.
Where do you think you’re weak in your writing? Would you rather your editor corrected all mistakes or, instead, worked with you on the problem areas? Feel free to ask me a question of your own.
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Thanks for visiting with us, Helen!