Getting your first book edited can be an overwhelming experience. There’s different types of editors, huge swings in price ranges and that’s all before you receive the feedback itself. ALLi partner member and CEO of Fictionary.co Kristina Stanley, is here to explain everything you need to know about fiction editing.
Why is Fiction Editing so Complicated?
Let’s start with the terms. Substantive, developmental, structural, line, copyedit, proofread. Lost yet? When I started as an author, I researched these terms to figure out what they meant. Now that I’m a fiction editor, I want to uncomplicate this for you.
As we head into Black Friday and Cyber Monday for 2019, there are some great deals for writers. I think there will be something on this list that will help you become a better, more successful writer.
Of course, Fictionary is offering an amazing deal on Fictionary StoryTeller, along with deals on other writing & editing software, writing courses, & publishing tools from our friends in the writing community.
Note: A few of the links above are affiliate links, which means I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Others are just deals that we thought were awesome!
Fictionary StoryTeller makes editing easier by applying universal storytelling structures to every scene. Evaluate and revise your manuscript against 38 Fictionary Story Elements to tell a powerful story readers will naturally connect with.
StoryTeller automatically creates powerful visuals by analyzing your manuscript from start to finish. Insights such as the Story Arc provide a 30,000-foot view of your manuscript and quickly highlight structural areas that need improvement.
Grammar guru, style editor and writing mentor in one package
This is the only time of year that ProWritingAid offers a wide, public discount on ProWritingAid Premium. Click here to get 50% off a lifetime license! Don’t miss your chance.
We all know that there is a lot more to good writing than just correct grammar. ProWritingAid created their software based on the same ideas you would learn in a university writing course.
The software addresses readability issues such as passive and hidden verbs, over-reliance on adverbs, repeated sentence starts, emotional tells and much more. These suggestions are the same as a professional copyeditor would give you (in fact many of them use ProWritingAid). ProWritingAid works right within Fictionary StoryTeller.
MasterWriter gives you Word Families, Phrases, Synonyms, Pop Culture, Rhymes, Definitions, a searchable Bible and Figures of Speech (Metaphors, Similes, Onomatopoeia, Idioms, Oxymorons, Allusions and Intensifiers).
While a computer program cannot compete with the mind and imagination of a writer, the mind cannot compete with the word choices MasterWriter will give you in an instant. When the two work together, great things happen…
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To be an effective writer, you must master the emotional challenge of our stories. It won’t do to hope we will move our readers in some way. It won’t do to hope we get across our characters’ emotions. By examining more than 40 passages from best-selling novels, with over six hours of instruction, you will learn techniques to masterfully reveal character emotion and spark emotional response in readers. Enrollment in this online course includes lifetime access and a 30-day money-back guarantee. Join the thousand+ students who master the craft of fiction writing in Writing for Life Workshops online courses!
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Conquer Writer’s Block is ideal if you want to start writing a story or book, but you don’t know where to start, have lots of great ideas inside of you and just want to let them flow, have set and missed writing deadlines and want to finally do something about it, and want to discover how New York Times best-selling authors write and approach their creative projects. Avoid putting pressure on yourself to write 500 or 1,000 words a day and instead to set a target that works!
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The Building Your Author Platform bundle is for the author who is struggling to effectively market their book and grow their audience and fan base. There is nothing worse than working hard to create a well-written, edited, fantastic book only to have it completely flop when you launch it. This self-paced bundle of courses will help authors:
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receive expert guidance on tools and ways to market a book
David Farland has trained more than a dozen #1 New York Times Bestsellers. Now it’s your turn: Get David Farland’s popular courses: The Story Puzzle, Writing Mastery 1, Writing Mastery 2, Promising Starts, and Magnificent Middles, along with seminars like Publishing in 2020, and books like Million Dollar Outlines and Writing Wonder . The bundle gives you 1 year of access for only $109.
Good grammar doesn’t make good writing, but good writing demands good grammar. Elevate your writing and editing skills. More than 43K students have learned from course creator/instructor Ellen Feld. In this online classroom, when you ask grammar questions, you get grammar answers!
Use code 100OFFBOOK at checkout when you order over 100 books.
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IngramSpark® is an award-winning independent publishing platform that offers the same fully integrated print and digital products and global distribution services enjoyed by big-time publishers. Once you finish and format your book, IngramSpark makes it possible to share it with the world. It’s your content. We help you do more with it.
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This 6-week, self-guided course will take you through every step, from essay idea to salable piece. You’ll learn how to grab readers (and editors), journal your way to essay ideas, identify the critical elements of a salable essay, critique your own essays and incorporate feedback from others, pitch and submit essays. A parting gift: A spreadsheet loaded with more than 130 relevant markets, including editor contacts.
Why not check out Fictionary’s StoryTeller free 14-day trialand tell powerful stories? Get your Black Friday deal by starting your free trial and then entering coupon code BLACKFRIDAY19. No credit card required unless you love StoryTeller as much as we do and decide ro subscribe.
I’m now an author member of the Alliance of Independent Authors. Already, I’ve met other writers, their private Facebook group is a great place to ask and answer questions, and their members only blogs and podcasts are a wealth of information.
As many of you know, I’m the CEO of Fictionary, so I love to share information about my company. I’m proud to announce Fictionary is now a vetted, trusted Partner Member and affiliate of Alliance for Independent Authors (ALLi).
Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), is the global non-profit association for writers who self-publish. Part of ALLi’s remit is to take self-publishing education and advice out to the wider indie author and publishing community.
There are lots of other great benefits too — you can find more on the Alliance’s website: HERE If you do join using the link, ALLi will refund me 30% of your first year’s fees. And as a member, you’ll then be able to recommend the alliance to your friends — and get the same benefit.
We’re proud to be a partner member because this means Fictionary has been vetted by ALLi’s Watchdog Desk team and adheres to ALLi’s Code of Standards.
The Watchdog Desk is headed up by indie author John Doppler and supported by ALLi Directors Orna Ross and Philip Lynch, and News Editor Dan Holloway.
The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), a great writers’ organization and I thought you might like to join too. Love to see you in an ALLi member forum soon!
StoryTeller is creative editing software for fiction writers. Transform your story, not just your words. Successful stories depend on your ability to edit, improve, and revise your work. Only when you master story editing, can you master storytelling.
Why not check out Fictionary’s StoryTeller free 14-day trialand tell powerful stories?
In case this is your first introduction, ProWritingAid is an online grammar guru and style editor.
Exceptional writing depends on much more than just correct grammar. You need an editing tool that also highlights style issues and compares your writing to the best writers in your genre. ProWritingAid does this.
Read our review and see how ProWritingAid Premium works within Fictionary. You can perform a story edit and polish your words all in one place.
ProWritingAid Premium: All of ProWritingAid’s editing power; no limitations.
If you already know and love the ProWritingAid editing tool, we thought we would take a moment to remind you about the extra perks you get when you go premium:
1) No word count
If you don’t write that often, you will probably get along just fine with their free version and its 500-word limit. If, however, you want to analyze full chapters, articles, reports or essays and get a wider overview of your work, then ProWritingAid Premium is for you.
The team at ProWritingAid has done a great job integrating their premium version with other tools. Besides working online, you can also use ProWritingAid on your desktop, as a browser extension, as a WordPress plugin, in Google docs AND in Fictionary. So yes, we’re pretty excited about that — both as authors and as Fictionary.
3) Full Word Explorer functionality
Their Word Explorer has fast become one of their most popular and most-used features. Premium users get a more in-depth exploration of their vocabulary, sparking creativity and more dynamic word choice.
Let me introduce Gabriela Pereira, the founder of DIY MFA. She’s funny. She’s sincere. She’s serious about her work and helping writers. So, I’ve interviewed her.
This is a different kind of interview where I put Gabriela in the hot seat. No boring questions…only ones that give you the inside scoop on the life of a creative entrepreneur.
Let’s start out with a bang.
If you were told you could only give a fiction writer ONE piece of advice, what spectacular wisdom would share?
Wow, you’re not holding back with these questions. Love it!
If I could only give one piece of advice or “spectacular wisdom” I’d say this: Don’t try to be spectacular. Or wise. In other words, don’t allow other people’s impressions or opinions to dictate what success means to you.
Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that each and every human on this planet has a story to share and the capacity to achieve their version of excellence on the page. The problem is that many writers let other people’s definition of success derail their creative process. They listen too much to criticism and give up before they have the chance to see any breakthroughs.
Writing is an act of faith. You have to believe that the verbal spillage you’re accumulating on the page today will become a coherent story tomorrow. You have to trust that this story that means the world to you will also eventually find a home in the publishing universe. You have to be a little bit delusional to succeed as a writer and if you buy into all that “common sense” advice from those non-writers in your life, you’ll never start.
So my advice is don’t try to be spectacular. Just be you and trust that it will be enough.
What is the most DIFFICULT feedback you’ve ever had to give to a writer?
Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve had to give difficult feedback. This has to do both with quality of the writers I’ve had the privilege of working with and also the type of feedback I give.
When it comes to caliber of writers, the word nerds in the DIY MFA community are a cut above. This has nothing to do with how “advanced” they are; in fact, we have many first-time writers in our signature programs. Instead, it’s all about the mindset they adopt toward receiving feedback. When writers approach critique with curiosity and a deep desire to improve their skills, it’s easy to give feedback, even if it means telling someone they may need to do a major overhaul.
The other reason that I rarely have to give difficult feedback is because of how I approach the critique process. I don’t consider myself an “editor” or a “coach.” I’m a diagnostician. My superpower as a writer and teacher is being able to look at a small sample of someone’s work and identify telltale signs of bigger problems. My job isn’t to criticize, it’s simply to notice patterns and bring those to the writer’s attention.
It’s very hard to be truly critical when you give feedback this way because it’s an objective approach. It’s not about passing judgment, but about helping writers see what they’re doing on the page and the effect it has on a reader. It’s up to the writer then to decide whether they want to “fix” it or not.
When you first started DIY MFA, was there a MISTAKE you made (perhaps one that is a funny story) that you’re willing to share with us?
Oh gosh, I made so many mistakes when I first started! One doozy was when I thought the way to build an email list was using a Google form. (I know, lunacy!) When I look back, I don’t think of this so much as a mistake but as a learning opportunity. Yes, at the time, it was devastating to rebuild my email list from scratch, which meant losing all my subscribers (all 12 of them!). It’s funny, nowadays when people unsubscribe from my newsletter, I take it as a badge of honor. I think: “Yesssss! 100 unsubscribes this month! I’m zeroing in on my superfans!”
There were some happy accidents, too, like that time I went to a writing conference when I was nine months pregnant to the day. I’m not kidding. My son was due to arrive the day after the conference ended. (He was actually a week late so it all worked out fine.) But the happy accident is that it was at that conference that I met my publisher and this connection eventually led to my book deal a few years later.
Can you imagine if I hadn’t gone to the conference? I could have so easily decided I was too tired or too pregnant or too whatever… and I would have missed out on a huge opportunity! Sometimes the smartest move you can make is doing something everyone else thinks is completely insane.
What is the BEST comment anyone has ever made about DIY MFA 101? By best, I mean one that warmed your heart and made you do the happy dance.
There are so many, but I think one of my favorite comments—and perhaps one of the ones I hear most often—is: “Before DIY MFA, I didn’t think I was a writer but now I do.”
I had one student in a workshop years ago who couldn’t write a sentence much less an entire story. This was back when I did some of my teaching at live, in-person workshops, and whenever we did in-class exercises, this writer would end up with a blank page. Slowly, he started dipping his toe into the writing. Eventually he was writing short stories and essays and even got published! This is my absolute favorite thing—when I can help someone go from muggle to word wizard.
My other favorite comment is when word nerds say that DIY MFA is more than a writing program, it’s a lifestyle. For many creative people, we can be our own worst enemies, so the biggest hurdles have nothing to do with the mechanics of writing. Instead, it’s all about mindset and attitude. This is why in our DIY MFA programs, I always focus first on the bigger mindset issues like building resilience or developing a writing habit. It’s a lot easier to master the craft when you’ve managed your mindset.
In fact, I have a free video series starting Monday April 22nd, 2019 that digs deep into some of the biggest mindset hurdles that writers face. This series is only available for a limited time so hop on over now while the series is available.
How will a writer BENEFIT from DIY MFA 101? So they too can do the happy dance.
The goal of DIY MFA 101 is to help writers get the “knowledge without the college” so they can simulate the graduate school experience without actually going back to school. That’s the fancy description, but really the strength of this program is that it grows with the writer.
You see, a central component to the DIY MFA philosophy is that there is always more to learn, more skills to master. Writers who join 101 aren’t just looking for some one-and-done solution to all their writing problems. They crave learning. They want expand their skills not because they want some external marker of success but because of an internal drive, a curiosity, a craving to expand their intellectual horizons.
DIY MFA 101 does not focus on “information transfer.” Yes, there is plenty of information in the program, but the focus isn’t on me transferring what I know from my brain to that of my students. Instead, my goal is to give writers a framework so they can continue their learning journey for the long haul. The course is structured so that writers can revisit the material again and again, and continue to learn and grow from it.
Let me share a concrete example. Many traditional MFA programs require students to take literature courses. In those courses, the professor often predetermines what books go on the syllabus or reading list. At DIY MFA, we don’t assign a specific reading list. Instead, we offer a framework so that writers can create their own syllabus.
The advantage of the DIY MFA philosophy is twofold. First, writers can focus on reading that is relevant to their goals and that serves their writing. They don’t have to waste time with reading that feels like an exercise in futility. The second benefit of this approach is that it empowers writers rather than simply spoon-feeding information.
I often tell people that DIY MFA 101 is not for the faint of heart. It takes a particular type of intrepid determination to embrace this program. Thankfully, most writers have this “fire in the belly” already, and when they join the course, they’ll feel like they’ve found their home.
At what stage in their WRITING JOURNEY should a writer take the course?
Don’t be fooled by the “101” in the course title, this course is not only for beginners. I developed this program so that it would grow with writers. This is why we don’t cut off access to the materials after the term is over. What you get from the course as a new writer will be very different from what you learn as your skills increase and you can come back and revisit the materials again and again.
This program works equally well for writers who are complete beginners and for those who are “in the trenches” working on drafting or revising a project. The difference lies in how these writers use the materials. New writers might want to focus their attention on the first few sections and build up a solid writing habit, whereas writers working on a specific project will get better results if they apply the techniques to their work-in-progress. The later lessons give an overview of platform and publishing for writers who are ready to start sending out finished work.
The only writers who might not be a fit for this course are those who are already published and are focusing more on the marketing and business side of writing. For those writers, we have a more advanced course Pixels to Platform which is due to reopen later this year or early next.
What is your biggest CHALLENGE in being the head instigator of DIY MFA?
My biggest challenge is that I have unrelenting standards. My perfectionism is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing, of course, is that I put a lot of care and attention in everything I create. This may be a big reason why so many writers are drawn to DIY MFA and why so many writers keep coming back to our programs year after year. The downside, of course, is that these super-high standards have made it very difficult for me to delegate tasks to other members of my team. Heck, just the idea of having a team at all was a challenge for me in the beginning.
But just like with writing, building a business is a learning process, and I’ve definitely “mellowed out” over the years. Having kids helped with that. It’s impossible to achieve perfection when you have an infant spitting up on your shirt or a toddler sneezing snot onto your manuscript. Now that my kids are school-aged and more independent, it feels almost miraculous to reclaim my work time, and I like to think that I’m a bit more relaxed now than I used to be about making everything perfect.
Tell us a SECRET…
Here’s a dirty little secret: I vehemently dislike reading literary fiction. (Blasphemy, I know!) You would think that as someone who studied literature in college and grad school, that literary fiction would be my jam, but it so isn’t. In fact, for the longest time, I thought the reason I disliked it was because I wasn’t smart enough to “get” it.
Over the years, I’ve realized that this response has nothing to do with the capacity of my brain cells and everything to do with personal taste. It took a long time, but I’ve finally given myself permission not to like literary fiction. What do I like to read? Pretty much anything genre and I love children’s books and YA.
Our flagship program, DIY MFA 101, has received rave reviews and has helped over 200 writers to:
Get their words on the page so they can finish a draft once and for all.
Master the craft, so they can write the best book possible.
Understand the publishing industry, so they can get their stories out into the world.
Writers who’ve completed this course have gone on to reach impressive goals, like: signing with literary agents, winning awards, or being published in anthologies or literary magazines.
Fictionary and DIY MFA
So why am I so thrilled to have Gabriela here? Well…since you asked, I’ve taken the entire DIY MFA 101 course, and Gabriela and I are kindred spirits when it comes to editing a novel.It’s kind of like finding a new BFF.
DIY MFA gives you the theory that lays the groundwork for using Fictionary to edit your story. Take the course and apply the knowledge you learned in a practical way specific to your manuscript using Fictionary. Salt and pepper, Ketchup and mustard, moon and the stars, DIY MFA and Fictionary. You get the idea.
Fictionary is online software that simplifies story editing. Fictionary will help you evaluate your story on a scene-by-scene basis. You’ll be able to focus on problem areas in your manuscript and improve it quickly. Then your beta readers will be impressed!
Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trialand tell better stories? We don’t ask for a credit card until you’re ready to pay, so there’s no risk.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. I only promote people that I can stand behind 100%. I know that you’re in good hands with Gabriela which is why I’m a proud affiliate for her programs! I took the DIY MFA course before deciding to partner with DIY MFA.
I’m thrilled to host Rebecca Montrusso, a Story Grid certified developmental editor, as a guest. Rebecca is sharing her expertise on how you can become your own story editor.
Creating a Strong Story
(Before you call in an editor)
by Rebecca Monterusso
I am a developmental editor. Meaning, I help people learn to tell their stories better by focusing on the fundamentals (read: story craft and structure). I like to say that I help people write masterfully, read actively, and live intentionally because I believe they are all necessary to live as a creative person. I also teach people how to practice in the right ways to be the writer they’ve always wanted to be (see my latest post), but that’s beside the point in this case.
What’s most important is that I study how to write effectively, do so myself, and use those skills to help other people improve their work.
That said, it might be surprising when I tell you (beg you, perhaps) to become your own editor. And I mean before calling in someone like me to take a look at your work.
Wouldn’t it make sense for me to tell you I can fix any story no matter how rough? Shouldn’t I have you send me even the most cursory drafts so that I can earn a comfortable living? Perhaps, but that’s not how I run my business.
There are a number of reasons you should write and edit your own story before hiring an editor.
First and foremost, I don’t want to take your money if I can’t help you make significant changes that will bring your workable draft closer to being finished.
Lying about how good or bad your novel is to make you feel better won’t make you a better writer and won’t allow me to do my job effectively. A draft that is so rough I can’t even begin to improve it (meaning, it lacks structure, consistency, movement, active characters, etc), isn’t something I feel good about taking on. I want to feel like I’ve made a difference in the work of the authors I help and I can’t do that if I can’t actually help. Save your money.
When you become your own editor, you learn, improve, and remember that knowledge for your future drafts.
I’m not saying you’re going to be able to write a perfect draft that will require no edits. But, your first drafts will (probably) require fewer and fewer edits the more you improve your craft. That’s because you’ll know where your novel is going and be more likely to get it there when you understand what your audience expects. Do the work now and you’ll be able to grow that much more when telling future stories.
Other writers self-edit themselves.
Not that I’m telling you to do something just because others do it. But, think of the most prolific authors, the most well-told stories. Chances are, those authors learned how to improve their own work before sending it to someone else. Compare that to the masses of people who write a novel in a month (or any designated amount of time) and send it off to an agent without even reading it through themselves. If you’re going to copy any sort of strategy, the one that gets authors published and out of the slush pile should be adopted.
Your next drafts will be better.
As you learn to critique your own work in an honest way (not too gentle or harsh), the future drafts of that story that you produce will become better and better. This is because of brain science and the fact that knowledge is cumulative. Taking time to study and you’ll gain more and more knowledge along that way that will enable you to challenge your initial ideas and build upon them to create unique stories.
You’ll better appreciate the books you read.
Learning how to write well and understanding the mechanics that make a story work will change the way you read. Reading stories and analyzing them will improve your writing, just as improving your understanding of the craft of writing will improve your understanding of the books you read.
All that aside, how do you improve your story before sending it to an editor?
Showing your work is a necessary step. Feedback is irreplaceable. That said, you could find an editor or coach who works with beginning writers (which might seem counter-intuitive, but there are people specifically interested in that). Or, use beta-readers or family members who read a lot and might be able to help. (Though I don’t recommend that route because they could do more harm than good, it is an option if you trust the people you send your work to.)
You could study every craft book you can get your hands on. The Story Grid, Story Genius, Story, Story Engineering, to name a few. Take the time to peruse websites like www.thecreativepenn.com, www.janefriedman.com, www.storygrid.com, etc. Listen to podcasts. Figure out and act on the habits of successful writers like Steven Pressfield, Stephen King, etc. Plenty of writers outline their learning methods in books for you to find. Or, you could attend events like Robert McKee’s Story Seminar or take Masterclasses by Margaret Atwood or Dan Brown.
Finally, you can use the tool at your fingertips and subscribe to Fictionary. Not only will you have access to the computational analysis, but you’ll get emails on craft to continue to teach you. Using this tool will enable you to take learning into your own hands. You’ll see your novel laid out in many different forms and learn what that means for what you’ve crafted. Then, you can act on that analysis and keep working to improve what you’ve learned. Though that doesn’t replace hiring an editor, it is a great first step to improve your first drafts immensely.
Rebecca Monterusso is a Story Grid Certified Developmental Editor, which is a fancy way to say that she helps writers learn to tell their stories better by focusing on writing, reading, living, and practicing with intention.
She spends her time traveling the world, writing whatever takes her fancy, and deconstructing the many stories she reads on her blog to better understand the craft of writing. Ultimately, she believes that stories are the only way to change the world, which makes writers mighty powerful people.
Rebecca Monterusso Workbooks
If you’re looking for a method to get that book started and written well, Rebecca has a couple of workbooks that will help you.
Practice to Improve Your Writing workbook will help you learn by doing, by actually writing. It will help you practice in the right ways so that you improve, turn writing into a habit, and story stories you want to emulate. Use it to take actionable steps towards your goals.
Write A Story in 7 Days walks writers through the steps they need to take to come up with a fully-formed story that works. It helps them get words on the page and continue to improve their understanding of craft as they learn.
I’ve partnered with Reedsy and created a free course on Story Editing. Reedsy has a series of courses for writing, editing, and publishing. All are free. All are 10 days. You’ll receive an email each day with your course material.
Here’s the blurb from Reedsy for the Story Editing for Authors course.
Want to learn how to perform your own story edit? Go scene-by-scene and evaluate each story element to learn how to improve your whole story and make everything flow together.
In this email course, author and Fictionary CEO Kristina Stanley shares her method for ensuring that your story is well-told, well-paced and highly effective. Over ten lessons, you will be guided through the process of reviewing your story, scene-by-scene, with the help of a downloadable resource that you will receive in lesson one.