Tag: Writing

Consulting the Stars

Sometime I think that everything I ever learnt about how to write, I learnt from reading Ursula K. Le Guin novels [with humble apologies to my favourite English teacher of way back when]. Even now, I still find myself reaching for one of Le Guin’s works, not just for that spark of inspiration, but to remind myself how did she write this scene, capture that character, orRmake it all work?

And just to interject here, Le Guin also wrote some edifying articles and posts. One need only look here, “On Rules of Writing, or, Riffing on Rechy” to get a taste of her knowledge, wit, and insight. Certainly, you can’t do any worse than reading through her articles on writing, especially, and specifically, “What Makes A Story?

“I define story as a narrative of events (external or psychological) which moves through time or implies the passage of time, and which involves change.

I define plot as a form of story which uses action as its mode usually in the form of conflict, and which closely and intricately connects one act to another, usually through a causal chain, ending in a climax.

Climax is one kind of pleasure; plot is one kind of story. A strong, shapely plot is a pleasure in itself. It can be reused generation after generation. It provides an armature for narrative that beginning writers may find invaluable.”

My research isn’t just confined to Mme. Le Guin. I also find myself referring to other great SF luminaries such as Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke and Herbert. They each have added to my knowledge, to stretching my horizons well beyond Earth’s gravity well, and aided me in building my language of description. And while I hope I’ve learned my lessons, I’m not naive enough to simply think I can stop learning. On the contrary, I know I will never—as a writer never mind as a human being—stop learning.

Not until they nail the coffin lid down and tell me to shut up already!

To Edit, or not to Edit

[tagline]Or, why are editing services so expensive.[/tagline]

One of the topics of conversation doing the rounds on various blogs, usually asked by first time or emerging writers is, ‘why is editing a book so expensive?‘ Usually indicating they are, in all likelihood, going to (a) self-publish and (b) not have their work edited or, at the very least, not edited by a professional.

By profession, I mean someone who would take between (on average) 60-100 hours, and yes, sometimes more, to edit a 100,000 word manuscript. No, it doesn’t come cheap. And here’s why; an editor doesn’t read your book once. They don’t even read it twice or three times. They read it several times. They read it forwards, backwards (if they’re doing their job right) and slowly. It is an extremely time-consuming occupation, and even at its most basic, the editor is reading at a measured pace, taking notes, making suggestions, and appending either onscreen, or on a printed copy.

It all takes time. And, as everyone knows, time is money. 

Each stage of editing takes time, you can go into depth and detail, or simply address just the mechanics of your MS. A copy editor and a proofreader do a similar job, and whereas a proofreader is concentrating on consistency, they still have to go over each and every word, each and every page, and each and every chapter, not once, but a number of time. While the copy editor’s task is made all the more complicated by not only doing the above, but checking flow, spelling, grammar, and what can take a sentence from being so-so, to better, to great, all the while considering pacing, voice, and storytelling.

Go even deeper, and you are into developmental and structural editing. This is small detail big picture editing, looking at in-depth characterisation, pacing, flow, and yes, plotting. It’s nitty-gritty nuts and bolts, fine tooth comb analysis on an level known as anal. 

If you still want your friend down the road to do the job, after all, she is a teacher. Then you’ll get exactly what you pay for. But if you are serious about your craft and what you write, looking to build a body of work, and, along the way, a reputation, then you have to give serious consideration to having at least one level of editor look through your work before it goes to an agent/editor, or more, directly into print.


Check out what the CMS (Chicago Manual of Style) says about editing. You can also look up freelance professionals on EAC (the Editors’ Association of Canada) or the American equivalent, EFA (the Editorial Freelancers Association) for how long each stage of editing might take, and, on average, how much it might cost.