The 4Cs of Editorial Evaluation

on 03 November 1 Comment

These 4Cs provide an easy way to remember the goals of editing. I hope you find it useful.

An Overview:

Just like the evaluation and presentation of a diamond, the most publishable, sparkling content has been evaluated, chiseled and polished using multiple criteria.

The purpose of any editorial process is to chisel any written work—whether it’s a blog, social media post, article, a book, an email, an ad, a brochure—into a compelling piece that cultivates some level of communication, and in some cases, creates an additional action (purchase, getting more information, deepening a relationship, creating awareness).

The Actual 4Cs:

Creative Content—Evaluating content can be a critical part of an editor’s work, if you are open to content editing.

  • Is your content original? Is it a new twist on a universal message?

Clarity—Are you use the clearest words possible?

Are you buidling a bridge that maximizes understanding between the author and the reader? Are the facts of the situation included?

  • Is the flow logical?
  • Are your pronouns clear?

Compellingness—To determine whether or not something is compelling, ask yourself:

  • Is it interesting? To answer this question, who you are writing to has to be determined. Interest is gaged by the type of person you are writing to.
  • What are your audience’s interests?
  • Are they just looking for a good story?
  • How do they see the world differently than you do?
  • What do they want to learn?
  • Have you offered variety in language by not repeating words?

Conciseness—Unless you are writing a dissertation or academic paper, or an epic novel like Gone with the Wind, cutting out words is the best practice.

  • Have you read your work out loud to see if you need a breath before your sentence is over?
  • Have you broken up copy with short paragraphs, bullets or lists when appropriate?

Stay tuned in days to come for common manuscript challenges, the process of editing, common roles and responsibilities in an ideal editing environment and other tips and tricks for editorial success. If you have questions at any time, please feel free to contact me.

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How a Professional Editor is Like a Silversmith

on 24 March 0 Comment

A few weeks ago, one of my clients who is a book author called me a silversmith. I didn’t realize how profound—and accurate—that analogy was until I did a little more research about what a silversmith does.

  • A silversmith holds the silver into the hottest part of the fire, where the flames heat up to 2000° F, watching it the entire time he holds it.
  • In the fire, the “dross” or the impure/excess parts of the metal are burned off.
  • A silversmith knows when to take the silver off the heat when a reflection is visible. If the silver isn’t watched, it can be damaged if it is heated too long.
  • This refining, hot process has to be repeated up to seven times before the silver is seen as precious and valuable.
  • Because all silver mixes with sulfur in the air, it tarnishes and has to be polished.

My client said that the editing process was painful at first. As someone who had done much writing in her career, she wasn’t prepared for the extensive red ink on the sample tracked changes chapter.

However, when she read the result of the finished product, she  was pleased.

She said, “It was more clear and beautiful than she ever expected. It accurately reflected the message in her heart, in her voice.”

She also said that she would not have gotten to that point by herself. Just like raw metal can’t hold itself over the fire, I believe we can’t produce the best results on our own—at least in a book-length piece.

In addition to an editor, I am a professional writer. I make about 50% of my income by writing articles, blogs, ads, social media posts, video scripts, etc. for companies. I have a Master’s of Science in Journalism and more than 20 years of professional writing experience. And, yes, even I need a professional editor for my writing work.

 I also can’t polish myself or see the hard-to-find spots—I don’t have eyes on the back of my head, I can’t see my work from an objective point of view outside of myself. I also know that my brain overlooks the imperfections and accepts myself for who I am. To do anything less would be self-deprecating.

But, to not entrust my work to the evaluation of another, who is qualified in refining and polishing will always keep my work in a potentially less valuable state than it was meant to be.

Why would I accept something decent when it has the potential to become a masterpiece? Is preserving my ego and my perspective so important? I figure, it is better to get “refined” prior to publication than after the fact…

I don’t currently have an editor for every blog post that I write—but I hope to someday. I will, however, have an editor for every book I publish. Why? Because a book in print can’t easily be changed, and it costs money to print.

In my view, books take experienced editors who sit there by the fire with another’s material, multiple times, knowing the delicate balance of burning off the dross and not compromising the voice of the author by taking away the material’s very essence.

Some editors may be the grammar Gestapo or the KGB of commas—but they may not pay attention to the voice of the piece. Sometimes, in correcting so much technically, the spirit and the beauty of the manuscript is lost. That’s the issue with Grammarly and other editing software. Using it is a great start for grammar and spelling mistakes, but it won’t prevent you from publishing unclear content.

So, if you are an author, let me ask you a couple of questions.

  1. Are you ready to let someone else put your manuscript through the fire of another lens to let it reflect greater beauty to those who live outside of your biased eyes? I ask because I’ve encountered many authors who think that they are ready for editing—until they try it. Be prepared to keep an open mind, and maybe even ask someone else to give you an honest opinion of which version is better after the sample edit.Good editors will not, however, take away the essence of your material—they will leave your voice in tact. If your manuscript is not strong enough to be put through for the refining fire, they will challenge you to bring more information or more emotion to strengthen it first.Sometimes, authors find that they really don’t want objective editing or refining, which is fine—it’s better to know that and be authentic.
  2. Who are you going to entrust your baby—your manuscript—too? Many people claim to be editors these days—actually anyone without journalistic training who can use software can claim to be an editor. But I am not sure they are effective at editing. Are they leaving in impurities so they don’t offend you, can turn the job faster, with the result of a less valuable piece? Can you still identify your voice?

My Silversmithing
I’m certainly not saying that I’m the only editor out there who has learned through the years to strike this balance of transforming content and keeping an author’s voice.

I’m also not saying there aren’t those out there who get the balance right on their first try; there are lucky ones. Nor am I saying that I always strike the balance perfectly.

I will say that I create partnerships with my authors and that I give them my all. Others have told me that my “craptastic” is most people’s fantastic, in terms of quality. I welcome that comment too. To be the best they can be, like silver, most books must go through the fire multiple times to get all of the impurities/unclear parts out of the primary material.

My job is to make the material shine as brightly as possible so that it appeals to as many people in the book’s intended audience as possible.

I believe, that when you are truly ready to launch your material to the world, you are ready to get the best molder available. So do your research. Ask your editor for references and referrals. Also, see if your personality and your values mesh.

The author and editor relationship becomes a trusted, collaborative partnership that enables both parties to grow—and together, they may just birth a masterpiece.

Are you interested in professional editing services for your book? Do you need a seasoned  professional writer for a project for your business? If so, I’d love to help. Contact me today.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Near Collision Sparks A Recommitment to Write

on 28 October 2 Comments

Yesterday I missed a head on collision by a couple of seconds. A car was driving in the wrong lane down a two-lane road. I was coming around a corner—not speeding—but still going 55 miles per hour. The car veered off to a road that was about a 130-degree angle from the passenger side of my car at just the right moment, instants before it would have hit me head on

Needless to say, if I would have been coming around that curve a couple moments later, I don’t think I’d be writing this blog post right now.

Wow, God! Thank you for sparing my life! I had absolutely nothing to do with that timing. I could not have slammed on the breaks fast enough to get out of the way.

When you have experiences like this, it makes you question everything.

Why did God spare me?

What else does He want me to do with my life?

In addition to seeking God for direction to make the most out of my time, treasuring those I love and asking for forgiveness from those who I have hurt, my next thought was about writing.

I have felt far more motivated than I did before this incident to get messages out of my head and into a format where others might benefit from what I have learned.

It made me wonder why I haven’t published more sooner. The answer is simple, but difficult to overcome—it’s fear. I am often paralyzed by the thought that my writing isn’t good enough. Good enough for what or for whom? The cyber typo Nazis?

Then, my mindset shifted. Who cares what “some” might think? My writing is good enough and important enough to publish.

Why?

Because all of us are unique. None of us processes information in exactly the same way. No one on the planet has ever been—or ever will be—created to have the exact same thoughts as I do. Isn’t that mind-boggling? And, because the way our minds synthesize information is unique, we have no idea who we will influence—or why our words will matter.

Someone who I may never meet may need to read these words tomorrow, but I may never know why they needed to read them.

No matter how simple the message is—if an idea is burning in your heart, there is a purpose for that thought.

So don’t let the fear of not being good enough or the uncertainty of where your words might land stop you from writing—those reasons have stopped me way too often.

I’m learning that I need to check my inhibitions at the door—or they may prevent me from fully fulfilling my God-given purpose before He takes me home.

I still don’t know why that car was driving on the wrong side of the road, but I do know that it lit a fire in my innermost parts to use every moment for purposes beyond myself—even when I don’t understand them.

And, as I’ve said before, words outlast us—especially when they are from the heart—so let’s get ours out.

If you want help to get your message out of your gut and onto the page, but you don’t know where to start, please contact me. I’d love to help.

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13 Common Editing Tips to Clean Up Your Writing

on 18 October 0 Comment
  1. Add commas after subordinate clauses when they start the sentence. Use a comma after a clause beginning with when, after, because, since, etc. The comma is not used when the subordinate clause follows the independent one.
  2. Remove the serial comma. This style seems more common in an article, blog, Website or casual work, and this rule goes along with AP style. The serial comma is required for a more literary, academic work.
  3. Add commas before coordinating conjunctions. When they join two independent clauses, but not anytime a conjunction is used. This was also a judgment call depending on how long the sentence was.
  4. Clear up what you mean bythis” or “that,” if either of those words are not followed by a noun. If there are three or four nouns in the previous sentence, readers may not know which one “this” or “that” is referring to. This error can be even worse when there is no noun in the previous sentence, and the author intends the pronoun to refer to the concept in the entire sentence. It’s just not clear. Rework, please.
  5. Remove repetitive words. Try not to use the same words in the same sentence if possible, even successive sentences—especially words like all. Once is enough.
  6. Use one space after periods. Two is antiquated, according to many sources.
  7. Remove apostrophes when you just need a plural. Often times, only an “s” is necessary. Years are among the worst offender. Before 2015,  the Royals last won the World Series in the 1980s. 
  8. Include thatwhen it is necessary. I add it often in written work. That needs to introduce a restrictive clause when the crucial to the meaning of a sentence. When the information is just descriptive, use which. If you use which, proceed it by a comma. 
  9. Limit use of an “ing” tense. For example, I often read the phrase when graduating. Graduating is an act that lasts for about three hours. Reserve that tense for when an action is ongoing, not a one time event. As I was studying in college (during a four year period), is a more appropriate use of this tense.
  10. Set off states and years in body text with commas if the sentence continues with commas.
  11. Use em dashes. When dashes are used as a pause in a sentence, then need to be “em” dashes, which are longer.
  12. Employ more precise preposition and conjunction use—over is best used in relation to the another item, like I am flying over the city. Otherwise, during is better.Of is often used when about is really what is meant. An example is: “We talked of pets for hours” is really better said as “We talked about pets for hours.”Since is best use with an element of time. Otherwise, if you mean the reason why, because is more precise. Because is also the better choice than due to, which is best reserved for money owed.
  13. Use toward instead of towards, and afterward instead of afterwards (the s is added in British English, but without the s is considered correct in American English).
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Diversifying Your “Pro” Skillset

on 17 October 0 Comment

In any career path—whether you work in a Fortune 500 company or own your own business, diversifying your skills is critical to your continued growth and success. Although the catalyst to diversifying recently for me has been creating additional income, the benefits of expanding your skillset reach beyond the monetary ones.

Here are three ways broadening your reach can help you. You can:

  1. Learn something you need to know—even if it’s not part of your “job.” When I was a leader in the corporate world, it was expected that those in management delegate tasks that others could do. That strategy was effective from a productivity standpoint, but not advantageous for me from a career progression standpoint. Some skills you just need to know, regardless of whether or not they are your job.

Social media familiarity was this elusive skill for me while I served in large organizations as a creative director, managing editor and marketing director. We used college students to execute social media efforts. If I had to do it over again, I would have had the students that I supervised to show me, and done more on my own time—sooner. While I was the creative mind behind social campaigns—I didn’t’ know how much about the nuts and bolts of it—and I still have much to learn.

But in the last year, I have specifically sought out projects centered around social media. I have a long way to go to implement what I have executed for others, but I am getting there.

The moral of the story? If you see skills that seem critically important in the marketplace…learn them…a little at a time…or you may find yourself having to run a marathon to catch up later.

  1. Figure out how to do something that you are interested in. Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved to put words and pictures together. In my career progression working for others, I had to choose between strategy and design execution to keep moving upward, even though I was trained about design principles in my master’s degree. So, I gave up my design desires for upward mobility. I supervised graphic designers instead of operating the software myself. Now however, I’m refreshing those skills.
  2. Apply your knowledge across disciplines to better communicate your message and to better serve clients. In the world of traditional publishing and editing, marketing and editorial are thought of as two separate disciplines. Knowing both really helps the other, however. My marketing background helps me understand various audiences well to be a better content editor—it doesn’t matter how well-crafted your sentences are if the words are directed to the wrong audience at the wrong time. My design background also makes me a better editor (I’m very open to cutting because of design challenges when many writers aren’t). Knowing design and printing also makes me a better book cover evaluator. Many authors I work with have gotten into binds that they didn’t know about printing challenges. I’ve since always asked to be involved in the design process, and they appreciate that.
  3. Know how people do things you pay for helps you evaluate their work, and it also helps them grow in their own skillset. Because of my broad background, I have helped many designers understand readability and marketing to certain types of audiences. I’ve supervised designers whose work looked like it was well suited for only one industry diversify their own skills. I’ve had writers expand their views on what is possible to include in a book or leave out. I’ve helped speakers turn their messages into books.
  4. Understand your sweet spot—and your shortcomings. As you diversify your skills, you learn what you love, and you learn what is still better to delegate. Even if you now know how to do something, it may not still be best for you to do it.

As you can see, the effort of diversifying is worthwhile—and it is an ongoing journey as we continue in the effort of lifelong learning. Happy learning!

 

If I can help you with writing, content evaluation, content editing or copyediting, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

 

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Blog Challenge Successes, Opportunities and Next Steps

on 09 August 6 Comments

Today, as we wrap up a 30-day blog challenge, many in our group wrote about lessons learned. I had many of those too, and shared them with one of my mentors, who posted them in her blog. She did a fantastic job synthesizing those lessons. Read her post here.

I am going to put a different spin on the lessons posts I have seen thus far though.

I do need to mention a few successes and opportunities. And, please know there are many more on both sides that I have noted to address at some point. But my focus here is to determine actions I want to take in the next 30 days and make them public.

Why? Because the public declaration and accountability helps me do them!

Successes:

  1. Intentionally reaching out to people, as I mentioned in my post, Write Notes to Those You Love. And Send Them. I met with several people in my area, since I posted this blog. I have also have sent several notes with the following results: deepening healthy relationships, perhaps making inroads to repair a few that have slipped in the business of life, and letting others go who, for whatever reason, have chosen to be not responsive.

    My related next step: I plan to continue to trying to reach out to 2 people a week to meet with, and to send an encouraging text or Facebook message three days a week.
  1. Sticking to this challenge, despite several obstacles, writing everyday. This theme of writing despite hurdles was mentioned from everyone in the group member who documented their lessons learned! My obstacles were sickness for the first two weeks of the 30-day challenge (Seth had said he had never seen me that bad, and we’ve been married nearly two years), a dramatic increase in freelance writing demands and unchangeable summer plans. My related next step: Spending two hours a day five days a week on my own content, just like I did during this blog challenge.
  1. Producing diversified content. I was so excited when I got to write one of my mentors and colleagues, Kayla Fioravanti, to tell her that I had finally finished the assignment she had given me last November. That assignment was five blogs on my business site. Since the challenge began, I have done 22 here (although I don’t have the right theme to display them all in a way that I am happy wit—ugh). I didn’t neglect writing for our other brands though. I wrote six posts for hikingwithyourhoney.com and two for clivethecat.com, but am going to also post one I wrote for this site there as well. It’s always a bonus if the content in your posts apply to multiple brands!

My next related step: Continue to blog three days a week, at various sites. Get our current sites upgraded to be able to more easily see this newly created content in a list format somewhere!

Opportunities:

  1. Putting working on my business first—instead of working in my business. I mostly wrote these blogs, which are to grow my business or sell my own products, at the end of the day—after my paid clients’ work was done. I see this kind of like putting my oxygen mask on first. If I’m doing this work, I’ll do better work for my clients. Although my blogging content from the last month is decent, it could have been better and seen on a wider scale, had I not always published right up at the 11 p.m. deadline. When I posted so late on Twitter, I was mostly getting responses from people in other countries where it was morning. That was great—but I’d like to know how I would have done if I had published when it was morning here in the States. I do know that I got more response on Facebook the one day that I published earlier.My related next step: Spending at least that two hours that I used on the blog challenge at the beginning of the day from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., and starting my client workday then. Still using one hour on selected evenings during the week to further my business goals in conjunction with my husband.
  1. Not using Instagram. This lost opportunity for exposure needs no explanation. I just need to pull out all the various Instagram for dummies articles I’ve bookmarked or saved for when I have time.My related next step: Get up and running on at least two accounts by the beginning of November.
  1. Planning my blog content around my writing and business goals. Before this challenge, I’ve been working on a large book and brand, and I had promised myself I would blog to finish it or have a first draft done by my birthday. Well, I didn’t have the Website content written before the challenge started, and I diverted that energy so I didn’t have time to do that. I also haven’t planned out my content to finish my book by rounding out my cat blog.My related next step:  I will make a blogging plan for the fall and get my book and author Website up so they are ready to blog on when the fall blog challenge comes up (assuming it does in October and so that I can be ready for the NanoWriMo in November).
  1. Commenting/liking/retweeting more blogs I read. I realize how encouraging it is to get notes on your blog. I read so much and didn’t like or comment much outside of my blog group—and I didn’t even do that nearly enough.

My related next step: Like or comment on at least three things I read a day (not just a picture with a quote. Tell others I see how much it helps me when they like or comment—and ask them too! 

Those of you who have read or commented along the way, thank you. To the Blog Your Brand organizers, thank you so much for helping all of those grow together as we climb!

 

 

 

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