Thoughts, writing

Editing: The Personal Touch

PLUS you get a very small sneak peek at on of my WIPs

I had an interesting experience this week that really brought home how important it is to have a strong personal editor-writer rapport.

Along with working to build my own client list, I’ve been applying to positions to do some proofreading/copyediting for external companies. I see it as a great way to bring in a steady income while also developing the skills I want to put back into my own business.

This particular job would have been great. Working from home, choice of projects, ability to choose my own hours… but no client interaction. Everything would come from the company-as-mediator.

This sort of raised some questions for me, but I figured I would apply for it anyway as it couldn’t hurt to see what the process was like.

Part of the application was a series of mock assignments based on the various types of projects that would be coming in. Technical papers, English assignments, blog posts, etc.

But as I started it, I realized how much of a double-edged sword having the company-as-mediator would wind up being.

Now, to be fair, I come at projects very much with a creative-editor/writer mindset, where keeping the voice and authenticity of the piece clear is just as crucial as ensuring it’s typographically/grammatically clean. This company, I suspect, is looking for more of a technical editor. Someone who just dives in and makes changes at will.

But as I was working through these assignments, there were moment where I was left with questions. The meaning of the sentence wasn’t entirely clear. Was there more to the point they were trying to make? A sentence that started, but never really ended, arguments that never seemed to reach their point.

I suppose the point of the test was to prove that I could edit these sentences in a way that made them sound complete, however possible. But that would just be rewriting someone else’s work, which, I guess, just isn’t in me to do. I want to be able to foster relationships with my clients, just as I foster relationships with my editors. I want to be able to leave comments in track changes requesting/suggesting clarifications, just as I love when my editors do this for me. It allows the weaknesses to be caught without losing the authenticity of the piece.

It takes a great deal of trust to send someone your work. Ego is involved, money is involved, and your faith in the final product before it goes out into the world. More than anything else, you want to make sure that you’re working with someone who cares about your WIP as much as you do, who wants to make sure that the best version of it goes out into the world.

To date, I’ve been incredibly lucky in the editors I’ve worked with. They had turned the pages of my WIP black and blue, but I have walked away with the absolutely confidence my book was stronger for it.

If I can be that and offer that for someone else, then that just makes every comma question worthwhile.

What do you look for in an editor?

update, writing

Why Proofreading?

As we’re now deeply in the new year and I’ve settled into a bit of a new routine, I figured it was time to start promoting my business again. You know, refilling the coffers post-Christmas, keeping myself out of trouble, making sure I keep my skills honed.

The year has gotten off to a good start, contract wise, but I still have a lot of room in my schedule for projects and manuscripts that need a fine-tooth combing.

And I don’t mean just novels.

One of the reasons I decided to offer proofreading services was my time at my dayjob. Part of my job was to distribute incoming correspondence to the appropriate teams, which meant reading them to see where they best fit.

Some of the letters were from private citizens, but most came from organizations. Not-for-profits, unions, funding programs, etc. Organizations and businesses that wanted to be taken seriously with their requests.

But often their letters were riddled with typographical, formatting, or grammatical errors.

Heck, I’ll go out to a restaurant, and the menu will be full of errors. We went to a mid-scale place one day, and they had spelled blackened salmon differently THREE TIMES (blackened salmon, backend salmon, blackend salmon), to the point where at first I thought it was actually three different varieties of salmon.

And yes, I am one of the people who questions the quality of the service and food if no one performs a quality assurance check on one of the first real impressions a customer will make of their establishment (yes, I am one of those people. No, I don’t point it out to the servers. It’s not their fault and they’ve probably already been told fifteen times).

From what I can tell, there are many reasons for these oversights:

  1. Most likely, the errors were just missed. It happens. Even with a proofreader, the chances of having a 100% perfectly error-free document is small, especially with longer projects. The human brain is fascinating and autocorrects what it sees so that everything makes sense. But having someone unconnected with the creation of your project will mean a cleaner end result.
  2. Hopefully not the case, but they might not care. Their mentality might be: Get the product out and move on to the next. The content will still be clear and the reader will figure it out for themselves. Sure… but impressions do matter. If you’re giving a presentation, do you make sure your outfit is tidy or go on in with a rumpled shirt and no brushed teeth after an onion- and garlic-filled sandwich?
  3. They brought someone in who was too familiar with the project. Again, the brain autocorrects. If you know the subject matter too well, you’ll know what was intended and miss the errors. There are ways to help with this: change the font of what you’re editing or read it on a different medium (tablet vs. computer; print off a paper copy). Just the change in appearance can help you see things you might have missed.
  4. They used someone they had on hand who doesn’t have the background/experience to know what they’re looking for. Typos can be caught easily enough, but grammar can be tricky. Sometimes it takes someone with a passion for knowing how semi-colons work to ensure they’re in the right spot.
  5. This last one is what I suspect to be a huge reason for official/important documents going out with errors: proofreading is often lumped in with administrative assistant tasks, and admins are expected to a) know how to do the work; and b) get the work done between all their other tasks. I’ve seen this quite a bit as I’ve looked for new contracts, and I find it staggering. For one thing, it’s a whole different way of thinking between editing a document and booking travel arrangements (nothing but respect for folks who are able to do the latter; just the thought of doing it makes my palms sweat. Give me commas any day). For another thing, how on earth do you expect someone to be able to hunker down and really focus on the nitty-gritty of a document while being interrupted to book travel arrangements? You can do it, sure, but the quality won’t be there.

So that is where I am offering to come in. Even if you’re not an author, even if you’re a student, an entrepreneur, applying for grants, getting ready to submit a thesis, a research paper, an article, a really important blog post, it can absolutely be worth it to fork out a few bucks to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward, making the best first impression. So if you’re interested in getting a quote, feel free to send me a message!

That being said, I also intend to continue doing research on how best to teach/share some of the rules and techniques I use to better help you do some of this on your own. Do you have any questions/any particular issues that pop up that you’d like me to cover? Let me know in the comments!

update

Take the YOU Time

When it comes to running my business, my process is always in flux.

For one thing, the sort of tasks I need to focus on changes every day, as does my concentration, my mental state, any other stresses going on in the world outside my office.

The part that always stays the same: every single day, there are things that need to get done, and there are things that can be set aside for a while.

This is true across the board, whether you’re an entrepreneur, a parent, a student, or a kid who needs to decide whether they want to finish their video game or binge watch the entire MCU.

And it can be overwhelming to stand at the start of your day, knowing that your to-do list is now onto its third page, and you still don’t have any idea how to start this project that’s due in three days.

One thing I have learned–the one part of my process that tends to stick around, because when I fall out of the habit my stress levels start climbing–is to take the time you need out of every day to prepare your battle plan.

I don’t care if it’s a to-do list, a schedule, an actual strategic map written in blood on your bathroom wall*, but if you’re the sort of person who finds you tend to run into your tasks with your war cry ready only to find yourself quickly torn down under the panic of having too much to do and no time to do it, take the time to stop and breathe.

For me, that routine starts with my bullet journal, a habit I formed thanks to my friend Kate, who has turned her journal into a work of art (as have many people, as you discover when you fall into the rabbit hole on Instagram and Pinterest).

Every single morning, the first thing I do is sit down and make the list of tasks I want to accomplish during the day, in both my personal and business life. I keep a daily spread, a weekly spread, and a monthly spread, each on designed to keep me en route to my goals, which, hopefully, brings my whole business forward.

Current template of my weekly spread

It doesn’t have to be in the morning, though.

Depending on my schedule, I’ve made use of lunch breaks during the dayjob, or as a way to wind down at the end of the day, planning my tomorrow so I didn’t keep myself awake at night trying to figure out what I needed to get done.

Since I’ve started this routine again and stuck with it consistently, I’ve noticed a huge change in my outlook on the day, my time management, my sense of balance between personal and professional, and just general mental well being.

But again, this might change. I could go from bullet journaling to drawing maps on the wall, but the change is part of the process right?

Wise words from Yoga with Adriene’s Adriene Mishler

What are your methods to stay on top of things/stay within a reasonable level of sanity? Post-it notes on the mirror? Pen and paper in your purse/backpack? A good pen and the back of your hand? Let me know in the comments below!


*please don’t do this. It would be difficult to maintain every day and would very quickly start to smell

update

InDesign 101

When I started my Author Services business, it was always with the plan to start with proofreading (where I already have a solid skillbase that will only continue to increase), and then introduce print formatting down the road.

I’m not quite there yet (I still feel like I have much to learn), but I’ve definitely upped my game since I started learning Adobe InDesign.

See, all those Apple folks out there have a huge advantage in that they can use Vellum, which is, by all accounts, one of the great pieces of software for creating pro-level interiors for both ebook and print.

For everyone else, there’s MasterCard Adobe InDesign.

If you’ve ever played with an Adobe program, you know they’re not the most…user friendly. The learning curve is steep, and while the road is rife with frustration and challenges, the results are phenomenal.

I started with Adobe InDesign CC Classroom in a Book, which has given me a massive headstart in learning how to use the software. It walks you through a whole series of different tasks and uses for the program, and gives tips on how to explore on your own after each lesson is finished. I have one chapter left before I finish the book (this one on how to convert to epub, which I hope will up my ebook formatting game as well), and then I’ll likely start back at the beginning until I’m really familiar with the different tools.

So although I still want to practice a lot more on myself before I start offering it as a service, I’m feeling pretty good!

When my latest release, Veilfire, came out at the end of October, I put my new skills to work and am pretty proud of the results:

Symbol designed by Chris Reddie

So I’m going to keep working on improving my skills, and hopefully before the end of 2019, there will be more services available here at the Raven’s Quill!


Although I really do my best not to cross over my two blog posts, I figure I’m going to take this opportunity to pat myself on the back and give a bit of a signal boost to the Faces Magazine Awards, where I was nominated for Favourite Author. Voting is open internationally, and you’re able to cast a vote every day until the 25th. It’s People’s Choice, so votes matter. If you’re able to take the time (and feel I’ve earned it), you have my gratitude!

update

EMS Upgrade (cont’d)

A few months ago, I started sharing my experience shifting my mailing list over to ActiveCampaign.

There had been a miscommunication with the customer service representative who was supposed to give me a call and says she couldn’t get through to me. For the evening, we left it at that, and I was supposed to make another appointment for her to call me so we could go over everything.

Unfortunately, our schedules never synced. I’d made it clear I was only available in the evenings, and this customer service rep’s calendar stopped at 4:30pm, so I’m not quite sure she was assigned to my file.

Anydoodle, I let her know that I wouldn’t be available during her hours, never heard back from her, and that was that. She left me with a few links and I tried to use those to get myself started.

So… so far I would give their customer service a 3/5.

The service itself, though, seems to work great. I spent a week sending up my various workflows and automations, my forms, and my triggers. I haven’t really had a chance to test them out yet (if you’re interested in my fiction work and want to sign up for my newsletter to get some free short stories while also helping me work out any kinks in this new system, here’s the link!)

I love that I get to build my templates from the ground up, and customize the full workflow, allowing me to have slightly different variations depending on whether people are coming from my epic fantasy series, urban fantasy, or just a neutral starting point like my Facebook page or my website.

The first trial, sending an email to my imported existing list, went incredibly well, with higher open rates than I’ve had in a while. The goal now will be maintaining, or even increasing, those rates, but the fact that I can so easily play with tags and segmentation should allow for improved value with every email.

I’ll share one more post in a couple of months with my down-the-road impression, but for now I’m quite happy with the change over.

Have you had any experience with ActiveCampaign? Let me know in the comments!

Thoughts, update, writing

Happy New Year!

design-2019-to-reach-new-yearWishing everyone a fantastic start to 2019.

I have quite a few business-related goals this year, most of which involve keeping on top of my administrative tasks (a goal I make every year. This will be the year I achieve it*!), but my primary focus is to find ways to feed my soul, as it were.

I begin this year on the search for a new dayjob contract to help my husband and I save up for some renos we want to do around the house, but I’m going to be choosy this time around.

I’m looking for a job that best suits me, and I won’t settle for anything less. The way I’ve always seen it is that life is too short to be unhappy or unfulfilled. Yes, yes, bills need to get paid and responsibility and adulting and all that fun stuff, but I don’t see where “misery” comes into any of that. Even if it’s not your dream job, it can still be satisfying, fulfilling, social, and — sometimes — fun. Food for thought for 2019…

Another possibility is that I fill my schedule with proofreading contracts, which would also thrill me to my fingertips.

So if you’ve got a book coming out this year that you want polished to a fine sheen, shoot me a message. I’d love to work with you!

What are your goals this year? The wild, the crazy, the realistic? I want to hear about them all!

Thoughts, writing

Lie vs. Lay

It’s not a pet peeve this week, just a tricky one that often gets me thinking twice, too. And lately I’ve been seeing it in all kinds of trad pubbed books as well as indie.

The dreaded Lie vs. Lay

lying-lion
This lion is lyin’ down. Ha… ha…

WHICH ONE DO YOU USE AND WHEN? It’s the frequent cry I hear in my dreams as some writer somewhere in the world stumbles upon this dilemma and proceeds to tear out their hair. WHY ARE THESE WORDS SO CLOSE BUT NOT THE SAME?

I know, my friend, I know.

So I’m going to attempt to help clear things up by sharing the tip that finally made it click in my own head. If you hear the same click in yours, huzzah! If not, it’s all right. Your time will come.

Lie is more of an active verb; lay is passive.

You lie down on the bed, but you lay the socks down on the dresser.

I lie in the grass, but I lay the blanket on the sand.

BUT WHAT ABOUT IN THE PAST TENSE???? you might scream in frustration.

A good question, because this is where grammar really hates us.

You lay down on the bed, but you laid the socks down on the dresser.

I lay in the grass, but I laid the blanket on the sand.

WHAT ABOUT THE PAST PARTICIPLE???

All right, all right, this one is a will be easier if you’ve gotten the past tense down:

You have lain down on the bed, but you have laid the socks down on the dresser

I have lain in the grass, but I have laid the blanket on the sand

Lie          Lay         Lain

Lay         Laid        Laid

If you want or need more tricks to try to make it stick, the Grammar Girl has got you covered!

Did you hear the click? Was this post helpful? Let me know in the comments!

update

EMS Upgrade (cont’d)

I’m afraid to say I’m not quite as far in the newsletter changeover as I’d hoped to be by this point. In part because of some animal health issues that kept us away from home at high stress levels for the better part of last week, but also because of some miscommunications.

newsletter

Not that I don’t have anything to report, however.

I mentioned last week that I am making the move from trusted MailChimp to the fancier dancier ActiveCampaign. So far I have nothing bad to say about the service, but that’s mostly because I haven’t really played with it yet.

For the customer service… I’m on the fence.

Mostly, I’m blown away by how on top of things they are. I signed up for the free trial so that I could get my account set up and everything ready before migrating everyone over from MailChimp. Within two days, I was receiving calls from ActiveCampaign looking to introduce me to their service, see if I had any questions, and to set me up with a longer phone call to go over the different features that would best suit my business.

Wow!

I’d never encountered anything like that before and was super impressed! I looked forward to the longer chat, which involves some screenshare time so I could get a crash course in how to best use the service.

So I book the time, and that night, 6:15, I postpone dinner so I can be at my computer in time for the call.

Now, for the intro call, the phone rang within 30 seconds of the clock rolling over to our arranged time.

This time… 6:20 rolls around…. 6:30…. 6:45.

After forty-five minutes of waiting, I send off an email to follow up and make sure we’re all on the same page about the time of the call. A few minutes later, I receive a reply telling me they had tried the number on file, but it had just kept ringing without anyone answering.

Now, I had my phone right beside me. I’d made sure the volume was up, and there was no one on the line. Also, I was confused about why no one followed up with an email when the call didn’t go through, even if it was a “sorry we missed you!” message.

We tried to arrange another time for the call, but nothing has worked with our schedules, so I’m just going to start with a few links they sent me to try to work it out on my own.

So overall… kind of a wash as far as customer service goes (likely, like with anywhere, it’s just a matter of who you get), but I’m still really excited to try out all the different features and see how this can up my game! That is a big part of my goal for this weekend, so I should have at least a few more updates for you by then.

update

Leveling Up: EMS-style

There comes a time in every business-owner’s life when they need to say farewell to the vintage-newspaper-printtrusted systems they used when they first started out and move on to something a bit more expensive, yes, but more importantly, more focused and versatile.

One of the first pieces of advice I received when I started my business was to start a mailing list. Never rely solely on someone else’s platform. Amazon can go glitchy, Facebook can shut down. Better to have your own foundations for people to find you.

It’s very good advice. In fact, it’s some of the best advice out there. It’s a big part of why I created my own paperback (and eventually ebook) storefront on my author website, and, of course, why I maintain my mailing list for all its ups, downs, and GDPR-purges.

I love sending out my newsletters, too. It’s great to hear back from readers and learn a bit about what they’re up to, what they’re reading, what they’re looking forward to. Up until now, MailChimp has been my trusted companion on all of these adventures, and really I have no complaints.

But I’ve decided it’s time to level up. As of this week, I’m slowly going to be building up a presence through ActiveCampaign, exploring its versatility, it’s resources, and it’s ability to help me better engage with readers. Because that is my first priority. Getting to know the people who take the time out of their day to read my messages. Not only out of a sense of appreciation, but also to better deliver what interests them. It’s a never-ending circle.

My first impressions of ActiveCampaign have been incredibly positive, so as I explore further, I’ll share my thoughts and views on this, my most recent attempt to kick all kinds of ass at my business.

What have you tried lately to shake things up and move yourself up a notch? Share in the comments below!

update, writing

Pet Peeve: Nauseous vs. Nauseate

cold-and-flu-seasonWe’re heading into cold and flu season, which also means the start of hearing another one of my language peeves.

This one isn’t a full peeve. It doesn’t make my eye twitch like “impact” does, but I do notice it. I can’t help it. I can be exactly the kind of language purist whose tea you want to lace with some kind of relaxant so I’ll go to sleep and stop talk about how words should be used.

I would apologize for it… but I won’t.

This particular gripe? Nauseous vs. nauseated.

Anyone who watched or remembers Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed will appreciate this one.

Common usage says that these two words are interchangeable. Fine. I accept that, but at the very least I feel people should make a conscious decision about which word they’re using.

Nauseous means something that makes you feel ill. The rotting garbage is nauseous (not to be confused with noxious, which is something that is physically harmful or destructive). If you were to be nauseous, it would mean that your very presence was enough to make those around you feel ill.

That might be the case, who am I to say? But I find it unlikely that if someone were to provide a description of you, “makes me queasy” would be included. If so, my apologies.

Typically, however, the word you should be going for is nauseated. It’s fun to say, sounds fancy, and doesn’t run the risk of accidentally giving people the wrong impression about your personality. Win-win!