Monday, August 15, 2016

How To Know When Your Manuscript Is Ready: an interview with editor Megan Easley-Walsh plus giveaway

Today, I’m interviewing Megan Easley-Walsh, writing consultant with Extra Ink Edits. Megan’s specialty is content editing, and I can tell you from personal experience, she is amazing. Not only have Megan and I been writing friends for years, she has whispered magical insight into two of my stories. Last I heard, every client she’s worked with in the past year is now signed with an agent or reputable publisher.

Last year Megan was here on my blog sharing fabulous query tips. She’s back with a few pointers for getting your completed manuscript ready for submission.


Thanks for joining us, Megan!

Thanks so much for having me, Keely and for your kind words! It's always fun being on the blog with you. 

Sometimes the hardest thing for a writer is to know when a manuscript is ready. What should a writer do between writing “The End” and hitting “send” on that submission?
Many writers dread revisions and the editing process, but I always say that it's an incredibly exciting time. You get to be the first person in the entire world to read the book. That's a thrilling thought! I wrote a detailed article on the editing process very recently and so I will refer you to I Need to Edit My Novel! for the sake of brevity here.

Yeah, that was a huge question. Let's see if I can narrow it down... What are a few of the key elements you look for in manuscripts when critiquing?

What a great question! Part of what you look for when critiquing a manuscript is the same thing that you want as a reader in general for booksan engaging story, interesting characters, a well-paced plot without plot holes, a logical beginning, an intriguing middle and a satisfying end. With experience, the elements of the story are able to be sensed. It's almost like how a food critic can tell
what spice or herb is needed with a single taste. Character development and pacing are two particular areas in content editing that I find are sometimes in need of a bit of an added boost for some writers.

Getting too many opinions on a story leads to disjointed critiques can that flood the writer’s blood with toxic doubt. But too
few early readers can give a false positive if there isn’t constructive feedback. What is your advice on beta readers? Is there a minimum numbers of opinions a writer should get? A maximum?

Beta readers are such an interesting topic. Some writers love them and have scores. Others tend to stick to showing their work directly to the professionals. In between these extremes are most writers. Choosing beta readers is a bit like choosing helpers when wedding dress shopping. In general, stick to a friend, a family member and an expert. Too many opinions confuses things. When this is applied to writing, the friend can be a writing friend. A family member can be a friend or family member (someone who knows you well). Some people think that family members will be overly optimistic about your writing and that this instills writers with false security. There are two important reasons why I think this type of reader is important though: 1) Sometimes you need a cheerleader for your writing. 2) If your book has any kind of twist or mystery in it (most do) then it's helpful to know if a person who knows you really well can see the twist coming. If that person can't, chances are a stranger won't. Just like every writer has a unique writing style, beta readers are unique to the writer too. If it works for you, great! In general, though, less is best.

Seriously, you're always insightful! So, how do authors benefit from a professional critique even after they’ve had their writing buddies and mom and former English teacher look over their manuscript?

Professional critiques are really helpful, because writing consultants and editors (good ones, anyway!) have accumulated years of helping other writers. They know what the industry standards are and can help the writer achieve them, while retaining his or her unique writing voice. Extra Ink Edits has its name, because as a former college writing teacher, I believe in helping writers learn what to do. Some editors only point out what you do wrong, the red ink of school. I add extra ink, to show you what you've done right. Editing is thus an investment in a writer's future as well. It's like taking art classes or a cooking course from a professional.

What are the top 5 writer’s reference books you think every fiction writer should own?

Great question! You ask some really interesting ones, Keely! The Elements of Style by E.B. White and William Strunk Junior is the top book I recommend. It's grammar and so helpful.
I love the quotation, “We write by the light of every story we have ever read. ” by Richard Peck. Thus, I don't have a specific list of books other than that. It will be individual for each writer, but I can give guidelines. So, in addition to The Elements of Style, I'd say...
1) Something classic: The classics are classic for a reason. Usually, this is because of the characters. As you read, ask yourself, What about the characters has staying power across generations? I love classics. Shakespeare is a personal favorite.

2) A book you adore: As a writer, it's so important to be reading. As well as discovering new books, it's a good idea to have something you love on hand. The idea is not to emulate the author, but to remember why you love books in the first place and let that passion infuse your stories.

3) Something recent in your genre: It's important to know what is selling well in your genre and what the conventions of your genre are.

4) Something popular from outside your genre: Reading widely is important. See if there is something in a book that is relevant to you. Perhaps, a science fiction or fantasy story (famous for world-building) will inspire your ability to describe setting. Or maybe a work of historical fiction will show you how to seamlessly incorporate research without sounding like it's research.

If you really want a few more specifics, Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great by literary agent Donald Maass are interesting and provide specific writing exercises, if you prefer something methodical to work through. Grammar Girl is a fantastic online resource for quick and simple grammar tips. Here's a list of my top websites for writers. Past is Prologue : Top 10 Websites for Writers

What a great list!

I’m currently writing my eighth novel, and still I pause after every book and wonder if it’s ready. If this happens to you, even if it’s your first manuscript, you need a writing consultant like Megan on your list of allies. Extra Ink Edits offers manuscript critique services.

Megan, tell us a little about what a writer can expect in a paid critique?
In addition to offering query critiques, synopsis help and full manuscript critiques, I offer general impressions services. This a much cheaper and quicker alternative to full edits and provides a writer with the confidence of knowing that a professional has read his or her work. After reading the manuscript (this will generally take less than a week, so your waiting time is minimal), I will send an editorial letter on my impressions of the manuscript. I will highlight your strengths, your weaknesses and offer any additional thoughts that I feel will benefit you. Also, if you are unsure of the categorization of the exact genre of your novel, I can help you identify it. If you decide that you would like a more detailed critique, that is available to you and I offer all repeat customers a 10% discount for all further services with me. The price for general impressions is based on your word count.

Is anyone has a question, how can they reach you? 
Feel free to email me at Megan at ExtraInkEdits dot com or visit www.ExtraInkEdits.com. You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook and read my blog. In all of your writing endeavors, the very best of luck!

Thanks, Megan, for stopping by. I’m always blessed by your wisdom and encouragement. And now as a blessing for one lucky writer, Megan is giving away a query critique! This could be a game changer for someone's submission. If you aren't a writer but you know someone who might benefit, send them here before August 31, 2016 so they can enter for a chance to win a free query critique.


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