63. How I chose my star-spangled editor for my latest novel Spark Out

VERY rarely do I look at, let alone read, direct messages on Twitter. Normally they are from people imploring you to watch their “hilarious” YouTube channel, employ them as a life coach or join their network on LinkedIN*.

Anyway, I must have been going through a nasty case of Writers Block or something because one morning I found myself wading through this list of wannabes and never-was’ers.

Then to my pleasant surprise I came across Night Owl Freelance, offering editorial services at a time I was mulling over who to pick as editor for my second novel, Spark Out.

vanessa

Perhaps it was fate but I decided to investigate further. Night Owl is a small operation run by the very talented Vanessa Gonzales, and one look at her personal website persuaded me she would at least be worth an inquiry.

For a start, I don’t imagine there is any situation that would phase her – her back story including such diverse life experiences as having been a mormon and a porn shop worker. Currently she travels around the US in a motor home with her husband, seeking out adventure along the way.

The line that resonated most with me in her bio was ‘I want to fall in love with characters I sympathise with, want to sleep with, and want to punch – in a really great story, those last two are the same’.

One thing a writer needs is an editor who has empathy with their main characters, and I immediately thought the relationship would work. I have spent hundreds of pounds and hours of anxiety waiting on people to “critique” my work, only to find that for the large part they have missed the gist or failed to “get” the point.

After some correspondence between us and a sample “edit”, I felt Vanessa understood where I was coming from, even if I did have to include a short glossary of Cockney Rhyming Slang to help her out with some of the dialogue.

I decided to take the plunge and asked her to do a developmental edit, as my wife Liz – a qualified proofreader as I have mentioned before – would sort out the line editing.

Within a month Vanessa had provided me with a comprehensive 13-page analysis of my work, covering every detail of plot and character. Taking her views on board I did a few tweaks here and there, adding to some chapters and removing stuff from others and now I am on the last leg. Liz is at the moment proofreading my latest draft and I’ve sent out a few copies on word documents to chosen BETA readers, though I am looking for more before I set a launch date of sometime this summer.

If anyone is interested please comment on this blog…

spark-out-cover-medium-web

I’m looking forward to including a big thank you to Vanessa in the credits. My decision to choose her for the edit would have certainly shocked some of my bowler-hat wearing, umbrella-toting colleagues over this side of the pond, but I’m happy I took the plunge. She has been a good sounding board – even helping me adapt my previous title from Headers to Spark Out.

Can’t wait for the launch…

(* EDITOR’S NOTE: I tried LinkedIn once and couldn’t see the point. What made it even more annoying was the fact it was so bloody hard to Link Out!)

62. Spark Out: Cover reveal

THEY say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I certainly hope you can in my case. In my humble opinion, my cover designer Jane Dixon-Smith has excelled herself with Spark Out, the second book in my Boxer Boys series.
Jane, one of the members of the prolific author-collective Triskele Books, has a simple but effective way of working with authors and her covers can rightfully take their place alongside the very best on the virtual bookstand (or, indeed, in book shops if you are lucky to find anyone prepared to stock your book… hint, hint Waterstones, WH Smiths and Foyle’s).
It’s all about genre, really. Jane asks you what type of book you have written and invites you to submit covers you like in that genre. Once you have provided some examples and explained the kind of imagery best fits with your story, she sources them and sends you a variety to choose from. Once you have done that she then gets to work.
two-covers
Crossing the Whitewash was my first book and because Spark Out is part of a series Jane wanted to stick to the overall style. As you will see the name is very similar as is the idea of taking a silhouette image, in this case a man and a boy, and adding a background significant to the story. For Crossing the Whitewash we used the Millennium Stadium, for Spark Out it’s the QE2, which carried 3,000 troops to war in the Falklands back in 1982.
For me, the image of a soldier’s eyes, facepainted with camouflage and the Union Jack, was striking, and we used it above the title in the same way we used the knife in the first book.
So that’s it. I hope you like it.
The book has just come back from my American Editor, more of which later, and is now with my wife Liz, a qualified proofreader. I will soon be selecting Beta Readers to get a free copy of the book and give me their comments while hopefully posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads on launch day. If anyone is interested please let me know via the comments on here and I will get back in touch.

55. The proof is in the pdudding

Spot the deliberate mistake in the heading?

As a career journalist and a newspaper sub-editor since the mid-80s these things have become second nature to me.

That’s probably why the one thing that is guaranteed to put me off reading a book – and this can happen in traditionally published novels, too, though mainly I am talking about indies – is when I find loads of grammatical or silly literal mistakes in it.

A few people have encouraged me to read their books in the past and I have found myself grimacing and swearing under my breath at the silly mistakes that have been allowed to slip through the net.

In one particular book the protagonists’ names kept changing or the wrong person was credited with speaking a line not meant for them.

The thing is that these things are so easily avoidable. The more people who read your work before you sign off on it, the better.

An editor is important to help the book flow and make sure you don’t get bogged down in too many details, but if you feel they are suggesting changes that you consider detrimental to your story you can always over-rule them. Beta readers, too, particularly those who agree to read your work but don’t particularly have a close relationship with you, can give really helpful advice.

A spelling mistake or glaring punctuation error is not a matter for discussion, though, which is why a professional proofreader is so important.

My wife Liz has just passed a proofreading course and the fact she is a production journalist with years of experience means she already has a head start. She proofed my book, her father’s and has recently taken on some independent work. Why not check out her website and make an inquiry? Her fees are very reasonable but if not Liz, make sure you seek out the services of a professional in the field.

Meandandrew

Plug over. The reason I am writing this is that last night after a busy shift in the day job we got talking about a friend who set up a magazine. It is all going quite well but he is tearing his hair out over some of the silly errors that creep into it. His partner is an enthusiastic techie who can handle all the layout and print issues, but lets silly mistakes slip through the net through carelessness and the desire to do things quickly, failing to realise irreparable harm is being done to the overall product.

I’ve just found this article on a website which gives plenty of stats about why people are likely to stop reading books and most of them can directly or indirectly be put down to the editing and proofreading process. Check it out here