When I first began to write, I made many mistakes, and I will undoubtedly continue to make more mistakes; so, I gather knowledge and teach myself, to try to prevent those mistakes. There are, however, times when along that sometimes-daunting path of writing that I need help. Friends and family, although well intentioned, are subjective with my writing; therefore, I need the help of an editor.
One of the mistakes I made when I wrote my first story was not seeking out the right editor.
I have comprised a list of what I consider to be a right editor.
An editor that is like-minded
Editors differ and so do their tastes. I had one editor who had a very different idea of the direction of my book. That is not to say, the idea was bad, but it did not match mine. Of course, there are always going to be areas where I don’t agree with my editor but there must be a general agreement on the vision of the book.
A reliable editor
I can have the most skilled and educated editor, but if he/she is unreliable, that will halt my headway and results. Even a contract, if not adhered to, is useless. An editor must be reliable. However, having said that, I also have an obligation as a writer to be reliable, by keeping to my scheduled appointments, deadlines, and payments.
An editor with excellent credentials
An editor needs to be a master in his field. I wanted an editor that knows far more than I do, one that can help improve not just my novel but make me a better writer.
“The best teacher is the one who suggests rather than dogmatizes, and inspires his listener with the wish to teach himself.” – Edward Bulwer-Lytton
A well established editor
An editor needs to be well established and have worked in the industry many years, one who knows the ins and outs and has ties that I, as a writer, may not have. I have learned that connections are essential to success.
Knowing what I wanted in an editor, how did I go about finding the right one?
Referrals are the best way to go to get a competent editor. Unfortunately, I had no one close to give me a referral nor did I personally know any editors, so I went to the best to find the best. I took books that I had enjoyed reading and looked to see who edited them. From that list, I picked out one and contacted him.
His employment with a publishing house was a conflict of interest in taking on freelance work, but he was kind enough to give me a referral.
Luck is always an essential ingredient in success
I was fortunate to find a great editor, but I also know that luck was involved. I contacted the referral and luckily, we connected well and he had an opening available. Being in the right place at the right time determines success.
Remember, you get what you pay for
I know that for outstanding service, you need to pay well. In life, you usually get what you pay for, and it is the same with a good editor. If you desire the best then be prepared to pay for it. I discovered a good editor is worth every penny.
I was fortunate to find a good editor for my novel. He has not only helped me to improve my book and my writing but has become my mentor. Thank you, Pat Lobrutto!
Pat is an editorial consultant that has been editing for over 30 years, and in my opinion is one of the best. – www.lobrutto.com
I often get the question, “Are your characters based on real people?”
My answer is yes and no.
To answer the question properly, I need to tell you how I develop my characters.
When I see a person who does something, or says something that grabs my attention in a big way, I begin to make him/her into a story character. Of course, when I’m finished with my story character, he/she is no longer remotely close to the person who caught my attention in the first place. However, the substance of that person was the first building blocks for creating my story character, so I like to think that a part of my story character is real.
An alternative book cover for The Alkahest
Not all my story characters are created this way. Some are a conglomeration of traits gathered from many personality types to produce the right story character for the role.
I would never use a real person in my stories because real people are boring in fiction. Story characters must be many times exaggerated and then some. They must be grander than life. Having said that, story characters are more reasonable in what they say or do. They have to be for the reader to understand them. In real life, people do irrational things, and we don’t understand why. In fiction, the reader understands why story characters do the things they do. They need to for the story to make sense to them.
“The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.” – Tom Clancy
That is the great thing about fiction and one of the main reasons that I love to write fiction – it’s different than life, more exaggerated than life is and far more versatile. My characters can do so much more, be so much more, and change so much faster than in real life.
I read and write fiction to escape everyday life. Real life people have their moments, but in fiction, the story characters, by far, outshine reality in a grandiose way.
“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet;” William Shakespeare.
I follow many writers’ blogs, and just today, I was reading the storyfix.com blog, which discussed five more mistakes that reveal a writer as a rookie. The blog referred to, what it calls,“The name game.” How rookies give their characters names that sound too much alike or pick names that it says are “unpronounceable, unfamiliar and difficult to remember.” It made me think about the process that I use to choose the names for my characters and places.
I find the names of characters, places, and things to be one of the most important parts in building a story, so I take it a step further; I heavily research all my names. I have several name books in my library collection, although with the Internet library, there is an even vaster access to names, their meanings, and their origins.
Depending of course what genre I’m writing in, it will determine the flexibility in my choice of names. Regardless of what the genre may be, the name must suit not only the character but also its gender, the time-period of the story, and the location of the story.
Names are terms that distinguish people, places, and things from other people, places, and things. I look at a name as being more of a descriptive label, something that defines a person, place, or thing.
When I go about picking a name for a character, I fly through meanings of names to find one that defines my character. Then I study the name and ask myself these five questions:
Does it suit my character?
This is probably, by far, the most important factor that I take into consideration when picking a name, although the least rational one. For me, names provoke certain feelings and images. Some names sound more masculine or feminine; others more timid or bold, or even good or evil. I pick a name that sounds like the personality of the character.
Is it easy enough to pronounce?
I write predominately fantasy, so I have more flexibility to pick distinctive names, but I still try to pick names that are easier to pronounce so the reader doesn’t struggle with remembering the name and can enjoy the story.
Does it fit the time-period of the story?
A name needs to fit the period that it is being used in. There are newer names and older names. Some names were not around in certain times, so I make sure to date my names and pick them accordingly.
Does it suit the gender of the character?
Is the name suitable for the gender of my character? Although Taffy is a man’s name in Welsh, in most areas, it is a more common feminine name. I would not pick this name for an authoritative masculine-type hero.
Does it suit the character’s heritage?
If I’m writing a story about a Spanish conquistador, it would be unrealistic for me to use a Russian name like Yuri for my Spanish hero.
There are, of course, always exceptions to the rules, which depend on my storyline, but for the most part, the name I choose reflects the total character and his journey.
In all, picking names is a personal preference of the writer, but I feel that following these guidelines helps me to make the chosen names more interesting, suitable, and sensible to the story line.
After I create my stories, I begin the mammoth task of researching; making sure that all the content in my story is correct and gaining material to expand on topics where I lacked the knowledge. I find research to be vital, adding authenticity and correctness to a story.
My Thoughtmover series needed an incredible amount of research that I had done on everything from types of landscapes, modes of transportation, suitable weapons, appropriate fashion, and the list goes on. I even researched the names of characters, places, and things in the story, to pick names that were fitting to their role.
For me, research is more than getting information from a book or retrieving it from the Internet–that I learned the hard way is not always correct–but to obtain the information from people who hold personal knowledge and experiences in that area, people who have ‘been there and done that’. Even in fantasy, content must be depicted as real and accurate as possible.
For The Alkahest, an area that required research was tall ships. Lacking personal nautical experience, I met up with a sailor, who was kind enough to share his experiences with me on tall ships, information that is not easily obtainable elsewhere. This type of personal information includes unique feelings and thoughts that arise on board and how the senses are touched by actions or events that occur on these ships.
I use this personal information to create conditions on a ship that allow the reader to feel as if they are riding aboard that ship, experiencing the life and challenges of the characters. I think a writer’s greatest accomplishment is when he or she can take their readers and put them into the world of the story, to travel with the characters on their journey.
Researching for my books is one of my favorite tasks in writing next to the creation of my stories. It has not only given me knowledge in areas where it lacked, but it has allowed me to meet wonderful and skilled people that have made my life richer and my stories better.