The first step in getting my first novel self-published was to find an editor to knock it into shape and make it half-readable and, hopefully, sellable.
But how? I’ve never done this sort of thing.
I searched the internet and got a kinda confused mess of all sorts, eventually narrowing it down to 3 really good starting points;
- Mediabistro – GalleyCat’s Freelance Editor Directory
- CreativePenn – list of editors
- SfEP – Society of Editors and Proofreaders
From this list I set myself a few criteria of ‘must haves’;
- Sci-fi – my first novel is a near-future dystopian story (or so I thought, more on that in another post) so obviously I didn’t want a children’s editor, but I also wanted one who had actively listed sci-fi as an interest.
- British – my book is set in England, has British humour, British references, etc. I didn’t want to complicate the whole process by having a foreign editor come back with ‘I don’t understand bollocks’. Neither do I mate.
- Reasonably priced – not cheap, but I have a budget.
- A Developmental/Big Picture/Critique edit – there’s different types of editing. I wanted a critique of the whole novel and copy-editing, not necessarily by the same person though.
- SfEP Qualified – after some searching and learning more, I thought an editor with this qualification would guarantee some level of professionalism. It wasn’t essential but as a total stranger in this world, it did give me a little more confidence.
I thought I’d whip up a quick post with links to a couple of playlists I created in iTunes as a follow up to this previous post back in December 2010, ‘Some of my writing playlists‘, but iTunes appear to have totally destroyed that facility.
So, instead, you’ll just have to do with a screenshot of iTunes and then go hunt the tunes yourself, if you feel so inclined. Not sure where the progress is in all this but who am I to criticise Apple?
The following 3 playlists are mainly deep house as I seem to require a groove to keep the words flowing and the procrastinating stunted.
This is the forth writing playlist I created, so I called it ‘Foursight’. As you’ll see, I’ve stuck with this quirky/unoriginal numbering/naming convention. I created this one in-between novels I think.
Essential download: Lamur (Henry Saiz Remix) – Guy J
A Bunch of Fives
This one fuelled the first half of Blindsided.
Essential download: Simulation – Roisin Murphy
Six of the Best
This one kept the fires burning for the second half of Blindsided.
Essential download: Heartbreaker – Crazy P
I’m already in the middle of compiling ‘Lucky No.7’ for the second draft of Blindsided.
Let me know what tunes you listen to, especially if they’re house/ambient related and have a groove that would make the jackboot stamping down on Winston Smith’s face, at least do it rhythmically.
I’m not a full-blown grammar Nazi so I’m going to refer to myself as a grammar panda since recently reading ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves‘ by Lynne Truss, mainly in preparation for redrafting one novel and self-publishing another, thinking I need a refresher in all this boring, technical stuff.
I have a basic knowledge of punctuation and a personal style sheet but I’m in no way an advanced student of grammar or language. I don’t know anything about past participles, future perfect, my limit is that verbs are ‘doing words’. If that’s not right, then I’m fucked.
It’s like learning scales in music or the offside rule in football; it’s boring but it has to be done if you don’t want to look like an idiot.
You see what I just did there? I used a semi-colon. Not a colon or a comma, or a dash or ellipses. Why? I’m not sure. A comma isn’t enough because it’s not a flowing sentence that requires a ‘breather’, the words following the semi-colon are a ‘reflective thought’ on the words proceeding the semi-colon. I never use a dash. I only seem to use ellipses in speech to indicate a longer pause than a comma can achieve. So a semi-colon it was and so it shall remain.
But that’s the thing that came out of reading ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves‘, there are some hard and fast rules (capital letter at the beginning of a sentence, full-stop at the end, apostrophes) but surprisingly a lot of it is down to personal preference…within reason.
This is only in regards to grammar though. Not spelling. Apart from the odd spelling differences between countries, there’s no personal preference on how to spell miscellaneous or definitely.
Reassuringly, in that book Lynne Truss does state that British education didn’t bother with all this grammar stuff much so we usually have a poor grasp of it. This confirms why when speaking to some foreigners about English they might enquire, “How do you modify the adjective when it’s in the past?”
“You what mate?”
If you asked me to dissect these sentences highlighting the verbs, adjectives, nouns, conjunctives, etc, I’d have to simply run away, screaming.
Agents and publishers don’t read this, right?
So, anyway, here’s my personal style sheet and interpretation of the rules:
- Strict on speech marks indicating speech and quote marks used for quoting. The clue’s in the name.
- I never start a sentence with and or but. In the panda book it stated that this is a bit of an old rule but I’m sticking with it. I only stopped using double-spacing after a full-stop a couple of years ago (still think it looks better but apparently it’s a massive faux-pas).
- Not a fan of the Oxford comma but since seeing images like this, I’m wavering. It just looks so ugly though!
- I’m determined not to have any hyphenated words in my self-published ebook because of spacing/justifying issues. I’d rather use a different word than have that.
- Never use dashes. I think it’s more of an American thing but I’ve never felt the need for one where I could use a comma, brackets or ellipses instead. I suppose I might in a blog post if I was posting an editorial response to something – Oooo! Look at Mr. Big Nuts!
- Double dashes? Holy shit, no.
- Don’t use more than one exclamation mark but will pair an exclamation mark with a question mark. Really?! Yes!!!!!! (Blog posts excepted).
- Never use a colon in a sentence, only to indicate a forth-coming list.
- Only use a semi-colon in a sentence when the last part being semi-colonised is some kind of reflection, or a step outside, the proceeding part of the sentence.
- Use italics to emphasise that this word may look like an error or totally screw up a concept but, in fact, it doesn’t on a second reading. eg. used on misspellings or made-up words such as ‘semi-colonised’ or when referring to a word with two meanings or which may cause confusion.
- Only use an apostrophe when pluralising a word that ends with S, eg. ‘Jesus’ codpiece fell to the floor’. I wouldn’t add a second S, just looks weird.
That’s 11 rules there. I should have called this blog post, ’11 grammar rules for writers’ but since I don’t want agents and publishers to see this the last thing I want are loads of visitors.
What are your own interpretations of these grammar rules and others? Am I doing anything blatantly wrong? What rules have I not addressed which requires the opinion of someone who refers to himself as a’ grammar panda’?
I’ve only just finished the first draft of Blindsided so there’s a couple of drafts to go before any beta readers are going to see it, but I’m not afraid of revealing my initial concept this early. It’s just to show that from a fairly simple idea a whole novel can sprout forth; give someone a problem and then find out how they deal with it, how it affects them, affects others, drives them, limits them, etc.
It’s funny because this blog post from December 2011, ‘Novel 3: Before the absolute beginning‘, containing a few thoughts I was having for the 3rd novel, bares absolutely no resemblance to the completed first draft. I think that’s because those thoughts are based around events which of themselves don’t tell an interesting fictional story; that first paragraph introduces a character you can build a story around.
That paragraph from my notebook is dated May 2012 so after 6 months of thinking and finishing the 2nd novel, I’d come up with a completely different concept for the 3rd. I then finished writing (procrastinating) in my notebook and started the actual first draft in September 2012, ‘Novel 3 is Go, Go Go!‘.
If you use this as the starting point for your novel, it would probably end up in a whole different place. So go for it if you want…you can’t copyright ideas. Writers are much more guarded than this but I’m no-one at the bottom with nothing to lose and thought it might be interesting to release a brief glimpse into the wild.
If you’re interesting in illegible, gobbledegook notes then check out this post featuring notes from my previous 2 novels, ‘Illegible Chapter by Chapter Planning Notes‘.
That’s it really.
No, I have absolutely no idea what my 4th novel might be about. I’m not panicking…yet.