Friday, August 26, 2011

What this forum is all about

As many of you know, I have a group including myself and 3 other authors. We send chapters to one another for the sake of editing and critiquing. There are many reasons for this, the main ones being saving money on hiring a professional editor, and having someone help improve your writing/story.

The importance of good editing can't be emphasized enough. Especially if you've decided to go the self-publishing route. There are some amazing self-pub books out there. There are also some self-pubbed books that have huge potential, but are in desperate need of editing. However, hiring someone to edit your book can be costly, and when you're not even sure how successful your book may be, it can be an expense you just cannot justify.

I have absolutely nothing against professional editors. I think 99% of them are probably great. I have seen the occasional  book that has been "professionally edited" which is as full of errors as many unedited books. While I think that those are luckily few and far between, they are out there. Even my editor at my publisher, who is very good, missed a couple of things on my book. I have a theory about this.

In my own group, there are occasions when one author might miss something, such as a misspelled word or missing comma. But that's okay because there are two more pairs of eyes looking at it, and that means a pretty good chance that it will be caught. Multiple eyes looking at your manuscript is far better than only one set of human eyes. Having someone who is an author (or potential author) themselves means you have someone who (hopefully) knows the craft of writing.

The other thing you get from having authors read it rather than a professional editor, is that you get the added benefit of having someone be able to add suggestions, offer a better phrasing, tell you when a certain point in the story doesn't make sense or isn't correct. I don't believe that this is a service offered by editors - at least, not without an added cost. And no editing software can possibly do this for you. Trust me, this is invaluable. My books have been improved dramatically by their suggestions.

The best thing of all about this set-up? The cost. It's not entirely free. It will cost you some of your time. If you send your chapter out to three others, you're going to have to read three others chapters in return.

The first thing you need to do is sign up in the comments area of each genre page. The following info must be included in your comments:
1. Your full author name
2. Your books genre
3. What types of books you will or will not read (be very clear on this if you have preferences)
4. Your email written out (me at gmail dot com) to avoid spammers, or the link to your website where the can contact you.

You can add any other info you think is pertinent, including a brief description of your book if you'd like.

Then scan others who have signed up so that you can extend an invitation to your group if you'd like. I suggest you sign up to receive automatic emails when someone new comments in order to see who's offering themselves. There is a list of things you must add in your comment for someone to find you. You also need to be clear on what types of books you will or will not review, and in what genre your book belongs. In order to keep the comments from mucking up too much, I'm adding separate pages for specific genres. You can sign up in as many as you want.

Here is a description of each page:

1. General: This is for all books that do not fall into one of the specific genre pages. Please still list the genre your book belongs to.
2. Dystopian: This is intended for adult dystopian/speculative, rather than YA, though if your book is a YA dystopian/speculative, you can list on either or both of these pages.
3. Fantasy/Sci-fi: This is intended for book along the lines of faeries, leprechauns, etc. or science fiction. It could conceivably cross reference with dystopian as well.
4. Mystery/Horror: This is not for books whose book is a mystery to the author, but rather for books about mystery. It's also where you'll sign up for horror novels. Please specify which yours is.

5. Romance: This is intended for adult romance, rather than YA, though if your book is a YA romance, you can list on either or both of these pages.
6. Spiritual: Anything dealing with the spiritual, religion, etc. Can be either fiction or non-fiction. Please specify which yours is.
7. Western: Gotta love them cowboys. If you do, and you've written about them, this is your place to be.
8. YA/Middle Grade/Childrens: This is for all young adult, middle grade or children's books. Please list your sub-genre (paranormal, dystopian, romance, etc.) if it applies, particularly for YA.
9. Non-fiction: Please list what sub-genre your non-fiction book belongs to.
Did I miss a group you find important? Email me, and I'll be glad to add it.

So, now you've scouted out the other entries, and you're ready to go. I highly suggest that you have a minimum of 2 other authors besides yourself. 3 - 5 would be even better, however, keep in mind that you have to read that many chapters in return for yours. You'll have to decide what your time constraints are.

Okay, got your group together, or at least started. What next? In our group, after nearly two years of trial and error, we've found a really good way to make it easier. Someone sends out a chapter. One of the recipients sees it, and knows he has time to do it right away. So he shoots off a reply to the others letting them know that he's going to take the first run. Using Word's review feature (or whatever program you use on you Mac if that's what you have), he edits so that his edits are visible to all. Then he sends it to all members of the group. Another author sees it, shoots off an email saying she'll take the next edit. She edits over top of author #1's edits. The review feature automatically tracks the different editors using a different color. If she disagrees with of his edits, comments, critiques, she simply makes her own next to his. This continues until all have had a shot at editing it.

There are a couple of reasons this works well. This saves each author some time in order to not have to edit the things that have already been caught.And when it's been through everyone, the original author only has one page to use to correct their copy, and can see all the suggestions together and decide whether she wants to accept or reject the changes. I've included an example of one for you to see what I'm talking about. See the link in the sidebar.

Most importantly, for your own group to work you must be diligent and utterly honest, without being cruel. Cruelty and meanness won't help another authors writing at all. It also doesn't help if you're not honest. Their writing can't improve if you don't offer helpful suggestions and point out inconsistencies in their story.

I think that's about it, besides a few of rules.
1. Absolutely no swearing, rude remarks, or spamming will be allowed in this forum. All comments with these items will be deleted.
2. If you are offering a service that you wish to advertise on this page, please email me with details and if approved, your link will be added to the sidebar. DO NOT put your info in the comment form.
3. On this page you can make comments pertaining to anything I've written, including suggestions. On the genre pages, all comments must be your information as stated at the beginning of this post.
4. Send this link to all the writers you know who might be interested in joining, post it on your blog, Twitter, FB, Goodreads, anywhere you think it might be helpful. The only way this can be successful is if there is a lot of participation from those wishing to join in.
5. Once you've formed your group, please let me know and I will remove your comment so that you will no longer get emails from those wishing to form a group with you.

Offering your services in the comments area by no means guarantees an invitation from another author. I am simply providing a place for you to attempt to form groups. I have absolutely nothing to do with the types of responses you get, the content of the books sent to you by other authors, comments, critiques, edits, or suggestions given on your manuscripts, or anything else to do with the process. I have no way to control this, and no way to moderate each person who comes on this forum. If someone is abusive, or spams you from this forum, please let me know immediately. Otherwise, have fun and good luck.