Want to Spend Less on Your Pay-by-the-Hour Editor?

Image by Philip Uglow from Pixabay

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is chock-full of practical techniques. Numerous examples clarify problem areas and provide workable solutions. The action steps and blah busters McCarthy suggests will help you improve every sentence, every paragraph of your novel. If you follow her advice and implement her strategies, a publisher will be much more likely to issue you a contract.—Denise K. Loock, freelance editor, lightningeditingservices.com

Learn more at the end of the post.


The only way we’ll spend less on editors who charge by the hour is to give them less to address. We can have fun with this if we treat the process like a game. 

If we’re multi-published authors, we can make it our mission to pay our editor less on our current book than we paid on our last book of similar size. To do this, we must pay attention to the edits our editor repeated in Track Changes on our last book. (If this is a first manuscript, play the game with critique partners’ past edits.) 

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Here are suggestions of edits to hunt for.

High Level Problems

  • Incidents need more tension or were covered too quickly.
  • Threads have some holes.
  • Endings could use more punch.

Medium Level Problems

We mention a seemingly important secondary character once.

Where’d she/he go?

Character’s action is too out of character. 

We want our characters to surprise our readers by doing something risky, humorous, or bold, but don’t give them an action they’d never do. 

Example: We have portrayed Ellla as a person who cares deeply about children, then she lifts a child to shield herself from pies thrown her way. 

A word is beat to death. 

With each book we write, it seems we have a unique word we think is the right word to use a hundred times. For one of my books the word was nice. In another manuscript, it was good. So, do a search.

If you use Scrivener, select the text you want to check for overused words, go to Project in the main horizontal menu, click Statistics, then click Word Frequency at the bottom of the box.

Wordy sentences.

This is a good one for cutting editor payments. Using an advanced writing tool, such as ProWritingAid, can help.

Unnecessary phrases. 

This is another helpful one to lower editing costs. Here’s an example:

Janet set two mugs of coffee on the table. “What did Ethan say?”

Belinda picked up her mug from the table and took a sip of coffee.

The reader knows Belinda is picking up the mug from the table and knows coffee is in the mug. Better possibilities:

Belinda picked up her mug and took a sip. Or: Belinda sipped her coffee.

Not the best word used for what’s portrayed.

We must constantly click on words that niggle us and bring up the word processor’s dictionary/thesaurus. We need to be careful in dialogue. The chosen word may be a good word, but not one our character would say.

Words misspelled. 

We must give attention to our word processor’s helps, but we don’t blindly accept its prompts.

Nitpicking Level Problems

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
Words repeated in close proximity. 
  • Starting three or more paragraphs in a row with the same word or name. 
  • Using the same word or a form of it three or more times in a paragraph when it has usable synonyms. 

Example: Jen waved her hand to get Tim’s attention. He walked over and handed her the newspaper sporting a photo of her slapping the senator. He asked how she planned to handle the situation. She planted a hand on her hip and promised she’d expose the senator’s underhanded behavior.

Rewrite: Jen waved to get Tim’s attention. He walked over and brandished the newspaper sporting a photo of her slapping the senator. He asked how she planned to manage the situation. She planted a fist on her hip and promised she’d expose the senator’s underhanded behavior.

Missing or extra quotation marks, periods, spaces.

A period should be a question mark.

What problems does your editor or critique partner spend time pointing out?

BUY NOW

Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

—Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

Be Careful When Characters and Settings Return in Later Books in a Series

image by Morningbird Photo

Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.—Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

See more about the book at the end of the post.


It’s work, but we need to do justice to characters who were on center stage in Book 1 and now play minor rolls in Book 2. This is especially true for romances, when a different couple falls in love in Book 2, and Book 1’s characters are now living their happily ever after.

My new motto is “Bring ‘em back alive.”

I want to get more than eye and hair color right. I want readers to think, “Oh, I’ve missed you and your funky habits. So glad you could stop by.”

Of course, it’s important to get their physical description right. Ditto for descriptions of places they return to in Book 2. So, I’ve made a list of possible information needed about those passé characters to keep them alive and assure their traits, habits, and dialogue are the same. I’ll do the same for settings from Book 1 to Book 2.

image by MabeAmber

Book 1 Character Checklist for Book 2

Make sure you have these right in Book 2:

  1. Drink and food preferences.
    • Coffee and how they like it
    • Sweet or Unsweet tea
    • Soda: cola, fruity, diet
    • Favorite or unfavorite foods 
  2. Mannerisms and habits
    • Fist bumps
    • Brushes hair behind the ear
    • Etc.
  3. Dialogue
    • Voice is the same. (The way the character’s personality comes through her speech.)
    • Words they often used in Book 1
    • Word usage: If she said “sofa” in Book 1, don’t have her say, “couch” in Book 2.
  4. Friends and Family
    • Children’s names and ages
    • Spelling of names
    • Ages advanced forward correctly from Book 1
  5. Other
    • Clothes style (unless they had some sort of transformation in Book 1.)
    • Height and hair and eye color
    • Vehicles – type and color
    • Pets (In Book 2, I almost forgot to have the dog greet the protagonist at the door of Book 1’s protagonist.)

Book 1 Setting Checklist for Book 2

  1. Homes
    • Position of rooms
    • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
    • Furniture and wall colors
  2. Restaurants
    • Set up
    • Menu items
    • Characters order some of their favorite dishes from Book 1
  3. City, whether fictional or actual
    • Distances from where characters live
    • Street names
    • Buildings positions and names

What other unintentional changes have you seen in series?

Buy

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

The Joys of Being a Hybrid: Plotter & Panster

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is chock-full of practical techniques. Numerous examples clarify problem areas and provide workable solutions. The action steps and blah busters McCarthy suggests will help you improve every sentence, every paragraph of your novel. If you follow her advice and implement her strategies, a publisher will be much more likely to issue you a contract. —Denise K. Loock, freelance editor, lightningeditingservices.com

See more about the book at the end of the post.

I’m writing the second chapter of my new book. As I’ve been writing it, I realized how thankful I am that I have the major plot points already sketched out. Instead of winging it, I use the Hero’s Journey to do this, but any plotting method will do. My upfront plotting is mostly high-level with scene ideas thrown in as I receive them.

Benefits of Being a Plotter Before Writing

  • I have a good idea of what research is needed. When I’m the passenger on car trips or sitting in a waiting room, I can get research done ahead of time. Then I don’t have to interrupt my story writing time as much to research. 
  • Ideas for my stories come to me when I’ve turned in for the night. Knowing the storyline, I receive ideas for foreshadowing events that I already know will happen later in the story.
  • I already understand much about my protagonists and some secondary characters—their personalities, natures, dispositions, and temperaments. I have an idea how they’ll probably approach and handle conflicts and disasters I’ve sketched out.
image by szjeno09190

Benefits of Being a Panster While Writing

  • I don’t plot the nitty-gritty matter like some plotters do—create detailed settings (map out the town), characters (know their favorite color and how it changed from pink to blue), and the events (viewing them from every character’s point of view).
  • Once I have my plot sketch, I allow myself to be free to write each scene as my creativity directs. This means ideas in my sketch may be changed if the change strengthens a plot point. For example, A hero’s job might change from an accountant for a large firm in the sketch to an accountant for the IRS to make a better reason why he’d want to quit his job.
  • I feel free to write the scenes by the seat of my pants because I always have my back-up sketch to turn to. After I finish a scene, I look at my sketch to see if I missed any ideas that added to the story’s goals, conflict, or motivations.

What Makes Being a Hybrid Work for Me

I never feel bound to the sketch, especially on the smaller ideas I’ve thrown in, but I have always used the high-level events for the: 

  1. Ordinary World 
  2. The Call to Adventure (and the Inciting Incident)
  3. Refusal of the Call
  4. Meeting the Mentor
  5. Crossing the Threshold
  6. Tests Allies & Enemies
  7. Approaching the Inmost Cave
  8. Ordeal, Death, and Rebirth
  9. Seizing the Reward
  10. The Road Back
  11. Resurrection
  12. Return with the Elixir

Which are you, plotter, panster, hybrid or something else? Why?

Buy Page

I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.

—Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  

—Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! 

—Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan.

—Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling cozy mystery author of the “Myrtle Clover Mysteries,” the “Southern Quilting Mysteries,” and the “Memphis Barbeque Mysteries,” http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/  

Zoe’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

—Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

A concise, detailed, step by step resource for all writers. 

— Jamie West, editor coordinator, Pelican Book Group

Zoe’s writing blog has always intrigued me. As a high school English teacher, I can attest that her tips on good grammar and her hints for excellent sentence and paragraph structure are spot on. But as an author, I also appreciate her ever-present advice that excellent skills are not enough: you must tell a good story, too. This book clearly shows how to do it all.

—Tanya Hanson, “Writing the Trails to Tenderness,” author of Christmas Lights, Outlaw Heart, Hearts Crossing Ranch anthology, and coming in 2019, Tainted Lady, Heart of Hope, and Angel Heart. www.tanyahanson.com

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools.

–Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Zoe has developed a guiding resource for beginning writers. Her method is designed for brainstorming, shaping, and revising an early draft of a manuscript. General and specific tips are offered for applying rules of writing to enhance one’s story for a workable second draft. By exploring the plot line of Love Comes Softly writers may examine their own work for stronger plot and characterization. Valuable tools are offered that enable the writer to develop a workable draft in 30 days!

—Yvonne Lehman, award-winning, best-selling author of 48 novels

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American Christian Fiction Writers

American Christian Fiction Writers

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