A Complete Manuscript Edit For Free, Times Two

This offer has now ended as both spots have been taken.

My editing business is a year old this week and what better way is there to celebrate than the giving of gifts?

I am offering my editing services free to two writers who have a manuscript ready, or nearly ready, for their work to be sent to an editor. Given that I am often contacted by people looking for in advance, I will hold your place until the 31st August, by which date I must have received your manuscript in order for the work to commence.

You will receive the same service as my paying clients – the edit itself (which includes a developmental edit, a basic copy-edit, and notes regarding any additional factors you might want to consider); unlimited ‘coaching’ and help implementing the changes suggested for the month following the return of your manuscript; a friendly ear if you have a question or two in the future, be it on the manuscript I have worked on or otherwise (you can ask for my opinion on your paint choice for the dining room if you really want). You will also be considered a past client in terms of referrals. The value of your free edit will be no less than £250 – an edit is priced by word count.

Please email me at critique@carnelianvalley.com referencing this blog post and including the word count of your manuscript as it currently stands. The first two writers to contact me will be offered the free edits.

I look forward to working with you. Let’s get you one step further towards publication.


Putting The ‘Pro’ in Proofreading

A photo of a page of a novel, edited

This photo was taken by Justin Scott Campbell.

That’s right, today I’ll be talking about something that I tend to do whilst editing but will be the first to say I’m not perfect at.

If you’re asking yourself if you need a proofreader the answer is ‘yes’ because there is simply no ‘no’ involved, at all. Ever.

The problem with being your own proofreader is that when you become familiar with a text, which will always happen when it’s your own writing and you’ve read it through many times, is that you become blind to the little things. You might well notice that Phil put his hat on three times within the space of two paragraphs (the editor asks: is this OCD intentional or do you need to edit it out?) but you’re far less likely to notice that during one of those instances, he in fact puts on his aht. And if you don’t notice it the first time you read it, the likelihood of you noticing it in future decreases with each re-read. Yes, even if you’re reading really slowly and carefully.

It’s annoying, isn’t it? Being unable to proof-read your own work is a strange loss of control.

Hiring someone to proofreader for you will reset that count. Someone who has never read the text is far, far more likely to spot the errors, and whilst the resulting list might make you feel a bit silly, that’s just the way it goes. I would personally recommend you ask a couple of people to read your work, because after a while it’s possible the proofreader will become blind to any errors they missed, too, and people are always going to spot different things.

Make it the best it can be. Hire a proofreader.

What’s your most commonly misspelled word?


The Right Language: Research Tips

An illuminated manuscript

This post is about something I’ve been helping people with recently. When you’re writing a historical novel you want to get the language right. You want terminology to be correct and you don’t want to invent the wheel before it’s been invented (unless you’re writing a historical fantasy of course – in this case language is up to you).

I wrote about this issue a while ago, but as it’s something I’ve found authors can struggle with I thought I’d come back to it.

If your question is ‘how can I ensure I’m using the correct language?’ or something to that effect, this post is for you. The issue with historical language is that we can all refer to ‘thou hath conquered my country’ and ‘right-o gentlemen!’ but when it comes to specific phrases that we use nowadays it can be hard to know whether or not they were in use during the period in which time you’re writing.

If you’re writing about the 30s and you have a mother or grandmother you can refer to, that’s great, but in most cases neither the period nor the person is relevant. What do you do?

  1. You have a think. Alexander The Great is very unlikely to have said ‘okay’. But what about Edward VIII?
  2. You research. Read non-fiction that includes primary sources – quotes and letters from the time. Find the text of primary sources themselves and study them.
  3. You read fiction – but choose wisely or you may end up with material by an author who published without researching. If in doubt there are plenty or historians and budding historians who review history books and most have no qualms about setting the record straight on whether or not the language is right for the period and person. I am one myself. You can find such reviews on GoodReads and even on the much-debated-as-to-worth Amazon. Of course this requires knowledge of a book with such an issue, but putting such terms as ‘wrong historical language book review’ or asking for recommendations of Twitter will help you. (The term just suggested will not provide you with a good list – it’s used to illustrate the concept.)
  4. You ask Twitter. There are plenty of historians, historical authors, and readers there. (In regards to historians you don’t know, you may want to exercise caution – have a look at the tweets they reply to to find out whether they are open to questions.)
  5. You watch films and television shows. Yes, you did read that correctly, I’m advising you to watch television shows created for mass entertainment rather than historical accuracy. The key here is common sense – if it sounds right, it’s likely right (though do refer to primary sources to confirm this).
  6. You check urban dictionary and other sites. If you’re writing about a period that isn’t so far in the past and may easily have shared terms with us today, check the origins of the word.

And at the end of it all if you’ve got your bona fide historical term and rewriting the sentence doesn’t work, don’t use it. You’re not used to using the language in your general life, no one is any more and you may need to practise. Once you’ve spent a while with betwixt and forsooth they will flow from your pen naturally and you’ll be brightening the waiter’s day with your serious request for ‘coffee my good Sir’.

Just remember to transliterate it into modern English first. Yore reedyrs’ and myne own deer eyes wyll not understand what you are sayyng… forsooth.

Do you have any research tips?


Be Wary Of The Tell-ephone

A photo of a red phone-box on a country lane

Sometimes authors use their characters’ telephones as narrative devices. This is something that is slowly decreasing, which is excellent, but it’s still widespread enough to warrant discussion.

Even when the conversation is short, the reason for the phone call – the author’s reason for writing it into the story – is obvious. A telephone conversation provides a seemingly easy way for a writer to let the reader know about a lot of things about the character at once.

But whether the author is talking directly to the reader or the character is talking to their friend on the other end of the line, the result is the same. Telephone conversations that are used to relay character history and thoughts for a good several sentences, amount to only one thing: info-dumping. Yes, even if you could argue that the telephone is technically ‘showing’, the usage of it to relay information to the reader, all at once, is still info-dumping.

If you suspect yourself of using this method, it is easy enough to work out if you indeed are, or if your phone calls are okay. In the main, info-dump calls are those that are one-sided. The main character will speak a lot and ask the minor character (usually a friend who is there only to create the opportunity of a phone call) about themselves very little, if at all. If the minor character does speak, it is often only to help the main character to continue speaking. Another signal of the info-dump phone call is that, when you read it, you realise that there was no true reason or substance to the conversation other than the character speaking about their life in a monologue. Think about it. If the phone call does not resemble real life, where people first greet each other, ask how the other person is, and both discuss their day or a particular subject, then is it not a ‘true’ call.

Unless, of course, auntie has suddenly phoned to announce that she is coming over for coffee and that is the content of the entire call. Unfortunately that does happen in real life.

When you are writing, be careful of the telephone. Think of all the cold callers your character could be answering by using it and let that thought remind you to steer clear. Think of the bills racked up by long monologues and the way the minor character on the end of the phone would respond if the conversation had happened in reality.

Think before you call.


Do You Naturally Lean Towards A Certain Viewpoint?

Third person viewpoint

I’m not much of a fiction writer, in fact I’m one of those people who has many ideas and short documents on their computer and has never finished anything. In most cases I’ve never got past the first chapter.

Trying, once again, to start a story based on a concept I’ve had in mind for years, I noticed something interesting. When I start writing, I naturally do so in the third person. Looking back, I’ve never once used the first person, even though I’ve a gut feeling that perhaps if I used it I might finish something for once.

Many writers use both points of view, and others add the second person into the mix, too. Some, like myself (if I can be so bold as to refer to myself when I’m not really an author), stick to the one style.

Do you have a preference/do you naturally lean towards a certain point of view?


The Goodness In Gobbledygook

Some gobbledygook

It was never my intention to write generalised posts here, but a few days ago I read Jeff Goins’ ‘cure’ for writer’s block and a particular part of the article stood out to me. Goins’ advice to ‘just write’ is echoed worldwide, indeed all Goins himself did was echo already-renowned advice. But the beginner’s sentence Jeff spoke of made a lot of sense to me.

Put simply, Jeff advises that if all else fails, a writer with writer’s block should just type gobbledygook onto the page. It sounds juvenile, it sounds pointless, and it would be pretty impossible to craft anything from bona fide gobbledygook unless what you’re aiming for is an experimental work. (Dan Holloway’s latest is a good example of intriguing experimental fiction, and whilst the subject might not be for everyone – and it’s NSFW – the idea is inspiring just the same.)

Writing gobbledygook when all else fails means that even if you’ve no words at all, you are at least getting into the motions, the routine, of typing. Sometimes the simple act of typing, using letters, the sound of your fingers on the keys (I’ve always found this to bring an air of professionalism to an otherwise casual blog post) can be a huge help in getting you started. You know that situation of feelings that can’t be written down, the theory behind heightening your other senses by closing your eyes? I rather like to think that for all writing is about words and language, maybe pushing that away when it’s not working for you might be a good exercise. Unlike the stereotypical walk or long bath, you are there ready to begin writing as soon as the muse returns.

I love this idea of writing… nothing. It’s surely less demanding even than free writing, as free writing requires you to keep thinking, remembering, creating.

Would you try writing in gobbledygook?


Raising My Prices

I will be raising the prices of my editing services at the beginning of October. The rise will not be by much but it may of course be significant to some of you and this is my primary reason for letting you know now. If you wish to hire me to edit your book and you contact me before the beginning of October, no matter when your manuscript is ready to be edited (within reason) you will be charged the lower rate.

By ‘within reason’ I mean that as long as your manuscript will be ready for me within 3 months, you will be charged the lower rate.

As an example of the change, the current price for a 50,000 word manuscript is £200. This will increase to £250. The percentage increase across the board will be 20%.

Why are my prices being raised? I am raising my prices because I realise that the value I offer is not reflected in my current rate. Far from being arrogant as to my worth, I have come to realise that my low prices do not intimate my service as particularly professional. My initial low prices were set with the knowledge that I was a newcomer to the industry, despite my years of reviewing, and I did not think it appropriate to charge much when I had little experience of editing itself. Now that I have experience, and people who tell me my prices are very low, I feel comfortable charging more. In addition, the prices I currently charge are not reflective of the time I spend working for and with the client.

In the grand scheme of things the price difference will not be much, but I am hoping it will allow me to provide even more value for money than I currently do.


All New Referral System

I am pleased to announce that my referral system, which has been in the works since my launch, is now up and running.

If you refer another author to me you are eligible to receive a 10% cut of their fee, per manuscript. You are eligible no matter how long ago we worked together (although of course that sounds a little silly at the moment!) Let the referred author know they should add your name to the appropriate form field and I will be in touch with you shortly afterwards. The money will be paid into your account following the receipt of the final 50% of the fee.


Characters, Who, and That

Many, many, times I read text where an author has confused the usage of who and that, effectively making a person a thing rather than, well, a person. Of course there are times you can use ‘that’ when referring to a person (for example “that person over there”), but consider the amount of times when ‘who’ would be better. ‘Who’ is a person, ‘that’ is a thing – an object.

So today I offer a very simple piece of advice: when editing, take note of any time you use ‘that’ when referring to a single human being, and consider whether ‘who’ is what you should actually be saying.


Research: Finding What You Need To Know Quickly

The index of Elizabeth Norton's anthology of Anne Boleyn's letters

I’m aware the vast majority of writers know how to research, but as someone who was never taught and had to seek out the answers herself, I thought I would write a short post on it.

This method is useful for finding facts, opinions and quotations. Obviously if you need to know about the work of, say, Tolkien, you’re best off reading the entirety of The Lord of the Rings. Likewise if you need a lot of information about a very specific topic you may be lucky and discover a particular book on the subject. But for most non-fictional information you’ll want to use this method.

1) Collect together books that are either on the subject you need to know about or include that subject.
2) Scan the contents page, looking for chapter titles that indicate they might contain what you’re looking for. If none of the chapters are at all relevant then it’s best to move on to the next book. You can try point 4 on this list.
3) Once you’ve identified your target chapters, read the first sentence of each paragraph until you find one that is promising. The idea with paragraphs, at least in non-fiction, is that the basic point or a summary of the paragraph is provided in the first sentence. When a paragraph’s first sentence gels with what you’re looking for, read the entire paragraph.
4) As an extra, for example if you’re certain the information should be in the book but you can’t find it, scan the index page for any ‘keywords’. If what you’re looking for can be summed up by a keyword and it’s significant to the author, you’ll find every mention of it here. This said, it does not mean the corresponding text in the book will be useful. You’ll just have go through each mention and find out.

And that’s it. When you’re tight on time this is the best way of conducting research. It’s unfortunately inevitable you’ll miss something, but you’ll have discovered most of what’s there to learn.

Do you have any tips to share on researching?

My free offer ends on Thursday night. If you want to join the authors already in the running for my chapter critique click here to read the details.


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