Editing for Someone Else – Ideas or Just Mechanics?

It’s snowing beautifully here in Upstate New York and I’m looking forward to a cozy evening at home. Love to sit somewhere near a wood stove or fireplace with a hot drink and write in weather like this. Unfortunately, I’m at work right now.

This past week little writing has gone on, I’ve been editing for someone else.

Now, I have a wonderful and varied writer’s group. I’ve always enjoyed reading everything people bring in.  We’re all at different points on learning about the craft and most of us write very different things – children’s stories, young adult, chick lit, mysteries, and poetry. We’re a widespread group of people in age and backgrounds. We’re all quite reasonable and good discussions have been had some evenings.

What I am editing right now is something else entirely. My husband has a co-worker who wrote “a book” that he sent out to one publisher and it was rejected. He told my husband that it was short and asked if I would be willing to edit it for fifty dollars. It’s the end of the year and Christmas so I said, “of course!”

The problem I’m having is that it’s basically a religious tract aimed at no longer participating or minimally participating members of his own religion, his position being that if you are not a devout member of this particular Christian group, you are going to hell. His goal is to bring people back to his religion.

I was once a member of his particular brand of Christianity and left it for my own reasons so I have some fairly good knowledge of what he’s writing about. I could debate with him the accuracy of many points he makes, but I figure I’m not here to edit his ideas.

My plan is to simply stick to the punctuation, spelling and grammar plus warn on copyright, including the use of summarized or paraphrased works. Would I have taken this on if I had known the content? Not sure.

I’ve already talked to him about the fact that different versions of the bible are copyrighted. I found a pretty good primer on what you can and can’t use here, if anyone is interested. Yes, it’s a bible but people tend to think of it as THE BIBLE. Remember, it’s a compilation of books.  It has been added to and removed from over time and translated from the original, and not so original, many times over. Many of those versions are under copyright.

Another problem I’m running into is that I suspect a lot of his information is summarized or paraphrased from other sources.  Perhaps I shouldn’t assume that everyone knows the difference between quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing is, and that they still have to be cited.  If you derived your information from another source, you need to cite it, whether you put the other author’s words in quotation marks, summarized the major points of a larger work in your own words or paraphrased a small portion of it by condensing only slightly and putting it in your own words.

Not sure I like this editing for other people thing.

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Only So Many Hours – is re-writing, revising and editing really “working” on my art?

ClockTimeManagement

Over the past weekend I went to a Business of Art workshop and one of the attendees on the first day was also a presenter, a musician named Jogo. One of his parting thoughts was that you should take at least one action every day that works on your art and one action to promote yourself.

I like this idea because as a full-time working mother there are not that many hours in the day for me. I can probably write a little something and do one thing that promotes it. The question is, is re-writing, revising and editing really working on my art? In one respect, of course it is, but I feel like I should be writing something new every day.

There was a time when I was able to do the morning pages every day that Julia Cameron recommends, three pages of long hand writing.  Even though they were most often venting or journal pages, I liked that three pages in the morning for my creative writing as well.

I know that James Lee Burke, who writes the Dave Robicheaux novels, writes at least 750 words every single day. I’ve heard other writers say that they set themselves a limit and they produce that much of new material every day.  Then the editing and the business aspects of being a writer can come later in the day. Of course, they’re working as a writer all day long while I’m spending my day driving to work, working, driving home and then taking care of a small child who demands my attention until very late at night.

So, I’d like to be creating, really creating new material every day. Even if it were just a line or two, but preferably somewhere around three pages. After three pages a day, the creativity in my writing dissipates.

Right now, asking myself to get up early enough to write before I go to work just does not seem to be feasible, but first thing in the morning is my best, most creative and energetic time for writing.  So, what do I do? My best idea so far is to write in my head on the drive in and either use a digital recorder or scribble it down when I get to work.  I don’t get a lot of really good lines that way though.

So, if I have limited time and I don’t create something new, is re-writing or editing “working on my art?” It doesn’t feel like it but I think I may have to accept that it is.

The one action for promotion is not so difficult. I do recognize that there is a very good cumulative effect. After the workshop, I ended up with a long list of actions to take. For instance, yesterday I pulled my short artist’s statement out of what I had written to get into that workshop. I edited it down to a paragraph and put it in my Facebook page. If I fill out one element on that Facebook page every day, within a week it will be done. Some of those same elements are going to go into my website. I’m already signed up with Weebly and bought my domain name so I can do that very soon.

In fact, I started to work on the Weebly page but I realized I need to get a visual image in my head and pick out the visual elements before I really create it. I know what I want for content on each page but I would like at least some of the images to be my own creation, photographs or drawings. Also, do I want the images to be different on each page or the same throughout the site?  I think that will be my task over the weekend or next week.

Is revising and editing working on my art? Yes, I think it is. Is it creating something new every day? It can be, but it doesn’t really feel like it.  I would really like to be creating something new, whether it’s a couple lines of poetry or a paragraph on a story. Today I will just keep my eyes open and see if anything occurs to me that I can scribble down.

I think this is probably a personal question with a personal answer.  How do you handle it?

(Please join me on my Facebook page, where I will be posting a daily note on something interesting or inspiring about writing or life in general. Just click here -> Melora Johnson’s Facebook page.)

Writing Under Fire

Firing

Have you ever had so many thoughts firing off in your brain that you thought it might explode if you didn’t put some of them down on paper?  Then, when you finally get them all out, all you want is a good nap?  Yeah, that’s how I feel today.

There is much going on in the writerly world here this week.  The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes put out a call for applicants to take part in a Business of Art workshop to be held in March.  I think this is a great idea for any writer and something we talk about frequently in my writer’s group.

They will be covering –

  • Portfolio Basics and Presentation Packages
  • Branding, Marketing and Promotion
  • Legal, Insurance and Financial issues
  • Money and Time: Grants, Fellowships, Apprenticeships and Residencies

There will also be time for performances, readings and exhibition.  Application to attend is competitive in the sense that they are only taking ten people in each of three tracks – performing, visual and literary.  I, of course, would like to attend the literary one.

I would really like to be writing for a living in a couple years but I need to grow my audience in order for that to happen.  I’ve already started making a little money from my writing and I need to know how to handle the financial side of things when that grows, both tax wise and other.  I intend to finish Biomalware this year and whether I go the traditional publishing route or e-publish, I will need to work on marketing.

Of course, this all threw me into application mode with re-working my artist’s statement, my writing resume and my statement of intention to attend the workshops.  There’s also choosing which pieces to include in my writing sample.

Then, last night, a few members of my writer’s group got together to work at the local coffee house.  A couple people read some pieces for critique and the poem got me thinking about whether I could write something to read on Saturday.   Of course, just putting that intention out there got my brain going on the idea of writing a poem and, before I knew it, the ideas were hitting me on the head.  I’ve been going all day on a poem that kind of rants about partisan politics.  (It’s something I’m a little fed up with.)  So I think I’ll have something to read on Saturday.

However, there are half a dozen things for work that are really demanding my attention as the deadline is fast approaching.  It’s all a little overwhelming and the idea of a nap is sounding better and better.

I had thought of writing about voice today but that seems like a little more than I can handle so I’ll leave you with this thought.  I just finished an excellent YA novel called Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.  The voice was very strong and immediate, told in the first person and spot on.  It’s told from the perspective of a young woman who has been imprisoned by the Nazis and is writing her confession in exchange for less torture.  (I highly recommend it.)

You can either just write and write and let your voice develop, or you can find out what elements affect voice and then deliberately pick the ones you want to create a particular voice.  The first sounds easier but the latter is probably a sign of learning about your craft so that’s something I’ll be working on in the near future.

Sometimes I think the real problem is that I don’t know what I don’t know.

Sometimes I feel like a pretender.  Am I a writer or am I just playing at it?  I know Maya Angelou once wrote much the same.  I feel like putting myself in a class with other writers is somehow being vain.

At the same time, I know what I want.  I want to write for a living.  I want to be a writer.  I am a writer.  I never feel so alive as when I am.

Okay, off to work on my book presentation for Wednesday so I can write late tonight.

May the muse grant you thoughts that fire your neurons in new patterns.

Selling Our Books on Social Media–Don’t Be a Personal Space Invader

Selling Our Books on Social Media–Don’t Be a Personal Space Invader.

A friend sent me this article recently and I just got to read it.  I have to agree.  When I “Like” an author on Facebook it’s to hear their thoughts on a variety of things.  If all I’m getting is posts selling their, and others, books then I am pretty likely to “UN-Like” them.  How about you?

Has anyone read We Are Not Alone – Kristen Lamb’s book on marketing using social media?  What did you think of it?

Writing Plan and Goals for the New Year

I’ve been thinking about what I want to accomplish with my writing in the coming year.  To put it succinctly, I want to sell a book as well as several articles and stories.  I started listing out some steps that I hope will help me get there.  It looks small on paper but I know the time commitment, along with my job and home life, is huge.  I’m sure I could break it down into smaller steps but I think I’ll leave it a little more fluid.  I’ll have to figure out when I’m actually going to do these things.  I’m thinking I’ll have to find a place to work on my lunch hour and commit to some time at the end each day, but here it is for now.

  1. Read Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass and use ideas in writing and editing.
  2. Edit middle grade mystery novel.
  3. Write more and edit mainstream novel.
  4. Show both books to writer’s group for feedback.
  5. Choose agents and editors to submit to.
  6. Keep track of expenses. (Treat writing as a business.)
  7. Write an essay monthly and submit it to the Yahoo Contributor Network.
  8. Write an entry weekly for Melora Johnson’s Muse.
  9. Write an entry weekly for Story Musing.
  10. Write short stories as ideas come up.
  11. Read, read, read
  12. Consider paying for a professional copy editor to give me feedback
  13. Keep submitting.