Posts Tagged ‘editing’

RJ Cavender quits the HWA after people take objection to him not providing editing work they’d paid him to do 1.5 years earlier  –  

In early 2015, I signed up for the Stanley Hotel Writer’s Retreat and was really looking forward to attending. Jack Ketchum was going and he had written the introduction for my debut anthology, Suspended in Dusk, so I wanted to meet him, thank him, shake his hand and get him to sign a copy for me. I was dreading looking like a crazy fanboi, but was looking forward to the challenge.  I was also looking forward to many of the other attendees.

As part of the registration for the retreat, you could pay varying amounts to purchase an editing package from RJ Cavender (apparently, his real name is actually: Randy Joe Huff. Thanks Robert Wilson!) who was hosting the event.   Before I registered I was warned by a friend that RJ Cavender was extremely slow to provide edits and they would not recommend purchasing a novel edit package from him. That sounded like a reasonable warning, but as I’m not a novelist (yet) anyway, I figured I’d purchase a short story edit package. As someone relatively new to the horror genre scene, I was under the impression that RJ was some sorta, over-worked rock star editor and this would explain why he might be a little slow on the edits.

In the months that followed from when I registered for the 2015 retreat,  one colleague, a HWA member, began to confide further in me regarding issues she was having with RJ Cavender. He was not returning her novel edits. Months went by and the poor lady repeatedly prompted RJ to provide the edits and she was repeatedly assured that the edits were coming and it would not be long now.

I was unable to attend the 2015 retreat due to family matters that arose in the lead up to October. I contacted RJ Cavender and asked him if he would transfer my registration to 2016 instead. He agreed to do this.  This was still good in my mind, I’d have a chance to meet cool and talented people like current HWA President Lisa Morton, Chuck Palahniuk [Author of Fight Club, Haunted, etc], Shane McKenzie [Horror and Bizarro author whose story Fit Camp I reprinted in Suspended in Dusk] and Michael Bailey [author and editor extraordinaire]. I did not submit a story to RJ for editing, and figured that I would do this in 2016 around the time of the retreat,  as I always have a story or two lying around or in various stages of the submission process. The aforementioned  colleague however was still experiencing delays and what really was beginning to look like the old fashioned run-around on her edits.

About a month ago now, two things happened:
1.  This colleague received a HWA mentor who began working with her to address issues with her novel, thus completely abrogating any need she had for edits from RJ.

2.  We began to ask the question of other attendees:  Did you pay for edits and have you received them?  Colleagues and friends began to confide in us as well. They were in two categories:

•  Group 1: People who had submitted work to RJ Cavender at the 2014 retreat but had not received edits. One of these people had purchased two editing packages from both the 2014 and 2015 retreats and had *NOTHING* to show. This poor writer had given RJ Cavender hundreds of dollars for edits she didn’t have. These people had been badgering RJ for roughly 1.5 years and repeatedly met with a changing of goal posts. There was never any scope to refund monies on the basis that RJ could not perform the work as expected.

•  Group 2:  People who had paid for edits from RJ Cavender but had not provided him with manuscripts because they had heard from others that he was not returning work/providing the service he’d been paid for and they didn’t feel comfortable giving their work to him.   (Note: As it turns out, their reluctance to do so was vindicated.).  In addition the feeling was unanimous that these authors did not have established careers or reputations and did not want to make waves with someone was the acquisitions editor at a respected small press (Dark Regions Press).  Kerri-Leigh Grady makes some fantastic points about THAT issue here on her blog, by the way.

In total I knew 6 people (including myself) who were in one of these two categories. There are likely more.

I’m not a HWA member, but I was very concerned about the treatment of these members. The people who had provided work to RJ 1.5 years ago were getting the run around, and the people who hadn’t provide work and wouldn’t press him for a refund out of fear, stood to lose significant amounts of money, not to mention all the time and emotional stress expended on the issue.

I was slightly less concerned about myself as I am blessed to be financially stable – but, on principle, I was not happy knowing that it was extremely unlikely that RJ Cavender could make good on the edits that I’d paid him for.  I know one of the affected HWA members has barely has two dimes to rub together at the moment and could really use the money. A few hundred bucks in the hip pocket wouldn’t go astray right now, I’m sure. As for the others, the sheer amount of money owed ($200/$500/$700 etc) made the paltry sum I stood to lose on edits by RJ Cavender look dwarfed by comparison.  It was at this point I decided that the best course of action was to do two things.

1. Refer the other people who are HWA members to the HWA Grievance Committee, chaired by Brett J. Talley.
2. As a non-HWA member, to email Lisa Morton and recount the history and let her know a bunch of grievances from actual members would be coming through.

I didn’t think that either my actions or the lodging of grievances by those affected were particularly outrageous. On the grounds that RJ hadn’t returned the work of those who had provided him some in 1.5 years and everyone else knowing that if they had, they still wouldn’t have theirs either, there didn’t really seem to be any other choice.

I don’t have firm details about what exactly transpired next.  Lisa Morton advised that she would seek a list of all those who had bought packages from RJ Cavender and advice from him as to what work was outstanding. I went to sleep that night and woke up and the HWA had severed all official ties with RJ Cavender, RJ had been removed from any role with StokerCon 2016 and RJ had quit the HWA.  I’ll take his word at face value you that he quit and was not expelled from the organisation, but the whole thing really did come across as a “YOU CAN’T FIRE ME, I QUIT!” diva meltdown.

RJ then went on to make an official statement. The TL:DR of it is that he’s sick, woe is him, he’s so fucking hard done by, he was totally gonna do that work you could all totally take his word on that, and HWA are all a bunch of poopyheads.  (Props to Paul Mannering for the last part).

As many of you may or may not know, I’ve been very ill over the last year-and-a-half. Because of my continued and chronic sickness I’ve gotten very behind on my editing work. And because I’ve had several author complaints to the Horror Writers Association Grievance Committee this week, I’ve now been taken off the StokerCon2016 event…one I’ve worked tirelessly on for the last couple of years. And while I do feel horrible that I’ve let many authors down, I am catching up on my work and I do believe my editing is the best it has ever been…I’m just working at a slower rate, because I’m not well and I’m not working at the break-neck pace I was able to over the last decade of my professional editing career. To those authors, I am very sorry…and I am working on catching up, I really am. I’ve never not finished a project, I’ve never bailed on my side of an editing agreement. I wouldn’t be working in this industry still if I had, trust me.

Suffice to say, I’m saddened by this decision on the part of the HWA. Not only because I won’t get to see so many of my friends next month in Vegas, but also because I’ve put my blood, sweat, tears and fears into StokerCon2016 from its early plotting phases with Rocky Wood, to the creation of Horror University (my idea), The Scholarship from Hell (mine, too), and The Lucky Thirt3en Horror Short Film Competition (ditto.) I’ve organized the pitch sessions, I’ve secured guests we’ve never had included at any HWA event or World Horror to date. I’ve created local authors events via the HWA at a book festival here in Tucson and I’ve been very involved with the organization for many, many years now. So punishment of this sort, at least to me, seems unfair and unjust treatment, especially when I’ve not even been told who the authors are who are lining up to complain about me…as the Grievance Committee is operating under some code of secrecy I cannot figure out. I mean, how do you take care of clients who are pissed…if you don’t know who they are? And how can I be expected to catch up on work when I’m being overloaded with more of it via the event and all this needless back-and-forth with the organization and this pointless committee?

So that’s why I’ve decided to leave the Horror Writers Association. They’re a good organization and they do a lot of great things in the community, but they didn’t have my back when I needed it most. Perhaps I’m not ‘sick enough’…or perhaps they just didn’t believe I could get caught up on my overdue projects by next month and were afraid there would be some backlash at the event. Which, let’s face it…they don’t really want/need or know how to handle at this point. I’m not sure.

But taking an event away from me like this is unacceptable punishment. I’m not a child who needs to be ‘taught a lesson.’ And I feel not only let down by the organization but betrayed and bewildered and goddamn upset, if you want to know the truth. Somehow I’ve become the worst thing to happen to the horror genre…when what we’re dealing with here is a person who’s had some very personal, physical, painful issues just functioning and getting out of bed each day…but an editor who is also quite determined to make right with my authors, finish up overdue projects in turn, but has had nothing but harassment and stress from the HWA over the last few weeks, additional stress and anxiety I did not need at this point. The sort of treatment that no one should tolerate or suck up, no matter who they’re working for (or in this case, volunteering for) under any circumstances. So, I’m through with the HWA. Again…I’m sorry to any authors I’ve let down, I’ll have your work finished to my standards as soon as I’m able to send them out. I’ll have plenty of time now, as I won’t be included in the event next month.

And to the HWA, I’m sorry…shit happens sometimes, people get sick, life’s a bitch. But if this is how you treat one of your biggest supporters, someone who has stood by through the good and bad, been a cheerleader for the organization, helped create  content and events and scholarships…then I don’t want to be part of that sort of organization. People aren’t disposable, and I was of a lot more use within the organization that as an outsider. I still think you do good things, but I also know you can turn on a dime…and when someone is no longer of use to you, when the shit gets real…you’re going to bail, because you don’t really care at all. Because avoiding public scandal, embarrassment, or ridicule is much more important than taking care of your own. And in an organization of 1300 people, I know I made a difference. And I’ll continue to do so. Just without the HWA. Thanks for listening, guys. I’ll be seeing you around…

I’d like to address some of the points the points made in his farewell speech.  I’ll comment on what I can comment on, but will not comment on the internal workings of the Grievance Committee or on HWA’s discussions with RJ because I’m not privy to either:

  1. Admission he was “very behind”  on his work

RJ Cavender: As many of you may or may not know, I’ve been very ill over the last year-and-a-half. Because of my continued and chronic sickness I’ve gotten very behind on my editing work

Look…. I have chronic Illness.  I have chronic psoriasis and, as a result, have arthritis through much of my body . I live on various immunosuppressant medications to treat it (fantastic drugs they give to cancer patients) and an array of anti-inflammatory and painkiller medications.  On top of that I have mental health issues (not exactly rare these days either) and take various medications for those issues.  I understand chronic illness and I understand chronic pain. What I don’t get is anyone using it as an excuse for not providing a service to someone who PAID THEM 1.5 YEARS AGO.   For many professionals, a couple of weeks is ‘very behind’. A couple of months is ‘very behind’. Almost a couple of years is beyond the pale. When someone pays you large sums of money for a service, you either perform the service in a timely fashion, you subcontract someone to perform the service to the same standard or you return their money.  It’s that simple. I do not consider chronic illness an excuse.  Sorry Randy – you can’t pull that card with me, asshole.

Beyond that, I don’t believe RJ when he says that chronic illness was his actual excuse.  If he was so far behind in his editing from the 2014 retreat no less,  Why did he take on editing customers from the 2015 retreat as well? Why did he start additional retreats (Winchester Mystery House) and take on additional editing customers from that retreat?  Why was he, only a week or so ago, advertising on the StokerCon Facebook group soliciting new freelance editing clients?

RJ Cavender

2.  Several Authors had complained and HWA took action

And because I’ve had several author complaints to the Horror Writers Association Grievance Committee this week, I’ve now been taken off the StokerCon2016 event…one I’ve worked tirelessly on for the last couple of years.

5 authors complained, which, I understand, was in addition to existing names that the grievance committee already had.

What I don’t get here is his shock the HWA would expect him to service his paid customers over volunteer work in their organisation, particularly when the Stanley Retreat where these customers signed up for RJ’s services has events their sponsored by HWA, most attendees were fellow HWA members, and the HWA president was to be a guest of honour this year?

What I don’t get is why, if he cant even service his paid customers, was he even doing volunteer work at all? Surely the correct thing to do would be to say “Y’know what, I would love to help the HWA with this cool idea for StokerCon…. but I’ve already taken these people’s money… so I’m gonna do my job for them first/instead”.

3. He feels bad

RJ Cavender:   And while I do feel horrible that I’ve let many authors down,

Yes he has let many authors down.  I’m unconvinced he actually feels horrible about it at all. If it was a few months maybe. If he wasn’t doing his level best to hoover in as many new paying customers as he could find,  all the while not delivering to existing customer he’d already taken money from, maybe. So I’m calling bullshit on this as well.

4.  IT WAS ALL RJ

 RJ Cavender:  I’ve put my blood, sweat, tears and fears into StokerCon2016 from its early plotting phases with Rocky Wood, to the creation of Horror University (my idea), The Scholarship from Hell (mine, too), and The Lucky Thirt3en Horror Short Film Competition (ditto.) I’ve organized the pitch sessions, I’ve secured guests we’ve never had included at any HWA event or World Horror to date. I’ve created local authors events via the HWA at a book festival here in Tucson and I’ve been very involved with the organization for many, many years now

Apparently it was all singlehandedly RJ Cavender. Infact, I wonder why it was called StokerCon instead of RJCon.

5.  He’s not sick enough for HWA

RJ Cavender:   So that’s why I’ve decided to leave the Horror Writers Association. They’re a good organization and they do a lot of great things in the community, but they didn’t have my back when I needed it most. Perhaps I’m not ‘sick enough’…or perhaps they just didn’t believe I could get caught up on my overdue projects by next month and were afraid there would be some backlash at the event. Which, let’s face it…they don’t really want/need or know how to handle at this point. I’m not sure.

No one believed RJ Cavender could get caught up on his work within a month.  No one. Not the aggrieved parties, not the HWA. Several people complained to me that RJ would forget details of their editing arrangements and they’d have to send him his own emails. In fact, most people aware of the issue or who were aggrieved parties involved wondered if he even knew all the people who had purchased packages from him.

As for being sick enough…that doesn’t even hold water.  Refer above to Point 1.

I think Nickolas Furr made a fantastic point on Monica J. O’Rourke‘s now infamous FB post when he said:

Nickolas Furr:  If he was too sick and frankly overwhelmed to do the edits he’s already been paid for, how does he have the time to spam every single group I’m in 80-90 times a day about every single upcoming writer’s retreat… and how does he have enough time to do all this (non-editing) work? Claiming that he’s been too busy with the HWA to avoid screwing over other writers is a pathetic game, and , even though I don’t know who’s gotten screwed, it pisses me off in a big way

6.  He’s not a child to be taught a lesson and is not the worst thing in the horror genre

RJ Cavender:  But taking an event away from me like this is unacceptable punishment. I’m not a child who needs to be ‘taught a lesson.’ And I feel not only let down by the organization but betrayed and bewildered and goddamn upset, if you want to know the truth. Somehow I’ve become the worst thing to happen to the horror genre…

Taking an event away from you? It’s not your fucking event, you’re a volunteer in an volunteer organisation. You’re one cog in a machine. You play your part and you get to help out. You don’t and you don’t.

You don’t need to be taught a lesson?  How many people do you need to defraud before you do, then?  How many rounds of grievances do you have to go through at the HWA (yes, we all know this isn’t the first time), before you stop acting like a charlatan?  The reality is, you’ve been conning people and now you’ve been called on it. We all know it. No on will go to your retreats any more. No one will pay for your editing services any more.  Game over, man.

As for being the worst thing in the horror genre……….. Right now, that’s EXACTLY WHAT YOU ARE.  And while I may or may not blog further about the allegations against you and the sick things you’ve done (In truth, some people would do a better job as they’re more conversant with the events that have transpired) that doesn’t change that you literally are one of the worst (if not the actual worst) thing in the horror genre right now.   Well done.

7.   Life’s a bitch

RJ Cavender: And to the HWA, I’m sorry…shit happens sometimes, people get sick, life’s a bitch.

If you were an actual man, or decent human being, you’d do the work you were paid for in a timely fashion, or give them their money back. Not whine on about how life is so fucking hard and you’re sick.  Everyone is sick. Everyone has lives. Everyone has commitments. You’re not a fucking special case.

No Randy Joe, you’re the bitch.

8. HWA is avoiding public scandal and not taking care of their own

RJ Cavender: Because avoiding public scandal, embarrassment, or ridicule is much more important than taking care of your own.

The HWA isn’t avoiding public scandal and isn’t not taking care of their own.  By taking firm action against you, they’re protecting their wider membership that you have been defrauding for several years now. They’re taking action against you to protect themselves from you pattern of fraudulent, unethical and damaging behaviour.  The HWA should be applauded, in particular President Lisa Morton who was incredibly receptive and open to hearing complaints and concerned by the serious complaints that were made about you, RJ.  The HWA comes out of this very well indeed. You however? Not so much.

————————

HWA Statement:

The HWA have released the following statement regarding RJ Cavender and his activities and the grievances regarding his dodgy editing practices.  I suspect it was so long coming as, as Hal Bodner has rightly pointed out on several occasions, they probably had to receive legal counsel and then get all members of the board of trustees to agree on the text.   If he doesn’t end up on Preditors and Editors and Writer’s Beware, he should, but let the following serve as warning to avoid this guy and his “services”:

hwa

——————————-

I don’t know if I’ll write a part 3 to this series, one that goes into the Sexual assault allegations against RJ Cavender and the alleged cover up of another incident by RJ Cavender.  Most of the information about it is spread across a lot of different threads and I’m not conversant with all the traumatic details.

I highly recommend everyone check out The Horror Show With Brian Keene as I believe Brian will be talking about this in great detail and following up on this issue in coming weeks.  In the meantime I would recommend reading the thread where these serious complaints were made and I would also recommend reading Wrath James White’s statement about that issue.

In conclusion, I’m really really glad that I took a stand against Randy Joe’s unethical, predatory and fraudulent behaviour. I’m glad I reported it. I’m glad I encouraged other affected authors to report it via their channel in the HWA. And, while I knew nothing of the other issues that have been going on, I’m super glad that the action HWA took in disassociating with RJ and his subsequent leaving of the organisation appears to have given Kelly Laymon and others the breathing space they needed to bring RJ’s more serious crimes into the light of day.

I will be referring this blog post to Writers Beware and Preditors and Editors and encouraging affected authors to submit corroborating evidence. I would hope that since the HWA is a sponsor of Writers Beware, their own official statement highlighting the bad practice of RJ will hold some weight.

 

 

This is something I see time after time in the slush pile so I figured I’d do a short post about it and bring together some resources from across the net. This issue is all up in the Suspended in Dusk 2 slush pile and it was all up in the Suspended in Dusk slush pile as well.

 

image.skreened-tank.athletic-tri-black.w460h520b3z1

Filter words/Filtering/Emotional Filtering

It is a common fault that is not easily recognized, though once the principle is understood, cutting filters away can make writing more vivid. Fiction writers work through an observing consciousness (as in a narrator). Filtering happens when you make your readers observe the observer–to look at, rather than through the character. It dilutes the sense of being shown rather than told, because it reminds the reader that he or she is reading a story rather than experiencing it directly.

Burroway et. al., 2011.Writing Fiction, A Guide to Narrative Craft. pp 29-30.”

One of the worst culprits for weakening your prose, distancing our reader from the protagonist’s point of view and the action, are filter words. This is where you say “John thought x y z ” or “It seemed as though x y z” or you say your character thinks/knows/realises/notices/decides/wonders things… rather than just showing the character doing those things.

A great example (and perhaps the most obvious) is if I write “John saw the big man lift his pistol and fire.” You don’t need to tell us John saw it… John is present in the scene and is our POV character. Unless John is blind,  the default position is that he sees the things that go on in the scene. And if he was blind, you wouldn’t be saying he’d seen something, right? Instead of “John saw the big man lift his pistol and fire.” just write “The big man lifted his pistol and fired.”

Anyway, check this out here for a better explanation:

http://writeitsideways.com/are-these-filter-words-weakenin…/

These pages also have some good basic examples of filtering which enable you to contrast sentences with filtering vs sentences without:

http://www.publishingcrawl.com/2012/05/21/filter-words/

http://blog.janicehardy.com/…/youll-have-to-go-through-me-e…

It is important to note that you can filter actions and also filter emotions. Almost every time you say the word “felt” in your fiction, you’re filtering. When you write “Jane felt furious.” you’re filtering the emotion of anger. Instead show us her being angry. Have her slam a cup on the table and curse at her husband instead. Likewise, if you write “Rachel felt overwhelmingly grateful for what Aunt Barbara had done.” you’re filtering her emotion of gratitude. Have Rachel hug Aunt Barb and say thank you, or turn up to her house with a box of chocolates and a bottle of wine… heck, anything that involves Rachel doing something (verbs/dialogue/etc) is better than you telling us she is grateful.

When you finish your editing, I recommend doing a CTRL+F on every filter word you can think of (some of the links in this post have lists) and cycle through your MS. Whenever you find a filter word, decide whether that filtering is legitimate or not. In some cases it might be. You may want distance from the character because you’re going for a certain aesthetic or style with the prose. Maybe you’re trying for an omniscient narrative voice or an old time fairytale feel. In which case, you want to step back from the immediate point of view of the character. Alternatively, if you generally write a close POV, maybe you search for a filter word and you realise the character is confused/out of it/on drugs/drunk/emotional and so the character is genuinely unsure of things so it’s relevant to say something “Seemed” a certain way or that she “noticed” a particular detail (because perhaps she cant make out any other details!)

I guarantee you, if you’re not legitimately trying to distance your reader from the action or point of view, and your remove most filtering: your prose will be tighter, your word count will go down dramatically, and your reader will be brought much closer to the action and also the point of view of the protagonist. In time you’ll realise that you don’t filter much at all and you’ll find you catch less and less during the editing process, but I’ve provided you with a good strategy you can use as part of your editing workflow to capture and eliminate filter words.

Additional Links:
http://robbgrindstaff.com/2011/…/do-you-filter-your-fiction/

http://www.scribophile.com/aca…/an-introduction-to-filtering

http://theeditorsblog.net/…/keep-readers-close-to-action-an…

http://doggedlywriting.blogspot.com/…/filtering-character-p…

 

 

As I send the Suspended in Dusk anthology off to James Roy Daley at Books of the Dead Press for publication, I think now is probably the right time to look back on the experience and see what lessons I learned. So I guess this post is as much for my benefit as it is for all you guys and gals.   I think, ultimatley, these piece of advice are values based and really translate to anything in life.. or at least to writing and publishing generally. Editing a short story anthology was a truly educational experience for me and here is what I learnt.

 

1.  Aim High

aim high2

When I started this project, originally with my dear friend Nerine Dorman, I thought I’d see whether I could get a favourite author of  Nerine’s (Angela Slatter) to submit a reprint story.  I contacted Angela and told her about the project, told her how we’re great fans of her work. I then told her that it wasn’t a pro-paying market and that I understand if she’s not interested but I was wondering if she’d contribute a reprint. Well guess what? Angela offered to submit a BRAND NEW STORY.  A brand new story from a British Fantasy Award winning author… in my anthology? No way?? YES WAY! ❤

This then lead me to think … “Well.. if I asked Angela nicely and she said yes.. what happens if I ask one of the other great authors I admire? The worst they can do is say no, right?”  Wrong. The worst they can do is actually not even respond, which I did learn. But that’s cool. Some didn’t respond, some responded and said no for various reasons. And you know what..? Some said YES. Specfically… British Fantasy Award and Bram Stoker award winner Ramsey Campbell. Bram Stoker Award winner John Everson.  Super disturbo writer, Shane McKenzie.   Editor extraordinary and self-publishing powerhouse, Rayne Hall.

What a coup!!  And how did I achieve it all?  Aim high. Hell, go for the freaking throat, man. Just don’t sell yourself short or be all half-assed about it.

 2. Connect. Network. Reach out.

download

I call this anthology a triumph of networking. Both classic and in the modern social media sense. The majority of the writers that I invited to this anthology were via Twitter. Twitter is an awesome place to meet other people and writers in particular. Don’t ask me why but they love Twitter.

In addition to Twitter, as discussed, I reached out to well known writers via email. For the most part it was via the contact section of their websites. Sometimes I even emailed their webmaster and nicely asked if they’d forward on a message to the writer. They did.  This is how I met some writers who contributed stories and how I reached Jonathan Maberry who read and endorsed the anthology with kind words.

I also sent out a call through my local writing group, Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild, and to the Litreactor community and some of my writing friends I’d made during classes on the site.  I was also able to approach one a writer who teaches at Litreactor through the site’s admin team and was able to ask them about writing an introduction to the anthology.  Month’s later, they had a read of the final product and agreed and wrote a fantastic introduction. (can’t say yet who it is, but I’m super thrilled by this).

What was my secret?  Read on, dear reader. It’s covered in the next point.

 

3. Be Gracious, and don’t be an ass!

Teach-good-manners-to-kids

One of the best piece of advice I’ve received.. succinct, to the point, and utterly true… was from Angela Slatter:   Don’t be an ass. Whether it’s in life or in the publishing business, everyone appreciates basic courtesy and basic manners.  If you’re going to approach someone and ask for something (especially an established or professional writer) … it’s you who is asking them. It’s you who wants something. They don’t owe you any favours. Hell, they probably don’t even know you.  Be nice. Ask politely. Be friendly.  Good manners don’t cost you a cent, sprinkle that shit around liberally.   Don’t just ask nicely, thank people for their time. Everyone lives a hard life. Everyone has jobs and kids and obligations. These people are taking time out of their lives to work with you on your project.  Nobody owes you anything. Be gracious. Say thanks.

4. Do your best work

work

without wanting to sound too preachy or pompous:  Always do your best.  When I started the project I felt like I was a little in over my head. So what did I do?  I started the editing rounds  and focused on what I knew I was good at or what I was most confident in. As I progressed, I polished up on my grammar, the elements of style (I even read The Elements of Style!), and tried to really hone my critical analysis skills and my understanding of story mechanics etc.  In the subsequent rounds, I implemented this new knowledge and allowed myself a little more latitude to request developmental edits or to query writers on matters of style . Boy did it pay off.  I’m a much better editor now. I’m much more confident with grammar. I’m much more confident and excited about editing my own fiction now. And I’m much more confident that I understand what makes a good story and my ability to assess that.

Moral of the story? Do your best. By really working your hardest and pushing the boundaries, you hone your existing skills and you open yourself up to new abilities and new vistas of awesomeness. Just do it.

4. Roll with the punches

boxing_punch

 

When I started the Suspended in Dusk project, I originally intended to co-edit it with Nerine Dorman, who is one of the editors at Dark Continents Publishing.  Nerine and Dark Continents were sadly unable to continue with the project and it all looked like it was done and dusted.  By this point, however, I had already taken submissions from around 60 authors and was in the process of shortlisting and finalising the Table of Contents.  I won’t lie.. this was crushing for me. Projects not going ahead are relatively common in the publishing industry.. but I felt like I’d come so far. Not only was I heavily emotionally invested in the project, I didn’t want to let all the authors down. Nor did I want the embarassment of going back to many of the well known industry veterans and saying “hey, sorry, shows off!”.

So what did I do? I pitched it to another publisher. And when they had a long look at it and decided to pass, what did I do?  I pitched it to another bloody publisher.

The end result? Suspended in Dusk found itself a worthy home at Books of the Dead Press, a respected North American small press.

I can’t even begin to describe how satisfying and rewarding it is to have perseverance like that pay off.  This is how PhD grads and olympic athletes and novelists must feel.

Wow. Just wow.

5. Persevere

Stair-Climbing

There will be times that you look at your writing or the book your editing and think:  “When will this end?” or “I’ll never finish this.”  or “I can’t even focus my eyes anymore.. I’m blind! I”M BLIND!”

Ignore this.  Take a break. Rest your eyes. Focus on your own writing for a while. Watch some TV or kick back with a friend. Get a friend to proof what you’ve done to prove you’re not going mad.

Do all of these things, but don’t give up.   One of the great truths in life is this:  After every hardship, there is ease.   This truth is constant, no matter how morbid you want to get with it.

Eventually, things get better.  You wake up more rested and the blurry words are clear.  You have another read of the story and you capture the filter words you missed the first time.  You get through the first round of edits and the second round is comparatively easy because you’ve torched all the really horrible grammar and its a pretty solid set of stories now.

You push, you keep on at it, you sink your teeth into the jugular for one last dogged shake.  And in the end you know what?  You’re done. It’s finished. Book complete. You win.

6.  PARTY

party

Congratulations!  You just finished writing your novel. You just finished editing your novel. You just finished editing your anthology or painting that piece of art you’v been toying with. Hell, maybe you finished cleaning your room and your mum is finally off your back.  ENJOY IT.  Celebrate. Read a book. Smoke a hookah pipe. Go out for a few drinks or paint the town red.  You earned it.  You’ve beaten the boss at the end. Achievement unlocked.

Just don’t forget points 1-5

 

 

S.

esuslogo101409

One of the great ironies of me being a systems engineer is that I’m generally really slow on the uptake when it comes to new technologies.
Generally speaking, I find what works, I master it, and then I incrementally add to it or tweak it. I’m usually the last to take on new tech or jump into new things like social media. Perhaps it comes from the fact that I”m often learning so much new technology and applications in my work life that I militantly resist doing it in my own personal life outside of work.

The company that I’m working for is a Google partner and makes use of Google Drive as shared space in the cloud for collaboration and to store business documents, etc. Using the Google Drive application which we install on our work laptops we’re able to syncronise a folder on our laptop with one in the cloud. When I write a new business document and save it in the folder it’s instantly uploaded to the cloud. If someone else updates that document, the change is automagically synchronised to the copy in my Google Drive folder on my laptop. This is pretty neat, and very handy for a distributed work force that is scattered across a number of different client sites.

When I started writing, I found myself juggling document versions of stories across multiple devices and things got pretty messy. For instance, I’d work on a story on my laptop during my lunch break at work and have to email it to my gmail account, and then download it at home so I could work on it that evening on my desktop PC. More than once during this convoluted process I lost data that I had to rewrite. So this got me thinking— why don’t I use Google Drive for my own writing? So I looked into it. I soon discovered that, out of the box, you can’t have more than one google drive account running on the same machine and you have to purchase third party software to enable this. Because I needed google drive on my work laptop for work purposes this ruled that out.
That’s when I remembered DropBox.

Like Google Drive, DropBox provides you a chunk of online Storage (5GB!) and client software you can install on your PC and phone (android/apple/etc) which allows you to syncrhonise a folder on your device with your storage on the cloud. This is freaking awesome. I put all the docs for my current writing project, and all my stories, into a folder on my PC and edit and save them there.  When the client notices a change has taken place to the files in the folder on my PC, it synchronises the folder with the cloud storage and the newly updated files are instantly available on all my other devices for viewing/editing/transmission.

I can also make files and folders within my dropbox available as a URL to other people. This is handy when you’re working on a collaborative project such as a short fiction anthology. For example, I could tell my writers “hey, grab the final proof of the anthology from my dropbox: http:\\simonsdropboxlink\” and they’d be able to jump online and instantly access it. And your stuff isn’t only accessible if you have the software client installed on your device You can access your cloud storage via the DropBox.com website just like you would webmail and all your files will be there ready to download. This is fantastic if you’re on a kiosk machine, or at a friend’s place and want to download some of your work but don’t want to (or are unable to) download the client onto the machine or device you’re using.

So what does this mean for me as a writer and editor? It means that I”m always working on the right version of my story and my story is always available no matter where I am or what device i’m using. As an editor it means that the edits I’m doing of other people’s stories are always saved, and always accessible. So far, I’ve performed the entire editing of the Suspended in Dusk anthology out of my DropBox—where I’ve been able to store all the stories, contracts and other information centrally. It has been truly invaluable and has definitely increased my productivity. More importantly, I’m more than certain its stopped me from losing data or losing important paperwork that I would’ve otherwise lost if I was juggling documents between multiple devices. As a writer there is nothing worse, nothing more heart-wrenching than data loss

There are a dearth of options out there for cloud providers, from DropBox to Google Drive, to Microsoft Skydrive and Apple iCloud. The following article discusses some of the offerings out there and I strongly urge you to take a look:

http://www.theverge.com/2012/4/24/2954960/google-drive-dropbox-skydrive-sugarsync-cloud-storage-competition

Each of these will operate slightly different or offer different features or different amounts of cloud storage, but the basic principles are the same and so is the benefit you can recieve in adoption.

Simon.

We’re hear a lot of things about editors… some see them as a necessity, a second set of eyes to catch your mistakes. Some see them as killers-of-darlings, bloodsuckers, anal-retentive grammar nazis hell-bent on removing all the unique and beautiful voice in your work.  Some see them as a useful tool in a writer’s tool kit, great for certain circumstances but not necessarily obligatory at all times.

So what is the truth? Do writer’s need editors?

Frankly, yes.  I’ll make a declarative statement here:  the vast majority of writers need and would greatly benefit from editing in some way, shape or form during many (but not necessarily all)  of their projects.  The reality is no one is perfect at everything. No one knows all the grammar rules. No one sees all their own mistakes.  I’ll try and back this up with the rest of the article.

‘But what about proof readers and beta readers or critique partners?’ I hear you say.  These are great. Use them. Find yourself a critique partner that reads or writes in the genre that you’re working in. Get them to read your stuff. Listen to their advice. If  it makes sense and you agree with it, accept it. If not, don’t implement it.  
But do they replace an actual editor? No, they don’t. Why? Because while they’re probably keen and well intended, its doubtful they are a professional and it is doubtful they will give your work the same level of thorough treatment or scrutiny as a real editor would.  Beta-reading, for the most part is not about the prose level issues and is more geared towards structural/thematic/developmental concerns, rather than grammar.

So what are the issues that lead us to need editing?

Grammar:
There first issue is that most writers, myself included, aren’t truly competent (or even confident!) with proper grammar usage. We write instinctively based upon a mix of what we learnt in high school ,what we remember from reading and what looks “right” on the page. Most of us don’t know what a participle is, or what a gerund is, or what a present participle is. Every writer, if they really and truly wish to be the best they can be and improve their craft, needs to start learning this stuff. It doesn’t have to be a painful process.. there are great books out there, some of them which are absolutely hilariously written, which will teach you when to properly use a semicolon or what the the hell Oxford Comma is. There are also a plethora of really useful grammar websites which all this and more is freely available. If you’re not strong with grammar, not confident or just write by feel rather than thinking about grammar while you write… you will benefit from the services of an editor.

Storytelling:
Some people are natural story tellers, some people learn from experiencing, and some people learn from reading/talking/education/instruction/mentoring. We should all expose ourselves to as many different types of learning because there is value in all. This is why storytelling is harder to teach because it is most experiential.  We pick it up from so many different things we do and, crucially, from practice. This is why there is that adage that you have to write a million words of crap before you start churning out the good stuff.  I don’t think an arbitrary number like 1 million is necessarily right, but the underlying element of truth is there. So get out there and EXPERIENCE storytelling. This is essential.  If you’re not strong in this department, or are inexperienced, then you will benefit from services of an editor.

Reading:
Stephen King once wisely said “If you don’t read books, you have no business writing them”.  No truer words have ever been said. You will never learn what you need to know about writing, from storytelling to grammar, without reading. Read a lot. Read widely. Read outside your comfort zone.  The more you read, the better your writing will be, the better your editing will be, and the better your final product will be. Full stop.  If you don’t read books, your writing will suffer immensely; your editing will suffer immensely; and your finish product will suffer immensely as well.  If you don’t read books, even a good editor may not be able to help your writing.

Editing work ethic and work flow:
I’m currently editing a short story anthology (Suspended In Dusk to be published by Books of the Dead Press *shameless spruik*) which includes people who’ve only published once or twice to people who’ve published dozens of stories and won awards such as the British Fantasy award or the Bram Stoker award, or other prestigious regional awards like the Aurealis award.

The new manuscripts that came through from the old hands and some of the talented authors who’ve been around for a while, clearly, were far better edited by the authors themselves before they’d submitted. Sure I’d still be making some minor edits before it goes to final print, this is natural, but I guess what I’m trying to say is—you shouldn’t ever underestimate how well you, as a writer, can actually edit your own work.

In my personal opinion, one of the major things that lets writers down in the editing department —and is a major reason why most of us need second pairs of eyes to look at our work SO BADLY—is that we don’t have an actual editing workflow. We think “OK, I’m gonna edit this now.. dododododo…there you go, editing done” . What is most beneficial in editing, however,  is to have a series of steps.. or a check list.. of things you want to do/achieve and to methodically (and repeatedly! )run through your piece of text (story/chapter/scene) until you’ve scanned it for each of these things and rectified them.

This is an basic example of my editing workflow.

1. Read through the piece of text and highlight anything that looks like a developmental issue… stuff that doesn’t make sense, logical inconsistencies, stuff that is poorly phrased or worded, instances where the author has told when should’ve shown. If it’s my own work, I fix these issues first, because it may result in a dramatic addition of new text or removal of existing text. If someone else’s work I comment them all in track changes and suggest how they might go about fixing them.
2. Read through the piece of text again and focus solely on correcting punctuation… commas, apostrophes, colons, semicolons, fullstops.
3. Read through the piece of text again and focus on more complex grammar issues: tense, correct use of present participles
4. Go through the entire text again and address instances of passive voice and remove as much of it as possible. Here I usually don’t read the text, but usually just do a “find” for filter words (feel,look,watch,hear,realise,decided,know,can,etc.) and where possible, reword sentences to make them active rather than passive.

Implement something like this (and you needn’t mimic mine, find something that works for you!), and be surprised how tight your prose AND storytelling can become.  If you don’t have this kind of editing work ethic or work flow, or are inexperienced in implementing it in regards to your own writing… you will benefit from the services of an editor.

Conclusion:

I think most of us are lacking in one or all of the aforementioned departments. To that end we will all benefit, to lesser and greater degrees, from having our work looked at by an experienced editor.

At the same time, I’m firmly of the belief that you can achieve a very very high standard of editing of your own work, so that it is 100% ready to for submission to magazines/agents/publishers, without needing to hire an actual professional editor. To reach this stage in your writing career takes effort, resolve, preparation, dedication, but its achievable for you if you want to get there.

If your work is picked up by a publisher, they’ll edit it before it goes to print anyway and should, if they know what they’re about, catch any remaining mistakes etc.
If you’re self publishing, you should still have a second pair of eyes look at it before it goes to print, but even then…I truly believe most of the real grunt work can be done by the writer themselves and a bucket of money can probably be saved.

Everyone should have a second set of eyes run over their work before final print—but I’m not truly convinced that a professional editor is needed in ALL instances. As with all things in life, what you should do is largely based on what you’re attempting to achieve.

 

Simon.

Hi everyone,

It’s been a while since  I’ve had a chance to post. Work has been flat out, my beautiful wife is pregnant with twins that are due mid-June and I’ve been buried deep in the second round of edits for the Suspended in Dusk anthology.

Because of all these hectic goings-on, I’ve neglected to give you all a teaser about Suspended in Dusk, so here I am to remedy that.

Here is the (unordered) Table of Contents for the anthology; a fantastic list of authors and a fantastic line up of stories.

Alan Baxter – Shadows of the Lonely Dead
Angela Slatter – The Way of All Flesh
Anna Reith – Taming the Stars
Armand Rosamilia – At Dusk They Come
Benjamin Knox – The Keeper of Secrets
Brett Rex Bruton – Outside In
Chris Limb – Ministry of Outrage
Icy Sedgwick – A Woman of Disrepute
J C Michael – Reasons to Kill
John Everson – Spirits Having Flown (Reprint)
Karen Runge – Hope is Here
Ramsey Campbell – Digging Deep  (Reprint)
Rayne Hall – Burning (Reprint)
Sarah Read – Quarter Turn to Dawn
Shane McKenzie – Fit Camp (Reprint)
S. G. Larner – Shades of Memory 
Tom Dullemond – Would to God That We Were There
Toby Bennett – Maid of Bone
Wendy Hammer – Negatives 

Some of the names above are quite well known but there are also  a few fresh new voices in the mix. All of the stories are, in my opinion, of a fantastic standard. All of them, in some way or another, literally or metaphorically, deal with the title theme Suspended in Dusk, and do so in vastly different ways.   I’m honoured to be working with such a fantastic and august line-up of authors.

Simon.