Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Writing: Answers From Ray Rhamey, an Independent Editor

Normally, I post about "stuff" on Tuesday and writing on Friday, but for reasons you'll see in a moment, I'm changing that. We hear a lot about writers using independent editors. This is true whether the writer wants another set of eyes on a manuscript before submission to an agent or editor, or needs someone to polish a novel before it's e-published. I first met Ray Rhamey through his blog some years ago, and have benefitted from his wisdom. Now I want to share some of his thoughts with you.

-What does an independent editor do?

I can only testify as to what this particular editor does. My editing is a combination of developmental editing and intensive line-editing. That is, I look at storytelling issues such as plot, structure, character, the effectiveness of scenes, etc. I have reorganized a client’s manuscript, suggested new endings, etc. I also look for “speed bumps” that slow the pace of a story.

On the language side, I do line editing to clarify the narrative, to make the “staging” of action work—you’d be surprised at how often it doesn’t; there’s a chapter in my book on watching out for the “incredibles”—and to catch grammatical, spelling, and other errors. Besides clarity, a constant issue, I help with description, setting the scene, transitions, and other aspects of narrative craft. I do not bill myself as a copyeditor, but I will catch 95% or so of what a good copyeditor will see. I also offer a critique service, which is a read-through of a manuscript and extensive notes on strengths and shortcomings. The critique fee applies to a full edit if that seems like the right thing to do to the writer.

-Is there something you’ve observed in your editing that might benefit the writers who read this blog?

Perhaps the failure to exercise the delete key often enough. Too many times I find a narrative that is “overwritten,” that includes micro-details that fail to contribute to the story or characterization. A couple of simple examples: He reached out with his hand. “With his hand” is absolutely not necessary as people don’t reach out with anything else. Or: She tucked her hair behind her left ear. Unless it matters to the story which ear holds the hair back, this is a useless detail.

-For years you’ve been “flogging” submissions online, and that experience is reflected in your new book, Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling. Can you tell us a bit about the book?

Full disclosure: this is a “sorta” new book. It takes the content from my now-out-of-print book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells, and reorganizes it, fleshes out some areas, and adds new content such as an examination of “filtering” and my new “First-page Checklist” for creating a compelling narrative.

The book is in four sections: Wordcraft, which digs into what you put onto the page at a granular level, dealing with such things as “waste” words to watch out for and the secret to using adverbs productively (hint: it isn’t to modify verbs). The second, Technique, covers the “how-to” of storytelling (show versus tell, point of view), description (using experiential description to characterize), and dialogue (using dialogue tags, beats, internal monologue). The third section, Story, goes deeper into how to create tension, “connectable” characters, and story questions. The last section, Workouts, provides first pages submitted by writers to my blog for the reader to analyze and edit using the things learned from the book.

Ray has more thoughts to share, so he'll be back on Friday. I hope you'll come back to read what he has to say. 

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Patricia Bradley said...

Great information. I'll be back Friday!

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks, Patricia. I've "known" Ray (via cyberspace) for quite a while, and he's even "flogged" my first few pages a time or two. Always good advice from him.
Appreciate your comment.