Daniel Boucher is one of our editing clients. We became acquainted with him through his wife, author Kendra Elliot, who's published by our same group. Later, when Daniel was seeking a copy editor for his new novel, THE STORYTELLER, Craig jumped at the chance to work with him. Here, Boucher talks with Craig about bringing that story to life.
Q: You chose to write your novel THE STORYTELLER for the Kindle Worlds platform, adding it to the Lee Goldberg-William Rabkin series. What intrigued you about going that route?
Early on Lee had posted a contest to get published in THE DEAD MAN's canon series. I entered but didn't win. However, the idea I had at the time never left my head. It kept knocking and knocking until finally is started screaming at me to be written, so I started writing it with the understanding that I could submit it under Amazon's Kindle Worlds program, where I could add my story to the Dead Man World.
Q: Your novel is notable in that it's both an homage to and an extension of the original book in the series. How fun was that?
It was a lot of fun—but also a bit of a challenge. I had to keep re-reading the first novella, FACE OF EVIL, to make sure I had my story straight. Also, there's a lot of homage to some of my favorite authors throughout, as well as one *big* homage to a very well-known author (hint: it's not Stephen King). We'll see if any readers figure that one out.
Q: I know you submitted this manuscript to rigorous editing—on the developmental end from Jacque Ben-Zekry and with copy editing by me. What did you learn from that process? Why is it important?
With Jacque I learned how to identify and address plot issues (it's a continued learning mind you), as well as the value in trimming content to pick up the pace when there's simply too much going on. It was hard to make the cuts where she had suggested, but in the end I was excited by how much better it read.
With you I learned that I have problems with it's and its, that commas can be overused, the importance of understanding that there a lot more words in the English language for moving about than "he made his way over" and that a copy editor, like a dev editor, can offer a lot when it comes to sprucing up story.
The biggest—most important—thing I learned was that I'll never release another work that hasn't been dev/copy edited. Why? Because no matter how ready you think—you KNOW you are—you're not.
Get. It. Edited.
Q: Anybody who follows you on Facebook gets a steady diet of movie recommendations and the full menu of your cultural interests. When did you decide to start blending those interests with a desire to write fiction?
I've loved movies for a long as I can remember, but it wasn't until I read CUJO (probably worth noting that I'm a die-hard King fan) that I learned reading could be fun. Since then reading has always been a visual experience for me. That may sound weird, but a good book really unleashes my imagination and I have no trouble visualizing what happening. Having said that, the combination of the two was never "planned" but is just a natural piece of me. I like it. And, if I like it, it makes sense that others will too.
Q: You and I are both married to other writers, which means we probably ought to start a support group. How much of your works in progress do you share with Kendra?
A support group? Where do we find the time?
Kendra and I share everything—except our writing. She's very much a keep-it-close-to-her-chest writer when she's writing (even her agent doesn't get to see it until it's done!). I try to read everything she writes once it's ready, and I'm always in awe of her skill.
As for me, well, what I write doesn't fall under her umbrella of interest. But she's always taking time to stop and help me when I need it. I'm sure I annoy her with all the noob questions.
Q: What are you working on now?
Believe it or not, a romance. I'm a huge romantic comedy fan and love to read anything by Susan Mallery, Mary Kay Andrews, Elin Hilderbrand and the like. While my novel is not necessarily a romantic comedy, it does have humor and (I hope) captures the "feel good" vibes like those of the previous authors I mentioned. I'm excited to write it, and I'm sure that'll remain, right? Authors never get tired of writing, right?
One of our most treasured friends in Montana is Richard S. Wheeler, an author of impeccable grace and almost unbelievable output. Over a 40-plus year career as a novelist, he's published more than 80 titles.
In recent months, he has re-released his memoir, An Accidental Novelist, which we find to be a most remarkable book. In it, Richard writes vividly and honestly and lovingly about the writing life, including his marriage to Sue Hart, a longtime professor at Montana State University Billings who had a profound influence on Craig. (Click here for the remarks Craig gave at her memorial service in 2014.)
Richard is a wonderful writer. More important, he's a stellar human being. We're thrilled to share this Q&A that Craig conducted with him.
You recently released a new edition of your memoir, AN ACCIDENTAL NOVELIST. Did you do any revising/updating from the version that was originally published 10 years ago?
Only a new dedication to my late wife, Sue, including her birth and death dates, but I didn't make any text changes about our late-life marriage.
You write vividly of past professional lives—journalist, book editor, ranch hand, etc. How did those things prepare you for the writer's life?
Hemingway considered journalism a form of literary apprenticeship, and so do I. Book editing gave me critical insights into the art of writing. But most importantly, my forays into other occupations, such as wrangling horses, opened the real world to me. The worst thing a future writer can do is hang around literary circles. Go spend a day witching water in drylands, and write about it.
In your experience, how much do nature and nurturing come to bear in the development of a writer? Do you consider yourself innately talented or did you become what you are?
I have few natural skills as a storyteller and had to learn all that from the roots up. Attending genre fiction conventions helped. My mother had been an English teacher, and I did absorb some grammar. There's no one route to success. Each person needs to cobble together the gifts and habits that will help conquer a difficult and competitive field. I consider Jack London's life an example of shaping a career out of what you're born with.
One of my favorite parts of the book delves into how you and your late, deeply loved wife, Sue Hart, came to the decision to marry and how to live as married people. How did the two of you make that work?
Distance and sovereignty. We had separate homes, careers and incomes, but in common a love of writing, literature, and tastes. We'd known each other for decades, but by the time we talked of marriage we were old and didn't want to build anew, like young couples. So we lived separate lives, and each meeting was a honeymoon.
You're an astute commentator on how publishing used to be vs. what it is now. What's your advice to a nascent writer?
Go with the new. I can offer nothing of value to aspiring writers. My world is now history. Five minutes with you would help an aspiring writer more than an entire book from me. I do have one prejudice, though: steer clear of all master of fine arts education. And in particular, avoid all MFA orthodoxy.
You made your reputation and your living as a writer of genre fiction, which is a world apart from the literary-fiction sensibility that dominates most university settings. Have you made peace with that lack of critical recognition, and if so, how?
I used to grumble at academics. I was ready to show them genre novels that contained every quality ascribed to literary fiction. But recently I've concluded that literary and popular fiction are two different worlds. They appeal to different types of readers, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. Where did that lead me? I quit being embarrassed about being an author of popular fiction, and I no longer cared whether critics and academics consigned my writing to oblivion. I reach people who are bored by literary novels. That's a happy place to be at the end of my life.
You read widely. What do you make of today's fiction?
I can't generalize here. I'm seeing some of the best fiction I've read in years, and the best of it doesn't pigeonhole as literary or popular. Someone's written a compelling story. And yes, I'm talking about your work.
What's your own assessment of the career you've had?
I earned a living in a field where almost no one does.
Read more about Richard at his Wikipedia entry.
His considerable backlist can be found here.
Craig's seventh novel, Julep Street, came out today. To mark its release, he writes below about its journey from concept to manuscript to honest-to-goodness book, and some of the issues an author must think through on the way to publication:
By a happy accident of the calendar, I've had several opportunities to speak to students and civic groups in recent weeks, and during the Q&A portions of the talks, I've fielded some variation on these two questions:
1. How long does it take to write a book?
2. How do you know when you're done with one?
Each is answered with two simple words—"it depends"—and a cavalcade of anecdotes. Do I tell them about my first novel, 600 Hours of Edward, which was drafted in a feverish 24 days? Or my second, The Summer Son, which needed a year to cook and a half-dozen significant rewrites? Or any of the others, all of which came with their own distinct challenges, and all of which announced their readiness in different ways.
With the release of Julep Street, I can speak in specifics, because this book's journey through the manuscript phase and, ultimately, publication was unlike any other I've written.
I started writing Julep Street in 2012, at a leisurely pace (for me). It got interrupted late in the year as Edward Adrift, the follow-up to 600 Hours, pushed insistently at my brain and demanded a quick gestation. In 2013, I finished Julep Street's first pass and a couple of rewrites, and I sent the manuscript on to my then-agent and my then-editor at Lake Union Publishing.
Responses were slow in coming. And when they arrived, they weren't what I was hoping to hear. My agent found the protagonist, Carson McCullough, unlikable, and the book wasn't the high-concept project she'd been hoping to see. (Spoiler alert: One of the freeing discoveries I've made about myself is that "high concept" isn't really my strength. I'm OK with this.) My editor found Carson's dog annoying and suggested that the manuscript wasn't quite there. The problem, for me, is that "there" was a squishy concept; I didn't know what it was or how to reach it. So I put Julep Street away and moved on to the next few books.
Here, I have to give credit and appreciation to my literary wingman, Jim Thomsen, who loved Julep Street from the start and would gently inquire from time to time about it. That kept the manuscript in my thoughts and was a crucial factor in my picking it up late last year and seeing its possibilities with fresh eyes. Thank you, Jim. I owe you. Again.
Upon re-reading the manuscript, I saw my way through. I found deeper empathy with Carson and wrote a more fulsome version of him. Hector, the dog, became a crucial character unto himself. The thematic aspects of the story, lurking beneath the prose I'd squeezed out in 2012 and 2013, became more pronounced in 2016. At long last, I had a manuscript I was ready to prepare for publication. The resulting book is out now, and I couldn't be more proud of it. And I'm pleased to have received validation in the form of strong reviews. (Here, too!)
So what made the difference for Julep Street? Time and perspective, I'd say. The well-grounded criticisms of my former agent and editor were given a chance to seep into my brain and come out through my fingertips in needed revisions. In waiting more than two years between setting it down and picking it up again, I gave my writing and my sense of story time to develop. Reading it fresh, I saw its flaws, its successes, and its possibilities. I acted on all of those, and then I released the manuscript into the editing and publication process.
Here at Lancarello Enterprises, we can't tell you when it's time to bring others into your story. That's your journey, and it's personal and unique. Our best advice is to write as well as you can, develop a strong relationship with your manuscript, rewrite until you've done all you think you can do, and then put some faith in professionals to help you realize its potential. When you've reached that point—when you're ready for developmental editing, copy editing, or publication design—we'll be ready to talk. Always.
We're just a click away.
Writing is, for the most part, a solitary act. And yet no writer works alone. Any professionally published book goes through several phases of editing before it’s published. Part of the process as a writer is to revise and hone the writing until every word is in its right place, every sentence reads clearly, concisely, and fluently, and every paragraph and thought is organized and arranged.
Unless you are a super-genius (just ask Wile E. Coyote), you will need to hire professional editors to assist you. You need someone with proven experience and a reputation.
If you are self-publishing a book and can’t afford an editor, then you aren’t ready to publish.
Depending on which stage of the process you’re in, you’ll need to call on one of the following (typically in this order):
A developmental editor
A copy editor
A developmental editor looks at the big picture. Rather than focus on things like grammatical issues and style choices, a developmental editor will help you make sure your story and characters follow a full arc, that your timeline meshes, that no plot holes are left open, and more. In other words, a developmental editor is there to help you make the story the best it can be. If you’re writing a memoir, a how-to book, or some other form of nonfiction, the goal is still the same: make sure your sequence of events works, make sure your directions are well-organized and easy to follow, and/or make sure the readers are engaged.
Developmental editing typically happens in several passes. Your editor provides you with a letter addressing all aspects of character development, story arc, pacing, etc., along with a manuscript complete with embedded comments addressing the specific references to those aspects and issues. You then get to work rereading and rewriting, based on your editor’s suggestions. (Do you need to take every suggestion? No. But if you don’t, ask yourself why.) The manuscript is then passed back to the editor for another round of examination, and then the two parties proceed with some number of back-and-forth passes until you both agree the story is where it ought to be (or until the deadline requires the story to be where it ought to be).
While the developmental editor is looking at your manuscript from a big-picture standpoint, copy editors handle the finer issues, those of grammar and mechanics, while providing a second line of defense on the global issues the developmental editor focuses on. (The fact is, all levels of editing, if done right, have some overlap with each other; a good developmental editor will point out nettlesome style issues, and a good copy editor will find a hole in your novel’s timeline.) Copy editors make sure your sentence structure is correct, your references are accurate, your tenses match, and that “Febreze” is spelled with one “e” rather than two. They’ll make sure your modifiers don’t dangle and your parenthetical phrases don’t take over. Trust me on this: They will save your bacon. And they’ll make sure you didn’t write it as “save your bake on.” Typically, this happens in one pass. You address any notes the copy editor has made in addition to the corrections, and unless you have additional questions, you’re ready for the next stage.
Your manuscript is getting into better shape with each editing pass. Now it’s time for the proofreader. Proofreaders generally deal with the typeset, “final” version of the manuscript, and the job is to make sure all the clichéd “i”s are dotted and “t”s are crossed. They make sure no one missed an incorrect there, their, or they’re. They look for typos, spacing errors, and overlooked spelling or punctuation errors. They make sure the pages are in sequence, or that the author’s name isn’t misspelled atop every other page (yes, this has happened). Some proofreaders like to do this with either a printed proof copy of the book, or with a PDF of the interior formatted manuscript.
Tips to editing success
In my experience, finding the right editor for you is as important as finding the right spouse. You need to have a rapport. You also need to trust their judgment. It helps if they have a working knowledge of the genre or the subject matter you bring to them.
Also, when hiring an editor you’ve never worked with before, ask to see samples of their editing first.
Finally, make sure you allot enough time for each editor to accommodate your publishing schedule as well as their schedule.
Need an editor? Contact us for a rate quote and a sample!
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