Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Rising to a Challenge

Since this is my first post here at Hoosier Ink, I thought I’d start with a little about me. My name is Abbey and I write for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Historical line as Mollie Campbell. I’ve lived in Indiana for 24 years, currently in Kokomo with my husband and our two kids.

Speaking of those two kids, isn’t it amazing how different siblings can be? My youngest is what I call a “try-er.” When she wants to do something, she fights to get it done. She puts in the needed effort and doesn’t let fear hold her back, meeting every challenge head-on.

On the other hand, my oldest…prefers not to be challenged. He would be more than happy to sit at home all the time, playing with the same old toys and never stretching himself. He’s very shy and lets his fear of new situations and new people keep him from doing things, even really fun things. No matter how hard we try to reason with him, once he decides he’s too scared or he can’t do something, he just won’t do it.

As writers, don’t we face this all the time? We all know what can happen when we face a challenge. Failure. Languishing in the process. Or…maybe success. We can choose to face a challenge head-on. Send that proposal to an agent or publisher. Step out and search for a critique partner. Go to a conference in spite of not knowing anyone.

Or we can choose to hide from the challenge. If I’m honest, I can be more like my oldest than I care to admit. Putting words that come from my heart in front of people who might judge or criticize can be terrifying. It’s easier to keep my writing to myself. And for years, that’s what held me back from even trying.

But once I found the courage to start sharing the words I love, I found that I always come out on the other side of that challenge better than where I started. Even if the outcome isn’t exactly what I hoped for, I learn and grow through the experience. And the same applies to all the hard things we come up against in writing (and life). Facing that challenge makes us better and makes our writing better. And that’s worth conquering the fear.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Value in Fiction Not Labeled Christian

The Bellingwood Series
by Jean Kavich Bloom


Although I make no judgment about the fiction choices any Christian reader makes, nor what any author chooses to write, I am sharing about the value I've found in a series not labeled Christian fiction. Nor is this series infused with biblical values and Christian portrayals despite not being labeled Christian fiction, such as the beloved Mitford series by Jan Karon.

Bellingwood is a fictional small town in Iowa created by prolific author Diane Greenwood MuirI would call the Bellingwood series, whose main character is a woman named Polly, contemporary women's fiction, with plots that include mystery and romance, humor and drama. Although primarily wholesome and pro marriage and family, the author doesn't claim these novels are Christian fiction on her website. And let me be upfront about some of the content.

I have never read anything graphic in these books, and I've noticed only the occasional "PG" four-letter word. But then, uncharacteristic to the majority of each book, the author sometimes writes discussions among Polly's group of women friends that make them sound like giggly teenagers to me. One woman in particular loves to make shock-value statements. I've skipped some of those discussions. I found them out of place considering how the characters otherwise admirably conduct most of their lives.

If you never want to read about characters who occasionally behave as I've described, none of whom make an outright profession of Christian faith, then you probably won't be interested in the Bellingwood series. I understand when a reader feels anything he or she reads should specifically point to Christ. But let me share two reasons I find value in this series.
1. It promotes walking worthy, though rocky, paths. Although entertaining (Polly has a somewhat humorous Murder She Wrote way of finding bodies), these books address serious topics such as mental and physical illness, death, abuse, and abandonment. For example, in one book the author touchingly portrays Polly's journey with a dying woman and the young daughter she will leave behind. As Polly grows in a community new to her, she models generosity and an other-centered life. Polly and, in particular, her regularly churchgoing, mentoring friend Lydia inspire me with their hearts for others and caring actions. I also love stories of transformation. From renovating buildings to restoring hope for others, Polly shows us what can be done when we see opportunities and grab them. And yet . . .

2.   Polly is flawed—just like me. Through Polly—a fiery, independent woman in her thirties with some hurts in her past—the author continually explores the question, “What’s the right thing to do?” Polly usually comes to the same conclusion I hope I would, but I don’t always like her reactions to some events. That makes me think of me. And when reading novels like these, I can ask myself, How am I different from or the same as this character? What would I do in that situation? Might that character make a different decision if she or he were a confessed Christ follower? Is God in this scene even if he's never mentioned? How would I write this scene as Christian fiction?

Every believer must make his or her own reading choices. But for me, despite no clearly established Christian message in these books, I'm drawn to this author's portrayals of sacrificial love every Christian should strive to achieve. While I'm entertained by the stories, I am also challenged to sort out the motivations behind her characters' actions.

Muir has also written a contemporary re-imagining of the biblical story of Ruth, in which, her website says, “Naomi finds that she has been given a great gift—an understanding of the way God fulfilled His promise to care for her, no matter what. When He seems so far away, we find Him in those who continue to love us.” When I've caught up with Polly and her world, I might just check out what Diane Greenwood Muir has to say in Abiding Love.

If and when you read fiction not labeled Christian, what criteria do you use?  What value, if any, have you found in novels not obviously infused with biblical values and Christian portrayals?



Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries
(Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with nearly thirty years' experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children and five grandchildren.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

How to Help Authors: Write Reviews

Periodically, I'll get to spend time with readers or developing writers. I absolutely love it. There's something so fun about rediscovering books through the eyes of a book club. Or to talk about why they want to write with new writers. Often it will come up that they'd like to help and encourage their favorite authors, but they don't always know how. One super easy way is to write a review. It can be as easy as leaving a 5 star mark on Amazon or as detailed as telling people why you liked a book. Writing a review can be intimidating but it doesn't need to be. I’m always glad to help people feel more comfortable spreading the word about books they love.

I love to tell everyone about books that I love…and now that I’m an author, I know just how much a well written review — even if it’s a few sentences (or stars) can help authors.

Many readers use the number of reviews as one way to decide whether or not to try a book or a new to them author. Some platforms use the number of reviews to decide how discoverable to make a book in its algorithm. Reviews make a huge difference to writers!

It’s really easy to write reviews! Really.

I’ve never taken a course on book reviews, and actually fell into writing them almost by accident.
So after I started a blog more years ago than I want to think about, it made sense to have books be a large part of that blog.

About the same time I joined ACFW. Through it’s e-loop, I got to know many authors. Often they ask for influencers — people who will read a book and if they like it tell people about it. I love to connect people. If you’ve read The Tipping Point, I fall clearly into that category. I am enthusiastic about anything I can do to connect people with a person or product I love.

That’s how I started, and now I can’t imagine not doing it.
While leaving stars and a quick sentence is great (and very helpful), if you want to do more, here’s a review I wrote. I’m going to insert explanation throughout to explain why I wrote what I did….




1) First Paragraph: A quick summary: Happy, happy sigh. This reader was swept away by Courtney Walsh‘s delightful Paper Hearts. It is one of those sweet romances that just has it all! (This is a way to quickly introduce the book and tell a bit about the book in general. Now on to the meat.)

2) Second Paragraph: set the stage. Abigail Pressman has a dream to expand her bookstore set in a tourist town in the Colorado mountains. All she needs to do is scrape together the funds to buy the building. Before she can do that a new doctor swings into town with the cash to buy her building. Before she really meets him, she knows he could threaten her future plans and happiness…not to mention her livelihood. Jacob didn’t intend to destroy her life, he just wanted to create a new one for himself and his daughter. Think You’ve Got Mail. But then the Valentine Volunteers get involved — think a Greek Chorus ala Letters to Juliet, and all kinds of shenanigans happen. (Now I’m telling a little about the characters and the plot. What resonated with me? Why might someone else like these elements? My goal is to give enough to intrigue and give a sense of the story…but never, ever, ever giveaway plot points! Those are sacred for the reader to discover on their own.)

3) Third Paragraph: Dive deeper into themes. This book is rich with secondary characters who beg to have books of their own, yet keep from stealing the show. Abigail is the kind of heroine I would love to sit down with and share cups of her special Love Peak brew. And the paper hearts are an excellent reminder to keep an eye on my personal romance and ways to keep it alive through good and bad times. (Sometimes if there’s a strong spiritual thread that resonated with me, I will include that here. This book has great themes, but the charm of it for me is the characters and the paper hearts. So that’s where I focused. But I always try to dig deeper than a plot summary. You can get that from the about the book section of most online retailers. What’s key here is to give the readers peeks into what makes this book special, memorable, perfect for them.)

4) Fourth Paragraph: the perfect summary and reader. This is a romance perfect for those who love a contemporary story filled with heart, characters you’ll adore, and a romance laced with enough angst and ahhhs to keep you reading. (I always try to summarize really quickly who the book is perfect for. I read very broadly, so all books I like aren’t for all readers. So I describe the reader who will like this type of book. )

I hope this is helpful! And if you write reviews, thank you

Monday, July 3, 2017

Writing fiction improved my nonfiction writing





When I went to a writer's conference three years ago, it was to learn more about the craft of writing Christian fiction. There was a space there to display one sheets. I felt led of the Lord to put a book proposal together for a book about my sons who have autism. It was a last minute after-thought, really. I didn't expect much to come of it. But there was an editor who was interested.  After a few detours, which landed me with another publishing company entirely, my nonfiction book, A Pair of Miracles, will release on July 25. 

When writing this book, I found myself using a lot of skills I'd learned in writing fiction. It was quite unexpected and thoroughly delightful. And while I'm eager to get back to fiction again, I'm looking forward to writing more nonfiction because I've learned so much about the craft of writing itself from writing both. 

If you are writing fiction only right now, don't dismiss the idea of writing nonfiction, too. It's a great way to grow your platform and can open doors you never expected. 

Karla Akins first novel, The Pastor’s Wife Wears Biker Boots was published in August, 2013.  A Pair of Miracles: A Story of Autism, Faith and Determined Parenting will be released July 25, 2017.  She writes interactive, biographical narratives and content for iPad applications and has an on-going contract for her World Explorers Every Child Should Know series. Jacques Cartier hit #1 on Amazon in its category. Her hobbies are book-hoarding, swimming, and riding her motorcycle. She is represented by Linda Glaz of Hartline Literary Agency. She has a BA in Special Education and a Doctorate in Christian Education.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Scary Words in Social Media Waters

by Jean Kavich Bloom

Publish. Send. Post. These can be scary words for writers who use social media, especially if they choose to share some of their creative work there.

Everyone knows I’m a writer. What if what I wrote is boring, meaningless, or (my favorite) stupid? What if I didn’t see a (horrors!) typo? What if I “forgot” to make sense?

Well, so what? Not everything we write is great. Not everything we write goes through a professional editing process (but I highly recommend routine self-editing to protect the writing reputation you have or hope to build).

We all make writing mistakes, especially if we’re typing on our phones with those tiny keyboards. But writing is meant to be read. And anything we write that can be accessed through social media will be read, even if only by our moms, third cousins on our dads’ sides, and people who in high school seemed kind of like stalkers, but we’ve connected with them on Facebook anyway.

Besides, look at the benefits. In brief posts, you can practice making even a single sentence beautiful with elegance and clarity. Twitter is a great challenge for that because of its character limit. You can dive into the social media waters with an effort to be brilliantly funny or inspiringly serious and see what floats—or doesn’t! You can encourage your friends and acquaintances with a new insight. If you share a link to a lengthy piece—a blog post, a short story, an essay—you might be able to test the waters with a new genre, a new audience, or a brand-new concept you’d like to develop. You can even devise a concise, to-the-point survey to learn what might help you propel your writing career in some way.

Or you can just have some fun and make your mom proud.

Sure, you must be prepared for no “likes” or “shares” or “comments.” But writers gotta write, and social media like Facebook and Twitter and easy access to blog platforms like WordPress and Blogger make it easier than ever to gain the benefits of putting your writing out there.

All you have to do is get past the scary words and dive in.

Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries
(Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with nearly thirty years' experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children and five grandchildren.


photo credit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=7781&picture=water-plunge

Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Pill for Writer's Block


In last month’s issue of The Smithsonian Magazine, Robert Anthony Siegel told how he overcame his chronic writer’s block with a pill. Not just any pill, but a custom-designed placebo. A researcher prepared the medication for Siegel, who knew full well that the pill contained nothing more than cellulose.
He took the medication for two weeks before he noticed any change in his behavior. When he felt a strong urge to quit, he took a couple of extra pills instead. (“I was way, way over my dosage,” he confided.)
Gradually, his episodes of writer’s block became less frequent and debilitating. So did his panic attacks and insomnia. His experiment contributed to our knowledge of the placebo effect.
A few insights into the placebo effect may help you overcome writer’s block, even if you don’t use a placebo:
1. Your expectations shape your experience. Robert’s researcher did everything to make the prescription look like a real pharmaceutical: He gave Robert a written prescription for his druggist, who then gave him a labeled medicine bottle with the pills, a disclosure sheet about the medicine, and a hefty bill of $405. (“The price increases the sense of value,” the researcher told him. “It will make them work better.”)
You could do several things to heighten expectancy when you sit down to write. Draft a cover letter to accompany your submission to the editor or critique partner who’ll read it. If you’re going to meet that person to discuss your manuscript, make the appointment before you start to write. And so on. What if I don’t finish? you may be thinking. But if you anticipate failure, guess what happens.
2. Find an empathetic caregiver. The researcher filled that role in Robert’s case. He listened attentively to the consequences of writer’s block, helped Robert imagine how his life would change without it, and checked on his progress throughout the trial.
If you keep getting “stuck” with your writing, find a critique partner or mentor to help you. Your conversations with that person tell your subconscious mind: I am not well, but I’m taking steps to get well. This condition is not normal, but I have a capable friend who’ll help me return to normal.
3. Continue therapy when you see no results. At first, Siegel's writing remained “stuck” and his anxiety began to build. He emailed his lab worker one night to pour out his frustration, and got the reply: “As with any other medicine, it may take time to reach a therapeutic dose.” So he kept on taking the placebos as directed--and he began to write.



Joe Allison has been a member of the Indiana Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. He lives in Anderson, IN. His non-fiction books include Setting Goals That Count and Swords and Whetstones.
 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Writing Bug

by Jean Kavich Bloom

Do you remember when the writing bug got you?

My grandchildren are victims, and I'm thrilled.

I was with three of them a couple of weeks ago while their parents were out on a date. The two boys were eager for me to read their most recent creations. The five-year-old, Benjamin, had dictated his fifty-word story about a hero and a monster as the seven-year-old, James, typed it for him. (Now, that’s writer support.) Then James typed his debut novel's chapter 1 for himself.

“What’s your book about?” I asked him.

“It’s a mystery.”

“What’s the mystery?”

“The family is going camping, but the kids don’t know where they’re going camping.”

As I read it out loud, I could see the first chapter had a lot of packing and camping paraphernalia in it. But sure enough, the kids in the family didn’t know their destination.

“What’s going to happen next?” I asked.

He shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Ah, a panster! Meanwhile, his ten-year-old sister, Connie, writes about horses, her current passion. They are all writing "what they know," but if their interest in writing continues, I imagine they will incorporate what they learn about life as they experience it. Most writers do. Or maybe they'll incorporate what they think is someone else’s experience.

“What do you think your parents do when they go on a date?” I asked the three of them as they munched popcorn.

“They go to movies and eat all the chocolate they want."

“And they kiss!

Today I read a story my other granddaughter wrote on a tiny piece of paper and left behind in her parents' van. Ellie's imagination, it seems, had been in full play.

"I live in texas," her first-person story began. She lives in Indiana. "The texas flag looks like this." She'd inserted a drawing, which for all I know may be accurate. She finished with, "I am part of the rocking rangers. I am 13." She's seven, and I'm not sure what the rocking rangers are. But as far as I'm concerned, she's rocking with the writing bug and I love it! Meanwhile, her brother, Simon, almost five, is impressed with printed books because they "don't have scribbles" like the ones he sees in his own handwritten creations.

Scribble away, my boy. Scribble away!

When did the writing bug get you?


Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries
(Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with nearly thirty years' experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children and five grandchildren.
photo credits: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=147906&picture=children-on-a-hammock; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=177876&picture=paper-and-a-pencil

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Sense of Awe

My wife Maribeth and I sat on the balcony of our hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, sipping our morning coffee and watching waves break on the beach.  Our day’s devotional text was Psalm 27:13, “I believe I will enjoy the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living,” so the scene prompted a prayer of praise and gratitude that God had placed us in such a beautiful world.
I believe a distinguishing characteristic of Christian fiction is this sense of awe at the natural world. Not a moralizing commentary on the weather, scenery, or other physical phenomena, but an awareness that the environment of our story demonstrates the presence of a creative, compassionate God.
   Perhaps the heroine is riding in an ambulance with her husband, who’s struggling to hang onto life after a heart attack. When a paramedic tries to jolt him back into a regular cardiac rhythm, she looks away and sees the majestic Cascade Mountains illuminated by the first rays of dawn.
   A teenage boy waits for the bus that will transport him to another state where he hopes to escape the abusive scorn of his alcoholic father. A Canadian goose crosses the highway with a single adolescent gosling behind it—not a pair of parents but one, not a brood of goslings but one.
   It’s not necessary to tell a reader what conclusions to draw; in fact, spelling out conclusions would betray a distrust of the reader’s spiritual sensitivity and limit his ability to draw more transformative conclusions than you have imagined. Simply note what’s happening in the natural world and let the reader discover God in it.
   “The heavens are telling the glory of God,” the psalmist said. Like the poet, a Christian novelist doesn’t tell readers what to see in her imaginary world, but she renders such a world so faithfully that readers feel a sense of reverent wonder.

Joe Allison is a retired Christian editor living in Anderson, Indiana.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

They Had Me at “Jane Eyre”—To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters

by Jean Kavich Bloom

Did you see the recent PBS presentation To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters? Perhaps British television is not your “cuppa” tea, but this one had me at “Jane Eyre.” If you’ve ever read that book by Charlotte Brontë or Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, for instance, you might have been drawn in too. (I confess I’ve never read Anne Brontë’s work, but now I think I must.) 

Here’s more of what I loved about the nineteenth-century Brontë family as portrayed in To Walk Invisible and how I think we, as writers, can be inspired by them:

·       In this drama, one of the sisters says something like, “I feel most alive when I write.” For twenty-first century writers who express a similar passion, her proclaim produces a stir of kinship across the centuries, doesn’t it?

·       The sisters wrote even when they thought they, especially as women, had little hope of publication. When, however, they saw an opportunity to be published (as well as to earn some much-needed funds), they went for it—although at some cost to them, and in Emily’s case, with great reticence. The lesson? If you feel led to publication, you must try if you hope to ever see it a reality.

·       In one scene, Emily, finally on board with the secret plan to pursue publication, is shopping with Anne. As they walk, she tells her sister a compelling story someone relayed to her. Then she halts at a shop and says, “If I’m going to write novels, I’ll need more paper.” I can’t quite explain all the reasons that scene inspires me, but her willingness to invest is one of them.

·       The women’s beloved brother, Branwell, destroying his life with drugs and alcohol, was central to how these sisters thought and felt and lived. Branwell never realized his artistic dreams, but his sisters were so aware of his misery that they hid their success from everyone so as not to hurt him. This, I believe, took extraordinary compassion and humility. They could have let their accomplishments come between them and their brother, but they made another choice. If and when writers are successful, sensitivity to others who might be struggling is a good choice.

·       Currer Bell, Ellis Bell, and Acton Bell were the pseudonyms the sisters chose, retaining their own initials despite their choice for absolute anonymity. They had poured their hearts and souls into those handwritten words, and I think this was one way they chose to hang on to that truth in a harsh world. This, perhaps, is one reason seeing his or her name on the cover of a book can be so meaningful to an author. There’s the heart. Right on the cover.

·       When Charlotte, Emily, and Anne at last told their father they were the authors of published books after Jane Eyre’s phenomenal success, they held the printed volumes before him as though they were an offering. He told them he was extraordinarily proud of them, and had always been. May every writer have supportive family and friends! But if not, finding someone or group of someones who will offer support can make a difference.

·       Charlotte had been afraid to tell their father about their books. As she’d told her sisters, “He’ll read them.” Most writers can relate to feeling some apprehension before letting those whose opinions they most value read their creative work. But Charlotte decided to be brave, and every writer can be too—at least eventually.

·       The sisters told their father their novels were different because they showed what the world was really like. You’d have to be the judge on whether, as some critics said at the time, their novels are “coarse” (I don’t believe they are), but truth is a worthy goal for any writer.

·       Anne and Emily died before they reached thirty, never having known public acknowledgment of their work under their own names. Charlotte died at thirty-nine. What we call early death today wasn’t uncommon then. What if they had given up on their dreams, waited too long? The lesson? It’s never too early or too late to start writing, especially if writing is a calling. The time is now.

Thank you, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, for sharing your God-given talent with us, even here in the twenty-first century. But also for your courage, your compassion, your tenacity, your inspiration.







Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries

(Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with nearly thirty years' experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children and five grandchildren.

Monday, April 3, 2017

ACFW-Indiana Explodes with Creativity!



On March 18, 2017, ACFW-Indiana authors gathered at Manchester University's new School of Pharmacy for a day of writing and creativity. We had a great time collaborating, discussing our works in progress, and getting to know one another better. The support we found there was priceless. So much talent in one room -- it's a wonder the walls didn't explode!




I was delighted to meet and get to know new members, Kathy Thompson and Abbey Downey! Welcome to the family, ladies!


Manchester University's facility was fantastic: comfortable and roomy, not to mention sound absorbent! (We needed that during our "Would You Rather" game!)



We did a lot of work in the area of first lines and plotting. No matter how long you write, there's always more to learn.

For those who couldn't come: you were missed. Please don't forget to save the dates for our upcoming event in Indianapolis on June 17! You won't want to miss hearing Colleen Coble and Cara Putman share their writing wisdom with us!

Karla Akins first novel, The Pastor’s Wife Wears Biker Boots was published in August, 2013.  A Pair of Miracles: A Story of Autism, Faith and Determined Parenting is due out in summer/fall of 2017 from Kregel.  She writes interactive, biographical narratives and content for iPad applications and has an on-going contract for her World Explorers Every Child Should Know series. Jacques Cartier hit #1 on Amazon in its category. Her hobbies are book-hoarding, swimming, and riding her motorcycle. She is represented by Linda Glaz of Hartline Literary Agency. She has a BA in Special Education and a Doctorate in Christian Education.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Self-editing by Editing Level


by Jean Kavich Bloom

Authors can possess an effective tool for warding off indifference, criticism, or even outright rejection of their writing: self-editing.

Not all writers enjoy self-editing, but I think we should all try to develop some skills for it. Search engines reveal a plethora of articles, blog posts, and books on the subject, and I recommend that approach for all the advice and tips and tricks you can gain. I've even shared some on this blog. But I also propose considering self-editing along the lines of others-editing, before you hand off your work to an editor. Especially to an acquisition editor with the authority to decide whether to publish you or at least to encourage others to do so. Maybe even before you send your work to a beta reader team.

If your work is professionally published, it will most likely go through several levels of editing (and yes, the many different labels used among professional editors is confusing):

·         Macro, substantive, developmental, or content editing: This is the view from 50,000 feet when an editor is looking at the substance of the whole work. Does it speak to the intended target audience? Does it make sense; hold together; present a logical flow-of-thought (or plot)? Is each chapter strong enough, or do some need work? Will the opening chapter or paragraph give the reader the most incentive to keep going, or is that incentive buried later—or even missing? In fiction, does the plot have gaps; are the main characters well-developed? Is the pace good? This is the editing level that can result in the author being asked to do some rewriting, maybe some reorganizing.

·         Line editing: This level is my sweet spot as a professional editor. Paragraph by paragraph, line by line, word by word, the line editor works to tighten up writing to maximize the reader’s experience and reduce reader distractions. He or she addresses repetition, awkward phrasing, wordiness, lack of continuity or sense, gaps that need to be mended, points that need to be fleshed out, and so on. Often, he or she discovers problems created by rewrites. But that’s okay; those can still be fixed.

·         Copy editing: I combine line editing and copy editing for my clients, but some houses separate the two. At its most basic, copy editing ensures consistency, that the chosen style guide has been followed, and that grammar, spelling, and punctuation are correct. Note: Proofreading is not editing, but a final task to try to ensure no error has been missed.

My advice is to wait until after you’ve written a draft that satisfies you before self-editing by level—and then wait some more. Hopefully you aren’t so close to a submission or posting deadline that you don’t have time to step away at least a couple of days, if not more. You need to gain perspective with fresh eyes and brain cells.

Then try self-editing level by level, one at a time. Ask yourself the same kinds of questions an editor will.

·         Macro, substantive, or content editing: Does your content hang together? Are all the elements what they need to be to tell your story well?

·         Line editing: Is your writing as strong as it can be? What needs to be reworked or addressed? What problem (such as a contradiction) might you have inadvertently created when you wrote your last draft?

·         Copy editing: This level might not be your bailiwick, but you’ll be surprised what you find if you read with the intention of spotting errors. And do run a spell check!

As I said, you can find many helps online and in books to develop self-editing skills. And no matter what we do, every writer needs an editor. (You can probably find a problem with this post because I, uh, didn't have an editor or a proofreader!) But consider how employing each editing level—just as professional editors will—could take your self-editing to a new level of expertise and success.








Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries
(Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with nearly thirty years' experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children and five grandchildren.


photo credit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=69478&picture=steps-against-the-wall