Hire A Professional Editor?

Are You Ready To Hire A Professional Editor?

Maybe – but you might consider beta readers as a good first step.

Delivering your manuscript into the hands of a professional editor can be an intimidating step for any writer. It does not, however, need to be the first and only step in improving your first draft manuscript.

You may have heard of “beta readers”. If by some chance you have not, pay close attention. A beta reader is anyone that a writer brings in to give that first manuscript draft a test drive. With the same air of trepidation, a writer makes a dozen copies of their pages and hands them out to a few close friends.

Sounds great right? It’s a great way to kick off the re-write process without hiring a professional editor just yet. Where do I find these beta readers though?

A lot of writers I know work in writer’s groups. They’re great for accountability and networking. Writer’s groups meet weekly (or less often) to discuss new pages, characters and story lines. To many a new scribe, their writer’s group sounds like a pretty good place to test the waters. I would like to offer up a contrary opinion though: I don’t believe writer’s groups are the best place to find beta readers.

While it is true that most writers are voracious readers, I find other writers have skewed views of manuscripts and especially those still in development. All too often, I find that other writers look at your manuscript through a much different lens. They can offer great advice (usually closer to publication) but in those early phases, it may behoove you to cast a wider net and look elsewhere. And here is why.

On the road to publishing success, your book is going to have to impress readers. Lots of them. Thousands of them, in fact. Why not get your book into as many of those genuine book readers as you can? The people who curl on on the couch with a paperback. The passengers who pull out the latest thriller novel as they board an airplane. The person at the library who talks a blue streak about your work.

This is, after all, your target market.

When an inventor comes up with a brand new kitchen gadget, they don’t necessarily test market to the select few chefs who run Michilen star kitchens. However exclusive or skilled, it’s a limited marketplace. To become the new “must have” item, they need to get out to foodies and house wives and the millions of people across the world who prepare meals on a daily basis.

Your set of beta readers needs to amount to a few things. They need to be reliable. They need to be well read and opinionated about books and literature. Whether or not you include your Mom and her glowing praise for everything you do is up to you (I say yes, you’ll need that boost to your confidence).

More than anything though, before hiring a professional editor consider submitting your work to a diverse group that represents your entire market.

Of course, there are some of you I’m sure who are ready for a professional editor. If you’ve done a thorough job in the rewrite process already, then a professional editor can help you bring that final polish to your work and navigate the treacherous industry waters that lay ahead. If this sounds like you or if you’re stuck in any phase of the writing process, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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Manuscript Editing – Ghostwriter Advice

Manuscript Editing

Why Manuscript Editing Is As Important A Picking Up The Pen In The First Place

The temptation is there. Every new author mulls this over and frankly, it is hard to blame them. After months and even years writing their novel, they believe that “THE END” should mean just that.

“I’m done,” they say as they press save. “It’s time to put this book out there.”

Whether an author has chosen the traditional publication route through an agent or publisher, or they are going independent via Amazon (or another outlet) putting a freshly completed writing out into the world does not magically transform it into a proper book without proper manuscript editing. Unfortunately for some there are clear consequences to this assumption. Fortunately for anyone reading this, however, those consequences are avoidable.

A writer must first understand the difference between a manuscript and a book.

Amazon can be a wonderful place. The on-line retailer is a boundless market place where up-and-coming authors connect with prospective readers. The platform allows them an opportunity to publish material on their terms, offering exciting new stories for eager readers who are only a few clicks away.

But even eager readers are not easy to please. Even at a couple of measly bucks a pop for an eBook, competition is fierce and there are expectations. One of the first harsh realities that many new authors learn is that a bargain basement price point does not equate to favorable reader response.

Unfortunately for some authors, Amazon slams as many doors closed as it opens. Whether that story is a carefully plotted multi-kingdom epic fantasy, or a gritty noir thriller, books are open to immediate ridicule. More often than not when a book is sloppy, readers will write an extensive review that completely omits character and plot. Instead, the reviewer chooses to dwell on a few comma splices and misspellings.

Sounds harsh? Maybe. The truth is though, this happens all too often. Sadly, this is among the most easily avoidable pitfalls in the publication process. Self-published novels that once had a great chance at building a strong base of readers for an author gets buried by negativity.

Why? The book was still a manuscript. Understanding the difference is critical.

The lesson here? Edit. Your. Manuscript. Make it a book. Although manuscript editing costs money and can be among the more challenging steps in the publication process, if it’s done right, it can lead to the greatest reward.

Sometimes it’s extremely beneficial to have a second set of eyes on your work to maximize the benefits of the editing process. If you feel like you’ve reached “THE END” and are ready to put your work out in the world, get in touch before you do. I can help you properly convert your manuscript into the book it deserves to be!

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Use Of Setting – Ghostwriter Pro Tips

The use of setting can have a powerful emotional impact in your story. But mastering the use of setting to enhance certain elements of the plot can be a difficult process. As a professional ghostwriter, I regularly work with writers whose use of setting falls short of delivering the impact that renders critical moments unforgettable. So let’s take a look at same particularly good writing to expose a few secrets of how to achieve this.

An examination of the use of setting in the Netflix series “Master Of None” eventually leads to a look at Season 2’s penultimate episode. In “Amarsi Un Po” the season’s lone hour-long installments, Ansari and his writing team essentially flip the use of setting from previous episodes.

For the better part of Season 2, “Master of None” thrived using a series of mostly intimate settings. Restaurants. Night clubs and taxi cabs. Apartments. Streets. The show is in large part about a young man’s private interior moments and Ansari found creative ways to bring that to life in Dev’s everyday.

Season 2 tells the story of Dev’s growing love for Francesca and of her ever dwindling ability to believe she can continue on with her boyfriend. That love thing between them is growing out of control and in “Amarsi Un Po” Ansari and his writing team finally use some of the grand settings New York has to offer.

The first act culminates in one of Manhattan’s most recognizable locations, Washington Square Park. After a nice dinner, Dev and Francesca walk and talk, seemingly carefree. This is a seemingly ordinary scene we have seen before, only now it is taking place by the night time glow of the white stone Arch which stands at the park’s northern gateway. Although the conversation between Dev and Francesca is familiar, we get our first sense that something much bigger is in store.

At the episode’s middle point, Dev rescues Francesca from a day alone and escorts her to the Storm King Art Center in upstate New York. Again, the two lovers are simply walking and talking, but now they find themselves amid wide open fields, weaving their way through massive abstract sculptures. Although no one has said as much, setting tells the story that things are quickly getting complicated between them.

Finally, Dev can take no more. He has to say something to Francesca and we get a sense that she is finally ready to listen. When her boyfriend ditches her (again) Dev comes to the rescue (again). This time they take a night time helicopter ride around Manhattan. They circle over the city, taking in a bird’s eye view of one of the grandest cityscapes on planet earth.

And of course, it’s in that helicopter that Dev confesses his feelings for her.

The lesson we take from “Amarsi Un Po” is that sometimes a writer simply must think big. While using grand settings such as these too often can weigh the story down, setting critical moments of large emotional impact in iconic places can enhance their impact.

Ansari could have set these conversations in similar places and still been successful. The writing in “Master of None” is that good. These three scenes are the most pivotal in the series though, and setting them in iconic locations with sweeping views takes those critical moments and makes them unforgettable.

CALL TO ACTION:

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Elements Of Setting In Writing

The Elements Of Setting In In Your Writing

Tips from a pro to help you incorporate appropriate elements of setting to make your story come alive.

Looking at how Aziz Ansari uses elements of setting in his clever Netflix series Master Of None shows why it matters where your scenes and stories take place. In fact, the buzz around the little show that everyone is talking about may be as much the product of setting as it is chemistry between characters.

Master Of None is a program with many predecessors. The protagonist is young. He is a dreamer. He is desperately trying to figure things out as he lives life. As charming as he is, he is unlucky in love.

While the subject matter is nothing unique, Ansari utilizes a fresh approach to tell this familiar story. Take “The Dinner Party” the fifth or middle episode from season two.

It is no spoiler to reveal that Dev (Ansari’s character) has recently returned to his native New York from a cooking internship in a small Italian village. At the end of season one, he left his NYC problems behind to learn the art of making pasta by hand amid romantic locations steeped in ancient history.

And, as all love lost protagonists do, Dev also befriends Francesca while overseas and they hit it off.

But Dev and Francesca can only be friends because she has a boyfriend. In “The Dinner Party” Dev invites Francesca, who is visiting the states, to a Manhattan soiree put on by one of his new buddies, a producer for the cooking network where Dev works as a host. This is the place to be. Everyone is going to be there and the party is so posh that John Legend gets up and plays piano at the behest of his host.

Writers Ansari and Alan Yang expertly utilize what amounts to a simple apartment setting. One of Dev’s oblivious actor friends happens to be at the party too and he’s constantly interrupting their banter. When they do get to talk, Dev helps Francesca overcome her stilted use of English with loving charm. Of course, it’s a foodie party, so passionate opinions about the myriad plates of food crop up between them. No one can simply like or dislike a dish. They have to argue about it. As the evening wears on, Dev opens the debate on flavor notes in a glass of wine (which Francesca charmingly describes as tasting like shoes). When the moment is right, the flamboyant host butts in and upstages Dev’s humor.

Five obstacles to Dev’s goal of Francesca. All of them arising naturally out of the elements of setting in the episode.

“The Dinner Party” is about how two people can be so close yet remain far away from one another. In order to accomplish that goal, Ansari and Yang had to create an organic setting that provided ample interruption. What better than a dinner party? How about a dinner party put on by professional foodies?

The episode culminates in the two characters sharing a cab after the long evening. This is the episode’s (and maybe the series’) golden moment. Dev is charming as always. Francesca listens to him and laughs at his little quips but… they just cannot execute the kiss they both so plainly want from the other. There is a genuine love between them but after an evening of missing they cannot get where they need to go.

Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl proves elusive. The formula is stock. Ansari is not content to write out a cliche he knows will work. Instead, he freshens the bittersweet story line using setting.

Give me a call or email me if you want to talk about how you can leverage my skills and experience to make your story come to life. It can make all the difference in the world!

 

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Writing good dialogue – Ghostwriting Tips

Tips For Writing Good Dialogue

Advice from a pro

Writing good dialogue, authentic dialog is tough. People talk in nuanced ways that aren’t always easy to capture on the page. They say you need an ear for it.

How does someone hone that ear though?

Playwright David Mamet’s advice on the subject is famously simple and abrupt. The great Mamet once advised a room full of eager creative writing graduates to eschew graduate school. Instead, he said, find a bar, preferably a pool hall without a television where they could sit down and listen.

Seems simple. Replace tuition with bar tab.

I have taken David Mamet’s advice to heart. I do not play pool (at least not well) but I do take frequent trips to a comfy stool at the quiet bar down the street and simply listen to what people say. It has proven to be the best means of achieving dialog that sounds like real people.

Writing good dialog comes from refinement.

Here are five truths and tips to refining your character dialog to achieve that authentic tone.

Read It Out Loud:

This may sound simplistic but a lot of writers that I know are afraid to do it. And why?

Because their dialog sounds hammy and on the nose.

If you want that real voice, read it out loud and avoid adding your inflection at all costs. This is a critical step, especially if you’re writing a screenplay, which is in large part a performance of your dialog.

Think In Negotiations:

All dialog is a negotiation. Think of what you say on a day to day basis at work or at home. Verbal communication is an expression of desire or purpose, all with the intent of affecting someone else.

This applies even when a character is talking to themselves. Self-talk is grooming for future interactions.

There is a very simple exercise to sharpen this sense. Put two characters in a room. One wants something that the other has but they cannot name or ask for it.

Write it and see all the ways allusion and suggestion enrich the conversation.

Negative Space:

Allow for negative space in your dialog. People don’t always say everything they are thinking. Omissions are as important as inclusions. If your character conversations begin with a hearty hello and end with their chosen means of good-bye, your dialog is probably overwritten.

A way to get this down is follow a simple rule: arrive late and leave early.

Conversations Are Rhythmic:

Straight line conversations simply do not exist. I cannot express this more emphatically. No one walks into a room, announces their purpose, gets what they want and walks out.

One of the ways I work on this is recording conversations. Get permission then record a normal conversation and you’ll see that it’s a rhythmic construct of all the above elements.

Introductions. Negotiations. Negative Space. Repeat.

Mamet Is Correct:

The core truth in Mamet’s statement applies. You cannot learn to hear real dialog a from TV or movie. Writers must find their story subjects in the world and listen to how they talk, interact, negotiate and feel.

An easy tip for writing good dialogue: Go out. Find that barstool. Sit. Listen.

If you’re having trouble writing good dialogue, or with any other area of your work, it may be beneficial to consider working with a professional ghostwriter. A ghostwriter works with you behind the scenes to take your writing to the next level. Considering it? Get in touch!

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Three ways to develop characters – Advice from a pro

Three Ways To Develop Characters

Advice from a professional writer

As a ghostwriter, I get asked a lot by other writers for advice on different ways to develop characters. Human beings are dynamic creatures by nature. We get restless when things are the same for too long. Why then do most writers shy away from infusing their creations with an element of change?

When I read a manuscript or work on developing a story, I am frequently shocked at how writers refuse to shake their characters up. They stubbornly adhere to that first description. A character that looks the same at the end of the story as they did in the beginning probably did not endure much of transformation. They act the same and do the same things regardless of how much chaos the writer has crafted around them.

Here are three very simple ways to shake up your characters out of stasis and give them life.

APPEARANCE:

Perhaps the simplest of ways to develop characters that transform through the story is a change is in their appearance. Take a look at Walter White. Throughout the course of Breaking Bad, the writers alter his look in subtle ways and each one signals a massive shift in his character.

Goatee.

A rumpled fedora.

The shaved head goes from the result of chemotherapy to gangland persona.

After six seasons, White is physically different than the man who first got that awful diagnosis. Each subtle change effectively builds anticipation in the viewer, leaving them wondering what might come next.

All too often, writers put their character in an imaginary costume and leave them in one place. In some ways I can see how this tendency makes sense. A character takes time and energy to design. A dynamic and interesting character isn’t the promise of stasis though. They are the promise of change.

Signal that change to your reader. Show what’s happening on the inside with a change on the outside. Foreshadow. Does your character cut their hair an episode or chapter before their big announcement?

Little things like this keep readers reading and viewers viewing.

ROUTINE:

Routine is nice. We all have them. Get up at a certain hour. Eat lunch at a certain place. Most people I know break their routines in a routine way too. When they go out for a beer they hit the same bar.

Stories are not about the status quo. They are about people that challenge the assumption of same. “American Beauty” tells a story of little more than this, a man whose day to day strangled him.

Not every story about routine change features a Lester Burnham character. Your character can choose to walk instead of drive to work. They can steal a bike. A simple flat tire can put your character on the bus to work and the melting pot of a city bus can offer up new obstacles and opportunities.

Challenge their routine or your begging for their dismissal.

RESPONSE:

The last of the three ways to develop characters is a little more subtle but can be an equally effective of demonstrating character change. Say your downtrodden hero goes out to coffee every morning and the barista always seems to screw up the order, and every morning your character sucks it up, takes the wrong cup and walks away.

Maybe your story isn’t about the coffee, but showing your character standing up for themselves signals a bigger change to come. I like to use the little interactions in a story as a gateway. Maybe standing their ground and asking for the right cup of coffee sets in motion the main action that is asking out a cute boy.

These are three ways to develop characters that will keep your writing fresh and bring your characters to life. If you’ve got a good story, but just need little help to push it over the hump, let me help. As a professional ghostwriter, I solve these issues all the time and I know I can do the same for you.

 

 

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Professional Ghostwriter – Ghostwriting As Path to Publication (Part I)

Ghostwriting can be an effective way to learn how to make craft into a business. As a long time professional ghostwriter, the best practices I have developed have gone a long way to prepare me for more success in where my ambitions lie.

Here are a few handy tips on how you can parlay a successful ghostwriting practice into a better platform for your own publication:

Clear Client Communication:

Writing is a solitary pursuit. Yet it is an equal truth that no successful writer can be an island.

Whatever you choose as the path for your project (whether that be a novel or a memoir or a feature length screenplay) at some point you will need to communicate clearly with a team of editors and publishers, designers and marketers. Even if you choose to go with the self-publishing route to bring your book to market, you will still find yourself working with a team.

Use your ghostwriting experience to hone these skills. Learn how to discuss project specs. Talk about time lines. Be clear about expectations. Discover the value of saying no.

Receiving Notes:

No one ever wants to hear that they need to go back to the drawing board. As difficult as that may is for anyone to hear though, re-writing is the soul of good writing.

Humble yourself. Take good notes while listening to your ghostwriting client. Have your own ideas to add. Most importantly though, do not take getting notes as a personal attack.

Bring what procedural feedback you get back to the table and dive into draft two. Learning how to deal with criticism (especially the bigger monster: self-criticism) is key to becoming a professional in any creative venture.

That Professional Feeling:

This may seem a little corny… but feeling like a professional goes a long way toward becoming a professional. Call yourself a ghostwriter. Imbue that definition with class.

Put your title on your business card. A professional ghostwriter carries a certain feeling about them that amateurs do not. That can go a long way toward distinguishing yourself from others vying for the same publisher or agent’s attention. At a writer’s conference, everyone is out applying for the same job. It’s a helpful boost to feel as though you’ve been there before.

Stay tuned for more another set of tips on how to use your ghostwriting practice as a path to publication in the second installment of this blog.

 

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Erick MertzProfessional Ghostwriter – Ghostwriting As Path to Publication (Part I)
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Tips For Writing Conference Networking

No Matter Your Writer Goals, Behavior Dictates Success

Willamette Writer's ConferenceLast weekend was the 50th Willamette Writer’s Conference in Portland, Oregon. I have attended this particular conference for going on eight years and I am consistently shocked by the way writers behave when they find themselves in confined spaces.

Some people get it. A majority do, actually. Others clearly don’t though. Four days in a hotel with your colleagues can be stressful even terror inducing. Don’t let it get to you.

Here are five tips to keep in mind before you attend your next conference.

Be Friendly

I’m always shocked at how the tried and true axiom “treat others the way you want to be treated” flies out the door in professional scenarios. It absolutely should not. These should be the moments this trait needs to come out to shine.

Talent is great. It’s enviable. People you meet have to want to work with you though. Are you acting like the kind of person who they’re going to want to call?

That impression begins the moment you walk into the conference room.

Don’t Be Over Polite

The flip side? Try and remain genuine. No one likes someone going over the top into phony. Holding doors and other obsequious behavior may get you into trouble.

Brand Yourself as Friendly & Helpful

While attending the Willamette Writer’s Conference I volunteer. Consequently, people associate me with some inner knowledge about the conference’s inner workings.

Even when my shifts are complete and I’m attending classes, people seek me out to ask questions. I don’t have to help but I do. Once again, it goes back to that age old axiom.

Don’t Get Star Struck

My father once said something very important to me when I was young and I keep it close to me now. Everyone you meet is just another person doing their job.

How I translate that in the conference scenario is, treat those agents and producers (and hotel staff pouring your drinks) like you would anyone else you encounter during your day.

That guy might be the perfect agent for your book but you know something? He’s probably thinking about the wife and dog he left at home. Or he’s just struggling to reach five o’clock.

Keep Your Mind Open

Remember your goal is connection. You may have your sights focused on signed with an agent or manager but you never know how that connection will happen.

It may not be during your assigned pitch session. Your long worked for break may come via someone you shared small talk with in a classroom.

Keep yourself open minded.

Subscribe to my blog today for more tips and pointers on the writer’s life.

Get in touch with me today for 20% off of your manuscript consultation. Just let me know how you found me in your first email!

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When No Doesn’t Hurt

NEVER FEAR THE NO, GHOSTWRITER

Ghostwriting, Ghostwriter, Erick MertzThere are precious few certainties in ghostwriting. Securing an assignment is (at best) a treacherous prospect, one often littered with confusion and self-doubt inducing silence.

One of the most precarious uncertainties facing a ghostwriter is the frequent lack of “no”. This is an eerie truth no one bothers to share when you go out on your own. You are going to get turned down for a lot of work that you throw your best effort at (much more than you’ll land) but learning that you’re not getting the gig by actually hearing no only happens rarely.

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How To Lose A Ghostwriting Job (Before You Even Get It)

Working As A Ghostwriter Is Filled With Ups and Downs. Here Are Just a Few Of The Ways Your Gig Can Go Sideways.

Erick Mertz, How To Lose A Ghostwriting JobOh the ghostwriting stories I could tell. Sometimes I believe that my real breakthrough book is destined be all about the many clients I worked with throughout these years.

Almost more interesting than the books I have written, are the books I’ve almost written. Ghostwriting is a numbers game on all sides of the equation. As a writer for hire, you must cast a net and I mean cast it widely. Some prospects cross your path to get a bid too. They’re playing the numbers game too in the form of a little price shopping before they decide whether to go elsewhere. As I’ve previously written, it all adds up to a curious way to make a living.

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Erick MertzHow To Lose A Ghostwriting Job (Before You Even Get It)
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