Ashwood Wins Nomination

CJ Malarsky has just announced her debut book Ashwood has been selected as a nominee for the Summer Indie Book Award nominee in the horror category.

While CJ may have been surprised by this nomination, I know I wasn’t. Ashwood is a great read and it was an absolute joy working with CJ during the editing process.

Voting opens on the 1st September.

The Easiest Way to Save Money When Using an Editor

The simplest way to make editing cheaper is to give yourself time between typing The End and starting to edit. Remember, the more work you’ve done, the tighter the story, the less the editor will cost. Particularly with the developmental editing.

My advice is to give yourself a minimum of a month, preferably more. In the perfect world, you should write your next story, before editing the first one. By moving straight into the story of Book 2, you give yourself a break from the events in
Book 1. This break from Book 1 means you can really see the problems, issues and plot holes when you come back to do the edit.

Perfect world work flow would look something like this:
•   Write Book 1
•   Write Book 2
•   First Edit / Rewrites Book 1
•   Write Book 3
•  First / Rewrites Edit Book 2
•  Write Book 4
•   Final Edit Book 1

Follow the pattern until complete.

Admittedly this process is a long one; not suitable for writers in a hurry to get something into the world. It can take over 12 months to get to the final edit in book 1 (assuming the writer works relatively fast).

The benefits of working in this way include:
•   Building a habit of completing books.
•  Developing a work flow system that is sustainable.
•   Develops work habits that will help you if you decide to pursue traditional publishing.
•   Gives you distance from each book so you can more easily ‘see’ the issues and problems.
•   Conversely, the distance lets you see what is great about the story.
•   Motivates you to continue developing as a writer because you can see your progress.
•   You spend less on professional editing because more of the issues have been identified and rectified.

The downsides of working with this pattern include:
•   Takes a lot more time to publish a book.
•  Takes a lot of discipline to set the book aside while you write another.
•   Takes a lot of discipline to come back to the book.

Using a truncated or modified version of this system, where you are working simultaneously editing a book while writing another can speed up the process, but the results may not be as great as you’d like.

As a professional editor, the biggest advice I can give a writer is to take the time necessary. Don’t send your work out to an editor as soon as you finish it. By taking the time and doing the first couple of edits yourself, you will save yourself money because the professional edit will be quicker and smoother as you’ve already found and fixed most of the problems.

Review Policy

As I’m doing more and more reviews on the site I have decided that I will open reviews up to anyone with a book. Self published, traditionally published, smoke signal published, I don’t mind.

I will review:
Crime and thriller novels.
True Crime.
Romance, but NOT erotica.
Some young adult.
Fantasy and High Fantasy.

If you have a novel that doesn’t meet fit into these genres I will consider reviewing it based on back cover blurb.

All reviews will be honest, based on my personal reaction to reading the work. I don’t guarantee a favourable review for anyone, and if the work really offends me, I may choose to not review it at all. I do not guarantee a timeframe for review but will attempt to ensure a review is posted within 14 days (depending upon the number of books I am reading). Reviews will be posted here, at Goodreads, Amazone and NetGallery (if applicable).

Submission of novels or links to novels can be submitted to the contact us link or through query at nicole-matthews.com

Denny Day: The Life and Times of Australia’s Greatest Lawman – the Forgotten Hero of the Myall Creek Massacre

Denny Day: The Life and Times of Australia's Greatest Lawman – the Forgotten Hero of the Myall Creek MassacreDenny Day: The Life and Times of Australia’s Greatest Lawman – the Forgotten Hero of the Myall Creek Massacre by Terry Smyth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As an Australian school student, I studied a little bit about the Myall Creek Massacre, but this book bought the incident to life for me.

It’s very well researched with fantastically supported, trackable quotes (which the historian in me loved) yet still brings not just the main characters to life but the entire colony. It shows both sides of the conflict with sympathy and facts, not just rhetoric. This isn’t a revisionist version of history, it’s a balanced view of history fully documented and supported by attributed primary source information, something that is often missing in these types of historical accounts.

As a reader, I came away feeling awestruck by the writing and history talents of Terry Smyth, and sorrowful for all involved in the events. As a result of reading this book, I will be searching out any other work by Terry Smyth and would definately recommend all Australian students read this. Any lovers of Australian history should go buy this book immediately. Any writers who which to write history should study this book to learn how well researched, documented and balanced history can still be fascinating, engaging and show character development.

View all my reviews

The Obsession

The ObsessionThe Obsession by Nora Roberts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Obsession is the latest of Nora Roberts stand alone novels and one that I enjoyed very much. It follows the standard Nora Roberts process of well developed characters who are both scared and courageous, facing something from their past that haunts their future. In this way, these books are like comfort food. You know exactly what you are getting and can slip into comfortable pjs, snuggle down in your favourite chair and slip away from reality for a few hours. Personally, I believe this is one of the biggest factors that keeps me coming back to Nora Roberts work. After a long, hard day, I can slip into her world and just relax.

Naomi is a character who I connected to and I enjoyed watching as she grew to trust the people around her. Personally, I would love to see a story where her younger brother Mason is the main character but as a fan of Nora’s I am well aware that she doesn’t revisit characters in her stand alone books.

The ‘bad guy’ in this book was easily spotted if you’ve read many of Nora Roberts books but still the read was pleasurable and continued to be pleasurable on subsequent reads.

The developing relationships that Naomi makes, both with the love interest Zander, and with the community at large makes this one of my favourite Nora books.

View all my reviews

The Bourbon Kings

The Bourbon Kings (The Bourbon Kings, #1)The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Bourbon Kings by JR Ward is a book I desperately wanted to enjoy. I loved the premise. I loved the setting and I really loved the descriptions and the flow of the story, but for me, this book isn’t on of JR Ward’s best.

It’s the characters that let the story down. I like characters who have flaws but when all the characters have the same fundamental flaw, (they don’t/can’t/won’t communicate) then at best the characters are annoying. And that is the biggest problem with the characters in The Bourbon Kings. They will not communicate with each other. Most of the problems and issues that are faced in this book come down to the inability of any of the characters to act like real people. For the most part, they act like toddlers requiring a nap.

The descriptions of the scenery are lyrical and bring the setting to life but unfortunately that wasn’t enough to sway me as a reader.

I so very much wanted this book to be the best thing JR had ever written, and that emotion on my behalf could have skewed my view of the story but I can’t give this story a rating higher than 2/3 stars.

View all my reviews

The Tide Watchers

The Tide WatchersThe Tide Watchers by Lisa Chaplin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The premise of this book was intriguing with the time period used in the book one that is underrepresented in fiction. Unfortunately, the entire time I was reading I felt like this was book 4 or 5 in a series and I was coming into the story too late to catch up.

I found the character of Duncan to be annoyingly insipid and Lisbeth to be too earnest. The number of characters within the story and the lack of any clear, identifiable back story with some of them led me to being confused for a lot of the story. While I appreciate a writer who doesn’t slow down the story with too much backstory or history, some is essential when you have so many characters littering the scene.

The pace is fast but because of the fastness of the pace, there is little time taken to develop the characters and allow this reader to form an attachment. I would have liked to love this book, but I just couldn’t catch up.

View all my reviews

Cherry Picking Writing Advice.

Recently, I’ve been exploring the world of advice that is available to author and I’ve made the discovery that a lot of it makes my teeth itch.

• Write what you know.
• Write every day.
• Keep going until you finish. You can always fix it later.

Initially this advice seemed to make sense. On the surface it looks applicable to every writer, no matter what stage of their career the writer is in. But if you look deeper, some of this advice isn’t going to stand up to scrutiny for many writers.
Write what you know.

If I wrote only what I knew, my stories would be filled with sullen teenagers, boisterous dogs and the cats who try to terrify them. By limiting myself to writing what I know well, I’d be stuck writing about the minutiae of the everyday. Shopping list, work deadlines, broken hot water services and a never ending stream of permission notes tossed across the breakfast table.

Instead of writing what you know, how about writing what you want to know. Instead of focusing on writing about the life you live, what if we all wrote about the life we wanted to live? After all, we writers tend to have many different characters living out their lives through our fingers. We might as well have fun with the experience.

For me, one of the joys of writing is delving into someone else’s experiences. Learning new skills. Discovering new outlooks on life. This focus on looking through another set of eyes helps me create characters who I’d love to have dinner with, but more importantly, it makes me a better writer. Some days I have to stretch myself to write about topics that are beyond my personal, direct understanding, but that’s the challenge of being a writer.

Write every day. Get up early. Stay up late. Sacrifice something else for your writing.

This collection of advice derailed my fiction writing for many years. I’m not fit for human company if I get up any earlier. Staying up late isn’t an option because I fall asleep at my keyboard if I try. The only thing left to sacrifice was my time with the children, and as they were little, I wasn’t willing to. When you add the day job of technical and instructional writing and editing, there were days I would have thrown the monitor out the window if I had to spend another second staring at it.

For me, what worked was a weekly target of 7,000 words. Some weeks this was done in a frenetic burst of focus, while other weeks it was in 1,000 words a day. But by allowing myself the freedom to work writing into the weekly schedule (rather than the daily schedule), I found I was more productive. That’s not to say I don’t work on the stories each day, I do. But that work isn’t always writing. Some days it will be day dreaming about the story. Other days it is more involved thinking, trying to work out why the story isn’t working the way I want it to be.

Keep going until you finish. You can fix it later.

Sometimes fixing it later is more trouble than the story is worth. Some stories you don’t have the passion for anymore. Or the direction.
There are legitimate times, stories and reasons to stop working on a piece. As the creator of the universe in which your story is set, only you can say if the story needs to be finished to plan. But if you’re really pushing yourself to finish the story, you should be examining your motivation with writing the story.

My guess is, most authors will have unfinished manuscripts buried in a bottom draw, on a floppy disc or an old hard drive. I’m not going to give you a trite or glib answer along the lines of the story that is meant to be will be easy to write. It won’t be, but if you’re beating yourself senseless over a story, it’s time to step back and examine your expectations of the story.

• Are you trying to make a short story a novel?
• Are you trying to make a young adult story fit the adult market?
• Are your characters acting true to form?
• Are you manipulating the characters so the plot will work?
• Do you have a plot or a series of events?

As an editor, I can always tell when a writer is lost. When they’ve finished the work not because they wanted to; not because they needed to, but simply because they followed the always finish rule. If you feel lost, stop. Play with the characters. Work out if the story means enough to you to finish it. After all, unless you’re under contract, no one is waiting for this story. The only reason to finish writing the story is because you feel a burning passion for the story or the characters. Because you want to see these characters, this setting, this story free in the world.

If you haven’t got that burning passion for this story, consider putting the story aside until you find the passion to finish it.
The most freeing writing lesson I’ve learnt, is nothing is written in stone. Getting advice is cheap and easy but the doing can be impossibly hard. Creating a routine and a workflow that works for you as a person, as a parent, as an employee, as a boss and as a creative being is all that matters.

Cherry pick the bits of advice that work for you, discard the rest. It’s the only way you’ll create a writing career that fits with your life.

Recent Interview.

I recently did an interview with a high school student who was looking for information on becoming an editor. As some of the questions she asked were interesting, I compiled them for others who may be interested in a career as an editor.

Why did you choose to become an editor?

I decided to become an editor after I was offered a job and found I was very good at it and couldn’t wait to get to work each day.I had always loved reading, writing, working with words and correcting mistakes and I found editing uses all of those skills.. You could say I fell into editing and that’s the way it is for a lot of editors. We start out in another field and end up fixing the mistakes others make in their documents.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

The favourite part of my job is when I hand the manuscript back to the writer, knowing it is a stronger better book. It is exciting when I start working with a new manuscript because you don’t know anything about the story. But the best part is definitely getting the story into top shape and sending it out into the world.

Do you work on only one project at a time? Or more than one?

I work on multiple projects at a time. I prefer to work across multiple manuscripts or projects because it is more interesting and tends to be easier. If I’m having trouble (or not in the mood, waiting to hear back from an author) with one project/manuscript I can move to another.

What does an editor do?

There are four main levels of editing – Acquisitions, Content, Line and proofreading. I’ll explain from the last task to the first task.

Proofreading where you are looking for spelling and grammar mistakes. Proofreading is the very last time a book will get looked at before it gets sent to the printers so the reader is often reading the ‘proofs’ or ‘galley’s’.

Line editing is next step. Line editors are looking for spelling, grammar, punctuation and continuity errors and mistakes. They work with the document in a still raw state, normally in Microsoft word format. A line editor will mark the mistake or make a query and send it back to the author for the author to decide what to do about the mistake or for the writer to decide if it was a mistake in the first place. Sometimes, it is simply clumsy phrasing or a deliberate decision.

A content editor is the next. Content editors read the story looking for areas where:
• The characters don’t make sense, act out of character for no reason or just are acting/reacting in an unbelievable manner.
• The story is boring, uninteresting and not working.
• The sentences don’t read well.
• Mistakes, errors or confusion. One recent one I caught was a character who in one scene had a son and a daughter but in a scene at the end of the book had two sons, no daughters.
• Anything occurs that might confuse or pull a reader out of the story.

The content editor may also suggest new story arcs or directions, new ways of presenting mysteries or different ideas that the author might like to explore. If I’m working as a content editor and I think something will strengthen a story I mention it to the writer. If I think the story is weak in an area I tell the author and explain why I think it is weak. Everything I say is a suggestion that the writer can use in any way they would like to. Some suggestions they accept, some they reject and some we work with until both of us are happy. If I’m working on a non-fiction piece I will fact check to make sure everything is accurate and not going to cause any problems with the legal department.

Acquisitions editor is the final or first task. An acquisitions editor reads the manuscript and decides which if it fits the publishing company. An acquisitions editor can also suggest stories, ideas and titles they would like to see if necessary. An acquisitions editor spends a lot of time trying to convince other members of the publishing team that the book they love is the best book for the company to publish.


What other things does an editor do?

As I run my own freelance editing business, I also spend time working with marketing, communications, and business management. I spend a lot of time talking with or emailing authors about how to make their books better.
I spend a lot of time reading so I can understand the publishing world, what books are selling and what ideas are not. This is an important part of the business because I need to be able to tell the authors I’m working with if the idea and themes in their book are too similar to another book, have been done in a similar manner by someone else, or are just not selling at the moment and I’ve got to be able to tell if a story just plain doesn’t work. All of this relies on me reading a lot of books each year.

How hard is editing?

Is editing hard? Editing is physically not difficult. But editing is mentally draining because you are constantly having to think ‘is this the best it can be?’ and ‘what would make this better?’ or ‘will a reader believe that happened?’ and a million other questions. Plus all the time your mind is comparing the manuscript to everything else you’ve read to see if anything jumps out as being very similar. So by the end of the day, you are very tired, but often very excited as well.

How long does it take to edit a manuscript?

The amount of time taken to edit a manuscript is difficult to judge. First stage is quick because it’s a read through to get the overall story. Second stage takes a lot longer because this is where you are pulling the story apart and making it stronger and better. Once the manuscript goes back to the author, they will look through it and make some changes, then the story comes back for a third pass. This third pass can go back and forth between the writer and I until both of us are happy with the story. One book I’ve been working with took a month, another a year. It all depends on how strong the writing is to start with.

What is your main role as an editor?

My main role is to make sure the story is so amazing that the reader can’t put the book down and the writer is so amazed at what they’ve accomplished that they go write another book. Editing, particularly content editing, is one of the most invisible jobs in the world. A good content editor should be invisible. The reader shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between what I suggest and what the writer suggested. The writer should know the book is better/stronger/exactly what they wanted, because of the help from the editor.

What are career options like for an editor?

Career options as an editor depend very much on your ability to run your own business. There are fewer and fewer publishing companies offering full time in house employment as an editor and within the next ten years or so I can see freelancing and contracting being the only way to work within the editing field. But the freelancing and contracting field is expanding all the time. If you’re interested in editing study English at an advanced level (if that’s available to you) and read as much as possible in as many genres as you can.

What did you study at university?

Here in Australia we have a Bachelor of Arts Professional Writing and Publishing which covers editing, publishing project management as well as writing in a variety of genres. Other countries have differing options. The best advice I can give you is to explore and see what options exist for you.

I think that just about covers everything, but if I haven’t or you have more questions, feel free to ask more and I’ll answer as best I can.

Filler words and Why Destroying Them Makes Your Writing Stronger

As an editor and writer, the best advice I can give anyone is to take the time to select the correct word for the sentence. English is an amazing language with a depth and breadth that is unsurpassed. English is not the most elegant language, but if you look, there is a word which will describe exactly what you want.

I’m not advocating you spend all your time looking through a thesaurus, but I am suggesting you take the time to critically analyse your writing and identify where you can write tighter and with more impact.

Filler words are the best place to start this analysis. Filler words add nothing to your sentence. These words include:
• Just.
• That.
• Up.
• Down.
• Very.
• Thought.
• Suddenly.
• A little bit.
• Practically.
• All of a sudden.
• Beginning to.
• That was when.
• Actually.
• Literally.

Every writer has filler words they use during the first draft. After all, it’s easier to use the filler word and get the story down. But once you’ve finished your first draft, you need to identify filler words and select something more appropriate for your goal in that sentence. For example:

Jane carried the bucket of hot soapy stuff to the red stain on the floor, so she could scrub the floor clean.

Jane carried the bucket of hot soapy water to the bloodstaining the floor, intent on scrubbing the gore away.

Often, instead of replacing the filler word, you can simply delete it. For example:

Just at that moment, James actually burst into the room suddenly, practically looking up and down, searching for Harry.

James burst into the room searching for Harry.

The first sentence is full of filler words and is an example taken from a manuscript sent to an editor. The second is how the sentence was returned to the author.
When the filler word is one you need, see if you can find a stronger word. For example:

Josh was sad

You could use

Josh was devastated, distraught, miserable, dejected, clinically depressed, glum, forlorn, melancholy.

If you can’t think of an appropriate word, open Google, type synonym for (word you want to replace) and you will discover many options.

By replacing or deleting the filler words you create a story that is stronger, leaner and able to stand up to the scrutiny of a picky reader.