The Maven Editor

Helpful Tips from a Friendly Editor

Happy New Year January 2, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ashley Christman @ 9:20 pm
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One of the things I find cumbersome during this time of year is the slush pile submissions. Usually they’re filled with NANO manuscripts that have not been polished and perfected (PROTIP: Assume your NANO project is not ready for submission until June at the earliest). I also get a plethora of status inquiries from authors who maybe have never submitted before and don’t understand that editors–the magical creatures that we are–have vacations during the holidays too.

Now, if I’ve had your manuscript since the beginning of October and you haven’t heard anything, its okay to email me and ask for a status update. If you sent it the day before Thanksgiving, you should assume that I haven’t touched it yet between the other submissions, the authors on my list that require attention, and the holiday season.

In other words, be patient. I know how hard this can be, being an author myself, but I promise you, if you are patient it pays off spades more than impatience.

And remember your manners. Rudeness takes brownie points away.

So Happy New Year, keep writing, and be patient.


Please do not… December 10, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ashley Christman @ 3:31 am

I love and loathe reading slush pile submissions. I love it because I love finding the diamond in the rough. The slush pile is like a giant treasure trove and when I find a manuscript that is compelling, hooks me in, and polished. Sure it still needs some elbow grease to get it ready for publication, but its a story that I feel has been told the right way and I can see the potential.

I loathe reading slush because I get all the good, bad and ugly that authors tend to present. This list is intended to help you. So bear with me.

Please do not…

1. Compare your manuscript to something else in a way that either belittles or says its supposed to be enticing  because its just like that bestseller.

I don’t care if your novel doesn’t contain vampires. I happen to like vampires. But even if you want to say it doesn’t contain vampires, you have to give me a good reason to care that it doesn’t. Especially if your writing doesn’t wow me.

2. Post the first hundred words of the manuscript in the query letter, without telling me about you, then say “the full manuscript is available upon your request.”

If I don’t know who you are, and I’m being blasted with your excerpt, I’m more than likely not going to request the full. Plus, it just feels rude. Query letters are professional introductions. It tells me who you are.

3. If I send you a R&R (revise and resubmit) request, please don’t email me with an arrogant or rude response.

It makes me not want to read the revision should you decide to eventually do it. Keep in mind, I don’t have to send R&R requests. I could just decline point-blank.

4. Mind your Manners.

This one should speak for itself. The last thing any editor or agent wants is a difficult author. If you disagree, politely state so. There’s no need to rant or rave.

5. After you’ve been sent a rejection, please don’t email me with a angry response.

No editor likes this and just puts you in the difficult pile.

6. Remember the  internet.

The internet may not be print, but remember its an easy, searchable plethora of information. If there’s anything embarrassing, if you’re being a little less than honest (like saying you were once published by a certain big publisher), it will come back to bite you in the butt. With a couple quick keystrokes, any editor can find almost any information they seek about you.
Okay, these are just some helpful tips about pet peeves often encountered. Hope they help.


Adverbs: Kill it with Fire December 7, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ashley Christman @ 2:31 am

One of the most common things I see from new authors is the overuse of adverbs. I myself was once guilty of the heinous offense of sprinkling adverbs in my manuscript like glitter in a preschool art class. Lucky for me, I had a tough editor who kicked my butt into shape and taught me that adverbs, when used incorrectly, do nothing to get your point across. Instead they’re train wrecks, distracting the reader from the story that you as an author want to tell.

Okay, that was a tad dramatic, but you get the point.

Adverbs, at least the ones that end in “ly”, are not in themselves bad. But for new writers, who often use them as a crutch, they are like tiny little Frankensteins that are a mark of weak prose (or at least prose that needs a little bit more work). Even seasoned authors can overuse them and they are equally annoying.

The following is an example of what I see when going through the slush pile:

Kelly lifted her hand and quietly walked down the hall. She stopped and looked at herself in the mirror smiling contently at her reflection. She was so positively beautiful that Brad was sure to notice her.

So they’re not all that bad, but do you notice how many adverbs there were? Isn’t it a tad distracting from the point? Not sure which words are adverbs? Here’s the sentence again with all the offensive words bolded:

Kelly lifted her hand and quietly walked down the hall. She stopped and looked at herself in the mirror smiling contently at her reflection. She was so positively beautiful that Brad was sure to notice her.

You’re probably thinking, I don’t see what’s so bad other than the sentences are terrible. Here’s a different example:

“You can’t go in there,” Mary said, angrily.

“Watch me,” Striker replied, deliberately.

“You’re just suspicious,” she countered accusingly.

He automatically smiled. “Damn right, sweetheart.”

Get it?

Often times, before I even start work on a manuscript, I send it to my authors to have them strip the work of all unnecessary adverbs. More often than not, I still have to work with them to strip 99% of manuscript of unnecessary adverbs. Adverbs are like strong curry. You only need a drop.

But bestsellers use them, you’re probably thinking.

Just because some of the more noteworthy authors out there are using them like they’re the best thing since Kraft Singles, doesn’t mean you can. Here’s an example of how the exchange between Mary and Striker can be more effective without adverbs:

Mary clenched her fists and in a low tone said, “You can’t go in there.”

“Watch me,” Striker replied His countenance determined that he would not be swayed.

“You’re just suspicious.” She crossed her arms over her chest, moving in the way of the door.

He smirked, like he was known to do in front of a pretty woman.  “Damn right, sweetheart.”

You still get what’s going on, but now the scene has subtext. There’s more than just adverbs, there are actions to SHOW the reader what’s going on with the characters, rather than just telling them.

But what if I still want an adverb, you ask? Here’s an example of what could be considered doing it well:

Mary walked into the room, swaying her hips to and fro for Striker’s benefit. He smirked, enjoying the view of her round butt as she moved. She turned to him, affording him the pleasure of a glimpse of cleavage beneath her low-cut top. Naturally, he pretended to not notice  her luscious curves, when she asked, “Does this dress make me look fat?”

Still not great, but it’ll do.

So next time you review your manuscript, review your use of adverbs. A manuscript should contain no words that are not absolutely necessary. So if your sentences can be rewritten stronger without the offender, cut it and rewrite it. Your editor will thank you and your work will look much more polished in the slush pile.


Hello from the editing trenches December 5, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ashley Christman @ 7:32 pm

Hi y’all,

Welcome to the blog. The reason this blog exists is to detail my adventures in publishing as an editor.

There are a couple of things you need to know: I am a very nice person, but as an editor, sometimes my authors don’t like me because I make them do things like (gasp) kill their darlings. Its not my intention to destroy an author’s opus, but only bad writers don’t see that  editing does a manuscript good.

I will chronicle the good, the bad, and the ugly about my thoughts as an editor and out of respect, I will never disclose the names or titles of manuscripts or authors. Instead, I will focus on the broad and often repeated things I see. So rather than put negative gossip out there, this blog will hopefully help aspiring authors by giving you a little taste of what goes through mine and many other editor’s heads.

Buckle up, dear reader, its going to be fun.