At the time of writing (September 2014) editing professionally is a new venture for me. I have been editing for quite some time for fellow indie authors whose work really impressed me. Excellent story telling deserves editing and proofing, but the funds are not always available for professional services; I’ve helped out whenever I had time. When it became apparent from feedback that I am perhaps a better editor than a writer I decided to set up this site. Here’s what some of them were kind enough to write about my editing.
Kings of Nowhere by Canadian author Patrick de Moss
This has got to be the best book I’ve read in years. I begged Patrick to allow me to give it the final polish it deserved, in fact I’d have paid him for the privilege of working on it – but don’t tell him!
Here’s the review I posted back in April 2014:
Original, incredible – stories from a master of the art
This is the most original book I’ve read in years. It is beautifully crafted, each intriguing story having a very individual flavour but with a chain of finest silver drawing them together into a very rich whole. The stories distil the essence of what it is to be different, to live on the edge of ‘normal’ society. We meet lost and lonely people, magical creatures, a man who cannot die; we see the best and worst of human nature and are encouraged to think about who and what we ourselves are, and our own potential for good and evil. Every reading of these stories reveals yet more gems, missed on first reading as it is impossible not to follow the tale on to the next page, such is the excellent pacing of the stories.
Patrick de Moss’ powers of description, the evocation of character, scene and time, are unsurpassed in my opinion. His use of language is poetic, rich and original. For example:
… you can see every granule of snow, can hear the brittle, spent branches scrabbling towards the midnight sky, black on black, as they rattle the bones of summer…
Could you better describe that feeling of a cold winter night? When reading Like Clockwork my logical brain said it’s a nonsense, it’s not possible, but the quality of writing ensured my emotions were fully engaged. There is some very clever use of the it/him conundrum that subliminally tells us how Evie is changing her perception of the robot, Adam, and so allows us to see Adam as an individual.
Throughout it is de Moss’ masterful, gentle touch on our own perceptions that prove so powerful. The characters are fully formed, flawed and fractured, as are we all. Superbly drawn as the MCs are, I was pleased to see even the minor characters were rounded and ‘visible’ to me, completing my enjoyment of this superb book. Patrick de Moss deserves to be recognised as one of the truly great contemporary authors.
When he heard I was about to start advertising my editing service this is what he was kind enough to say about my help with his book:
“Working with Jay Howard was a true delight. I have worked with a few editors in the past, and what pleased me most about her editing notes was how thorough she was, attentive to line edits in a way that other editors may say they are, but could only hope to achieve. While I could rave on her period placement notes I am sure it would only bore the casual reader. But believe me, she brings her passion for the written word along with her red pen.
In terms of overarching story and characters, I found her exceptionally supportive, offering helpful suggestions in terms of pure story, but never trying to override my own vision. That in itself is a rare thing – she tries to help you see your story, only better, more clearly.
Her turn-around time was awe inspiring. More often than not, I felt her edits were driving my production, rather than the other way round. It was a welcome race, and each revision, no matter how mundane, was approached with the same attentiveness as if she had received the pages for the first time.
In short, I could recommend no one more highly than Jay Howard should you be looking for ways to not just fine-tune but perfect your piece. Her advice is well worth heeding, and her quick and thorough service is a true marvel.”
Meandering in a Muddled Mind by American author Mark Bell
I came across this book in its ‘rough’, first published format. I was impressed by the story telling and it seemed a shame that errors I could correct were reducing its impact. I asked Mark if I could proof read it for him and we’ve been working together ever since.
A gifted writer
This was a real pleasure to read. I’m only going to say it is worth every one of the 5 stars I give it as Mark Bell’s writing is totally unpredictable and that’s half the joy of it, so I won’t spoil your pleasure by giving any of it away. The stories are quirky, fascinating, the plots have twists I wasn’t prepared for. They are entertaining to the point where I burst out laughing several times, which earned me a few sideways looks from fellow customers in my local where I read most of it. I really enjoy a dry sense of humour. My husband and son just sighed when I broke into their conversation to read out ‘you must hear this’ passages. You’ll even get a recipe for ‘the best damn oatmeal butterscotch cookies you ever put in your mouth.’ If you want to try making them, the sexy videos that were being made at the same time are optional…
Go on – treat yourself and get this book.
Mark has kindly written this endorsement for my work:
“Once upon a time a boy had stories to tell but alas his participles were dangling and his colons were confused.
With plots and characters banging in his head he could do but one thing – electronic signals across the pond.
Few of us can edit or correct our own grammar. Yes, I know that you think you can but brains aren’t wired to be objective when viewing their own output. Better to get an outside skilled editor. Jay Howard is mine and she has proven to be invaluable. Not only is she a great grammarian, she has a keen sense of story and a desire to make the story the best it can be. I trust her with my work and admittedly I am not the easiest person to please.”
English author Ali Isaac lives in Eire and has immersed herself in the fascinating Irish myths and legends. I do love a good fairy story and thoroughly enjoyed her two novels, book 1 and book 2 of the Tir Na Nog Trilogy:
Conor Kelly and the Four Treasures of Eirean by Ali Isaac
My review from August 2012:
A story to treasure, whatever your age
Do you remember, with nostalgia, reading adventure stories full of youthful courage, heroes and villains, humans and fantastical creatures? Did you enjoy Narnia? If so, this book will have you doing everything in your power to read it in one sitting.
It’s firmly grounded in well researched Irish folklore and history, a sophisticated fairy tale of epic proportions that will appeal to children and adults alike. Ali Isaac cleverly leads us between the present and events of 4,000 years ago. Fourteen year old Conor, confined in his wheelchair, is fated to be the saviour of his ancestors, the Sidhe, and is led back to his kin by the intermediary, Annalee, through the Cloak of Concealment. When he learns of their plight he agrees to seek their lost four treasures, stolen from them by a power hungry traitor. Naturally, the treasures have magical powers of which mere humans are unaware.
Annalee returns with Conor from Tir na Nog to the present to help in the quest. But is she all she seems? Many trials and dangers are overcome together. In the best traditions of fairy stories, in helping the Sidhe, Conor finds his own power, and the final battle is very satisfying.
Don’t be put off by the plethora of Irish names. There is a pronunciation guide if you want to enter the spirit of it. It’s too awkward to flick back and forth on a Kindle but a print of those few pages does the job nicely. Alternatively, you can invent your own pronunciations – say it as you see it. Personally, I think a bit of work at the beginning is well worth it.
I am so looking forward to books 2 and 3.
Conor Kelly and the Fenian King
An author of great talent
I’ve been eagerly awaiting this second book in the Tir na Nog trilogy and I wasn’t disappointed when I read it. Conor is making progress towards knowledge of himself and his heritage whilst again helping the Sidhe. The book is packed with well-paced action, fine characterisations and excellent descriptions of events in the mythical past and the present. There are difficulties to be overcome, deceptions and mysteries, good and evil, love and loss, a great battle… tremendous writing.
Ali Isaac is a master story teller. This book will be enjoyed by adults, children, and adults reading it to children. When reading her books I escape totally into the world she weaves around me. The best version of Irish folklore you could ever wish for. My only disappointment was when I got to the end which means I now have to wait for #3.
This is Ali’s testimonial for my editing:
“I recently received this comment about my first book from another author; that in terms of editing, it was the best example of an Indie-pubbed book he had ever seen. Praise indeed! (Just for the record, I think he enjoyed the story, too!)
That compliment is as much for Jay as for me. I was very lucky. I was just starting out along the rocky writing road, when I bumped into Jay (virtually, of course!) just at the right moment. Handing over my newborn book-baby wasn’t easy, but it proved to be one of the best decisions I ever made.
Why? Well, she made a world of difference to my story. Not only did she point out the obvious (to her, but not to me… I was still too blinded by parental love) typos and grammatical blunders, but she taught me two very important things which have stayed with me ever since; the magic of ‘show not tell’, and the transformative power of using dialogue. With her guidance, I also worked on improving formatting, sentence structure, continuity, and POV.
There was a lot of detailed work involved – what would you expect? It was my very first novel. It needed cutting down to size, shaping, strengthening. Under Jay’s expert guidance, however, it morphed from a book-baby into a book-bomb!
Swallowing criticism, no matter how constructive, is always hard for any author, especially a newbie proudly proffering their first labour of love. Jay is sensitive to this, but she always tells the truth, and there’s no holding back. I like that; I know exactly where I stand. Jay’s knowledge and experience will help you craft your novel into something special. What you choose to do with her feedback and suggestions is ultimately up to you, but you’d be a fool if you ignored them.
I heartily recommend Jay’s editing services to any author, and especially to those just starting out. Editing your book is often harder than writing it, but working with Jay lessens the pain, is always enlightening, and above all, she makes it fun!”
AFTERThought by K.A. Krisko
Last, but by no means least, here’s a book by another American, K.A. Krisko. I nearly missed out on a treat as I wouldn’t have chosen AFTERThought for casual reading; I didn’t think I would enjoy murder mysteries so hadn’t read any. I should have slapped myself on the wrist a long time ago as that is a classic example of preconceptions limiting our life experiences. This book proved to me that when done well the actual murder is a minor factor really; what drives this story forward is the development of the characters, their motivations and their relationships with each other. I was hooked from the first page to the last and have since read a few other books in the genre, so thank you, Kathy, for a cracking good read and extending my future reading options.
Here’s my review from January 2014:
I received a free advance copy of this novel, but I can tell you now I would have counted it money well spent if I’d bought it. This is quality writing. I read it in winter but I could feel the heat and humidity of the time and place described. I’m not familiar with that kind of territory, but KA Krisko led me through it so convincingly I truly lost myself into that land of creeks and sloughs. Many people can intersperse their writing with good descriptive passages, but you don’t get that in this novel: what you get is something that’s much harder to achieve – you get to see and feel it all through the characters.
I’ll remember these characters and I’m looking forward to meeting them again in the sequel. There are quite a few of them, and as it’s a tight community many of them are related in some way or another, but I didn’t find it hard to sort out who was who. Each of them is a distinct individual and they quickly became very real people to me.
I really liked getting the pieces of the puzzle along with Addie, working out the who did what and why. The possibilities expanded as the picture of what was going on in the area got bigger. Why had a small community like this become embroiled with a national group of activists? How did that happen and why did it result in a murder? Family relationships and their consequences were handled very well indeed, with insight and empathy.
I want to know what happens next to Addie and Tracey, I want to watch Addie’s interactions with her brother when she meets him again in #2. After so many twists and turns in this book it was good to get a satisfying conclusion, but it’s even better knowing there is more to come before Addie’s story is done.
This is what Kathy has to say about the time we worked together on the final polishing:
“I was fortunate enough to run into Jay Howard via Goodreads. It quickly became clear to me that she was motivated, energetic, and, best of all, had an excellent grasp of English grammar, punctuation, spelling, and composition. I submitted several stories to her for inclusion in the ‘Of Words and Water’ charity anthologies, which she edits and coordinates, and found her comments spot-on. So I was more than pleased to have her edit my mystery novel ‘AFTERThought’, which I’d read over so many times I couldn’t ‘see’ it anymore. She was fast and thorough and I know she read every sentence, and what’s more, nothing she suggested changed the feel of any scene or character. It remains completely my own work, but improved. I really think editing is the most important service an indie (or other) author can engage; a bland cover can be overlooked or forgiven, but a sentence that jerks you out of the action will ruin the book. I’m definitely planning on engaging Cirrus Editing again in the future.”