Special Note: To read a book review and guest post at Kings River Life online magazine, go here. It’s worth the trip because there’s a giveaway of Nancy’s books going on.
When Nancy G. West was seven years old, she and her mother wrote poems to each other on special occasions. In high school, the Library Journal Pegasus published Nancy’s poem. At eighteen, she realized she might have to get a real job.
She heard journalists were underpaid and English majors were selling lingerie, so she studied General Business at the University of Texas and University of Houston and earned a BBA. A few years later, married, with two daughters, Nancy realized she had to study English literature and write.
While earning her MA in English literature at University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, she began writing Nine Days to Evil, a novel of psychological suspense, Shakespeare, and nonstop-action which won the Blether Gold Award.
As West finished Nine Days to Evil, Meredith Laughlin’s story, Meredith’s “mature” graduate school friend, Aggie Mundeen, took over West’s consciousness. The result was the author’s creation of the Aggie Mundeen Mystery Series. Fit to Be Dead and Dang Near Dead are available in paperback and e-book.
Tempted to Let Your Beloved Edit Your Work? by Nancy G. West
First, better give them this letter:
Dear (beloved) Editor,
Your GOAL is to read this manuscript for the flow of the story and its entertainment value. Follow the logic of the story. Enjoy characters’ personalities. Discern their motives. Do they grow and change?
Different parts of the brain operate when you read for enjoyment as opposed to searching for grammatical or punctuation errors. Therefore, you will have another opportunity to act as copy editor during a second reading. If you feel compelled to correct grammar/punctuation on this page, inform the author (me) that you relinquish your editorial position, effective immediately.
Still with me? Okay. During the first reading, choose a number(s) from the following twelve-item list, bracket the text you’re referring to and pencil comments in the margin of the manuscript:
1. I like this character, description, scene or dialogue.
2. This moves slowly.
3. This made me chuckle.
4. Huh? (Try to explain your reaction.)
5. Two much verbiage.
6. Needs further explanation. (What more do you need to know?)
7. Repetitious. (Find page where this was previously mentioned. Is new info. added here?)
8. Would character really say or do this? (No? Why not?)
9. Contradiction of logic. (Find earlier contradiction, note page number and bracket contradiction here.)
10. Is writer ahead of reader here? (Writer seems to assume something reader doesn’t know.)
11. This part created questions and (a) made me want to learn more or (b) made me wonder why author included this.
12. If you have other comments not included above, pencil them in the margin and bracket appropriate text.
13. Now tell me, TAHDAH! – WHAT YOU LIKED MOST ABOUT THIS BOOK! and what you liked least about this book.
One more thing: If, at any point, you feel compelled to be a smart-alec, try to be a helpful smart-alec.
Thank you, Your (beloved) trusting writer.
p.s. Consider whether editing this manuscript will enhance our long, fruitful relationship, or whether your editing career will begin and end with this assignment.
Nancy, I loved this post because it is an excellent explanation why my husband does not critique or edit my work. I firmly believe he would write “Huh?” at least once on every page to make me crazy…and then he’d try to convince me he was “just kidding.”
The ebook versions of Nancy’s books are on sale for a limited time for $.99 at amazon.com.
For more information about Nancy and her novels, visit her website. She can also be found on Goodreads and Facebook.
Patricia Stoltey says
Thanks to everyone for the comments and to Nancy for the fun post. My personal favorite beta readers are the folks I know who don’t write (and don’t want to) and are heavy readers. Writers and spouses are just too picky.
Dean K Miller says
I guess I’m lucky here. My beloved really has no interest until it shows up in print or online somewhere. Most likely it’s to spare my fragile ego and keep me writing, which keeps me out of her hair!
But my dear Mother, she wields the red pen with honest ferocity that I have come to respect and be grateful for.
I just wish she’d use a red pencil instead of a pen so my tears wouldn’t smear her comments so much.
Kaye George says
My least favorite phrase from my Beloved is, “You know what you should do?” This is followed by something preposterous that wouldn’t fit the story at all. I’m nice and just say I don’t think that would work. I used to try to explain why it wouldn’t work. Since he’s never read any of my books, there’s no WAY he could have a decent suggestion! Love the letter!!!
Lena Winfrey Seder says
Great post! And Nancy’s books sound interesting! Usually it is not good to let loved one’s edit for you unless they are a professional, but as a beta reader it could be good. I love the points made here. Editing is much more than just punctuation. Other parts of the story are very important.
Jemi Fraser says
Love it! My hubby will never, ever, EVER read any of my stories. Ever! 🙂
Patricia Stoltey says
This must be a universal situation with authors…whether or not to allow family members to read and critique. I like Terry’s mother-in-law’s response best. 😀
Great blog – but my first reaction when I read the title was to scream “Not in a million years!” I thought you were suggesting I let my Other Half edit my stuff!
Michele Drier says
I love this list! Between my critique groups and beta readers, most of these get answered. No so from my beloved daughter!
Terry Shames says
This is a perfect list of ANY reader. The last person in the world I could have edit my work is my husband. For too many reasons to list.
My favorite non-writer beta reader was my beloved mother-in-law, who read my book and said, “I love it; it’s wonderful.” Now THAT’s a critique from a loved one.
Donnell Ann Bell says
Absolutely loved this post! The things you tell your beloved might well pertain to your first reader when going through the manuscript the first time. Excellent. Off to check out your books! Thanks Patricia for hosting Nancy!
Helen Ginger says
So many good reasons not to let a husband edit. Mine would not be a good editor. I’m the one who edits his work. Also, I rather like being married to him. I don’t know that we would retain that status if he took to editing my work.
Alex J. Cavanaugh says
Made me chuckle!
I guess I’m easy. My wife, test readers, and critique partners pretty much have free rein to do whatever, so edits are a combination of everything. Works for me though.
Margot Kinberg says
Pat – Thanks for hosting Nancy.
Nancy – Thanks very much for this letter. This is exactly the kind of thing that beta readers need to think about when they give input.