Tuesday, January 01, 2013

PRAISE FOR THE NY BOOK EDITOR

The New York Book Editor does an excellent job at editing and I would call them again and again.
- Toni Carroll Terman, author

After three writing workshops and two professional critiques, I had a short story that 'had promise.' The turnaround time for the workshops and critiques: Two years. Erin read my story, and gave me detailed comments and suggestions that I used to improve the story immeasurably. Her comments were far more helpful than any of my previous feedback. The turnaround time for her services: Twenty-four hours.
- Lokke Heiss, published author.

Erin provides prompt, professional service that will make your work shine! I was very pleased not only with her editing prowess, but her journalism skills as well.
- Michael T. Owens, author of A Dream Come True

The NY Book Editor helped me sell my first novel. She really knows what she’s doing and was worth every penny.
- Linda Haltmaier, novelist


The New York Book Editor has been an invaluable resource to our firm. From proofreading, copyediting, and rewriting text to simply bouncing creative writing ideas back and forth, Erin's expertise and professional input has literally set our work apart from our competitors. Her experience is unbeatable.
- Kelly Meister, Media Consultants Ltd.

The NY Book Editor is professional and productive, and I would highly recommend her for any publishing venture. She is smart and shows great initiative.
- Martin Richardson, VP Publishing, CSM Group

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sample Editorial Letter #1 Non-fiction

Editorial Sample #1 for non-fiction/memoir/travelogue

First, I want to say that I enjoyed reading this. I did end up with a lot of questions that I’m sure can be easily answered and incorporated into the manuscript. There are a few inconsistencies, unclear points, some typos and misspellings (no biggie), and issues with the structure. I will cover everything here.

It is obvious that this is written by an educated, well traveled, fun spirited man, but there isn’t really a clue how old you are when you traveled to Guatemala. Also, the timeline on the entire manuscript can use help. I’m not sure when you arrived in Guatemala or when it was that you left.

Also, you’re not clear on why you’re there or the real purpose of the trip. In the beginning you state that you are traveling in order to be published (pg 8) but it’s never stated what you published (is it this manuscript?). Were you there to learn Spanish or to study architecture? I understand that you are a professor of architecture and went in search of the Garifuna and the Mayan sites but you never really cover any of this in the manuscript. You do tell the story of the hellish trips to the ruins but the rest of it focuses generally on Xela exclusively.

In the beginning I thought this was a fun romp but then you took a turn talking about how you needed to be published, etc and I thought that it was going to be more serious. To override this confusion perhaps it would be better to state the purpose of the book in the early stages. The intro sets the tone for the book and you should be clear when you talk about being published, etc., that this is for work but you have every intention of living it up.

When does all of this take place? You mention several years ago but never clearly say what year. You mention that you’re forty-ish now, but were you then? Also, I had a picture of a white boy with sandy hair (pg 3),the description of you in Poland. But it quickly shifted to a very tall, dread-locked black man upon your arrival in Guatemala. Initially I thought it was written by a black man, then thought I was wrong after I read you had sandy colored hair, then I converted you into a sandy haired, dread locked white man until you mentioned the color of your skin. A lot of the story relies on the fact that you are African American so you should make it clear early. It’s just confusing, is all.

The manuscript has flow issues, without a timeline guiding the reader through the days, weeks, months of your visit; it’s difficult to follow along. Often the manuscript feels like vignettes strung together without rhyme or reason. We need back story to connect the vignettes together more comprehensively. Why are you at the school? How long did you stay with teacher #1 before teacher #2 showed up? How long were you with her? How long was the entire trip? You had weekends off to travel and explore, yes? Where you still in the school when you left for the temples? Did you stay with the host family after classes ended and traveled? Why did you decide to learn Spanish? Didn’t the school take away from the purpose of your trip to Guatemala (which I thought was to explore Mayan temples)? These are a few questions that can contribute to the back story and the timeline.

You mention many people while you’re there, and it’s difficult to keep track of the minor characters. Often authors will draw composite characters of several people to keep the names to a minimum and to help with the characterization. I kept referring back into early stories to see if a person had been mentioned earlier. The only consistent people were the Josefina and the rest of the family, as well as a few drinking buddies. I know these are real people but the stories are short and it’s hard to really keep track. Perhaps if you re-introduce the characters when they reappear in the story it could cut down on the confusion.

Jumping from one story to another without a introduction breaks the flow of the manuscript. This is another reason where a timeline will come in handy. You jump from one story to another without giving an indication of how you arrived at that particular juncture in your trip. I have pointed out examples.

The historical information is really fascinating and really adds much to the manuscript. However, you often begin a story and then break away from it to give long descriptions of history or former travels or personal memories only to jump back to the original story to complete it. Often the break away information was so long I forgot what the original story had been and had to refer back to the beginning to catch up. This can be easily fixed by either giving the history/information before hand and then telling the story you want to tell OR setting the story up briefly, giving the information/history, reintroducing the original story and completing it. I have pointed out examples.

The story is very interesting and often funny, but on occasion you take too long to tell it. Building suspense is crucial, I understand, but at points it doesn’t work and the manuscript needs a little tightening. Nothing fatal, just a portion here and there. I have pointed out examples. You can be a little wordy and have a meandering style that more than often works but at times does not. Also, you are funny over all, however there are parts where the references are to obscure and it seems like you’re trying too hard.

The chatty tone works well throughout but some places it’s too familiar. Stating, ‘dear reader’ (pg 5) distracts from your writing. It makes it sound like you’re writing FOR a reader to impress, rather than for yourself and you’re just clever. People like to read travelogues to they can be armchair participants, as if they are voyeuristically traveling along with you – to draw them in and to point out that you know they are there distracts from that. I called a travel editor from Barnes and Nobel to ask about this point and he confirmed it. I’ve crossed out some of the more familiar points but the call is entirely yours, of course.

What is the purpose of the A, B, C, D, etc at the start of each chapter? Also, you have Episodio Uno, Dos, Tres, etc. The ABCD are out of order at the end and stop around N without some of the letters so I’m not sure where you were going with that. Just an FYI.

Throughout the manuscript you switch from Maya to Mayan: using one or the other for some of the same references throughout. I could not verify the correct use of one in particular as both seem acceptable. I changed most to Mayan for consistency, but left several that Maya just seemed more appropriate. Of course, if you know the correct way of using Maya vs. Mayan ignore my markings!

The use of hyphens is overkill. It chops up the sentences and makes it difficult to read. This is a common affliction in writers – I do it myself. However, I rearranged several sentences (not all or a great abundance as I did not want to change your voice) so the flow was better. For example: It is, generally speaking, rather than break up the sentence, better to just say it out straight. The easier version: Generally speaking, it is better to just say it out straight than break up the sentence. You have a tendency to write in the style of the first. Sometimes it works; sometimes it is too choppy, making the sentence too long and run-on. You may want to reconsider some of the longer sentences for this particular reason. I’ve pointed out a few examples. Also, in lieu of a hyphen I have changed most to em-dashes, brackets, or commas.

Also, my final major point: you are too hard on yourself. It’s clear that you are not dumb, lazy or a goof ball, but you call yourself these things (and worse). I know it’s done for humor but sometimes it’s too self depreciating. When it works: when they climbed over you at the temple. When it doesn’t work: the very beginning: the opening paragraph.

The introduction is good. It starts in the middle of Guatemala in on of your more amusing moments. You then go on to tell the story of how you arrived there and the rest of your travels. However, I would have told the story of your last night at the bar before the story of Pablo. Page 238 and the sentence: And at $500, it’s a downright steal. makes for a better ending that you drunk out of your mind and stumbling home. It’s more upbeat and retrospective. I passed the two storylines along to two other editors, both men in their 40’s and both chose Pablo’s story for the ending. To quote one: To end on a positive note which capsulated his emotions over the people and the place is more effective. I agree. Of course the choice is up to you.

You switch tenses often which I have changed.

Here are the page by page notes that I made as I went along. Just an FYI: the last fifty pages came out longer than the original page count. This is due to my computer which likes to convert things to its own liking. So those 50 pages may not be in sync with the manuscript pages you have.

Page 2: use of active voice is better. Could have told – changed to would tell is more direct and effective. This applies throughout.

Page 7: first issues with Maya vs. Mayan.

Page 19: “I’m a cat who - pardon the pun -digs old cities”. Three issues: It is a choppy sentence, uses hyphen instead of commas, and is a bit dated (cat is very 1950’s)

Page 13: what is the purpose of this bit? It’s distracting and doesn’t add anything to the story. We’re on page 13 and there hasn’t been any travel yet. This is a travelogue but it’s taking too long to get into the actual reason for the book. As stated above - you need to hammer out the idea of the manuscript, implement it and hook your reader early

Page 17: Getting to the ‘Q’: is this the purpose of the A, B, C, etc? If so, Q is not reached in the chapters. Easily fixed.

Page 17: are Otto Rene Castillo and Jesus Castillo related?

Page 20: is Luis the director? This needs clarification. Also, the sentence: Kinda sounds all Charles Dickensy, doesn’t it? is too familiar.

Page 23: …a dropped-egg-on-your-good-shoes away from a heart guffaw – I don’t’ get it? What do you mean?

Page 25: Too much backstory – are you in Guatemala? What does this have to do with your travels? Where is the story of your arrival, etc? Although this is interesting it’s not in the right place. A transition or set up needs to be in place here.

Page 26: When you state ‘we foreigners’ it’s too generic. Do you mean Americans, or just non-Mayan?

Page 27: The song Walk Like an Egyptian only refers to the depictions of the hieroglyphics and the common man’s interpretation of how they ‘walked”. Egyptians are not known for walking any great lengths, really. So this seems a bit out of place (or I’m just being to nit-picky)

Page 18: first tense change.

Page 36: thoughts are usually set in italics. Just an FYI.

Page 27: How could you be shocked that you had gained so much weight – weren’t your clothes tight?

Page 39: No need to say: Let me tell you why. It is implied that you are going to do just that.

Page 40: more examples of the familiar voice.

Page 42: what are landinos, indiginos, and extrajeros?

Page 43: What does it look like? A description adds color and texture to the story.

Page 46: Is this a person or a mask? The description isn’t really clear. I was confused for a while there and reread this portion a few times but didn’t figure it out until later.

Page 49: When did you arrive at a bullring? I missed that.

Page 51: Again, it’s unclear what’s happening. Pull yourself out of the story and try to read it as if you were not there and trying to figure it out. What are the actors doing? Why did you go stiff and the crowd wild? What happened?

Page 52: What happened to Scott? Did you leave him behind?

Page 56: Why doesn’t Roberto have shoes?

Page 57: how is this pea-green? I thought he was eating plantains.

Page 58: Where was Carlito?

Page 59: Why were they crammed in the front? Where are you going? This is a bad time to break the story. There needs to be a transition. You do not return to this original story for another six pages – that is too long.

Page 65: The description isn’t really clear. Where were you standing?

Page 68: The familiar voice again.

Page 75: Again, a break in the story – what does this have to do with Guatemala? Needs to be qualified.

Page 79: What is the first-person past tense of the verb ‘to lay’?

Page 81: a large chunk here is not necessary.

Page 83: Here is a bad break. You are getting to the crux of the story and you suspend it for many pages. What you need is a transition to state that you are about to tell Jeremy’s story of Chet Baker, otherwise it is disjointed and doesn’t make sense for a long time.

Page 84: shed light that July is winter

Page 91: Another tense change.

Page 92: Is Antigua the capital? This needs clarification.

Page 93: In the same sentence you have the number 8 in numerals and the number ten spelled out. For consistency change one.

Page 94: You make a reference to Al Roker being large. He lost a lot of weight several years ago. Perhaps you can change it to someone else well known for their girth: Al Roker pre-2003?

Page 96: This is very interesting stuff why not focus on some of these events in the manuscript? Did you go to any of them?

Page 96: How much time has passed since the last teacher?

Page 97: Not everyone will know who Ann Sullivan was. You’ll need to reference Helen Keller.

Page 100: You leave the main story for four pages. Another bad break.

Page 102: getting farther from the original story….

Page 104: She needs to be reintroduced. It has been too long since you first mentioned the dancing.

Page 105: You can’t dance with old people – why? Because she’s too good? Seems like you held your own here. Did she not teach you well enough? What seems to be the problem, other than you getting exhausted?

Page 106: The title of the last bit was “Spanglahdeutche” so this seems out of place. Why not head this story Spanglahdeutche and the other Singing in the Pain?

Page 107: Georgina is not someone you’ve mentioned before.

Page 108: oh – okay.

Page 108: There has been no mention this being similar to a chess game so this ‘Check’ doesn’t make sense here.

Page 113: You mention here, on page 103, one of your primary reasons for coming to Guatemala – this should be mentioned early on. As stated above, I was not sure why you were really here.

Page 124: Familiar voice here too.

Page 125: Ah – the story from the opening scene. Now it all makes sense. Excellent.

Page 126: We need a repeat of the original scene.

Page 131: You have an intro here that is too familiar. It’s also redundant as the reader knows you’ve set the scene.

Page 136: EF Hutton silence? I recall something about the old EF Hutton adds but didn’t quite get this reference.

Page 139: Is this after you left the bar? After the story telling or another night? Timeline needed here.

Page 142: The last few entries seem like unrelated vignettes – they need to be tied together with a timeline and a point.

Page 147: I don’t understand: where you accepted? Were people staring? Was this the trip from the bar or another walk? What’s the purpose of this bit? I think it’s interesting information and a draw but I’m not sure how it fits into this bar scene.

Page 149: You’ve broken away from the main story, leaving the reader hanging.

Page 152: I’m not sure where you’re going with all of this. I’m still waiting for the dinner table debate from page 149.

Page 156: Too big a jump: it has been seven pages sine the dinner table scene. You need to re-introduce and set the scene back up – or rewrite it entirely to weave the stories together.

Page 157: Not clear what has happened here. How is dinner so fulfilling?

Page 161: I forgot the reason you’re in Guatemala is for the Mayan cities – maybe you can reinstate that fact here.

Page 175: Did I miss something? When did a little 8-year old girl come on the scene?

Page179: Is this the same girl?

Page 184: You’re awfully hard on yourself here.

Page 185: Italicize movie and book titles.

Page 190: The header is O. You’ve missed L, M & N. M is on page 222 and labeled “Once”. N is on page 239 and labeled “Doce”. They are out of order it should be L M N O. Also – should it go up to Q? There is no P or Q. Is there a reason? Am I way off in my thinking here?

Page 214: How far down are you? You need to indicate how much farther you need to go to reach the ground to give the reader some idea of time and effort. Right now if feels like you’re on a never ending, treadmill of a pyramid.

Page 217: Where is the Star Tribune published?

Page 221: Much too hard on yourself.

Page 228: Are Stacy and Guerra still living there? Is this meant to be present tense?

Page 242: Were you ever able to tell your Habitat story?

Page 245: This is a bit muddled – I’m having a hard time following what exactly is going on here.

Page 245: You say PM do you mean AM for the closing time?

Sample Editorial Letter #2 YA Fiction

Sample Editorial Letter #2

First, I must commend you for your brilliant imagination, your excellent writing skills and your obvious talent at weaving an interesting tale. Internal Gold was a delight to read for many reasons: it was entertaining, well put together, highly imaginative (right down to the characters names), fairly clean grammatically, and just an all around great manuscript. I read and edit so many things; hundreds of manuscripts that will never make it to publication, so it is a real joy to enjoy read something great once in a while.

That said, the story is not without flaws which I will try to cover here.

There are a few grammatical points I’d like to make – the final call is yours, obviously.

The pacing of the story drags in parts and moves to quickly in other scenes. The story flows at the same pace for the majority of the manuscript but at times you skip from one setting/town to another without resolving issues or leaving questions unanswered.

The timeline could use a little work. It’s hard to figure how much time has passed between scenes. Have years gone by during the course of the story – or months? A timeline should be established between scenes and stated. Gleda’s age and maturity can be a gauge – she can go from being the na├»ve, fun loving girl, to the sophisticated, worldy woman of Neras with a timeline. It would be odd if she was 16 throughout the entire transformation and all the events.

Some of the scenes are extraneous or unexplained. There are loose ends as it seems you are skipping over vital information to get to the interesting parts. This is a common error with early novelists: you know all the background information therefore when you write a scene you understand what is going on and the logic behind each action, but the reader does not. This leaves holes in the plot. I have pointed these few instances out.

The descriptions of the worlds, characters and scenery could use a little work. In Ivor in particular. I was surprised to learn that Ivor was brown and dusty – it came on page 11. Painting the setting is a vital part of writing. I was also really confused as to Gleda’s looks – what she human-like with gold skin? Or alien like? I never really got a mental picture of her until she became Neras.

The warriors could use a little more background. I confused Ironhand and the Accursed. The Accursed didn’t appear in the very beginning – who are they? Azah’s army? Or otherworldly beings? This was never apparent.

Tenses should be watched. You had trouble with “laid” vs. “lay” and “burnt” vs. “burned”. Those two stand out in particular.

Thoughts should be italicized to separate them from the text – no need for quotation marks.

Page by page notes:

Page 1: warned her or told her? Warned seems wrong.

Page 2: The world of Ivor could use description. As well at the bakery, the landscape and the smithy. The description of the dining room in the bakery is good – it shows what’s around – but what are the walls made of, what does the mismatched furniture look like, how many tables, windows, etc?

Page 11: the description comes too late. Readers have already formed a visual on the land (mine was lush – like the hobbits shire in Lord of the Rings) so now the reader must shift gears which is off putting.

Page 15: What is the significance of plumes?

Page 19 and earlier: Why is Palace capitalized? If it was Azah Palace that would be one thing but if it’s just the palace (no title) then it should be lower case.

Page 21: Is Dummy the lizard?

Page 47: Where is Zerah during all of this? Shouldn’t she be by her companion?

Page 114: Who is talking here?

Page 130: How did she get there? This is a really quick change of scenery.

Page 140: How and when did they get separated from Cor and the rest of the group? Am I missing something? The transition here could use work. Why did Cor leave her?

Page 142: Who is Horatus the Friend of the General? I don’t recall who he is.

Page 149: Is Mischief speaking?

Page 151: is Gleda human? Are any of them ‘humans’?

Page 167: Where are the people? Where are they (they group)? Are they up high looking down? I’m not getting a real visual on the city, it could use a little more description. Why are people out and about walking the streets? It seems deserted. Also, where do they come into the city – up high looking down? Are they walking on a walkway? It’s confusing.

Page 167: Remind us who the Brethren are.

Page 180: Cor has mentioned that she has a grandfather before. So why the surprise?

Page 186: Riverlin is acting much older than a newborn. How old is she? How much time as passed since they saved her?

Page 196: Where exactly is the bathing pool? I thought it was situated in the city.

Page 196: Who is talking here?

Page 204: Where is Riverlin? It seems she has been forgotten. Why don’t they send for her?

Page 217: Why hasn’t she told him Fair City is under attack and that they tunnels have been blown up, etc? Or that the chief is dead? It should be the first thing out of her mouth – really.

Page 221: Why isn’t she using the bauble for light instead of stumbling through the dark?

Page 224: Who is asking? Cor?

Page 228: How did he find out about the chief?

Page 234: Should Cor be astonished that she can open the impossible-to-open door? Why is he so mute?

Page 235: Where is Cor? Is he in the room? What’s going on? Is this a dream/altered world/vision?

Page 237: I’m still not sure what’s happening here. Is the ‘real’ Cor watching this? Is she in a trance? What’s happening?

Page 239: Why does he thank her? I’m not sure what was supposed to happen here. Has she shut the door on Teras forever?

Page 242: Has she been sent to the rabbit room? Otherwise where is she?

Page 243: How did she get ill again?

Page 243: How did she know “they” were coming? What has happened to Ironhand? Is the war almost over here? I love the description of how she ends it all and spreads good throughout the land. It’s beautifully done. Wonderful stuff here.

Page 248: So is she now beautiful? As beautiful as Teras?

Page 252: What happened to her bauble – was it dispersed forever throughout the kingdom?

There are a few questions I had at the end: was Ivor still dusty and drab? What happened to the palace (Azah’s palace). Was the war finally over? Where is General Ironhand? It never mentions that he has been defeated. Was he in the tunnels of Fair City when they were collapsed? How did Cor recover so quickly from his wounds in the woods? Did they remarry in the end? Have any children? How much time has passed between the time she has transformed and the end of the book? What does the future hold for them?

As I stated in the beginning – this is a wonderful story and you show a lot of promise. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. I’m happy to go over the entire manuscript at your leisure.

Sample Editorial Letter #3 Suspense/Action

The writing is good and the storyline is fascinating. There are portions were it’s a bit too technological or scientific but that is probably just my lack of knowledge in those areas so I wouldn’t change it unless you feel it’s too much for the layman.

Also, you have a habit of jumping from one scene to another very quickly without really saying much to add to the plot. Perhaps some of these shorter jumps can be combined into longer glimpses into the characters and their roles in the novel.

The characterization could use work – a little more background on the major players would be nice. You did a decent job of it with Fuentes, letting us know what he was all about which sets him up nicely to be your protagonist.

We had touched briefly on focusing on one or more ‘heroes’ for the story. In most great action/psychological/thrillers there is usually a hero or a band of heroes working together or individually for the same goal. Readers want to latch onto someone and watch him/her/them save the world. There are too many characters here, and many of them thing and forgettable (not enough stage time, if you will). Perhaps if you picked out Fuentes and one of the soldiers (your choice) to hammer home that hero aspect it would really drive the book forward more. Some of the characters can be combined into composite characters to serve more than one role to cut down on the confusion of so many players. It’s hard to give real depth to so many different people. Concentrate on the ones that are most important, give them more dimension and depth, build them into real people with backgrounds, histories, families (or lack thereof) and real problems, ideas, goals and drive.

The story does drag a little in the middle, but that can easily be fixed by combining some of the short bits into longer ones. It will cut down on the choppiness and create better flow.

You also could use some better segues into new scenes. Perhaps you could start each chapter or section with a date and time stamp as well as where it’s taking place to keep the reader better informed on the timeline. The timeline could use work.

As we discussed last week there needs to be a new beginning. Perhaps the prologue featuring the killings and infestation at the pumping station and then starting chapter one with Fuentes and his hectic hospital schedule. This would make for a more intriguing introduction to the novel – it sets the scene for terrorism and hooks the reader into wanting more – what will happen? Is it the end of New Orleans (or Philadelphia)? Etc. it’s a great hook. Then swinging back into the every day life of the American people (ie Feuntes and his girlfriend, the rest of the hospital staff, etc) sets the stage for the major upheaval in all things routine, familiar and calm. Of course if you want to go in another direction, other ideas can work.

By page 27 nothing has really happened yet. There’s lots of build up but there needs to be more action or purpose at this point. I think we the little bit that we have discussed you’re aware of this and have already addressed it. But I thought to point it out anyway.

Are you picking a date in time – say 2007 (which is when the book would be published if picked up in the next few months) or do you want to keep it anonymous with just the date but no year?

We also discussed the characters talking out loud to themselves to give background information. This is unnatural and awkward. You can do it using the third person giving them dimension and life without having the character actually doing the talking.

I think that beefing up the press’ role in the manuscript can really hammer home how it’s having a global effect and not just the local. Let’s see the press getting involved (and in the way – press can really add drama both good and bad – press make great heroes, villains and stepping stones for bigger things). Let’s see the President visit, the mayor, fundraising – like Katrina – the press blows things up and people want to get involved. By including the press you give an outsiders view of how things look and with the rest of the story you can show what’s REALLY going on. It could add great flavor to the book.

Your dialogue is natural and realistic for the most part. In some areas it’s a bit strained which I will point out in the page by page notes below.

Page by Page notes:

Page 3 isn’t ‘dope’ a bit dated?

Page 7: there is some technical talk here that I think may be too much for the layman (ie: me) it went right over my non-medical head.

Page 11: When Karen is talking about Ron it’s not a conversation – this is an info dump where she just gives the reader background info. This could be done in the third person without conversation and she can just briefly touch on it to let the readers know Fuentes’ staff knows his beginnings.

Page 18: You jump from Khalid to Atoomb – it’s the same person – pick first or last name and stick with it.

Page 23: Is this the same hospical? The name is not mentioned before – just the phrase ‘Charity Nurses’. Need to clarify. Also, the timeline is missing here. How much time has passed? What time is it? Same day?

Page 34: Where is this?

Page 39: You have a talking head here – you need action. Have a conversation, some action, pausing, something. It’s too dull just having one person rattle off a monologue.

Page 43: is this the same container mentioned earlier - the one with secret compartments? Needs clarification.

Page 58: You have two characters with the name Paul – introduced on the same page – that is confusing.

Page 73: This is great stuff: action, interesting, character driven, etc. We need more of this!

Page 86: Why hasn’t anyone gone to the water treatment plant yet? It seems the first place they would go. It hasn’t even been mentioned at all.

Page 98: he’s not really an actor – this is a bit confusing.

Page 100: this is all drawn out too much and drags the story down.

Page 104: let’s hear more of how they went into the plant and found the bodies, etc. Instead of relaying what could be a powerful and frighteningly real scene through a brief dialogue – bring the readers to the scene with Tower – show them what he saw – bring the horror of what can happen alive. It’s much more powerful to read these things first hand – draw the reader in.

Page 105: Loads of characters – it’s getting very difficult to keep track. Also, if the Navy Doctor says ‘ain’t’ in one sentence, the rest of his dialogue should less formal to match it. I’ve done light editing here to show you.

Page 106: he had a page? Or he was paged? Confusing.

Page 107: Here is a bit more dialogue spoken out loud by Marshall while he is alone. People don’t talk like this when they are alone. It doesn’t need to be in dialogue – it can be third person.

Page 114: The scenes are getting shorter and choppier. You’re jumping from one thing to another without resolving anything really. Needs more build up in the scenes. Consider lengthening them.

Page 120: Things are slowing down here. The disease seems to be under control. What’s going on here?

Page 123: There are so many characters you need to start reintroducing them. It’s very hard to keep track.

Page 129: Brown-nosed is not a verb (sorry – it’s the editor in me)

Page 130: I was wondering when you’d get back to the terrorists – it’s been a very long break since we’ve seen their point of view. It would be great to have both sides chiming in throughout the manuscript. If that’s the way you want to go with it. However, if you want to keep it as is – you need to keep the terrorists in the forefront – it’s been over 100 pages since they were last seen – that’s too long to keep them out of it.

Page 153: Again – here is a spot that a timeline could be used. You mention three days had gone by but gave no indication of this to the reader. It came out of left field.

Page 165: Things are starting to get interesting again – the story is picking back up.

Page 176: I don’t understand why they stopped Zarif before he reached his final destination. Weren’t they trying to follow him to the rest of his cell?

Page 193: How would the disease spread from one person to another if it is not airborne? Am I missing something here? Did the strain mutate or something?

Page 206: jumping from scene to scene too quickly again.

Page 220: How are they coping with the diarrhea? Remember the Superdome and the problems they had – borrow from reality and really paint a picture of how difficult and horrific the conditions are. Add drama and reality to the already dire situation.

Page 231: he says that his people are holding up but Karen is not. Also, who is speaking in some of these dialogue bubbles? They need to be attributed to a speaker.

Page 234: it’s not really clear why they are in Iran. We need a clearer picture of how this information was received. What’s the connection to New Orleans? We need a paper trail of information and a timeline. What are the many events leading up to this?

Page 235: We need a clearer picture of who Atoomb is and why they are after him. Storyline is a bit blurred but can easily be fixed. This is all great stuff, however.

Page 237: How’d they connect with him? Am I missing something? Surely he’s not alone in his mission – where is his team?

Page 244: They flew at an altitude of 15 feet? Isn’t that a bit low?

Page 247: What surveillance did they do? How’d they know who to go after?

Page 249: Give us details on how they knew it was ‘the’ van. CSI stuff – it seems to easy as it is written right now.

Page 250: Let’s hear how they got him to talk. Take us into the room, don’t tell us about it afterwards, let’s hear it first hand. Much more dramatic and effective.

Page 253: You need a better transition. I could not remember who McDonald was. Had to think about it.

Page 267: I like the way the president is getting involved now – this is good stuff.

Page 285: The ending is good – wraps all things up. However, how much time has passed? Seems that Fuentes took up a new girl mighty quickly. Other than that I think the ending was solid.

Sample Editorial Letter #4 SECOND LOOK

This is a sample editorial letter for a second look of a mafioso/suspense/action manuscript.

Let me begin by saying how vastly improved the manuscript is. The writing it tighter, the story flows better, it’s a much better book. However, there are a few areas that I think can use a little more work.

The beginning is much better now. I like the way it starts and then jumps into the present day. However, when it moves to present day it becomes too rushed. We need a little more information on Angela and Dominick Galante. The scene needs more set up – we’re not so sure who Angela is or Dominick, really. Just a paragraph or two on who they are and why she is interested in doing business with him. The scene is the two of them having a serious conversation without much action or introduction. It needs a little more explanation leading up to it: perhaps you could say how she has been searching for years for her father’s killers and now that she has her evidence she is ready to act. But because she cannot go to the police she must take action into her own hands therefore she’s looking for an alternate solution. Dominick can be introduced as having troubles in his territory and he’s in dire need of some help. Some outside help, a mastermind to help him get back on track. Once they start their conversation it will make much more sense. Obviously, we will need just a little more information on both parties than what I have mentioned above.

The scenes involving Luca have improved dramatically. His shame is much more prominent and his humiliation is deserved. The scene where she learns he’s been in the US and hasn’t contacted her is MUCH better. Her anger is and disappointment is much more real. I completely fell in line with her thought patterns and her upset. You really did a great job rewriting this subplot in the story. It adds so much more texture to the tale and makes Angela more vivid and real.

The dialogue is still a little stiff and could use some improvements. I’ve pointed out a few passages in the text.

The scene in the crypt that is now a dream works much better. No need for the supernatural – you won’t abandon any readers this way. It works so much better. I was really pleased with this.

Some of the scenes with the mafia men can use some work and I have pointed these out in sections. There are times when it reads like a textbook instead of a fiction novel: very matter of fact and devoid of drama or action.

Richard and Angela’s relationship is much more believable now. You explained your thoughts on the relationship to me earlier and I can see what you were trying to accomplish now. It has been accomplished in the rewrite.

I’m still having trouble with the ownership of the Malatesta house. I cover this in my page-by-page notes.

Then ending is much better. I like the way it comes full circle – from her vow to avenge her father’s murder to the actual accomplishment of it. The scene with the Chief of Police slumping in resignation just hammers her success home.

Angela is a much more rounded character now.

You need to watch a few things:

A lot of the dialogue back and forth is too dull – there needs to be action. The conversations are important but there needs to be more than just two talking heads with no action: why can’t the pause, scratch their chins, pour drinks, walk around, etc. Have one of them doing something so there is some action in the scenes to make them more interesting.

Also, in dialogue it may be better to write out numbers and abbreviations: “I’ll meet you at Thompson Road around three-thirty.”

Some of the language is still to stiff and awkward – not just the dialogue but the prose. It is too formal. Perhaps you prefer it this way, but I thought I should just point it out.

Be wary of new paragraphs and the indentations. I’ve marked many of them, hopefully all of them. Also, be careful with the structure of your dialogue – I have pointed out a few examples of this.

Also, it’s good-bye not goodbye as one word (as per Websters Dictionary). I’ve changed as many of these as I can find.

Do you want to go with the actual year dates? It will date the book quickly. There’s nothing wrong with it but you may have to change the dates to correspond with a publishing date. You won’t want a book that has a story that’s already three years old by the time it is published. This is not a big deal, just a thought.

Here are the page-by-page notes:

Page 1-10: the intro is MUCH better.

Page 19: Why hadn’t he already read the quote in the times?

Page 25: Need to add ‘Catholic’ to the sentence. There are female bishops in other faiths.

Page 36: Spell out abbreviations in dialogue example.

Page 41-43: The word “goddamn” is used 13 times in the dialogue – that’s really excessive.

Page 55: Would they really skip the burning of the saint? It’s such a mafia tradition… just a thought.

Page 64: Need to attribute people to the thoughts. There are random thoughts that have no speakers attached to them. Who’s are they?

Page 65: This speech is really long winded. Try cutting it down. This is a good example of dialogue and no action.

Page 70: the word ‘dude’ seems dated

Page 79: watch your tenses – ALWAYS use the active voice.

Page 91: This is great – really shows her strength and determination. Excellent.

Page 94: When Angela says ‘Sure as hell this guy is going to arrest me today.’ Makes her sound really guilty!

Page 102: Wouldn’t a parting scene with the two lovers promising to love each other forever really add punch to the end? I think that a scene here could really help the scene in the Algonquin Hotel when Angela gets furious with him. If they have an unwritten promise of devotion it would lend itself nicely to the story.

Page 108: Alter ego? I don’t get it.

Page 113: I’m assuming the wineries are in Italy? Also, this is a great set up for his ultimate demise.

Page 114: The name of the store is Tower Records.

Page 125: why not show us the conversation?

Page 133: Why not put the dream sequence in italics for emphasis and definition?

Page 139: This sounds like her mother was involved with his murder. Why would she stay with the man she knew killed her husband? She could have divorced. This needs clarification. It makes her mother look cold and calculating and the sympathy level really drops for her character.

Page 158: Why feigning sadness?

Page 169: This is too long and drawn out for a quick snippet – you are in the middle of an important scene, to veer off it like this distracts from it. Shorten her reverie.

Page 179: Here is the house problem again. Isn’t the house hers? It belonged to her parents not her stepfather. Why doesn’t she claim it? How can anyone just take it when they know full well that she is alive and the legal heir and owner? This really bothers me!

Page 187: the black and white comment is a bit dated. It’s not uncommon for people of different races to be friends. Especially in the NY area.

Page 187: why is she feigning motherly tenderness? I understand she’s after something. But feigning? It would be better for her character to be motherly but stern.

Page 202: Why does he say the Malatesta house? Should he say, “your” house?

Page 202: She’s very brusque and almost rude to him here. Can we tone that down?

Page 203: Why does she feel unsafe? I understand why because you have explained it to me – but the readers will not know. This need a bit more clarification.

Page 205: dialogue structure is off.

Page 210: This is much better with the description of the scene but it is a bit stiff. Perhaps there could be a little dialogue between the gunmen for action.

Page 221: Most hotels have voicemail so it’s not necessary to leave messages with the concierge.

Page 222: how is NYC her hometown? She went to school there for three years. But she’s a Jersey girl, born and bred.

Page 223: Here is the scene with Luca – she’s excited by the touch of his body – this is cheating on Richard. If she had her promise of everlasting love with Luca (see above) then this would make sense.

Page 227: She still is coming off as a bit too upset and overreacting. The comment of thinking she’s just a common whore is entirely too strong. She sounds like a shrew!

Page 228: Still too overboard.

Page 266: Structure of dialogue needs work.

Page 271: he knows it’s her house – why haven’t they discussed this in the past? He is her boyfriend and it’s an emotional thing for her. It seems odd to me that they haven’t discussed any of this at all. He knows her house burned down and she knows he knows. Surely he would have curiosity over the situation – especially as a lover – not as a cop.

Page 272: yardbirds or jailbirds? Is there a difference?

Page 301: have I missed something? She’s working for the nuns gratis? No? Why is this happening?

Page 309: Who is talking at the bottom of the page?

Page 323: how did they know it was her watching the fire?

Page 324: Wasn’t it her house? Of course the owner is going to inspect the damage caused to her house by a fire. It’s natural – I would assume.

Page 325: Is this the time to bring up the fact that she owns the house? I still have issues with this storyline.

Page 331: It’s December 17th, not the 19th see page 327.

Sample Editorial Letter #5 Book Proposal

This sample letter was for a book proposal that needed tightening.


This is a great idea for a book! I found your proposal interesting and thorough. As you’ll see, most of the edits I’ve made are line edits for sentence clarification. However, there are a few things I want to explain, in case they aren’t clear from my comments on your manuscript.

First, make sure you send your proposal to a specific person at a specific company. Use the latest edition of the Literary Marketplace (LMP) guide to help you find the names of editors who acquire non-fiction, and especially medical non-fiction.

Your cover letter is good—you make your point, and give us your background. I had only minor tweaks throughout the letter. At the end of the letter, however, you ask “Would you like to see my proposal?” In my experience, unless the submission guidelines specifically ask you to send in a query letter first, you should send the whole proposal, thus hopefully cutting down on the time you spend waiting for a response.

Also, when you send out a proposal, number the pages.

One problem that is fairly consistent throughout your proposal is your use of “their” when referring to a single patient. This is a very common mistake, since “their” has the benefit of being gender neutral. But “their” is also plural, so you cannot use it as the possessive for a singular noun. My advice is to alternate using “his” and “her” throughout the proposal.

In the “Promotion” section of your proposal, make sure you outline a definite plan for giving lectures on a book tour. Make it very clear that you’re willing to do all the things you list in order to promote your book. Making a vague point that an unidentified person could give lectures in non-specific places is not saying much at all. Tell the editor/agent where you are willing to tour, what lectures you’re willing to give and where.

Additionally, when you’re talking about sending the book to The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, National Geriatric Nursing Association, etc. what do you mean exactly? Do these groups have magazines that will review your book? Do you know people in positions of power in these organizations that will give you cover blurbs? Be specific when discussing how you intend to use these organizations to promote your book. And get rid of the general idea of sending your book to small papers desperate for content. Instead, make a list of local newspapers, publications, radio stations, etc. that you could write to about your book in hopes that they would review the book or interview you.

I think your proposal is laid out well here. You take us through all the chapters and their content. However, when we get to the last chapter (21), and turn the page, the proposal seems to start over again with “Your Responsibility.” Is this the introductory chapter? The first chapter? Is this the actual book now, or is it still summary material for the agent/editor? Indicate exactly what this is. Similarly, when we come to the next section, called “Diabetes,” I wonder again if this is a sample chapter pulled from later in the book? Is this for a patient/reader, or for the agent/editor’s own information? Make this clear. Why include the diabetes chapter here?

A recurring problem you have in this chapter is an inconsistent use of “blood sugar” and “blood sugars.” Sometimes I understand why you need to use one or the other, but sometimes, whether or not you pluralize the word seems random. Just make sure this is consistent throughout. Also, this chapter gets pretty technical, and while I was able to follow most of it, I got a bit lost after the boxes detailing when you should check blood sugar. As I’ve marked on your manuscript, that paragraph seems very technical to me, and not clear. Since you’re writing this book for laypeople, it will probably be a good idea to dumb down the language a bit here, and take your time explaining things in very plain English. For instance, it’s never really explained, in a practical way, how a person goes about checking their own blood sugar. It might be a good idea to include a diagram or step-by-step information about this. Patients will get instructions from their doctors, but it may be a good idea to have a reminder in your book, in case they forget.

Those were all the points I felt needed a bit more explaining, but please, if you find any of my comments confusing or nonsensical, don’t hesitate to email or call.