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It's a crowded marketplace these days and you need a quality book to even have a chance of standing out.
In my opinion, one of the best investments to help your book become the best it can be is professional editing. In today's show, we go through all kinds of questions that authors ask about editing.
In the introduction, I talk about the latest Author Earnings report which shows the impact of agency pricing; I mention Peter Diamandis' post on the world in 2025 and why I'm so excited about global sales.
This podcast episode is sponsored by 99 Designs, where you can get all kinds of designs for your author business including book covers, merchandising, branding and business cards, illustrations and artwork and much more. You can get a Powerpack upgrade which gives your project more chance of getting noticed by going to: 99Designs.com/joanna
- The different types of editing that authors need
- How do people find the right editor for their book
- How can authors edit themselves before engaging a professional?
- How does an editor assess a potential client?
- What are the most common errors for beginning authors? and also for more established authors?
- How does an author cope with the psychological pain of all that red ink?
- Does an author have to apply all the changes that an editor suggested?
- As an author and an editor, how do you separate your creative mind and your editing mind when you wrote the books?
Transcript of interview with Jen Blood
Joanna: Hi everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com, and today I'm here with Jen Blood. Hi, Jen.
Jen: Hi, Joanna.
Joanna: It's great to have you on the show. Just a little introduction, Jen is the bestselling author of the Erin Solomon thriller series as well as being a fantastic editor at Adian editing. Jen has been my fiction editor for over a year now and has really improved my writing. Jen, I'm so pleased to have you on the show.
Jen: Yeah, I'm very excited to be here. This is very cool.
Joanna: It is, and of course you normally get to edit me and we don't talk about editing so today we going to get into it.
First of all, tell us a bit more about you and your writing background.
Jen: Sure, basically I started professionally writing about 15 years ago. I have an undergraduate and a graduate degree in creative writing. I have worked basically every job you can comprehend in writing. I have been a reporter and I have been a proofreader and an editor for a newspaper, and I've ghost written and just tons of weird and good and not so good jobs having to do with writing. I have been doing it for a while and first self-published my Erin Solomon series in 2012. I have five of those out now. I first opened the doors officially to my editing business in 2014.
Joanna: We're going to come back to the Erin Solomon stuff, but let's start with just the basics. When people say, “Oh, what about an editor?,” an editor can actually mean a lot of different things, can't it?
Can you explain the different types of editing that an author might encounter?
Jen: Sure, it definitely varies depending on where you are as writer and what your goals as a writer may be. I have some writers who are very focused on getting books out so with those then my job is a little bit more intensive.
Then I have others who are focused on traditional publishing and they are very keen on really honing every sentence so it varies depending on what your goals are.
But essentially the different types of editing are, there's beta reading, there is content editing, there is copy or line editing and there is proofreading. Those are the general types that are out there.
Joanna: And I think it's like you said, it differs depending on where you are as an author.
Would you say that people probably need to spend the most on editing for their first book and therefore it becomes like a big stumbling block at the beginning?
Jen: Yeah, that definitely is the Catch 22. Before you make much money or any money from your writing that's when you need to shell out the most, and I really think it's a very worthwhile investment to take that extra time and work with someone who really knows what they are doing, someone that you trust so that the two of you can work together to achieve the vision that you have of what you want your novel to be.
Joanna: I get emails where people say, “I want an editor, but I only want to spend a little bit.” Do you think you get what you pay for in terms of editing?
Jen: I really do. I think that you do. Definitely there are good editors that are out there who are just starting out maybe and so their rates aren't quite as high but the reality is that if you're looking for someone that not only knows how to edit well and can work with you throughout from the developmental edit through to the point where you are publishing but also knows a little bit about the genre and the market.
There's a lot to know as an editor and so I think that if you're going to get that level of experience, then you are going to need to pay a little bit more. You don't need to go into debt for the rest of your life. You may have to spend pennies for a little while, but I think ultimately it's usually worth it for people.
Joanna: I try and frame it as an investment, as in if you are expecting to make money from your book as a business, then you need to invest money in that book to make it the best product it can be. Would you agree with that?
Jen: Absolutely. I actually have several clients who have come to me after they've spent a little bit less on editing and actually had the novel published and have gotten feedback that it's not great editing and stuff. They come to me after the fact so that's an example of paying through the nose by not just biting the bullet and paying up front for what you need to make it happen.
Joanna: Another question I get surprisingly often, maybe you hear this too, is “I'm worried about sending a book to an editor because they might steal my ideas.” What's your answer to that?
Jen: I think that, especially for new writers, that's a big concern, that's something that they worry about a lot.
And the reality is, if you talk to veteran authors, and you talk about the idea of worrying about someone stealing your idea and stuff, generally what they tell you is that it's not the idea that you need to worry about.
Everybody has ideas and whatever, it's your unique take on that idea, it's the way that you write it, it's all of that that makes it your novel. In that sense it's unlikely that somebody is going to outright steal something like that. If you are concerned, I actually do have in part of my contract that this is solely your property. I think that you can certainly incorporate that, or talk to your editor about it if it's something that you are concerned about.
Joanna: That's interesting because you do a contract, and I've worked with a lot of editors over the years now, and not all of them do have a contract. Sometimes it's more of a handshake agreement, and you could pay a deposit, but there wasn't necessarily a contract.
What do you feel is the editor's job and what do you put in that contract so people can assess their options?
Jen: It really depends on the client in terms of what they're looking for, but for me personally, I view my job as doing everything that I can to deliver a professionally put together novel that is at the highest caliber possible.
That means that obviously in terms of grammar and punctuation and all of those things, that it's free of that stuff but beyond that it's making sure that the characters ring true and the pacing is consistent throughout and will keep the reader coming back. It's a high level of prose, all of that stuff.
In terms of what is in the contract, that for me really was interesting. I'd been sort of running a business and hadn't been really focused on it for a while. It had been running on the sidelines, but I had been doing other things. I did editing, but I also did some graphic design and you could hire me for all these different things.
When I made the decision that I was exclusively going to be an editor, then it was almost a psychological thing for me to just be like, “All right, if we're going to do this, we're going to do it right. I'm going to get the contract. I'm going to get the logo and do all of these things and make this a business venture.”
In terms of the contract, it really is just letting the client know what they can expect from me, letting them know that their work is safe with me, talking about a payment schedule and all those things so that everything is defined on the page as we start.
Joann: Another important thing there is date, I think. The date that the client has to deliver the book as in you've agreed what date and then the date that you'll give it back again. I know this is a massive deal because from your point of view people have to book editors in advance.
You can't just go “Oh, my book is ready to edit today. I'm just going to send it to somebody.” How long should people be thinking in advance?
Jen: At this point, actually, I'm not taking clients right now but…
Joann: In general.
Jen: In general though, usually you should be thinking at least two months in advance. You should check in and make sure that there's space and connect with the editor. Particularly if it's someone that you haven't worked with before, then two to three months is usually safe to get the ball rolling.
Joann: Then obviously you can finesse that timing as you get closer to it, and then obviously you say what date you're going to give it back again, which I think all editors would do. How long will it take usually to do a full edit?
Jen: Typically, it's been a learning process for me so depending on how extensive the edits are and how long the book is, then anywhere from two to four weeks basically is what you're looking at.
Joann: Absolutely, that's super. I think about editing as a bit like dating because people say, “How do I find an editor?” And you don't just look on the internet, find the first one and book them, that's not really you do it. There's a bit of looking around before you find someone that might match.
How do you recommend people find the best editor for them?
Jen: Word of mouth I think is huge. If you are reading a novel, particularly by independent authors, and you find that you really like it, it's error free and the pacing is good and character and all of these things, independent authors are usually pretty approachable so send them a line and say, “Who edited your work?” That I think is one of the best ways to find out and from there check out the website, send a query to the editor just finding out what their availability is and what their specialty is.
Most editors have a particular genre that they work with, and in my opinion it's very important to work with an editor who really knows your genre. There are so many subtle differences between the genres that it's really good to work with someone who's very enthusiastic about the genre you work in.
I think that those are the major things. It really is word of mouth and reading the different blogs that are online and reading interviews with different editors and stuff like that. Ultimately the biggest test is going to be corresponding with the editor and how they respond to you and what that kind of interaction is like and that kind of thing.
Joann: It's funny you say that. I found you after my previous editor resigned because of a particularly gory scene in one of my books, and you were like, “This is great.” That's really important, isn't it? You're a thriller writer so that's why we resonate.
Just back on finding the right editor, do editors still do a test chapter? Is that something that people can do?
Jen: Definitely, I think most editors at this point do offer some kind of sample edit. They may charge for it. They may not. Don't be turned off in either case. If it's free, that's great. If it's not, then it's usually, you certainly shouldn't pay a lot for a sample edit. It's usually $25. $50 is maximum for a sample edit usually and I think that's pretty high. Mine are $25, and that is I think a really important thing to have. It gives you a really good idea of how the editor works, what you can expect from them in terms of feedback and whether or not they kind of get what you are going for with your books.
Joanna: Which is interesting. How is the best way to prepare your manuscript before you submit to an editor.
How can authors edit themselves before going to a professional?
Jen: I think the most important thing especially with newer writers is beta readers. A lot of times when I'm working with newer writers then I'll either suggest doing a professional beta read or I'll suggest that they work with some beta readers on their own first.
It's just invaluable to be able to get somebody else's perspective on how a novel is working. Beyond that it's just basically paying attention to punctuation and grammar and that stuff to some extent. The other thing that I find, particularly with the newer writers, is that a lot of times they'll have like a plot, and subplots, and some of the subplots don't necessarily resolve themselves in the novel in an early draft so as you are going through, write down what the plot and the subplots are and then make sure that you have some kind of resolution for each of those. If you can do that, then that means that I think you are in pretty good shape to start working with an editor.
Joanna: I must say, I find your story comments really, really helpful. Sometimes you do your own edit and you can't see the problems or you know there is a problem but you just don't know how to fix it. That's when having a professional like yourself to look it and go, “Look, you didn't resolve this or you need to a scene here that will wind up that thing.” You've suggested several things like that to me which have helped finish internal circles almost, which are just very hard to see yourself.
Joanna: I think the problem when you're first starting out as writer is you're scared of editing because of the psychological pain. I guess my question there is, how does someone know if it's a good edit? As in what you don't want is a pat on the back, “Oh that was great, no issues at all.” And you probably also don't want to change every single line.
How do people know what a good edit is if they haven't had one before?
Jen: That's a good question. I think basically, as you said, you definitely don't want a pat on the back. If you're paying good money, then what's the point.
At least with my own edits, it's a matter of, and I think with editors that I've worked with on my own writing, it's a matter of the way that the editor approaches it. There should some amount of positivity from the start. The editor should be enthusiastic in some way with the story that you are telling and should be able to point out, “You're doing this right. You're doing this right. You are almost there with this and if you do X,Y and Z, then you are going to be there.” I think couching it in those terms and then beyond that recognizing, particularly if you are a newer writer, that there is going to be some red on the page and sometimes it's going to be fairly extensive, but the editor should be able to put a positive spin on it. You shouldn't feel like you're being beaten up when you are being edited.
Joanna: I think at the beginning, it's really difficult, and you just have to get used to it and realize you're paying for someone to help you make the book a better product. That for me is the essence of an editor. I just don't think you can do it for yourself. We're going to come back to you and how you do it in a minute, but you said there that you will sometimes recommend people go and get another beta read.
When will you actually reject a client? What are the characteristics of a “this isn't good enough yet?”
Jen: At this point I have a questionnaire that I give out to a potential client. I ask for a sample chapter, the first chapter, and then I ask for about 25 to 35 pages in the middle of the novel. If in reading that what I'm finding is that there's a lot of head hopping, which is the thing where you're switching perspectives willy-nilly between the different characters. It's the whole telling rather than showing. If I see a lot of that on the page, and then in terms of pacing and that kind of thing.
If I see a lot of that, and on the questionnaire the author is having a hard time defining what the plot is. One of the questions I ask is what the catalyst for, that sets everything in motion for the story. If they can't define what that is and what the characters' central plot conflict is, then that usually is a good indication that you're not quite ready for an editor, and it's a good idea to get beta readers just to start things out.
Joanna: That's really interesting. Also, I think the point of view, which you said as perspectives there, that's one of those penny dropping moments that happens when you start to learn to write a novel. That's one of the big things, isn't it?
Jen: Definitely, and it's very hard. It's so much easier to tell a story if you can just tell it from everybody's perspective so you have to discipline yourself and say, “We can't just switch from this person to that person without preparing the reader in some way or making some clean division or whatever.” It's just one of those things that with time it becomes natural, but early on it's a hard thing to grasp.
Joanna: It's hard, and then what I also think is that other things come up every time. Like on my last book, I was using the comma and “ing,” something-ing a lot, and you were like, “You are using this to much. Can you explain that?
Jen: I think that's another one that's very common – looking at the rhythm of a paragraph. If you're using the same kind of sentences over and over again. One of the obvious is every sentence begins with, “He did this,” or “He did that,” As you get more advanced, then you know to avoid that but then you can fall into the trap of, as you said, the “ing” trap. I'm trying to think of specific examples. “He went to the bank, flying along the way,” something like that. That's fine but then if you have another sentence that follows that same pattern, then it just gets tiresome for the reader so it's looking at that kind of thing.
Joanna: And you just don't see it on your own. It's funny you say that about the “so and so did this, then that,” and I remember with the point of view thing often it's good to start a chapter with “Morgan walked into the bar,” or whatever. And then the next chapter, now this is Jake. “Jake did this,” and then you realize that you've just started every chapter with somebody's name because it helped you write it, but then you have to go back and change all the beginning sentences so that they don't all start with a name.
Jen: Exactly, but I think it's just impossible for, or not impossible, nothing is impossible, I'm sure there are people who can do it, but it's very difficult for a writer to be able to see all of that. There's so much to see in a novel so trying to see that for yourself, it's really hard. I can't do it.
Joanna: And then you have a master's in commercial fiction, which I think is awesome. First of all tell us, why differentiate in that way? Why did you specialize down that route?
Jen: I got my undergraduate degree in literary fiction and actually toward my final year in school I was starting to drift toward popular fiction a little bit more and had actually written the first draft of All the Blue-Eyed Angels, my first novel. I had written it at that time, and I was really starting to get interested in mysteries and then the graduate school that I applied to, or one of them, the University of Southern Maine, Denis Lehane was teaching there at the time and I love him. I really wanted to work with him but new students couldn't actually work with him unless they were declared popular fiction so that kind of made the decision for me. I was like, “All right, I'm in. This is what we're going with.”
But I really enjoyed it, as I said, I spent my undergrad reading literary fiction and really focusing on that and I'm glad that I did that because it gave me a really good foundation for prose and character and all the things that are emphasized a little bit more in literary fiction. But then being able to make that transition to popular fiction where the emphasis is on plot and pacing and pulling all of those elements together was a really cool marriage I think. It was a nice way to finish out my education.
Joanna: I think it really does offer more. I really feel like you can analyze a story a lot more. The stuff that you point out is different to what I've had before.
How do you separate your creative writing mind from your editing mind? Because we're told by many people just write the first draft, don't edit as you write. How does an editor who's also a writer manage that, that shift?
Jen: It's not easy, but when I first started writing when I was in high school and even before that, I was a big fan of Natalie Goldberg, who wrote Wild Mind and Writing Down the Bones, and Long, Quiet Highway. She is a big advocate of the timed write, where you just sit down and move your pen across the paper or you just keep typing, or however you do it, without rereading, without stopping, you have a topic and you just write, and I still do that. That's the way that I do my first drafts.
I do write all of my first drafts long hand, which I know makes me a dinosaur, but I do. I can't do it any other way. I will have a specific scene in mind that I know I need to write, I'll sit down and I will write it all out. without stopping, without second guessing, or anything like that. Then from there I type it into the computer, but that's the only time I'll allow myself to reread it until I'm about 25,000 to 35,000 words in, and then I'll go back and start looking at plot stuff to make sure that I'm still on the right track. It's kind of discipline. It's just saying, “All right.” You have to accept that it's not going to be great. That first draft isn't going to be genius. It really is true what everybody says. It's a matter of getting it on the page to begin, and then you can start working through. It's certainly no different for me.
Joanna: Do you write in order then?
Jen: Yeah, I usually do. If I'm really stuck and the book is driving me nuts and there's a scene that I'm excited about, then I'll let myself take a day off and go back and write the scene that I'm excited about and then I'll get back to the drudgery of whatever because sometimes it is drudgery. Let's be honest, it is.
Joanna: I agree with you. I'm in the first draft at the moment and it's like “Ah, goodness me.” Now I'm interested because I just don't write by hand anymore, do you really get bad pain in your hand or do you have like lumps and bumps on your writer's hand? I'm really interested.
Jen: I do have a callus. I have my writing callus on my hand, but I'm just so used to it. I have a notebook that I take with me everywhere and I usually, especially if it's nice out, then I will try to get outside and sit outside and write that way as much I can, especially this time of the year. I have tried with a laptop. I can't do first drafts with anything other than a pen and paper.
Joann: Which is brilliant because I think you are the first person I've had on the show who writes longhand for the whole draft at least. When you edit, do you print out and edit, as in self-edit, do you print it out from the computer and edit by hand again?
Jen: No, it really is just that first draft. Once the first draft is done, then I'm fine to move onto the computer, and I don't usually go back to writing anything longhand after that. It really is just the process of getting that first draft out. From there I do everything with, track changes on the computer and stuff.
Joann: Because I do print out my first draft and edit by hand. I write the first draft in Scribner and then I print it out and scribble and put the changes back in.
Jen: That's interesting.
Joann: So everyone has their own little stuff. Let's just come back to my editing questions, then we'll come back to your books.
A lot of people say, “I get my edits back, and what if I don't agree with the changes?” Does an author have to make the changes an editor suggests?
Jen: Definitely not, unless I'm the editor then definitely do everything I say!
The editor isn't some all knowing entity. If there's something that you have a real problem with or it just strikes you as it isn't quite what works for you, ultimately it's your novel. If there is something big and the editor is pushing you toward it, then it's a good idea to rather than just discounting that as wrong, it is a good idea to maybe get somebody else's opinion so if you have a beta reader or something like then you can run it by them and see what they think.
I know that there are certainly times when I'm working with an author and I make a suggestion and they are not crazy about it and initially they get their back up and are like, “Absolutely not, that's not what my character is about.” I think as a writer what you need to just be able to do is decide whether that's your ego talking or whether it really is about the book and the integrity of the novel. For me, a lot of time it's ego. A lot of times, it's me saying, “No, this is the way that I have imagined it.” Ultimately, definitely it's up to you, and if there's something that strikes you as wrong, then stick to your guns or talk to your editor about it and maintain your vision for what the novel is going to be.
Joann: I probably make 80% to 85% of the changes that you recommend. One thing is the cultural difference. I remember one example. I said something like “the City of London” and in London we have a city with a capital C, which is like a subset of the city with small C. That's an example of something where it's a cultural difference.
And then another question on cultural differences, should a self-published author use American or British or Australian English for that matter?
Jen: I think it depends on A, on the audience you're shooting for, and B, where the novel takes place. I am working with an Australian author right now whose book takes place in Seattle and all of his characters are American so to me it makes sense. We agreed that it would be American spelling, but I have worked with other authors whose novels take place in England and they do prefer going with British spelling. Just look at where it takes place and who are your audience, who you are targeting primarily.
Joann: I've generally tried for American, but I know I'm a bit of a hybrid. I'll still say some things like “torch” instead of “flashlight” and “lift” instead of “escalator.” I don't think people really care that much. Some authors get so het up about this, but I think it's a procrastination issue. That's not the point. If it's a good story, no one actually cares about that.
Jen: And I think especially now, where we do live in such a global setting, people accept that there are different ways to spell things and different words for different things and it's not a huge deal.
Joanna: Another question that I get a lot which is, how do I know my writing is good enough? So people, particularly who are going to self-publish, in the old model you would get chosen by an agent and chosen by a publishing house.
In the new model where we have to choose ourselves, how do people know that their book is good enough to publish?
Jen: That's a tough one. That's definitely a tough one. That's where beta readers really do come in handy because this is people who are just starting out. Once you've got a book or two under your belt, then you are a little bit more obviously seasoned and know that you can do it. Initially it's having a beta reader or a couple of beta readers, having an editor you trust who isn't afraid to say, “You know what, you're not ready to go to print just yet.” It really is so much faith.
It's so much just deciding, “All right, this is what I want and I want it badly enough to take that risk.” Because every writer regardless of how good they are, if you are a self-published author, then you're experiencing that doubt. It's a matter of taking that leap and seeing what happens from there, but before you take the leap, beta readers, an editor you trust and go on from there.
Joann: And just do it, and if you get a really, really load of bad reviews then you can always un-publish it and get it re-edited.
On that question, obviously I'm a proud indie and this is not casting aspersions or anything, but what do you think is the state of the quality of indie work?
Do you see that it's getting better or do you think the tsunami of crap thing is in way true given what you see as an editor?
Jen: I think we are over the crap storm because the people who really didn't care that much and just wanted to get their novel out, I think that first influx when self-publishing was so easy and suddenly accessible and everybody was publishing. I think now people realize that you don't become a millionaire publishing that kind of thing so if that's all they were in it for, it's over.
Because remember with the whole Amanda Hocking thing and John Locke, and everybody was like, “Oh my God, I can make millions this way.” Now that reality has set in, the people who were only in because they had visions of grandeur or whatever have fallen off, and the people who have stuck with it have realized that they really need to put out a quality novel if they are going to do anything.
By and large the people that I work with, they are really committed to being better writers and they work really hard to get there and I have tremendous respect for the work that they put into it. I think that the quality is getting better all the time.
Joanna: I agree with you, and that's why it's becoming more difficult because the people you're competing with, the quality is very high. In fact I'm reading a book at the moment, I won't say the author, but the editing is shocking on it. It's a traditionally published book and it's full of typos, a lot of typos, which is annoying to me. And I think I'm less forgiving when it's traditionally published.
Jen: I definitely am. I get very annoyed when I see a lot of, I do anyway if there are a lot of blatant errors, but especially with traditional publishing I just feel like that's their thing. That's why you do it.
Joann: I do want to ask you then because I'm writing novel Number 7 and I'm in that saggy middle, crappy drudgery as you mentioned, and it's really difficult and I wonder what you think.
When do you get to the point where you feel like you can tell a good story and that you are a decent enough writer? How many books does it take?
Jen: I don't know if it happens. Does it?
Joann: I really hope it does one day.
Jen: I have seen interviews with like Nora Roberts and stuff, where she talks about the fact that halfway through a novel she goes through that phase, obviously not the phase where, “Am I able to do this,” whatever. I think that it gets a little better with every novel that you do.
I think it's just a matter of continuing to do it and then looking at feedback and recognizing that people are in agreement that, in your case, people are in agreement that you are writing a really good story, and it's starting to trust that I think.
Joanna: I think all writers have to balance self-doubt and ego. You have to have enough ego to want to publish anything, but then you've got this massive self-doubt that overshadows you every time. I had a particularly bad case of the “Oh my goodness, I'll never have another idea again,” earlier this year. After One Day in New York, I just thought, “I don't think I'll ever be able to write again.” It's one of those crazy moments and then you sit down, like Natalie Goldberg says, you sit down with a blank page and you force yourself to write something and something comes.
So let's just talk about your pentalogy, tell us about the Erin Solomon books.
Jen: All right. It's now complete so five books, the Erin Solomon pentalogy, and it basically tells a story of this investigative reporter who returns to her hometown to investigate an alleged cult suicide that took place when she was a child and she witnessed. Her father was actually part of the church. He survived.
It's about her going back and investigating this and then through the course of these five novels, realizing that her father played a fairly big role in everything that unfolded and a lot of it is about reconciling our memories of what we perceived our lives to be as children with the reality of what was really there. Obviously, it's a little bit more dramatic, but I think it's something that everyone goes through in some way.
Joann: It's thrillers, and there is high body count and explosions. I can attest to that. And lots of dogs, you love dogs, don't you?
Jen: I do love dogs. That's my next series is working with search and rescue dogs in the next series so I'm excited about that, but Erin has a dog. He plays a big role in it and he's there, and then obviously there's romance in there, which I can't actually write something if there's not some kind of romance in there. I get sucked into it.
Joann: Everybody needs a love angle.
Jen: It's fun. It was really fun to write and it's been really rewarding just seeing that arc to it's completion.
Joanna: I was going to ask you about that – did you plan five novels upfront or did you just start writing and it turned into five?
Jen: Initially, it was eight novels. About halfway through the final draft of the first novel, I did an outline of all five books and they are definitely interlinked so it was very important that I had an idea from the start where I was going with things and how the mystery was going to resolve itself and all of that. Pretty much from the start I knew that it was going to be multiple and by the time I finished the final draft of the first novel I had complete outlines of all five.
Joann: How long were those outlines?
Jen: My outlining is stupid. My outlines are 25 pages long and I go into excruciating detail in terms of character development and character arc and where things are going to be and all that stuff. I usually include at least a little bit of setting research in there, and then I try to do a full break down. I work according to the three act structure. I do a full breakdown of all three acts. They are long. They are really long outlines.
Joann: I was talking about this with Roz Morris who was on the show and I said I think I can only hold three in my head, and the problem is it's in my head because I'm not a natural outliner and I'm really trying to be, I would love to be.
I'm fighting with Deviance, the third one in my London Psychic series, it's difficult because I didn't plan it as three. I wrote the first one as a stand alone and then wrote another one and now with the third one it's really hard because you're trying to pull together threads that were almost shut, and I'm like, “Goodness this would have been so much easier if I would have planned this better.” For the next I want to try and write something else, but I'm thinking I would only do three because three would be easier to plot.
Jen: Definitely. I'll never do a pentalogy again.
Joann: No, it's like hardcore. I started reading, is it Sins of the Father, the one with the upside down cross?
Jen: Southern Cross.
Joann: Southern Cross, that one, I read that first so I don't think it matters so much with yours if you read them out of order. You can read them out of order like any series and you can still fill in the blanks to read them out to order. How are you plotting the dog series, the new series?
Jen: Right now because I actually have a prequel to the pentalogy that's coming out in July so I'm still focused on tying that together at this point, but the dog series right now I'm doing a lot of research and outlines. I know it takes place in northern Vermont. I've done some rough writing, and then I have about a 20 page outline for that. This is going to be a series but each book will also stand alone. With any series there's always going to be with character development and character arcs that continue throughout, but in terms of the actual mysteries, they'll be stand alone so that's a little bit easier I have to say.
Joann: That's more like my ARKANE books, which are episodic. It's nice to have something that's open-ended that you can just do it that way. It's very interesting, isn't it?
And the more you learn, the more realize you have to learn.
Jen: It's endless. It really is. It's crazy how much there is to learn, but it's really fun. I love figuring out new stuff about it and everything.
Joanna: And do you have any books that you recommend on editing that you particularly like?
Jen: On editing, that's a good question. Basically I use the Chicago Manual of Style for stylistic stuff. There are go-to websites that I'll go to like Grammar Girl is one that I go to a lot and again Chicago Manual of Style. Oxford has a website for their editing. Really at this point, it's so much going to the internet and if I have a specific question about punctuation or something like that, then I'll go to the internet to figure that out. But in terms of editing itself, I don't really use that many.
Joanna: A little follow up question, we talked a lot about beta readers but we didn't actually explain what they are so let's just tie that up. Can you just explain them?
Jen: Sure, beta readers are essentially readers that when you have a completed draft of your novel that you feel you have reached a point where you can't really make any more changes knowledgeably but you don't think you are ready for an editor yet, then beta readers are, sometimes they are professionals, I do it professionally myself and I know there are other people who offer it as a service, or there are a lot of fellow writers out there who will do it for you in exchange for a beta read of their novel.
Essentially, they go through and they don't do editing but they'll look at the big picture of your novel. They'll tell you if the plot works, if the characters make sense, if there are big holes in what you've set, then they'll let you know those big picture things that is really important when you're first getting a novel completed. That's where they come into play.
Joann: And really important to only use beta readers who like your genre so I won't give mine to romance readers for example.
Jen: Absolutely, that's really key.
Joann: That's super important. All right, Jen,
Where can people find you and your books and your editing services online?
Jen: I have, for my author stuff on jenblood.com, my editing stuff is adianediting.com and then I'm on Twitter @jenblood and I'm on Facebook and all of those places, and then my books are on, they are everywhere. They are on Amazon and the iStore and Kovo and Nook. Then you can get the print through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I believe, or through the website.
Joanna: There's a question I also forgot. Is Jen Blood your real name?
Jen: Yes, it really is.
Joan: It's like Penn, isn't it? Penn and Blood, together we are pretty good!
Joann: Really, well thanks for your time, Jen. That was great.
Jen: Excellent. Thanks so much.