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Counteradvice: Against Specificity

Surely there is something to be said about drawing a circle around our attention and remaining within that circle. But how large should this circle be? –Zadie Smith, “The Embassy of Cambodia” Lesley Nneka Arimah, the indomitable writer of literary speculative fiction, sent an article to me at the end of my second MFA semester with a gracefully understated subject line: “This might be useful.”…

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Renovations at The Threepenny Editor

I learned in 2018 that there isn’t enough of me to edit full-time and write full-time, and thanks to a timely grant, some soul-searching, and a boatload of moral support from my better half, 2019 is the year to create some changes. The Backstory I’ve been editing manuscripts since 1999. Lately, it feels like work I started in a different century….

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Speaking Event: Diplomatic Author Queries

On Thursday 11/30 at 5:30 p.m. in the SF Library Main Branch, I’ll be sharing tips for crafting diplomatic author queries and other author-positive notes. From my experience as an editor and fiction writer, I’m looking forward to sharing insights and tools that will help fellow editors learn to apply diplomacy for best results: Building trust Encouraging authors to make…

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How to Use Publishers Marketplace When Querying

I often tell clients to invest $25 a month in a PublishersMarketplace.com subscription when they begin querying. Unfortunately, though, this advice isn’t as intuitive as other querying advice (e.g., read the novels the agent represents, follow the submission guidelines, follow the #MSWL or #PitMad threads on Twitter). Here is a short Publishers Marketplace tutorial on how to get the most…

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Why is hiring an editor so expensive?

When I started my business in 2003, I wanted to offer really good services that I could afford. At the time, I lived in two small rooms above my landlord’s house thought $6 burritos were expensive. (Hey, we all were young once.) Small-business wisdom says that this type of thinking is a bad idea. Instead, supposedly, I should have charged as much as I possibly…

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Threepenny Editor Annual Writing Contest: Announcing the Winner!

Congratulations, Christine Evans! This year’s contest entries were, if possible, even stronger than last year’s. It was difficult to choose just one, and I agonized for several days over the four finalists’ writing. What finally captured me was an excerpt of NADIA, Christine Evans’ novel-in-progress. NADIA is a novel of love, terror and redemption set in 1990s London. Nadia is a young refugee…

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Beats: Anatomy of a Scene’s Emotional Development

Editing is full of weird coincidences and fortuitous juxtapositions. When the same issue crops up in two or three unrelated manuscripts in a row, it’s time to take it to the blog. I’d like to deconstruct a scene and talk about beats, interior dialogue, and clarity. First, some working definitions. A beat is a minor emotional turning point in a scene between the…

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Enter the 2016-17 Free Edit Contest: Rules and Guidelines

**Update: Results will be announced on November 10, due to the high volume of excellent submissions. Stay tuned!** In honor of my business’s upcoming birthday on February 1, 2017, I am proud to offer a chance to win free novel editing from me. No strings attached–just submit your query and first two chapters by October 15, and one manuscript will win free editing services…

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Annual Free Edit Contest

Watch this space: Coming in September, I will post more details about Threepenny’s annual free edit contest. The prize will be a free notes-and-critique service the first week of February 2017. In the meantime, polish those query letters and first 50 pages! Eligible writers include novelists in any genre who have never worked with me before. Please share this teaser on…

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Put Your Manuscript on a Diet: 3 Steps to Reduce Your Word Count

Listen to your instinct, improve your writing, and reduce word count. Debut novels are usually 80,000 to 90,000 words. YA novels are often less than that. Having edited an unusually high number of overlong manuscripts this year, here are some top cuts to reduce word count that I find myself recommending in almost every project.    1. Reduce word count by paring down dialogue and…

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