Working with the Industry: Editor Interview with Karin Beery

This month’s “Working with the Industry” posts are a real eye opener for me. I just love to learn. And when the lesson has anything to do with improving my writing skills, I’m all ears.

All of us need a helping hand every once in a while. Your critique partners and Beta readers may think your story is the next best thing to hit the market. However, once you expose it to someone who is working in the writing industry it may still need work.

For my editor interview, I asked a few questions of my editor friend Karin Beery. I first met Karin while we commiserated in the same critique group for about a year. She is a champion of helping others achieve a quality product they can be proud to present for publication.

Be teachable. If you’re unwilling to take an editor’s advice, there’s no point in hiring an editor.

What is the best advice you can give to an established writer and newbie alike on the writing craft?
Be teachable. Even if you’ve been in the industry for a while, things change. Editors should be aware of those changes. If you’re unwilling to take an editor’s advice, there’s no point in hiring an editor.

What book have you read that you would have loved to edit, and how would you have changed it to your liking?
I don’t necessarily want to name the book because I don’t want to embarrass anyone, but several years ago I read a fantasy book that “everyone” was talking about. It was simultaneously the most interesting and most boring book I’ve ever read! Since then I’ve ready many books with the same three common issues:

  • stereotypical characters
  • spending too much time describing unnecessary details (such as exactly what each character is wearing in every scene) while failing to describe necessary components (like establishing scene setting)
  • not enough conflict.

How does an author know when the time is right to engage an editor before publication?
Ask! Almost every editor I know will provide a free sample edit/review of at least the first few pages. I’ve told several authors that they aren’t ready for editing yet, then offered suggestions for how they can strengthen their writing. If you’re afraid to ask an editor, then find someone in the publishing industry for their honest input (and be ready for honesty!).

What should a writer expect when entering into a contract with an editor?
 Regardless of what kind of an edit a writer needs, there are a few things they should expect from any competent, professional editor:

  • Edits/Comments – if you get a clean manuscript back, that’s not actually a good sign. No one’s perfect (even published books have typos!). If your editor can’t find anything wrong with your story, he/she might not know what to be looking for.
  • Proper Edits/Comments – proofreads are the last step in the editorial process. If your proofread includes rewrites and restructuring, that’s not really a proofread. Make sure you know the difference between the services so you’re getting the right edit.
  • Industry Standards – an editor’s job is to help you clean up your manuscript, not to rewrite it to his/her personal beliefs or preferences.
About Karin Beery

Editor. Teacher. Novelist.

A passionate lover of fiction, Karin doesn’t just write novels, she helps others write their best stories! A certified substantive editor with the Christian Editor Connection, her goal is to help authors to put her out of business by equipping them with the tools they need to become better writers.

Want to know more about Karin?

Connect with her at:, FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Back to Basics for Writers – Plotter or Pantser?

by Tammy Trail

You might be a PLOTTER if you have ever wondered if you should be more organized with your writing. Plotting is a systematic way of putting your story thoughts together. You might decide to do it by scene or chapter. You will need to know what each character’s goal, motivation and conflict are for each scene. This system may require you to write an outline of your story idea.

A writer friend showed me one method when I first started working on my story. You simply take 3 X 5 index cards and write each chapter idea on a card until you have each chapter worked out for the whole book. If you’re writing romance, a suggestion with this method is using different colored index cards for your hero and heroine. For instance, pink index cards for the heroine and blue for the hero. Using index cards gives you an opportunity to change the cards around to rearrange your chapters, or change the time frame of your inciting incident.

There are many different plotting systems you can find with the help of the internet. I have read the “Plot Skeleton”, by Angela Hunt. Randy Ingermason has a Snowflake system that you can purchase from his website. Scrivener is a downloadable system that helps organize your story and allows you to keep your notes, pictures, outline, and your manuscript all in one place. This is also a great tool if you decide to self-publish your novel.

Some writers may consider themselves ‘free spirits”, and refuse to use any kind of plotting system because it stifles the creative flow. This is the PANTSER method – you fly by the seat of your pants. I started out with an idea for a story with no formal plotting method I imagined my heroine’s appearance, her personality and motivation. Then I created a life for her in the 18th century that I incorporated into a story.

My initial first chapter is now my third chapter, and I finished the book just shy of 70,000 words. When I began to edit my story, I found plot holes; places where my story lost connection and became a dead end. Now that I’ve had time to think about my story, I’ve written a whole different first chapter. Sounds a little crazy, huh?

Well, admittedly I am flustered with the complete process. Do I feel that I’ve wasted my time? Not a bit. I have learned a lot from this first draft. I went back to my index cards and began to look at them in a whole different light. I began to fix plot holes, and really think about deep point of view for my main characters. It’s still a work in progress.

Whichever method you choose, neither is wrong as long as you write the story. I haven’t given myself a label. I guess I’m just a bit of a rogue. I love my characters and the journey I envision for them. One day soon I hope to call myself a published author. I’m still learning through my own journey. How about you?

Writing Prompt:  Tracy pushed the off button on the remote just as the first clap of thunder shook her little house. She went to the kitchen to retrieve her flashlight; storms and electricity didn’t get along in her small town. The flashlight was forgotten when she heard a  rattle at her back door. She watched in awe as the doorknob shook violently from left to right. Then the lights went out.

Click to Tweet: So you want to #write. Back to Basics – Plotter or Pantser?

Research in the Trenches


By Betty Thomason Owens

Research is not limited to bookwork or Google searches. Sometimes, it’s hands-on. There are times when you need to go there. Choose an exotic locale for your next book, and you can write off a vacation in Bali. Okay, maybe not.

Research is not only necessary when writing historicals. And your setting is not the only reason to research. If your protagonist is a clerk at Walmart, or an associate at the Apple Store, this may require research, unless you or someone close to you has the experience. Maybe your main character wants to be a great chef. She needs the best schools and internship, a post-grad job in a world-famous restaurant. Research.

RoyaltyFreeImage-OrangutanA friend of mine used a zoo as a setting. Her MC inherited the zoo upon the death of her estranged mother. For her preliminary research, she worked alongside a zookeeper (or technician) for a day, scooping manure, preparing food, and whatever other chores were the daily requirement. Her careful research continued as she wrote. Questions arose and she jotted them down. These required a personal phone call to her contacts at the zoo. She made good friends along the way who later became readers and marketers of her book. Win-win!

Brainstorming can release ideas. Think of the coolest professions and locales (places you can go). Now, pinpoint one, and construct your story around it. Then launch out to do your research, answering all your questions. Remember to make connections on the job or at the locale so you can do follow-up as questions arise. This is research.

Research may be watching movies. It could require listening to music or going to a ballet, or visiting a historical site, such as a battleground or national park. Don’t just walk around and observe, take photographs, talk to the park rangers.

I made a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest and traveled down the West coast on Highway 101. I took dozens of photos and talked to people along the way. I don’t have a story with this setting yet, but it’s a possibility. I now have research to fall back on. I just have to go through the photos and look at my notes.

You can do research any time, even while waiting at the doctor’s office. Try listening to the conversations around you. Jot down the humorous or goofy things you hear. Sometimes you see things that amaze you. People leave their children unattended or have what should be a private conversation on their cellphone. These are definitely going into my notebook for later use.

Most important of all, be aware of your surroundings. You can drop a story anywhere, in any situation. You’ll bump into some wonderfully weird people out in the world, quirky characters to populate your novel. You never know when your next great idea will show up. Research is everywhere.

Leave a comment to be entered in this month’s contest. You can win a $10 Amazon gift card.

photo credit: Kenny Teo (zoompict) via photopin cc

photo credit: ucumari via photopin cc

Food & Restaurant Critic versus Cookbook Author/ Prompt Contest Winner!

One of my favorite shows on the Food Network is Chopped, a reality-based cooking television series. Four chefs have short periods of time to create luscious meals from outrageous ingredients. Three judges from the world of food judge and critic their dishes on different criteria. Whoever doesn’t “cut” it is chopped or doesn’t advance to the next round. This sparked my interest in food critics.
Also, as the proud owner of a shelf full of books about cooking, I wonder how you would go about creating a best-selling cookbook. Who writes all the cookbooks we see at the local bookstore or on Amazon? Which would be the best career for the character in your next novel, cookbook author or critic?
The terms food critic, food writer, and restaurant critic can all be used to describe a writer who analyzes food or restaurants and then publishes the results of their findings. While these terms are not strictly synonymous they are often used interchangeably. Those who share their opinions via food columns in newspapers and magazines are known as food columnists.
Food critics and “restaurant critic” are synonyms, in practice. Both suggest a critical, evaluative stance that often involves some kind of rating system. The distinction, if any involves the range of possible investigation. “Food critic” has a more contemporary vibe, suggesting that restaurants, bakeries, food festivals, street vendors, and taco trucks are all fair game.
“Restaurant critic” is the more traditional title and can connote a more restricted sphere of operations — traditional restaurants, with perhaps those serving French cuisine being the exemplars. The internet has slowly become more important in forming opinions about restaurants. New generations of discussion forums and rating systems have become influential such as Mouthfuls, Yelp, and eGullet, as have some food criticism blogs like GrubGrade.  
For most of the past century, the most highly visible food critics have been those who have written for daily newspapers throughout the world and a few who have been restaurant reviewers for influential magazines, such as Gourmet in the United States. Television has become an outlet for many shows involving food or restaurant critics.
 A cookbook is a kitchen reference publication that typically contains a collection of recipes. Modern versions may also include colorful illustrations and advice on purchasing quality ingredients or making substitutions. Cookbooks can also cover a wide variety of topics, including cooking techniques for the home, recipes and commentary from famous chefs, institutional kitchen manuals, and cultural commentary. Anyone can write a cookbook, given they have recipes. How did the cookbook get its start?
The earliest cookbooks on record seem to be mainly lists of recipes for what would now be called haute cuisine, and were often written primarily to either provide a record of the author’s favorite dishes or to train professional cooks for banquets and upper-class, private homes. The first recipe books to be compiled in Europe since Late Antiquity started to appear in the late thirteenth century. About a hundred are known to have survived, some fragmentary, from the age before printing.
 Cookbooks that serve as basic kitchen references (sometimes known as “kitchen bibles”) began to appear in the early modern period. They provided not just recipes but overall instruction for both kitchen technique and household management. Such books were written primarily for housewives and occasionally domestic servants as opposed to professional cooks. Related to this class are instructional cookbooks, which combine recipes with in-depth, step-by-step recipes to teach beginning cooks basic concepts and techniques. In vernacular literature, people may collect traditional recipes in family cookbooks.
 Professional cookbooks are designed for the use of working chefs and culinary students and sometimes double as textbooks for culinary schools. Such books deal not only in recipes and techniques, but often service and kitchen workflow matters. Many such books deal in substantially larger quantities than home cookbooks, such as making sauces by the liter or preparing dishes for large numbers of people in a catering setting.  
Single-subject books, usually dealing with a specific ingredient, technique, or class of dishes, are quite common as well; with books on dishes like curries, pizza, and simplified ethnic food. Popular subjects for narrow-subject books on technique include grilling/barbecue, baking, outdoor cooking, and even recipe cloning.
Community cookbooks (also known as compiled, regional, charitable, and fund-raising cookbooks) are a unique genre of culinary literature. Community cookbooks focus on home cooking, often documenting regional, ethnic, family, and societal traditions, as well as local history.
Cookbooks can also document the food of a specific chef, cooking show chef, or restaurant. Many of these books, particularly those written by or for a well-established cook with a long-running TV show or popular restaurant, become part of extended series of books that can be released over the course of many years. Popular chef-authors throughout history include people such as Julia Child, James Beard, Nigella Lawson, Edouard de Pomiane, Jeff Smith, Emeril Lagasse, and Claudia Roden.  
So your character who needs an occupation can be either author or critic. Try a twist. How about a football player who writes a cookbook packed with his favorite pie recipes? Or a stay-at-home mother of triplets who is a blogging food critic of baby nutrition products? The food industry is evolving and your next novel can evolve with it.

CONGRATULATIONS BILL! YOU’VE WON THIS MONTH’S CONTEST! We loved the humorous story about cooks and lobsters. We will run the story on this Friday’s blog. Please drop us another email and tell us where to send your gift card. Make sure and watch for next month’s contest as we look at vacation spots…Where does the main character in your next novel need to vacation?

Today’s writing prompt: Josie reached into her great grandmother’s heavy plastic suitcase and wiped off the dusty book. Must be forty years old, she guessed, as she lifted it with care. The title read, “Cooking for…”

Cupcake Creator versus Coffee Shop Owner

 Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream.jpg

Cupcake creator or coffee shop owner or both? To me, these are careers that can include the best of two worlds, chocolate and hot tea. You couldn’t be a cupcake creator without chocolate somewhere and most coffee shops include hot tea on the menu. A raspberry-filled chocolate cupcake with a hot green tea latte with soy milk? Yum yum.

The origin of the cupcake can be traced back to 1796 in the cookbook, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons. The recipe called for “the cake to be baked in small cups.”  The earliest documentation of the term cupcake was in “Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats” in 1828 in Eliza Leslie’s Receipts cookbook.
Cupcakes have become more than a trend over the years; they’ve become an industry. Rachel Kramer Bussel, who has been blogging about cupcakes since 2004 at Cupcakes Take the Cake, said in 2010 that “in the last two years or so, cupcakes really exploded” with more cupcake-centric bakeries opening nationwide.
Cupcake Wars, a popular Food Network reality-based competition show, is currently in its sixth season. If you’ve ever considered being a cupcake creator or baker, this is the time.
Coffee shops or houses have been around even longer than cupcakes. A coffee house was reported open in Istanbul in 1555. During the seventeenth century, coffee appeared in Europe and triggered a flood of coffee houses. In the beginning, they were strictly for men and the site of political and social debate.
Coffee shops in the United States arose from the espresso- and pastry-centered Italian coffeehouses of the Italian American immigrant communities in the major U.S. cities. Coffee, music, and conversation were a mainstay in most coffee shops. Starting in 1967, Seattle became known for its thriving countercultural coffeehouse scene; the Starbucks chain later standardized and mainstreamed this espresso bar model.
Before 1990, true coffee houses were found only near colleges or artistic colonies. As with the cupcake, coffee houses are now a growing venue worthy of consideration for a career in ownership.
So we’re back to the question: Cupcake creator or coffee shop owner or both?
This week’s writing prompt: Celia stared at the bubbly froth covering her white chocolate caramel cappuccino and wondered why she ever…