woman wearing glasses at computer

Why Would You Want To Work For Someone Else’s Publishing Company?

With an ongoing global pandemic, it is no surprise that many individuals are looking into options that allow them to work from home. In the publishing industry, freelancers are common and many publishing companies even contract freelancers for specific projects or needs. With the added appeal of making your own schedule and essentially managing your own business, why wouldn’t you want to be your own boss?

Employees who are hired as full-time workers of publishing companies usually have several benefits in doing so. For many individuals, the structure and financial security of the nine-to-five office job is preferred; not to mention, many of these jobs allow for health insurance, paid time off, matching retirement plans, and so forth. These employees are often paid hourly or salaried pay and don’t have to deal with the added responsibility of keeping track of and withholding their own taxes from their income. While freelancers do have the option of hiring an accountant or bookkeeper to keep track of that side of the business, working for a company has that built in the structure of the business already.

Even with all the benefits of working for an already established publishing company, according to a blog from Udacy (a technological career training site): Statista data projects that in 2027, 86.5 million Americans will be freelancing and be 50.9 percent of the total workforce. The draw is not only due to individuals and companies pivoting due to the COVID-19 demands that began in early 2020. That same Udacy blog states that the numbers have been steadily increasing over the past decade or so. For many, a huge draw is being able to be in control of their own work/life balance. There is, no doubt, a level of freedom that comes with which clients and projects you take on, how many you take, what kind of work you take on, when you are able to schedule appoints—both personal and professional, when and where you work, and generally being able to call the shots on your career and professional life.

While it does take a lot of “behind-the-scenes” work to network and find the work and the clients in order to sustain your financial needs and make ends meet, many individuals are drawn to the challenge and the desire to learn all aspects of what is essentially running their own business. Many business and entrepreneurial start-ups happen as a result of freelancers who start with the vision of what they want their careers to look like and build from there.

When it comes down to a decision as to whether or not freelance work is right for you, it truly varies from person to person. Take stock of your career goals, look at what you want out of life and what is important to you. Many individuals are able to do some combination of contracted, employed, and/or freelance work. If you are wanting to do a bit of both, just make sure to check with your employer to make sure that any of the projects you take on are not considered a conflict of interest. Otherwise, do what works best for you and your work/life balance and professional development.

hands holding pen

How Point of View Can Help Your Story Shine

One of the most important elements to consider when beginning a new writing project is point of view (POV). Every story, article, research journal, play, etc. uses POV, and many people, whether they think about it or not, have a preference when it comes to what they like to read and/or write. Depending on the project you’re working on, there are many ways you can use POV to your advantage.

What is a point of view?

There are four types of POV: first person, second person, third person limited, and third person omniscient. Any POV can be used in any project, but the way a writer uses them can have a big impact on the story.

The first person POV uses I and me pronouns, and the narrator is most often the protagonist. First person is great for writing that is more introspective, as it puts the reader in the character’s head, but it also limits the POV to one character. Technically, a story written in first person could have POV switches, but this is often confusing to the reader and can bring them out of the story if they miss the switch. In short, first person is primarily for stories with one narrator only.

The second person POV is the least common of the four, using the you pronoun and mostly used in short, introspective pieces like poetry or choose-your-own-adventure books. Second person invites the reader to step into the character’s (or sometimes even the writer’s) shoes, which can be compelling if done correctly. However, most genre works are typically better suited to the other POVs because it can be difficult for readers to get emotionally invested in a story told in second person, as they may feel like they are following a fictional version of themselves rather than a character. An article on Reedsy mentions a famous example of a well-received story told in second person: Jay McInerney’s novel Bright Lights, Big City, which “follows a magazine fact-checker at a magazine living in the 1980s New York City fast lane.” Reedsy suggests that McInerny might have opted for second person because of the fast pace of the book and the unique perspective of the main character’s profession.

The third person limited and omniscient POVs are similar in that they both use he, she, and they pronouns and allow a certain amount of introspection. The difference is that limited follows the thoughts and feelings of one character at a time, while omniscient has more of a “bird’s-eye view” on the entire story. A common mistake in writing third person limited is that the writer may reveal too much information to the reader that the character would not know. (In this case, if the writer wishes to intentionally add a sense of dramatic irony, their story might be better suited to an omniscient POV.) Third person also lends itself well to POV switches, unlike first and second person. Omniscient doesn’t technically need to switch, since the reader has access to every character’s view at the same time, and limited can switch between line or chapter breaks, provided it is made clear that it has switched. One example of limited POV switching can be found in Rick Riordan’s The Heroes of Olympus series, which denotes POV switches through chapters named after their respective characters.

How to choose your POV based on the story you want to tell

Picking the right POV for you (and your story) is very important as, naturally, the POV is the first thing the reader notices. What genre is your project? This is a good question to ask because some POVs are more commonly used in some genres (for example, fantasy titles tend to lean toward third person, while first person is popular in young adult and coming-of-age titles). Are you writing a story with a single narrator and a lot of inner monologue and introspection? Try first person. Do you want to set the scene for the reader but leave the characters in the dark until it’s time for a dramatic reveal? Third person omniscient might be the right POV for you.

And of course, think about what you like to read. Do you like getting into the heads of the characters? Or following fast-paced scenes back and forth as the plot reaches its climax? Do you want to relate to and feel the emotions of the characters as they happen, or are you looking for more of a commentary approach? Choosing the POV that can answer these questions is the first step in making your story shine.

Group discussion

Being Vulnerable: Sharing Your Manuscript in a Writing Workshop

For the last year or so, I have been working on a novel. Like many aspiring novelists, I have made progress in fits and starts, sometimes writing many pages in a sitting and other times not touching the manuscript for weeks at a time. Slowly and sometimes painfully, I have completed a little more than half the story.

Until a few weeks ago, I had not shared any chapters of my novel with anyone. Several people knew that I was working on a story, and I had shared the basic plot with them, but I didn’t want to share anything that I had written.

I am a big believer in the value of allowing other people to read and edit your work. Without question, every writer needs an editor. The more complex the writing, the more value a writer receives from allowing someone else to review and comment on their work. I give drafts of all my nonfiction work to my wife to read, and the final product is always better after hearing her feedback.

But there’s something about writing fiction that makes it so much harder to let others see the work in progress. I think it’s because we are much more vulnerable when writing fiction. Rejecting our story is not merely a rejection of our ideas, it’s a rejection of us as an author and as a person.

Despite my reluctance in sharing my writing, I knew that having others review my novel was a good thing, so I joined a fiction writing workshop. The workshop operates like most others in that you submit a portion of your work to the group, and the group provides feedback, both collectively and individually.

While I joined this workshop voluntarily, I still felt great trepidation about it. When the first few responses to my work were posted ahead of the group conversation, I opened the documents with nothing less than abject fear. What if they hated it? What if they laughed at me?

Much to my surprise, I was not voted out of the group. The feedback was incredibly valuable, and each person had taken the time and care to explain how they had reacted to the manuscript and what they noticed about the craft. I came away with encouragement that I was not an awful author, and I received some specific ideas for revision.

Equally valuable was the time I spent reviewing and providing feedback on the other authors’ stories. The process of carefully considering what I was reading and providing useful feedback gave me many ideas to help improve my own writing.

The author Brené Brown says, “No vulnerability, no creativity.” A writing workshop is the perfect place for writers to put this axiom into action. Giving up your writing to others—being vulnerable to their feedback—is the key to sparking the creativity that is essential to good writing.

angel dancing on a mountain top

Sanderson and His Three Editors

Have you ever wondered how an epic fantasy novel is edited?

Rhythm of War is Brandon Sanderson’s fourth entry in a planned ten-book series called the Stormlight Archive. As part of the book’s campaign, Sanderson released a YouTube video that gives an inside look at how editors take on epic fantasy.

Rhythm of War has three editors: Devi Pillai, publisher at Tor and VP at Macmillan; Peter Ahlstrom, Sanderson’s personal editorial director; and Karen Ahlstrom, Sanderson’s personal continuity editor. These three people work in tandem with the author to read and edit the five drafts it usually takes Sanderson to finish a book.

Devi, who has worked with big publishers for over twenty years, begins by reading Sanderson’s manuscript three times: first as a fan, second with note-taking, and third with an editorial letter in mind—that’s over three thousand pages for one book! A standard editorial letter follows, and Peter later compiles every piece of suggestion and delivers it to Sanderson.

Peter’s job goes beyond the traditional scope of an editor. He not only serves as a second set of eyes for the manuscript, but he also collects all the commentary from the alpha- and beta-readers. Sanderson is very specific in how the information comes to him; when it comes to Microsoft Word, he prefers not to have commentary in the left-hand margins, so Peter annotates every piece of advice into paragraphs with numeration that refers to a separate Word doc.

Part of the reason for this specific type of documentation is because Rhythm of War (and most of Sanderson’s other books) has between thirty and fifty beta readers providing commentary—a luxury that most manuscripts don’t have. Beta reading is a process that is unique to Sanderson’s team. Beta readers offer early opinions on Sanderson’s manuscripts. When Sanderson asked Devi if other authors have beta readers, she responded, “you are an exception in how you use your beta readers … I don’t think anyone has the setup that you have in terms of using a beta reader, and having the whole group, and having Peter and all of that set up so you have it as streamlined.”

Beta reading isn’t like your typical galley or ARC. Sanderson believes it’s like having a test audience, and he’s surprised more authors don’t do it. “Movies and videogames and commercials and everybody, they all show things to test audiences and get feedback before it goes live. But a lot of writers I’ve noticed don’t.” The feedback from the betas is siphoned, and Peter delivers it to Sanderson if enough people bring attention to a certain aspect of the book.

Then there’s Karen’s job. She is the wiki keeper—she keeps track of timelines, characters, descriptions (i.e. making sure Sanderson doesn’t give blue eyes to a character who had brown eyes in the previous book), etc. An entire read-through of the manuscript is dedicated to assigning Spren (the nature spirits that inhabit the world of the Stormlight Archive). With this being the fourth book in the Stormlight Archive and planning six more, there’s a lot of information to keep track of. Karen also keeps Sanderson aware of flashbacks, dates, and times (especially when multiple scenes occur on the same day). She even gives advice on Sanderson’s world-naming by clearing up pronunciation issues and ensuring there aren’t any similarities with other universes.

Rhythm of War is undoubtedly a daunting task for its editors, and maybe even more so for the author. Like any author-editor relationship, there is bound to be some push and pull when it comes to the editing process. But Sanderson notes that he trusts his editors and agrees with roughly 70 to 80 percent of the comments that come his way. The editors and his beta readers help make the books just as much as Sanderson does. Sanderson knows that when enough people say the book is not working, then they are probably right.

You can find the full discussion on Brandon Sanderson’s YouTube channel. For anyone interested in becoming an editor, this is how fantasy best sellers are made.