Monday, March 13, 2017

Guest Post: Judy Penz Sheluk on "Fine Tuning Your Manuscript"

It has been awhile since Judy was here with a guest post. She is back today discussing how, no matter how much you try to make the read perfect, an error can slip through the system.

Judy Penz Sheluk: Fine Tuning Your Manuscript

In my day job, I’m the Senior Editor of New England Antiques Journal a position I’ve held for close to a decade. I’ve done plenty of other editing work as well. I like to think I’m good at it.

But that’s other people’s work. Even editors need to find another set (or more) of eyes to review their manuscripts. With my short stories, I go to my husband, Mike, as the first (and usually last) line of attack—and I do mean attack. There isn’t a plot hole, no matter how minute, that Mike won’t find.

With my first novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, I hired a developmental editor, and a copy editor. It was an expense (though I did shop around and get references) but I treated it as an educational experience, like a semester in college if you will. I don’t believe Noose would have ever seen publication without the expertise of those editors. And yes, I learned a lot.

With my second novel, Skeletons in the Attic, I relied on two beta readers as a first step. One is a professional proofreader, the other is a voracious reader of mysteries. As expected, the proofreader found a lot of the niggly stuff (missing commas, too many commas), while the voracious reader was quick to point out flaws in my characters’ actions. Once those revisions were incorporated, I had the manuscript printed and cerlox-bound for Mike. He likes to read in paper format and write notes in the margins. Let’s just say there were a lot of notes.

So you’d think every single mistake would have been found, right? Wrong. When my publisher for Skeletons assigned an editor, Todd Barselow, he managed to find a few more mistakes (although he did say the manuscript was very clean, which made me feel a little bit better). Here’s one example:

Callie Barnstable to Royce Ashford, contractor/next-door neighbor/possible love interest: “I really like the way you knocked down that wall in your house.”
Editor: When was she in his house? [Answer: in a previous draft, but certainly not in this one]

Once Todd and I completed three rounds of editing, the manuscript went to a proofreader before going into print and e-book formats. Let’s do the math: two beta readers, one very critical husband, one professional editor, three rounds of edits, one professional proofreader, one author involved every step of the way.

And yet…in Chapter 39, you’ll find this priceless treasure: Casual attire only. Shorts and t-shits or jeans and sweatshirts, depending on the temperature. That’s right. T-shits. It’s a new fashion trend, don’t you know?


What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

Judy Penz Sheluk ©2017

Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016. Judy’s short crime fiction appears several anthologies.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Find Judy on her website/blog at where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

The Kindle version of SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC is on sale for $1.99 (reg. $4.99) through March 15th.

Look for SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC in audiobook format, coming soon!


Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Thanks for hosting me Kevin. I'd love to hear other stories (I hate to think I'm the only one with a t-shit experience)

Kathleen Costa said...

Hey, Judy...I know that even after all that, a mistake will pop the wrong name of a character. I am excited to have been part, albeit small part, in your new journey. Looking forward to that release.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


I taught English at the high school level and writing courses at the university. I edit and re-edit my own writing. When I see it in print, I still find errors in the ARCs. What can I say? We mortals are imperfect creatures. And so it goes. We can only do our best. But T-"shits" is priceless!

Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Thanks Kathleen, for all your support!

Jacqueline, yes, the t-shit -- unbelievable. But now that it's in there, I like it. Makes a great story. I had them laughing out loud when I told this story at the local library event.

CarolCrigger said...

LOL.Well, I haven't had a t-shit, but there's always something. Your series sounds great, Judy.

Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Thanks Carol! As you say, there is always something. Hope you check out Skeletons while it's on sale. Sale ends tomorrow!

Jennifer Soosar said...

I think it's smart to look at the expense of hiring an editor as a learning experience, "like a college course", as you said, Judy.

Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Thanks Jennifer, I believe a professional editor is essential for first time authors. As you mature as a writer, you learn things, but those early days, you really don't have a clue. I used Lourdes Venard and Marta Tanrikulu. Both were excellent, and I hired them for different elements of Noose.

Jan Christensen said...

Great post, Judy, with a rocking ending. Writing is such an odd art/business. We have to let our imagination fly, then edit what it came up with. Not easy, which is why they invented editors.

Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Thanks Jan! You're right, it's such an odd business.

Morgan Mandel said...

That missed mistake is too funny! Sometimes spell check can also create problems. I've noticed that Word's spell check is not always reliable, and will sometimes want an apostrophe where there shouldn't be one, or vice versa. Of course, we often see what's in our minds and not what's actually on the manuscript, and that's why we need fresh eyes for help.

Pam De Voe said...

I love your final example -- because it's so funny, it's memorable. No one who reads this--or hears you present, as in the library--will forget the importance of editing! And re-editing. And re-editing. ....

Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Thanks Morgan. In fact, if you put t-shit in spellcheck, it passes :-)

Pam, what's incredible is the number of eyes who read the manuscript and didn't notice it. I used to surprised when I'd find an error in a book, especially by well known authors. Now I know how things can slip by...gremlins!