In this column I’m asking subscribers to share their knowledge about writing, publishing, and marketing books. I’m calling it “Ten Questions.” Thank you, C.Y. Corbett (Yvonne Corbett) for allowing us to learn about your new service for aspiring writers! – Marylee MacDonald
C.Y. Corbett, born and raised in Ontario, Canada, is a long-time resident of Apache Junction, Arizona. In a studio facing the iconic Superstition Mountains, she teaches painting classes in oils and acrylics along with her husband and fellow artist, Jim, and indulges her love of writing. To date, she has written several short stories compiled into an anthology titled Tall Tales from Western Trails and a young adult novel entitled Rememberings.
As a beta reader of other writer’s books, she discovered a knack for accurate proofreading and started an affordable online business to help starving authors produce a professional presentation of their novels.
You are invited to learn more about her craft by visiting her website at www.WordGander.com
MM: When I moved to Arizona a few years back, I discovered a state full of enthusiastic writers, all of whom were working hard to write and publish books. Has your work teaching painting put you in touch with writers, or did that happen some other way?
CY: Twenty years ago, I talked my husband into quitting our salaried management jobs—and secure paychecks—to start our own Art Instruction business. My husband had never painted before this time, so it was a major leap of faith for him. This year, 2020, we celebrated the 20th Anniversary of our very successful business . . . until the pandemic abruptly closed us down.
My love of writing was kindled in my teens, but only in the past few years have I indulged in writing “fun stuff” for myself. And now I’m hooked. Before the pandemic I belonged to a local Writers Group and initially offered my proofreading services, free, to my fellow writers. I hadn’t planned to start an online proofreading business, but it suddenly seemed a viable alternative to our cancelled art classes. This unexpected diversion is a happy accident that I’m eager to expand on. Life does have an uncanny way of changing your direction.
MM: One of the big struggles for new authors comes when the book is “almost finished.” New authors often press “publish” too soon. Why is this a bad idea?
CY: Prior to publishing, any new piece of writing—prose, poetry, website, ad copy, whatever—must go through many stages of growth. A lot of those stages are concerned with editing, correcting, re-writing, and editing again. I’ve read a number of works by “author hopefuls” who ask for my opinion of their writing, and I have to say that the quality of their printed copy astonishes me . . . not in a good way. Either people are simply not self-editing their own work, or they genuinely don’t know what they’re doing wrong. We know that the first page of a novel will very often determine whether or not a sale is made . . . so that first page [and all the pages that follow, of course] has to present a polished, professional invitation to the potential buyer to read on. I suspect a lot of new authors are intimidated by the price of professional editing and proofreading, but those services are valuable and essential if they hope to make sales. And isn’t that, after all, the validation they’re looking for?
MM: Even in my own work, I’ve found that it’s often the little things that trip up readers—characters with different names, typos, etc. What kinds of problems cause you to go on the alert?
CY: Consistency is a big one. The spelling errors, typos, grammatical snags are like playing with a puzzle—which I love to do. Consistency is the puzzle piece that is harder to place into the whole. When my brain tells me something is not right, it has more to do with an instinct than book-learning. It requires remembering where that previous reference appeared and searching through many pages of text to find it again. That exercise prompted me to create a Style Book as I work through each project I’m editing to serve as a quick reference of the author’s work and save me a lot time searching. Along with their edited manuscripts, my clients receive a copy of the Style Book I’ve created for them, to help them with their own corrections or revisions. It’s a handy tool to have.
MM: Brilliant! How can fixing these problems make a better book?
CY: As I mentioned earlier in the interview a clean, polished copy is going to garner more sales and more positive reviews of an author’s work . . . which leads to more sales. Right? Repeated errors, omissions, inconsistencies will inevitably work against a reader’s satisfaction with the story and, honestly, against the writer’s reputation as a competent author. The way an author presents his book is a reflection of the professionalism of the author himself or herself.
MM: What is your history as a reader? As a kid did you haunt libraries or read under the covers?
CY: I read The Bobbsey Twins, The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, Stephen Leacock, and others. Books have always been my companions. My favorite room in our house is my library. Shelves and shelves of books. Happiness.
MM: Reading an unknown author’s book is different from reading a book that’s an Amazon bestseller. How do you keep an open mind?
CY: It’s a developing process—theirs and mine. We all have something to learn from one another, and I really do want them to succeed—get their work published. It’s my hope that what I have to offer to “my” writers will benefit them as much as my association with them will be of inestimable value to me. Works both ways.
MM: When an author sends you a manuscript, do you prefer to read it on an e-reader, or do you print it out?
CY: When I’m doing the final editing of my own writing, I favor a hard copy. That way I can visualize it more as a book-in-print. However, I prefer to edit the e-version of a client’s work so I can use the editing applications I have on my computer to mark up and comment as I read. It’s a much more immediate method of editing that keeps me focused on the copy vs. the plot. The story line is still registering all the way through, but without distracting me from the task at hand.
MM: Would you describe yourself as a beta reader, copy editor, or both?
CY: I am a beta reader, a proofreader, and a light copy editor . . . depending on what my client wants. I emphasize “light” copy because I am very conscious of interfering with an author’s voice. In that respect I try to suggest options that the author can accept, reject, or spin in another direction entirely. If I’m asked for a more intense editorial opinion, I’ll offer it. But it will probably cost more.
MM: Are there any books or websites you use when you’re unsure of a point of grammar or spelling problem?
CY: The old standby, Dictionary.com, is my “go to” to clarify an author’s word usage, particularly if that word choice doesn’t ring true for me; for other quick queries I simply ask my friend Google. The most reliable reference I have is my own extensive “library” of grammar rules. I add to this library regularly as questions arise.
Grammarly.com is a great tool for writers as they are developing a manuscript, especially since it’s free. But, it’s not always 100 percent reliable, so I never use it. The same is true with the Microsoft Word’s spellchecker and grammarchecker, but those squiggly lines under the text do serve a purpose to alert writers to glitches in their work. Those glitches should always be investigated. And that’s a strong argument for authors to engage a professional person vs. an android before publishing.
MM: What has been your greatest reward in helping authors present their books in the best possible light?
CY: While my business isn’t yet paying the bills, I do love reading the work authors send to me, and what I want most is to see their success. Their success bolsters mine, after all. A client of mine in Australia recently informed me that she is ready to launch her debut novel. Another client (who has a published memoir that’s already on Amazon) is initiating himself into the world of suspense fiction. It’s very gratifying to realize I might have helped these creative people produce a bestseller.
MM: What impact, if any, has the pandemic had on your business?
CY: When the U.S. became aware of the vast scope of the pandemic threat, our painting classes were abruptly shut down right in the middle of our busiest season of the year . . . and our remaining 20th Anniversary projects had to be scrapped after a year of planning. Our hands-on teaching methods would be compromised trying to teach remotely. That wasn’t an option—we would not be able to give our students the particular attention they’ve come to expect from us. So . . . no more Parks & Rec classes: no more ASU classes; no more classes at our home studio or abroad.
But, in seeking an alternative income that we could build remotely, I launched my WordGander.com website to help writers polish their books. My fledgling business is growing slowly—keyword “growing”—but I’m anticipating making many new acquaintances and reading many new books. So, I’m calling out to all the writers out there to help me build my new business, and I promise to help you get your “masterpiece” published. Let’s do this!
The page where people can find out more about her services:
For authors: https://www.wordgander.com/
For artists: https://www.xperiencethejoy.com/
Any other social media sites where people can find you.
Marylee MacDonald is the author of MONTPELIER TOMORROW, a novel, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, a short story collection, and THE RUG BAZAAR, a chapbook. Her books and stories have won the Barry Hannah Prize, the Jeanne M. Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award, a Readers’ Favorites Gold Medal for Drama, the American Literary Review Fiction Prize, and many others. She holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State, and when not reading or writing books, she loves to walk on the beach and explore National Parks.