Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Editing Companies EXPOSED

Sandy Tritt

As the owner of a small editing company, I sometimes scope out our competition to see what they are doing and to make certain we’re competitive. I’ll have to admit, I’ve gotten lazy about this during the last few years, but I recently Googled “fiction editor” and “manuscript editing” and a few other related terms to see who was appearing and what they were offering. And I was shocked. Literally, jaw-dropping, oh-my-goodness, I-can’t-believe-this shock
The last time I did market research was during the recent recession. At that time, I was surprised at the number of pop-up editing companies. It seemed that many writers who’d lost their day jobs decided to give editing a whirl. They put up a quick website, undercut the experienced editors, and became fly-by-night “editors.” Most of these companies have since gone out of business. So, Valuable Tip Number One: Before you send your work—and definitely before you send your money—check to be sure the company is still in business. 
The time before that, my shocking discovery was the number of corporations who assigned editing jobs to the lowest bidder. Unfortunately, there are still a few of these companies out there. If your edit is going to the lowest bidder, I can almost guarantee that you’re not getting a quality job. Valuable Tip Number Two: Whenever a company is more vested in the number of words an editor has edited and the speed with which this editor edits, you can be sure that quality is not the focus. 
But this time, I discovered a new low, and it’s all from one “first” company. This “first” company is very aggressive in marketing. Four of the top Google placement ads led directly to their site, and a number of others did so indirectly. I am also bombarded by their pop-up ads and feature ads on just about every website that sells advertising. They must harvest emails, because immediately after I visited the site, I started receiving offers and discounts—several the first few days, and now two a day. The site itself is a bit like a used car lot. There are flashing pop-ups with live editors just waiting to “chat” with you. There are free samples—as many as you want. They promise “superior quality, incredible speed, and LOW prices.” And they GUARANTEE your satisfaction! Sounds too good to be true. Which leads us to Valuable Tip Number Three: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
A little more research on their site revealed they edit the following “genres”:  
  • Novel Editing
  • Fiction Editing
  • Non-Fiction Editing
  • Book Editing Services
  • First Time Author
  • Christian Editing
  • Black Genre Editing
Yeah. Last time I checked, a novel is fiction. And I don’t have a clue as to which category I’d select if I were a first-time author of Black-genre Christian fiction (what is, by the way, “Black Genre”?). Worse, I clicked on the sample edits provided on their website. First, they missed obvious typos and errors. Worse, they suggested changes in direct opposition to good writing practices. And, perhaps most alarming: the sample edit was done in a version of non-English Word. That’s right. It was a Swedish version of Word. Which tells me the editor was likely not a native English speaker.
Despite the annoying pop-ups, I continued to explore the site. They are aggressively searching for more editors. What are the requirements to edit for them? Well, here’s the list (and note that if you don’t meet the requirements of the first item, you just keep dropping down the list until you match one of the criteria):  
  1. Extensive professional editing experience with solid references from previous employers 
  2. A doctorate degree
  3. Advanced education - Masters, Bachelors, specific editing courses, proofreading certification, etc. 
  4. Affiliation, membership, or participation with editing organizations, writing associations, etc. 
  5. An international location which serves a time zone outside of the continental North American market, especially those editors located in New Zealand, Australia, Alaska, or Hawaii 
If you still don’t meet their standards, don’t worry. Go ahead and apply anyway. These are just suggestions.  
After wiping the dirt off my hands and continuing my research, I clicked on the next Google ad for editing services. This one looked like a decent site. It showed an actual photograph of a real person editing. But when I clicked on a few of the links, something frightening happened: I was back on the website of the “first” editing company. Yes. The one I’m wailing about above. It so happens there are several freelance editors who belong to the “first” family of editing.  
By now, I was horrified. So, I followed my own Valuable Tip Number Four: When you want to know the truth about something related to writing, visit the Absolute Write Water Cooler. More specifically, I went to If you’re suffering from low blood pressure and need to get your blood pumping and your arteries compressing, I encourage you to visit this page about “first” editors. 
The bottom line: there are still a number of independent, devoted editors out there who are traditionally published with a higher-education degree in writing, editing, or English, who charge a reasonable rate to give you a personal and professional job. Any editing company that doesn’t show photographs of the actual editors—and their individual qualifications—is most likely hiding something. Be sure to do your research, and hire an editing company that has integrity. Valuable Tip Number Five: Before hiring an editor, Google the editor by name and by company name. See how vested the editor is in the writing community. Does he/she have books available? Give writing workshops? Speak at writing conferences? 
It is important to hire a professional editor to review your work before you submit it. Please do your homework and choose one who is qualified—one who will make your work better, not worse.  
We are here for you. Give us a shout at

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Body Language of the Arms, Hands, Feet, and Posture

Charlotte Firbank-King

Welcome back! This is part three of a three-part series discussing body language and how we can use it to strengthen our writing. If you’ve missed either of our earlier articles, you may want to stop, go back, and read them first. They can be found here and here.

In today’s blog, we’re discussing the body language of the hands, arms, feet, and posture. Once we realize we should use action and body language instead of dialogue tags, our natural tendency is to concentrate on the face, saying things like “he smiled” or “he frowned” or “he laughed.” So, your challenge today: First, go through your manuscript and highlight every time you’ve used one of the “easy” descriptors: smiled, grinned, laughed, frowned, grimaced, nodded, shrugged, and so forth. Then, replace those easy words with something more complex. This is where a study in body language will help. We have more than just the face to look at. It’s the entire body that tells us what we need to know. So, without further ado, let’s look at the body language relating to emotions.

Body Language of the Arms

Crossed arms are one of the “easy” actions we overuse in writing. However, it can still be effective, as long as it’s not overused. Crossed arms indicates the individual is closing himself to social influence. Some people habitually cross their arms, which may indicate the person is slightly reserved, uncomfortable with his appearance, self-conscious and trying to cover it, or just trying to hide something on his clothes, such as a stain or a tear. Crossed arms do not always reflect a defensive stance. Sometimes, especially if the legs are also splayed, it can indicate the person is aggressive, with a feeling of superiority or power. If arms are crossed while the feet are shoulder width or wider apart, toughness or authority is indicated. Crossed arms may also mean that a person is angry but trying not to show it.

If someone rubs his hands together or touches or strokes his own body, he may be comforting or soothing himself. This could be because he’s sad or upset over a recent event, or it could mean he isn’t enjoying the current situation.

If someone rests his arms behind his neck or head, he is open to what is being discussed—or, he may be just laid-back in general.

Exaggerated movements of the hands or arms can show passion or interest in a subject.

Body Language of the Hands

There are many ways in which hand gestures can help us understand what a person (or character) really means. Some of these gestures are learned—such as the classic “thumbs up” or “giving the finger” or using the index finger as the “we are number one” sign. But others are natural reflexes that can help us communicate more effectively.

A character with his palms slightly up and outward shows openness and friendliness. However, if he holds his palms down, he is likely to be dominant or possibly aggressive, especially when there is no movement or bending between the wrist and the forearm. Hands up and palms out as in “I give up” is literally that, if both hands are used. One hand, palm up and facing the speaker may be “enough!”

A firm handshake gives the impression of assertiveness or honesty; too firm is arrogant or challenging.

Hands placed on the heart show sincerity. However, since this is one of the better known gestures, it can sometimes be used as a deliberate action to deceive. 

Hands clasped at the midriff show subservience. 

Hands clasped behind the back can mean a person is confident. However, the person may be deliberately clasping his hands behind his back in order to appear confident or to avoid using them in an illustrative manner. Military people often stand like this out of habit.

Hands on the hips shows anger, defiance, and impatience.

Hands that are closed or clenched can represent irritation, anger, or nervousness. 

Pregnant women may put their hands on their stomachs if they feel threatened, indicating a desire to protect the unborn child.

If a stomach is churning with fear or excitement, the individual may put his hands on his stomach to quell the emotion. Butterflies in the tummy are an increase in adrenaline.

Frequent reaching forwards or superfluous hand gestures can mean that someone is trying to convince another person of something. The exact meaning of these gestures will depend largely on context.

If someone brushes his hair back with his fingers, this may be preening, a common gesture if the person is attracted to someone.

A character could touch his hair in a flicking manner if his thoughts conflict with another person. He may never speak a word of disagreement, but raised eyebrows combined with this action probably means he disagrees with the person.

Twisting hair is generally a nervous action.

Running fingers through hair or rubbing the back of their neck usually indicates irritation or exasperation in a situation.

When a person taps his fingers on something, it's usually a sign of excitement or impatience.

If a person wears glasses and is constantly pushing them up onto his nose with a slight frown, it may also indicate he disagrees with what a person is saying—unless, of course, it’s a habit or the glasses don’t fit properly.

Lowered eyebrows and narrowed eyes illustrate an attempt at understanding what is being said or going on. It's usually skeptical. This is presuming the character is not trying to observe something that's far away.

Body Language of the Feet

Tapping quickly, shifting weight, laughing, or moving the foot will most often mean the person is impatient, excited, nervous, scared, or intimidated. The surrounding context will need to provide the clues as to which emotion is being conveyed.

If a person is talking to someone and both feet face the speaker the listener is interested. If one foot is pointed away from the speaker, the listener doesn’t want to be there; he is eager to leave. This is just an interesting aside and would be too complicated to use in a story.

If someone taps his foot while another talks, he may have a desire to leave. Context will tell us if he needs to leave because of another appointment or if he’s frustrated with the person speaking. This behavior usually manifests when the person is anxious to get somewhere. 

If a couple’s legs or feet touch while flirting, tapping of a foot could be interpreted as nervous excitement. If they’re uncomfortable, they would discreetly move away from the contact, a much more subtle escape than telling the person to move away.

If a person is sitting, feet crossed at the ankles, he is generally at ease.

If, while standing, a person keeps his feet close together, he may be trying to be "proper" in some way. Sometimes feet close together conveys a feeling of submissiveness or passiveness.

If someone purposely touches another person’s feet, it’s likely he is flirting. However, if he knows the person well and other people are present, it may be a warning nudge.

So, there you have it. Lots of ways to add depth to your characters, get rid of dialogue tags and meaningless expressions, and bring your writing up another level.

If you’ve done everything you can to make your manuscript the best it can be, send it to our editors at We can give you an honest evaluation and show you more ways to improve your writing.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Body Language of the Head and Face

Charlotte Firbank-King

Last week, we discussed the body language of deception. This week, we will discuss the body language of the face and head, and next week, we will discuss the body language of hands, arms, feet, and posture. As we mentioned last week, the use of body language will greatly strengthen your reader’s understanding of your characters.

Body Language of the Face

The Mouth—Oh, Those Smiles

Smiling is one of the most complex of all movements. Over eighty facial muscles are involved in smiling, and there are many different types of smiles. Let’s take a look . . . .

A lopsided smile can mean a person is teasing or mocking. If  the skin at the middle, outside corner of the eyes have no crinkles, the smile is probably fake. Authentic smiles peak or change rapidly from a small facial movement to a broad open expression.

A slow smile can be flirtatious, indicating an attempt to seduce, especially if combined with sultry eyes.

If the corners of the mouth go up ever so slightly, it could mean the person is mocking or even challenging.

A tentative half-smile usually means nervousness, uncertainty or insecurity.

Other Emotions Shown with the Mouth:

Sometimes pursed lips—which usually signify disapproval—can twist to the side when people are thinking. However, this can be an intentional movement to hide an emotion or to deceive. Pursed lips that twist and pull to one side can show self-depreciation.

Of course, if the corners of the mouth go down, forming a frown, the mouth's owner is likely unhappy, especially if her lips are full and plump, forming a pout. However, if the lips are taut, the owner is more likely angry.

If lips are pressed tightly together, the person is likely defiant, angry or disapproving.

Biting the lip or sucking the bottom lip between one’s teeth usually shows uncertainty or embarrassment, but if the lips quirk up slightly at the corners, it could show suppressed humor.

If one side of the mouth goes up and the other side down, the person is probably scowling, although, if the eyes look happy, it could mean they are teasing.

If a person presses his tongue against his mouth, he probably is not interested.

Body Language of the Eyes:

Looking sideways often means the person is distrustful or unconvinced.

When a person closes his eyes longer than the time it takes to blink, it usually indicates that he is reining in his temper, is stressed, is alarmed, or feels despair. Simply closing the eyes can also be a way to “close” someone or something out, such as bad news.

If someone looks down at the floor a lot, he is probably shy or timid. If he keeps his eyes down, he could be showing submission. People also tend to look down when upset or when trying to hide something that affects them emotionally. When they are thinking and feeling unpleasant emotions (including guilt), they will often stare at the ground.

In Western culture, looking someone in the eyes usually means trustworthiness and openness. However, in some cultures, this same action is a sign of disrespect or is done only with family and close friends.

Eyes that are focused in the distance can mean the person is in deep thought—or that he’s just not listening.

Other Emotions Displayed with the Face:

If the jaw is jutted forward, the person is showing defiance, belligerence, or anger.

If a muscle twitches in the cheek or jaw, the teeth are probably clenched, which, of course, means suppressed anger.

Body Language of the Head

A dropped head can mean many things, depending upon other signs available. For example, if the eyes are narrowed, it could mean suspicion or suppressed anger. But if the eyes skitter around or if the lashes slowly lower, it could mean submission, coyness, or dishonesty.

Likewise, having a raised head can mean many things. If the head is raised and the eyes are angry and the mouth set, it could mean the person is defiant or offended. If the mouth also twitches, it could be an indication of inner distress. If the eyes are hooded and the mouth pressed firm, it could mean fearless anger. If they eyes flash, it could show defiance. If the eyes are normally rounded, the person could be amused or simply not feeling any strong emotion.

If the head is tilted to one side, it could mean the person is listening attentively, is curious, or is interested in the conversation or whatever is happening.

If the head is pulled back while tilted, it can show disbelief or suspicion.

Nodding, of course, means “yes,” and shaking the head means “no.” When these actions contradict the words being spoken, others should notice, as this signifies something isn’t right. The person is either lying or trying to deceive on some level, or is uncertain or uncomfortable.


I hope you learned something from this article. Next week we will discuss the body language of the hands and feet.

Here’s a challenge: go through your manuscript and replace every dialogue tag with an action or body language. Doing just this one thing will make your writing much more engaging. Try it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Body Language of Deception

Charlotte Firbank-King

Body language is must-have knowledge in a writer’s arsenal of writing tools. It’s important to understand that people communicate through body language, whether intentionally or not. Studies have shown how important body language and tone are when people speak face-to-face. Therefore, if you expect dialogue—your character’s words—alone to communicate his emotional state to your reader, you’re expecting way too much. It’s critically important to replace those ho-hum dialogue tags (he said/she said) with body language or action. Let your reader see the way the speaker’s fist is clenched when he talks or the way a character’s head tilts toward her lover. Those are the clues your reader needs to figure out what is really going on.

I strongly recommend picking up one of the many books on body language and keeping it with your other reference books. Body language can a great array of emotions, and we couldn’t possibly cover all of them in one blog article. Therefore, we’ll talk today about the body language of deception.

The Body Language of Liars

A liar will often cover his mouth, as though to keep the deceitful words inside. He may lick his lips or giggle, and, when he speaks, he may hesitate, stutter, or slur, or, he may have an overly controlled tone. Most liars will speak with less inflection, tending toward a monotone. When asked a direct question, he may repeat the question, or say, “Do you think that I would do this?” or state his opinion on the subject—which is likely to be violently opposed to any such activity that he’s being asked about—instead of directly answering the question. For example, if asked if he mowed over the daisies, he’d say, “There’s no excuse for sloppy mowing. Mowers should be aware of what they are doing at all times.” He’s also likely to hesitate before answering, especially if asked a question for which he’s unprepared. 

Liars will normally avoid eye contact. Some liars are aware that this will give them away, so they will instead force eye contact, which feels unnatural. Pupils constrict when their owner lies, which may be why liars blink rapidly. They may glance away or glance sideways. 

A liar wants to be invisible—or, at the least, take up as little space as possible and not draw attention to himself. Therefore, he may have an overly stiff posture with controlled movement, and his hands and leg movements are toward his body core, not outward. 

In some people, the hands may be animated, as though the extra movement can help move the words through the air with added integrity. However, a liar will not cover his heart with his hand—that is, unless he’s aware this is a sign of being open and honest, and he does it to deceive. An honest person will often have a hand that is turned up, with the palm exposed, while a liar will keep his hand clenched or his palm down. A liar’s hands may touch his face, throat and mouth, or touch or scratch his nose, upper lip, or behind his ear.

Emotional Gestures and Contradictions of Liars

When someone tries to deceive, the timing may be off between the emotional gestures/expressions and spoken words. For example, a character may say, "I love it!" when receiving a gift, but then smiles after making that statement, rather than at the same time. The gestures/expressions may also fail to match the words spoken, such as smiling when saying “I didn’t mean to hurt you,” or shaking the head while saying, “Yes, I’ll take care of that for you.”

Expressions are limited to mouth movements instead of involving the entire face when faking emotions. For example, when someone smiles naturally, his whole face is involved. He has jaw/cheek movement, his eyes light up, and his skin crinkles at the corners. A liar’s eyes remain expressionless when he smiles.

Interactions and Reactions

A liar is uncomfortable facing his questioner/accuser and may turn his head or body away. He may unconsciously place an object, such as a book or a newspaper, between himself and the other person, or he may move objects around, indicating discomfort.

If an accuser believes someone is lying, he should change the subject quickly. A liar follows along willingly and becomes more relaxed; the deceiver is relieved the subject changed. An innocent person may be confused by the sudden change in topic and try to return to the previous subject.

Final Notes on Lying

These are just a few of the body language clues that a deceiver may use. In fact, entire books have been written on just this one area—on the body language of a liar or how to identify a liar, so it’s a subject that can be studied in-depth. 

It’s also important to note that when trying to clue your reader that a character is lying, the character should respond in a way that is not normal for him. And, of course, just because a character exhibits one or more of these signs does not make him a liar. 

If a character is a psychopath, these indicators may possibly not apply—psychopaths have no real conscience, and therefore do not have the guilt that causes many of the reactions listed here. Some psychopaths may even be cunning enough to behave in an acceptable manner—and are good enough actors to get by with it.

Writing is a craft with much to learn. We encourage you to sign up for our newsletters, this blog, and glean our website for the many tips offered there. We’re also here to help you along the way. Just shoot us off an email at We’re here.