Before You Hit Send with Angela James

Angela James presented her workshop Before You Hit Send in New Hampshire last month. James is an engaging and lively presenter, even when she’s talking about something as dry as the direct address comma. Her presentation style is conversational and witty, and never condescending. This is good for someone like me who has strong storytelling skills, but is weak with grammar. Don’t get me wrong, I still need an editor, but I’d prefer to eliminate as many of the potential errors in advance to make the process as expedient and efficient as possible. Angela delivered real world strategies that made me feel like I will deliver a more polished manuscript.

Author Claire Brett introduces Carina Press Executive Editor, Angela James

Author Claire Brett Introduces Carina Press Executive Editor, Angela James

Before You Hit Send is offered online as a multi-week course; the day-long workshop is a pared-down version of that course and it is still bursting at the seams with information. We had handouts with the PowerPoint slides and I still took close to 40 pages of notes. I can summarize the headlines here, but the value in this workshop comes from the examples Angela offers to demonstrate her points.

My personal highlights

Use descriptive words, but be careful of overwriting. A little subtlety can add polish to a story. She provided multiple powerful examples here.

Read your story out loud or use voice to text to read it to you. This will allow you to hear things you might otherwise miss.

  • Where your dialogue sounds unnatural.
  • Is the story boring?
  • Did you leave out a key piece of description (e.g., your character moving to another room).
  • Notice where your attention drifts from the story.

DO NOT edit as you listen – take notes or add comments to a Word or Kindle document.

Don’t overlook the basics such as formatting and spellcheck (even if Word does check your spelling as you type). She also offered tips on how to use MS Word’s Find and Replace function like a boss. I learned how to make paragraph marks appear in MS Office 365! This will mean nothing to 90% of the readers, but it was huge to me.

“Punctuation is there as support, not to carry the load.” Pare down your exclamation points. If you need to show excitement or extreme emotion of any kind, use words, not !!!!

Eliminate garbage words from your expository writing, but remember the rules are a little more lenient for dialogue.

Garbage words:

  • Really
  • So
  • That
  • Well
  • Very
  • Totally
  • Just
  • Quite
  • Good/Great

James asks her editors to ensure that something is grammatically correct for the story being told. This is especially in true dialogue. It’s unlikely you’ll find “coulda” in Victorian England, but you might find it in modern conversation.

Don’t use dialogue to convey information that the character already knows just so you can educate the reader: “As you know Bob, …”

Engage all five senses, BUT NOT ALL IN ONE PARAGRAPH!

Don’t tell the story in backstory. Your characters need to interact on the page. It’s their actions and dialogue that convey the story to the reader successfully.

Photo of a jagged mountain with the text "Commas are not the hill you want to die on." - Angela James

The Editorial Relationship

When I interviewed her prior to the workshop, Angela talked about how the editorial relationship should be a partnership. In the workshop, she offered some concrete examples.

  • When you selected a publisher, you also selected an editor and a certain editing ideology.
  • Every editorial relationship is different. She maintains a professional relationship with all of her writers, but she has become good friends with some of them.
  • The editorial relationship will evolve. There is more explanation earlier in the relationship, but you do develop a shorthand and a better understanding of expectations the more you work together.
  • Your editor is your best line of defense against a negative review. That doesn’t mean hiring a good editor will eliminate ALL negative reviews, but they understand readers and what the market wants.

When working with an editor, you want to balance the edits with author voice. “Commas are not the hill you want to die on.” An editor should NOT eliminate your voice.  An editor should:

  • Make suggestions,
  • Show by example, but NOT rewriting entire paragraphs. Rewriting is the key word in that statement, changing the order of the text is not the same thing.
  • You are allowed to say “I don’t agree with this, can you explain your thinking here?”
  • You can’t reject every comment.
  • Read the editorial letter and then walk away to give the comments time to percolate.
  • When you are reviewing a contract with either an agent or a publisher, it is acceptable to ask how the editing process is handled.
  • Questions to ask your editor
    • Do you read for pleasure? What?
    • Do you use Track Changes?
    • Do you offer an editorial letter?

When to stop editing.

6 years is too long.   If you are unsure if you are done, set the story aside and come back to it with fresh eyes.

By the end of the day my head was ready to explode, but in a good way. The downside of learning all these polishing tips is that when you see a lack of sophistication in a story, you can’t un-see it.

The online course is offered two times a year and will be offered again in September. Registration is now open. For more information, visit http://nicemommy-evileditor.com/before-you-hit-send/. You can also read my posts to learn more about Angela and her thoughts on publishing.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day and I’m excited to implement my new skills on my work in progress. I’m hoping my schedule will allow me to take the class in September, but if not, I will definitely be signing up for the early 2017 offering.


Lee Laughlin is a writer, marketer, social media consumer and producer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She writes for the Concord Monitor and her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently working on her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.

Angela James on Publishing

On May 21, 2016, the New Hampshire chapter of Romance Writers of America will be presenting Before You Hit Send, a workshop on self-editing created and presented by Angela James, the Editorial Director at Carina Press (the digital-first imprint of Harlequin). Last month Angela took some time out of her busy schedule to talk with me about herself, the workshop, and publishing. Workshop details can be found in my earlier post; today, we’ll talk about publishing.

When you think of the background and experience necessary to succeed in publishing, you probably think about a degree in English or maybe business, and maybe an internship at a New York publishing house. That path has certainly worked for many successful people, but Angela James would tell you the most important thing you need to be successful in publishing is a deep love of books and all things related to books, including authors and the editorial process.

Angela’s path to becoming the Editorial Director of Carina Press was not the traditional publishing career path. She grew up in North Dakota, where she learned to hate snow and love hockey, then went to college at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences where earned a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy.

She paid her dues in that field and eventually landed her dream occupational therapy job working on the East Coast at a state psychiatric facility. A lifelong lover of books and avid reader, she took on side work as a proofreader and copyeditor “just for fun.”

When she gave birth to her daughter, she left OT to be a stay at home mom, but quickly discovered she needed more interaction so she stepped up her freelance editing. By then she was working with authors like Jaci Burton and Mandy Roth. When Samhain Publishing opened its doors, Angela was recommended for an editor position.  While at Samhain, she moved up the ranks to Executive Editor, but she kept up her certifications and training credits because even then, she thought she’d go back to the occupational therapy field. Then Harlequin came knocking with their newly-minted Carina Press and Angela’s place in publishing was cemented.

It’s about the book and the reading experience. It’s about giving readers an amazing experience because books are awesome - Angela James with an ocean background

Angela loves new ideas and being able to make plans and take action on those new ideas. The constant change of the industry inspires her to continually develop ways to find new authors, improve things for their current authors, and grow the business.

Without that steady diet of change, Angela fears she’d lose her passion for the job and grow bored. Along with her management duties, James still carries a full editing schedule. She’s on track to edit 15 titles this year alone.

However, being responsible for the business success of Carina is equal parts blessing and burden. As much as she’d like to, she can’t just publish a book because she loves it. “When we say no to a book, it’s not always because we don’t think it’s good, or we don’t love it.” There are a multitude of authors the Carina team loves, or would love to work with, but much to her dismay she doesn’t have the luxury of publishing just to publish. It’s her job to publish books that ensure Carina’s continued growth and success. Sometimes that makes for hard choices. In a perfect world Angela wouldn’t have to worry about whether a book would be a moneymaker or grow the business.

Angela James on the future of publishing

I asked for her prediction about where publishing would be five years from now. On the outside she was polite, but on the inside, I had a sense she was groaning. “It’s hard to say where publishing will be one year from now, never mind five.” Her personal desire would be that in five years we will have long moved past the “us versus them” mentality that has taken hold, the idea that traditional publishers (which digital-first is now lumped with) are the enemy. In her experience, there are many people who work in publishing purely for the love of books, and who work hard to get good books in front of as many readers as possible. “It’s about the book and the reading experience. It’s about giving readers an amazing experience because books are awesome.”

This isn’t just talk. Angela tracked her personal reading on Good Reads last year and she read approximately 650 books. Stop for a minute and process that: six hundred and fifty books! This is in addition to the books she read for work. 650 books just for pleasure reading. Yes, she is a speed reader, and to be fair, some of the books were novella length or serializations, but she calculated it, and it worked out to be about 48 million words. That’s lots and lots and LOTS of words. Clearly, this is a woman who loves books; I guess she found her way to the right field after all.

Next time, I’ll share some of the personal side of Angela James, including what she wishes every author knew about publishing.


Lee Laughlin is a writer, marketer, social media consumer and producer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She writes for the Concord Monitor and her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently working on her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.

Before You Hit Send Comes to New Hampshire

Angela James, Editorial Director of Carina Press to Present her Popular Workshop in Nashua.

This May, the New Hampshire chapter of Romance Writers of America will present Before You Hit Send (BYHS). BYHS is a workshop on self editing created and presented by Angela James, Editorial Director at Carina Press.

Before You Hit Send Logo

Before You Hit Send Workshop Specifics

Make a weekend of it! Come Friday night for a casual get together with other attendees at the hotel bar. The workshop takes place all day Saturday, and Sunday morning there will be a room available for those who want to implement what they’ve learned or work on their manuscripts.  Please note this Sunday session is a self-paced causal event with no formal program. Ms. James will not be in attendance.

When: Saturday, May 21, 2016 9am to 4pm

Where: The Crowne Plaza Hotel 2 Somerset Parkway, Nashua 603-886-1200 (Mention NHRWA for a discounted rate on your room)

Cost: $90 if you register by February 29th Register today to avoid increases!

Who Should Attend Before You Hit Send?

  • Aspiring authors
  • Authors interested in polishing their craft
  • Self-publishing authors
  • Multi-published authors–you may be surprised by what there still is to learn!
  • Freelance editors and copy editors looking to enhance their curriculum vitae.
  • Anyone interested in learning to edit and copy edit.

This workshop is targeted to writers of all genres – mystery, horror, New Adult, fantasy, sci-fi and romance –all welcome!

What will be covered?

  • point of view
  • passive vs. active voice
  • show don’t tell
  • formalizing your manuscript

and much more!

To register please visit the New Hampshire Romance Writers website .

Originally, Ms. James was asked to develop a week long online workshop on self editing. Her first reaction was “What a great topic.” It wasn’t until she sat down to outline the course that she realized what an overwhelming topic it could be. Over the years the workshop has morphed and grown. Angela has been presenting it online and in person for more than eight years. BYHS is never the same workshop twice. She updates it prior to every presentation. Because publishing is constantly changing and writers need different information at different times in their writing journey, it’s not uncommon for people to take the class multiple times. Sometimes as many as four or five people are repeat attendees!

Peggy Jaeger,  author of the soon to be released 3 Wishes from The Wild Rose Press has taken BYHS online and is looking forward to taking it again in person in May.  “Angela James showed me exactly what a manuscript ready for professional submission should look like. And after taking her class, my manuscripts now look professionally polished and ready for a publisher’s eyes.”

Registration for the inaugural presentation of Before You Hit Send in New Hampshire is open now. Your registration fee includes workshop materials, Saturday lunch buffet and an afternoon snack. Registrations are processed on a first come, first served basis.

Before You Hit Send is a labor of love from someone who is an avid reader and quite simply loves books. “It’s not about the money. It’s more important to me to know that people are getting the information.”

About Angela James

Angela James holding an e book readerAngela James is the Editorial Director of Carina press, a digital-first fiction imprint of Harlequin (Harper Collins). She has edited books from bestselling authors including Shannon Stacey (a New Hampshire author), Jaci Burton, Lauren Dane and many others. Look for a more detailed profile of Ms. James in mid-March.

Carina Press publishes books in romance, fantasy, sci-fi, action adventure, mystery, crime and new adult.


Lee Laughlin is a writer, marketer, social media consumer and producer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She writes for the Concord Monitor and her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently working on her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction. She is an NHRWA member and the opinions expressed here are hers and my not necessarily reflect those of her fellow NHWN blogmates.

Debra Dixon’s Book-In-A-Day Workshop

Debra Dixon is coming! Debra Dixon is coming!

Debra Dixon is a popular writer, speaker and publisher and she’s bringing her “Book-In-A Day” Workshop to Nashua, New Hampshire on May 10, 2014. Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict is required reading for anyone who is hoping to have their book published.

Debra Dixon Book-In-A Day May 10, 2014

I read Goal, Motivation and Conflict at the recommendation of several fellow writers. I started with a borrowed copy but the book was packed with such great information I had to restrain myself from using a highlighter. I knew I had to purchase my own copy. I wrote a review for L2W W2L.

The Book-In-A Day Workshop uses the 12 step Hero’s Journey to help you plan the character driven plots that make readers and publisher’s stand up at take notice. You’ll leave the workshop with an outline that will advance your book idea from concept to finished plan. You will:

  • 

Understand Hero and Villain motivation in crafting a tension-filled story.
  • Understand the difference between internal and external motivation, and why it is important to goal-setting and plot.
  • Understand the difference between hero long- and short-term goal setting.
  • Chart your Hero’s emotional journey in counterpoint to his physical journey.
  • Put the Hero’s goals in direct emotional conflict with the villain and the Emotional Obstacle.
  • Let your book unfold in stages, maintaining tension and increasing suspense, until the very end.

The workshop is sponsored by the New Hampshire Chapter of Romance Writer’s of America, but is open to writer’s of all genre’s. It will be held at the Radisson in Nashua from 9am to 4pm. The cost is $80 and includes a lunch buffet.

Stay overnight at the Radisson Friday night, and meet fellow authors that evening from 8-11 pm in the lounge. For more information and to sign up, please visit http://www.nhrwa.com/events.html
 I hope to see you there!

Will you be attending? What books have you read on writing have drastically altered how you write?

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She is currently a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors.  Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is a member of the New Hampshire Chapter of Romance Writers of America and is currently at work on her first novel.