The Rules for the Short Story Contest Have Been Posted!

Calling all sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, and paranormal romance short stories!

As promised, the rules for Ex Libris Editing’s First Annual Sci-Fi and Fantasy Short Story Contest have been posted and can be found on the Short Story Contest page. Please check there for contest particulars, including story and submission guidelines, the fee, dates, eligibility, and (most importantly) prizes! Submissions open May 1st, so start digging through those old notebooks and computer files for your most original and creative short story, and get ready to send it in.

This contest has been in the backs of our minds for a long time, and we’re very excited that it is becoming a reality. But, more than that, we’re looking forward to reading all of your entries!

Happy writing,

Sarah & Sylvia

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Ex Libris Editing’s First Annual Short Story Contest Is Coming Soon!

Ex Libris Editing Short Story Contest Teaser Flyer

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Hello to 2015 and Happy Third Anniversary!

The new year is always looked upon as a celebration of fresh starts, new adventures, and previously untouched opportunities. As part of this, it’s the perfect time to begin working towards a new goal. I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly picked out a few resolutions for 2015 (*cough* finish my novel) that I’m going to work my hardest to achieve.

Trying to anticipate everything that will happen in the new year would be impossible, but we know for sure that it will be filled with new projects, new relationships, and new learning experiences. We also plan to have our second intern ever next fall (so be on the lookout Oolies!) and anticipate utilizing the talents of our very capable subcontractors. All in all, it’s going to be a great year.

But, in addition to looking forward to things to come, we at Ex Libris would also like to take a moment to look back, in no small part because January 1, 2015 marked our third anniversary as a company. How awesome is that?

It hasn’t always been the easiest road, and our schedules have often been under- or over-booked, but ultimately, being part of Ex Libris has been amazing. I don’t think either of us would give it up willingly (I mean, where else can you work in your pjs all day?), and we have you all to thank for that.

So, without getting too sappy (or too long-winded), we just wanted to give all of our amazing clients and friends a shout out and say thank you for your continued support. We would never have made it this far without you.

Wishing you all a wonderful, writing-filled 2015!

– Sarah

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NaNoWriMo Deal: $11 Off for Each 11,000 Words!

Hi friends,

As the end of another NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) rapidly approaches and you’re sprinting for that 50,000-word finish line (go you!), we’d like to start the conversation on where that shiny, brand-spanking-new novelbaby of yours is headed after you set aside Word/Scrivener/Pages/Google Docs/a whole heck of a lot of coffee-shop napkins and pump your fists in the air in victory.

When the dust settles, what are your plans? Crit groups? Self publishing? Shopping your manuscript around to agents or small presses? Shoving it in a drawer for a few months? A combo of the above? Whichever way you choose to go with your manuscript, one thing’s for sure: that baby deserves a second pair of eyes on it after all the hard work you put into itand it will need one if you plan on pursing publication.

We’d like to be your second pair of eyes.

That’s why if you book a developmental edit with us between now and December 31st, 2014, we’ll knock $11 off the total for each 11,000 words of your project. So, for example, if you’ve hit your 50,000, we’ll reduce the price of a developmental on your manuscript by about $50. If you outdid yourself and hit the 110,000 mark, you’ll save around $110. Catch our drift?

So what are you waiting for? We’re ready to meet your novel, and we hope you’re ready to share!

Contact us here or at for more info, and be sure to mention you’re interested in the NaNo deal when you do.

Cheers, good luck finishing up, and tell your friends!

Sarah & Sylvia

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Thank you for applying!

Hello everyone,

Quick announcement: thank you to everyone who expressed interest in our subcontractor opportunity. We’ve made our decisions, and we’ll be sending out emails shortly.

Thanks again!

Sarah & Sylvia

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Freelance editors: Are you looking for projects to fill in the gaps? If so, we might be looking for you.

Hello there, friends!

As many of you know, Sarah and Sylvia have been running Ex Libris together since early 2012 and freelanced separately before then. With a lot of hard work, support, and some good old-fashioned luck, we’ve grown our little editorial company that could into a thriving business.

Speaking of support, we’re now hoping to move toward the possibility of hiring subcontractors to help us out with a few projects here and there when things get busy. Are you a freelance editor with at least two years of professional experience? Are you looking to occasionally supplement your current schedule? If so, you could be just the person we’re looking for.

If this sounds like an opportunity you’d like to explore, please email us at with:

  • a PDF of your most up-to-date résumé
  • a little about yourself and your experience as an editor
  • a bit about your professional identity and goals
  • what type(s) of editing (fiction, nonfiction, academic, etc.) and what levels of editing (proofreading, copyediting, developmental editing, etc.) you are most familiar with/you are hoping to work with.

If your credentials match up with what we’re looking for, we will ask you to provide a work sample or two and to perform a copyediting test. We will do our best to respond to everyone who applies, but depending on the number of responses we receive, this may or may not be possible. We expect to make our final decisions on or before October 31, 2014.

Please note: this is for contract work only, and we are expecting to have work available to subcontractors on an as-needed, part-time basis at most. Please do not expect a steady flow of new projects from this arrangement.

We look forward to hearing from you!

—Sarah & Sylvia

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Shaping the Spark: Inspiration, Plotting, and Character Development

by Melanie Figueroa

When you get an idea for your next story, chances are you’ll want to dive right in. You’ll be sitting on the train or walking down the street when the muses decide to grace you with their presence—but you’ll never be next to a computer or notepad, because that’d just be too easy. As you’re rushing to get home, maybe you even jot down a few lines on your phone, on a crumpled receipt you found buried in your bag, or, heck, even your palm.

Fueled by the adrenaline from the rush of new ideas, you sit down and knock out a few thousand words, but then the spark starts to dwindle. You’ve hit a wall. Oh, the spark’s still there, but the ingredients for the perfect fire to keep that spark burning haven’t been built yet. This is why pre-writing can be such a useful tool for writers. While those few thousand words of initial free writing can be a great way to get going, stories rarely appear in our minds fully formed. After that initial burst of inspiration, it’s usually a good idea to pause and start laying the groundwork for your story before you go any further. Writing tends to be about ten percent inspiration and ninety percent hard work—the hard work being all the effort (plotting, character development, and yes, the actual writing part!) that comes with feeding that spark into a roaring fire.

I’ve found that if you don’t get at least a skeleton of your plot down ahead of time, it can be really easy to get lost in your own narrative. Should Character A go down Path 1 or Path 2? When does the climax hit? What’s the central conflict? What are the stakes? Sometimes it’s fun to just see where the story takes you, but it can also be useful to know your main plot points (how you want to open your story, the rising action, the climax, the denouement, etc.) before you plunge your characters into the fray. Which leads me to the second pre-writing point of interest: character development. Characters often take on a life of their own as you write, but in order for them to do so, it helps to know them intimately—flesh and bone and then some—before they even set foot on the page.

There are countless ways to approach pre-writing. For me, character sketches come first. Other writers may choose to begin with a more detailed outline of the plot, but I’d like to focus on where/how to start with character development since it’s what I have the most experience with.

When it comes to character sketches, it’s good to start with the basics. List their physical characteristics, age, ethnicity, etc. What is their background? Who are their friends and family? What are they afraid of, and what do they want and why? Even if hardly any of this makes it into your actual manuscript (in fact, a lot of it probably won’t), filling in these crucial details will help you to write authentically from your characters’ POV(s) and to make sure that their thoughts and actions are genuine and believable as they encounter obstacles and grow throughout the course of the narrative.

At this year’s AWP conference, I attended a panel called “I’m Just Not That Into You: Unsympathetic Characters in Fiction.” Among the panelists was author Hannah Tinti, who teaches creative writing at Columbia University and edits One Story. Hannah gave the audience her five-point plan for creating well-rounded characters, in which she uses the idea of a superhero and villain to demonstrate a way to approach character sketches:

  1. Costume (What do they physically look like?)
  2. Superpower (What are they good at?)
  3. Kryptonite (What’s one thing that could destroy them?)
  4. Backstory (Where did they come from?)
  5. Quest/Diabolical Plan (What do they want?)

If this checklist sounds useful to you, why not write it down and tape it to the wall above your desk? Or tuck it away close to where you write—somewhere easy to reach. Pull it out when you are in the pre-writing stages or when you’ve hit a wall with a character, and ask yourself some of Hannah’s questions. Or, better yet, ask your characters directly, and see what they tell you.

The best stories, in my opinion, are stories in which the plot is driven by the characters, not the other way around. Characters advance the plot by being the people they are and making the choices they make. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t map out your story’s plot; just be prepared for things to shift around as your characters come to life on the page and interact with each other and with your plot points. Often, the story will change as your understanding of the characters deepens, which can be frustrating, inspiring, challenging, confusing, and exciting—frequently all at once.

As you shape your story and the people who populate it, keep this in mind: as long as you care about your characters and what happens to them, your readers will, too.

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