Category: Editing

Working with tracked changes

This video gives a quick overview of how to review your editor’s changes using Microsoft Word.

The secret life of a book manuscript

Author Thomas E. Ricks recently penned an interesting article in The Atlantic detailing the intricacies of the author–editor relationship as he wrote Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom.

Over our Caesar salads with sliced steak, I asked Scott why he had been so rough on me the previous winter. “Sometimes my job is to be an asshole,” he explained with equanimity. I wasn’t startled at this. At one point on an earlier book, when I told him how stressed I was feeling, he had replied, a bit airily, I thought, “Oh, every good book has at least one nervous breakdown in it.”

Whether you’re familiar with the writing process or not, this piece is a great read.

The next surprise, about three weeks into this process, was coming to realize, over the days of thinking about it, that Scott’s criticisms were spot-on. I saw that if I followed his suggestions and revamped the book, with a new structure that emphasized biography and told the stories of the two men chronologically, the book would be much better. I emailed a note to Scott. “You are right,” it said. This wasn’t so much an apology as the beginning of the next phase of work.

“Only a good writer would be able to say that,” he graciously responded.

You can read the article in its entirety here.

The 17th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style is out

The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition

My favorite style manual has a new edition! This is my most anticipated book release of 2017.

The publisher released the following information:

This seventeenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style has been prepared with an eye toward how we find, create, and cite information that readers are as likely to access from their pockets as from a bookshelf. It offers updated guidelines on electronic workflows and publication formats, tools for PDF annotation and citation management, web accessibility standards, and effective use of metadata, abstracts, and keywords. It recognizes the needs of those who are self-publishing or following open access or Creative Commons publishing models. The citation chapters reflect the ever-expanding universe of electronic sources—including social media posts and comments, private messages, and app content—and also offer updated guidelines on such issues as DOIs, time stamps, and e-book locators.

Other improvements are independent of technological change. The chapter on grammar and usage includes an expanded glossary of problematic words and phrases and a new section on syntax as well as updated guidance on gender-neutral pronouns and bias-free language. Key sections on punctuation and basic citation style have been reorganized and clarified. To facilitate navigation, headings and paragraph titles have been revised and clarified throughout. And the bibliography has been updated and expanded to include the latest and best resources available.

See the full press release here.

An editorial legend: Gordon Lish

A wonderful article in The Herald Scotland by Liz Thomson gives an insight into 83-year-old editor Gordon Lish. It offers great insight into Lish’s lifelong career as well as the way many great editors feel about the work they do.

“I have a gift. Or I have an opinion or I have a prejudice or a bias,” Lish explains. “Would that I were otherwise, but I’m not. I have a quick sense of the destiny of what’s before me.”

No matter how humble talented editors tend to be about their instinct for good writing and a writer’s ability to revise, the instinct is real.

“I’d get in at six in the morning. In those days I could look at a page of text and arrive at some kind of view of its qualities, its values. I can’t do that now because I’m quite impaired by macular degeneration so I can’t see enough, only a snippet.”

Although I’m a freelancer, I still get in to my home office by 6:00 a.m. It fills me with fear to think of a day when I can’t see text.

“I never felt competent to express what a book is about. It’s not about anything. Nothing but the writing.”

It’s important for writers to know how to discuss their book. I stress to my clients the need to express clearly and concisely what their book is about. Still, I feel protective of a client’s book when asked this question, wishing always that it would be sufficient to say, “Trust me. It’s good.”

“I’m comfortable with words,” Lish concludes. “I write them down psychotically. If I come upon a word I don’t know I write it down. Their effect on me is potent and delicious.”

This last quote was my favorite part of the article. To be comfortable with and psychotic about words. to find them potent and delicious, this is a good description of what it’s like being a logophile.

Read the entire article on HeraldScotland.com.

Current projects: poetry, mystery, true crime, middle grade

While editing involves performing the same types of tasks every day, the subject matter of projects vary.

My current editing projects include:

  • The Last Star, a book of poetry by Charlotte Brady to be published this year by my publishing company, Anterior Books;
  • a mystery novel about human trafficking;
  • a true crime novella about necrophilia; and
  • a middle-grade novel about wolves.

The following is crucial information for human trafficking victims or friends of victims who might need assistance:

National Human Trafficking Resource Center
1 (888) 373-7888
SMS: 233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”)
Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week
Languages: English, Spanish and 200 more languages

Using track changes and comments in Word

Word’s track changes and comment features are important tools in the editing process.

Below are two concise and helpful videos to introduce you to these features.

Microsoft Word Track Changes Tutorial

 

Microsoft Word Comments Tutorial

How to start your story

The beginning of your story is meant to be an induction to the rest of the story as a whole. Your job is to hook your readers from page one and give us a taste of the rest of the book.

I recently performed a developmental edit on a well-written thriller. In the opening scene, the protagonist is hiding in a closet and listening to the sounds beyond the closet doors. She is eventually discovered and makes a break for the exit. Throughout the book, the protagonist does a lot of traveling and encounters many dangerous people, but the book starts with her stuck in a closet.

How could the author make the first few paragraphs representative of the entire book?

My suggestion was for the author to show us the survivalist we come to know in the book. She is resourceful and lively, cautious but daring. By showing us a character who searches the closet for weapons, devises a plan or two, and moves as stealthily as possible, we’re able to see the gumption and intellect that will aid the character throughout the book.

Now when she makes a break for the exit, we are cheering her on and hoping she escapes. We already like her because we already know her.

What you need to know before hiring an editor

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of the author–editor relationship.  Today I’m going to tell you what you need to know before hiring an editor, including things you don’t want to hear and things editors don’t want you to know.

Avoid non-editors

Teachers are not editors. People who are “good at English” are not editors.  Writers are not editors. People who read a lot of books are not editors.

Knowing grammar rules is a teeny fraction of editing, and rules often get in the way of good writing. Your manuscript needs to be reviewed by someone who knows, among many other things, how to edit your unique voice. Hire a professional editor, please.

Make demands

It’s acceptable to ask an editor for a résumé, references, and a copyediting sample. It is not acceptable to ask to see an editing sample of someone else’s work. It is acceptable to ask an editor to sign a contract and nondisclosure agreement. Most of the time my clients and I skip all of the above and get straight to work, but there is nothing wrong with asking for any or all of these things.

Expect professionalism

I’ve heard tell of so-called editors being rude to authors who inquire about editing services. When an author decides not to hire them, these “editors” resort to name calling and other unprofessional behavior. Unbelievable. Professional editors will treat you with respect at all times. It might even be in your best interest to reject all editors at first to see if they behave professionally or not.

 

 

The importance of the author–editor relationship

This first appeared as a guest blog post on author Cynthia A. Rodriguez’s site. 

Self-publishing and small presses are redefining the publishing world, and I love it. Authors can now select publishing services à la carte, and new voices are reaching the reader with more purity and raw emotion than ever before. However, for writers who are serious about having a long-term, successful career as a novelist, one aspect of publishing that is not optional is developmental editing.

The question writers should be asking isn’t, “Do I need an editor?” Even editors need editors. (Thank you, Melody, for checking this post.) The real question a serious writer should ask is, “Who will be my editor?” Your editor will be your and your manuscript’s long-term friend and enemy—frenemy, if you will. Typically, your editor will love your manuscript and you will dislike your editor for making them change any of it. Today I’ll share with you a broad overview of the main differences between a good, great, and ideal editor.

good fiction editor reviews your manuscript’s premise, plot structure, pacing, characters, dialogue, and marketability. A good fiction editor identifies weak points and makes useful suggestions for story and character development while ensuring continuity. A good fiction editor is professional, always meets deadlines, keeps a style sheet, and treats you with respect.

great fiction editor does all of the things a good editor does while understanding your vision, loving your characters, and preserving your voice and writing style.

An ideal fiction editor does all of the things a great fiction editor does but also knows when to motivate and guide you and when to keep their mouth shut. They get to know your personality and writing process, and they offer only as much help as you actually need. An ideal fiction editor might suggest that there is a character that will eventually need to die but won’t name names. When all is said and done, the manuscript remains yours.

At a book signing once, the author was asking the people he was signing books for what they did for a living. Based on their reply, he wrote something witty before signing his name. When it was my turn, I told him I was a book editor. He said nothing and signed his name. Just his name. No witty comment. No further eye contact. I think it’s safe to say that he does not have an ideal author–editor relationship.

If you follow Cynthia’s blog, you’ll know that her and I do have the ideal author–editor relationship. It was easy in this case because Cynthia is a talented writer, Mystic Waters is spellbinding, and I am in love with the characters.

However, I do not think that I am everyone’s ideal editor nor is everyone my ideal client. I experience literary heartache over fictional characters, and I do not give my literary heart to just anyone. A novelist should be as careful about giving their manuscript to an editor, but they should certainly get a developmental editor. The sooner you cultivate an author–editor relationship, the better it will be for your writing.

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