Archive | February, 2012

More on ‘editing’ —

15 Feb

Mercy me!  I really exposed some gaps in my last post! But several of you sent me nice comments from –or questions about– it, however, which prompted me to expand a bit on the topic of ‘editing’.  In addition to the type of editor: line, copy and final, there are types of edits. In general, most editors do not want to intrude into the author’s creation, although it has been known to happen. Rather, they’ll do what’s referred to as a ‘light edit’. This is pretty much just the basics – spelling, punctuation, continuity and readability.

Unless, of course, the  author requests a heavy edit, which may involve re-writing to some extent. This is most common in those cases where the author is either not well-educated, but is a good story-teller, or if the author’s first (native) language is other than English. If I were to write a book to be published in another language (which I truly cannot comprehend doing) I’d certainly need an extremely heavy edit! Actually, translation would be the only hope for me.

I know perhaps twelve to twenty words in German, Spanish, French and Italian.  My car would do well in Germany, and I could eat well (I think) in Italy. I could read and understand the newspaper fairly easily in French, but wouldn’t dare to open my mouth in that language, while Spanish is so-so in reading and or speaking. My ignorance of any other language would be promptly displayed the moment I opened my mouth!

On the other hand, I’ve judged several contest entries through the years, and greatly admired those authors who immediately proved that English was not their first language. But at least they tried! A couple of them were excellent story-tellers, but their overall score was so low, it was an unhappy situation all around. Personally, I felt the contest coordinator should not have accepted the entries in the first place.

But I digress.

As one commenter from the last post mentioned: “I thought this was very interesting. I had no idea about the various editing jobs. I do wonder how an editor refrains from using their words or phrases rather than the authors. I know that whenever I have been asked to read something, I often think that I have a better way of saying whatever it is. I even find proofreading to be an exercise in self- restraint.”

Limiting oneself to only the necessary ‘repairs’ is entirely an exercise in self-restraint. That’s as it’s meant to be. More than that is what is known as ‘editor intrusion’. An author may request whatever type of edit he or she would like to have, but they might not always get it. An editor usually has the very last word on that topic.  It shouldn’t be the editor’s job to ‘think I have a better way of saying whatever it is’.  On the contrary, it IS the editor’s job to assist the author, in order to have the best possible book.

When the book is submitted to the editor for consideration in the first place, the editor must take all these factors into consideration before making an offer on the book. The acquiring editor will usually be the editor on the project. In some cases, the editor may leave the company or be promoted which requires reassignment to another editor. This is usually left to the managing (or higher) editor at the company, who will do the best he or she can to match authors to the proper editor.

Time was, an acquiring editor could afford to take on a less-than-stellar author who showed great promise. These editors would nurture their authors, and eventually work the necessary miracle to produce New York Times best-sellers. But that’s not the norm these rush-rush, hurry up days. Sadly. Even agents used to be known for helping their authors along, but I think this is quite rare these days, as well. It’s either ‘you’re good enough to accept as is’ or – ‘go get more education and/or practice’. And above all, keep on writing.  You really do get better the more you write, so that’s not just a load of hogwash. Honest!

You might benefit from a critique group, as long as you can sort out the helpful from the non-helpful. You’ll have the best help from writers of your own genre and skill level. It might be fun to be the ‘best’ writer in your group, but if there is anyone there who is the least bit jealous of your ability, be very cautious about accepting criticism from that person. They may well have an ulterior motive that won’t be very helpful to you!

You can also get yourself into trouble by always making any suggested changes to whatever you’ve written. Generally, I write for a week before printing, and then sit and read the entire week’s effort all at one time. I make corrections as I go, then enter them into the computer file. I print again, punch holes in the pages and put them in a 3-ring binder. Then I go on to the next segment. I won’t read the entire thing again until it’s all done. Word count has no bearing on this method. I find the more you read, the more you want to fix, and the more you want to fix, the more you need to fix, in order to keep up with all the changes. Consequently, the more you fix, the less NEW you write. If you’re paying attention to what you’re doing, all those fixes shouldn’t be necessary.

Of course, you do want to be sure you have the grammar, spelling and punctuation correct. That is mandatory. If you can’t proof your own material (and I don’t know of anyone who can) then find a literate friend who can/will do it for you, perhaps in exchange for you reading their work. If that’s not a possibility, then pay someone to do it. If you specify that you only want your manuscript to be proof-read, get a quote or two for that service, only. It’s possible.

If, however, someone points out a major flaw, then you might need to pay a bit more attention to that particular problem. After fixing, your manuscript should be ready for prime-time: either you’re going to self-pub, or you’ve found a real, live acquiring editor. Good luck, whichever!

 

Are you a writer nearing the end of the writing portion of a book, and wondering how to find an editor/proof-reader? If so, please send me an e-mail, and I’ll be happy to tell you about my editing services.  Also, I need to remind you that the SPAM filter for WordPress is VERY aggressive, and deletes almost every comment without even giving me a chance to see it first. It’s not adjustable, in any way. If you’ve written a comment that doesn’t appear anywhere, please write directly to my e-mail:  bookmechanic@gmail.com which is also the place for other questions. Thanks!

 

Is there anything worse . . .? Or should that be worst . . .?

1 Feb

Actually, I’ve seen it both ways, but the second version there, has on more than one occasion, prompted me to throw the book across the room.

Why does this happen? (Not throwing the book across the room. We know why that happens!) But how does a mistake of that nature make it into a finished, published book. Even in a self-published book, there’s no excuse for this gross mis-use of the English language. The very best and most elegant writing in the world (or the greatest story-telling) can easily be derailed by sloppy grammar, bad spelling and punctuation that is either missing or over-used.

A traditional, commercial publisher should have editors in-house to make sure this type of mistake doesn’t see print. Notice I said ‘should have’. Some publishers pay more attention to editing than others do. The best ones will submit every manuscript to at least three editors: line, copy and final.

Line editors look for continuity throughout the book. In case you suddenly develop temporary amnesia, a line editor will remember that at the beginning of the book, the hero had blue eyes. Therefore, near the end of the book, his eyes will still be blue, and not brown. The heroines long curly locks will not have changed to a short brunet bob, unless there’s a darned good reason for that change. Maybe she’s gone undercover in her job as a policewoman. In that case, the line editor will merely be sure of the facts before singling it out for the author’s attention. The best line editors make a chart of such pertinent details for each character, etc. They don’t exactly trust their memories, let alone yours!

When did the War of 1812 come to a conclusion?  (Hint: it wasn’t 1812! It wasn’t even 1814, but closer to 1816 when the last battle occured.  Or is that occurred?)  Indeed it should be. However, this is by way of a trick question. First you have to know the battle was fought both in Europe and in the US. (England being the common denominator in both instances. Napoleon was defeated in 1815, but in the US and Canada, battles continued until closer to 1818. Communication wasn’t nearly as good (or as quick) as it is these days. (P. S. You get bonus points if you detected my errors in this paragraph. I need an editor!) Just joking.

Copy editors are geared more toward the flow of the story (even in a non-fiction book). They somehow intuit what you really meant to write, rather than what you did actually write. They check everything to be sure you’re not liable to put anyone in line for a libel lawsuit, for instance, or any kind of copyright infringement. They also check facts, always keeping an eye on spelling, grammar and punctuation.

At this point, the author will usually get back the edited copy of his or her manuscript, with possibly hundreds of little yellow tags hanging out the right edge of the pages, from top to bottom. If the author seriously disagrees with any of these tags, a mildly worded letter of protest might be sent back to the editor. The tone should always (ALWAYS) remain civil, however.

Once the manuscript is back at the publisher’s domain, it goes off to be typeset. (Note: with the preponderance of computers, etc., some of this is done on-line.) Personally, I prefer to do a paper version, but I cheerfully admit to being a Luddite. (Look it up.)

After being put into type, looking just as it should appear in the finished book, a proof-reader will be the next one to read it, along with the author, and the Final Editor. It is greatly to be hoped that errors are at a real minimum, as changes can prove to be expensive, even in these days of computers, when most changes are easier to make than in the old lead type tradition.

But what if you’re going to self-publish? Then what? It’s really rather simple. You look for an editor, and you will pay that person to do this job for you. Sad truth here – the days of traditional, commercial publishing with advances paid against royalties and large staffs of wordsmiths in-house, just waiting to burnish your book into gold, are winding down. There are still some of these publishers in existence, but not so many, and sadly, e-books don’t seem to get the attention that the print one does, or did.

Of course, you, as author, do know what you mean to write, but all too frequently, we’re distracted by outside influences: radio, TV, the computer, movies, games, whatnots. It’s all too easy to let your fingers type what they want rather than what your brain tells them to type. Spellcheck will help, to be sure, but it is NOT reliable. Trust me.

A good editor is worth his or her weight in gold. Truly. Of course, they don’t get paid on that same scale, but without an editor, most books are not worth reading. Anyone who says differently really needs to get a grip. On a good editor!

If you have questions or comments, please write to me: bookmechanic@gmail.com  If you’d like to know more about my editing services, same thing. Please write, and I’ll respond.  Thanks!