C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Writers: How I edit

Visualization of the various routes through a ...

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When I get a manuscript, I go through it carefully, of course, but there are many practicalities to keep in mind.

 

 

Most important commandment:

Make the author look good.

You want it to be correct and you want to preserve the writer’s voice and enhance the readability of the text. The author (if self-published) may wish to keep some idiosyncratic format (which is fine as long as it’s easily understood by the reader and consistent.) A publisher may have some requirements peculiar to that house. Some have preferred style guides, like the AP Style Guide or the Chicago Manual of Style or may prefer Canadian spelling to American spelling.

In the manuscript window I use the Track Changes feature in Word so the author sees every change I make, including my comments. The author then accepts or rejects each edit during the revision process.

I have some preferences, too. I avoid passive voice and too many adverbs where it’s reasonable to do so since those often indicate a weak verb choice. I strip out excess use of the comma. Commas used to be used more in text but now it’s generally accepted commas slow the reader. Semi-colons are used too much and are often used incorrectly (and almost always slow the reader.)  Gratuitous exclamation points indicate drama where there is none. Excess dialogue tags (i.e. said, replied, said, replied) can also be stripped out. Run-on sentences must be broken up. Sentence length, paragraph length and order are more evaluations to make and may conflict with formatting considerations.

(There are numerous other considerations: factual issues, narrative arc, missed opportunities, missing scenes, orphaned characters etc.,… which I’m not going to delve into in this post.)

I also have a bunch of other pages ready in the background. They are typically these:

Google, Wikipedia, Canadian and American spelling dictionaries, Chicago Manual of Style (I have the hard copy, too), Ask.com, and my email window so I can quickly jump to query the author or publisher as necessary. I’ve also used a legal dictionary and a Spanish-English dictionary. Looks like I’ve attained my childhood dream of working on the bridge of the Enterprise.

I keep a legal pad beside me to make notes (and track my time so I know I’m staying on schedule for the day.)

Editing has changed a lot. Before the Internet, there was a lot more getting up and down to run to check a reference source. Now it’s all on my pixellated desktop. I take a break every hour to do air squats (it’s a 4 Hour Body exercise I like) and the rest of the exercise comes from running back and forth from the coffee maker to the bathroom. Ah, the glamor of being a book editor.

The take away is:

Your word processing program’s spell check isn’t enough.

 

NEXT POST:

MY REACTIONS TO AND REVIEWS OF THE WRITER’S UNION SYMPOSIUM ON THE STATE OF PUBLISHING.

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Filed under: Books, Editing, Editors, publishing, self-publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , ,

8 Responses

  1. rozmorris says:

    ‘Make the author look good’ – yep, that’s what we do. I’ve worked as a magazine sub-editor for years and what we do is preserve the publication’s professionalism and credibility. Although it’s possible for authors to edit their work like this, it will take them very much longer than it would take an editor – and they might not catch them all. A good editor has the radar to catch all these tiny details in one read.

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