14 September 2011

Letter from the Editor

1. I'm coming off a marathon editing binge; fourteen hours straight that lasted until the wee hours of the morning and began well before noon. Two vastly different writers, writing in vastly different completely distinct styles and genres. The words and ideas behind both are brilliant, informative and well thought out. Both are excellent writers. Both needed editing. Although, in this case, I am using a simplified version, writers tend to get a word or phrase stuck in their brain, usually something a bit out of the ordinary and then use it over and over and over again. It is a subconscious thing, and it is not intentionally done, but to fresh eyes reading a manuscript; it sticks out like the proverbially sore thumb. One had a character 'clearing his throat' before almost every comment. It was catching; soon most of the characters seemed unable to utter a word without 'clearing their throat.' There were no surrounding circumstances to necessitate said action, indeed, I think it was an effort to avoid saying 'said' or 'interrupted' yet again. It is one of those things where the author is simply too close to see the repetition. Even if writing a full blown novel, reading it aloud will help the writer to find these insidious little buggers and replace them.

2. Spell-check. I am not sure why this is even an issue. It would seem to me that a writer would run this as a matter of course, not unlike putting a period at the end of a sentence. It finds incomplete sentences --which the author may or may not choose to keep. But it also helps the writer see the mistakes where the brain moved faster than the fingers could keep up. After an edit is completed, an editor will run one to be sure that in the course of editing, words are notinadvertentlycombined, and as a last defense against those squiggly lines underneath words. It helps make sure punctuation (at least commas and the like) are used correctly.

3. Proofread. Spell-checkers are a computer program that runs on a computer. Proofing is done by a human, with a brain that (still) in many ways surpasses a computer. Its the proof reeder that will find the words that may be spelled correctly, but are knot the correct word in the situation. Their the won thing that is guaranteed to make an editor tare their hare write out of they're heads! Imagine reading 350 pages of the previous few sentences. Why won't editors say these things? It really is neither politic nor anything thing other than self-serving and tension relieving to do so and can get you fired.

4. . . .um... Ellipses. Those 'dot dot dot' pauses or periods of indecision. Here is a good time to remember the age old maxim: all things in moderation. The Chicago Manual of Style states, "Ellipsis points suggest faltering or fragmented speech accompanied by confusion, insecurity, distress, or uncertainty." The Manual contrasts ellipses with dashes, which it states should be reserved for more confident and decisive pauses. Ellipses are not. . . an excuse to write (or get away with) an incomplete . . . sentence; a thought, perhaps, but never . . . a sentence. To quote the book Grammar for Dummies, "Using ellipses in this way can get annoying really fast." Oh, and in a written one-sided phone conversation, it is actually four dots . . .three followed by a period.

5. With that then, they went and jumped off a cliff. Unless you are writing a 5000 word paper with a word count and you ran out of inspiration/time/or ideas, word combinations like the one starting this section, or 'to that then' are just empty words.

6. Editors won't tell you that you really are not as good a writer as you think you are because they know that encouraging you is the best way to get a writer to realize that, indeed, they do need to revise, rewrite, edit and revise again.

7. Editors also will not tell you that you are stupendous, phenomenal or excellent, because then you won't want to revise, rewrite, edit and revise again.

8. We won't tell you about the really funny mistakes that got by you because while we think they are hysterical, chances are, you won't and will feel insulted. Seems often times writers have a low threshold for being able to have a sense of humor about their mistakes.

9. We aren't trying to change your 'vision' when we suggest changes. You may have 'plotholes' littering your wordscape. You might have written a novel and then condensed a final fight scene into two paragraphs. You might have run on sentences that spiral around, going nowhere and be saying something in two hundred words that really can be said in fifteen and yet you are too close to see that and simply don't get that reading sentences that go on and on and on can lose a reader and totally turn them off to your book and besides reviewers will completely bash your book if you do it; so don't!

10. Chances are, they will not tell you when you are totally wrong about something, because most writers never think they are. Their mother, who is an English teacher, or their sister's brother-in-law's uncle's ex-wife's best friend said it was the best book in the world and they of course may be right, but they don't know what will sell, how to market it or have their reputation on the line. It doesn't matter to them.

Short, sweet and simple: if you are lucky enough to be in the position to be able to avail yourself of an editor's advice, give it a good hard consideration, think about it with an open mind and you just may find that they really do, in the long run, have your best interests in mind.

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