Friday, March 23, 2012

Goldilocks, Freelance Editor--Part 9

You’ve sent your manuscript off for editing. Congratulations! You’re one step closer to publication. Now, let’s look at what might happen when you get your manuscript back.

This bed is too little: Goldilocks barely made any changes. “Wow, I knew I was a good writer, but I honestly expected more input than this” you say.
This bed is too big: Goldi made so many changes your manuscript is unrecognizable. “She’s stripped my voice out of the story and demolished my theme and motifs.”  
This bed is just right: Goldi corrected your poor punctuation and spelling, made the story flow more smoothly, and retained the integrity of your voice and the story. “Wow! This is amazing. She’s made me sound so much better.”

Did you simply tell Goldi “I need this edited” and leave it at that? If so, Goldi should have been asking lots of questions, one of which should have been “Do you want a full, queen, or king size?” (In editor-ese that’s a light, medium or heavy edit.) Next week, we’ll dive deeper into levels of editing so surprises like “too little” and “too big” don’t happen.  

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Content Editing—Part 8

This is probably the one area of editing you've been chomping at the bit to learn. After all, this is where rewriting occurs. If you decide to send your work to a freelance content editor before submitting it to an agent or editor, here’s what you want to ask yourself: Do I want the editor to do the rewriting or just point out my errors so I can fix them myself? Your answer will guide your communication with the potential editor.

Below is a short list of the items a content editor will look for:
Confusing passages
Smooth flow of the content
POV—does it shift when it shouldn’t?
Consistency of character traits and plot details
Incorrectly used analogies, similes and metaphors
Factual accuracy
Accuracy of tables and graphs with reference material
Correct placement of graphic material (graphs, tables, pictures)

When you edit yourself, complete a content edit with only content in mind. Complete an edit for mechanics examining only the mechanical details. This may help you from missing critical errors.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012 

We have a winner

Congratulations to Sarah for correctly finding my mistake in last week's post. She receives my workshop "Creating Memorable Characters."

Check back this evening for my post on content editing.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Orange County Christian Writers Conference

Dear Writers, 

We are pleased to announce that the 2012 writers conference is now open for registration. Once again, the list of speakers is outstanding, designed to teach, motivate, and help launch writers at every stage in their careers, from beginners to the accomplished. Please take a look at our faculty and schedule of classes. We have so many new features this year, you won't want to miss out. 

John DeSimone 
Conference Director 

Conference Schedule: May 18-20, 2012 Newport Beach, CA 
  • Friday 8:30 to 4:30 Pre-Conference Workshops
  • Writers Conference: Friday 4:30 to Sunday at 11 am

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Know What You Want Part 7

Language Editing

As writers, we all understand the importance of correct grammar. In editing for language, a copyeditor also looks for correct syntax, usage and diction. Is the sentence structure confusing? Does the manuscript use foreign words? Are those foreign words treated consistently throughout? Is the noun you are using plural or single? Do subject and verb agree? Are you using a dialect? Are you being consistent in how you use it?

Language editing is much more subjective than editing the mechanics. So it is vital the manuscript is consistent in how it handles language. A grammar manual is a good investment, especially if you are weak on grammar.

With each of the steps of editing I have already covered, you want to read through your manuscript for only that issue. Read and edit for mechanics. Then on another day, read and edit for language. If you are editing someone else’s work, do not impose your style on his/her writing. Simply ask “Is the sentence acceptable as written?” If not, fix it, otherwise, move on.

When does the word “couple” take a plural verb?

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012 

Monday, March 12, 2012

There’s Still Time

Thank you, Julie Parton and Dot Charest, for your comments last week on Mechanics—The Details. They found mistakes, but not the one I made intentionally. If you tried to leave a comment last week and couldn't, I apologize. The glitch has been worked out (I hope). Because of that glitch, I’m taking today to encourage you to try again! I really do want to give someone my “Creating Memorable Characters.”

Next, we’ll look at grammar. Until then, here is a link to The Writing Center at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that you may find helpful:
demos/citation/editing-and-proofreading#section-1. It's geared toward college papers, but the information on proofreading applies to all writing. They’ve challenged you by inserting seven errors on their page. Gee…I’m only asking you to find one. Happy hunting.

Debra L. Butterfield 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mechanics—The Details Part 6

The mechanics of copyediting go far beyond the obvious items of spelling, capitalization and punctuation. According to Amy Einsohn in The Copyeditor’s Handbook, the mechanics also encompasses the following:

treatment of numbers and numerals
treatment of quotations
use of abbreviations and acronyms
use of italics and bold type
treatment of special elements (headings, lists, tables, charts, and graphs)
format of footnotes or endnotes and other documentation.

An editor must ensure consistency in all these elements. Perhaps now my analogy as to how a good copyeditor is like a good mechanic becomes clearer. Let’s look at a few brief example.

I counted twenty chirping cardinals in my backyard this morning. (per the Chicago Manual)
I counted 20 chirping cardinals in my backyard this morning. (per AP)

Chicago’s general rule is to spell out numbers between zero and one hundred. I say “general” because there are specific rules for specific uses (remember, nothing is ever easy). The AP Stylebook’s general rule is to spell out the numbers between zero and ten, and 10 and above get a number.

The first person who catches my deliberate error in today’s post will receive my article “Crafting Memorable Characters” (pdf format). Post your answer in Comments. Happy editing!

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mechanics—The Standards Part 5

The opening scene of the movie “IQ” with Tim Robbins and Meg Ryan has Robbins and his fellow mechanics tuned to the sounds of an approaching car. Each mechanic is attempting to determine the kind of car it is and what’s wrong with it by what they hear. They know and understand all things car. That’s the kind of mechanic you want fixing your car!

Just as a good mechanic has a great ear, an excellent copyeditor has a finely tuned eye and a solid knowledge of writing standards. The standards to which I am referring are style manuals. Every publishing house establishes a house style. It consists of using one specific style manual and dictionary.

Style manuals are numerous (is anything ever easy?), which is why it is necessary to create a house style. Here are a few of the choices:

The Chicago Manual of Style (often the choice in book publishing)
The Associated Press Stylebook (often the choice in newspapers and magazines)
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
Words into Type
MLA Style Manual

Many businesses also develop an in-house style guide that addresses issues that either aren’t covered in the style manuals or go against convention, e.g. capitalization of pronouns when referring to deities. The Chicago Manual, 16th Edition states “Pronouns referring to God or Jesus are not capitalized” (pg. 427), but many Christian organizations go against this convention and capitalize these pronouns. This becomes a part of the in-house style guide their copyeditors must know as well as they know the standard manual.

When hiring a freelance copyeditor, ask what style manual they use. If you want a specific style, find out whether the editor knows that style and can edit accordingly. If you work in one realm more than any other, it behooves you to learn the style most widely used by those publishers and use it yourself.

Next, we’ll look at Mechanics—The Details. Until then…

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Know What You Want, Part 4

Tasks of Copyediting

My purposes in writing this series are to assist you in editing your own work and to help you understand the tasks of editing. Armed with this knowledge you can invest your hard-earned dollars wisely as you prepare your manuscript for submission to an agent or publisher. So let’s dive in to the realities of copyediting. What does a copyeditor do and not do?

The editor’s tasks include:
--Mechanics—spelling, punctuation and such
--Correlation of parts—verifying accuracy and placement of footnotes, tables, and more
--Content—inconsistencies, discrepancies

The editor’s tasks don’t include:
--Reorganizing your manuscript
--Formatting your manuscript 

In the coming weeks, we’ll unpack all these tasks, exam them, and learn how you can help yourself each item we take out of the suitcase. See you next week!