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Category Archives: Editing and Proofreading

Performance Pressure and the Diamond in the Manuscript

20130125-172029.jpgHave you ever finished writing a manuscript, and after months of blood, sweat, and tears, you realize that even after all that work, your story doesn’t look at all like you imagined it in your head? In fact, after a second glance, you’re sure a toddler temporarily overtook your brain and scribbled 400 pages of crayon doodles? Of course you have…you’re a writer. You’ve probably felt that way about everything you’ve ever written…like I have.

Up until this point in my writing “career,” that hasn’t mattered much. Mostly my readers have been friends and writing groups. I post fiction online too but even in that venue, readers are generally pretty forgiving. Not so with publishing industry professionals. There is very little room for mistakes and if you make them, they better be small. Tiny. Miniscule. Talk about pressure.

Getting in the (Publishing) Game

Over the next couple of weeks I’m preparing for my first writing contest ever. I’m talking the big deal with two rounds, multiple judges, announcement of the finalists at the next conference, and the final round judged by editors of major publishing houses. Yeah…that kind of scary.

It’s an exciting adventure to be sure, a thrill to imagine where it could lead. The final judge for my category is an editor at Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Never before has every word, every period, and every character of my manuscript been under such scrutiny. Sometimes the anxiety to get it all right leaves me panic stricken. I only get one chance to put my best work in front of this woman who could potentially be my gateway into the holy land.

Previously, I’ve never had a reason to get this far into the process of editing. I guess I always imagined entering the chaos of the publishing world as something that would happen way down the road. Like, way down. I’ve taken my time, learning more about this, fiddling with that, but after five years of writing, getting critiqued, editing, and dreaming, it’s time to dive in, sink or swim. So despite my fear, I’m going through the first 20 pages of my manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. I’ve re-understood my characters, re-worked motivations, re-invented the details, and rewritten this novel so many times that I have more loose ends than the hem of grandma’s skirt.

Upping the Ante

Before I started this final-for-now edit, I had a long brainstorming session with my writing partners and nailed down what was working and what wasn’t, for better or worse. The time for flip-flopping has come and gone. And now, with that focus in mind, I’m sifting out the dirt and looking for the gems. And you know what? They are there. Actually, never before have they shined brighter. And I don’t think anything less than the pressure to perform at my best would have gotten me here.

I’m the ultimate perfectionist at heart, especially when it comes to my writing. I think every artist is that way. But putting myself in this position has taught me that I know more than I ever realized about who I am as a writer, what I want to bring to this ever expanding sea of literature, what my writing voice sounds like, what I can accomplish when I put my mind to it, and what process works best for me. The deadline and the stakes have forced me to stopped questioning myself and realize the truths that were already there, clouded by the uncertainty an unlimited time frame allows.

Get Out There

Do it. I know you’re scared. I know you don’t think you’re ready. Guess what–just like getting married and having kids–you’re never going to be ready. You learn as you go. Underneath all those scribbles is your story, and as soon as you trust yourself enough to find it, you will. Make the decision. Raise the stakes. And watch yourself rise to the occasion.

What’s holding you back from taking the next step? Or, what deadlines are you working toward? What steps have you taken that have forced you to grow as a writer?

Photo by Steve Jurvetson

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My Favorite Hugs and Chocolate Posts

Sometimes, a hug is all what we need – Jesslee Cuizon

What a good year it’s been over here! I though that the best way for me to end off things would be to share a few of the post by the wonderful ladies I share this blog with. If any of the links go to places they shouldn’t, please let me know.

It’s been such a pleasure getting to know all of you this year. I’m giving all of you big virtual bear hugs. I can’t wait to see what next year will bring us.

It’s been an honor, ladies and gentlemen.

Jamie Raintree

My Romance With Writing

Who Cares About Writers?

Instruction Manual for a Full-Time Writer

Why Character Archetypes Aren’t Just About Commercialism

Why I Heart Scrivener for Outlining

How to NaNoWriMo During Thanksgiving

Tonia Marie Houston

Bring Your Shovel

St. Patrick and the Writer’s Trinity

Gift Ideas for the Writer in Your Life

33 And It Feels Divine

Give Your Characters Quirk

Synopsis Fundamentals

Heather L Reid

Learn to Love Writing Queries

Dream Big and Never Give Up: How I Landed a 2 Book Publishing Deal

The Third Perspective: Why I Love Third Person Narrative

The First Editorial Letter: Let the Revisions Begin… Again

Riding the Revision Coaster: Completing My 30 Day Deadline

Rebecca Fields

What If…

Luck of the Irish?

The Magic of Fairy Tales

A World of Ideas

Pardon Me, Social Media

Read A (Banned) Book

Courtney Koschel

Filtering Filter Words in Your Writing

Questions to ask When Hiring an Editor

I Suck Syndrome: Recognize it and Beat it

Giving and Getting the Most Out of Critiques

Common Comma Issues

Manuscript Formatting

Jani Grey

Support from the obvious places

Need a little motivation or inspiration? I have some of that for you

Personal Perspective: Why I write 1st person POV

Let me tell you why you’re a winner

The Small Things

Why the subject of your blog post is so very important

Guest Posts

Visualize Your Way to Success: Guest Post by Vaughn Roycroft

DIY Editing and Proofreading Part 1 with Karen S. Elliot

Editing, Proofreading, and a Contest with Karen S. Elliot

Pants on Fire: Guest Post by Laura Long

Guest Post by Brian Taylor: Take a Walk… On a Tightrope: One Writer’s Journey

I’ll see you next year. Have a happy and safe new year!

 

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Common Comma Issues

A lot of people seemed to like my post on how to use past perfect tense, so I wanted to continue today with another grammar rundown. I’m going to go through some common comma issues I see in manuscripts. I know we are getting into the weeds a little with grammar, but it’s amazing how some small tweaks to your manuscript will help sentence structure, story understanding, and an overall better reading experience for your reader. Misplacing or misusing a comma can alter the meaning of a sentence, so yeah, they’re pretty important.

Comma Splice: Use commas to separate independent clauses when they are joined by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet). A comma splice is when a comma without a conjunction joins two separate sentences. A comma splice is incorrect. There are a few ways to correct a comma splice. One way is to use a semicolon to connect the two clauses without using a conjunction. You can also break the sentence into two separate sentences.

Examples that are all correct:

  • My favorite book releases soon, and I am so excited.
  • My favorite book releases soon; I am so excited.
  • My favorite book releases soon. I am so excited.

Serial Comma: Use commas to separate words and groups of words with a series of three or more.

Examples:

  • This book has awesome dialogue, plot, and characterization.
  • Sebastian, Biggie, and Loki are my four legged babies.

Using commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun: This is a big one all writers should pay attention to. Use a comma to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun. Be careful not to add a comma before the final adjective and the noun or between non-coordinate adjectives. Here’s a helpful hint: if the word and can be inserted between the two adjectives, use a comma. If you can swap the adjectives around and they still make sense, use a comma. A coordinate adjective separately modifies the noun that follows it. Cumulative adjectives do not modify the noun that directly follows it.

Examples:

  • This is a strong, funny manuscript.
  • He wrapped me in an amazing power hug.  *You do not use a comma here because they are non-coordinate, and you can’t say, “He wrapped me in an amazing and power hug.

Comma to separate essential phrases and clauses: An essential phrase or clause is used to modify the noun. It also adds critical information to the sentence. You do not set essential phrases or clauses off with commas.

Example:

  • The people who work in publishing are awesome.

A nonessential phrase or clause adds extra information to the sentence. The phrase or clause can be eliminated without changing the meaning of the sentence. You should always set nonessential phrases or clauses off with commas.

Example:

  • Hugs and Chocolate, an awesome blog, is a great community. *Hugs and Chocolate is named, so the description is nonessential.

I could go on and on. There is so much information out there, but this is a good start. Let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll answer them in the comments.

 

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Writing in Past Perfect Tense

Naturally occurring iron springs in Telluride, Colorado.

First off, look at the gorgeous picture. I took that a few weeks ago in Telluride, Colorado. It’s naturally occurring iron springs. Stunning.

Okay, now we get into the fun stuff.

Regardless if your book is written in present tense or past tense (also referred to as simple past), there are times in your story when you’ll probably refer to something that has already happened. Sometimes a flashback is necessary to the story. When going into a flashback, or describing something that has already happened in the past, you’ll want to use the past perfect tense.

Well, when/how do you use past perfect?

Believe it or not, there’s a formula for past perfect: (had + past participle = past perfect). I’m not sure about you, but I learn better when I have an example in front of me, so here we go. I’m going to start off in past tense, go into a past perfect to describe something that has already happened, and then transition back to simple past.

Sebastian meowed over and over, trying to get my attention. He either wanted food or love. (Notice this first sentence is in simple past. The reader knows it’s in past tense, all the events that are happening in the story are told in the past.) I’d just graduated from college when I’d made the decision to get my very own cat. I’d always wanted a pound kitty. (Going into a flashback, switch to past perfect. Make sure your reader knows you’re talking about something that has already happened.)

Sebastian picked me as much as I picked him. (Here’s where it gets fun. When you go into past perfect, once you establish that it’s in the past, you switch from past perfect to simple past tense, because the word “had” becomes quite cumbersome, even when used in a contraction. The thing to remember is, when we come out of the flashback, make sure the reader is aware by, and the transition to “now” is clear.) He was such an energetic kitten. He played with my roommate’s cat and loved sitting in my window seat. Now (I’m establishing that the flashback is over, making the transition from past perfect to simple past tense), he’s (notice this is in present tense. That’s because it’s an absolute. Sebastian is still alive and kicking, therefore we use the present tense. I’ll have to do another blog post on absolutes, if you’re interested) fat and lazy, but full of personality. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hopefully that wasn’t too painful, and yes, I do love my animals an absurd amount.

The key to using past perfect is transition. You have to clue your reader in on the timeline. Make sure it’s smooth. This will eliminate confusion, and it allows you to tell more aspects of your story by using things from a character’s past.

If you have any questions, ask away, and I’ll answer in the comments.

Useful links:

This is a great article about writing effective flashbacks.

Visit this page for more past perfect examples.

 

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DIY Editing and Proofreading Part I with Karen S. Elliott

The indomitable Karen S. Elliott, known to many as the Word Shark, offers some tips and tricks to H&C readers. We know many of you story-tellers and alchemists of words and worlds need a little expert advice as you revise, edit, and drink too much caffeine. We will feature Part II October 3rd. For further information regarding Karen’s professional editing service, follow the links at the end of the post. Thank you, Karen, for throwing us a life line.  ~Tonia

DIY Editing and Proofreading Part I

With self-publishing comes great responsibility. Whether you self-publish or go the way of an agent/publisher, you want to be sure your manuscript makes it to readers as cleanly as possible and makes sense from Chapter One through to The End. This is the challenge of editing and proofreading.

Editing – getting the bugs out  

Editing- Getting the Bugs Out

Editing can cover everything from consistency, subject-verb agreement, verb tenses, to word choice or denotation; more in-depth editing might include substantive paragraph and chapter re-writes through developmental rewriting (overhaul).

Consistency – One of the biggest problems I see is lack of consistency. It’s not the story’s structure – it’s keeping that structure cohesive with consistent language, proper names, and characters’ personalities.

Character – Check for inconsistencies – where your characters live, where they work, their likes and dislikes, their phobias (don’t say your character is afraid of snakes and then have her holding a python in Chapter Ten), favorite foods/allergies (someone is allergic to shellfish and later eats a lobster), and so on.

Names, Proper Nouns – Did you call your main character’s boyfriend Allan in the first chapter and Alan in all the other chapters?

Electronic Age – The jury seems to be in a dead-lock over new language and emerging language terms that describe the electronic age and new gadgets. Whether you agree with the AP Stylebook or not, if you are going to use words like e-mail or email, web-site or website, on-line or online – each of these words needs to be consistent throughout your manuscript.

Who’s talking? – If your English-teacher character is talking prim and proper English in Chapter Three, make sure she doesn’t go all street in Chapter Twenty.

Know your props – If you have your police officer with a Glock in Chapter Four, he should still have a Glock in the final chapter.

Where are you? – I have often drawn my own maps on a large sheet of paper to maintain perspective. Or use Google maps. If you write Route 83 and Burdick Expressway intersect in Minot, ND, they’d better intersect. If the Sandia Mountains are east of downtown Albuquerque in one chapter, don’t put them west in a subsequent chapter.

Proofreading,an inch at a time

Proofreading, an inch at a time

I cannot define proofreading in finite terms – neither, it seems, can anyone else. I’ll stick my neck out and say “proofreading” is your garden variety punctuation, typos, and spelling. But it’s more than just having a dictionary handy. It’s more than what you think you know.

Adjust your mind set from “writer” to “proofreader.” Forget that you are looking at your baby, your pet, your sweat-stained manuscript. Once you are ready to proofread, it’s a whole ‘nother animal. It’s a project. You are looking for things that are wrong.

Spell check – Do not – DO NOT – depend on your computer’s spell checker.

Read out loud – Read the piece out loud. This will help you hear where there are stops and starts, what’s awkward. Take it a step further – read your MS or short story into a tape recorder, and then listen to it while looking at a printed copy.

Change the font – Seriously. If you have been looking at your MS in Times New Roman for a long time, change it to Palatino Linotype. It will look completely different.

Print it – Sounds silly, but it works. You’ve been looking at your project on the screen for a year or two – you need a new perspective – you need to see it on paper. Red pen at the ready!

Dictionary and Style Guides – Use the dictionary and style guides like The Associated Press Stylebook or The Chicago Manual of Style, and desk references for grammar and punctuation –
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus, Diane Hacker’s Rules for Writers, or the Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.

First Reader – Do ask someone to look at your MS with a critical eye. If they come back to you and say they loved it, they are not critical enough.

Mom or BFF – Don’t ask mom or the BFF to proofread – unless mom was a proofreader for Merriam-Webster (my mom was!). Your peeps will probably tell you, “It’s wonderful!” or “Fabulous!” Not that you shouldn’t trust them, but you shouldn’t trust them with proofreading your manuscript.

Sounds like – Look at words like there and their, you’re and your, and its and it’s. If you know you have trouble with a certain word(s), search for that word throughout your manuscript. Labor-intensive – yes. But it works. Also check for words like wet and whet, rain, reign, and rein.

Take a break – Put the manuscript aside for a few weeks or a month or two. Then go back to it with fresh eyes.

Bio
Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com. Connect with Karen on her website, blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

*Photos from this Proofreading Two-Pack are courtesy of Gwen Dubeau. Please stop by and see some of her fabulous work at Gwen Dubeau.

 
 

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