Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

While different editors might wince over certain areas of editing, I believe I can come up with a few items that make a less than favorable impression upon the majority:

Targeting the wrong publisher: Yes, we can tell when an author hasn’t done his marketing research before submitting a manuscript. How? Manuscripts are over the word count. An imprint who publishes solely romance receives an action/thriller. Better yet, the editor of a fiction publisher begins his review and discovers the manuscript presented is a non-fiction book on why readers should never read fiction.

Ungodly subject matter: We’re specifically talking editors who edit for Christian houses. It’s safe to assume that most editors in Christian houses are Christian. I shudder to think they are not, but with some of the subjects published recently, one may never know. However, as a Christian who happens to be an editor, I don’t want certain words or situations to come before my eye to enter into my mind, and protecting the reader is of utmost importance to me. Curse words and taking readers into the bedroom for explicit scenes is something that the majority of Christian publishers do not allow. Even Christian imprints held by secular houses sometimes hold to a very strict code of conduct. When an author presents such scenes and language, they often cite “reality.” The first question to ask in that regard is whose reality. Yes, Christians face everyday situations, and they don’t live in a bubble away from the world, but Christian authors ought not bring the world to Christians or to non-Christians they are trying to reach.

Racial slurs and prejudicial references: An author might feel that authenticity is raised when a derogatory term is used to denote a race or nationality within a novel. Yes, a story can be layered in such a way that when one character uses a derogatory term, the reader understands the ugly nature of that character. However, that sort of use should always be kept to a minimum and should be very necessary to the story—with a lesson to be learned from it. A lack of regard for the feelings of others (no matter the race or ethnicity) is a sure way to garner the ire of an editor. As a funny example, I once used the term “Florida cracker” is a novel to describe a much beloved character. The use highly offended a critique partner who was not familiar with the term. Floridians and Georgians are proud to be called “Crackers” as it simply states that we are natives of our state. However, the term has been hijacked, and I was thankful for the heart of the woman who took offense. If the term upset her, how many others might it have upset in print? The moral of the story: always be careful and sensitive in this regard.

Lack of Research: The best example I have of this one is a review I did (not as an editor) of a pre-Civil War historical in which the KKK was said to be causing trouble in the area (the key here is pre-Civil War). Another story was written about the history of a specific locale. The author misspelled the locale throughout the entry. That’s basic research, but when submitting a manuscript for review, especially a historical novel, it is best to have your research well documented. You may not have to present it to an editor, but there are instances when I have researched an event or timeline in the story, and I’ve come up with different information. How refreshing it is when the author writes back and cites the information for this non-expert on the subject, and I learn something new, but how disappointing it is when I learn the author did no research at all.

I'm sure my editor pals could add some more pet peeves to the list, but I'll leave it at this.

Happy editing.

Word Crimes...

I saw this on YouTube and I literally felt compelled to share it. Enjoy!

Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

Last week, I mentioned style sheets for authors and editors. This week, I thought it would be fun to give you an exercise to determine some of the smaller details that can be included in your style sheet by offering a grammar pop quiz:

In the following paragraph, I’m going to provide options for often misspelled or misused words, capitalization, and other fun things writers and authors need to remember or to write down. See how many you can get correct:

The morning sun rose over the dome of the Capital/Capitol where the doctor came to seek counsel/council with the senator/Senator from his state. The medical fraud in his hometown was a byproduct/by-product of greed. Sonograms, x-rays/X-rays/xrays, and other tests were too/to/two expensive for most patients. People lay/lied/laid there now dying because of improper treatment. How could this not affect/effect even the least caring of people? After spending awhile/a while in his own nightmarish visit in the hospital’s ER, the doctor sought out an investigative reporter at The Orlando Sentinel/the Orlando Sentinel/the Orlando Sentinel newspaper to expose the fraud. The doctor took a backseat/back seat in the investigation until the evidence indicated a hoard/horde of people was/were forced to seek treatment elsewhere. The doctor couldn’t care less/could care less if he lost his right to practice in that hospital—or any hospital in his state. He couldn’t allow this to go on any more/anymore.

The correct answers and rules are given below, but don’t cheat. Use this as a measure of which items belong on your personal style sheet/checklist. Finish the quiz and check your answers. If you missed any, those belong on your style sheet.

Capital/Capitol: Remember that a capitol is where a legislative assembly meets. A clue to this is that most capitols have a dome, which is spelled with an “o.” As a reminder: capital is the correct usage for a city that is the capital of the state.

Counsel/council: The correct form here is “counsel.” “Council” refers to a group brought together to deliberate or to rule, as in “town council.”

Senator/senator: Here, the correct form is lower case. Why? The word “the” gives us that clue. If our doctor had a specific senator to see, such as Senator Weldon or if he were calling out to the senator, “Do you have a moment, Senator?” the word would be capitalized.

Byproduct/by-product: Just like the words “old-fashion” and “good-bye,” this word is always hyphenated.

x-rays/X-rays/xrays: This is one I see noted incorrectly very often. The correct for is X-ray.

To/too/two: As the intent here is that the amount is excessive, our proper form is “too.”

Lay/lied/laid: I gave a hint for you in this one. Did you catch it? The word now indicates it is in the present. Our correct form is “lay.”

Affect/effect: This one gives me so much trouble. “Affect” is correct here, as it is a verb. While there is an exception to the rule, “effect” is usually a noun. Affect” is usually a verb.

Awhile/A while: Here, the proper use is the noun form “a while” because I’m actually saying that the doctor spent a period of time at the ER. “Awhile” is a verb meaning “for a period of time.”

The Orlando Sentinel/the Orlando Sentinel/the Orlando Sentinel: The proper form here is the last one. Note that “the” is not included in the italics.

backseat/back seat: “Backseat” is always one word.

hoard/horde: The correct term here is “horde,” which means a crowd of people. “Hoard” means to stash or to hide.

Was/were: Because a “horde” is a collective noun, indicating one horde, the proper use here is “was.”

couldn’t care less/could care less: If you could care less, you really aren’t making a point, are you? To say you couldn’t care less means there isn’t another ounce of caring in you regarding whatever it is you’re discussing.

any more/anymore: The correct term here is “anymore” which means “any longer.” “Any more” actually refers to “any additional.”

How did you do? If you missed a couple, don’t worry. Writers all have certain words, phrases, rules, etc., that stop us. That’s the beauty of the style sheet. Even when we can’t remember, we have the rule written down somewhere for quick and easy access.

Happy editing.

Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

Editing checklists a/k/a style sheets aren’t just for editors, you know.

Writers can benefit from them as well.

I keep an ever—growing style sheet for general information and another for a specific work I’m either editing or writing. I add to or refer to each often during my edits or crafting.

Style sheets are a time saver. How? All the information you need is gathered in one (or two spots). For instance, a style sheet for a book I’m editing or writing might list characters full names, their descriptions (who doesn’t have trouble remembering the color of a character’s eyes), town names, specific description details, and any research I might need for the story. With my style sheet, I’m not forced to go back and review an entire manuscript to determine if Rocco’s eyes are brown or blue.

If I can’t remember Rocco’s relationship to another character, I don’t have to remember in which chapter the character first appeared. I just look up the information under that character’s name, where I have cross-referenced him or her with Rocco, and I’m writing or editing again in a matter of seconds.

Information for general style sheets might include my publisher’s style preferences such as “OK” versus “okay,” formatting guides, and punctuation preferences. I also use my general style sheet to list out troublesome rules for grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Other data included might be title information such as whether movie titles, newspaper articles, song titles, etc., are italicized or placed in quotation marks. I collect commonly misspelled and misused words and words that require hyphenation or capitalization. For example, did you know that “good-bye” and “old-fashion” are always hyphenated? How about good night? The only exception to its being written as two words, is for hyphenation if it is being used an an adjective, such as a “good-night kiss.”

Sometimes, there is a phrase or a word that will hang me up in each edit. Instead of  looking up the information each time I run across it, I note the correct form in my general style sheet. For example, is it hare-brained or hair-brained? Tell-tale or tale-tell, tell-tell, or tale-tale? Y’all or ya’ll?

I also add research to my style sheet. Historical information or misinformation, fun facts about people, places, jobs, etc., for different eras are kept together, and when I have trouble remembering the facts, having the information in my style sheet for the next story in a series or even another book altogether saves me the hassle of researching the material again.

Happy editing.

Make-A-Story™ Monday - This Week's Writing Prompt

Writing to spec – you’ve heard the term. It means writing what the
publisher wants. Can you do it? In our new feature - Make-A-Story™, we ask you
to create a story with these elements. The story can be set in any time frame,
any length, must adhere to our guidelines and have our standard Christian world

A doe and fawn in the backyard

A tricycle

A hot air balloon