Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Editing – The Devil’s Bane Continued

Above is the current version of the cover for the new Sharon O’Mara Chronicle. Please post a comment below; would be great to hear what you think!

Blatant Plug: Our Windsor Hill Publishing books (four of them) will be at the September book shows for the IBPA, (the Independent Book Publishers Association), a great help to small publishers and people in the book industry in general – go to their site HERE  Five shows this fall for book buyers, wish us luck. For the shows and the locations CLICK HERE.

Editing – The Devil’s Bane Continued
Early this month I discussed editing my novel Elk River, now I’m faced with the pleasurable yet daunting edit of Toulouse 4 Death, the initial raisone d’être for this blog (don’t you just love italics!). Speaking of italics it’s one of the more important points of the editing as well.

For me I approach the task in a multi-level, systematic manner. A check list, if you will, serves me quite well. In general there are three parts to the editing: 1) technical mechanics, 2) content and story, 3) and professional editing of the manuscript. For my part in this I look at the first two as my responsibility, the third is accomplished by my hired gun. As noted in the 8-8-11 blog, the final version, the proverbial buck, stops at my desk. As the writer and publisher of these books, my hands (or finger tips) will be all over them, the pride and shame are mine.

Technical Edit:
I try to complete the mechanical aspects of the editing first. (Never, ever, ever believe that Microsoft Word is correct – Check and Verify!) This helps me to remember and review the story (good for the next stage of content editing), as well as remove distractions when I edit the content. Here is how I attack the technical aspects of the manuscript:
1.      Make sure you have placed back-up copies of the draft in as many places as possible (hard disk, memory stick, hard copy), date them. These will be there when your computer crashes or a hurricane blows through. I even email a version to myself so a copy sits in the cloud (Ah, let me think of that image for a moment, my words in the cloud!).
2.      I look for misspellings or actually correctly spelled but wrongly used words. There, their, they’re come to mind. In my edit log, (yes, keep one so you know what you have or have not done), I list words that should be checked. You can make an easy list; add more as you find them. There is no easy way to do these. In Word use the find/search function. NEVER do a find all and replace. Here is a start: to, too, two; knew, new; know, no; won, one; your, you’re; etc.
3.      I look at contractions next. Is not, and that is come to mind. Search and decide when they are appropriate. In most dialog we tend to contract the is not’s to isn’t, but there are times for emphasis or clarity we leave them as is. It’s your decision. By the way please, look at your its and it’s, we all know how to use them, unfortunately the computer may miss them. Do each, one at a time. You will be happy you did (no contraction for emphasis). Again, NEVER do a replace all.
4.      Punctuation next. The usual commas before end quotes with an attribution such as: “I will never do that,” she said. Sometimes a period sneaks in at the end of the quote, they are hard to dig out, but you must try. Don’t leave it to the hired editor; make his job a little easier – especially if you are paying him.
5.      Then there are: italics, quotes, jargon, compounding and hyphenation, semi-colons, colons, semi-demi semiquaivers, and other stuff. Get a good punctuation book, make your list, check them off.
6.      Save copies with appropriate titles and dates – again place in an editing folder.

Content and Story
My shelves are full of books dealing with content editing. So many it would be foolish to try and list them, each of us has our favorites, others are just plain simplistic, and others so complicated that trying to explain James Joyce through editing is just, well, just silly. Writers do what they do, like it or not, it’s up to the reader to decide.

But a story is a story: it has a beginning, middle, and end. Satisfaction or confusion is the result. I try to read the first content edit with an ear to the continuity of the story, I make notes in the edit log (make up your own system to find these locations for editing – I use page number and key words, post in the log). Does A lead to B, then C? Do you get through the story in a cohesive and understandable process? Did A lead to G then back to B?

As you edit ideas will pop into your head, make a note – use or discard later. But don’t lose the thought. In my Sharon O’Mara Chronicles, I have written about her clothing more that Ian Fleming would have noted James Bond’s tailor. For my stories it’s important. But I have been taken to task for some of my combinations (by a fashion expert no less, Men! was all she would say.), never mix green silk blouse with red shoes unless it’s Christmas. One of the things I’ll be looking at and adding is a bit more on her clothing, I was criticized for a lack of information in the last book, seems my readers want to know what to wear to a gun fight. What accessories to wear while packing a Beretta 94F? Shoes, don’t get me started!

I realize that there is a lot more about editing, but I think you get the drift. Set a plan, be logical, take notes, make copies, keep a log and checklist, and try and be dispassionate. Hopefully you won’t get halfway through and want to chuck the thing as a load of tripe. Push through, try and enjoy the ride, then get it to you editor.

More on the role of the paid editor and hired gun later.

More later . . . . .

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