Category Archives: editing

The Trials of Editing

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could write something – an article, a story, a book – and publish it without any more work?

I don’t know any writers who can safely do that. I imagine there might be some who have grammar and structure so embedded in their brains that it comes naturally. But I don’t think we see our own mistakes. I catch things in others’ writing that I don’t in my own. I’m not exactly sure why. It may be that we are so involved in our own stories that we can’t see the trees for the forest.

I’m planning to publish another book this summer and I’m on my bazillionth edit. After editing it several times myself, I sent it to an agent and she went through it. I sent it to my sister-in-law who is a good editor, sent it chapter by chapter to my critique group where each person found different things to correct, went through it again and found more edits….

Now it’s with my very good editor, The Grammar Granny, and she is finding so much more. Yesterday, she sent me a note telling me to look for “just” in the manuscript and try to get rid of a few. I found 283 occurrences in the book and whittled it down to 66. A replacement wasn’t required for most of them; removing “just” didn’t change the meaning at all. And I wasn’t aware I was doing it. It’s “just” one of those words that “just” disappears in my mind as I read.

Besides using one word too often, another big problem in my writing is commas. I know all the rules but don’t think about them when I write. Going back and finding all the places I added them but shouldn’t, or should have and didn’t, is tedious and difficult. (Did I get them right in that last sentence?)

My last book, The Janus Code, was self-published. It had been edited several time by myself and others. Yet when the first books were printed there were errors. Typos!

I track all my changes in MS Word as I’m editing. After the last edit, I forgot to accept all changes before sending it to CreateSpace. Even though I wasn’t seeing them on my computer or my printed copy because I had it in the “final” view, all the changes showed up as the old AND new versions. If I replaced a word, you could see both the deleted word and the new word. Luckily, I only had 10 copies printed, but I sold some or gave others to friends before someone noticed. The proof was correct, so I never looked at those first copies until a fiend or two pointed out the problem to me.

My advice to all you authors and would-be authors out there: please have another pair of eyes, or several sets of eyes, look over your work before you publish. Read your proof and read your first copies after the proof. You’ll be happy that you did.

Back to my editing….

Quotation Marks (or lack thereof)

I guess it’s supposed to be fashionable to write without quotation marks. But to me it usually marks an author who is trying to be “literary.” I know that I have read and enjoyed some books in the past sans quotation marks, but they were good stories.

Last night I gave up on a book written by an author who according to his credentials has a degree in English and creative writing. The lack of quotation marks drove me crazy. He added way too many “he said” and “she said” (the quotation marks are mine) to guide the reader. This made the writing choppy. A talented writer can add he said and she said without the reader even noticing. This was not the case with this book. Sometimes each quote was a separate line and sometimes he bunched them together in one long paragraph. So there wasn’t even consistency in his style. I might have continued reading if the story didn’t feel jaded and cynical. I wasn’t in the mood for that type of novel. It was supposed to be humorous, but I guess it wasn’t my kind of humor.

This morning I decided to look up the lack of quotation marks in certain novels and found a lot of people who agree with me. There’s a post in Jenny and Kelly Read Books blog that I liked called, “No More Books Without Quotation Marks…EVER! /mommie dearest.” I found an article by Lionel Shriver in the Wall Street Journal of all places called “Missing the Mark.”

The article I found most interesting goes into the history of quotation marks. A post by Richard Lea is in The Gaurdian’s Book Blog, “Don’t be scared: dialogue without quotation marks.”

In case you’re wondering, the book I didn’t finish was The Bend of the World by Jacob Bacharach. I can’t give you a review because I didn’t finish it. Who knows? It might be a great book.