Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Work Around Yourself

Nothing new here, just another positive affirmation from author Stefan Vucak over at Authors Helping Authors today in a post titled "You Always Need an Editor." He's reminding writers that "your mind is automatically correcting things you read" and "[t]hese days, submissions must be perfect," so "have that manuscript edited before publishing it!"

He's right, of course, when he explains that the more time one spends with a piece of writing, the more the brain recognizes the subtext and does its own work reading between the lines, like the way you can wake up in the middle of the night and walk to the kitchen for a glass of water in the complete darkness—your brain is so familiar with its surroundings that it recognizes where the door, its handle, the stairs, the cabinet, the kitchen table all are, without any input form the eyes.

Like Vucak, the first time you re-read your manuscript, you'll catch lots of mistakes—typos, missing words, etc.—but every time you read it you'll not only find more, you'll also be training your brain to ignore the mistakes you're not fixing. Before you publish your book, you'll have to get it edited by someone unfamiliar with it if you want to get those mistakes out of the way. Save yourself the time and get it edited early on instead of wasting all your effort getting frustrated.

Remember, editing is a profession, and editors are professionals. Yes, there are plenty of people out there who are ready and willing to take your money to return an inferior product anticipating that you won't catch them before they get your money. But for every scammer out there are ten editors who want you to be a successful author. Use a surefire vetting method: talk to authors. Ask them who's edited their books and whether they'd recommend using that editor. Interview your editor extensively before you hire them. Make sure you have a detailed contract that spells out the job to be performed. Hire an editor not because you feel obligated to, but because you want to produce a better text.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Confounding Connotations in Cloudy Content

KD Sullivan shared an effectively summarizing post yesterday over at the Authors Helping Authors blog, in which she outlines the "Four Cs—ensuring your work is Correct, Consistent, Clear, and Compelling." My favorite part of this post is when she points out—in her second sentence—that while authors should address these four pillars of writing in their very conception, it is ultimately the editor's role to make sure that's being handled properly.

She also recommends authors create personal style sheets to maintain consistency, provides a neat list of questions authors should ask themselves to ensure the text is conveying its message to its fullest extent, and muses a metaphor for "Writing standards," which "exist for the same reason we have rules of the road: so everyone reads the signs and symbols the same way, and no one collides with a comma on the way to clear understanding."

Great advice for writers. She favors Chicago Manual of Style & Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary as "the standard publishing references," when I believe what she means to say is that those are the standards in her sector of publishing, but I will concede to her that they're both great references to keep on hand for any writer. I find both sources to be comprehensive and agreeable across diverse markets.

Editors, by nature, address these Four Cs when reviewing texts. What I often find in writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, is that authors can tend to get stuck on phrases that might make the rounds in the brain before arriving in the text, picking up lots of personal connotations that don't transfer through the publication to the reader. These voids become invisible to the author (contrary to the searing void BolaƱo describes in 2666 as "only the certainty of a void, a void that very quickly escapes even the word that contains it") and still contain, through every rereading and attempted revision, a meaning inherent to the author that the author cannot discern. An editor offers not only a fresh set of eyes capable of discerning these structural holes but a trained set of eyes capable of fixing the problem or at the very least prescribing a solution rather than just pointing out the inevitable non sequitur.