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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

editing

Help! I've Been Buried Alive!



The good news is that the proof pages for "Left by the Side of the Road" have  arrived.  They look pretty good, and I've managed to print them off so that my red pen can edit can edit away to its heart's content. The bad news is that it's a holiday weekend, and I once had hopes of taking some time off to vegetate and get ready for fall. However . . . .! 

The good news is that this gives me time, not only to run a final line edit of the whole work, but also to set in play the formats for various electronic versions. And that means I can offer a few weeks of pre-orders for faithful readers who have been asking when the book will be available. The bad news is that such a plan -- while good in the long term -- makes the next couple of weeks incredibly complicated.

Enjoy your labor Day Weekend, everyone. And save a hot dog or two for those of us who are spending it laboring.

When under House Arrest, One Can Always Do More Editing

Latest bulletin: We should be able to get out of driveway by 2:00 this afternoon. Of course with the temperature going to 101 degrees and our ozone alert level headed for "Code Purple." I'm not sure why I would consider going outside.

- - - - - - -

I've been passing the time by running one more "final" edit on my upcoming book, even though its editor and I have already passed it back and forth several times.  This time, I'm just looking for last-minute blips, not substantial changes. As a guide, I've been following a list put out some time ago by Joel Friedlander. This is what he says you should look for before you submit your final manuscript

1.    Get rid of extra spaces. Whether you’ve used them for spacing or between sentences, your file should contain no double spaces at all.

2.    Get rid of extra paragraph returns. We space things out so they look nice on the screen, but we don’t need or want them for typesetting. Your file should have no double paragraph returns in it.

3.    Style, don’t format. When you highlight and format a piece of text, it may not survive the transition to the layout software. But if you learn to use styles your document will be more consistent and all the styles will translate just fine.
 
4.    Account for unusual characters. If your manuscript uses unusual accents or other diacritical marks, make sure your designer knows in advance. They’ll be able to tell you the best way to ensure they are accurately translated.

5.    Eliminate underlines. In book typography, we use italic fonts for emphasis, and almost never use underlines, not even for URLs.

6.    Eliminate bold in your text. See #5, above. Although bold is often used for headings and subheadings, it doesn’t belong in the body of your text, use italic instead.

7.    Resolve markups. Sometimes manuscripts arrive with unresolved issues in the markup, perhaps from an early reader or an editor. Your designer won’t know how to resolve them before the file is stripped of its code and ported to layout software.

8.    Check for completeness. It’s very common for some parts of your book to arrive later than other parts. For instance, you might be waiting for a Library of Congress number or a CIP block, or there might be permissions late to arrive, or an index that will be dropped in after everything else is done. But don’t send a manuscript off to production if it’s missing major elements, whole chapters, some dialogue you’ll “be finished with in the morning,” or the rest of the quotes you want at the chapter openings, but haven’t picked yet. All of this makes the production of your book less efficient and more prone to errors.

9.    Find and eliminate errant spaces. This is a tricky one, but will be caught in a close reading. You are proofreading before you go to press, right? What happens here, especially in books that are heavy with dialogue, is that a space will creep into the wrong place. You can’t catch these by searching for two spaces in a row. For instance, a space before a closing quote might turn it into an open quote when it gets to typesetting.

10.    Proofread a monospaced copy. Every one of the errors I’ve talked about here is easier to spot if you do this last one. Save a copy of your book manuscript and change it to a monospaced font like Courier. You can use 10 point or 11 point and set your line spacing to 1.5 lines or double spacing and print it out or make a PDF. Then proofread that one, you’ll be amazed at the things that pop out that you completely missed when you read it in Garamond or Times New Roman.

Have I found problems?  Oh, yeah! Of course I have, and I have many  pages to go.  That last idea of using a monospaced copy really makes a difference.  I hate it, but it works.  That's where I see the errors.

- - - - - - - -

One last item.  In the next couple of days I'll be sending the completed manuscript out to a selected group of beta-readers, with several goals in mind.

(1) If there's a real problem with anything in the book, I need to hear about it now, not after it is in print.

(2), I'm asking that each beta-reader send me a review that could be used (or quoted from) in the book, in promotional materials, and on the internet. I still have a couple of slots to fill, so if you would be interested in doing an early review of "The Road to Frogmore," please let me know right away.  I could especially use a male point-of-view.

(2) I will reciprocate by giving each reviewer full credit and by promoting your own work (book, website, etc) in my promotions, social media pages, and my own website.

Beware the Lurking Homonym

Yesterday I offered you some "big" words.  Today, I have some "little" ones. Do you remember homonyms?  Those pesky little words that sound exactly alike by are spelled in several different ways and had several different meanings?  In grade school I had a teacher who loved them. During quite periods, she taught us to play a game in which we made up sentences containing homonyms but substituted the word "teakettle" for the words themselves. The challenge was for the other students to identify the missing homonym.  The sentences sounded like this: "I teakettle would like teakettle eat teakettle  pieces of cake."

The game was just childish silliness, but it's not funny when a writer gets wrapped up in her story and types one homonym for another without noticing. Maybe you are writing a sympathetic description of an admirable politician  who suffered from great depravation -- or did you really mean to type deprivation? There's not a spell checker in the world who will catch an error like that. And there's no sure way to avoid making the occasional goof. About all you can do is take time to think about the words that cause you trouble.  Here's a baker's dozen that may trip you up when you are busily touch-typing.

• Cite (to summon, to quote, to refer to), Site (place, situation), Sight (view)
• Council (administrative or advisory group), Counsel (to advise, advice)
• Desert (waterless region, to abandon), Dessert (last course of a meal)
• Dew (moisture), Do (perform), Due (owed)
• Gait (manner of walking, Gate (door)
• Grate (iron frame), Great (large, magnificent)
• Haul (pull, carry, transport), Hall (passageway, large room)
• Here (in this place), Hear (to perceive sound, to sit in judgment)
• Idol (image, object of adoration), Idle (not busy), Idyl (poem)
• Leak (hole, to drain out of), Leek (vegetable)
• Made (created), Maid (domestic servant, unmarried woman)
• Meat (animal flesh food), Meet (a gathering, to encounter, to convene)
• Morning (before noon), Mourning (grieving, to grieve)

16 Words We Don't Need (No, not that kind!)


I've been in editing mode for several days now, so I decided it was time for readers to join me. In The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese,  chapters 12 through 14 cover the kinds of silly grammatical errors we all make when writing.

Here’s a list of little words you don’t need. Try reading each sentence without that extra word. Don’t they all sound better?

•  SO (as in “I was so glad to see him.”) There’s an exception here: “so” is acceptable only when it is followed by a “that”—as in “She was SO short THAT she only saw people from the waist down.”
•  VERY (as in “I was very, very tired.”)
•  THAT (as in (“I thought that I should leave.” )
•  ALTHOUGH (“Although, I’m not sure I should.””)
•  JUST (“I was just beginning to get sleepy.”)
•  YET (“She hasn’t arrived yet.”)
•  RATHER (“It seemed rather rude.”)
•  EVEN (“Even the other guests were bored.”)
•  SORT OF (“The milk was sort of soured.”)
•  IN SPITE OF (“I was irritated in spite of myself.”)
•  PERHAPS (“I could, perhaps, take a nap.”)
•  QUITE (“I was quite tempted to do it.”)
•  FOR A MOMENT (“I hesitated for a moment.”)
•  THEN (“Then I walked out.”)
•  SUDDENLY (“Suddenly I stopped.”)
•  ALMOST (“The roast beef was almost burned.”)
 
I copied the list from another blogger several years ago, and I’ve used it ever since. Once your manuscript is complete, go to the “find and replace” function in your word processor, and scan the whole manuscript for each word. That means you’ll go through the whole manuscript about eighteen times, but you’ll be surprised at how many other errors you’ll spot along the way.

Every time you find one of the words on the list, ask yourself if the meaning of the sentence changes when you take the word out. If it doesn’t, drop it.

What Not to Say to the Person Who's Trying to Hire You

Sometimes I just have to shake my head and move on.  Recently I've been trying to add to my small business's staff by hiring an accountant and an editor. (If you missed my blog about why every self-publisher needs a staff, you can find it here) In both cases, I started by taking the recommendations of friends.  I should have known better!

Case #1: The Accountant.  She "welcomed my business", but never had time to meet with me.  Meanwhile, I was sweating the fact that my book sales had added thousands of dollars to our income, without any deductions coming out of them.  I knew I was going to owe self-employment taxes at least, and we might also be hit with a fine for not submitting quarterly estimated payments to cover the difference.

As January 17 got closer, I again asked for an appointment, which she made, and then cancelled twice. On the third appointed day, I arrived at her office with all my paperwork in hand, only to be told she was "out of town." Her receptionist offered to call her, and I had the dubious pleasure of listening to her sputter an apology. "Leave the paperwork there," she said.  "I'll be back in the office tomorrow, I'll look it over, and call you." Right! She finally called on the Saturday afternoon before the deadline to say she didn't have time to go through the paperwork.  Her recommendation: Send the IRS $2000 or more, and they'll be happy.  Then, she said she would file to get me an extension on paying my taxes in April.  Bottom line: "Call me back at the end of April, and we'll try to find a time to go over all this before the October deadline.

FAIL!

Instead, I found myself a new accountant -- one recommended by the Chamber of Commerce.  He was polite and accommodating, offering a whole afternoon to get us straightened out.  Thank you, Kind Accountant, for treating me as if my business is important.

Case #2: The Editor. She was excited to read the first three chapters of my book -- until she read them.  Then back came the critique. "You seem to want your historical novel to be historically accurate, but all these details are going to bore your reader, as they do me.  I prefer to work on a story line that has lots of action and excitement.  I can do an edit on these pages and put in some more exciting events, but you'll have to start all over again to write the kind of book I produce." 

FAIL!

I had told  her that I am a historian and that the book is based on a real person.  Sorry, but we can't put car chases, explosions, and terrorist threats into a Civil War novel. So I found a new editor, too -- one who found the real story interesting and promised to help me polish the book I wanted to write. 

It's been an interesting couple of weeks! I'm trying to put a positive spin on the experiences. After all, I did end up with two wonderful additions to the "staff." But what on earth is wrong with people who offer their "services for hire" but don't want to serve the people who hire them?