The Difference Five Minutes Can Make

Book and candle

It’s quite an enviable accomplishment to write a book, right? I mean, for all the millions of people who say they could write a book, or who intend to write a book, very few actually carry out the thing to its end. So those few who do complete such a noble task must care a lot about the quality of their work…you would think.

I recently used the Look Inside feature on Amazon to check out someone’s first book, a self-published work, which they had proudly announced. The punctuation in the dialogue was all wrong, blatant errors, all the way through the pages displayed. What so bothered me about that was, how easy would it have been to pick up a book within arm’s reach (we all have one that close, or almost I hope) and just flip through the pages to see how dialogue is punctuated in professionally made books? Five minutes–that’s all it would have taken, if that. We’re not talking about researching Middle Ages battle strategy in Russia here. And if the author was writing about such, I might question the validity of their claims based on the care she did not take in learning about punctuation, or having it checked by someone.

Further, if this author has a desire to attract attention of a professional nature, she may have just killed it, and that’s too bad. Your book is your baby. You can afford five minutes–most would argue far more than that–to make sure you get the basics right. Honestly, it’s that easy.

 

“Grammar Wings” Writing Camp

proofreading

When I was asked to present at the Grammar Wings writing camp, one of several Brigham Young University-sponsored writing camps for teens this summer, the dedication and passion of young people, some from out of state, who would spend a portion of their summer vacation voluntarily learning about grammar and creative writing surprised and elated me. Count me in!

On the last day of their camp on Friday, June 13th, I spent an hour talking with them about rough drafting versus revisions, changing passive to active voice, and how to do speech tags that keep the author invisible to the reader, allowing the reader to fully immerse themselves in a story. Part of my task was to bring a little of the writing, editing, and publishing world into the classroom as there were several in the group who aim to publish their work. What a privilege to address this bright bunch as a guest author.

Thanks to Chris Thompson, Sadie Rawlinson, and BYU Conferences & Workshops for granting me this opportunity to talk with these up-and-coming authors. And if you know a teen author, check out the BYU writing camps. Several are held each year.

What Every Editor Wants to Tell You

proofreading

Be forewarned—I’m on one today. But I bet anyone who works with Joe Q. Public will silently nod in agreement at this. I get lots of queries on a daily basis about editing. I answer every one as briefly and quickly as possible because, as they say, time is money. 🙂 That’s what they say anyway. So I thought maybe I could answer some queries ahead of time with this post.

And now, for your reading enjoyment, here are my pet peeves:
1) Authors who don’t read my Eagle Eye page and ask for services I said I didn’t provide.
2) Students who ask me to do their assignment for them (refer to #1). Stop wasting Daddy’s money and get yourself educated so in the future you don’t have to deal with…people like yourself.
3) Students (and some business people) who had the assignment for weeks but waited too long and expect me to put them ahead of others in the queue and edit their project in the next six hours. (Refer to #2 part B).

And if you’ve read this far, rest assured, I love you all!

When Are You Ready For an Editor?

proofreading

As an editor, I am sometimes torn. I love using my talent to help writers polish their work, and I am honored that they trust me to edit their projects. But I also see a lot of work that really isn’t ready yet for an editor, and I think maybe they have spent money they shouldn’t have to have their project cleaned up.

So when are you ready for an editor? First, let’s understand what the editor’s job is not. The editor is not the author. The editor is not supposed to capture the author’s vision and take over his voice. If you basically want to give your vaguely written ideas to someone and have them do most of the writing/rewriting, then you want a ghostwriter, and you’ll pay a pretty penny for that service. I actually had a client who said he’d come to a barrier in his book and actually wanted me to come up with an ending and finish it for him. Perhaps he enjoys storytelling but not actually writing, in which case I would not want to edit the part he had done as he probably does not have a passion for the art itself and it would show in the work. If you truly love writing, it will naturally follow that you will want to study your craft and get good at it.

Writers must learn the difference between rough drafting and revisions, and that both steps are vital, no matter how talented or famous you are. There is no such thing as a writer who only needs to rough draft and it is as good as it needs to be. That’s because rough drafting, what I like to think of as vomiting words onto the page uninhibited, uses a different side of the brain than the analytical side which rearranges those words and polishes them into good reading material. There is no shame whatsoever in rewriting, even several times. It doesn’t indicate that you aren’t as talented as the best writers. It’s just the way the brain works. Get all thoughts onto the paper first, without regard for form, then go back and take out and rearrange words. It’s better to have extra words and not need them than to need them and not have them.

Here’s where many writers steer wrong. NEVER, ever send a rough draft to an editor. You are wasting your money. It is YOUR vision; you polish it as much as possible. If you haven’t captured your vision succinctly, an editor is most certainly not going to be able to see it. An editor can only raise the quality of your work about, say, ten percent (not scientific, just a general figure). So if you send a ninety percent-good job, an editor can get it to 100 percent. But if you send something only fifty percent decent, the editor will probably only be able to get you to sixty percent decent. It is not the editor’s book; they can only work with what’s given to them.

If writing and storytelling are your passions, you will find that both rough drafting and revising can be equally fulfilling tasks as you see your cherished masterpiece take shape before your eyes.

 

How to Tick Off a Proofreader

proofreading

If anyone wants to get into proofreading, I can tell you how I got started. As a little girl I became friends with my neighbor Lynn, and, as is typical, our friendship had its on-again/off-again moments. I guess I was about eight years old or so when we got upset about something (who knows what) and she marched over and handed me a mean letter she’d written. Hmph! I’ll show her, I thought. I took it into the house, got out my glorious red pencil, and proceeded to edit her letter, correcting all the wording and errors I could find. I never gave it back. We were friends again the next day….and the rest is history!

Universally Helpful Proofreading Tip

proofreading

When wearing my writing hat, I arrogantly call myself an Artist of Words, but when wearing my editing hat, I equally arrogantly call myself The Original Perfectionist. And here’s a tip from the Eagle Eye department of corrections that I use to help me maintain that reputation I have with myself!

When proofreading for typos, it’s easy to miss left-out words, or words typed twice, because you, as the author, know what it’s supposed to say. So try reading it using a dull, monotone robot voice in your head, enunciating every syllable equally. Yeah, it’s boring as all get-out, but it works. You probably don’t want to read a whole book that way, but when you have passages with lots of little words, like “in”, “a”, “the”, “but”, “for”, “it”, “on”, “is”, “to”, it will help you to make sure the words are there and in the right order. I proofread this post that way, so if I’ve embarrassed myself, you’ll let me know, right?