Monday, August 11, 2014

Editor's Notes #15: The Process


Just as writers have a process that's as individual as they are, editors have a process when faced with a manuscript. I have my own that's evolved over time, and it seems to work for me. I'd like to think it makes me more efficient with my time, and more effective overall.

I've found that no matter whose book I'm working on, there are certain words that are either overused, misused, or misspelled across the board. I like to look for those right away during my "preliminaries" phase. If I take care of these before I read anything in the story line, it makes the entire edit go smoother.

I search for my favorites first. And by "favorites," I mean those words that cause me to run, screaming, when I see them. Words like "alright" instead of "all right" are downright wrong. Misuse of "to" and "too" will drive me to the brink of insanity. Other words are, I believe, autocorrected or misspelled when typing quickly, like "filed" rather than "field," or "personnel" instead of "personal."

"Farther" v. "further" is a little trickier, as is "compliment" v. "complement." Trickier, but doable.

Still, it pays to take care of these things in one swoop. This is what I simply adore about the age of digital editing: FIND & REPLACE. I don't know of many inventions I appreciate more than that one. Wrong word? Fix them all right away. Character name is misspelled, or inconsistently spelled? Go to that Find & Replace, see how many times the name is spelled each way, and fix it up. 

Still other changes are author-specific. Each author has his or her quirks that I know to look for. I know to expect them and I look for them early in the process.

At the end of all that joyful finding and replacing, I get busy making a style sheet. For those not familiar with a style sheet, let me assure you, you want one. You need one. You probably keep one without realizing what it's called. A style sheet lists character names, complete with eye/hair color, physical traits, military rank, and more. It also lists places, company names, ship names, planets, and anything that's important enough to be mentioned more than once. Some authors keep their style sheets as a notebook for each character or each book. Some have post-it notes decorating their desks. Whatever works for each person is the "right" way to do it.

The nice thing about a style sheet is that I can tell at a glance when a character's hair color has changed, or his job is not the same job he had at the beginning of the book. If I know I'm editing a manuscript that's going to be part of a series, the style sheet becomes even more important, because I won't have to do 75% of that legwork again for the subsequent books.

These are my best time-savers when editing. Authors, do you have any surefire tricks that help you to edit quicker? Editors, is there one "go-to" method that always ensures speediness for you? I'd love to hear them.

Until next time!

26 comments:

  1. I do keep a style sheet, although I didn't know to call it that.
    Find and Replace - I use it a lot. Because I do have words I overuse.

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    1. I think every author has a "favorite" word or two. If it seems like I'm noticing something a lot, I'll do a search to find exactly how many of "that" word are in the manuscript. Puts it in perspective!

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  2. Well, I just got my internet back, and what do I see but this waiting in my inbox! Yay!

    "Style Sheet" sounds very much like the bits and pieces of an outline or book dictionary: all those inter-worldly things that make each book unique. I've found that the easiest way for me is to actually create a wiki. I use the program "tiddlywiki" to create my outlines, and boy is it ever useful. I really should do a blog post on that...

    Speaking of editing, the worst for me is "its" and "it's." I know, I know. It's one of the staples of bad writing/editing (see what I just did there?). But occasionally I over-think it, and the result is always a headache.

    And, speaking of misspelled or misplaced words, the best editing technique I've ever found was to read your manuscript backwards. The idea is to shock your author brain out of thinking that it "knows" what is coming next, because backwards English is darned hard to predict. At first I thought, "no way that will work," but surprisingly it did. I managed to catch a number of misplaced words using the technique.

    Blessings,

    H.C. Dallis

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    1. I'd love to read a blog post about your wiki process. Sounds unique!

      "Its" and "it's" are HUGE for me. HUGE. I could make a series of blog posts about all the words that drive me crazy, but I'd lose all my readers by the time I finished.

      The backwards reading seems to work for a lot of people. One GR author said he would print out his ms and then toss it down the stairs. He'd pick up the pages in random order and edit each one separately so he didn't get caught up in the story.

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  3. I don't know that I have a method other than plant butt in chair and stare at screen. Alright drives me nuts. I always want to ask, Who is Al Right, and why have you written his name this way?

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Oh, shoot. I forgot to write "plant butt in chair" as my very first step. Or "sit on couch, prop feet on table, balance coffee cup."

      I watched an argument on GR once about "alright." One author kept insisting that both were to be used, since "alright" was "correct for dialogue because of how it sounds." That made no sense to me. Most people pointed out that both sounded the same, and that one was simply WRONG. She was pretty insistent, though.

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    2. It's one of those words that's becoming acceptable through usage, but it's not acceptable to me.

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  4. I'm not certain it's a surefire thing I do, but I wait until the absolute end of my editing, then I have this list of my "favorite" (aka trite, overused, ridiculous) words and phrases and I hunt every one of them down, using my trusty Find tool.

    About further v. farther it's under pressure to change. I still keep the distinction, but the non-prescriptivits linguists I hang with say that distinction is probably doomed. All right now. That's enough. See you over coffee!

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    1. Those favorite words . . . I've been known to leave margin notes like, "I know you love this word, but I don't think everyone else will love it this much." Thankfully, my authors know me well enough to roll their eyes and deal with it.

      I solemnly swear I will not bow to the pressure with further v. farther. I work very hard to make sure each one is used properly and will force everyone within range of my Red Pen of Doom to follow along. What's next? The figurative use of "literally"? Oh . . . wait.

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    2. There is a specific difference to Further and Farther. Farther is specific to a distance. Europe is farther than Erie. You can't drive farther than that. Where further is more abstract. I could go further into that subject but it is all right not to. I do make the Alright/all right error. many times because I think faster than I type and my fingers get wrapped around words. You some thing that bugs the crap out of me. Pronouncing the "w" in sword. And in the same sentence not pron ounce the "w" in dwarf. As in the sentence. The dorf swings his sword. (removed the "w" to indicate how pronounced) Arrrgghhhhh (runs from the room) Ok sorry. Back to writing in a hot vampire's voice to her Vampire Hunter boyfriend. Muwahahahahaha

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    3. JT, I don't need a lecture on further and farther. I am the queen of those two words, I swear it.

      However, like you, I get irritated by the "w" pronouncers. I think they're trying to sound smarter by pronouncing each letter to make sure we know they've seen it. They're probably the same people who always use "I" instead of "me" because they're 100% certain it's fancier that way.

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    4. Wasn't trying to lecture. Just reinforcing your point. Death to all "w" pronouncers. (spell check didn't recognize it does that mean it is a new word?) I instead of me Arrrggghhh. How about people that use whom all the time instead of who.

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    5. http://theoatmeal.com/comics/who_vs_whom is a great example from The Oatmeal of the perils of using "whom" when you should use "who." It's my favorite.

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    6. Bwahahahahahaha I love the oatmeal now. Literally the funniest stuff I have ever read.

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  5. I always wonder how we ended up with so-called words like "alright" and "alot." Maybe since words like "altogether" and "awhile" are all right to use... I don't know. I'm so confused. :(

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    1. And yes, I know that "a while" and "awhile" are not the same thing...

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    2. I wonder those same things. Once I learn the rule about a word, though, I can't let it go, and it will forever drive me crazy when others ignore that rule.

      Anyone who writes "alright" and "alot" is "ajerk."

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    3. Amen! Or would that be "a men?"

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    4. So if they write alright alot they are ajerk, Ha, my spell check is confused.

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  6. Just call me the Rainman of book writing, I guess.

    I have kind of a weird memory, mainly in that I can read back over any scene in any book I've ever written and like a director of a movie I can tell you exactly what angle I saw it from, who's wearing what, etc. It's a crystal clear picture, and it never changes. So I guess I am my own style sheet. When I'm editing through other people's works I can use this to pick up on when eye colors change, or people change clothing, or even in dealing with word usage. A big one on the novel I just helped edit was him using both 'cell phone' and 'cellphone.'

    People ask me how I notice this stuff; I ask them how do you forget your main character's eye color half way into the book?

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    1. Oh, Rainman, what I'd give to have your gift. That kind of memory is certainly a boon for anyone, and especially a writer.

      I've often wondered how an author can continuously misspell a character's name, or get details wrong. I mean, it's YOUR character, right? You chose to name him, chose his personality, and chose his look. How could you forget?

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  7. I'm not sure about a style sheet, but I have a style sheep in my brain who remind me of the details. I hardly ever use my character sheets (my good looking style sheep is baaaaing that it's the same thing you're talking about—gotta love our inside jokes— but that's neither here nor there). After I'm done writing down the details of my characters I know it and don't check it back, I can't imagine forgetting my own characters, goodness.

    Anyway, it's fascinating to learn a bit of how an editor tackles a job. Creating a style sheet and having preliminary work done is like a good warm up before an intense workout. It's what helps get it into fantastic shape, after all! :)

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    1. I can't imagine you still find me fascinating after all this time. It must be my new glasses. They bring out the best features in my . . . um, themselves.

      Thanks for the guilt trip about not working out. I owe you. Send that manuscript my way, baby.

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  8. It's always so nice to find an email waiting for me with Easy Reader in the subject line! I tell you, I've learned so much from your blog. Though nothing replaces the need for an actual editor, writers who take your advice can save a lot of money when hiring one.
    BTW--that "find" tool was the best thing ever invented. I always know I'm in trouble when it tells me, "too many instances found."

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    1. I agree with you on taking good advice: the more you know about what you're doing, the more money you can save when hiring the professional. I give an additional discount when a writer has a super-clean manuscript. It tells me they've done their fair share of work, which makes my work go much quicker and easier.

      Glad to see you here, Elle!

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    2. Find and replace are my besties. Especially when I learn something I have written might cause a copyright fight (even though they can't copyright it I am sure they will try especially if they can get some money off of a dead property.)

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