Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Tuesday, 24 September 2013

EDITS - YES. EDITS - NO. WHICH IS IT FOR YOU?

'Edits' is a bit of 'Marmite' word, I always think - you either love it or hate it. Authors tend to say ....heavy sigh.....'Going to be out of the loop for a while, I've got edits'. A bit, then, like a dose of influenza or a nasty rash. But is there a middle way? Could edits become an acquired taste? Back in the day when I was doing journalism for Devon Life, my copy had to be pretty spot on. And anyway, the maximum word count was 1000 words so not too difficult to get right. I've had a fair few magazine editors for my short stories over the years as well. In the days when I wrote a lot for My Weekly I had the subeditor (that doesn't look right - should it be sub editor? Or maybe sub-editor?) from heaven - a lovely lady called Jean. She would often ask me to add a paragraph, or another plot thread, or change names, and - once - even a setting. So I thought, when the time came for me to do an edit on a full length novel, that I pretty much knew where I was going with it. Oh dear. How wrong could I have been! How very, very wrong. To say my edit on TO TURN FULL CIRCLE was a steep learning curve is the understatement of the century. There were lots of computer probs with this one, alas, which didn't help. I began to wonder whose book it was as it went through yet another tweak or six. For EMMA (the sequel to TTFC, and the second in my trilogy) I have a different editor. Goodness, what a difference this is making to how I perceive edits to be. I have discovered ... that I seem to have a bit of a fondness for ... elipses. Oh yes I do! And I flirt with the dash/hyphen rather more than is decent - well, haven't we all been there? Lots of both have been taken out and replaced with commas. Or the sentence has been split into two. How that simple thing has tightened up my writing - thank you, Jane! So now we come to the thorny question about self-publishing versus the mainstream route. Someone (she has never worked with an editor) moaned to me only this week that she had been taken to task by someone she'd asked to read her manuscript, for some grammar and punctuation issues. 'But I've never turned in anything less than a perfect manuscript!' she wailed. I gulped. Back home, on my desk, was my editor's 'Style Sheet'. There are 70 things on it - 70! Here are a few:- cabinetmaker, not cabinet-maker. commis chef, not in italics. drawing room, no hyphen. rag doll,not rag-doll. mincemeat, but mince pies. Oh dear. And to think I have a copy of NEW OXFORD DICTIONARY FOR WRITERS AND EDITORS on my bookshelf! But we all think we know how it should be written sometimes, don't we? I'm definitely going to refer to it more in the future. How much time we would save ourselves - and our editors - if only we got these basics perfect on submission. So, I'm going to be out of the loop for a while. I've got edits. My historical is done and now a contemporary novella awaits - a whole new ballgame, or should that be ball-game/ ball game? Hmmm ....

13 comments:

  1. Don't go out of the loop for toooooo long, Linda - we'll miss you! Ps - did I put too many 'o's in there??? You'll have to edit them out...

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    1. Thanks for popping by Guernsey Girl.....lovely to be missed. I'll have another full length ms to edit very soon - contemporary this time, but I'll try and stick my head above the water now and again so you'll all know I'm not drowning in words, and dots, and commas, and dashes, and .....

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  2. Oh, Linda, I'm so guilty of those dashes - they are so useful, aren't they?
    Thanks for a really interesting post. I consult a dictionary or style guide if I am doubtful about something but the problems arise when I assume what I am writing is correct. Good luck with with your edits. I'm so looking forward to reading the sequel to TTFC.

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    1. Thanks, Mary. I think it's because, maybe, I'm old school that I like dashes.....I was taught to use them at grammar school (presumable, not for nothing are they called grammar schools!).

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  3. I know exactly what you mean, Linda. I'm not long finished edits for my third editor (6th book of various kinds) and what a lot I've been learning along the way! Can't imagine how writers get by without one of these necessary people.

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    1. Thanks for popping by to comment, Rosemary. While I'm sure there are some people who can turn out a fantastic novel - brilliantly written, grammatically perfect - I think they are probably few and far between. I feel my writing has benefited from the editing experience - I'm starting to think differently when I write.

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  4. I love editing - and I love style guides (perhaps I should get help?) I was sent an in-house (inhouse? in-house? aargh!) style guide for a client once and I kept it and use it. After all, if there's something which is a matter of preference I don't mind, as long as I know which is preferred.

    My worst ever job was proofreading a document written by several different people - and without an in-house style guide. Some job titles were capitalised and some weren't. Some document titles were capitalised, some in italics, some neither, some both. Yes, it's style guides for me every time....

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    1. I'll be keeping my Style Sheet for future reference, too! And I'm actually starting to enjoy editing now.....there must be a place where we can go for joint therapy ....:)

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  5. Oh Linda, you made me laugh. And sigh. I'm way too fond of dashes and dots... Had a lovely workshop on editing at our writers' group last night but it only made me realise how imperfect I am.

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    1. Does your writing group do lots of workshops, Gill? The one I go to tends to do 'writing news' in turn around the table and then reading from wip.....but I'm thinking a workshop now and then would be a good idea. Glad about the laugh.....we all need them!

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  6. My first professional job was as an editor - for William Collins, in Glasgow. I'm old school, definitely (old-school? Help!), and always had a style guide to work to. However, every publisher has a house style, so if you're writing for several, you'll find a lot of differences. And, of course, US and Canada are different too. I used to proof read for several publishers, so was constantly chopping and changing - and one of the first jobs my company got was to Anglicise James Clavell's Shogun for the UK market. My business partner, who was American, did that.

    I guess I'll be editing shortly as I plan to publish two titles myself - hopefully before Christmas. Gulp.

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    1. Two? Before Christmas? Go, girl!
      Interestingly, now I've had two full-length novels and a novella go through a professional editor I find myself writing my third full-length novel with an editor's eye.

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  7. Just been reading some of the back blogs, if you understand my meaning ... and I've just seen that you, Jenny, used to work for William Collins. Now, here's a bit of info that you won't pick up every day. Rosamunde Pilcher was first published by William Collins. I have her 2nd novel, published in 1957 (called simply April) and that isn't on any book list anywhere, such as www.fantasticfiction.co.uk. When I interviewed Mrs Pilcher more than a decade ago (she was giving a talk after a literary dinner in Plymouth) I kindly asked her to sign my copy of her novel, now without dust cover and very brown with age, and she was amazed to see a copy again. I came by the novel in a rather naughty way: my parents had a newsagent's shop and in that shop was a small library and I read this book and kept it! In the book there is a quote to the effect that this is a novelist to look out for as "she will go far". Mrs Pilcher said to me, "And who do you think said that? Old William Collins!" It is a coming-of-age style novel, very romantic, and set in Mrs Pilcher's beloved Cornwall.
    Margaret Powling

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