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Thanks to Mike the Dude for providing this community space and letting me in.

Name: Peter

Age: Old

Sex: Yes Orientation: Gay

Skill level: Decent editor with no identifiable talent writing fiction; passionate and somewhat articulate when oversharing my views. I have written a very few short and plotless porn stories, sufficient to get my (creative) juices flowing, and the Nifty Archivist was kind enough to post them.

Hobby: Editing Wikipedia articles.

Frustration: Finding errors on web pages that are not wikis.

Editing skills: An innate (but not infallible) sense of when a word looks right, and when it seems to be misspelled. A shallow knowledge about a huge number of things, and the inclination to look up things that I don't know. Average ability to see when something in a story doesn't seem true to life.

Editing style: I track my changes, using the Review feature of MS Word or OpenOffice/LibreOffice Writer, so that the author can see each proposed change and decide which to accept. I add comments to explain, point out ambiguities, etc., and sometimes to link to web articles that explain a grammatical concept. I hope the process will help the author learn, as it does me, and I am very gratified if I see these changes reflected in chapters that are sent to me subsequently.

Favorite fora forums here: Writers' Workshop and Editor's Desk. (Hmmm—are there several writers and only one editor? See Frustration, supra above.)

Goals: Improve my writing and especially editing skills. Learn when and how to relax the rigid punctuation and grammar rules that I learned in my youth, without feeling as if I am completely selling out to the barbarians. Improve my ability to write dialogue like what people actually say.

Non-goal: Becoming a good enough fiction writer to create something that would be good enough for AD. I am in awe when I read wonderful stories by Chris James, Altimexis, Mihangel Hwntw, and many others here, and I gratefully celebrate the ability of those writers to create them.

Grammar preference: Prescriptive. However, I like to remind myself why the Appendix Probi, a late Roman list of correct and incorrect versions of words, is still important to students of Romance languages: all of the "incorrect" ones evolved into words that are now valiantly defended by royal language academies. Language changes.

Oxford comma: Usually, unless it creates ambiguity.

Punctuation inside quotation marks? Only if it is part of the quotation. That's a hard rule for me to follow, with American grammarians on the web still advising that periods and commas should always go inside, but the British (and the Wikipedia style guide) have this one right.

Subjunctive mood: Yes, please. Even the least educated speaker of Spanish knows how to use it correctly in that language. I lament that it is disappearing from English.

Singular "they": Ugh! If "he or she" is too awkward, the sentence can usely be recast without resorting to "they". But I know I'm on the losing side of this one, too.

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When we fight the rules, we're all on the wrong side, but that just adds to the fun. As long as we can explain why we're breaking the rule, we're OK.

Cole, it is when I fight valiantly to uphold rules that I know I'm on the losing side. But I also enjoy breaking rules. Like the one about not starting sentences with conjunctions. Thanks for commenting. I am one of your fans.

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​Peter, your editing style sounds very practical. My editor generally proceeds with glee upon finding an error, marking up the page and dropping in a wisecrack along the way. I suppose I must put up with that since he works on my stories without a fee.

Rules of grammar often elude me in the strangest of places so I tend to follow that if it sounds good then stick with it. In this world of people unfamiliar with the language they speak I don't worry too much about the quirky little details. Having said that I expect those of us here will be considered in the genius category very soon. This after listening to a group of teachers on NPR expressing distain for teaching students how to write cursive.

Okay, this is one of those WTF moments. They want to stop teaching writing by hand? This is where I learned to use the grammar I was taught. We all have little moments of doubt until we see a word formed on the page and the brain says yes. What will these students of the future do if the power fails? They already can't spell worth a damn, and don't get me started on what we see on Twitter. Familiarity with language comes through repetition and writing the damn thing down. Offering a class in cursive as an elective sounds counterproductive to the learning process. I am sure there are many authors who would agree.

I am sure you would be surprised at how many authors here have beta readers and hidden editors that don't get credit. But I am also sure that many of us self-edit our way through the first draft. I tend to write three or four chapters before I go back and reread to my stopping point. This tends to generate new thoughts, fix points like ages and birthdays, and finalize the physical details of a character. Thus by the time I have finished a story the whole has been read nearly a dozen times from stem to stern.

We all try to create the most readable product and often that takes a second set of eyes. So here's to the editors who deserve our appreciation, and if I ever made a penny on something I wrote I'd split the money with them. (Where is that hacksaw?)

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Welcome to our ranks, PeterSJC. You have chosen a difficult path to glory. Editors, much like Machiavelli, most often must content themselves with lurking behind the curtain.

As for Chris's comment on self-editing one’s first drafts, I still insist (stridently) that the best way to spot errors and awkwardness in any first draft is to read it aloud to oneself (an old poet’s trick).

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... the best way to spot errors and awkwardness in any first draft is to read it aloud to oneself (an old poet’s trick).

I completely agree, but would generalize that to include subsequent drafts, and even in posting something in a forum. When I skip this step, out of laziness or impulsivity, I usually regret it.

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​... teaching students how to write cursive.

Okay, this is one of those WTF moments. They want to stop teaching writing by hand? ...

Without expressing an opinion about whether putting what you write on paper makes for higher quality writing—I have heard authors say that for them it does, because it slows them down—I have to say that I'll be glad to see the end of traditional cursive writing. When I was in elementary school, all the classrooms had, at the top of one wall, a green strip showing cursive letters (http://www.nstresources.com/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=153). A student who precisely duplicates those letters—a time-consuming task that demands more dexterity than most children or adults have—can create something that is more or less legible but does not approach the legibility of good printing. And the capital letters G and Q only detract from that legibility. For taking notes that only you will read, cursive is nice, because it can be done quickly, but for everything else, printing is better, IMO.

The question here, however, is whether putting something directly to paper helps the writing process. For me, the answer is no. I constantly revise, while I write, and I can do that only with a computer. Writing the wrong phrase several times helps me find the right one.

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Oh, do I remember those Palmer Method handwriting exercises: circle, circle, circle; slant, slant, slant! I don’t use cursive for much besides my signature these days (and that I practiced in my youth to make fancy), but I do believe that those lessons introduced an element of thoughtfulness, perhaps even carefulness, to childish hands. We learned to write between the lines, with margins, and evenly toward the right hand horizon. We also learned to value neat presentation.

Later, in seventh grade, we were all required to take touch typing. In retrospect I value that course above all others of my secondary education. Today’s youth, I understand, are all thumbs thanks to virtual keyboards.

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I just finished a novel by James Grippando entitled Born to Run, which was a thriller and good. At the end, Grippando has a nice acknowledgement to Carolyn Marino, his editor of many years:

Sometimes Carolyn would tell me why a change was needed. Sometimes not. She just knew, even if she couldn't put it into words. That bothered me at first. I was a lawyer before I was a writer. Reasons were important. As a writer, however, you learn that only the weak and insecure feel a need to explain every editorial decision in terms of right and wrong or good and bad. The best editors aren't the ones who think that every hunch or impulse can be empirically justified. What you want is an editor who knows your body of work as well as you do, and who knows your audience even better than you do. Someone with the instinct and experience to predict what readers will want to read a year from now, and to recognize a character they'll still love ten years down the road. A woman with the business sense to understand that even the best-written book doesn't jump off the shelf, and the wisdom to discern the difference between a really good book and a really good book.

In Carolyn Marino, I knew a great editor. That's all an author needs to know.

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I can still remember my grade 5 teacher telling my parents you needed a cryptologist to read my writing. After that, I was allowed to print rather than use cursive script. As a consequence, the only bit of cursive writing I still do is my signature.

I've always appreciated my editors and try to acknowledge them in everything I post online. Some of the mistakes they find are cringe-worthy, so I'm glad that only a handful of people get to see them.

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I had a cursive writing class in 8th grade. It was a large classroom with theater seating, and each desk had an inkwell. We used straight pens, dipped in the inkwells every few words. I remember Merkin's circles, round and round and round, or rather, ellipse and ellipse after ellipse, all slanted to the right. We also had typing, which I agree was the most useful course I ever had and by far more useful than making overlapping elliptical lines.

Very soon thereafter I developed my own handwriting style that was mostly printing. I've never used cursive since.

I doubt many people here have ever seen an inkwell.


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I started out in the Los Angeles city school system and was there through the middle of 3rd grade. The teachers did a half-hearted job of teaching cursive writing and I was of average ability in that regard when my family moved back east.

When I hit the Maryland schools in 4th grade I discovered that that system obsessed on fastidiously well-crafted cursive writing. All my new classmates did fine; I was a train wreck.

I still have to take mountains of handwritten notes in my work, and use kind of a hybrid of printing (lower case) and cursive. At least it's readable. I would be in trouble if printing was all I knew, or if I could only take notes by typing.

I think kids should learn how to write and should learn how to do arithmetic without a calculator. Best is if they can do at least approximate calculations in their heads. It's a survival skill.


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  • 6 months later...

Hi Peter,

I have a novel I've been working on.  It's been looked at by several authors, but it needs a serious editor I rather imagine.  I don't suppose you'd be interested by any chance?  Drop me a note at graflz127@msn.com if you're at all interested,  thanks, Joe

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