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Naiilo

Hey: all you 'editors' out there!

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Hey: all you out there! I've been thinking a lot about editing this fall, and done a little digging. And now I have a question for each of you 'editors' out there:

++Would the 'editing' you perform lean more toward content editing, stylistic editing, proofing, or layout/design editing? Make sure to think about this one! :wink:

Okie dokie! Get back to me on this, and maybe we'll get a decent convo out of it, eh?

-Naiilo :wink:

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And now I have a question for each of you 'editors' out there:

++Would the 'editing' you perform lean more toward content editing, stylistic editing, proofing, or layout/design editing? Make sure to think about this one! :wink:

It depends a bit on my author.

I edit all grammar errors, syntax errors, diction errors, and such. I will comment on continuity errors (because those just serve to embarrass the author). I don't comment on content unless specifically asked to by the author or unless a character just does something that doesn't make sense for that character.

I never, ever, ever, ever, ever change an authors words myself. All my comments are done in color and in-line. The author always has final say on my editing. (Punctuation fixes I will do in-line or just fix depending on what my author wants. )

You asked. I answered. Joy.

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Would the 'editing' you perform lean more toward content editing, stylistic editing, proofing, or layout/design editing? Make sure to think about this one!

I edited professionally for five different newsstand magazines for 20 years, and routinely re-wrote all kinds of people. The biggest name was Rex Reed, when he did movie reviews for Video Review magazine in the 1980s. I believe I rewrote about a dozen reviews he did, some drastically, some only a touch-up.

My feeling on editing is, I have two basic levels: a "once-over" where I just make an overall comment every few paragraphs when I'm confused about direction, when something makes no sense, or when I think something is lacking, and then a "line edit" where I dig into every word that's there. Nothing's sacred, and I'll rewrite the living crap out of it if I think something can be said in a better way.

I use MS Word's Track Changes/Compare Documents mode to highlight everything I add or delete to a file, then send it back to the author so they can see and judge what was changed. Then they use the "Accept or Reject Changes" mode to zip through the document and decide if what I did should be kept. I'll fight an author up to a point if he wants to throw away a really strong suggestion, but I'd say more than half of my suggestions amount to judgement calls (like the spelling of "judgement") and matters of style & taste. I'm also a stickler on making dialog natural, like a snapshot of the way real people actually speak, and I insist that authors find a way to carve their characters out in a way that makes each of them very distinct from the other.

I'm also a raving lunatic about insisting on maintaining the internal logic of the plot throughout the story. Nothing makes me madder than when a story suddenly takes a bizarre turn, and something is either unbelievable, makes no sense, or otherwise veers in a totally implausible direction. I also do everything I can to make sure the author realizes there has to be a solid reason for the existance of every chapter. If you can drop a chapter from a story and still have it make sense, then chances are, that chapter is just treading water. And I think keeping the conflict and drama as high as possible is a necessary ingredient for any good story.

I've actually done some editing for a few published authors, including my friend Mark Roeder, for whom I did some pinch-hitting for his books The Soccer Field Is Empty and Keeper of Secrets (which he acknowledges in his intro). In the case of the former, I like to think I improved on his original ending, and added a key element that he hadn't thought of that I felt made the finale much more poignant. The rest were stylistic things, mainly adding and enhancing some description where I felt things could be more visual, and cleaning up some language. I was gratified to see that both books got the best reviews he's received, out of the dozen or so he's published.

Keeper of Secrets indirectly inspired the book I'm about to write now. In Roeder's novel, the ghosts of two murdered gay teenagers from the late 1800s help some contemporary teens solve a mystery. I told Mark I felt there was probably a more interesting story in the tale of the two teens -- whom we get to know through a series of diaries found buried in the walls of an old house -- but he responded he felt it would be horrendously complicated and time-consuming to do the historical research to do that kind of story justice.

I finally elected to tell the story of a gay contemporary teen who winds up falling in love with another kid 100 years ago, and their adventures together at the end of the Civil War. Mark was right: the idea has taken an unbelievable amount of research, but I'm now itching to get started, so maybe we can actually start seeing some chapters on this thing in the next few weeks.

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When I'm working with Jamie, I do basic proofing, continuity checks (though these are hardly ever a problem), stylistic suggestions and the very occasional content suggestions. Appearance issues are not applicable to the work that we do, except that my computer keeps messing up the tabs on the work when it gets returned to Jamie...if anybody knows why, I'd be profoundly grateful for some pointers on how to prevent that, btw. I also help with the language of antique weapons and military details, since it's something I have an interest in.

The only time I ever actually 'rewrite' anything is in the final draft of a chapter, when I do the final proof...at that point, I don't notate corrections, I just put them in. Happily, by the time we reach that point, the work is pretty well set, all the rewrites have been done, and it's mostly just grammar/punctuation corrections.

I'll admit up front that I don't have nearly Pec's credentials in the field. I'm relatively new to editing, and TSOI is really my first major project. At some point in the future I'd like to do this commercially, but I think that the kind of work i'm doing with Jamie and the two other authors I work with is good preparation for that eventuality.Who knows if it'll go anywhere... but then, I imagine the Wright brothers' friends had a few doubts too. :p

cheers,

aj

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There is obviously a gradation of editing/proofing stages from advice and major rewriting to final proofing/light editing that looks for punctuation, grammar and the like. It really is up to the writer and editor what the relationship will be. The objective, though, is to foster the writer's product, because that is where creativity arises, which is the reason for writing in the first place. But the effort is a joint one, and the writer should learn from a good editor as should an editor from trying to make readable what the writer creates.

In terms of technique for an editor/proofreader, I find it useful to use the full range of Word capabilities, but I find the simultaneous change-tracking that Word offers as a major distraction. What I do is 1) save the original document, say a chapter--e.g., ch1.doc ; 2) create a new document, which I call, for example, ch1 - edited.doc, on which I will edit; and 3) at the end of all my edits, I create a comparison, using the Compare and Merge Documents Tool feature to, of the edited version to the original (using the Merge into New Document option on the Merge menu); in my example, I would I call it ch1 - red-line.doc.

The reason I prefer editing a document that doesn't show the changes that I have made is that I find it difficult to read a document that has all the red-line changes immediately shown. In fact, sometimes I may make a change to a writer's work and later change it back, because the writer had it right. Step 3 above would show no change whatsoever. An instantaneous red-line document highlights the changes, however, and may make me more reluctant to correct my change. Plus, it makes the edited text more difficult to read, in my opinion.

Just my thoughts.

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A number of these questions/comments were raised as part of the Editing demo that was conducted back in June:

http://www.awesomedude.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=690

My view, as an author and NOT an editor, is that there is a continuum of editing skills that range from the fine detail technical proofing right up to big picture plot/story commentary. Few editors would be skilled at the entire range, though most would be competent throughout the entire spectrum.

Would it be worthwhile doing another such exercise with different editors? The ones involved last time were WBMS, Aaron, AJ and Talonrider.

Graeme

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The reason I prefer editing a document that doesn't show the changes that I have made is that I find it difficult to read a document that has all the red-line changes immediately shown.

Luckily for the people for whom I've done some editing and proofing, I consider myself a Word Jedi. :wink:

What I do before I send them the corrected copy is, I go through it using the Doc Compare mode, using Accept/Reject, and then eliminate the "unnecessary" changes, like when I altered a word but then changed it back to the way it was originally. This way, they get a very clean copy that only shows the legitimate changes.

It takes more time to do it this way, but I think it ultimately helps the writer more. At a real publishing house, I think the editor wouldn't have time to do an actual rewrite, but would make notations in the margins to indicate sections that he or she felt should be rewritten by the writer, and give them pointers on the direction on which to go.

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Hi, guys,

This is Aaron of TMC.

Naiilo, I edit aggressively, I think. Edit = "To prepare (e.g., a manuscript) for publication, as by correcting or revising."

WBMS wrote: "I never, ever, ever, ever, ever change an authors words myself." Hmm... I always change the author's words. As Graeme noted in the Editing Demo thread, if he loved his own words, then I would drive him crazy. :wink:

The Pecman wrote: "Nothing's sacred, and I'll rewrite the living crap out of it if I think something can be said in a better way." Graeme, do you think I should have a new nickname -- Pecman, Jr.?

I do the MS Word Track Changes thing, and then save to a new file where I accept all changes and then do it all again, finding things I missed earlier. I combine the two (sometimes three) and then accept and print. I go over the printout with a red pen, and then make final changes in Word.

Graeme gets a file that includes all changes. Another author wants a clean file with all changes accepted and no red showing. He reads that file and sometimes adds new text, which I then edit and send back to him. I've stopped editing for one author who uses several editors, because he apparently ignores my edits -- even things like 'your/you're' and 'their/they're' bloopers, which somehow survive his editors and show up in his posted chapters. My buds and I do still give him our opinions on his draft chapters, though.

vwl wrote: "It really is up to the writer and editor what the relationship will be. The objective, though, is to foster the writer's product, because that is where creativity arises, which is the reason for writing in the first place. But the effort is a joint one, and the writer should learn from a good editor as should an editor from trying to make readable what the writer creates." I have to say "AMEN!!" to that. :D

Naiilo, if you decide to become an editor, just remember that it can be a never-ending process that can drive you nuts, if you're as picky as I am. I already see several things I missed in the latest chapter of Graeme's "New Brother" that was recently posted here at AD. :(

I know that some people grasp a storyline adequately as they quickly read, and are not bothered by mistakes. (However, I suspect that the speed-reader types often miss the power and beauty of words. They don't slow down and "smell the roses".) One of my intentions in editing is to cause the story to flow freely through the minds of readers who are as picky as I am. I really don't like to read stories that make me pause and think, "I would change that to...." I suppose that's why they call me Mr. Picky.

Good luck with your editing venture, Naiilo.

Aaron

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In reply to Graeme's question about whether or not to have another editing exercise, I offer the following:

Why not take two or three pieces, ranging from something very raw to something that needs only final touches--that is the range between editing and proofing/final editing?

What I suggest is that we all make suggestions for each using the current Nifty offerings. That is, for the former, find a good storyteller who doesn't write well, adopt him or her and edit the bejesus out of one of the chapters and present the various corrections back to the author--as an unannounced gift. For the second, take a story that is well crafted but needs the final touches and do the same--the gift again. Or maybe it will be considered a gift horse.

It would be interesting to compare the editors' takes on each of these tracks.

If people are interested, I'll look around and make my nominations for editing exercises and post them here.

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This is Aaron of TMC.

Naiilo, I edit aggressively, I think. Edit = "To prepare (e.g., a manuscript) for publication, as by correcting or revising."

Naiilo, if you decide to become an editor, just remember that it can be a never-ending process that can drive you nuts, if you're a picky as I am. I already see several things I missed in the latest chapter of Graeme's "New Brother" that was recently posted here at AD. :(

Good luck with your editing venture, Naiilo.

Aaron

Well, I don't necessarily want to edit professionally, but I do perform a lot of editing here at uni for my fellow students. Most of what I do is content and style editing. For proofing, I expect my peers to be apt enough to proof their own work unless they ask me to. I'm damned picky, especially with diction and syntax. Because of the editing I've done for others, my own writing has improved greatly.

Right now I am working on my creative skills when I have the time. Probably gonna work on my current project tonight some.

-Naiilo

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In reply to Graeme's question about whether or not to have another editing exercise, I offer the following:

Why not take two or three pieces, ranging from something very raw to something that needs only final touches--that is the range between editing and proofing/final editing?

What I suggest is that we all make suggestions for each using the current Nifty offerings. That is, for the former, find a good storyteller who doesn't write well, adopt him or her and edit the bejesus out of one of the chapters and present the various corrections back to the author--as an unannounced gift. For the second, take a story that is well crafted but needs the final touches and do the same--the gift again. Or maybe it will be considered a gift horse.

It would be interesting to compare the editors' takes on each of these tracks.

If people are interested, I'll look around and make my nominations for editing exercises and post them here.

While I appreciate the sentiments that you intend, I would advise against taking this approach. There is too much chance of offending an unknown author by presenting a set of edits of their story unannounced and unsolicted. Editting (as distinct from pointing out a few typos while commenting on their story) should be done via a mutual agreement. Even pointing out typos can offend some authors, though hopefully not most.

My opinion only, of course.

Graeme

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I couldn't agree with you more, Graeme. Such an unsolicited edit would not be a gift, but a slap. Please, let's not do it that way.

If, on the other hand, vwl finds a couple of authors on Nifty that would be willing to let us spindle, fold and mutilate their chapters, that would be a fine thing.

In terms of the actual mechanics of the editing process for me, I do it 'the old school way,' I suppose. I take the file that I'm sent, mark all the deletions with <brackets> and highlight the new text in green. I make punctuation changes without notating them, and the same with spelling errors. There is a chance that a word may be spelled incorrectly on purpose, but i let the author handle that aspect. Otherwise, everything gets noted in the above method, and then I send the chapter back to the author, who accepts or rejects the changes, and sends me back the chapter with all my suggestions either accepted or rejected, and with any any new material added during revision. It goes back and forth three times, with the final proof being sort of sacred--it's the only way i've found of being sure that the work is posted with the least number of errors. Even so, some very few things slip through.

In addition to this, I write endnotes (sometimes extensive ones) to the author with suggestions and thoughts and impressions. These play an important part in the communication with my partner-in-crime, the author.

cheers!

aj

Incidentally, I find that as I work more and more with specific authors, I learn their most common mistake patterns, and you can almost anticipate where you're going to need to spend the most time.

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Incidentally, I find that as I work more and more with specific authors, I learn their most common mistake patterns, and you can almost anticipate where you're going to need to spend the most time.

Man, ain't that the truth! I have some horrendous gaffes that I occasionally repeat in my chapters, and my good buddy Keith Morrisette slaps me silly on them. One of them is when I have characters *wincing* or rolling their eyes. :roll: He allows me maybe one of those per chapter, but no more.

Keith's got his share of pecadillos, too, but I'll take the fifth on revealing them, since he's not here to defend himself. I think the bottom line is that it's good to get a nonpartisan 3rd party to read early drafts of what you write -- somebody you trust and respect -- and can give you feedback and tough criticism. You go into this as a partnership, knowing that they're not insulting you with their opinions, they're just trying to make the story better.

Every time I've done this, some of my toughest critics have forced me to make choices that ultimately made the work better. In some cases, I wound up not going in the direction they advised me, but also veering away from my original approach, coming up with a third method that was arguably better still. So it's all worth it in the end.

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Would the 'editing' you perform lean more toward content editing, stylistic editing, proofing, or layout/design editing?

I'm an editor, but when I write, I have trouble being succinct. I'd expect someone who edits me to tell me I need to tighten it up, and where.

An editor must correct for spelling and grammar, for style, for content, for continuity, and for plot and character details. The editor should be aggressive in suggesting changes that will strengthen and tighten the story. -- Funny, I didn't think I was a fitness trainer. -- It is the editor's job to rewrite a sentence if needed, and to suggest that to the author. However, it is the author's choice whether to accept that or retain his or her original wording. It is also the editor's job to point out when a passage needs to be rewritten by the author.

Graphic design -- the layout, design, typography, and artwork, right down to the colors and paper -- is really a separate task. However, in a case like online editing, someone, whether it's the author, the editor, or the webmaster, will create the look and feel of the document. In a professional environment, typesetting, proofreading, editing, and graphic design are four separate tasks, even if they're handled by one person wearing four hats. I've worn all four of those hats, and still do. I either give an online story a simple manuscript treatment or I'll give it a pro design makeover. -- Oh, how I long for web pages to offer easy fonts and flowing text boxes and columns!

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How do I do my editing? I use Word with Track Changes, pretty much as already discussed. I save a version of the file with a new name, to save my sanity and the author's. I also write up a document that lists the common spelling / grammar errors; the major changes that require attention, with an explanation of what I did and why; and an ending section in which I comment on the story, with whatever strikes me about it. I try to be firm but supportive. I try to notice what's funny, what's an allusion, what doesn't fit, and what needs more work.

Until recently, I listed every single freakin' change in the document, as a way for me to keep track as well as the author. However, as that got unnecessarily repetitive and obnoxious both for me and authors, I have switched to listing the commonly repeated problem areas in grammar and spelling.

In cases where the author is fine with Track Changes, I use that; it's my preference. However, if for some reason an author wants a clean copy without redlining, I would have that separate file with a list of every single change, so that the author and I both know what was changed and where.

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A note about the editing process, multiple drafts, the final draft, and creating the web page document:

An author always needs to return the draft to the editor, noting what changes he or she accepts or rejects, so that the editor returns the final file in a cleaned up form. The finalized web page for posting must be clean of such changes.

Make sure you, as author and editor, don't save a web page with the editing information or other personal info. -- Learn how to turn those off before creating the web page.

-----

Recently, a friend has experimented with alternatives to Word, namely OpenOffice.org and 602PC Suite. He rejected OpenOffice.org 2.0, as some setting was causing it to delete his files!

If anyone has experience with those, I'd welcome a PM or a post in a separate thread.

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I can agree or disagree with what Paul has said, depending on how pedantic I want to be.

Since I only ever send a copy of my work to my editor (the original stays on my hard disk), he is unable to change that original... which would be agreeing.

However, I WANT my editor to change my work. I make mistakes, my sentence construction (while hopefully improving) is still poor in some areas, and as for my punctuation... :roll:

I get a copy back that is full of red. I go through it and review all of the changes and then ACCEPT every single change. The handful of items I may want to change back I then alter with tracking on and send back for review. I do it this way because probably around 99% of the changes delivered my content in a better way (and it is very rare that my editor changes the content) and it is only rarely that I would question something.

Having said that, I'm aware that some authors really want comment only on their work. I'm not like that but I don't expect everyone to work the same way I do. So, if an author really wants comments, then they should say so up front to ensure they find an editor that is compatible.

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If you're new to writing and you wonder what editors do and how much editors rewrite, please relax. The people who edit online fiction by gay authors or on gay themes are usually amateurs in the best sense, just like most of the authors. We're not here to rip your words or your creativity to shreds. That editing pen is dripping red ink, only ink. We editors do this in our free time and unpaid. We do it because we're committed to it and we like the stuff. So yes, we're tough. But we're in it for the stories, the same as the writers. We want the stories to be better too.

Editors don't rewrite. That's the author's job. The editor's job is to point out what needs more work and why. Most good writers want that feedback. They want their writing to be at its best. An editor marks up a writer's file and returns it. The writer then accepts or rejects all the changes or item by item, and the editor and writer may discuss what needs further work, as well as why an author wants something to stay. Again, the editor doesn't rewrite. The author does, if necessary.

Rewriting and revising is what writing's all about. There is no such thing as a perfect piece. Most writers will know, with experience, exactly where they got a scene to be just the way they wanted it, or where they couldn't get it to be what they intended. That's fine! It's art, it isn't going to be flawless. But even the best writers will admit they have that one little spot they still wanted to get just right.

An editor will want to read an example of your story before he or she will consider editing it. An editor wants to know if it's well written and if it's something that suits that editor or that site (or other publishing place). Some editors may not like certain things, in genre, style, or content.

About those original files? The writer is expected to keep an original and send a copy to the editor for markup. The editor returns a marked up copy to the writer for approval and any needed revision, and the process repeats a time or two until it's done. That's how it works, all the way from the club newsletter to the print shop down the street to the major publication you buy at your nearest bookstore, online merchant, or check out of the library...or read on this site and others like it.

Take a look at some books on the writing, editing, and publishing process, or look online. If you're serious about writing, you'll want to learn.

But mainly, write. Rewrite. No one, not even you, will know if it's any good unless you do.

Oh, and newbies? Don't be intimidated. Your favorite authors started out the same way, as newbies, no matter how old they were on the calendar.

Heck, a few pro, in-print authors even started writing professionally when they were in their teens, in high school and college. No, I'm not kidding. And by professional, I mean they were published for real, in printed publications, and paid for it. Yeah, that rocks.

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