So I’m Writing a Book about Editing

So here’s some exciting news!

This past summer at the Write-to-Publish Conference, I pitched a book to a publishing company called Bold Vision Books. For several years I’ve wanted to write a book about editing–a book that combines much of my work for the past three decades along with the research I’ve been doing about the great editors (some of which I’ve been sharing here on my blog) and turning it into a book I can use in my future editing classes at Taylor University.

And I hope it’s a book many writers and aspiring editors will want to read.

Students in my editing class warming my heart as they studiously do their worksheets on how to work with Chicago Manual of Style.

And the publisher accepted it! So now, in addition to writing my thesis (about editing), I’m also writing a book (about editing).

Needless to say, this is exciting and exhausting. There are several great books about editing already out there (as I discussed in this post), so I feel both humbled and honored as I take on this task.

The publisher has asked that my book help writers with self-editing, so my audience is writers who are trying to make their manuscripts the best they can be before sending them off to agents or acquisitions editors or before self-publishing on Kindle or CreateSpace.

If you’re interested, here’s what it looks like so far:

Introduction—Take This Quiz! A Bird’s Eye View of the Publishing World
This is a publishing quiz that pulls from numbers in the publishing world (number of books published in a year, number of returns, general number of each title sold, etc.). Multiple choice.

Chapter 1—Let’s Start at the Very Beginning
Takes you through all of the steps in the publishing process—from manuscript idea to bound book. Helps the reader understand how many people touch the book, how many decisions must be made along the way.

Chapter 2—A Passion for Words
What editing is all about, what makes a good editor, why everyone needs to self-edit and have others edit their work. I explore the stories of two great editors—Tay Hohoff and Maxwell Perkins—and their work with Harper Lee and F. Scott Fitzgerald respectively.

Chapter 3—First Impressions
The supreme importance of a manuscript’s first pages. Explanation of how agents and acquisitions editors only have a few moments at a conference or busy schedules at their offices and if the writer doesn’t grab them in the first few pages, they won’t read any further. How can you edit those first pages to make them intriguing?

Chapter 4—Content Editing (The 10,000-foot View)
This chapter focuses on what content (or developmental) editing is and how it takes a different mind-set from both writing and copyediting. It explores ways to content edit yourself and others, and the questions to ask as you’re editing (separating fiction and nonfiction).

Chapter 5—Copyediting (The 1,000-foot View)
This chapter has several functions just as a copy editor also has several jobs in addition to just reading the manuscript. I will help those who are putting together their manuscripts to understand how to build the front matter and back matter for their books (such as what they should go ahead and put on their copyright page and TOC), how to use templates and create style tags (which will make the editor at the publishing house want to kiss them)—in short, how to deliver a clean and consistent manuscript.

From there, we’ll cover some basic grammar and punctuation rules and guidelines—keying in on the errors I tend to see all the time (hello! No double spacing between sentences!) and how to fix them. I will advise on some of the Microsoft Word tools that will be most useful (not everything in all detail, but the key tools).

We’ll also learn about the bible—The Chicago Manual of Style—along with style guides and style sheets. They will have exercises to do to try to find various items in CMS and with a style sheet from a fake publisher. I will include some exercises for them to practice grammar and punctuation, along with some very funny dangling modifiers to fix (“We saw a dead deer driving down the road.”).

Chapter 6—Proofreading (The 10-foot View)
We talk about proofreading in a couple of ways. First, we can proofread a manuscript on hard copy—and this is where we’ll learn about proofreader marks. I will show the readers what these are and provide some practice pages to work with proofreader marks.

Second, we’ll talk about proofreading on pdfs of typeset pages and how to use the markup tools in Adobe. In this phase, there’s more than just proofreading the text; proofreaders have to check the layout of pages, page numbers for the TOC, placement of elements on pages, etc. I will provide a checklist of items to look for in this proofreading phase along with a practice page.

Chapter 7—Working with Bible Text
Even though this is not necessarily a Christian publishing book, that has been the major part of my experience so I will include advice on working with Bible text. This will also include practice exercises. As much as we Christians love and use the Bible, it’s amazing how authors so often are not careful when they quote from it or refer to its stories in their writing. In this chapter, I give some personal experiences with thirty years of Bible publishing and several tips on working with the Bible text.

Chapter 8—If You Want to Try to Self-Publish . . .
We’ll talk about the world of vanity publishing—pros, cons, and things to look out for. For example, if they decide to build a book for Kindle or use CreateSpace, what do they need to know, and how they should format and price their books. However, I would always advice all of those editorial steps above.

Chapter 9—Child’s Play: The Special World of Children’s Editing
Editing children’s books is a very different skill. In this chapter, I discuss the kind of mind-set needed to edit children’s books, with a discussion of Ursula Nordstrom, editor of such books as Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, Where the Wild Things Are, and Harriet the Spy. I also will interview some children’s editors for further insights into this special world.

Chapter 10—If You Want to Try an Editing Career . . .
Here I talk about how to prepare for an editing career, how to build a portfolio of work and where to find that work, how to practice, what to charge if you freelance.

Thoughts? Am I missing anything? You writers out there, what would you want to read in a book about self-editing? Let me know in the comments below! And thanks in advance for your help.

18 thoughts on “So I’m Writing a Book about Editing

  1. I do want to see this when it becomes available, as I am publishing through CreateSpace/Kindle as an indie author. I think I have a good lineup of guides: Strunk & White, Chicago Manual of Style, and a couple of good guides on writing as a process, such as Brenda Euland’s ‘If You Want to Write’. I highly recommend a hard-backed copy of Roget’s Thesaurus.

    No double spacing between sentences these days? My, how times have changed. There goes another tradition. I guess that extra space added too many extra pages to the final edition. 🙂

    Self-editing is not a process to be taken lightly. It is too easy to miss some rather bodacious and comical mistakes. If you do address this, advise your readers to set aside their ‘final’ manuscript IN PRINT and NOT on the screen, for at least three months before doing the final proofreading.

    If they don’t, they’ll miss a priceless error like this one: ten girl year-old. Never saw it until I got myself a copy to read. Had to go back and revise that entire page! Self-editing is not to be taken lightly.

    1. Oh my, I so agree! You’ve got great resources and are doing exactly the right things. Good job! Yes, I already have in the manuscript to set it aside for awhile–three months is probably a good marker if you have the time. And, in the end, it always helps to have other people read it as well. It’s just so hard for us to see the forest for the trees. It would be easy to miss that error you mention because our mind would just read it correctly. Ha. Glad you caught it. And yes, it is not to be taken lightly.

  2. This is the best news I’ve heard in a while! Please let me know when it becomes available. I will buy a dozen and distribute to our authors as a regular practice. As you know, we use people who are great teachers but novice at writing. This would be perfect for our massive updating goals. Please don’t take so long the industry changes dramatically before it gets into circulation.

    1. And that’s great news for me! That’s a really good audience–just who I’m trying to write for. It’s supposed to be out next summer, so I’ll keep you posted!

  3. Congratulations, Linda! That’s exciting, and the topics you cover are all ones I know you’ve got down cold–so hopefully the writing process, on top of everything else you’re doing now, will go relatively smoothly. 🙂 Good luck!

  4. Congratulations Linda! I think your book will fill a much-needed niche. I, too, wish I lived closer and could take one of your classes.

  5. Linda, I am SO looking forward to getting your book! Congratulations on it all. This may be a bit humorous, but I think there is an error on your post. Chapter 8, the last line: shouldn’t the word advice be spelled “advise”?

    Best wishes, and thanks for letting us know editors can be human. It makes them a bit more approachable. You’re doing great work and I can’t wait to meet you in person at the writer’s conference.


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