My sister, that is. Today she leaves to begin on a dream that she’s been holding in her heart for over thirty years. She begins her thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail.
She has been planning this trip for the past couple of years. I first heard about it during a quiet late December evening in 2021 as we sat together chatting, keeping vigil over our dying mom. We held her hands and whispered, and Carol told me of this plan.
And now, the day has come. She and her husband (who will be accompanying her on portions of the trail) have donned their well-prepared backpacks and taken the first steps toward a decades-old dream.
It was in some of those quiet conversations with Carol that a thought came to me: The kind of preparations and patience and planning required for such a trek for her to reach that dream are comparable to the kind of preparations and patience and planning required to get a book published.
I was in the beginning stages of writing my book about the process of publication. I was struggling for a hook, plagued by imposter syndrome. But her words ignited something in me.
And Pathway to Publication — the title, the plan, the hook, and eventually the cover design were born. (Thank you, Bold Vision Books for this perfect cover. Read more about the book on this page here on my site.)
When you get ready for a long hike, you don’t just put on your gym shoes and start walking. You need preparation, plans, accurate maps, and appropriate equipment. Likewise, when you step onto the pathway to publication, you can’t rush the process. The publishing world has its own language, processes, and gatekeepers. You need to take the time to develop a plan, create the required pieces, and understand each step along the way.
I wrote this book for the dreamers. Those of you out there who so much want to get published. You have a manuscript but you don’t know what to do next. What are the steps on the pathway to that dream of publication?
My book will help you get there.
My sister is making her dream a reality. I’m hoping to help you make your publication dream a reality.
You guys! I’m excited to tell you that my book, Pathway to Publication, could be available as soon as next month! (Stay tuned! Cover reveal soon!)
This past weekend, I’ve been working through the PDF of the typeset pages of my book to do a final proofread. The publisher kindly is allowing me to do so (since I’ve proofread hundreds of typeset books across my career and … well … definitely wanted to do it for my own). I have a system for proofreading and was eager to see how it played out.
I thought it might be helpful to you, my readers, to understand what the process looks like in checking the final look of book pages and doing a final proofread.
I love love love doing this part of any project. It’s like a treasure hunt making sure the pages are clean and looking for those errant and persistent typos.
So here we go:
On my first pass through the manuscript, I go page by page and do a visual check in several passes. I learned through difficult experience that my brain can’t handle trying to watch for all of the visual elements while also reading every word.
So I will go through the entire manuscript probably two or three times, focusing on different visual elements.
Visual scan of pages
I look down the right side of each page to make sure all paragraphs are justified right (meaning that the edge of the copy is straight). Most books have a straight right margin. If not, and they’re what is called “ragged right,” then I want to make sure that is consistent.
At the same time, I scan to see if the pages across each spread look even on the top and bottom.
Are the paragraph indents even? (Sometimes a random extra tab gets carried over from the Word document and shows up as a double tab on typeset pages.)
Running heads (or footers)
I go horizontally across each spread looking at the running heads (or footers). I’m checking to see if the wording is correct. Often a book will have the book title on the verso (left) page of a spread and the chapter title on the recto (right) side of the spread. I have often seen that the chapter title on the running head doesn’t match the actual chapter it’s in. (I even once copyedited a book where one of the words of the book’s title was missing from the running head on each verso page.)
I also look for “widows” and “orphans.” These are a single word or short line at the top or bottom of a page, or a subhead that’s hanging alone at the bottom of a page. These look awkward and unprofessional.
I then go back to the beginning and check all of the chapter starts — the first pages of each chapter. Usually designers create an interior design that makes these pages different. The chapter number or title may start halfway down the page and there may be a drop cap on the first paragraph (a larger first letter).
There may also be a design element. (Look at the cool compass on the chapter starts of my book!) I check the first pages of each chapter for consistency. Sometimes the spacing is inconsistent or the drop cap is missing. (In the case below, I would like those two highlighted words, “or an,” moved to the next line so the lines are more even.)
Formatting of elements
I pull up my manuscript — the one I so carefully style tagged. You may not have style tagged, but you do know what level headings go where, what other elements require special formatting, etc.
I scan comparing my manuscript to the typeset pages to make sure the typesetter has differentiated and correctly rendered my levels of subheads. I make sure any box text (elements such as long quotations that should be indented) are done correctly. I check the bulleted text (sometimes bullets are on copy where they shouldn’t be and vice versa). You may have other elements, such as charts, diagrams, pictures. Make sure everything is where you want it and accompanying captions are correct.
Table of contents
I usually print out the pages of the Table of Contents (TOC) for cross checking as it makes less back and forth in the PDF. I always make sure the chapter title in the TOC matches the chapter title at the chapter start (I think every time I’ve proofread a book, I’ve found an error here). In Pathway to Publication, the editor asked me to make a detailed outline that put all my subheads in the TOC.
In my example below, I am marking places where my Level 2 heads need to be indented slightly under the Level 1 heads in the TOC.
Page numbers will be added on our next and final pass.
Now you proofread every word. Every. Single. Word. Start with the title page (in the photo above I had to add the subtitle because — ahem — I hadn’t settled on one yet, so you can see my little highlight and comment), read every word on the copyright page, read every word slowly, look at every piece of punctuation, read every footnote, read every caption. At this point I make the page larger on my screen so I don’t strain my eyes.
Besides the spelling and punctuation, notice lines that look scrunched together or where the letters look too loose. This means the “kerning” is off and you can ask the typesetter to fix it if it looks awkward.
Sometimes lines may look to close to the lines above them. This is an issue with the “leading,” and again, you can ask your typesetter to check and adjust it.
Then you need to read every bit of the back matter. That bibliography? Check the formatting and that each element is included. Appendices, glossaries, indexes, oh my! This is where those of us who also love copyediting really strut our stuff!
And here’s the kicker. I will do all this and there will still be typos. Ughhh. Perhaps I’ll do a contest and we can all treasure hunt together.
Do you have any tips and tricks for doing proofreading?
I’ve never been one of those people who takes the turning of the calendar to a new year too seriously. I don’t make lots of resolutions or feel that I can somehow start over, but I admit to at least thinking positively about some fun things coming this year. From watching my newest granddaughter explore her world to my new book coming out to a great lineup for our writers conference to some fun class plans, I was feeling enthusiastic.
That is, until January 4. After chatting with my 89-year-old dad and several of our family members together on Jan 1, to then dad suddenly needing to go to the ER with difficulty breathing on the 2nd, to thinking we lost him, to having him rally for a couple days, to then die in an ICU in Pittsburgh, PA, on January 4.
The sheer shock and suddenness threw us all for a complete loop. I had arrived on Dec 29 to help family with moving him to a new apartment in his complex to end up staying to plan his funeral … well, let’s just say the roller-coaster of emotions is not something I want to experience again anytime soon.
Not to be morose, but all of this along with losing my mom, my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, some of my husband’s aunts, another of my aunts and then, just yesterday, an uncle. This all in the past 15 months.
It’s dumb and not really true, but I just always figured my parents would never die. Everyone else’s would, but not mine. I knew I couldn’t handle it, so they’d just have to stick around. They certainly tried, both dying in their late 80s.
I know all of us have lost loved ones. Death is the part of life that comes whether we’re ready to face it or not. The loss is numbing. I’ve been surprised how this has shaken me.
Yet, I do not grieve as those who have no hope. While faith in Christ has in many ways fallen by the wayside in our current culture, looked at as either merely quaint or downright anathema, I remain grateful for parents who instilled that faith in me at a young age and encouraged my growth in it.
I know absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt that one day I will be reunited with those I love in heaven. I can’t explain it (if I could, well, then where would faith be needed?). Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18,
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
People can believe what they will about those of us who hold to these promises, but that doesn’t change the promises. Over my 64 years of life, I’ve watched God at work in my life and the lives of others. I’ve watched new years come and go with new joys and new sorrows. I’ve watched the world spin around me. I’ve felt the ground move beneath my feet. But no matter what, I’ve always always had that solid foundation below me — the foundation that says I am loved by almighty God beyond anything I can imagine and that I was created for a purpose.
So in this new year, as I move forward from grief, I go in peace and deep abiding joy. “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12 NIV).
Is your 2023 starting off hard? Feel free to comment below or message me so I can pray for you.
I’ve posted this very similar post every Veteran’s Day over the last cycle of elections. It seems fitting that this special day to honor those who have served our country in the military comes right around the time that we elect those who lead us. And it seems fitting when those very elections have been so contentious. I’d like to step back and take a moment to think about elections and freedom.
This day means a lot to me because I get to honor my father, Col. USAF Ret. Philip Chaffee, who served 25 years in the military, trained pilots in the T-38 and other trainers, flew F-4 Phantoms in service to his country in Viet Nam, and taught me what it means to love my country (yes, my imperfect country). I get to honor numerous relatives, friends, folks who sit at breakfast beside me and my husband in the local diner, proudly wearing their veteran caps, and men and women I don’t know whose pictures are proudly displayed on banners in numerous small towns as their “Hometown Heroes.” It’s a way to honor my mom and all the military spouses and their families.
I thank you.
I’m here to thank you who swore to protect our freedoms. I’m here to thank you who, answerable to your commander-in-chief (for anyone who might not know, that’s the president of the United States), do what you are called to do. I’m here to honor you who take that job seriously, who are compassionate when you need to be and deadly when you need to be. I’m here to thank you who fight for freedom.
I wish that more people understood the sacrifices you make—in families separated for long stretches and, when not separated, uprooted and moved to new places; in facing enemy fire; in PTSD and things you can’t unsee when you close your eyes to sleep; in doing all of this for pathetic pay and, too often in this day and age, for little respect.
You make these sacrifices because you believe in America.
This is what I thank you for. Too many people just don’t seem to understand that freedom isn’t free. It has to be protected.
Let’s not let it go. Let’s be careful to be worthy of the sacrifices these people have made and make every day to protect our nation “from enemies foreign and domestic.” On this day we honor those who have served; on Memorial Day we honor those who have died in military service.
The best way we can honor our veterans is to handle carefully and respectfully — and dare I say, in awe of — the amazing gift of freedom. When we see it being chipped away, we need to fight back. We are a strong nation because we are a free people.
But here’s the other side of the coin. With freedom comes a huge amount of responsibility. We’re free—but not to hurt one another. Not to badmouth those who disagree with us. We’re free to express opinions, but we must always do so respectfully, realizing that the person across from us with a very different opinion came to that opinion in his or her own reasoned way just as we did.
Being able to express ourselves is the very essence of freedom.
Has America had some very bad policies? Oh yeah. Have some presidents made some really bad decisions? Heck yes. Does America have some really big problems to work on? You bet.
But it has always been that way. Always. No country is perfect just as no person is perfect. We are all fallible and the best we can do is, when we see a problem, decide that we need to fix it. And we start to figure out how to do that. We need all of the voices in the conversation—but there is no conversation if everyone is offended or upset or name-calling. The way we get to the best decisions is when we sit down and hear one another.
It’s what the Founding Fathers did. It’s what helped build a country that has been unmatched around the world.
Thank you, veterans. We will attempt to honor your lives and sacrifices.
As noted in Part 1 of this topic, quoting material from the Bible (and indeed any source) can be tricky. Editors need to be sticklers when it comes to sacred texts (and indeed, with any quoted material).
I offered 5 guidelines in Part 1. Here are 6 more guidelines when quoting (and then copyediting) material from the Bible.
(6) Watch your punctuation.
In addition to the quotation marks noted in Part 1, watch for other types of punctuation. The style for typing a verse within the text of a manuscript is generally quotation followed by punctuation. Notice in the following example that there is no punctuation at the end of the verse itself; instead, the period follows the close parenthesis of the reference.
“In the beginning the Word already existed” (John 1:1 NLT).
If your verse ends in a question mark or exclamation point, put that inside the close quote and put a period after the close parenthesis.
“Who has a claim against me that I must pay?” (Job 41:11 NIV).
“And Abraham said to God, ‘If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!’” (Genesis 17:18 NIV).
Notice in the Genesis verse that I had to add the open and close quotation marks around the entire verse, which means I had to put single quotations marks around Abraham’s words. The exclamation point stays, and the period is placed after the close parenthesis.
However, note that when you have a text in a block, the punctuation closes out the block with the reference without punctuation following.
You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me! (Psalm 139:16–18 NLT)
(7) Watch how you use ellipses.
Most publishers are fine with quoting a portion of a verse without ellipses at the beginning or the end. That is, if you’re talking about Jesus and what he said, and you want to drop off the “Jesus said” at the beginning of the verse and just quote what he said, you don’t need to include ellipses to indicate that you dropped the words “Jesus said.” The same often goes if you’re quoting just the first part and not the end; you don’t necessarily have to include the ellipses trailing at the end. Of course, you must use ellipses if you’re dropping material from the middle of the verse, or dropping a verse from a series of verses, to indicate that material is missing.
However, I would advise you to make these kind of changes carefully. Always remember that you’re working with God’s Word. Be respectful of it for its own sake and for the sake of your readers. Be careful not to cause contextual problems with ellipses. Make sure that you are letting the verse say what it says, without causing confusion by dropping out parts of it.
(8) Follow consistency in references.
While it’s important to know what to do with the Bible book name throughout your references, you will need to make several other consistency decisions as well—or you might ask your publisher how they want you to do it by requesting their style guide. (You can also get advice from The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style.) This attention to consistency may seem like overkill, but trust me, if you make these decisions early on and are consistent, your manuscript will make so much more sense to an editor and ultimately to your readers. For instance, in the Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, you’ll find an alphabetized text that includes extensive word lists of Christian terms and suggested spellings and capitalizations, along with every other question you might have and want to look up (for example, “Clerical titles and clerical positions” and how to use them is in the section for the letter C).
If you’re going to be quoting several verses from the same chapter (say, you’re discussing the story of Daniel in the lions’ den and your readers know you’re in Daniel 6, but throughout the coming pages you’re working your way through different verses), decide how to handle each reference. It might look awkward to put the full book name or even the abbreviated book name and chapter in each reference after each quote. Maybe opt for saying (verse 6) and (verse 7) and (verses 8–9), or maybe even (v. 6) and (v. 7) and (vv. 8–9). Or maybe keep just the chapter without the book name (6:6), (6:7), (6:8–9). The most important consideration is clarity for your readers.
(9) Let readers know if you are using emphasis.
Perhaps you want to emphasize a portion of a verse you’re quoting. Do that by putting it in italics, but let your readers know that the emphasis is yours. (This rule is true for quoting from anything anywhere, not just Scripture.) After the reference, say something like “italics mine” or “emphasis mine.” If you want to focus on the word patience in these verses about the fruit of the Spirit, do this: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23 NLT, emphasis mine).
(10) Use brackets to indicate added material.
As we’ve established, quoting from anywhere is sacrosanct. Leave the quote exactly as it is rendered—and this rule is obviously extremely important in Scripture. But sometimes, you’re quoting and must give your readers some context. Indicate that you are editing the direct quote by putting the edited material in brackets.
For example, quoting Genesis 45:25, “So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan” (NIV). You might need to explain who “they” refers to. Revise the verse to explain who “they” is by replacing the word and putting the referent in brackets, as follows: “So [Joseph’s brothers] went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan.”
Don’t use parentheses, because parentheses could be part of the quote. The brackets make it clear that you have added the material.
(11) Stay true to the Bible version.
Take care to always use the place and people names as rendered in the version you’re using. For example: Is that son of Saul named Ishbosheth or Ish-bosheth or Ish-Bosheth or Ish Bosheth? It’s actually all of them, depending on the Bible version. Some versions have John the Baptist’s mother spelled with a z “Elizabeth,” some with an s “Elisabeth”; some have his father as Zechariah and some as Zacharias. In some, Esther is married to King Ahasuerus; in others, King Xerxes.
Did the Israelites wander for 40 years in the “desert” or in the “wilderness”? Depends. In some Bible versions, place names are rendered as two words, others hyphenate, others just run them together, and capitalizations vary: Baal Peor, Baalpeor, Baal-peor, or even Baal of Peor.
This is not an issue of error; it’s an issue of translation and sources and Greek and Hebrew—and I suppose, whatever the translation committee eventually agreed upon.
And then, of course, some versions include upper-case deity pronouns (such as the NKJV) and some do not. So in some cases God is Him, His, Himself; in others, him, his, himself.
Even if a publisher’s style guide says not to capitalize deity pronouns, if in that same book you quote from a Bible text that does capitalize those pronouns, then always quote the Bible text as it is.
I know it seems like a lot, but, as with anything, the more you do it the easier it will become.
When quoting anything from printed material, always be exact, always give the source, always double check yourself.
After all, if someone quotes you, you would want it to be your exact words.
Because I worked in Christian publishing for many years, I have learned a thing or two about copyediting and proofreading quotations of Scripture.
Authors have a tendency — no matter how careful they are — to inadvertently misquote the words of a verse, miss punctuation, or (often) give the wrong reference.
That’s where careful copyediting and proofreading comes in. (This post will focus on the technical details; it goes without saying that you as copy editor will want to make sure that your author is quoting the verse in context and correctly handling the word of truth, as noted in 2 Timothy 2:15.)
Some authors decide that they will quote just from one version of Scripture throughout their self-help book or devotional; others want to use a variety of versions. All versions read differently, and these authors may want to change up and quote different versions just because of the way it renders a passage. If you’re an author, please always tell your editor what version of the Bible you’re quoting.
If your author has quoted from only one version throughout the manuscript, there is no need to give the Bible version after all of the references. The line on the copyright page stating that “All Scripture quotations are taken from …” is sufficient. However, if the author at one point decided to quote from another version—even just one verse—at that verse reference the author will need to note the version, and then you as copy editor need to make sure that the correct copyright clause for that Bible version has been added to the copyright page.
Some publishers follow the Bible quoting and sourcing guidelines in the Chicago Manual of Style, others follow The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style. In addition, all Christian publishers have their own style guides for how to abbreviate Bible book names (Deut., or Deu., or Dt.), how to write references (hyphen, comma or en-dash between verse spans), and the capitalizations of various scriptural words (temple or Temple; rapture or Rapture). Some publishers use the lowercase letters a or b to indicate in the reference that the author is using the first or second part of a verse (Psalm 139:14a); others don’t do that. If you are editing for a particular publisher, ask for their style guide. If not, make your decisions at this point and note them on your style sheet so that you’ll be consistent.
Over the years, I’ve gathered up a list of items important to remember when quoting from or otherwise using Scripture in writing. Following are the first five of ten key rules for quoting and sourcing Scripture (the other five will be in the next blog post).
(1) Know what version(s) you’re using—and quote it correctly.
“Be careful, for writing books is endless” (Ecclesiastes 12:12, NLT).
“Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12, NIV).
“There’s no end to the publishing of books” (Ecclesiastes 12:12 MSG).
Follow the various style guides or the style guide from the publisher for the details; barring that, be consistent. Use your style sheet to make note of how you write the references (1:3, 4 or 1:3-4 or 1:3–4) and whether you’re writing Bible book names out in full or abbreviating them (and how you abbreviate them). The moral of the story is, be consistent.
By far the most important key to quoting Scripture is to quote it accurately. I can’t stress enough: Read the verses carefully, word by word. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen typos in quoted verses … well, I’d have a lot of nickels. And if the author has copied verses from Bible Gateway or some other electronic Bible, still double check it. Do a comparison read, a phrase at a time—read aloud and read the punctuation as well. If you’re working with an electronic Bible, minimize both screens so that you can see the document and see the electronic page at the same time. That makes it much easier than trying to flip back and forth between screens.
(2) Be sure that “Lord” or “God” is small caps where appropriate.
Throughout the Old Testament (and in the New Testament when it’s quoting the Old), the word Lord will be rendered as LORD, with the “ORD” as small caps and, in a few cases, GOD is that way as well. (Note that my WordPress program isn’t allowing me to make those small caps, but take a look in your Old Testament and you’ll see what I mean.) When you see Lord in small caps, you’re seeing the translators using this special formatting to show that the word is the Hebrew word for the name of God, YHWH or Yahweh, as opposed to other names of God (Elohim or Adonai, for example). It is important that when you quote Bible verses that have small caps, you include those small caps.
If you’re not seeing a verse quoted with the small caps and it should be, you can quickly create small capitals by highlighting the “ord” (make sure that you start with the letters in lower case) and then pressing Control + Shift + K. You can also highlight the three letters, navigate to the Home ribbon and Font tab with the dropdown to open up the Font menu, and then click on the box for “Small caps.” Mac users, do Command + Shift + K.
(3) Don’t worry about italics.
Some Old Testament texts italicize words that have been added for readability in English but are not technically in their source texts. You may not see these on the electronic Bibles, but if you’re copying from your Bible, you may see various words italicized. Unless the words are italicized for other purposes (for example, in the New Testament where Jesus speaking in Aramaic), then don’t worry about copying the italics. Most publisher style guides specify not to do that.
For example, Genesis 1:10 in the King James Version reads, “And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called the Seas: and God saw that it was good.” Notice the italics on “land” and “it was.” When you copy this verse into your manuscript, you don’t need to italicize those words. (However, note that you do need to maintain the capital letters beginning Earth and Seas.)
However, if you’re quoting Jesus as here in Matthew 27:46 in the New International Version (2011): “About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?‘ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’),” then preserve the italics because this verse is following the rule of putting foreign language words in italics.
(4) Use quotation marks accurately.
Generally, when you’re going to quote a verse, you will put it in quotation marks, as here, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8 NLT). However, if you’re quoting a passage with more than five lines, generally you’ll put that in a block, so then you will not use open and close quotes (this line-count rule applies to quoting any kind of block text—not only Scripture). For example:
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. (Romans 5:3–6 NLT)
If you’re running a quoted Scripture verse into your text that has a quote within it, you will need to change the double quotes to single quotes, such as, “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’” (John 14:6 NLT). Notice that since I had to enclose the quote in quotation marks to quote it here in this paragraph, I needed to change the original double quotation marks around Jesus’ words to single quotation marks. Also, if you need to capitalize a letter at the beginning or lower case a letter because you’re folding the quote into a sentence you wrote, do so.
The exception is when you do a block (as above). Since there are no open or close quotes around a block of text, any internal quotation marks will remain as in the original.
(5) Don’t include verse numbers.
When you’re quoting more than one verse, either running into your text or in a block quote, you don’t need to include the verse numbers at each verse. These verse numbers may carry over from electronic Bible software if you copy a block of material, so be sure to remove them.
“Versification” refers to those Bibles where each verse starts in a new paragraph; that is, the verses are not run together to create paragraphs. When you’re copying from such Bibles, you do not need to keep the verses separate. That is simply a stylistic decision made by the Bible publisher. For your purposes when quoting, run the material together into one paragraph.
The same rule applies to quoting poetry in Scripture. You can preserve the poetic lines or type the poetry into paragraph form. Also note that when presenting poetry together into paragraph lines, you may need to lowercase some letters. The text may have capital letters at the beginning of each new line or verse, but when run together, these would be incorrect. Fix the capitalization to match sentence case.
So that gets us started! We need to be very careful as we work with material that quotes Scripture. Watch for rules 6-10 in an upcoming post.
Here she is. All 332 pages of her. I told you about this book contract and, well, after some weeks of imposter syndrome and some constant worry about if I could actually write this book … well. Ta-da.
The working title is Pathway to Publication. I’m still trying on some subtitles, such as “A publishing professional turned college prof leads the way” or “guides you.” Not sure yet. But we have a little time to hone that part.
The writing process has not been easy. I look at these pages and honestly am astounded.
But it wasn’t done alone. It took a team of people to help me get to this point (and I’m not even at the publisher yet!).
A dear publishing friend helped me see beyond the “this has already been written a million times” dilemma to look instead at my personal perspective on this publishing process. She helped me see that I could write this from the college professor angle — so the book is shaped by the college classes I teach in Professional Writing and is very hands-on, including worksheets to help readers go from the theoretical to the practical. (Thank you, Kim.)
Another publishing friend recommended that I revise my website to focus on the teaching angle and build on that. (Thank you, Rhonda.)
My sister has been talking to me about preparations for her thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail next year. The more she talked, the more I discovered a hook I could hang this book on — preparing for the months on the AT could be compared to preparing a book for publication. That metaphor helped me lay out the chapters. (Thank you, Carol.)
A former student who now has a business helping authors promote their books will help me create a pre-publication marketing strategy. (Thank you, Jori.)
A high schooler I met at our writers conference teen track, who is new to the publishing process, is reading some chapters to help me know if I’m answering her questions. (Thank you, Eliana.)
A current student and another writer friend are reading to see if I’m staying true to the content and my voice, writing clearly, and speaking in the right way to my target audience. (Thank you, Anna and Dave.)
And, finally, yet another student who has started his own freelance editing business just completed an astounding copyedit of the manuscript. He caught me in my wordiness and in my tics. He smoothed and refined and questioned and commented. And, as I taught him in editing class, he remembered to offer a few positive comments as well. And boy, did I need them! (Thank you, Kipp.)
And I’m thankful to the many publishing professionals I’ve learned from across my almost forty years in the industry. Their wisdom guided this book. I’ve added their titles to a recommended books list and quoted several of them throughout. Instead of feeling like “this is just another book on the same topic,” I simply feel humbled to add my voice to the many others who have a passion to help writers.
All of this to say, we writers need folks around us — some with publishing advice, some with writing advice, some with editorial skill, some with marketing skill, some acting as the target audience readers — to bring out the best in our manuscripts.
I still have a week to go with this pile of paper before it goes off to the publisher. That’s why I printed it. I always need to see it on physical paper to highlight and mark the final changes I need to make.
Then, of course, the editor at the publisher will tear it apart — but I already know that. I teach about this. (Thank you, Bold Vision Books.)
Happy July 4th, everyone! Independence Day. This is one of my favorite holidays. I do love our country so much and, while we certainly have had and continue to have our problems, we are a great country with a great heritage.
Which is why the picnics and parades and fireworks on July 4.
As I write this on July 2, it was on July 2, 1776, that the Continental Congress formally declared independence. It was two days later, on July 4, that the Congress approved the final text of the Declaration.
It had taken a few weeks and several versions to get there.
Apparently, the 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson was known for having a way with words in his writing (you never know when and for what your writing skills might be called upon!). On June 11, Jefferson, along with four others, was commissioned to draft a statement justifying the colonies’ break from Great Britain — a Declaration of Independence. The Committee of Five included Jefferson (VA), Benjamin Franklin (PA), John Adams (MA), Robert Livingston (NY), and Roger Sherman (CT). Jefferson wrote the first draft, then Franklin and Adams acted as first readers, making some corrections that Jefferson incorporated before the Declaration was presented to the Continental Congress for approval.
The process of consideration and revision of Jefferson’s declaration (including Adams’ and Franklin’s corrections) continued on July 3 and into the late morning of July 4, during which Congress deleted and revised some one-fifth of its text. … The delegates made no changes to that key preamble, however, and the basic document remained Jefferson’s words. Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence later on the Fourth of July.
What was that one-fifth of the text that was revised or deleted? Constitutionfacts.com gives a little info:
Jefferson was quite unhappy about some of the edits made to his original draft of the Declaration of Independence. He had originally included language condemning the British promotion of the slave trade (even though Jefferson himself was a slave owner). This criticism of the slave trade was removed in spite of Jefferson’s objections.
In addition, the Congress made 86 other changes before finally adopting the approximately 1,320-word Declaration.
Jefferson later wrote about the process in 1823:
… the other members of the committee “unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught [sic]. I consented; I drew it; but before I reported it to the committee I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams requesting their corrections. … I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, and from them, unaltered to the Congress.”
The National Archives site quoted above goes on to explain, “Jefferson’s rough draft, however, with changes made by Franklin and Adams, as well as Jefferson’s own notes of changes by the Congress, is housed at the Library of Congress.”
In this link are photos of four hand-written pages with scratch outs and rewrites. You can see, for example, on page 1, how the words “a people” were changed to “one people.” You can see that the next entire line is scratched out, replaced with what did become the final words, “… dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume …” And the first line of the next paragraph, to me one of the most beautifully written in all of literature, appears to have been edited several times to get it just right: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Note that “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” remained unedited.
Who knows what discussions occurred as those Continental Congress delegates edited by committee over those two days in 1776? (And if you’ve ever sat in on a meeting where an entire group is attempting to edit a document, you know how frustrating that can be.) Why did they make certain cuts? What were the compromises? Why didn’t they understand freedom truly for ALL people? What subtle wording changes occurred? Indeed, Robert Livingston, one of the Committee of Five, did not ultimately sign the Declaration, believing it was too soon to declare independence.
But on July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress finalized the document, then on August 2, 1776, 56 men signed it, knowing that they were putting their lives literally on the line by doing so. This group of men, as imperfect as they were, believed in freedom. They had the vision to create a nation with founding principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — and the documents they created formed our United States of America.
Odd fact: Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Continental Congress’s approval of the Declaration of Independence.
So celebrate today! Wave your flag and thank the founders of the Declaration of Independence for their vision. It laid the foundation that we should continue to cherish, even as we as a nation have been adjusting and changing over the last 246 years. Let us celebrate our freedom.
I tell my students this all the time: “You want to be a writer? You want to get published? You want to get your writing into the hands of readers? Then develop a thick skin.”
Sounds tough, I know. But it’s 100 percent true.
And this theme is a key element of my upcoming book, which has no title yet but is right now affectionately called, “So you’ve finished your manuscript? You want to get published? Here is everything you need to know, prepare, do, and plan for.” I know, too long. But that’s basically what it’s about.
And there’s a whole chapter on the idea of having a thick skin. Because writers need it.
We need it before we get published, and we need it after (which I will discuss in a later post as Part 2).
First, the BEFORE. Anyone who has been writing and submitting for more than a week has discovered that rejection is simply a part of the process. Writers need thick skin to be ready to handle those inevitable rounds of rejection and maintain personal mental health. No matter how many years you’ve been at it, no matter how many pieces you have or have not published, those four simple words “not right for us” hit right in the gut.
Why does it hurt so much? Well, as a much-rejected writer, I believe it just comes down to how much of ourselves we put into every piece we write and how rejection feels like a rejection of us personally. Whether it’s a literary story, or a transparent memoir, or a how-to on keeping houseplants alive, we worked hard and put ourselves out there. So it is always with great fear and trembling that we send out the piece or the query or the proposal and anxiously await the response.
We fear that someone out there will laugh uproariously at our audacity to think we can write and that anyone would publish us, show it around so everyone else laughs at our expense, and then reply with the terse email, “Not right for us.”
Can I offer up a few facts to help keep those rejections in perspective?
However, first, I’m going to assume that you are a careful writer and researcher, that others have read and critiqued your work, that you’ve revised and revised to make it the best you can deliver. That is my assumption. (Please don’t be one of those writers who tries to send off the first draft or who dares to think that “God gave me the words” so therefore it’s perfect as is.) Good, solid writing takes time and care.
Beyond that, here are some thoughts from my own (and many others’) experiences:
Everyone gets rejected. Every single famous author started out right where you are — wallowing in the misery of the “not right for us.” If you don’t believe me, here’s an article about best-selling books that were initially rejected (often many times).
You have to understand how many pieces these editors are seeing every single day. Sometimes hundreds. You have a lot of competition when there are a couple hundred submissions for a single spot in a magazine, or when there are hundreds of book proposals for perhaps five publication slots at an imprint of your genre for the next publication season. So don’t take it personally.
It could be that, although your piece or proposal is stellar, someone got in right before you with something very similar. And yours gets rejected. There’s no way you could know that.
Acceptance is very subjective. The gatekeeper reading your query or literary piece or proposal needs to “feel it.” They need to resonate with your topic or your voice. And if they don’t, then it will be rejected. Not because you’re a terrible writer, but simply because this particular editor just didn’t have that gut reaction. And there’s no way you can control that.
Rejection is about the piece, the query, the proposal — it is not a rejection of you as a person or as a writer (no matter how much it feels that way).
So how can you handle rejection? Here are a few more thoughts:
Allow yourself to feel bad for a bit. It does hurt. (Give yourself a day to wallow, if needed. But no negative self-talk. Remember, it’s not a rejection of you.)
Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go back to your tracking system for the next place to submit. (You do have a tracking system, don’t you? If not, create one. Make a list of all the places you want to submit to on something like an Excel doc. More on that in a later post — oh, and also in my upcoming book. <just a teaser>). What I mean is that on such a list you can now mark down that XX publication or publisher rejected it, so now turn around and send it to YY. Of course you’ll have to revise your piece, and double check submission guidelines and word counts, but get it out there again. If you really believe in it, keep trying at other places. You might hit right at the moment when they DO need just your piece and the editor DOES resonate with it.
You could even take an optimistic approach, like this writer, on why you should aim for 100 rejections a year (pardon the swear word in the article — but the point is valid). The basic premise is that the more you’re submitting, yes, the more you’ll get rejected, but by the law of averages, it also means the more chances you’re giving yourself to eventually be published.
Stay classy, don’t burn bridges with any editor or publisher, and thicken that skin.
You writers out there who have experienced rejection, how do you handle it and keep your writing sanity?
It happens to me every year, around May, you know … graduation. Every year, another set of students in whom I’ve invested for four years whatever knowledge I have to share, whatever words of wisdom I have to offer, and whatever encouragement I have to pour out on them — every year, another batch of them leaves. I wrote about this feeling back in 2015, about my annual heartache, and it has followed me every year since then.
Seriously, it feels like it did when I had to let my kids go. We parents know what it’s like to launch our children. To watch them drive away to that new job, or to hand them off in marriage, or to stand by and hold our breath as they learn the joys and frustrations of adulting.
I know these aren’t my kids, but they have definitely become a part of my life and the letting go still hurts my heart.
But here’s the deal. These folks are really special to me. They entered the Professional Writing program just as I was taking it over in the wake of some unexpected changes. They stuck with me. They offered thoughts and advice and encouragement as we worked to update the program to better prepare them (and future ProWrites) to successfully leave college and enter the work force.
And here’s another deal: They’re doing it! Four of them already have jobs in their field! I mean, job jobs. Jobs they have trained for. One of them is going on to graduate school for an MFA. The others are in interview processes that will land them shortly, I have no doubt.
They are ready.
I’m happy, I’m sad. I’m letting them go knowing that indeed that’s what I’m here for. To bring them in, train them as best I can, and send them on their way to whatever God has for them.
Seriously. I have the best job in the world.
Blessings to you Ellie, Kipp, Zach, Grant, Tarah, Alyssa, Katie, Lindsey. Go with God.