Guidelines for Quoting Bible Material: Part 1

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.

I know! There’s a lot to keep track of!

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.

Even Editors Need Editors

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.)

I’m ready. After all, even editors need editors.

In Love with God’s Word: The LASB Commentaries

After we completed several versions of the Life Application Study Bibles (as I’ve mentioned in the last couple of posts, here and here), someone came up with the idea of creating actual commentaries—one for each book of the New Testament. Seventeen red volumes—some including two or three of the smaller books in one volume.

Several more years of intense work. Our study notes for the Life Application Study Bible had been necessarily limited by word counts and physical space on Bible pages, so we couldn’t include much of the material that we had gathered in the course of writing the notes. And, in the process of writing the notes and working our way through the piles of commentaries in the middle of our conference room table, we learned that most commentaries are extremely difficult to read and, while they offer information, they lacked that vital “so what?” element that had become our mantra.

LASB commentaries

Our team set out on another five years of work, making our way through a verse-by-verse commentary of every verse in the New Testament. I was still at home, working as a freelancer. My job was to create the skeleton of a note for every verse. I would start with what we did on that verse in the LASB (if, indeed, we addressed it there). If not, I worked as we had in our meetings—checking every commentary, reading what it said, condensing it to something readable, tying it to the context, making it interesting, applying it to today. With my home office desk piled high with commentaries, I began the process of doing, on my own, what we had done in a group. Bible chapter by Bible chapter, my rough material would go to the same guys to do their own edits and additions.

Some have asked me in the past how I could possibly work on the Bible this way, actually writing commentaries. “You’re not trained. You’ve not been to seminary. I don’t see how they could let you loose on something this important.”

I took this to heart and at first was really frustrated. Working with the Bible is a huge responsibility. It has to be right. And some passages have many interpretations by sincere believers. Why were they trusting me with this?

Then it struck me. Part of my work had to do with the fact that I knew our process. We had honed it in those hundreds of hours working together in the conference room writing the notes for the Bible. And my part? I had to be able to read and understand, and then I had to be able to rewrite in a readable way.

That was it. And I was by no means the final voice. What I wrote as a rough draft was read by our team of pastors and M.Divs. and Bible scholars for their revisions and edits—piles of pages coming back to me with my skeleton often intact but lots of red markings.

I realized that I didn’t have to be a Bible scholar to do what I was doing. Of course, all of the reading was giving me a vast education—I might as well have been in seminary. But in the end, it came down to being able to write well. To take a tough topic and condense it down for an unscholarly audience (like me) to be able to understand it. Simplifying scholarly material for an unscholarly audience seemed to come naturally to me.

It’s the same with anything I edit. I don’t have to be an expert in the topic of the book I’m editing—indeed, there would be no way to do so. I just need to read each manuscript with fresh eyes (as a reader would) and make sure that I as reader am following, getting what I need, understanding, not getting lost.

That’s the key to being a good editor.

 

That Elusive Perfect Word

Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that’s the whole art and joy of words.

C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

Finding that perfect word that says the thing I mean, what I really mean, is a struggle for the writer — and I know all writers experience it constantly.

But it’s not just a writing problem; it’s also an editing problem

As an editor, my job (especially at the copyediting phase) is to make a manuscript sing. If I read your story or essay or article or devotional, I’m looking closely at the sentences and the words — and I’m asking if the words I see are the best words. Sometimes something I read makes me stumble. I have to go back and understand the sentence, or visualize the scene, or simply try to comprehend what the author means to say. I stumble because something isn’t working.

And if it isn’t working for me — the editor — then it isn’t going to work for the readers either.

Maybe I need to replace a blah verb with a stronger verb — or better yet, an adverb and verb with a strong verb. “He slowly walked across the street.” Ugh. Adverb. Not helpful. Many strong verbs can picture a slow walker, but the verb needs to be the best verb for the scene. Does he amble? trudge? shuffle? Amble sounds like he’s carefree . . . trudge sounds like he’s sad . . . shuffle sounds like he’s elderly or injured perhaps . . . I have to study the scene and suggest a strong verb, the right strong verb.

Or maybe the descriptor isn’t quite there. A “shiny” item might better be described as shimmering or glittering or glistening or gleaming or glossy (wow, lots of “g” words there).

At times, I look for a word that will add some alliteration — if it works with the tone of the piece.

It takes a writer, a reader, a word lover to be a good copy editor, to massage the message, to tame the tome (see what I did there?).

the best

Some sentences just make me stop in wonder. Some words string together like the notes of a beautiful melody. They take my breath away. (I gave a few examples in this post called “Word Power.”)

It’s hard work, this writing, editing, and trying to say what we want to say or trying to help authors say what they want to say.

But when a sentence sings, when we “say the very thing [we] really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what [we] really mean” as C. S. Lewis writes, it’s all worth it.

We live for those moments.

Ever have one of those times when it all came together?

 

Editing and Life

Last year we bought a house. An old old house. It was built in 1911, so it’s over a century old. We wanted a place where grandkids could come and hang out and build memories. We love this place. It has a great room and a big fireplace, and this past Christmas we were able to have everyone together to celebrate. Fireplace and all. Magical.

Christmas 2017

But you can’t move into a new place without doing some “editing.” Some of it is important due to the needs of the seasons (hello new furnace and new gutters), and some is merely cosmetic.

house-2Then, there’s the man of the house who wants to edit, well, everything. First, the giant tree in the front was taken down — to get it to stop spitting pine tar on our vehicles and dropping pine needles everywhere. Then he spent three weeks prepping that garden area that was filled with river rock into a spot for a perennial garden. He found a layout in a magazine, we purchased all the required plants, and then we worked together to plant them. This “editing” has transformed our curb appeal.

Now, he’s taking off (carefully) the asbestos siding. I wasn’t ready for that edit at all. “It’s fine as is,” I pled. But I should have known he was right. He happily discovered the original house still intact underneath a layer of asbestos and cardboard. We hope we can edit this lady back to her former glory.

 

 

I got to thinking how difficult it is for me to edit my own work. I can do the “have to” things — fix spelling and punctuation, revise a convoluted sentence, and recheck all my tenses (sort of like putting in a new furnace and hanging new gutters). But unlike my husband, I’m not really ready to take what is “okay,” dismantle it, and start over to make it “great.” I’m too happy with good enough, or livable, or fine.

If I just took the time, I could make my writing so much better. I type it and think it’s great. But if I take the time to let it sit a day, a week, I go back and see a plethora of things that need revision and ask, “Why didn’t I see this before?” Well, it needed to rest, and I needed to come back with a fresh set of eyes. Nothing’s ever great on the first pass — nothing. And you could just put up with it. You could leave the asbestos siding and the drippy gutters and the tar-spitting tree.

Or, you could catch a vision for what could be with that piece you’re writing and be willing to take the time to dig and pull nails and scrape and wash and plant because, in the end, it just might have a beauty beyond what you even thought when you started.

And sometimes we make life edits. We change course; we walk through a newly opened door after another one closed right in front of us. Life edits are just as difficult. We could stick with that “good enough” job, or we could take that risk and try something new.

We must edit everything — houses, words, lives — slowly and carefully with wisdom and great care. We will find that beauty if we take the time.

 

FDR, December 7, and Self-Editing

Note from author: This post is republished from last December 7, 2016, another reminder of what freedom costs and how words well written can change the world.

I’m all about self-editing. I’m all about encouraging writers to write that first draft, get down everything they want to say, then go back and massage the words. It’s at that point that you determine if you’re saying what you really want to say. It’s at that point that you can search to replace a blah word with the perfect word, play with some alliteration, try an unexpected metaphor or simile.

I teach a Public Speaking class this semester, and I encourage my students to play with words as they write their speeches. I also require them to watch and study several great speeches.

I mean, what if Martin Luther King, Jr. had said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by what they look like but by who they are.”

Instead, look at this brilliant alliteration: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Now that’s a memorable line!

Speaking of memorable lines, we have a great example of President Franklin Roosevelt self-editing a speech that made it one of the greatest speeches of all time. This year, December 7 will be the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The surprise military strike by Japan on the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, resulted in the loss of 2,403 American lives; the sinking of battleships, cruisers, and destroyers; and the destruction of 188 aircraft.

pearl-harbor
USS Arizona Memorial, built over the sunken ship and the graves of 1,102 sailors and Marines killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The next day, December 8, 1941, President Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress. The first draft of his speech began this way (italics mine):

Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in world history, the United States of America was simultaneously and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

Instead, by editing just two words in this first line, FDR gave us these stirring words (again with my italics):

Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

You can see a copy of the typed speech with FDR’s handwritten edits here at the National Archives website. On the three pages, you’ll see several places where he crossed out typed words, wrote in new ones, wrote in new words, and crossed those out.

In the end, on that day of great shock and fear, the president offered strong words of resolve that united a nation.

So there you have it. Now watch the actual speech. And remember those who died 75 years ago on December 7 and those who subsequently died fighting for freedom on both sides of the globe–in Europe and in the Pacific.

And remember the power of words.

Whatever you write, take the time to edit. Go back and look at every word, making sure it is the right word, the best word, the perfect word.

It will make all the difference.

 

Typos, Typos, Everywhere

I can’t help it. I see them everywhere.

I suppose it comes with the territory of being a professional editor; yet, I don’t think one needs to be a professional to see (and be bothered by) the typos that appear everywhere in everyday life since fellow word lovers often make me aware and send me photos. Following are a few recent ones.

You have to have a sense of humor.

At the local Dollar Store, some enterprising employee put these extras out on sale, marking them thusly:

IMG_20171009_174518973

Seems like if you are going to misspell a word, you wouldn’t do it the hardest way possible. Overstalk?

Really? Now this is “overstalk”:

corn

 

Sometimes I wish I could carry a black marker and make fixes wherever I see them. That is, in fact, what Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson did–literally traveling (travelling?) around the United States to correct typos–and wrote the book The Great Typo Hunt–Two Friends Changing the World One Correction at a Time (Crown, 2010). They fixed some, weren’t allowed to fix others, and even got taken to court for defacing property.

Someone’s gotta do it.

My sister found this on highway 30 somewhere in Ohio. I do not understand the whole “let’s make a plural with an apostrophe” thing.

autos only

 

Here’s a brochure for a recreational area near where my extended family lives. There are so many things wrong on just this panel of the brochure. Between spelling and font and consistency issues, my eyes are twitching. And I’m so glad to know that Kinzua (which is misspelled) Dam is so da** near Warren, Pennsylvania. And it’s “Niagara” …

brochure

 

Even our clothing isn’t exempt. I saw these at a local Walmart. After I posted this on Facebook, the T-shirts disappeared by the next day.

kids

 

Last evening as I trolled Amazon for Christmas ideas, I was looking for stationery — the pretty kind, you know, with pieces of paper and matching envelopes. However, apparently they don’t just sell the kind to write on but also some special kind that stays in place as I use it:

IMG_20171028_222449788

Menus are often hilarious — especially at small mom-and-pop diners. There are at least 8 errors in this menu from the Muncie Gyros and Pancakes House (which in itself is pretty funny) . . . I really want the “frries” and a second “tirp to the sald bar.”

bfast

Have you found some good typos in your travels? Send them along and I’ll do a part 2 from my alert readers.

After all, we must protect the world from typos!

My Manuscript to Book — in process

The manuscript for Word by Word is nearing completion . . . but it hasn’t been easy sailing.

That first draft looked perfect! I felt an overabundance of self-confidence as I emailed those 49,000 hard-won words to the publisher.

And waited.

After several weeks, I received a loooooooooong email with the editor’s comments — some positive, some negative, lots of suggestions. I cried a bit and fell into a funk for about five days. Then I thought about how I would want my author to react if I, as editor, had sent such a letter (and I have sent a few in my day). Finally, when I got into the right frame of mind, I printed off the editor’s letter and dove in. Among other things, she wrote:

There are a number of issues in this manuscript that need focus and clarity. As I read your table of contents, my first thought was that you had nailed the content that needs to be in the project. But then I discovered that the actual content doesn’t quite deliver in some cases.

I had my work cut out for me. The biggest issue my editor pointed out was that my audience wasn’t clear. As I reread the manuscript, I discovered that she was right. Sometimes I was writing the book as a textbook for my students; sometimes I was writing to the person who already has a manuscript at a publishing house and is working with an editor; sometimes I was writing to people who are critiquing others’ manuscripts; sometimes I was writing to people who want to become editors. Only sometimes was I writing to the true audience of this book. I realized I had done more of an information dump about everything I know than staying true to my audience.

Other issues included some random items that made me think, I know better! Why didn’t I see that?

But then this:

Thank you for your hard work on this project. You are obviously knowledgeable and have a broad background of experience to enable you to write this book. . . .

I trust you will take the critiques as constructive and that you will be challenged to take it up with renewed enthusiasm. . . . You are a wealth of knowledge, Linda, and your voice is needed in this arena. I really really want this book from you.

Yes, indeed. And I really really want it published! So yes, I can and will do this.

My editor listed a number of fixes.

1)    Identify a clear picture of the audience.

2)    Set definite goals about the type of material you want to write.

3)    Prepare an outline (extensive) of each chapter and what will be covered in that chapter, as well as the primary target audience for that chapter.

4) Rewrite the manuscript using these tools and suggestions.

I pictured my audience and knew what I wanted to write. My target audience is that pajama-clad and coffee-fueled author who has just pressed the key for the period at the end of the stunning final sentence on the first draft of his manuscript. He’s finished! But in the back of his mind he knows he isn’t really finished. He knows that no first draft is perfect; he knows he needs to edit.

But he doesn’t know how to do that or where to begin.

My goal is to help that writer understand both the publishing process and the steps and keys to self-editing.

Probably most helpful was my editor’s suggestion to create a revised extensive outline. Internally, I balked a little. Why do I need an outline at this point? But forcing each section of my manuscript to prove why it was there, where it fit best, and how it helped my target audience caused me to be very focused and brutal. Doing the big-picture editing with a revised outline proved invaluable.

I set to work with scissors, tape, and a red pen. Cutting, moving sections, taping pieces together — following my new outline. After a complete restructure on hard copy, I made the necessary changes on the electronic document. I let it sit for about two weeks. Then, I printed it out again. . . .

. . .  and read word by word.

That’s where I am now. Reading and marking with my red pen. Suffice it to say that my manuscript is very red.

It will be better for it.

I am doing what I said everyone should do — in my book. The lesson is, of course, that no matter how much you go over your own manuscript, no matter how many critique readers you have, editors will still make marks and offer suggestions. They come at the manuscript completely objective. While an author sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees, the editor comes in like a surveyor and see the trees and how to create a clearing.

I’m thankful to have been on this side of the desk with an excellent editor who saw exactly what my book needs.

What about you? If you’ve worked with a professional editor, what has been the best advice he or she gave you in feedback on your work?

From Manuscript to Book: As It Happens (Round 2)

“Okay, this next sentence just baffles me.”

“We need to stop here and talk about this.”

“Let’s delete the word somewhat.”

“I found another fake swear word. Add it to the list.”

“Wait, how did they get to the woods?”

“I’m gonna go ahead and remove this whole paragraph.”

“Can your face curl in anger?” (question asked of class) “How about contort?” (someone says) “Yes! That’s it.”

“I don’t know what’s going on here.”

“Wait . . . .!”

“This sounds like a Tim Burton movie.”

“I like that!”

“Wow. Good description.”

These are just a few statements I’m overhearing as I listen to my student editors work on the copyediting part of this project. (You can read about the content editing part here.)

IMG_20170411_101839209_HDR
It takes a village . . .

For this part, we revised the groups into three groups of four to focus on the three fiction manuscripts. The authors did what they could over the past month and sent us their full revised manuscripts. Now the new groups are diving into the copyediting phase. The manuscripts were moved onto Google docs where the groups can read together and comment along the way.

“This takes so long!”

Another comment.

They’re getting a real understanding of what’s involved at the copyediting level. It does take time to really consider every sentence, every word, every bit of punctuation. To make sure the facts are lining up, to make sure the reader won’t be confused, to make sure that the author is saying what s/he really means to say. (If my editors are confused, future readers will be confused. Now is the time to fix any concerns.)

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“Copyediting is hard,” he complained. (Dramatic effect.)

There’s new appreciation brewing for how hard editors work and why they work so hard.

I think mission accomplished.

From Manuscript to Book: How It Happens (Round 2)

We’re at it again. Last year, I taught a class in our Professional Writing program that exposed our students to the entire publishing process, “from manuscript to book.” We read and edited real manuscripts written by real people; the students took them through the content editing phase, the copyediting phase, and the typesetting and proofreading phase. We also worked with the layout and design class, which created cover designs for us.

This semester, we again have five manuscripts and four authors.

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Here’s our semester schedule.

You can read about the actual process on last year’s manuscripts through the hyperlinks above. This time around, we have three fantasy manuscripts and two nonfiction.

I want to tell you about this experience from the viewpoint of an author. One group of this class gamely took on my MFA thesis and my new editing book for Bold Vision Books, titled Word by Word, coming out this summer

I had this group work on both of my manuscripts because the word count added up to roughly the same as the manuscripts in the other groups (about 100K), spreading the work evenly.

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Fantasy manuscripts call for a lot of discussion . . . 

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. . . as the editors figure out the setting and characters and plot lines and, in fantasy, often the magic system the author created.

Here’s what happened from my perspective as an author. I had sent in the first draft of my thesis for review in my program. My MFA mentor wrote back with some excellent advice and good questions. One thing had to do with the entire premise. My thesis is about my life as an editor — it is more memoir-ish with research and other nonfiction elements. At first, I had the title “Superhero Editor.” My mentor challenged that, sensing that the metaphor didn’t really work. The editor doesn’t swoop in and “save the day”; no, it’s much more collaborative and intimate than that. He challenged me to try another metaphor.

I thought and thought and thought, coming up dry. Then, when I decided to give the project to my students, I offered them the challenge. And they came through.

They thought that the friendship angle would work better. They gave me the title “Friends with Words.” Then I realized that for the last month I’ve been playing on my phone every night with my mom — the Scrabble game “Words with Friends” (and, by the way, she usually smokes me!). We moved their words around, and I titled the thesis “Words with Friends” and went back and recast the entire thing to reflect the new tone of that kind of relationship between editors and authors.

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These editors made my manuscripts so much better!

I couldn’t have done it without my student editors!

After they finished my thesis, they gamely moved on to my contracted book, which is more of a textbook style (a book I will use in my editing classes moving forward). The full manuscript for this was due to the publisher on March 1, so I asked what I needed to do to improve this first draft.

I told them to put me through my paces and do what I’ve trained them to do . . . and they did. They pointed out my overuse of the word “So.” (When I checked it, Microsoft Word said, “There are too many instances to check. You use this word a lot!” Yikes!) They mentioned that I needed to watch for passive voice. They told me when I got long-winded (read: “boring”) and need to cut or revise some lengthy sections.

AND, they let me know what they liked, what was engaging, and what was helpful.

All the editing groups put together their editorial letters with suggestions and advice to their authors, who will do what they can with their manuscripts by our March 28 due date.

Stay tuned!

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Hammering away at a manuscript.