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“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.)

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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.

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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.

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I’m so excited to share some of the work my students have been doing so far this semester.

I teach a class called “Building Your Author Platform.” The focus is to help our Professional Writing students who want to write books or in some way work with books build that platform so needed in the publishing world. I designed the class a few years ago after I studied under Professor Cathy Day at Ball State University in a class that focused on literary citizenship.

Much of the writing world is online—and as my students become a professional writers and/or prepare to be professionals in the publishing world, they need to be in that online community. In my class, I try to help them understand what it means to join the writing world “out there” and professionalize themselves in their writing careers.

I teach them about becoming good literary citizens and being ready to enter the literary world upon graduation. They learn how to use social media strategically to build networks with the people they need to know, to add to the conversations going on in their field of interest or writing genre, and to understand what to say and the best avenues to say it.

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Here we are at Maranatha Christian Writers Conference.

They spend the first part of the semester figuring out who they are and what they’re passionate about. They build a personal website centered around that passion. They look for other websites and blogs by people they admire–other writers or publishing professionals. They join Twitter or learn to use Twitter more strategically by building their tribe. They write “charming notes” (explained further here).

They each reported on different social media platforms and how they might use them to expand their tribes (Facebook pages, Reddit, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Goodreads), and we talked about where each of them might best need to “hang out” depending on where their tribe members are. We played with newsletter programs and created sample newsletters.

And every year I learn something new from them. This time around, since I do have a book coming out next summer, I realized that I need to do some polishing up of my social media presence. I learned from a student about Goodreads author pages–so I went in and built one. I’m also working on creating a newsletter. (Stay tuned!)

Here’s what my students have been up to:

(1) My student Jessie is a constant learner–someone who might suddenly have a question and can spend several hours researching and learning about something new. She decided to call her website Pioneer Curiosity, and there you will enjoy following along with her to learn about the next new thing.

(2) Taylor wants to be an editor (be still my heart), so she has created a website dedicated to the things she’s learning, the magic of words and great books, and the work she is ready to do for you! Check out Taylor Editing for her writing about this love of words–as well as her pricing for freelance work!

(3) Laura can write just about anything, but she loves writing about local people and things that get her out talking to someone interesting or visiting something amazing. Local is anywhere that you are, so she writes about Exploring Local and finding the fascinating things in your own backyard!

(4) Ari’s special interests include world-building and languages. She’s a fantasy and science fiction writer, a world-builder, and a conlanger (a person who constructs original languages). So over at The World-Maker’s House, she’s talking about those worlds that live in the minds of writers, worlds they’re trying to get on the page for their readers.

(5) Becca is graduating soon (as in a few weeks), and she has discovered a passion for helping young women with the pesky details of “adulting.” Tackling issues like budgeting money or polishing a resume or handling stress, her Extraordinary Young Women site will be helpful for any extraordinary young woman about to embark on the adult world.

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When you take students to a writers conference and wi-fi is an issue in the townhouse.

(6) Chrysa has already been around the block a few times–she came into class with an active blog and strong social media presence (oh yeah, and a couple of completed book manuscripts that she has pitched at writer’s conferences). Her delightful blog, Chrysa’s Corner, includes book reviews and advice on munchies to eat when reading and details of her journey as she tries to get her books published.

(7) Alycia also came into the class with a blog already up and running. Over at Just Be Lovely, Alycia talks about the things that happen in her world and offers to bring you along on her journey. You’ll find thoughtful, heart-breaking, and delightful posts on many different topics.

(8) Marshall, our one lone male in the class, is a gamer and a writer of speculative fiction with a “slight lean toward the darker things” as it says on his Twitter profile. This is a totally foreign world to me, but Marshall has given me new appreciation for the story aspect of gaming. Find out more at Stories from Dice.

I’m always amazed at how creative my students are. This talented group of men and women will soon be unleashed upon the world.

Look out.

 

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I don’t know how you novel writers do it. First, I am always astounded by fiction writers–people who can weave a tale, build a plot and sustain it, create believable and likable characters, keep the suspense going, and then end with a conclusion that satisfies.

Seriously. I admire you more than you know.

So as the month of November approaches, and with it NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I can hear weeping and gnashing of teeth from my Professional Writing students who are trying to decide if they can take on the beast that is NaNoWriMo.

If you don’t know, NaNoWriMo is when novel writers everywhere commit to writing 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. To translate, there are about 250 words on a standard double-spaced typed page. So 50K words = 200 pages, divided by 30 days = roughly 6 or 7 pages a day. That’s a day. Anyone who is a writer will tell you how difficult it is to sustain that kind of momentum for very long. Not impossible, but tough. Especially when you have, you know, like, a life. Like classes to take and homework to do and food to eat and sleep to enjoy.

My student Chrysa discusses her past experience with NaNo in her blog post this week. And Jessie is trying to decide if the commitment is worth it:

If nothing else, the commitment of NaNo helps writers see what is possible. Whether they get to that magic 50K number or not, they have discovered that setting a goal and working steadily toward it have their own rewards. Basically you just do it and see if, well, if you can do it. There are no prizes, no awards dinners. Doing the task is reward unto itself.

Only writers understand that.

Which brings me to EdBoWriMo.

I don’t write novels. Never have. Never will. I am content to be astounded by my fellow writers who do. However, as I shared last week, I’m under contract to write a book about editing. So I decided to join my novel writing friends in making a commitment to myself to make this “Editing Book Writing Month.”

And since I know my abilities, I’m not shooting for 50K words; instead, I think I’m going for a more modest 22,500 words, which works out to 750 words (or about three pages) per day.

you-canSo what about you, my fellow writers? Do you have something you need to work on, but NaNoWriMo doesn’t quite fit? Then create your own! Let’s join with our fellow novel-writing friends and commit ourselves to a certain number of words per day (or per week if that’s better). Create your own acronym. Create your calendar.

And on November 1, let’s commit to seeing how far we can finally get on that project.

So tell me, what could you work on this November? What languishing project could you breathe new life into? What project could benefit from your sustained attention during the month of November? Tell me about it in the comments below.

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All of our majors in the Professional Writing department at Taylor University are required to do 160 hours of practicum experience. They do a variety of things, often based on a secondary interest–as long as they’re doing writing. One of my greatest privileges is to help them secure these practicums (sometimes they find their own; sometimes I mine my contacts to help them), to read their journal entries sent to me during the course of the practicum, and then to read their final reflection papers. If it’s possible, I try to visit them on site and talk to their supervisors.

Here are a few excerpts from this past spring and summer from a few of my students as they reflected on what they learned during the course of getting real-world experience. This young lady worked at a mission organization:

 In general, as I’ve been thinking about my internship experience so far, I think it’s been a pretty good fit. It’s allowed me to apply my skills as a writer and editor and refine them. I’ve been able to practice writing with an organization’s tone, and learning how to be creative within the confines of that tone. It’s given me opportunities to practice my interviewing skills, which I’m most excited about and have enjoyed best, I think. . . . I think will prove to be a good primer as I seek a job with a magazine or house within the next five years.

This person worked with a magazine:internship

I got to edit another article this week. One interesting thing that I learned when editing this is a little bit about the relationship between the writer and the editor. When I was sent this article to edit, [the publisher] told me that this writer was a really good writer, but she always turned her articles in late, too long, and with lots of mistakes. He said that he always spends the most time editing this author’s articles. I thought it was interesting, though, that he still really likes working with this author because she provides good content. So for this article I got some experience correcting many mistakes for formatting, grammar, and AP style. I also had to cut about 600 words. And since it was a scientific article, I had to make it easy enough for the common person to understand. It was a really fun challenge.

This young lady worked remotely for a publisher, reviewing, editing, and copyediting manuscripts:

Before starting this internship, copyediting was the only form of editing I felt really good at. However, in the past 10 weeks I’ve discovered I’m capable of evaluating, rewriting, proofreading, and more. My future editing career is by no means limited to just copyediting. Admittedly, after several weeks of doing everything but copyediting, it was great to go back to it. Copyediting is definitely the area I’m the most skilled at, as well as the area I most enjoy, which I’ve found is equally important.

On the last day of my internship, I sent my supervisor an email asking for advice about finding a job in publishing, skills I could improve on, etc. [She said], “Honestly, I think you have great editorial instincts. You’ve been well trained and you’re just a natural editor. One thing you could do is broaden your reading. Southern fiction, for example. I noticed there were  regional or generational things you didn’t know, which is normal because you’re young. You will learn about these things, but reading different types of literature and popular fiction will acquaint you with the ways that people from different regions, and countries, think and talk. But that’s about the only thing I can think of. I told Linda that you are among my two best interns ever. I hired the other one. I’m pretty sure you’ll get a job.”

And this young man worked at a local company doing more technical writing:

I spent my first full week at [company] reading and editing [their] training materials. The pace and dual nature of this work was a great fit for me, allowing me to work and learn simultaneously, and gather information for what would become the [company’s] Style. I became familiar with the software, terms, and procedures surrounding this product and made note of no fewer than 100 changes—from typos to phrasing—to the training material to make the brand more professional and consistent. . . .

Even though my title is Technical Writing Intern, I have actually done more editing than writing, which has honed my attention to detail. Through the different types of work I have completed so far, I have realized that I enjoy several aspects of editing fundamentally. Of the things editing requires of me, internalization and careful reading are two things I enjoy more than anything else.

I love it when my students get to hone the skills I’ve taught them and begin to find their callings!

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One thing (among many) that I love about our Professional Writing program at Taylor University is that the students get such a thorough and well-rounded education in the world of publishing.

Here’s what I mean: After the students in my “Manuscript to Book: How It Happens” class finished their copyediting passes on their manuscripts (which included style tags, along with general language and punctuation cleanup), they then took those manuscripts to the layout and design lab.

As part of the Professional Writing major, students are required to take classes in “Digital IMG-20160426-00896Tools: Photoshop” and “Digital Tools: InDesign.” This makes them quadruple threats for any job in publishing because they know what it means to work with the words, but they also know what goes on in the design and typesetting phase where the books are created from the manuscript.

So each took one of the styled manuscripts, flowed it onto a template, and typeset a book. For three class periods we met in the layout and design lab and they worked on the manuscripts–deciding on fonts, chapter starts (recto only or recto/verso), leading, kerning, watching for widows and orphans (those random single words or lines at the top or bottom of a page), placing folios and running heads, and generally working to lay out a pleasing book within the page count target.

After they completed laying out the typeset pages, the teams chose one to turn into a PDF, and the PDF then moved on to the next team to do the proofreading pass.

In proofreading, the students work with the PDF tools to mark errors that either were IMG-20160426-00895missed in the copyediting phase or showed up in typesetting. They first do a visual check of all the pages — looking that the margins are even, that the folios and running heads are placed correctly, that everything looks right. Only then do they go back and begin to read every letter on every page.

After a few days of this proofreading practice, we met together, looked at the PDFs on the screen, and talked about what they had noted as errors.

Again, this is one of the phases that takes a different kind of skill. At this point, no one wants the proofreader’s opinion of the book or the arc of the story. And really the proofreader should not be revising sentences. Instead, he or she should really only fix true errors (which can, indeed, happen at the sentence level; for instance, if there’s a dangling modifier, the proofreader should fix it).

IMG-20160426-00898Proofreaders need to enjoy the hunt – searching for and correcting errors. It takes a special “eye” to do this, one that can be trained with practice. (I recall many years ago when I was doing freelance proofreading on galleys, the editor at the publishing house would often say, “I can’t believe you found those errors!” I took this as a compliment.)

As our “final exam,” the students went back to the styletagged manuscripts and learned how to create ebooks.

So there we have it. My students took manuscripts and turned them into books. Now they know how it happens! They felt that actually working through the steps as would happen in a real publishing house had been extremely valuable in the learning process.

I think so, too!

 

 

 

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So here we go! Manuscripts have come back from our authors. A few of them worked on some of the suggested changes and sent us revised manuscripts. A couple of others are taking our revision suggestions to heart but going to hold off until they have more time to dig in and make the editorial changes. In either case, we’re moving on with unrevised or revised manuscripts, sending them to a new group to copyedit.

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What exactly happens at this phase?

Generally the big questions have been answered, the big problems have been solved. Issues of plot arc or plot lines or characterization or dialog or setting have been queried and revised. The manuscript comes back to the editors for a final check and then moves on to this next phase. So right now, my intrepid editors need to put on their copyediting hats and think differently. They have received the manuscripts from the editing groups and have uploaded them to Google docs so they can copyedit as a team, making and seeing one another’s comments.

The copyeditors now dive in and read carefully. They move in closer, looking at paragraphs and sentences and words choices and punctuation. They look for general readability. They fact check where necessary. They look for consistency issues. They smooth out rough sentences.

They have a little over two weeks for this process, and this morning they did the math (yes, math!) to figure out how many hours this will take them (number of pages x how many minutes it takes to copyedit each page divided by sixty to give them the number of hours). They then also created some benchmark dates for working through the pages and meeting the deadline.

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It’s a different level of work. Some people find that they like the big picture editing more than copyediting. Others find that they really like being able to dig in and work at the sentence and readability level. Some had difficulty keeping themselves from doing that in the editing phase! But we have to separate these out because the processes are different, ask different questions, and take different ways of looking at the manuscript at hand.

It’s a lot of reading, a lot of work. But they’re on it! And I couldn’t be prouder!

 

“Brace Yourselves, Copyediting has begun” image courtesy of Google,  http://memegenerator.net/instance/62720415
“Let the copyediting flow through you” image courtesy of Google, http://bit.ly/1UWtq00

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