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.
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.
I’ve been watching Twitter feeds in the #writingcommunity hashtag and seeing lots of folks post that 2021 is the year they will finally submit — to magazines or literary magazines or a book publisher. I say, YAY. GO FOR IT! You pour yourself into those words and you have something to say into the world.
In order to do that, you’ll need to submit to gatekeepers at these various publications. Let’s make sure you do everything you can to get read! Following are a few tips as you make 2021 your year for submitting!
1. Follow the submission guidelines.
I can’t stress this enough. Read those submission guidelines — don’t just send off your piece. Not following the guidelines will assure that your submission will be rejected before it’s even read. Remember that editors and agents receive hundreds of submissions. They will immediately toss or delete anything that isn’t submitted per the guidelines.
You can find submissions guidelines on most publication or publisher websites (same for literary agents). You might need to scroll to the fine print at the bottom of the home page, or locate the contact page, but generally they will be there. You can also find information in Writer’s Market (or Christian Writer’s Market Guide if you’re writing for the Christian market).
For instance, if you’re going to submit to Grit magazine, navigate to their submission guidelines and follow them to the letter. Here’s the link as an example. Notice on the Grit submissions page that it tells you:
what they publish and what they don’t
the fact that you can’t send anything unsolicited; you must send a query letter first
where and how to send the query (even what to put in the subject line of your email)
how to write your submission (even how the first paragraph should read)
how NOT to write your submission
that you must submit through their website
That basic information will get you a long way toward getting your piece in front of an editor’s eyes. Of course, you still need to write well, have a compelling piece, and fit the editor’s desires or needs (which, of course, you have no idea about necessarily). But you could have all of that but will lose the opportunity if you don’t follow the submission guidelines to the letter. So make that a resolution!
2. Proofread your submission and have someone else (who knows what they’re doing) proofread as well.
Have your proofreader double check your submission along with the submission guidelines. (They might see something you missed.) Make it a joint effort. Don’t be in such a hurry to meet your goals of submitting that you hurt yourself. And proofreading by yourself is never a good idea. You’ve read the piece so many times your mind will automatically correct words or fill in missing words. I have previously noted some tips and tricks to help you proofread.
3. Don’t take rejection personally.
You’re going to get rejection letters. The more you submit, the more you’ll get rejected. That’s just the way it is. But also, the more you submit, the more opportunity you have to get published. It might help to do as this writer did and actually set a goal for rejections — the point being, of course, that eventually out of all those submissions will come publication. Sort of takes the sting out of it . . . a little . . .
4. Keep good records of your submissions.
Do this now if you haven’t already. Create a document or an Excel sheet or some kind of system whereby you track where you send what. Trust me, over time, you’ll forget. Whether you’re writing articles or seeking an agent/publisher for your book, you want to capture:
the name of the publication/publisher/agent
submission guidelines general information
title of the article/book you queried (or sent)
date sent (so that if it says they’ll respond in one month, you know when that month has elapsed and you can follow up)
In addition, you can keep a running list of various places that you want to query. In my Freelancing class (in the Professional Writing program at Taylor University), where we focus on writing articles, the students create a tracking system listing at least 10 possible magazines they can submit to, a separate page for literary magazines, and then another page with their various article ideas or WIPs captured. If they hope to one day get a book published, a new page can begin to capture potential agents or book publishers for the genre of their book. For every piece they write, they have to write an accompanying query letter, and then actually send three of those letters during the semester. Learning to have the discipline of creating solid query letters, tracking where they’re sent, and having a list of potential publications means that they can keep writing.
For example, you send out the query, you receive a rejection. Instead of letting that stop you, you go to your tracking list and mark down the rejection (so you don’t accidentally send the same query to them again). Then you look on your list for another publication that might like that same article or that article with a slightly different slant or focus or word count. You revise your query letter and send it to that publication. I know some writers who have such a system that, when a rejection arrives, they have that same article pitched somewhere else within 24 hours.
The same goes for book publishers. Find the agents and publishers that accept what you’re writing, create a solid query to them, and send it on. When a rejection arrives, move on to someone else.
The point is, keep going, dear #writingcommunity. Make 2021 your year!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
This past summer at the Write-to-Publish Conference, I pitched a book to a publishing company called Bold Vision Books. For several years I’ve wanted to write a book about editing–a book that combines much of my work for the past three decades along with the research I’ve been doing about the great editors (some of which I’ve been sharing here on my blog) and turning it into a book I can use in my future editing classes at Taylor University.
And I hope it’s a book many writers and aspiring editors will want to read.
And the publisher accepted it! So now, in addition to writing my thesis (about editing), I’m also writing a book (about editing).
Needless to say, this is exciting and exhausting. There are several great books about editing already out there (as I discussed in this post), so I feel both humbled and honored as I take on this task.
The publisher has asked that my book help writers with self-editing, so my audience is writers who are trying to make their manuscripts the best they can be before sending them off to agents or acquisitions editors or before self-publishing on Kindle or CreateSpace.
If you’re interested, here’s what it looks like so far:
Introduction—Take This Quiz! A Bird’s Eye View of the Publishing World This is a publishing quiz that pulls from numbers in the publishing world (number of books published in a year, number of returns, general number of each title sold, etc.). Multiple choice.
Chapter 1—Let’s Start at the Very Beginning Takes you through all of the steps in the publishing process—from manuscript idea to bound book. Helps the reader understand how many people touch the book, how many decisions must be made along the way.
Chapter 2—A Passion for Words What editing is all about, what makes a good editor, why everyone needs to self-edit and have others edit their work. I explore the stories of two great editors—Tay Hohoff and Maxwell Perkins—and their work with Harper Lee and F. Scott Fitzgerald respectively.
Chapter 3—First Impressions The supreme importance of a manuscript’s first pages. Explanation of how agents and acquisitions editors only have a few moments at a conference or busy schedules at their offices and if the writer doesn’t grab them in the first few pages, they won’t read any further. How can you edit those first pages to make them intriguing?
Chapter 4—Content Editing (The 10,000-foot View) This chapter focuses on what content (or developmental) editing is and how it takes a different mind-set from both writing and copyediting. It explores ways to content edit yourself and others, and the questions to ask as you’re editing (separating fiction and nonfiction).
Chapter 5—Copyediting (The 1,000-foot View) This chapter has several functions just as a copy editor also has several jobs in addition to just reading the manuscript. I will help those who are putting together their manuscripts to understand how to build the front matter and back matter for their books (such as what they should go ahead and put on their copyright page and TOC), how to use templates and create style tags (which will make the editor at the publishing house want to kiss them)—in short, how to deliver a clean and consistent manuscript.
From there, we’ll cover some basic grammar and punctuation rules and guidelines—keying in on the errors I tend to see all the time (hello! No double spacing between sentences!) and how to fix them. I will advise on some of the Microsoft Word tools that will be most useful (not everything in all detail, but the key tools).
We’ll also learn about the bible—The Chicago Manual of Style—along with style guides and style sheets. They will have exercises to do to try to find various items in CMS and with a style sheet from a fake publisher. I will include some exercises for them to practice grammar and punctuation, along with some very funny dangling modifiers to fix (“We saw a dead deer driving down the road.”).
Chapter 6—Proofreading (The 10-foot View) We talk about proofreading in a couple of ways. First, we can proofread a manuscript on hard copy—and this is where we’ll learn about proofreader marks. I will show the readers what these are and provide some practice pages to work with proofreader marks.
Second, we’ll talk about proofreading on pdfs of typeset pages and how to use the markup tools in Adobe. In this phase, there’s more than just proofreading the text; proofreaders have to check the layout of pages, page numbers for the TOC, placement of elements on pages, etc. I will provide a checklist of items to look for in this proofreading phase along with a practice page.
Chapter 7—Working with Bible Text Even though this is not necessarily a Christian publishing book, that has been the major part of my experience so I will include advice on working with Bible text. This will also include practice exercises. As much as we Christians love and use the Bible, it’s amazing how authors so often are not careful when they quote from it or refer to its stories in their writing. In this chapter, I give some personal experiences with thirty years of Bible publishing and several tips on working with the Bible text.
Chapter 8—If You Want to Try to Self-Publish . . . We’ll talk about the world of vanity publishing—pros, cons, and things to look out for. For example, if they decide to build a book for Kindle or use CreateSpace, what do they need to know, and how they should format and price their books. However, I would always advice all of those editorial steps above.
Chapter 9—Child’s Play: The Special World of Children’s Editing Editing children’s books is a very different skill. In this chapter, I discuss the kind of mind-set needed to edit children’s books, with a discussion of Ursula Nordstrom, editor of such books as Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, Where the Wild Things Are, and Harriet the Spy. I also will interview some children’s editors for further insights into this special world.
Chapter 10—If You Want to Try an Editing Career . . . Here I talk about how to prepare for an editing career, how to build a portfolio of work and where to find that work, how to practice, what to charge if you freelance.
Thoughts? Am I missing anything? You writers out there, what would you want to read in a book about self-editing? Let me know in the comments below! And thanks in advance for your help.
She went shopping with Amy Tan and Amy’s mother in Manhattan. She loved bargains, just as Amy does. When it came to finding the cheap deal, she and Amy were joined at the hip.
Her name was Faith Sale and she was Amy’s editor—the one who first saw the potential in a young business writer who began to write novels as a creative release from the doldrums of writing for corporate executives. Sale said in an interview that finding the novel about Chinese mothers and American-raised Chinese daughters was “the biggest thrill an editor can have.” Before she passed away in 1999, Sale had an editing career that spanned four decades, working with, in addition to Amy Tan, authors such as Donald Barthelme, Kurt Vonnegut, Alice Hoffman, and Joseph Heller.
Whenever I gave Faith something to read, she’d ask me what I wanted from her as an editor. “Keep me from embarrassing myself in public,” was my usual answer. And she did keep me from exposing the glitches in my prose, but she also prodded me to go deeper, to be more generous in the story I had to tell, to not hold back, to show what was most important in my life and on the page. She had an unerring sense of what mattered—to me. She could help me find it, though there were many ways in which we differed in taste and opinions. (63)
Amy Tan’s first novel, The Joy Luck Club, published in 1989, hit The New York Times bestseller list and remained there for several months, winning both the National Book Award and the L.A. Times Book Award.
I appreciate that Sale paid her dues—working her way up through the levels of editing as she moved to various publishing companies. Beginning as a secretary at Knopf, she moved on to Lippincott in 1959 where she was an editorial assistant, then moved up to assistant editor. In 1963, she moved over to Macmillan as associate editor. After living out of the country briefly, she did freelance work upon her return—working for publishing companies, literary agents, and authors. In 1977, she was named senior editor at E. P. Dutton, and then joined Putnam where she was vice president and senior executive editor.
In an essay she wrote for Editors on Editing, Sale emoted about her love of being an editor. She saw good writing as “the highest form of art” (268), and she knew that she wasn’t someone who could accomplish it. Like Maxwell Perkins, she had no visions of being a writer; she was an editor through and through. She saw herself in service of the art by helping the writers.
What I try to be for an author is the smartest, most sympathetic reader of the manuscript. . . . This means I must earn the author’s trust, make the author feel comfortable with me and my perceptions. . . .
When I’m hooked, I’m unshakably committed for the long haul, regardless of obstacles. But I can’t fake it: my devotion to fiction is born more out of instinct than intellect, based more on emotional response than calculated judgment. The moment of connection is the moment I become a book’s (or an author’s) advocate—its nurturer, defender, supporter, mouthpiece, bodyguard. . . .
Having made the decision to take a book on, I must figure out how to convey to the author what I think could or should be done to make the book the best it can be. It never is—because I think it never should be—making the book into anything other than what the author has envisioned. In my role of the author’s best reader . . . what I mean to do is help the author to realize the author’s intention. (269)
She saw the editorial process as organic, working back and forth with the author, with both trying to take the raw manuscript, deepen and enrich what exists, sharpening the book and the plot arc and the characters. Then she shepherded the manuscript through copyediting, answering questions the copy editor may have that she knew she could answer on behalf of the author, discussing with the author if she didn’t. She wanted to “make sure that nothing is being done to harm the work in any way. I also look over the proofreader’s markings to ensure that the author’s style has not fallen victim to a by-the-book grammarian. And I follow along through the further stages of production so that neither the author nor I will discover any surprises in the printed book” (271-72).
A good editor doesn’t stop when the book gets sent to copyediting and then to proofreading. There has been so much communication with the author that the editor knows the book through and through. Authors may want particular things that go against the rules of grammar—and a copyeditor may make changes that the author would not want. The editor will know this . . . and keep it from happening.
Great editors know that the book belongs to the author, and they fight for it every step of the way. Faith Sale understood that. In The Opposite of Fate, Amy adds this:
[Sale] was . . . wrong in one thing about me as a writer. She believed for some reason that writing came easily to me, that words poured onto the page with the ease of turning on a faucet, and that her role was mostly to help me adjust the outpouring toward the right balance. That belief had so much to do with her confidence in me. And I guess that is the role of both an editor and a friend—to have that confidence in another person, that the person’s best is natural and always possible, forthcoming after an occasional kick in the butt. (64)
Confidence and a kick in the butt. And bargain shopping. Sounds like a perfect match.
So I’m writing a book. Yes indeed. A couple actually. One is for my MFA program; the other is for a small publisher. Both are about editing–one more in a memoir-esque fashion, the other more like a textbook, something I want to use in my future editing classes.
In the process of putting together my proposal, I needed to check out books similar to mine. As I ordered books online and checked them out from the local library, I fell in love with some of them–the voice, the humor, the helps, the advice, the exercises. So I thought I’d pass along to you some of my favorites. If you want to learn about editing or want to work more on being your own self-editor, you might check into some of these excellent resources. The great thing about reading books about editing is that you really get a double-whammy–you are also studying how to be a better writer, the kind of writer editors dream about!
I’ve used this book in my editing class since 2010 when I first began teaching. The book does an excellent job of being very introductory, has exercises for practice, and incorporates vocabulary. It’s also the only book I could find that gives a clear delineation between copyediting and proofreading. It includes practice exercises, proofreading marks, and publishing vocabulary.
I wrote more about this book in this post, so you can check it out there. Suffice it to say that this is one of those books that really will help you ask the right questions as you work on your own writing. He also offers advice to both fiction and nonfiction writers.
Bell takes on the topic of editing yourself (and, by extension, others). She covers what she calls Macro-Editing and Micro-Editing. I love that she uses several pages working from information in Scott Berg’s book about Maxwell Perkins to discuss the editing process—and how Fitzgerald edited The Great Gatsby from Perkins’s advice. In between are testimonies from various authors about their editors. She discusses the history of editing–which is quite fascinating.
Morrell talks about her experience as a developmental editor, includes chapters that focus on the various elements of good writing (plot, suspense, characterization, stories, etc.), and teaches with anecdotes and examples. Her focus is on helping writers write better so that they can avoid getting rejected for the most common reasons that manuscripts get rejected.
If you’re interested in more than just book editing, this one is a great resource. Dunham includes a level of content editing, copyediting, and proofreading. There are chapters on “Editing for Content,” “Editing for Focus,” “Editing for Precise Language,” “Editing for Grammar,” “Typography,” and some tips about word usage, words that are often misused, etc. He includes some checklists and examples. There is information about magazines, online publications, “and more.”
I also wrote about this one in a blog post. Lerner describes some general types of writers and then peeks behind the editor’s desk and into the publishing world. If you want an idea of what goes on in the editing world at a publishing house, this is a great book.
No list of books would be complete without this little gem. If you often write nonfiction, this little guide offers everything you need to “write well.” We lost Zinsser in 2015, but his legacy lives on. I wrote more about this book in this post.
Of course, every copy editor should have style manuals (Chicago Manual of Style or an AP Style Guide). I’m sure I’m missing a few. If you’re an editor or interested in editing, what books have you read that you’ve found most helpful?
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 Tools: 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 missed 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).
Proofreaders 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.