Why Hire a Copy Editor?

pen

You have an amazing story to tell. Aunt Mary says, “Why don’t you write a book about it, dear?” So you do, and you rush to self-publish your first book just the way thousands of authors are doing these days.

But, wait!

You may feel you’ve just written the next bestselling novel, but the truth is, most first novels are full of errors.

When you rewrite the first draft (and the second and third, and so on) except for small improvements your work will still have weak sections. You can’t fix something if you don’t know what is wrong. At some point you will need outside help. Even experienced authors benefit from an impartial eye, so that help should not come from your loving Aunt Mary. Support, yes, but writing advice, no. Not unless she’s a successful author herself.

Have you taken the time to go to a writing conference or join a writers’ group? If you have ever had your writing analyzed by an expert, you were most likely shocked by their comments. You had no idea there was still so much to learn about writing. Taking a course in creative writing, joining a local writers’ group, going to writing conferences, and reading some of the many books on writing can teach you techniques for making your novel a success. You will pick up writing tips and learn how to structure a novel.

After you’ve rewritten your novel employing all your newfound knowledge, you may think you are ready to publish. Not so. This is the most dangerous stage, where many writers become impatient and “just want to get it published.”

Take a step back. You have a wonderful plot and you’ve told the story in a way that makes the reader want to turn the pages, but you can ruin it all by publishing before it is ready. Some people say poor editing doesn’t make them stop reading. Does that mean they don’t care about the fine craft of writing? If they will read anything, regardless of quality, perhaps they will write without quality too. Not something worthy of much respect.

Imagine you are going to a job interview. Would you present yourself before the interviewer  with your hair scraggly and unwashed, wearing a beautiful brand new outfit and dirty old sneakers? Would you think it doesn’t matter because you know you’re a great person inside?  I can guarantee you won’t make a good impression. The interviewer will have nothing good to say about you. He is judging you by what he sees.

And so it will be with your book. If you want the readers to love it and recommend it to others, don’t publish it if it hasn’t been cleaned up. And I don’t mean a quick read through by Aunt Mary who declared it the best thing she’d ever read. Even that friend with a college degree who pointed out some grammatical things and a spelling mistake is not going to catch everything. Get your book professionally copy-edited and publish quality work confidently.

If you have not worked at shaping your novel with the help of books, courses, critiquing groups, and workshops, you may need a substantive editor for putting the scenes and events in the best order. Chances are that you are past this stage and feel the book is ready. Don’t hire a proofreader. That won’t do you much good unless you only want spelling, punctuation, and typos fixed, but a good copy editor will check all these things. You pay once and get the benefit of having any mistake or problem pointed out to you.

copy-editing [1]

Here are some of the things a copy editor will draw your attention to.

  • poorly phrased sentences
  • lack of balance in the sentence (perhaps where the verb at the beginning does not match with the clause or phrase you have added onto the main sentence frame)
  • overused words
  • repeated words within two or three sentences
  • incorrect grammar usage
  • incorrect capitalization
  • misuse of possessives and plurals
  • wrong word meaning
  • punctuation mistakes, especially in the use of dialogue
  • typos, missing words, and repeated words (the the)
  • incorrect information (fact checking)
  • consistency throughout the work (does Jane become Jayne later in the work?)
  • misspelled words (breath or breathe, loath or loathe)
  • misuse of homonyms (peek, peak, or pique)
  • incorrect verb tense (lie, lay, laid, lain, etc.)
  • boring repetition of the same sentence pattern
  • incorrect use of pronouns after a preposition (between him and I? or him and me?)
  • use of clichés that are not part of the dialogue

These mistakes and many more will be drawn to your attention. It’s well worth spending the time and money to have the errors corrected. A good copy editor will help make your writing shine.

 

Dance When the Brain Says No

This is Leslie Doyle, math whiz, poet, creative seamstress, beautiful young woman, and daughter of my friend, Kathleen Price.

Leslie 1984

Leslie [1] 1984

Leslie 1983

My guest today is Kathleen Price.She taught human development and family studies courses in Prescott, Arizona, while also maintaining a private practice in marriage and family therapy. She authored the course manuals that were used in a community parent education program. Kathleen lives in Salt Lake City now, retired from teaching, but still writing and publishing.

I’ve asked her to tell us about her book and how it came to be published.

Welcome, Kathleen.

Kate

During my daughter’s illness, I kept a journal as a way to sort out and put words to my feelings. After Leslie died I knew that someday I would write a book about her, so I began putting down other memories I hadn’t yet recorded about her childhood and adolescence, and that became a way of resolving my grief.  Once I retired twenty years later, with greater objectivity about that experience, I returned to all those writings and began to put them in some logical and coherent order. That became the memoir that I published in 2009—Dance When the Brain Says No. 

Front Cover

This is a story you just have to read.

Find it at: amazon.com

Why Publish?

To publish means to issue for sale or distribution to the public. I’ve invited author Luanne Castle to share her thoughts about publishing and what it means to her.

IMG_4652

Luanne Castle

Anneli asked me to think about why writers want to get their work published. She said it can’t be about the money, so what is it about?

I do know writers who write for the money. Since I’m not acquainted with Stephen King or his ilk, the writers I know who have aspirations of big advances and even larger royalty checks, are in the not-yet-published category–and pretty clueless, to boot. That’s because–Anneli is correct–there is little money to be made in writing.

That makes writing perfect for me. I have a history of gravitating to low-pay-lotsa-work jobs. When I was starting out as a grad student in the English department, I went to find one of my professors in his office. He was tenured and had been with the department for many years. The door was closed and locked, but taped to the outside of the door was his paycheck stub.  And the pay was about the same that I was making working fulltime in retail.

I was still so new at grad school it would have been easy to back out and apply to law school. But do you think I paid any attention? One day, when I had years of grad school completed and was teaching college as a non-tenured and harried “freeway flyer,” I looked at my paycheck and remembered that warning I’d ignored.

Money is definitely not an incentive to me, although by now I’ve worked in both business and creative pursuits long enough to realize that the world is clearly divided into those who are motivated by money and those who are not.

So why do I want to publish? Having an audience of readers is a powerful incentive for writing. After all, writing is communication as is all art. If we don’t share our stories and poems and blog posts, we aren’t communicating, and communication is how we negotiate our way in the world and build a stronger world community.

I also like to bolster my weak self-esteem and build up my troubled ego by publishing stories and poems in journals and magazines. They rarely pay writers, but it’s nice to know that an editor or editorial panel liked my work enough to publish it. They put their seal of approval on my work by showcasing it in their magazines.

For example, although I plan to complete a book-length memoir, the literary journal Lunch Ticket, run by Antioch University’s MFA program, just published a chapter from my memoir, called “Nuclear Fallout.” You can read it online here, if you like.

Finally, I also think that when I do publish my book, it will make it easier to respond to the usual conversation with strangers.

Stranger:         “What do you do?”

Writer:                        “I’m a writer.”

Stranger:         “What have you published?”

Writer:                        “A memoir called Scrap: Salvaging a Family.”

Stranger:         “Where can I buy that?”

Writer:                        “Amazon, any book store, Target, Wal-Mart, everywhere.”

At least, that’s my fantasy. Now when I say I don’t have a book out yet, they tell me I’m not really a writer.

In the meantime, I’m over at Writer Site.  Thanks so much to Anneli for inviting me to explore the subject of publication over here!

***

*Note from Anneli:

If you write, you are a writer. Being published does not change that. Luanne is too modest. She’s an excellent writer. Be sure to check out her blog, Writer Site.

Also, please leave a comment and tell us what you think about publishing.

Memory Patchwork

Luanne

Luanne Castle

I’d like to welcome Luanne Castle to Anneli’s Place today. Luanne is writing a memoir called Scrap, about growing up in the sixties over a bomb shelter and in front of the city dump.

She taught English at California State University, San Bernardino, before moving to Arizona, where she now lives with a herd of javelina.

Her creative nonfiction took first place in a contest sponsored by Midlife Collage. Her poetry has been published in The Antigonish Review, The MacGuffin, A Narrow Fellow, 13th Moon, Redheaded Stepchild, and many others. She recently put together her first poetry manuscript, called Doll God.

 Grandma's crazy quilt

Memory Patchwork

When my grandmother moved out of her duplex and into a nursing home, she gave my father a Victorian crazy quilt which had been stored, wrapped in tissue, in her bottom dresser drawer.  In my sixteen years, I’d never seen it before, but was immediately drawn to the warm shades of dark reds and soft golden beiges  and tans dramatized by the hint of Yale blue in lush velvets, as well as the intricate and beautiful stitching which linked the irregularly shaped scraps together.    Each patch had been embellished with embroidered flowers, animals, hearts, paisley, or was itself a patterned velvet or velour.

Grandma framed the quilt with a sedate red gabardine, and it was folded very neatly; still, some of the scraps had begun to show signs of wear.  Dad left it lying on the kitchen table when he went out to the garage, and I unfolded the quilt, examining the rectangles, wedges, triangles, squares, circles, angles, strips, and heart and moon shaped pieces.  Any one of these scraps might be swept up and thrown away after an afternoon of sewing.  A basket of these scraps would look like junk.  But here they had been artfully trimmed, arranged, stitched, and embellished to tell an intricate story.  This random patchwork design spoke to me of the past and the intersection of practicality and beauty.

When my father came back in, I said, “It’s getting ruined, especially where it’s folded.”  My father didn’t seem to understand the value of this old cover, nor did my mother, who walked up the stairs with her laundry basket and said, “Yes, that’s nice.”  She arranged the quilt, folded on the back of our living room couch, where it lay for a year.

I thought I could see the scraps fading and began to badger my parents to save the quilt.  I suspect my father began to agree with me because eventually he took the quilt downtown and had it framed in a painted golden frame under non-glare glass.  He hung it on the wall over the couch.  In their will, the quilt will be coming to me, as my brother has never shown an interest in it.

When I started writing down my memories, they came to me in pieces, much like the irregular and fancy shapes of the velvet scraps.  The oldest were faded and threadbare.  Sometimes the more I wrote of a memory, the more details that came back to me.  Sometimes I would meet a dead end and not be able to find any more to the image or story.  These images act as the embroidery on the quilt pieces.

I’ve tried to arrest the aging process of my memories by recording them, just as my father had the quilt framed to preserve its condition.  As I began to write these fragments of memory, a book about my father and me began to take shape. In honor of my grandmother’s quilt and our linked family story, I’m calling the book Scrap.

***

Do you have any thoughts about Luanne’s post today?  Is there an old quilt in your background? What might the maker of the quilt have been thinking about during the many hours it took to sew it? Leave a comment and tell us what you feel?

Please visit Luanne’s blog link at http://writersite.org/