Thursday, December 14, 2017

Editor's Notes #40: Reading Goals and Continuing Education


As we come to the end of the calendar year, I notice many people posting about meeting their reading goals for the year. I've got to admit, I both love and hate the idea of having reading goals.

On one hand, I like the idea of taking the time to plan what I hope to accomplish, because it forces me to think about what, exactly, I want/need to focus on. It holds me accountable each time I look at the list and see what percentage of my goal I've conquered. Each checkmark satisfies my sense of "ducks in a row."

On the other hand, the very things I like about setting reading goals are the same ones that make me feel trapped. If I find myself falling short at a certain point in the year, I get stressed out. As things continue to progress, if I get behind more and more, I feel like I have to force myself to catch up, even if I'm dealing with quantity over quality so I can check off those boxes. One more duck in a row. If I find out that there is no row, the ducks are everywhere, and they're actually not ducks at all, but rather rabid squirrels—squirrels that are completely incapable of ever, ever making a row—well, then we have a problem.

Something I did this year with a semi-half-thought-out-maybe-almost-not-planned effort was to list the books I'm currently reading on my Goodreads home page. I can list what I'm reading, see my progress (by percentage or page number, so there's gimmicky fun involved that I can even do from my phone), and when I'm finished with each book, I am right there on one of the two places I leave book reviews. How handy, you might say! It is.

I can have the progress in plain sight without the pressure of a goal and deadline. I start when I want, finish when I can, and slowly see accomplishments piling up.

Another not-goal-but-more-of-a-guideline is that I promised myself I'd do a couple specific things:

  • I would have one non-fiction book happening at all times. This book would fall into the category of writing or editing and would be something that helped me in my work.
  • I would read more classics. We used to read a lot of them aloud to our kids when they were younger, and I've gotten out of the habit of reading the more challenging stuff. My current classic is Crime and Punishment and though I'm enjoying it, I find I don't want to pick it up unless I have a solid block of time to get in the groove of it. This is making a really long book feel even longer.
  • I would read books written by the author bloggers I follow. I follow, visit, and comment on a good number of blogs. Many of those bloggers are authors, both traditionally and independently published. Something I notice is a lot of cheering but not always a lot of follow-through. The equivalent for me would be having everyone read and comment supportively on my blog but never recommend me when someone's looking for a copyeditor. I decided to randomly choose books these authors had written or were talking about, and have found a nice selection of good work so far.
After the new year gets underway, I'll be sharing my favorite books on writing and editing, based on my first sort-of-not-really-a-goal. I'd love to hear from you if you'd like to share a book that has had an impact on you, and I'll be featuring those in the second part of that post series. Drop me an email and tell me the name of the book and why it's memorable to you.

Until then, happy reading!

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If you like what you're reading, I invite you to fill out the "Follow by Email" widget in the column on the right. You'll get my amazing insights right in your inbox! How thrilling is that? Or you can follow me on Instagram (as easyreaderediting) for completely different content—check out all that stuff on the upper right of my page where the Instagram feed is scrolling merrily along. I also have an Easy Reader Editing Facebook page I'd love for you to like and follow. I'm on Google+ as myself (Lynda Dietz) and my "follow" badge is . . . you guessed it, right there in the right-hand column for you to click. I try to share different things in each place so  life doesn't get predictable and boring, and you never know what you'll find—or whether I'll be sharing YOUR posts, too.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Editor's Notes #39: When the Red Ink Flows



With the love/hate relationship so many authors have with the editorial process, it's tough to do a good job without having someone's feelings hurt on occasion.

When I edit, I tend to leave a lot of margin notes, because it's often the only way I get to converse with the author, other than email. Margin notes allow me to talk where I want to, when the situation arises that I need to.

My margin notes can be for grammar rules, suggestions for a change, and explanations of why I removed something over there and kept it over here. I also use the margin to tell the author if a passage made me laugh or cry, because I think authors need to know their humor actually hits the spot they're aiming for, or if I felt them bleed their emotions onto the page.

After one of my authors told me he'd rather see less red, I changed my settings in Word so that anything I delete is in a nice, soothing blue, a.k.a. "Perhaps you may wish to rethink this." Anything I add is in red, a.k.a. "Do what I say because I know better in this instance."

Hmm. Maybe it's not exactly that way, but at least there is less red on the page, right? Goal achieved.

However, what happens when there's so much red on the page that every new comment feels like "the" comment? This is the one that's going to break him. This is the one that will put her over the edge. It's just too much.

I've had this happen on occasion, and I always feel terrible about it. But when all is said and done, I can't do less than the job I was hired to do, and if that means a lot of red, then that's what the manuscript needs. I try to be concise in my explanations, but I'm never sure how that goes over, since every time I think I'm being factual and neutral, my kids tell me I sound mean.

Not nearly as mean as some, apparently. I saw a Twitter post the other day, asking for authors to share the meanest thing someone ever told them about their writing. The "ouch"-worthy one that stood out to me was someone who said his editor asked him if he purposely wrote that way to make people think he was stupid.

Wow.

Believe me, the goal is never to sound mean. In fact, if I've gone through a frustrating edit, I tend to wait a day or two before sending them off (barring any deadline issues), reread all my margin notes, "nice" them up a bit if needed, and then proceed with returning the MS.

What's the best way to deal with a lot of red ink? I have to admit that I still don't really know. All I can do is keep doing the job, explaining as I go, and hope the writer accepts that the changes are necessary if the book is to become its best.

So, authors, tell me about your experiences with editors. Have you had someone treat your manuscript as if it's their own, rewriting things the way they'd say them? Have you had an editor that made you feel inept? Or have your red-ink moments been a positive thing for you?


Thursday, November 23, 2017

For All My Friends in the U.S. . . .


For all my friends in the U.S., I wish you a happy Thanksgiving. 

May your fat pants not become just "pants." 

May your turkey be thawed on time and not necessitate a tumble in the clothes dryer. 

May your relatives all have fun together—or go home early if they don't.

I'll be home, making the fun stuff (a.k.a. my super-fluffy homemade rolls, pumpkin pie, and other desserts) while my husband tackles the staples of the meal—he cooks the turkey better than I do because he likes turkey more than I do. It works well for us.

Have a wonderful weekend, don't trample Black Friday shoppers a mere twelve hours after being thankful for "everything," and give yourself some grace when you have to let out your bathrobe. That extra helping of all the dishes on the left side of the table only happens once a year.



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If you like what you're reading, I invite you to fill out the "Follow by Email" widget in the column on the right. You'll get my amazing insights right in your inbox! How thrilling is that? Or you can follow me on Instagram (as easyreaderediting) for completely different content—check out all that stuff on the upper right of my page where the Instagram feed is scrolling merrily along. I also have an Easy Reader Editing Facebook page I'd love for you to like and follow. I'm on Google+ as myself (Lynda Dietz) and my "follow" badge is . . . you guessed it, right there in the right-hand column for you to click. I try to share different things in each place so  life doesn't get predictable and boring, and you never know what you'll find—or whether I'll be sharing YOUR posts, too.