Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Back to My Editing Roots

In the interest of clearing out the tiniest bit of clutter in the house, I decided to go through the kids' school stuff to see what I could toss. As a homeschooling family, we have more than our fair share of books...and as a homeschooling family, we don't like to get rid of our books.

Oh, sure, the dry textbooks come and go, and as soon as the youngest finishes with them, they are sold or given away. The others, though -- the classics, the not-so-classic-but-memorable anyway, the biographies, Newberry winners and the Just Plain Interesting -- they're keepers. There are too many good memories associated with the reading of them: long winter days, snuggled up on the couch with hot chocolate; reading the British literature in a badly-done British accent; creating character voices; having the kids read to me while I prepared a meal.

One thing I didn't have a problem condensing was the pile of school portfolios. We have the privilege of homeschooling in Pennsylvania, the state with the second-highest number of burdensome regulations for homeschoolers. There are an awful lot of hoops to jump through, but since I've always lived in PA, I just deal with them.

Going through the portfolios, however, I realized how many things I've kept, simply because the school needed them. Not because I wanted them, or because they were meaningful to me or my children. All those items that "needed" to be handed in and evaluated each spring? 90% of them were tossed aside as trash without a second look or pang of regret. All the award ribbons and certificates I included as proof that we were, in fact, a well-rounded family whose children weren't cloistered with siblings and parents as their only friends...tossed, tossed, tossed. As liberating as it was for me to dispose of it all, it was just as freeing to know that my children don't cling to "things" in order to feel good about themselves. They know they've done these things. They don't need ribbons or trophies to prove they're worth something.

In fact, the most valuable items I found while sorting today were things nobody -- I mean nobody! -- would give a ribbon for. I found my editing roots in school papers written by my creatively irreverent sons, such as "Ode to a Bread Crumb," a haiku whose final three syllables were filled in by the oh-so-creative "so shut up!" (I guess the creative juices weren't flowing that day), and a research paper that began with the sentence, "The pages of the guitar's history are splattered by the sweat of wandering minstrels who gave their very lives in the effort to bring music across the land."

It's no wonder I have the desire to edit. I've been editing my children's school work for 15 years running, and I still have five more years to go before the youngest graduates. If I can work with material they give me, I can certainly do justice to the work of those who actually want to write.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

So NOW What Do I Do?

I've just finished re-editing the book I was working on for Debra Ann Miller. I'll be sure to post a link when it's released as an update on Amazon.

Prior to this one, I'd worked on the first book in this series (see my previous blog entry, Descended: Fallen Guardian Saga Book #1 re-release) for almost a month, turning right around to start the second book. I may not be the fastest editor around, but I'm thorough, so my days have been occupied with the two novels for the past two months. Each day has been a routine of making sure I finish at least a chapter, sometimes two, in order to keep the momentum going and progress happening.

So . . . Book #2 is done. Book #3 is a work in progress.

What do I do with my time? I keep having the nagging feeling that I'm forgetting to do something. There is no shortage of projects around the house for me to do, and yet I feel I should still be setting aside time to work on edits. I suppose that's a good sign. It's a whole lot better than feeling relief that the project is over.

I'm looking forward to the next project, whatever it is. In the meantime, I'll make the most of my free time at home, and educate myself further so I can do an even better job for the next author.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Am I Spoiled? Or Just Lucky?

I'm currently re-editing Debra Ann Miller's second book in the Fallen Guardian saga (Ascended), and having a good time of it. I have to wonder if all authors are as easygoing and fun to work with, or if Deb is a rarity. I see her sense of humor emerging a little more in the second book, and there are many days where I find myself chuckling at the tongue-in-cheek remarks her characters make. She's shared some of her research with me when I've had questions, and in general, has been terrific.

I'm excited to get this thing finished up so her readers can have an exciting follow-up to Descended, but it seems no matter how quickly I think I'm working, I can only get a chapter done each day. I'm thorough, so I consider that to be the trade-off to speed, and I have a family who claims a significant portion of my waking hours. Thankfully, Deb has been encouraging and gracious. I worry that I'm getting spoiled.

What if the next author I work with has an attitude? What if he expects more in less time? What if she says "no" to more of my suggestions than "yes"? I almost feel as if I should wear a bumper sticker on my laptop, warning people to be kind to me . . . similar to the "student driver" signs, or the "cashier in training" name tags. It's almost like having insurance, those signs—because, face it: they're pretty much just begging people to be pleasant to us even if we're screwing up and creating inconveniences for others. A smile, after all, even through gritted teeth, is better than a scowl. (Also, if they're gritting their teeth, I can't understand any of their mutterings, no matter how unpleasant those mutterings may be.)

And if someone is gullible enough to treat me better just because I have a sticker telling them to do so . . . well, let's just say I'm OK with that.

Now . . . how to put a sticker on my laptop that will be seen by others in the cyber world . . .

Or maybe I should just expect the best. After all, people tend to live up—or down—to the expectations of others. I'm rooting for "up."

Saturday, July 6, 2013

I'm Always Learning...Sometimes, On Purpose

I am not always the first person in line when someone wants to try a new experience. Yes, I have to admit it, even if to no one else but myself.  I'd love to think I'm up for any adventure at the drop of a hat, but the embarrassing reality is this: sometimes, it is simply too much bother. I think it's an age thing: when I had no responsibilities, lots of time on my hands, and a "who cares?" attitude about silly things like consequences, I was up for anything. Now that I'm older (not old, but just oldER), I tend to think of adventures and experiences in terms of money available & time spent—sort of a "what am I going to get out of this?" return-on-investment thing.

Perhaps I'm lazy. Not consistently, mind you, but I wax and wane when it comes to new things. If an activity catches my interest, I will grab that baby and run with it. Often, I even stick with it. On the contrary, activities that are necessary are not nearly as much fun, and I have to be in the right mood to do them efficiently.

Then there are those wonderful moments when the two worlds mesh perfectly, like when I decided I really liked riding my bike again. The interesting activity met up with the necessity of getting healthier, and together, they created a really cool new thing.

My newest adventure, editing, is turning out to be another of those wonderful moments. A love of books and a lifetime of reading has now collided with a desire to "fix" things that need corrected in order to have something (a book, in this case) shown in its best light. Bonus points are awarded here for the adventure having the potential to earn, rather than cost, money. Even more bonus points if my work helps someone else to earn money because I've done a good job.

As I work on the novel I'm currently editing, I'm constantly looking up rules, references, definitions and more, in order to do my job in the best way possible. If my name is going on a book for an editing credit, I want to be proud of the work. Proud for myself and my own back-patting, of course (I'd be lying if I said I don't get a kick out of seeing my name on a title page), but also for the author's sake.

Think about it: this person trusts me to take his or her efforts—characters & story lines that have sprung from someone's imagination and therefore are very personally intertwined with the author—and CHANGE them, sometimes with a gentle tweak and sometimes with a ruthless red slash. That's a better trust exercise than those dumb ones where you have to fall backward into someone's arms. Give me Lucy Van Pelt, pulling that football away at the last second, any day of the week. But don't take something on which I've worked for hours and completely rework it. It's mine. Mine. MINE.

And yet, authors do this every day, giving a piece of themselves away to someone who will either treat it lovingly or carelessly. They trust their editors to take a manuscript and give it polish and shine. So, yes, I am willing to keep learning every time I sit at my keyboard, because ultimately, the better I am at my job, the better their work will be shown. I have no illusions about my level of knowledge, in life, editing, or anything else, but as long as information is available, I'm going to keep seeking it out and—with help from my remaining grey cells—retaining it.