Monday, June 23, 2014

Editor's Notes #13: My MS Doesn't Need That Much Red Ink

There's nothing like the feeling of writing. Letting out the creativity that's in your brain, putting it on paper (or the virtual paper of a Word doc) and honing it to perfection. Scenes are written, critiqued, and rewritten. Verbs are made stronger. Words are added to engage all the senses. You have a masterpiece on your hands.

With the confidence that can only come from naiveté, you hand it over to an editor for "a quick proof."


When I talk to people before doing an evaluation, I've found most of them believe their manuscripts only need a light edit, similar to the "quick once-over." I am sorry to report that most manuscripts need more than a passing glance. Indeed, copy editors can't afford to gloss over the manuscripts entrusted to their care. If we do our jobs properly, we read every word, multiple times.

The funny thing about reading each word is that it enables mistakes to be found. Sometimes there are a lot of them, and sometimes only a few, but even the most careful writer makes mistakes. It's just the way it goes.

In one of life's ironies, the writers who think they need the most help are rarely those who have the most errors in their manuscripts. Even so, the typical copy edit looks worse than it is, with all that red ink standing out so starkly against the black and white.

You'll just have to trust me when I say copy editors—well, most of them, anyway—don't take sadistic pleasure in marking up manuscripts. I know I don't. There's a satisfaction that comes from knowing I'm helping someone's work to look its best, but when there are a lot of corrections to be made, my feelings run more toward the nervous side. Will the author think I'm taking liberties that aren't mine to take? Will he resent my advice? Will she wonder if I really know what I'm talking about? Am I being too bossy?

Those who have worked with me know I'm a big fan of margin notes. I like to use the margin as an easy means of communication between me and the author. I can write things as I think of them, where they apply, so I don't have to save it all for an email summary. Sometimes I'll explain why I've changed something that may not have seemed incorrect; other times, I'll explain an odd rule, like the "sometimes hyphenated, sometimes not" words; other times I just want to show my appreciation for a nicely written passage or a funny exchange between characters.

When all is said and done, I hope the writer recognizes that I've made suggestions that will improve the manuscript. Seeing "all that red ink" may come as a shock, but as long as the author knows I have his or her best interests in mind, the red is just a little ol' lipstick kiss at the end of a soon-to-be-great manuscript.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Coffee Chat 17.0 with S.K. Anthony: Why Some Book-to-Movie Adaptations Stink!

I am SO tired! S.K. and I have been catching up after her vacation, and sitting around watching movies. To keep it from being tiresome, we've been dressing up like the characters in each movie so we're in the proper frame of mind. I was never so thankful to shower as I was when the Lord of the Rings extended version trilogy was done. And those hobbit feet prostheses made my toes sweat something fierce.

She should be here any minute, but I'm not sure what we're watching today, so I don't know what kind of costume she'll be wearing . . . or what she's bringing for me. I wasn't really crazy about my "house elf" outfit when we watched the Harry Potter movies. A dirty pillowcase? Never again, man. Never again.

SK: [Walks up from basement.] Oh hey, Lynda! I wanted to get away from the kids so I came in around two in the morning and went down to take a nap. I'm still glad I had the good sense in making myself a copy of your house keys. 

Here. [Throws Lynda a bag.] Today we watch The Hunger Games. I'll be Katniss and you'll be—

ER: [Opens bag and looks in.] Feathers? Why would I need feathers?

SK: Yes, those are feathers. I thought you might like to stay alive, in which case you can be my sidekick mockingjay. I know she doesn't have a mockingjay by her side, apart from the pin, but it's not like you're a tiny bird anyway. We can make concessions. 

ER: Are you calling me fat? [Sticks out tongue while drizzling butter on the popcorn.]

SK: Stop making faces! [S.K. rolls eyes.] Fine! I thought you might put up a fuss. I guess you can be Rue instead; there's a wig at the bottom of all the feathers. This way we can both stay in our pajamas.

ER: Whatever. I don't know why I have to wear a wig and all you did was braid your hair—and steal my daughter's bow and arrows. Be careful with that thing! [Jams wig on head.] It is kind of a nice 'fro, though. I've always thought I'd look good in one. And it's better than having me dress up as a piece of coal and setting me—and probably my house—on fire.

SK: If you want, I can frizz your hair up. [Grins.] I brought these two cans: one is hairspray and the other one is black spray paint. The fumes might knock you out for most of the movie, though.

ER: Nope, the wig is just fine.

SK: It does look nice. The wig actually brings out the best features in your glasses. I'm excited to watch this movie again. It's one of the few book to movie adaptations I like a lot. They did make some changes, but I think it all worked out great. Doesn't that annoy you? When the producers of a movie make changes that really didn't need any tampering with?

ER: I hate it when producers go to the trouble of making a movie based on a great book, and then take so many liberties that it angers the book fans. I do understand that certain scenes can't be done well cinematically, but when they shuffle around the characters or add things that are not even part of the original storyline, that makes me nuts.

SK: For me, I hated how in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, they made him (Harry) look like a coward. How hard was it to keep Harry frozen, as it was in the book, when Snape killed Dumbledore? Him standing around and not doing anything—even if instructed by Dumbledore—went against Harry's personality. That detail still bugs me to this day. What about you? What are some scenes you wish producers had kept in their adaptation?

ER:  There are a few odd things that stick out in my mind. In Ella Enchanted (based on a terrific YA book, as is everything written by Gail Carson Levine), they altered the story so much that it seemed only the title was the same. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, they eliminated a key character and juggled the storyline in a way that couldn't help but affect the subsequent movies. In Prince Caspian, they created a stupid, stupid love interest between Caspian and Susan that NEVER existed in the book, and some dumb sort of alpha posturing between Caspian and Peter, which also never existed in the book. And I remember being VERY disappointed that Tom Bombadil was missing in the Lord of the Rings movies. 

Oh! And, going back to the HP movies, when Dumbledore was replaced due to Richard Harris's death, they got an actor who admitted to never having read the books, and who portrayed Dumbledore in a manner that was totally inconsistent with his character.

SK: [Nods vigorously.] So true! What is wrong with these people? I was thrown off by that Susan/Caspian hint at romance as well. One last thing about Harry Potter, 'cause I'm sure we can go on and on about it, that Dumbledore was not the Dumbledore we all know and admire. I would have loved to see Ian McKellen instead. To me he makes the perfect Dumbledore. Ah, well. Another last thing with HP: I did, however, love the dragon escape scene from Gringotts.

Anyway, back to ranting. In The Lovely Bones, I'm not sure what the heck happened. I think they missed the mark with the emotional aspect when they focused on making it more of a supernatural thing, boo! And in My Sister's Keeper . . . Anna does die and saves Kate. The fact that they changed it in the movie took away from all that emotional distress I felt with the book. Not that I want to be miserable and cry my eyes out with a movie, but that was NOT the story!

ER: Ian McKellen would have been great as Dumbledore! He’s much more subtle, and that other hack just really didn’t “get” who the character was supposed to be. I read the other books you mentioned, but never saw their movies, so I’m going to take your word for the quality (or lack of).

SK: Exactly! I do have to say, though, apart from the little glitch that annoyed you with the LotR trilogy, it’s still by far one of my favorite set of movies to watch over and over. Umm, also the HP movies follow closely behind. I can just watch them repeatedly and obsessively. What are some of your favorite adaptions you enjoy watching?

ER: I do still enjoy the LotR movies as their own things. In a situation like that, where the movie is definitely high quality, I will force myself to ignore the inconsistencies . . . and I can always read the books at my leisure.

SK: I loved The Notebook, and even though P.S. I Love You had some differences; I did enjoy the movie as well.

ER: What have I been doing with my time? I haven’t read OR seen either of those.

SK: Both Hunger Games movies so far have made me happy and I’m looking forward to the last two. Speaking of, why must they keep splitting the last books into two films? Grrr . . . that drives me nuts. I do like the extra details though, so maybe I shouldn’t complain.

ER: It’s just a ploy by The Man to get us to pay twice for movie tickets! I’m grrr-ing right along with you.

SK: I didn’t get a chance to watch Divergent or The Fault in Our Stars yet, but I’m very much looking forward to seeing them. Now, Fifty Shades of Grey, no thank you. 

ER: Those first two are on my TBR list, and I’ve heard The Fault in Our Stars is a great movie. That last one? I can’t imagine paying real money or Monopoly money to see Fifty Shades. Is it possible to make a badly written book into a worse movie? If I want to watch someone getting spanked, I could watch movies of when our kids were little and being bad. For free, too.

Oh, and I found a poster up in my attic and brought it down to show you . . . remember when you and I auditioned for The Hunger Games movies? I can’t believe we made it all the way to the final round of cuts. At least they let us keep the promo pictures.

So what do you all think of book-to-movie success? Do you have a favorite, or one you love to hate? Let us know in the comments so we can love or hate them too!

As always:

You can find S.K. Anthony in a number of places. She's on Twitter @SKathAnthony, her website is, her Facebook page is S Katherine Anthony, and on occasional occasions, she'll be right here with me, drinking coffee and laughing it up over our latest plans and schemes. And possibly even talking about books and writing. 

You can find me here. I'm always here. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Coffee Chat 16.0 withOUT S.K. Anthony: She's Done It Again!

Hi, everyone. Today's post focuses on something I've gone through recently in my life. It's a serious issue I've struggled with, and I'm not sure why it seems to keep happening, but I'm hoping that sharing it with all of you will help to stop the cycle in its tracks. 

Yes, S.K. has once again gone on vacation without me.

I know, you're probably saying it's not a big deal. People go on vacation all the time. And my recent vacation to Nashville really has nothing to do with this, even though I got to see a bunch of Corvettes and a sinkhole in Louisville, Kentucky, on the way down to Tennessee. The point is, this is a disturbing trend. I was left in Pennsylvania when she went to Jamaica—her husband was pretty insistent that I stay here, in fact—and now I'm still in PA while they vacation at Lake George.

S.K. and I used to vacation together quite a bit, back in the day.
I remember her wedding day like it was yesterday . . .
Central Park was the place to be!

And the honeymoon in Chichén Itza? SO much fun!
Climbing the Kukulkan Pyramid was tough, but I managed it with grace and style.
Our trip to Maui was wonderful!
I wasn't able to get the tan S.K. did, but my calves were
in GREAT shape from all that hiking around the volcano.

I'm not quite sure why I don't tan like she does . . .
or why my face doesn't get as golden as my arms do . . .
but our trip to Vegas was still a lot of fun. Here we are at the Mirage!

We went on a cruise, and embarrassingly enough, I forgot my special dress
and had to borrow a suit and tie from her husband. I still looked terrific, though,
since he has good taste.

When S.K. was 28 weeks pregnant, I did it again: I completely forgot my special dress.
Thank goodness her hubby is a good sport, and always packs extra clothes!

Our Dole Pineapple plantation tour was, I think,
one of the last plantation tours we were permitted to do.
It's complicated.

This one? I'm only including it because
I'm pretty sure S.K.'s husband doesn't read this blog.
It's a secret: I did go to Jamaica, just so we could have an ultra-cool duckface smoochie picture for the books.

I think maybe you can all understand now why I'm feeling a little left out this time. Still, I'm pretty sure our adventures aren't over. In fact, I can almost feel another one coming on . . . 

See you next Thursday!

As always:

You can find S.K. Anthony in a number of places. She's on Twitter @SKathAnthony, her website is, her Facebook page is S Katherine Anthony, and on occasional occasions, she'll be right here with me, drinking coffee and laughing it up over our latest plans and schemes. And possibly even talking about books and writing. 

You can find me here. I'm always here. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Editor's Notes #12: How Long Should I Wait?

I'm often dismayed to hear about authors who submit a manuscript to a copy editor and then wait for months for the edits to be completed. And yet I hear the same story again and again, which leads me to believe it must be a fairly common practice.

How long is too long? At what point should an author say, "Either finish it or give me a complete refund and I'll take my business elsewhere"?

Well, I suppose it's tough to make a one-size-fits-all statement when it comes to copy editing.  After all, publishing houses can take six months or more to edit an average-length manuscript. But I'm talking about the typical freelance copy editor, not a large publishing house—someone like me, who has a daytime job and edits in the evenings at home. 

A typical copy edit for me involves a first-round line edit and a second-round copy edit. The first round is the most time-consuming, since it involves creating a style sheet which lists character names, places, common misspellings, and other things that are unique to that author. The good thing about working with authors who write series is that most of the characters stay the same—unless you're working with G.R.R. Martin, who, in the words of my husband, "writes books with newly introduced characters who somehow manage to die thrice per novel."

Since I'm not working with Mr. Martin, my style sheet time investment pays off with subsequent books in a series, since it only needs tweaking.

After that, the rest of the edit involves the usual things: grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, the Dreaded Adverb, dialogue tags and the like. For an average edit on an average-length manuscript (55-80k words), the first round might take me about two weeks or so. Once it goes back to the author for approval & changes and comes back to me for the final proof, I usually have it in my hands again for approximately a week. That's it, unless it's a busy season when I can't edit as many days in a week.

If the book is extra long, or if the edits are heavier, add about a week to that total. And toss in a couple of progress emails in the middle of it, while you're at it—I don't believe an author should have to chase down his or her editor to see how things are going. If a week goes by, I feel I should contact the author to give an update on how things are going and where I am in the manuscript. It may only be seven days on the calendar, but I imagine it feels a lot longer to an author who has sent off months, sometimes years, of hard work to someone who may be a stranger.

I've heard (from authors I know personally) about editors who can't be reached after months, or who make excuse after excuse about why they're not done with the work. I can understand (as do the authors I've spoken with) about family issues or unexpected emergency-type things, but when someone says they "didn't start yet" after having the manuscript for a month, then goes on vacation without notifying the author they'll be gone—and still not working on it—and then makes the excuse that they just "can't get into the story," then you're getting the runaround. Copy editors don't need to get into the story. That's the job for content editors and beta readers. Copy editors look for errors. The story's enjoyability is a plus, but not a determining factor for edits.

I try to only work on one project at a time so I can focus on one story with one set of characters. For the way I work, that seems to be the most time-efficient, too. I can multitask with many household things, and I can even pat my head while rubbing my belly—what can I say? It's a gift—but when I need to concentrate, I do only one thing.

Don't ever be afraid to ask your editor how long a job should take. The time may not be set in stone, but having an estimate not only gives you a goal date, but it keeps your editor accountable to you and respectful of your time.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Coffee Chat 15.0 with S.K. Anthony: Wing Me Up, Baby!

Hey party people! S.K. here. Come with me as I pull off the best stunt yet. I want to shock Lynda into possibly going speechless for at least ten seconds. How, you ask? Well, I'm showing up at the appointed time AND I'm not sneaking in. Ready? [Knocks on door.]

SK: Hi, Lynda!

ER: Who's out there? I have a cat—I mean, a gun! Yes, I have a gun and I'm not afraid to use it. [Clanking noises and meowing heard on the other side of the door. Puts on glasses to take a good look. Mouth opens and closes, but no sounds issue forth.]

SK: Yes, it's me. [Grins.]

ER: . . . but . . . but . . . are you okay? [Looks at watch, and back into the house to make sure S.K. really isn’t already in the house.]

SK: Of course I’m okay . . . for now . . . put the cat down! I'm not an alien or a clone. I just figured I'd be on my best behavior for once. You weren’t really going to throw AndyAndy at me, were you?

ER: Prove it's really you. What does the real S.K. do in the Loudermilks' band?

SK: I used to play maracas and the triangle, before I was "encouraged" to just dance in the background instead. The other me, Mildred Loudermilk, brings a more harmonious music to the band by not playing instruments or singing any notes. It’s a gift, really.

ER: It really IS you. But you're outside the door. I'm so confused. You'd think I'd be relieved to not find you beside the bed, or in the laundry room. [Sadly notes the pile of still-dirty laundry.] Well, come on in. What's today's topic?

SK: You know, I actually don't know what we should chat about. I figure we should wing it, and we can even show our readers a snippet of how we come up with our genius ideas. Whatcha think?

ER: I think it might frighten them. But speaking of winging it reminds me of our chat two weeks ago when we ran out of time due to . . . um . . . someone else's fault.

SK: Ha! Yes, I don't even remember what stupidity we came up with, but look at the snippet I found:

After we both threw several ideas around, you said:

ER: That's it for the great ideas. Pitiful. Just pitiful.
SK: We can just chat about nothing in particular.
ER: Hahaha. We can.
SK: "When Winging It is All We Got!"
ER: I can attach the Spongebob clip with him and Patrick saying, "I dunno, what do YOU want to do?"
SK: Do eeet! . . . Or, “We Got Wings!”
ER: Wing me up, baby!

I’m not sure anyone else can really follow that.

ER: Actually, that was probably one of our better chats. Especially since that kilt thing never panned out.

SK: We'll work on our kilt problem. For now I'm glad we had the “winging it” idea on the back burner 'cause it came in handy for today. Someone is running around like a wild chicken with three heads, and I'm not naming names, but Lynda, it's you.

So tell me, are you ready to give in to my way of life? Is the life of an insomniac sounding a bit more appealing to you? I don't want you to think I don't care what you have to say, but regardless of your answer, I brought you a couple boxes of coffee and a barrel of RedBull to carry you through. [Whispers.] Come over to the dark side . . . oh, umm sorry. I forgot I was supposed to be on my best behavior.

ER: I've thought about being an insomniac, and although the idea sure sounds appealing, I can't manage to stay awake long enough to enjoy it. Actually, I feel like a big wimp every time I start to get sleepy before 10 p.m., since I've always been a night person. Going to bed before 2 a.m. just seems so wrong. It goes against the musician in me.

SK: Well, I think you should try it. Look at me; I’m normal.

ER: As long as you've brought the RedBull, maybe I'll try it and give you a progress report. And by that, I mean I'll have to tell you if I make ANY progress on ANYTHING, since right now I'm just staying afloat.

Maybe we should talk about something book-related. Have you read any good books lately? 

SK: The last book I read was the third in the Bloodline Series by Richelle Mead, The Indigo Spell. I'm enjoying these books a lot. The fourth one is staring at me, while I eagerly wait for the fifth to be released this July. I'm trying to hold off on it to avoid getting too desperate before July. Book series, I love them but the wait kills me! What about you?

ER: I'm not even sure if I've read anything for pleasure in the past two months. I've wanted to, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't count. I've read for edits, and the book I just finished was a pleasure to read, so I'm going to count it. Alice Reeds' Into the Unknown was a good one, and it's the first of three, so I'm looking forward to her second one whenever it happens. I also started Kergulen by R.A. White about a month ago, and because I haven't had much reading time, it's taking me much too long to finish it, although I'm enjoying it quite a bit.

SK: Oh, books, they’re the best at providing us an escape from the crazy things life throws at us—uh, Lynda? Are you falling asleep?

ER: Hey, I was reading that. I mean, drinking that. Weren’t we going to talk about books or something today? I’m not even sure if I’ve read anything for pleasure—

SK: [Interrupts.] If you say so. You know what? Go to your couch and rest your head on AndyAndy’s lap. I’ll take care of the rest.

Okay people, that’s enough. Get out of here and let Lynda sleep a bit. (And don’t you dare tell her I kicked you out so un-nicely. Her being exhausted takes a toll on me.) GO! . . . But, umm, come back next week so we can treat you to another lovely coffee chat. Bu-bye now.

Hugs and kisses,


Yes, this really is Lynda's cat, AndyAndy, and he really does sit like that all the time.

As always:

You can find S.K. Anthony in a number of places. She's on Twitter @SKathAnthony, her website is, her Facebook page is S Katherine Anthony, and on occasional occasions, she'll be right here with me, drinking coffee and laughing it up over our latest plans and schemes. And possibly even talking about books and writing. 

You can find me here. I'm always here.