Saturday, September 27, 2014

Coffee Chat 24.0 with S.K. Anthony: S.K. is LOST! Have You Seen Her?

The beginning of the fall season must have inspired S.K. to start some serious shenanigans. I can not find her anywhere. I've put out signs, figuring if anyone has seen the cup, S.K. will be attached to it.

The strangest thing is that some of Live Bacon's boots have gone missing with her. 

Though the two of us are not known for being on the ball (shocking, I know), at least I realized within 24 hours that today was not Thursday anymore. The last I heard from S.K., she was talking about Daylight Savings Time and turning back her calendar a month . . . maybe I should be worried. I can't remember where I left her in August.

We'll be back with coffee and chatting when I find her, I guess.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Editor's Notes #18 : Does Your Editor Go the Extra Mile?

I'm sure each of us has been the recipient of the phrase, "It's not what you said, it's how you said it!" when we've inadvertently offended someone. I would be willing to bet there's not a person on this earth who hasn't said the right thing in the wrong way at least once. Heck, I do it all the time, so I probably skew the statistics a bit for everyone else. 

Is tact really an art form, or can any ol' schmo learn it? I do think some people are naturally more tactful than others, but I think a small helping of tact can smooth over a plethora of situations. In our family, we have the two ends of the scale, right under one roof. Lucky us, right? Hmm. Well, on one hand there's me:
PERSON: Would you like to come over on Saturday? We're having a picnic with a bunch of people you don't know and probably won't ever see again, but you're always good for a fun time.
ME: [I'm tired and do NOT want to go but can't lie about it, either.] Well, I have a lot going on this week, and Saturday's the only day I can catch up with my family, so I'll have to bow out this time. But thanks for inviting me! That was really sweet of you.

And there's my husband:
PERSON: Would you like to come over on Saturday? We're having—
The man does have it in him to be tactful when necessary, like when I say, "How does this look?" and he replies, "Well . . . I know you really like that outfit and it doesn't look bad, but it's not the most flattering thing you own." More often than not, he prefers to be blunt. Because he never does it with the intention of being hurtful, people who know him appreciate that they'll always get an honest answer.

I associate honesty with caring. If I care about you, I'll tell you if you've hurt my feelings. I may wait a bit so as not to react in knee-jerk fashion, but I need to the relationship to be healthy and therefore won't let it fester. It may not always be the comfortable thing to say, but I'll put it out there and if the other person also cares, the issue will get fixed.

How does this relate to editing, you may ask? Let's put it into the proper context. I get paid to do the job of a copy editor. I can correct typos, fix those tricky semicolons, and correct your homophone use. I can do the bare minimum required. I sends da bill, I gets da money. Fair and square.

But what if the manuscript needs more than what my job description entails? Furthermore, what if I know what needs fixed and have suggestions on how things can be made better? Am I obligated to tell the author these things? No.

But . . .

My personal standards don't allow me to skip that step. If I care, then I am, indeed, obligated to say something. Sometimes the improvements are light, easy fixes, and other times, a whole lot of work is involved.

Perhaps this word might work more effectively here than the one you've used sounds a whole lot nicer than Do you even know what this word means? The first suggestion implies there's a better option out there and it may improve the book to use that option. The second implies that the writer is a moron who deserves to be charged double.

This is not to say it's kinder to only say easy things. There are times that hard truths need to be said, and saying them kindly doesn't mask the fact that they may still be hard to hear. If someone truly wants to improve his work, he'll at least ponder those truths and confirm them with others. If ego takes over, the truths will be stubbornly ignored, and the work may never improve. 

It's my hope that those I work with will always see my comments and suggestions as stemming from a desire to see the book at its best. I would rather tell the truth than stroke the ego any day of the week.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Coffee Chat 23.0 with S.K. Anthony: The Loudermilks Band

[Shake, shake, shake.]
Oh good morning everyone! I'm waiting on Lynda. How is it she manages to be late in her own house? Anyway, gimme a second. [Frowns.]

ER: [Yawning.] I was dreaming there was a rattlesnake on my pillow, and I kept backing away but it kept rattling at me with the strangest rhythm pattern. Huh. Coffee will make it all better. [Looks at SK with dawning horror.] What do you have in your hands?

SK: This is so weird! I thought I'd return the maracas you loaned me, so I went out and bought myself a new set, but they must be broken. Look. [Shakes maracas.] What's that noise?

ER: That's the sound . . . um . . . that other types of maracas make. The imported kind. [Shifts uncomfortably.] You know those crazy foreign maraca players, always trying to get attention for themselves. You really didn't have to give mine back—they were especially suited for your style of playing.

SK: I know you made them special for me, but like it these. Look, they’re black and blue and have our pictures on them!

ER: Ohh! Those are pretty!

SK: The only problem is the music is awful. I think you have to tune these up too. Oh, and I like that I have my own style of playing! That's so cool. But what's my specialty?

ER: You think the music is what's awful? Never mind. If I had to pin it down, I'd say your specialty is dancing. And you should probably stick to the maracas I loaned you; they appeal to the finest of musical palettes. Truly. [Takes maracas from S.K.'s hands and quickly hides them while she's filling the coffee mugs.]

So what on earth were you trying to do, anyway? The Loudermilks won't be going on tour for a few more months.

SK: Well, I just needed something easy to do. Writing books is kicking my butt so I’m exploring my other natural talents. That’s all.

ER: Your natur—right . . . well, we still haven't found the rest of the band members. You'd think they were actually trying to not be found or something.

SK: Well everyone gets busy. Should we put out a notice for new members? We can always play a video of an actual concert on a big screen and dance in front for our tour. That's what you musicians do all the time, right?

ER: Oh, yeah. [Rolls eyes.] All the time. There's no practicing or learning an instrument. We all just dance in front of a big screen of someone else's concert.

Haven't you ever heard the phrase "practice makes perfect"? It's no different for musicians than it is for authors.

I think I'm sensing sarcasm here . . . but I need more coffee before I decide if it was. Hey, I could swear I left my maracas on the table . . . where are they? [Frowns.] Anyway, so when I find them, you're saying we have to practice, revise, edit, and beta?

ER: The procedure is pretty much the same for any product. And yes, the Loudermilks' music is a product, just like any book. You choose what you're going to do. You practice. You practice more. You revise. You beta by asking others for their honest opinions—uh, like whether you should use the "special" maracas or store-bought ones with stuff inside—revise again, put the final edit/polish on it, and boom. A terrific result comes blasting out of the cannon.

SK: It will be easy since we're both so talented. I just hope the other members we find are just as good. What do you think? More authors or more musicians? I think we can go either way since it's pretty much the same product.

ER: I can't imagine we'd sound any better or any worse, no matter which group we'd choose from. Just prepare to work hard if you expect me to go out on stage with you.

SK: For sure! But by hard work you mean drink coffee, right? Because I have a surprise for you!

ER: Oh dear . . .

SK: [Pulls Lynda outside the kitchen door.] Ta-da! I present to you our newest band members! Donkey will play the bells around his neck, Live Bacon will carry the singing banana, and AndyAndy will play the drums.

ER: Against my better judgment I’ll ask probably the most disturbing question: a singing banana?

SK: Yeah he’s our lead vocalist and lyricist. He’s really good. Look:

Ooh, I suddenly want a PB&J sandwich. Want one?

ER: Oh, SK . . .

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, September 8, 2014

Editor's Notes #17: Does Personality Matter?

When it comes to hiring an editor, does a compatible personality really matter all that much? Do you care whether he or she can relate to you as a person? After all, you're just hiring them to do a job. In many cases, you may never meet them face to face, so you don't have to deal with them in the traditional way. Though I respect those who are interested in a "just business" transaction—and I do accommodate them—I think being compatible does matter.

I surround myself with people who are generally pleasant. I don't care for mean people (really, who does?) and it makes me uncomfortable to be around people who talk down to others.

I need to have people pour into my life as I pour into theirs, and this applies on a professional level as much as it does on a personal level. Even though the personal level is . . . well, personal, and therefore maybe a little deeper, I believe it's important to encourage while doing the job well and not skirting around the truth.

I don't think most writers appreciate those who take and don't give. Everyone appreciates encouragement and a kind word, as long as it's not false flattery. I do "take" in the sense that I take compensation. That's business, plain and simple. But there's no need for me to take their self-esteem by implying that they're not smart enough to know all "the rules." If that's the case, then I have to face the truth that I'm not smart enough to write an original story myself. We all have our gifts. A good mesh of personalities should enhance those gifts and encourage them.

When you develop a relationship with a coworker (in any job), helping each other is part of the deal. Whether you work directly together or on individual aspects of a project, all components must match up and make the final product shine. Normally you see this person every day and you know if she appreciates constructive criticism or if he has a hard time accepting he’s not perfect. You know if they can “take it” straight up or if you have to dance around how you communicate a mistake. And vice versa: they understand our personalities and how we work as well. 

The author-editor relationship isn’t all that different. If my authors know me, they’ll be able to differentiate between whether I’m offering a helpful critique or criticizing them in a condescending way.

If our sense of humor matches up (I like sarcasm), we can laugh about mistakes found in the manuscripts. Because let’s be honest, some are pretty funny. Things I'm allowed to share (yes, I asked): S.K. Anthony had one of her characters "flowering the plants" and in another area couldn't figure out why the word "payed" looked so odd; Raymond Esposito wrote that "deaf people hear things others might miss" when referring to a blind character's uncanny hearing, and in the same book had a character throw a boilermaker in a fistfight, rather than a haymaker (all I could picture was the guy throwing whiskey at the other guy, followed by a splash of beer); I'm forever telling another author to stop naming people he's going to kill, because I'm tired of writing down their information on my style sheet, only to add "dead" beside them ten minutes later. My margin notes hopefully show that I'm laughing along with them rather than laughing at their expense.

Don't get me wrong: I get it back as often as I give it. Raymond said he told his family I was his special-needs friend to "explain" my Facebook posts. And it's no secret, I think, that S.K. and I share the same brain (sometimes we take turns and one of us gives it up entirely), so when I ramble, she tells me. In fact, I was having trouble organizing my thoughts for this post, and when I sent it off to her for help, she sent it back with the document labeled "Lynda's Disjointed Blog Post." She's also been known to preread my posts and tell me to "cut this part out, because you're whining." 

I want the authors who hire me to feel comfortable—confident in the knowledge that I have the ability to do a good job for them, and secure enough to know that I won't talk in a patronizing way when I make suggestions. Besides, getting to know an author a little better gives me a deeper understanding of how his mind works. By having that extra insight on his individual communication and expression style, I’m able to grasp the written word in his manuscripts on a whole new level. 

Getting along encourages a smooth and fun transaction all around.