Category Archives: Writing

Young and Sober

For Young and Sober I acted as project editor, selecting all stories, arranging into appropriate themes, and writing the copy for the cover, foreword and chapter introductions.

Young and Sober: Stories from AA Grapevine

Anthology by various authors

Grapevine Inc., 2012

My role: Project Editor

Description from Grapevine Inc.
In this collection of Grapevine stories about the joys and challenges of getting sober at an early age, AA members talk about recognizing their disease even though their drinking may have only lasted a few years. Written by members who got sober in their teens, 20s and 30s, the articles in this book are about growing up young in AA, finding ways to connect when feeling different, getting involved in service and learning how to live a sober life joyously.


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Romance: Spring Fever

This romance novel was written by best-selling author Mary Kay Andrews and is set in a small southern town. It contains your typical good looking male and female leads, an even better looking female rival, and a nasty mother-in-law, among others.

Spring Fever

By Mary Kay Andrews

St. Martin’s Press, 2012

My role: Proofreader

Description from St. Martin’s Press:
The New York Times bestselling author of Summer Rental delivers her delicious new escapist novel about small towns, old flames, and deep secrets.
Annajane Hudgens truly believes she is over her ex-husband, Mason Bayless. They’ve been divorced for four years, she’s engaged to a new, terrific guy, and she’s ready to leave the small town where she and Mason had so much history. She is so over Mason that she has absolutely no problem attending his wedding to the beautiful, intelligent, delightful Celia. But when fate intervenes and the wedding is called to a halt as the bride is literally walking down the aisle, Annajane begins to realize that maybe she’s been given a second chance. Maybe everything happens for a reason. And maybe, just maybe, she wants Mason back. But there are secrets afoot in this small southern town. On the peaceful surface of Hideaway Lake, Annajane discovers that the past is never really gone. Even if there are people determined to keep Annajane from getting what she wants, happiness might be hers for the taking, and the life she once had with Mason in this sleepy lake town might be in her future.
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21st century editing … almost

Recently, as part of my job search, I took a proofreading test. I was surprised to find that the test was on paper, to be done with a red pen. Not a problem, it’s just that I’ve gotten used to electronic editing–tracking changes on a screen.

It wasn’t too long ago that this was a new idea for me. When I was working for a publisher a few years ago, most of the book manuscripts were printed out and were copyedited and/or proofread by hand. They were mailed back and forth from the author to the publishing house to the copy editor, and a lot of money was spent on paper and shipping, not to mention the time spent making the corrections by hand and then inputting them.

I was in newspapers for a long time and when I edited a story it was on a computer screen. That was normal to me. In spite of that, the idea of a longer manuscript or a book corrected electronically seemed foreign. It wasn’t as widely acceptable to edit books on a computer screen … probably because most authors didn’t have the technology at home to view the tracked changes and accept them. When I edited longer documents, it was on paper. I could take the manuscript with me to mark it up while sitting in a diner or on the bus — I felt it was “easier” to do it this way; I believed that I caught more mistakes that way than on a computer screen. I also didn’t trust the computer’s spell-checker — I still don’t, but it often helps spot typos.

At my last job (I’m talking about 2011), our editing method was still to print everything out and mark it up by hand, so that a manuscript could be passed around among various editors. Tracking changes electronically hadn’t been established, and this added a lot of time to the process.

My feelings have changed about electronic editing, if for no other reason than speed and convenience for the author. It’s so much easier for a writer when you send him or her a document with the changes tracked. He or she can simply accept the changes and they’re done–they don’t have to be added in by hand. The notes in the margins are clearer, and you can easily redo them if necessary without leaving a mess. For that matter, everything you mark is cleaner.

Not every author wants to do it that way; some still like to work with changes marked on paper, and that’s fine. There are times when I still edit on paper, too. My old laptop computer died and a new one is not in my immediate budget. So when I have to work on a manuscript on the train or on a trip, I can’t do electronic changes. I usually print out a portion of the manuscript I’m working on so that at least I can keep on editing while away from my desk.

I like that I have the background, that I know proofreading marks and how to do it the old-fashioned way. But I am happy to leave that behind for a more convenient process for all.

Not the grammar police

On being a tactful editor:

“Most professional writers appreciate being edited for consistency and clarity; they want an editor to go over their copy with a fresh eye, to spot errors, to point out gaps in logic or sections that need cutting, to suggest where style can be improved – but they want this to be done with respect and tact. …  Copy editors should be grammar coaches, not grammar police, and the final stage of editing the manuscript should feel like a collaboration, not an inquisition or a day of judgment. Some copy editors come across as school marms, with rigid sets of rules and an urgent need to rap knuckles every time they are broken.” (Copyright (c) Pat McNees [http:/​/​])

As I told a client recently, I use the Chicago Manual of Style and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. I prefer not using “their” and “them” as singular pronouns. But I know this is gaining wider acceptance. So I simply pointed out the first few instances where he’d used this style and wrote, “OK?” in the margin notes. Since I was giving him several sections at a time, after he saw my initial comments he emailed me and said he preferred that style–he said it seemed more natural to him. So I didn’t mark any further instances of this usage.

In another instance, he asked me about my changing all caps (used for emphasis and/or shouting) to italics. I suggested he not use caps as much, but explained that since this wasn’t a hard and fast rule, it would be his call.

For the most part, unless it means a significant change, I don’t think that it is important to explain my grammar or style corrections to an author. If he or she were really curious he or she could check my reference books or could ask me (as he did).

For another book, the author had asked me to do a heavy edit. At one spot I questioned whether it would make sense for a certain character to be doing something, based on what had happened up to that point. This gets trickier, when you get away from grammar and style and delve into the actual characters and plot. This is the writer’s baby. I’m not there to rewrite the book. I’m there to help him or her make it read smoothly and not let mistakes jar the audience out of the story.

It is the writer’s call–even in spelling a word wrong or using a phrase incorrectly. But he or she relies on an editor to tactfully point out places where improvement is needed, or simply recommended.

Always darkest before the dawn…

I figure as long as my writer’s block doesn’t get this bad, I’m doing fine.

Still, this week has been a bit of a downer, one of those periods where I’m really busy — which is good — but feeling like I’m not doing the right things, like I should be writing when I’m reading, I should be reading when I’m exercising, I should be exercising when I’m working on blog mechanics, etc. The toughest voice inside my head is the one that throws out words and phrases like “charlatan,” “phony,” “you don’t know what you’re doing,” “you’re not a real writer.”

I always seem to pull myself back from the abyss somehow. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve got a writer friend with some connections who’s tossed me some editing work over the last few weeks. It keeps me focused and reminds me that I do know how to put words together.

It also helps when I read about other writers’ struggles, like these lines that I could really identify with:

“‘I go and I buy my groceries at the 99-cent store—a really depressing way to spend the day. I started crying on the way home, filled with self-pity and a legitimate questioning of the incredibly bad decisions I’d made.’ Writing, it seemed, was one of those bad decisions. ‘I gave it a try,’ she decided, ‘and it’s not working out. I need to let go.’ She headed home with her 99-cent groceries and tears and self-doubt. And waiting on the answering machine was a message from Laura Hrushka, renowned editor-in-chief of Soho Press. ‘She wanted to buy my first book.'”

That’s from an interview of Sara Gran, who’s just wrote her fourth novel, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, in an interview published June 22, 2011, in The Atlantic.

So you never can tell where things are going, and I’ll take that interview as a sign to stay positive and not give up. Believe me, I’ve had my share of buying groceries at the dollar store and even some days where lunch was a 25-cent bag of chips from the bodego. “My novel” isn’t ready yet, but I have made a living as a writer and an editor since my early 20s, and I know at least I’m on the right track.

A quick search for quotes from other writers came up with this gem:

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”  ~Sylvia Plath.

You don’t have to tell me. It’s probably not such a great idea to quote a suicidal genius.