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An Editor/Author Checklist


rec

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As an editor, I note that each different author that I help uses different options on editing issues. For example, some would punctuate a series as "red, white and blue" and others would do "red, white, and blue." Both of these are correct, but an editor may prefer one while the author another. The important thing is to have consistency.

 

There are numerous such judgmental calls--in grammar, punctuation and spelling--Is it blow job or blowjob?--and the use of dashes and ellipses.

 

What I suggest is assembling a check list of choices that an editor and author can agree on--which furnishes a record for both to follow, especially the editor. The check list could be pinned at the top of the editor forum for the author and editor to download, fill out, exchange and agree as to how certain editing options are handled.

 

Would such a checklist (notice the spelling difference from above) be worthwhile? If so, I'd volunteer to be the laboring oar to assemble one, starting from what notes I already have and what input I get from people here--editors and authors--on other editing choices.

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As an editor, I note that each different author that I help uses different options on editing issues. For example, some would punctuate a series as "red, white and blue" and others would do "red, white, and blue." Both of these are correct, but an editor may prefer one while the author another. The important thing is to have consistency.

 

There are numerous such judgmental calls--in grammar, punctuation and spelling--Is it blow job or blowjob?--and the use of dashes and ellipses.

 

What I suggest is assembling a check list of choices that an editor and author can agree on--which furnishes a record for both to follow, especially the editor. The check list could be pinned at the top of the editor forum for the author and editor to download, fill out, exchange and agree as to how certain editing options are handled.

 

Would such a checklist (notice the spelling difference from above) be worthwhile? If so, I'd volunteer to be the laboring oar to assemble one, starting from what notes I already have and what input I get from people here--editors and authors--on other editing choices.

 

 

I think that's a fabulous idea. Especially on an internet forum where people from all nationalities come together, there is bound to be significant difference in stylistic preferences regarding grammar and punctuation. I'd be glad to give you hand in compiling all the many, many topics that could be addressed on such a checklist.

 

Menzo

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I can't see the harm, though it won't suit everyone. For me, I just let my editor make that decision. Those sorts of mechanics aren't important to me (as an author) and since I use one editor for an entire story (generally), the editor will guarantee consistency by doing things their way. However, I've worked with some other editors and I know that something like this would help.

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This is what I was thinking of (ignoring the formating problems):

 

Pile on additions, corrections, etc.

 

Draft -- Agreements on Punctuation, Word Usage

 

Dashes versus ellipses

Speaker interrupted in quote ___dashes ___ellipses

Hesitation and change of mind ___ellipses with no spaces before continuing

___ellipses with space following

Hesitation and restart of quote ___ellipses + period + Capital letter

___ellipses, no period, + Capital letter

 

Commas in Series

 

___ Red, white and blue

___ Red, white, and blue

 

Spaces around dashes

 

___ Like this: Things are good

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Less frequent, but still important is:

 

US or Commonwealth spelling? eg. Favorite or Favourite

 

I'm Australian, so I use Commonwealth spelling, but my editors are American. I have also written a couple of short stories set in America, so I requested American spelling for those.

 

Another one would be the use of common shorthand:

 

Cya vs See ya vs See you

 

Thoughts (as distinct from spoken dialogue): quoted, alternative quoted or italics?

 

"He looks cute," John thought.

 

'He looks cute,' John thought.

 

He looks cute, John thought.

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Here's the next version of the checklist. I've included Graeme's suggestions, except for the one about slang/shorthand. For that, I think the author's choice dominates.

 

 

 

 

 

June 16 Draft -Agreements on Punctuation, Word Usage

 

Dashes versus ellipses

 

Speaker interrupted in quote ___dashes ___ellipses

Hesitation and change of mind ___ellipses with no spaces before continuing

___ellipses with space following

Hesitation and restart of quote ___ellipses + period + Capital letter

___ellipses, no period, + Capital letter

 

Thoughts (versus speech)

 

___

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I'm not sure I agree with you regarding the shorthand. One that I've seen that annoys me is "str8" or "sk8r". This is something people will use in emails or text messages, but I see no reason for it to appear in a story except in that context (ie. a quoted email or text message). I've seen stories where you have dialogue like:

 

"Mark's a sk8r. Didn't you know?"

 

Since people do not speak by substituting the number 8 for the phonic "ate", an editor should correct this.

 

They should also discuss with the author the pros and cons on using "ya", "Wanna", "Coulda" or the more correct "you", "Want to", "Could've". The author may choose to use the former because it is a more accurate representation on the modern dialect, but should it be restricted to dialogue only, or (especially if it is first person) could it be used in narrative? I would prefer something like this to be a conscious decision between the author and editor, rather than for the editor to just assume that this is the way the author wants it.

 

The author may be writing like this because they are used to text messages and emails, rather than because they are trying to portray a modern flavour (or flavor, even :P )

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You've convinced me. So, what if we do a subsection on Slang and Shortcuts. I'm not sure how to structure it, but something like this?

 

Choose all that apply:

 

coulda/shoulda (etc.) okay ___ in dialogue ____ in narrative

 

rec

 

 

 

I'm not sure I agree with you regarding the shorthand. One that I've seen that annoys me is "str8" or "sk8r". This is something people will use in emails or text messages, but I see no reason for it to appear in a story except in that context (ie. a quoted email or text message). I've seen stories where you have dialogue like:

 

"Mark's a sk8r. Didn't you know?"

 

Since people do not speak by substituting the number 8 for the phonic "ate", an editor should correct this.

 

They should also discuss with the author the pros and cons on using "ya", "Wanna", "Coulda" or the more correct "you", "Want to", "Could've". The author may choose to use the former because it is a more accurate representation on the modern dialect, but should it be restricted to dialogue only, or (especially if it is first person) could it be used in narrative? I would prefer something like this to be a conscious decision between the author and editor, rather than for the editor to just assume that this is the way the author wants it.

 

The author may be writing like this because they are used to text messages and emails, rather than because they are trying to portray a modern flavour (or flavor, even :P )

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This is an interesting thread. I would tend to have the author choose when I proofread/ edit, and stick to his choices. The colour/ color issue is solved once and for all by selecting the language in the word processor. It goes beyond ou VS. o, some consonants are doubled (instalment vs. installment)

But as we don't all use the same conventions, it's good to have a reference. Maybe a few examples could be good along the points you made, Rec.

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Sounds like a great idea, but what is acceptable is very much a personal choice of a writer and, to a lesser extent, and editor. From reading copious amounts of net fiction, as well as copious amounts of the published stuff, one thing I would say is that ellipsis are gratuitously overused in net fiction. There is almost always a neater way to signal the things that an ellipsis signifies. *grin* if someone's dumb enough to take me on as an editor, they're gonna have a hell of a lot of ellipsis taken out, whether or not they want it! (And lots of commas replaced with full stops). Oh, and agree with Graeme (must be something about us pedantic antipodeans)... sk8r and the like is never acceptable. It doesn't have a phonetic effect - which is when contractions in dialogue are acceptable - and neither does it add to one's description of a scene.

 

A practical way of working this sort of thing out, I think, is to edit the first chapter or two of someone's piece as you would ideally do it, then send it back to them for feedback. And I think it's at that point a checklist could come in. Once they've seen the way YOU like to construct sentences, they have a better frame of reference within which to express their preferences. Although I'd caution prescribing things too much. One of the great things about English grammar and vocabulary is that there ARE so many ways of expressing things - there are many situations in which a long dashes, commas, or even the occasional ellipsis could be used, but provide a slightly different flavour to the text. And using variants throughout a long piece, so long as they're correct, provides an interesting sort of variety.

 

Anyway, just my 2 cents. I'm only currently editing one story on here so feel free to ignore, but people do pay me a fair amount of money to do this sort of stuff professionally (not with fiction, granted, but you have to be even more anal with contracts!).

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see there is a problem with your post...

 

 

THIS:

 

Sounds like a great idea, but what is acceptable is very much a personal choice of a writer and, to a lesser extent, and editor.

 

 

CONTRADICTS THIS:

 

If someone's dumb enough to take me on as an editor, they're gonna have a hell of a lot of ellipsis taken out, whether or not they want it! (And lots of commas replaced with full stops).

 

The part you need to realize... as do all editors... your 'suggestions' are just that... SUGGESTIONS. The final edit is up to the author, always. And, if they like to have lots of commas... or ellipsis... then that is their preference and probably part of their style. An editor should never, never, never mess with an author's style.

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see there is a problem with your post...

THIS:

CONTRADICTS THIS:

The part you need to realize... as do all editors... your 'suggestions' are just that... SUGGESTIONS. The final edit is up to the author, always. And, if they like to have lots of commas... or ellipsis... then that is their preference and probably part of their style. An editor should never, never, never mess with an author's style.

I slightly disagree with this last statement -- but only slightly.

 

An editor should mess with an author's style if they think it isn't working, or is confusing. The author then has the option to reject the editors comments/changes, but the editor certainly has the right to point out something they think is wrong.

 

To show that I don't mind edits, I almost had my first page ever without edits recently. That was, until we discovered a misplaced apostrophe.... I usually have several edits per page. I still remember how proud I was the first time I had five consecutive paragraphs without edits. :P

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see there is a problem with your post...

 

The part you need to realize... as do all editors... your 'suggestions' are just that... SUGGESTIONS. The final edit is up to the author, always. And, if they like to have lots of commas... or ellipsis... then that is their preference and probably part of their style. An editor should never, never, never mess with an author's style.

 

Oooh, now that raises my hackles just a touch :) .

 

a. My post was perfectly internally consistent. I edit in markup, and of course a writer is perfectly entitled to reject any of my suggested changes. How on earth would I stop anyone doing that? However, that isn't going to stop me suggesting certain grammatical changes that I think improve the flow or overall thrust of what an author is trying to say. Of course, if I make too many that a writer thinks are unwarranted, I'll get fired, but since I aint getting paid, I think I can handle that without crying.

 

b. Which leads on to my 2nd point. Me, I can't speak for other editors, but me anyway... I would like to not be lectured. Editors do this cos they like the work. We don't get fanmail or message board posts telling us we're awesome. I also don't need to be told what I "need to realise", or what I must never do. Editors also can and should, if they're good at what they do, rip the crap out of stuff if, and only if, it doesn't work. Indeed, most people I've edited ask me to do so - as far as technical stuff goes, it seems they trust me to know what I'm doing. My aim is not to be mean, or crush anyone's ego, just to polish the work of someone I think is a good writer - I don't edit people I don't think can write.

 

Now this came across as a wee bit confrontational, and for that I apologise. But come on! Of course the final edit is up to the author, but if I'm not making the changes I think are needed to improve the work, I'm not doing my job. And to get back to the main topic of the thread - THIS is where I think the checklist idea is helpful - if the editor and the author would tick too many different boxes on the checklist, then maybe they shouldn't work together!

 

Again, just my 2 cents. Feel free to tell me again that I "need to realise" I'm wrong ;) .

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I'm currently away on family business so I don't have time to weigh in completely on this topic.

 

But I will say at this time that I do agree that an editor doesn't have the right to change what an author has written. I make suggestions to the work that I edit, then it's up to the author to decide if they want to accept it or not. the only thing that I do change and accept it is an extra space between words that shows up from time to time.

 

Talonrider

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It may be that we are discussing different things.

 

An editor can't change an authors story because the original is kept with the author. The editor only has a copy. They can change the copy with whatever annotations they like to use and send it back to the author.

 

Bester and I clearly use a word processor with "track changes" capabililty (eg. MS Word, OpenOffice, etc) where the editor makes changes, BUT the author has the ability to reverse those changes with a click of the mouse.

 

Also, Lugh's original comment was:

 

An editor should never, never, never mess with an author's style.

 

This is not the same thing as changing what the author has written. Indeed, I'm not sure how an editor can mess with an author's style, because the style is the overall impact of the piece. "Style" in this context is one of those words that I suspect has widely different meanings for different people.

 

There was a comment made a long time ago about editing "styles". Some editors are minimalists, where they see their role as correcting typos and minor errors, and maybe commenting on the plot and story development, while other editors get right in and fix sentence constructs to make them clearer, etc. The later type of editor is unsuited for an author who doesn't like seeing their work changed, while the former is unsuited for an author who really needs to learn how to construct good sentences.

 

This leads us back to the original topic -- should there be a question from the author on how much they are happy to see changed by the editor?

Level of changes desired (tick all that are applicable):

1. Typos and minor errors

2. Simple grammar correction

3. Alterations to sentences/paragraphs to make things clearer

4. Deletion of 'unnecessary phrases' or 'phrases that weaken the impact'

5. Any changes that the editor things are necessary

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It may be that we are discussing different things.

 

An editor can't change an authors story because the original is kept with the author. The editor only has a copy. They can change the copy with whatever annotations they like to use and send it back to the author.

 

Bester and I clearly use a word processor with "track changes" capabililty (eg. MS Word, OpenOffice, etc) where the editor makes changes, BUT the author has the ability to reverse those changes with a click of the mouse.

 

Also, Lugh's original comment was:

This is not the same thing as changing what the author has written. Indeed, I'm not sure how an editor can mess with an author's style, because the style is the overall impact of the piece. "Style" in this context is one of those words that I suspect has widely different meanings for different people.

 

There was a comment made a long time ago about editing "styles". Some editors are minimalists, where they see their role as correcting typos and minor errors, and maybe commenting on the plot and story development, while other editors get right in and fix sentence constructs to make them clearer, etc. The later type of editor is unsuited for an author who doesn't like seeing their work changed, while the former is unsuited for an author who really needs to learn how to construct good sentences.

 

This leads us back to the original topic -- should there be a question from the author on how much they are happy to see changed by the editor?

Level of changes desired (tick all that are applicable):

1. Typos and minor errors

2. Simple grammar correction

3. Alterations to sentences/paragraphs to make things clearer

4. Deletion of 'unnecessary phrases' or 'phrases that weaken the impact'

5. Any changes that the editor things are necessary

 

I like this notion, Graeme. I think that editors and authors who do not share the same bed in their philosophical approach will not be happy with one another, which might turn into a loss if it discourages either from trying to find a more compatible agreement.

 

Regarding the specific points, I think I would put it as a two-dimensional option--in narrative or in dialogue, where dialogue may differ depending on the point of view. What one does with Number 2 will vary, in my view, by the intent of the author regarding the speaker in the dialogue. Correcting Huck Finn to make him speak proper English would destroy the character. And, if the narrative is from a first-person point of view, sometimes it may look more like dialogue than narrative.

 

Regarding Number 3, above, I find that sometimes I will move a sentence within a piece of dialogue; I don't think that changes the author's basic approach, but it may sound better in a different order. As you have pointed out, though, those changes are only suggestions that the Reject option takes care of.

 

Maybe some examples of each of these points would make it easier to tick/check off.

 

Finally, I recently edited the first chapters of a story set in an environment that the author knew nothing about. It would be as if I was writing a novel set in an Australian football context without doing any research but played on a tennis court and set in a baseball front office. I noted my problems with these chapters, we had a somewhat testy relationship for awhile, and we finally parted ways. Maybe that was a "one off" situation, but as an editor, I would have preferred avoiding the situation altogether.

 

So how does one test for attitudes toward and issues of historical or contextual accuracy?

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Maybe some examples of each of these points would make it easier to tick/check off.

 

I don't think my editor will mind if I use this example, since his version is the one that appears in the story, not my original:

 

Original:

I began bouncing suggestions of what to do off Adam. I had already half-decided that I wanted to try to get her back, but Adam had just given those plans a real kick forward. Instead of being wishful thinking, there was a real possibility they might work.

Edited:

I began bouncing suggestions off of Adam. I had already half-decided that I wanted to try to get Liz back, but Adam had just given that plan a real kick forward. There was a real possibility that some of my ideas might work, instead of just being wishful thinking

 

This shows a change of wording in the first sentence to make it clearer and stronger, changed a pronoun to a name in the second sentence to make it clear who it is that is being talked about, and a restructure of the last sentence.

 

So how does one test for attitudes toward and issues of historical or contextual accuracy?

Make it a question:

 

Do you want your editor to review and/or check contextual accuracy when real events/places/people/objects are mentioned?

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Here's an updated draft.

 

June 22 Draft -Agreements on Punctuation, Word Usage

 

General Approach

 

The following list is from least aggressive to most aggressive toward textbook perfection, recognizing that the author will always have the final word. Mark the one that best fits how aggressively the editing should be:

 

___Light editing. Fix only typos, minor errors in punctuation and grammar, missing words and correct obvious word usage errors

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Agree with Rec and Graeme's latest posts. That, to me, would be an excellent use for a checklist. That way, it can act as a guide for editors, and also as a literary dating profile, so editors and writers can know if they want to go there with each other :P .

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  • 1 year later...
I can't see the harm, though it won't suit everyone. For me, I just let my editor make that decision. Those sorts of mechanics aren't important to me (as an author) and since I use one editor for an entire story (generally), the editor will guarantee consistency by doing things their way. However, I've worked with some other editors and I know that something like this would help.

 

 

Can you recommend a private editor who has a successful track record in helping people get published through conventional means. I have recently completed a gay novel with frank gay sexual scenes. I want to get it polished prior to submitting to agents.

 

Thanks

 

NJ daddy

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Can you recommend a private editor who has a successful track record in helping people get published through conventional means. I have recently completed a gay novel with frank gay sexual scenes. I want to get it polished prior to submitting to agents.

I can't recommend anyone, but there are a few people here who have published stories, so hopefully one of them can help. Good luck!

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