Thursday, July 2, 2015

An Editing Kind of Summer

I'd rather be riding my mule than editing!
I don't normally do a lot of editing. I don't like that task  at all. It's very tedious work if it's done correctly, and alas, I see by what's in print nowadays that most of the time it's not done correctly - or done at all in some cases. Even some of the "big" houses have gotten a bit lazy when it comes to editing.

Paula Silici, Editor
The chief editor for Moonlight Mesa, Paula Silici, does a fantastic job of editing, and she is a ruthless stickler when it comes to passive voice, point of view shifts, etc.

We've used another editor who ignores everything except for errors with "lie" and "lay." None of us can seem to keep that straight.

We have a (an?) historical editor who does a good job when I can get him to actually sit down and research for us. 

And then there's acquisitions editor Ben who helps out, and finally there's me, or maybe I should say  there's I. ??

Two massive projects are currently sitting in my computer. The first is a rowing book...The Old Folks in the Boat. After hours of tearing out sentences and whole paragraphs because they provided just TOO MUCH irrelevant technical information, the book is now too short for our likes, so back it goes to the author who now must spend more time developing and fleshing out what remains or come up with reader-friendly information, and hurriedly, as the book is scheduled for a January release. We've already made arrangements for the book to be released at the Seattle Boat Show - we've taken pre-orders - we're working on ads. This isn't normally the way things are done, I'd like to add. Not to mention I have yet to find a photographer who is willing to get up to the lake at 6:00 a.m. for a cover shoot.

The second project, Jere D. James' western (his 7th book for us) needs, as usual, extensive editing and rewriting. And, of course, we need it done by November. Getting Jere to sit down and rewrite is extraordinarily difficult and, as of right now, finding the author is impossible. If Jere's books did not sell so well, I might wash my hands of these projects.

The problem with editing, is that the editor has to be very careful not to change the author's voice. I try to make as few, as few changes as possible for this reason. In fact, if a manuscript needs a lot of editing, we no longer accept it. Authors get frustrated and angry about corrections being made to the creation that they think is perfect.  Passive voice, point of view shifts, sloppy or boring sentence structure are just not acceptable, however. When I have to start making those corrections, too often the author's voice is lost...and sometimes that's just fine and dandy. We end up practically rewriting the book. We just won't spend our time doing this anymore, nor will Paula.

The argument is that the "average" reader doesn't recognize these writing sins, so it's not necessary to correct them. I have news for anyone who believes this. Our demographic is 50+ and educated. Granted a person may not technically know what point of view shifts are, but they easily recognize when it's hard to keep track of who's thinking what. Passive voice puts people to sleep.

Winner of the Tony Hillerman Best
Fiction Award for 2014 and 1st Place in the
Arizona Authors Literary Contest.
Probably the moral of all this whining is that serious writers really should  consider having their manuscripts "professionally" edited before submission if they want a shot at publication. The less time and money I, or any other publisher for that matter,  have to spend getting a manuscript ready, the better! Remember, everybody writes books nowadays, so make yours stand out by having it polished to perfection.

We've been very fortunate in that J.R. Sanders' books were practically perfect upon submission (Some Gave All  and The Littlest Wrangler). Lee Anderson's book, Developing the Art of Equine Communication,  needed only minor corrections. A Way in the Wilderness  was near perfect, as was Getting a Handle on Herpes. Robert Walton's Dawn Drums  also was near perfect with only minor tweaks needed. So, it can be done.

Now I just wish someone was around to edit this blog!

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