Monthly Archives: July 2013

Developmental edit recieved – dealing with the fallout

As I write these posts, my goal is to inform the reader about the nature of a developmental edit and communicate the scope and range of my reactions and responses.  I want to relate the experience of a newbie writer going through the process of developing a manuscript to its full potential as accurately as possible. Six days ago, I received the result of my developmental editor’s review of the manuscript, and it was certainly an eye opener. I spent about eleven months producing a manuscript that essentially has to be taken apart and reassembled, and requires a fair amount of rewriting and rethinking .  Before beginning my narrative on the developmental edit, it was necessary to carefully review the comments and suggestions of the editor.

Initial reactions to the editors comments and suggestions ranged from discomfort to relief. The discomfiture comes from thinking about how much more work lies ahead before a manuscript becomes a book and a writer becomes an author. The relief comes from the quality of the editors comments and suggestions. I received a thorough editing effort, full of clearly presented well documented suggestions to guide me as I rewrite and restructure my work. The editor took time to carefully describe and explain what had to be done. The main issues to be addressed are logical sequencing of content , clarification of ideas, ensuring language is used to its full advantage, ensuring that words and formats are used consistently throughout the manuscript and ensuring that ideas were fully supported and documented. The results of the edit were fair, thorough and made sense, and a bit daunting.

My writing tools were rusty from disuse, to say the least. My knowledge of English, its grammar, syntax, rules for punctuation, and ideas about writing styles came from one freshman English course and whatever information about writing remained from high school many years ago  (the mid-1960’s). Until now, anything that I wrote was directed toward a specific audience or to fulfill the requirements of a specific assignment.  This was a first effort at writing for individuals who are not obliged to read anything I write. If I want to attract a readership, I need to get down to work.

In addition to all the structural and qualitative information provided by the editor, there was another important idea conveyed within the edit related to the task ahead. My job was to rewrite and restructure the manuscript into a thoroughly reader friendly and unambiguous written work . The first order of business was to rewrite, or more accurately, write the preface. The original preface for the manuscript submitted was not a preface at all, just my idea of what a preface should contain. I had done nothing to inform a reader about why the book was written and for whom it was written. I had done nothing to engage the reader in my writing or with the content to come. I spent five of the last six days writing a preface that I can use. The next post focuses on my efforts to produce that preface. Until then . . .

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Writing – It’s All Trivium To Me

One’s concept of the meaning of a word, and its actual meaning are often at odds. The full meaning of the word diction provided one of those surprising contrasts. Griggs and Webster (the Guide and Handbook for Writing previously mentioned ) defines proper diction in writing as using the correct words, in the correct manner, at the correct time. Here are two simpler definitions available on the internet.

dic·tion
(dkshn)

n.

1. Choice and use of words in speech or writing.

2. Degree of clarity and distinctness of pronunciation in speech or singing; enunciation.

The second of the two definitions reflected my original understanding of the word, but the primary definition reflects the content in Griggs and Webster. I decided to find out some more about the origins of diction as an essential component of the writer’s craft before further reflection on its importance. The history of education provides the answers.

The heart and soul of DICTION was born when the “seven liberal arts” were born. They were organized into two groups, the Trivium and the Quadrivium. These two groups of subjects formed the backbone of classical education from ancient Greek civilization until the 19th century. Diction is grounded in the Trivium which covers the disciplines of grammar, logic and rhetoric. The rules of grammar govern the structure of writing, logic governs the sense of writing and rhetoric governs the persuasiveness of writing. There is nothing trivial about the Trivium. If one has an interest in history, particularly the history of education,  he or she should investigate the Quadrivium as well, which is the basis for the natural sciences.

The rhetorical skills of a writer are essential to success in his or her trade . A writer of fiction is just as interested in persuading a reader to become engrossed in their stories as the writer of non-fiction is in informing a reader, and driving greater interest in the topic of his or her book. As the pen is mightier than the sword, it is also like a double edged sword. The power of the sword is released through the cut and thrust of a swordsman. The power of a word is released through the writer’s choice for its meaning and its placement in a sentence. If the sentence is to exert its full force within a paragraph, then the words that comprise it must exert their full force within it. A skilled writer, like a skilled swordsman, triumphs through their ability to use of the weapons at hand.

The Trivium governs sound writing. This is my mantra as I write and rewrite. The logical organization and sequence of ideas supporting the thesis of a written work are the first order of business. The words come next in importance as they are arrayed one by one to form the sentences in a paragraph to act as instruments of information and persuasion. Each sentence is written according to the rules of grammar and the dictates of a good style manual. Finally the copy edit and polish is applied to the work, and another written gem is ready for the reader.

A postscript: This post was delayed by an exciting event, the receipt of my developmental edit results. I’ll be writing some preliminary comments about the editorial process to date in my next post. Until then . . .

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Logic takes you from A to B, or from here to there, but it cannot take you everywhere.

In print, Sherlock Holmes never said “Elementary, my dear Watson” . This famous catch phrase is a product of  liberties taken by Hollywood screen writers. In Sherlock Holmes films and later television versions, Holmes would utter this phrase to Dr. Watson before explaining  how his astute inductive processes (gathering clues and making observations)  resulted in one of his brilliant deductions. Inductive and deductive capabilities are not the exclusive domain of the sleuth or the scientist, but are inherent human traits evolved to ensure our survival as a species. Neanderthal hunters looked for clues as they tracked an animal, leading to deductions about the type, size, condition, path and possible location of the prey. Inductive and deductive reasoning is as essential for the survival of modern Homo Sapiens  as it was for the Neanderthal. Enabling the inductive and deductive processes of a reader through carefully constructed inductive hooks leading to deductive satisfaction is essential for the survival of the writers product, be it a work of fiction or non-fiction.

Information about types of reasoning, logical argument and the pitfalls of faulty logic is readily accessible from print sources or the internet. The following is a list of the main logical flaws that may confound a reader.

* Composition and division: Assuming what is true of the parts is true of the whole, and visa versa.

* Begging the question: Setting up an argument to match the desired conclusion.

* Non sequitur: A written line or idea that does not follow from the line or idea that precedes it.

* Ignoring the issue: This logical fallacy speaks for itself.

* False dilemma: Forcing an either/or choice when there are more than two things to choose from.

* Equivocation: Using a word with different meanings for the same term in the same logical argument.

This post is not about logic in writing, but rather about the importance of logical writing. Writing logically is critical on two fronts: first, logical writing keeps the reader on track with the content paragraph after paragraph; second, logical writing leads the reader to see (deduce) a writers intended outcome. Fiction and non-fiction writers have the same goal, but get there from different directions for different reasons.

In a work of fiction, the logical development of character and plot are essential. Although fiction writers may chose to lead the reader on a “goose chase” from time to time to enhance the suspenseful elements of his or her story, logic must prevail or a “goose chase” is likely to become a loose chase. Good narrative writing demands a writer have a logical plan for developing a story firmly in mind as they write.  The demand for a clear logical plan of story development is particularly important for writers who wish to produce stories with multiple simultaneous plot lines that eventually coalesce into one exciting or emotional conclusion.  I know someone who is struggling with the writing process, as he attempts to write a fiction as it pops into his head, without a logical plan in mind. Writing time is precious. A logical plan for a fiction is essential even though a fiction allows for a certain degree of freedom within the logical structure.

Logical planning of a non-fiction work is equally important and more straight forward than in a work of fiction. The overall plan for a work of non-fiction includes a logical sequence for each paragraph, for the paragraphs in a each section, for the sequence of sections and the relationships between sections in the completed project. Autobiographies and biographies may make use of purposefully constructed flashback elements, but in general, the logical flow in works of non-fiction should not jump around. Ideas presented need to be adequately supported by the fullness of the prose and correct diction. The level and formality of diction (the words selected) should be consistent with the target audience and the content type. The level of diction can range from moderate to complex and the level of formality ranges from informal to very formal. The axiom of moderation in all things is most appropriate in relation to the level and formality of diction in a written work, but a writer of non-fiction can never be moderate when it comes to the logical plan for his or her writing. Rigor in logical planning is the “watch word” for the writer of non-fiction, but care needs to be taken to ensure that rigour does not progress to rigor mortis.

The next planned post reflects on the significance of proper diction. Until then . . .

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What is Black and White and Stands Firmly on Three Legs?

Two important tomes have dominated the past few days and are likely to do so for many more to come. The first is my recently purchased  Sixteenth Edition of The Chicago Manual of Style. The second is my, now cherished, Guide and Handbook for Writing by Erwin Griggs and David Webster (Temple University), copyrighted in 1963 by the American Book Company of New York. These two books are among the principle supports to be used to address the comments of the development editor, content editor and quality editor.

The form of grammar and style of one’s writing is expected to comply with The Chicago Manual of Style. While it is one of several authoritative style manuals in print, it is an industry standard and was cited in materials provided to me by the publishing house I contracted. The Guide and Handbook for Writing (Griggs and Webster),  found its way into my life as an essential text in an Introductory English class at Temple University. Sadly, speaking for myself, the Griggs and Webster text was never appreciated nor exploited as it should have been, that is until now. This is a doubly tragic example of poor scholarship, since David H. Webster who is one of the authors was the professor for that class. Fortunately, as a hoarder of books that might prove useful later in life, the Griggs and Webster volume was still in my personal library.

The answer to the riddle at the head of this post is a book; which is essentially black and white and stands on three legs called clarity, fullness and sincerity. Griggs and Webster list these as the three virtues of writing. Even though a written work is structurally and grammatically sound according to a style manual, it is likely to lack appeal without these three elements. Fullness and sincerity flow entirely from the writer. Most writer’s handbooks address these two elements through examples and practice through exercises. When one works on these skills without the benefit of an instructor, the examples are useful but the exercises are not very helpful without correction and discussion.

Achieving fullness in any written work is a matter of balance between the number of words used to express an idea (usually within a paragraph) and the complexity of the language used. The writer has padded their work when too many words are used, and ideas presented may be obscured . The writing is thin and ideas incompletely expressed when too few words are used. The writer needs to take the average reading level of his or her audience into account as well. The average reading level of a literate adult in the United States is somewhere in a range between the seventh and ninth grade. When one writes textbook material, the best advice is to write for a reader who is a grade below the grade in which the text is to be used. Applying that same maxim to a non-fiction work written for the general public, suggests that the complexity of language target a level less than the maximum reported. Although the interest factor holds a reader’s attention even if the language is challenging, when language is too complex a reader may shy away from the writing. Achieving sincerity is another matter, since a writer either is either sincere in their writing or not. Sincerity cannot be taught, it must just be present in the writing and come from the heart of the writer.

Of the three pillars of good writing, clarity remains dependent on grammar and structure but also depends on word choice. Rigorous application of the rules of style and form as specified in a good style manual should take care of structural clarity. Clarity related to word choice is achieved though using words that express the intended meaning. In an ideal world, every word a writer includes in his or her text supports the meaning of what is written, but that is easier said than done. Most individuals use words in everyday conversation based familiarity and common usage. However, looking a word up in the dictionary is very enlightening. One often finds that the actual definition of a word they use frequently has shades of meaning that are surprising. In written work, unless writing a dialogue or writing in dialect, the accuracy of using words based on their correct meaning is essential for clarity. A web-based support that is very useful in selecting the correct word for its intended meaning is the Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus at www.visualthesaurus.com.

Good writing is structurally sound and grammatically correct. Great writing has both those characteristics and stands on the pillars of Fullness, Clarity, and Sincerity. Logical writing is another component of excellent writing. Reflections on logic in writing is my agenda for the next post. Until then . . .

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Some Simple Truths – Caught Between a $ and a Hard Choice

The only certain way to self-publish with a minimum of expense is to be an expert in all areas of editing and marketing. The novice writer, who is also a newbie to the world of self-publishing, most likely thinks of copy editing as the only editing required to achieve a publishable work. The budding author who has an excellent grasp of English grammar believes he or she has the editing tiger by the tail and is sure to produce the perfect manuscript. To be sure, a copy-edit (line by line edit) is essential, but as an individuals experience of working with a self-publishing house grows, editing requirements take on new dimensions of complexity. Consider the following sequence . . .

* A writer drafts a manuscript and submits it to the publisher. (N.B. the writer has purchased some level of publishing package from the self-publishing house prior to submitting a manuscript)

* The manuscript is reviewed and  feedback provided – at this point the publisher may say the work is not acceptable for publishing, but will most likely refer your project to a development consultant.

* After a conversation (or conversations) with the consultant, various services are offered at a per/word cost, which one is free to decline – at this point the writer can either work up the manuscript based on the commentary of the preliminary review and submit the revised manuscript for review at a cost – or – elect to go with one of the many editing/author support services offered.

* The hopeful author needs to be prepared for other consultants, offering support and services, to call. A call from a marketing consultant is a certainty.

There are two simple truths for those who become engaged with a self publisher: first, the more types of editing and the more self-promotion a writer can do, the less it will cost to publish a book – second, some of the services offered have value and merit, so the writer might pick and chose which are worth the investment in $$$ required to take advantage the service/s offered.

Think about the section found at the beginning of most books (or sometimes at the end), the acknowledgements. When the author thanks the editors provided by the publisher and all the individuals who provided other supports for the creative process that resulted in a book, they are thanking a host of formal and informal editors and reviewers. Those individuals, who may be few or many, provided development edits, substantive edits, content edits, quality edits, copy edits and feedback on the writing itself. The difference between the established author and the self-published author is who pays for all that support. Money and financial backing flows to the established author before, during, and after his or her book is published. Some money (dreamed of royalties) may flow to the self-published author after a book hits the market, but the financial backing of that book is the responsibility of the writer.

The jury is out on the self-publishing process. More evidence is required to make a judgement about this process. Reading the comments and critiques of others as related to the quality or lack of quality in the self-publishing world can shake one’s confidence a bit. While there are certainly some valid complaints and criticisms published, it is possible they may originate with the individual making negative assertions in part or in whole, and not the publisher at all. With all the books that are self-published these days, one would expect more complaints and criticisms than there are. Work honestly through the process, have realistic expectations of how much support you will actually receive, put in the effort required to edit your work and one should achieve a reasonably good published end product.

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In Anticipation of the Results of a Developmental Edit

A few weeks have passed since submitting my work for phase one of a manuscript development process, a so called developmental edit. Pre-development responses from four different readers of the manuscript highlighted similar issues.

* points are often well made and supported by adequate research

* the writing is dense with ideas, perhaps too dense

* the prose is too cerebral at times

* the reader needs to be captivated rather than captured by the content

* the work as a whole has a slight disjointed quality about it that caused these readers to lose the thread of the writing from time to time

* thoughts and ideas are expressed which relate to the theme of the book but may not contribute to the sense of it

* some small sections of content are replicated or redundant

* the text does not engage the reader at all times

* many titles and subtitles do not engage the reader and need to be redone

* text formatting conventions and styles are not consistent throughout the text

* two of the four readers providing preliminary assessment of the work, pointed out a need for careful and consistent application of grammatical and punctuation rules

There were a few other comments, but this list on its own suggests that there is much yet to do.

I expect the results of the developmental edit to be much more than a list of deficiencies. The results of the edit will vary depending on the editor. A developmental editor does not usually engage in rewriting any of the text, else their work becomes more like that of a ghost writer. While one shouldn’t expect any rewriting of content to result from the developmental edit, suggestions on how to best express an idea, accompanied by concrete examples are certainly expected. In addition, it is reasonable to expect:

* suggestions related to sequencing ideas

* suggestions and examples related to transitioning from one section of the manuscript to the next, or even one paragraph to the next, are given

* suggestions related to the superfluity of some content

* suggestions related to style and word choice

* suggestions as to redundancies and repetitions in the work

* suggestions related to areas of the text that require enhanced clarity and expanded content or both

* suggestions related to consistency of expression related to certain ideas in the text

* suggestions related to refining the manuscript to the target audience

The usefulness of results from this stage of the editing process depends on the editor selected for the task by the publisher. I, as an author, have no input over who is selected and no contact with the individual providing the edit. If all goes well, the feedback received will be more substantive (more like a substantive edit) in nature. I already have the broad strokes from an editorial evaluation provided by the publisher that brought me the stage of engaging in the developmental process. I am supposed to be able to work through the rewriting process with the support of a consultant who is also a developmental editor in his own right. I will report on the quality of the first phase of the editing process as soon as I receive the edited manuscript, and keep you appraised of the support received to get the manuscript ready for the next two phases of the development process; the content edit and the quality edit.

Only time will tell how much more work needs to be done and how much real support is provided. More about substantive editing in the next post…….

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Finding Clarity – It Was a Perfect Seinfeld Kind of Day

In the last post I broached the idea of working from my “comfort zone”. One comment made in the preliminary assessment of my manuscript related to how ideas and assertions were supported. At first I thought the comment  related to supporting evidence as provided by references and notes, so there was clearly a mismatch between my concept of support and the reviewer’s. If the preliminary review had highlighted this deficiency, the developmental edit would certainly address the same issue. I needed to understand what the reviewer meant before the feedback from developmental editing arrived. That need to understand was fulfilled in a most unexpected way.

The reference to Seinfeld in the title of this post is borrowed from a friend who was visiting from New York. She and her husband, along with my wife and I, had just finished a day of touring some vineyards in the Niagara wine country. The day was marked by purposeful wandering from vineyard to vineyard, and thanks to my dyslexic approach to driving, taking a somewhat circuitous route, punctuated by left turnings that should have been to the right, and visa versa. There were two meals at good restaurants and sunshine when we needed it. There was lots of meandering conversation and laughter. Our guest’s comment was perfect, for like an episode of the Seinfeld Show, it was a day about everything and about nothing at all. It was a day of being relaxed and being together, and about all of us being in our comfort zones at the same time. This simple idea defines the relationship between writer and reader. As an author, I must make sure that the reader is in a comfort zone with the text, so he or she can enjoy the reading experience in the same way we had enjoyed our day in wine country. I set out to examine my manuscript from that point of view

The supporting evidence was there for all to see in the form of end notes and bibliographic references. Although supporting evidence was present, the words themselves did not clearly support the substance of the text. Paging through my manuscript with that thought in mind, I saw the problem. The ideas presented in the manuscript were clarified in a very academic way, but readers were not likely to flip back and forth between the printed page and the supporting end notes to understand the text, and there was no way they would look up any of the supporting documentation contained in the bibliography. I needed to:

1. Write in plain language whenever possible

2. Be more generous with words when explaining ideas and concepts

3. Recognize my readers are not reading from the same knowledge base from which I write

4. Make sure to select words that contribute to understanding

5. Present complex thoughts in a straight forward manner

6. Avoid ambiguity in word choice

I observed, as I read my most recent efforts at written expression (this blog), that the language was more direct. Writing for a reader that could potentially could read and process my  ideas as soon as the PUBLISH button is clicked gave the act of writing a sense of immediacy my manuscript lacked. My posts appeared to reach out to the reader more directly than my manuscript, but there was still evidence of being too much in my head, and not enough on paper. I plan to  make a conscious effort to be as clear and engaging as possible as I continue to post, starting with the idea of working in my comfort zone.

Writing from my comfort zone means that I can work at a comfortable cognitive level without too many new concepts cluttering my thoughts. Writing a fiction just had too many new ideas to deal with, while non-fiction writing made it easier to control in my formative efforts at writing for others. In other words, I could enjoy the comfort of having associative processes at my beck and call, while I focus my cognitive energies on writing clearly and engaging my readers.

Here’s an example to help you understand what I mean by cognitive processes and associative processes. Imagine you are driving a car down and familiar street that has only light traffic. The weather is good, the radio is playing a favorite and your passengers are talking and laughing at an acceptable level. At that moment you are enjoying the drive in a state of associative thought bliss. You are able to maintain the right speed, keep a good distance between your car and the next, and maneuver your car with skill and ease. You make a turn to the right, and now you’ re on a much busier street where you need to be observant and ready to deal with an problems that may result from driving in congestion. You have to think more and can’t drive as automatically (associatively) as before. Now you place a greater demand on cognitive processes in response to the new demands of driving in traffic. Suddenly you feel that the radio is a bit loud and distracting, so you turn down the volume or turn it off. You arrive at your destination where you and your friends plan to have lunch, and you have to parallel park. The traffic makes its way around you without regard to the maneuver you need to make. You really start to concentrate going into full cognitive mode. You even ask your friends to keep it down at bit so you can concentrate. Associative thinking bliss has been replaced by cognitive thinking stress.

This example might seem to be more than was required, but the point is that the writer (me), has taken some time to make sure the reader (you), understand what he means by using a particular idea (in this case comfort zone) in the text . In the next post, I will clarify the developmental editing process.

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Writing From My Comfort Zone

Non-fiction, that’s my ticket to writing a first work. My initial reasoning was that a long, academically oriented career should be an asset in a non-fiction project. All writing requires research skills to a greater or lesser degree. A fiction writer uses research to give the story an authentic ring. The non-fiction writer uses research to support ideas and arguments with corroborating evidence whenever possible. I was quite used to using information gathered from my research and observations to do just that.

I also chose to attempt a non-fiction project for another practical reason. When trying something new, it is important to keep the number of new things to think about to an absolute minimum. The greatest challenge I faced was writing grammatically correct non-fiction prose that is interesting and accessible to my future readers. Everything I had written to date was relatively short and consisted of report type documents and records of research written for a very specific audience, with a specific knowledge base. Now I wanted my writing to reach out to a broad range of individuals with varied backgrounds,  a challenge indeed.

All writers need to establish an idea of the general audience for whom to write, be they engaged in the creation of works of fiction or non-fiction. Since I am on the cusp of the baby boom wave, my fellow boomers would be a likely audience, and so I decided to focus on them. To some, this may appear opportunistic, but remember, my goal is to minimize the unfamiliar so I can concentrate on writing clear prose. By writing for my peer group, I eliminate some of additional variables facing the newby writer (me).

Now I needed a subject for my project that had a sense of immediacy for my target audience. Topics that came to mind most readily related to health, sex life, memory, and relationships. I was drawn to topics related to memory and aging since memory loss is a concern to adults as they age. Indeed, there is a certain element of fear associated with the idea of memory loss, since it portends the loss of independence; a scary thought for anyone, the aging population in particular. I also had some background in memory and cognition gained in the course of my career as a special education specialist. Once again, I am sticking with the theme of familiarity so I can concentrate on the skill of writing clearly for a general audience. You might have noticed that I tend to write longish sentences, and that might be a tendency I need to address. I am concerned that my readers might forget the ideas at the beginning of a sentence, by the time they get to the end.

Memory is not exactly a unique subject for a book. Just do a simple search on the online book stores of Amazon or Indigo/Chapters, and you will see what I mean. My next task was to think of memory in a less common way. More on that to come…..

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To Fiction or To Non-fiction, That is the question

Two days have passed since my manuscript was sent on its merry electronic way to the editorial office of my publisher. I can only imagine what is going on in the mind of my nameless, faceless, you shall have no contact with development editor. I am allowing myself to count the days spent waiting as they elapse, like a countdown to the momentous event of receiving the editors comments and rework directions. Until then, I am free to let my mind wander a bit.

I have chosen to wander back through time to the point of deciding whether to try my hand at non-fiction or fiction. As I stated earlier, writing and becoming published are two big ideas beneath my dome of heaven, but what to spend my energy and time writing. My first approximation of direction led me to the idea of writing a fiction. I was to find out that was easier thought than done. Once, in my early teaching career, I worked up a unit of instruction for grade six students that resulted in an extended short story. The unit was based on cognitive skills related to classification and description. It was a very successful unit of instruction which allowed my students to generate pages and pages of narrative writing. The “Ah Ha” moment came when I thought of resurrecting the bones of that teaching unit and using them as the framework for constructing a work of fiction. I soon discovered that my grade six students had one thing going for them that I lacked, IMAGINATION. Rather than becoming discouraged, I looked for support, where as an academic, I knew some was sure to be found – the public library and the book store. Sure enough, I located the needed resources and I was off to the races.

Over the next few months (from the Autumn of 2011 to the chill of February 2012) I acquired a small but useful library of resource books. I list them here, for your information.

* The Canadian Writer’s Handbook by Messenger and de Bruyn, 2nd Edition, Prentice Hall Canada Inc, Scarborough Ontario

* Crafting Novels and Short Stories: The Complete Guide to Writing Great Fiction (from the editors of Writer’s Digest), Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati Ohio

* The Master Book of All Plots – PLOTTO, by William Wallace Cook, Tin House Books, Portland, Oragon and New York, New York

*  Writer’s Guide to Character Traits, 2nd Edition, Lydia N, Edelstein, PhD

* Revised and Expanded – The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing, by Dundurn Press Limited in co-operation with Public Works and Government Services Canada Translation Bureau

** Guide and Handbook for Writing, Griggs and Webster (Temple University), American Book Company, New York

** The Little Brown Handbook, 2nd Edition, H. Ramsey Fowler, Little Brown and Company, Toronto and Boston

* Newly acquired  ** Books already in my library which are likely out of print now

Now, I was one happy academic. I had books to use as guides and references. Armed with these useful tomes I started writing. I was now faced with two problems rather than just one. Not only was I struggling with the writing, I was struggling to get my head around all the information at my fingertips. It was difficult to make progress and rapidly decided that another approach to my goal of becoming a writer was in order. Instead of wrestling with trying to write a fiction at the same time I was trying to get a feel for writing a large work, I chose to fall back on the familiar domain of non-fiction.

As an academic, my life was all about non-fiction reading and writing. Although, some of the report card comments I wrote over the years, had to be so carefully crafted to protect the sensibilities and feelings of both students and parents, one might have called them my earliest works of fiction.

I need to reflect a bit before continuing on, so until then……..

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The Developmental Editing Process – Stage One Begins Today

Over the next few weeks, a free-lance editor from a pool of talent that edits  manuscripts under contract to the publisher, will work through my manuscript. By the end of this week, my manuscript file will be somewhere on the hard drive of one of these contractors. In the old days, I might have said, “in their hot little hands”, but that was then and this is now. Even though this is just one more stage in the process of shaping a manuscript into a published work, there is a sense of finality in the air today.

After another conversation with the publishing consultant marshalling me through this stage of the process I committed to the developmental package proposed (more $$$$ on the table) by the publishing house. Remember that self publishing means self financing too, so shop carefully.  Be prepared to lose your bankroll, based on the chance that sales of the final product will never cover your expenditures. Neither time nor money can ever be replaced, once spent. Writing a book will take your time, and financing the process will consume some of your money.

The reader may be puzzled at the phrase “a sense of finality in the air” being used to describe an ongoing process. While this may seem like an erroneous comparative descriptor, in my mind, it makes complete sense. Let me explain.

* First, when ever you put money on the table without knowing if you will ever see any of it again, images of a croupier racking in the chips comes to mind, and a sense of finality enters your soul.

* Second, I invested some more time in applying changes to my manuscript suggested by way of a copy-edit, done by a friend at no cost to me. This enabled me to forward a revised manuscript to the editorial office with some important correction already made to the text. Every time a writer completes an edit of their work, there is a sense of finality that comes with completing anything.

* Third, I received an email from the editorial office that my manuscript had  been launched on the first stage of the editing process that would take a few weeks to complete, so for a while, what happened to my manuscript was in the hands of others and out of my control. There is a sense of finality that comes when we say goodbye to the product of many hours of work, even if it only for a short while.

My publishing consultant left me with some sage advice at the end of yesterdays conversation. He advised, that once I submitted my manuscript to the first stage of the process, I should put my work away for the time being. He advised, that responding to the results of the first stage of editing would be much easier if I distanced myself from the text for a while.  The goal of this creativity abstinence regimen is to free my mind from the content of my work. At the same time, I could free up my creativity, so I could be my most productive self during the next phase of the manuscript development process. I have done exactly as he has suggested.

While I await completion of the first stage of the process that started today, I intend to write about the struggle to get outside oneself in order to be objective about your own writing. It should be interesting to see if I can develop the ability to be intimately involved with my work and remain remotely objective at the same time. Until the next post………..

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