I am so excited to have three amazing women here with me today, talking about the editing process. I have worked with both Kate Richards and Jamie Miles, and have to give them a huge shout out for not only being thorough, but also personable and friendly in their support. I love working with each of them, and appreciate the different aspects they bring to the editing process. I am also super stoked to have Erica Scott here today to talk about copy editing. When I found out that my favorite “bottom” was also a proof reader and copy editor, I just had to bring her into the mix. I’m thankful that they all shifted their busy schedules to share their experience and talk with me about the latest “Author Share” – Editing.
So let’s jump right in!
Katherine Deane: Thanks for joining me today, ladies. What is the biggest thing you each edit for?
Jamie Miles: I am lead editor at Stormy Night Publications, a highly author-centric publisher for spanking and BDSM romance and erotica titles. My primary role is in content editing, but I sometimes do copy editing.
Erica Scott: I work as a freelance proofreader/copy editor and have had several clients, but my two regulars are polar opposites: Stormy Night Publications (spanking erotica), and a company that produces courses on medical topics! I sometimes find myself, in one day, reading subjects that range from anal punishments to the treatment of pressure ulcers.
Kate Richards: As executive editor at Decadent Publishing and co-owner of Wizards in Publishing, quite a variety of genres cross my desk. For example, at Wizards, we recently edited a non-fiction called Open Doors about the lives of women living on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian border for a charity that helps women to gain the skills to take care of themselves and their families throughout the world. I edit more erotic romance than anything, and I really enjoy spanking fiction, lesbian fiction, and BDSM. And historical romance. And mysteries….
Katherine Deane: What is the biggest mistake that newer authors make?
Erica Scott: I don’t think there is any one biggest mistake, but I do see one error fairly regularly with newer authors—underestimating their readers. They state and restate certain things, over-explain the situations, over-describe their characters. In their eagerness to convey what’s in their head to the readers, they overdo it.
Jamie Miles: I agree that there isn’t a single “biggest mistake” that authors make, since each author is different. If I had to identify a single issue which is one of the most common, I would say that quite often authors don’t identify their target audience well enough. Just because an author wants to write about a dinosaur from outer space who spanks naughty girls with a hairbrush doesn’t mean anybody else wants to read about that.
Kate Richards: I can approach this best as an author, I think. The biggest mistake I made as a new author was completely panicking the first time I received edits. I allowed the colorful, comment-dotted manuscript to make me think I couldn’t write. And, once I breathed again, I learned more from that editor than any since.
Katherine Deane: Kate, I’m so glad you brought up the colors. I admit I actually did panic a bit when I saw my edits the first time. 🙂 So, why the different colors? What do they mean?
Kate Richards: Different editors use highlights in different ways, some don’t use them at all. But, generally, they are a handy way to point out repetitions or repeated issues that an author can then address. Like seventeen uses of “hand” or “tongue” on a page. Or consistent overuse of names, or passive verb phrasing. If an editor does use this method, they should provide you with a guide and some instructions.
Katherine Deane: What’s the difference between a Developmental edit and a full edit?
Jamie Miles: Stormy Night doesn’t use specific terms for the revision process, but the depth of the edit depends on many things—the author’s ability, the plot, the subject material, among other things. Some books will require extensive changes, such as reordering, cutting, and/or adding scenes and chapters, while some books will only need help with things like wording, unanswered questions, plot holes, overused words, and superfluous description.
Kate Richards: I agree with Jamie. No two edits are alike, but a developmental edit will be broader, help the author with character development, plot, story arc. Often a content editor will work with these things, too, but more in depth on a line by line basis.
Katherine Deane: Erica, what are some of the biggest grammatical errors and typos you have found? Inconsistencies?
Erica Scott: How many pages do I have? 🙂 In the olden days of typesetting, before Autocorrect and Spellcheck, I saw a lot more misspelled words (“teh” for “the” was common). Now, the errors are a little trickier; punctuation errors (missing commas, commas where there should be semi-colons, hyphens instead of dashes), words that are properly spelled but used incorrectly (“too” for “to,” etc.), and cases where the author clearly meant one word, but mistakenly typed another that sounds like it (I once saw “plummeted” instead of “pummeled”). Inconsistencies cover a broad spectrum. With stylistic choices, the author will often lose track of which style he/she has chosen (e.g., using “okay,” “OK” and “Ok”), or spell their characters’ names or other proper names differently (Lily on page 12, then Lilly on page 124).
Katherine Deane: How do you show the difference between a POV shift and a chapter break?
Kate Richards: Every publisher has style guides that tell the author and copy editor how to show this in the manuscript, but otherwise, it varies. I think the important thing is that POV shifts aren’t too often.
Jamie Miles: I don’t use copy editing marks; instead, I just write out the necessary change using words.
Katherine Deane: In developmental edits, what do you normally suggest for overall character and plot development (for the spanking romance genre).
Jamie Miles: It depends on the nature of the plot and the author’s interests. One thing I usually suggest is that a spanking scene come sooner rather than later. No one wants to read halfway through a book to find the spanking scenes.
Kate Richards: Exactly. Spanking fiction has quite a variety of storylines. But, absolutely, readers of spanking romance expect spanking. They want to see how that element moves the romance and therefore it must be present. If there’s only one spanking scene at the end, readers will not be pleased.
Katherine Deane: What if the author doesn’t want to make the changes you suggested? Are these written in stone?
Erica Scott: As a proofreader, I will often find things in books or other works that I think need more editing than I’m supposed to be doing. So I will write a note to my client and suggest that they speak to the author about the sections/characters/whatever in question. After that, it’s out of my hands, although I’ve had clients often say “good catch” and “that makes a lot of sense” to me, so I’m hoping they are able to convince the authors too!
Jamie Miles: Some are written in stone and some are not. We do have some content guidelines and we will not publish a book if its content does not fall within those guidelines. On the other hand, when we are asking for revisions which are not related to our content guidelines and the author does not want to make them, we have to make a judgment call on whether the book is still publishable without the changes.
Kate Richards: Editing should be an interactive process. We make suggestions, the author replies. Sometimes the author will not want to make a change and, if it is important, I will explain why. With a publisher, the final call belongs to house style, with an indie, the author holds that right. But if you, the author, continually disagree with the suggestions made by your editor, perhaps it’s just not a good match.
Katherine Deane: What is the difference between “ –“ (emdash?) and “…” (how are they used?)
Erica Scott: An em-dash (“—”) signifies a break in thought, an alternate way of indicating a parenthetical statement. If you take out the copy between the dashes, the sentence still makes sense. (“My co-worker’s incessant gum-cracking—not to mention her constant throat clearing—made for an unpleasantly noisy work atmosphere.”) Ellipses (…) can signify the shortening of a list, or a stylistic trailing off of a thought, or a hesitation in speech.
Jamie Miles: Also, when used in dialogue, an em dash can signal an abrupt break in speech, such as when a character is interrupted. For example:
“Young lady, I’m going not going to tell you again—”
“I’m tired of you bossing me around like a child!” she interrupted him. “You know I’m all of twenty years old…” Her voice wavered as he glared back at her, unmoving.
Katherine Deane: Thanks. And great example of dialog tags also. I would love to go into more detail about them at some point.
Katherine Deane: Why can’t I WRITE in ALL CAPS? I’m trying to REALLY make a point here!
Erica Scott: Because not only does it look like yelling, but it’s the lazy way to emphasize. You’ll get the same effect, without the angry look, if you italicize. If you want to be especially emphatic, you can (very sparingly) use bold italic. But over-emphasizing in any way (whether it be caps, italics, bold, or exclamation points) makes for tedious reading after a while.
Jamie Miles: Tsk, tsk. It looks like someone needs to give Katherine Deane a spanking for writing in all caps when she clearly knows it’s against the rules. As Erica explained, it looks like shouting and not emphasizing, but even when a story’s character is shouting, using italics still looks better.
Kate Richards: What they said. 🙂
Katherine Deane: LOL, Jamie. I believe that was incentive for more All Caps from me 😉 (That would make a great story, by the way 🙂 )
Katherine Deane: Ok, are “LY’s” really Satan’s spawn?
Erica Scott: Are you talking about words that end with “ly,” and the improper usage of them? If that’s the case, I would like to express my nails-on-the-blackboard frustration with “more importantly” and “I feel badly.” Stop saying and writing these phrases, people! They’re wrong! “More importantly” does not mean the same thing as “more important”; it means “in an important manner.” And if you say “I feel badly,” you’re basically saying that you’re lousy at touching people.
Katherine Deane: Ooh, I just read about this in the “Grammar Girl” book. The word “badly” describes the verb “feel”. So I cannot “feel badly” about being mean to someone. This would mean after I was mean to this person, I turned around and did a very poor job of touching the objects around me. Hehe, I “felt badly”. 🙂
Katherine Deane: What if I have more than one female in a scene, and the POV is the MC Female? I know I am supposed to take out a lot of the names, when in MC’s POV. But it gets tricky, when there are so many she’s going on.
Kate Richards: It’s something that takes practice. After a while, it becomes natural, but reading out loud helps to be sure you are making sense without name bombing the reader.
Jamie Miles: I don’t think there is a set rule about this as it seems to be a more visual thing and more about what sounds right. But that being said, I would probably go with using “she” for the most part when talking about the MC. Then I would use the side character’s name more often, although I would try to use “she” for the side character when it makes sense that the side character is the one being talked about.
Katherine Deane: Can you explain show vs tell? I have been told this a lot. Turns out, I would be a great writer for onstage musicals.
Throws hands in air; walks away; smiles; sits down 🙂
Jamie Miles: For me, showing your characters doing actions that have a deeper or implied meaning is huge. If a character stutters just a tiny bit when trying to answer a question, or if she shifts her eyes away, that implies many things. Perhaps she is nervous, lying, or frightened. When other bits of detailed description and interesting conversation surround characters doing actions that could have a deeper meaning, you have a good story.
Kate Richards: This deeper meaning allows the readers to be more a part of the story. If you tell me the day was hot, okay, I get the point, but if you show me the beads of sweat on the hero’s muscular chest, the condensation on the glass of chilled white wine, the glare on the windshield, the heroine’s languor in the warm afternoon….I’m there.
Katherine Deane: What are some common issues found, that authors could fix themselves?
Erica Scott: Spelling errors, certainly. If you get a red squiggle when you type a word, and you’re not sure about it, take a moment to look it up. If you cite anything from a geographical reference to a historical figure, make sure you’ve spelled it properly. Also, the aforementioned inconsistencies. Certainly an editor or proofreader can pick up on these, but it helps if the author stays on top of things and checks/double-checks their styles, name choices, pertinent details, etc., to make sure everything follows. If your character was 18 in 1975, then she’s 57 in 2014, not 53.
Jamie Miles: Mid-scene point of view hopping can easily make writing look less professional than it would otherwise. Giving readers the thoughts, emotions, and experiences of only one character at a time and using either a chapter break or a scene break to signal a shift to a different character’s point of view is something that quickly improves a story.
Katherine Deane: A final personal question for each of you- What do you most enjoy and / or least enjoy about the editing process?
Kate Richards: The most enjoyable part of editing are the same as writing. I love the beginning, and the possibilities, and the end when there is a beautiful shiny story that is everything it could be. The middle is the hard work that gets us there.
Erica Scott:I take a lot of pride in taking someone’s good work and making it even better. I have a lot of respect for writers and never wish to step on their toes. By the time the copy gets to me, it’s relatively clean. But if I can take a phrase that’s unclear, or a misspelled name, or a choice of word that doesn’t quite fit, and tweak it just a little to perfect it, I get a lot of satisfaction from that. Things will slip by even the best of writers, and that’s where I come in.
That being said, the work can be tedious at times. My eyes get tired and if I don’t take breaks, I miss errors, which really frustrates me. I mean, I’m being paid to find things, not miss them! But sometimes, if there are more than the usual amount of typos, and I’m fixing three errors in one sentence, I might overlook the fourth. Which is why I have to remind myself to go slowly and carefully, and never rush a job. I tend to prefer to work with clients without breakneck turnarounds necessary, for that reason.
Jamie Miles: The least enjoyable part of my work is that it captures my mind—sometimes when I wish it wouldn’t. I’ll lie awake in bed thinking about an author’s plot, characters, and scenes, contemplating ways to add to them. I even dream about editing. Maybe I need to get out a little more… But the most enjoyable part? Seeing my work and the author’s very hard work come to fruition.
Katherine Deane: Thank you so much ladies! I really appreciate your time and support , not only because of your willingness to go the extra mile in the editing process, but also your extra support with this blog post. This has a ton of great information that I cannot wait to share with the others! Thanks again!
Fellow authors and readers, thanks for stopping by today. So let’s get the discussion started! Let’s talk about eidting editing. 🙂
Our wonderful co-hostesses for the day:
Jamie Miles has a bachelor’s degree in English literature and cannot remember a time when she hasn’t thrilled to the magic of characters brought to life on a printed page. When she graduated, her goal was to get into the publishing business, and she has recently found spanking romance and erotica to be an exciting corner of the publishing world. For the past year, she has been editing for Stormy Night Publications and is excited to move to a full-time role with the company. When she’s not editing spanking books, she can be found either engrossed in a good novel or finding new ways to brat the loving, firm-handed man who spanks her, which, she assures readers, is as good a hobby as any.
email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Kate Richards divides her time between Los Angeles and the High Sierras. She would gladly spend all her days in the mountains, but she’d miss the beach…and her very supportive husband’s commute would be three hundred miles. Wherever she is, she loves to explore all different kinds of relationships in her stories. She doesn’t believe one-size-fits-all, and whether her characters live BDSM, ménage, GLBT or any other kind of lifestyle, it’s the love, the joy in one another, that counts.
She explores the editorial side of things as a partner in Wizards in Publishing and executive editor at Decadent Publishing. In working with authors and editors, she has learned the ins and outs of the author/editor relationship and the value of strength and open communication in such an intimate situation. Preserving the author’s voice, being open to the editor’s input, finding the jewel in a book that may still have some rough edges are all critical to the process.
Facebook Fan Pagehttp://on.fb.me/14Vqx48
Erica Scott has been a proofreader/copy editor for over 30 years. She is the author of three books: What Happens to Naughty Girls?, a compilation of spanking stories; Late Bloomer,her autobiography; and Correspondence Hall of Shame: One Woman’s Adventures with Online Idiocy. She posts regularly in her blog, Erica Scott: Life, Love and Spanking, and is active on Twitter, Fetlife and Facebook.
Twitter: @EricaLScott — https://twitter.com/EricaLScott
FB: Erica Scott — https://www.facebook.com/EricaLScotthomepage
Fetlife: Erica_Scott — https://fetlife.com/users/16939