Hello there! I’ll be doing a biweekly column on writing tips, and I’m very excited about that. Before I begin, I want to tell you a bit about myself.
Some of my earliest memories in grammar school are of being in the library and asking the librarian for suggestions about books to read for fun. She gave me a book called The Trouble with Jenny’s Ear, which was about a girl who could hear other people’s thoughts. I was so entranced with this book that I wrote to the author, Oliver Butterworth, and he wrote back! That was the first time I ever seriously considered becoming a writer.
Since then, I’ve published three books and countless articles. I blog on a regular basis, act as a book coach, a manuscript evaluator and an editor. I’ve made mistakes — who hasn’t? — and my editing clients have made mistakes, and from that I’ve learned a great deal. I’d like to share this knowledge with you, in the hope that it will improve your writing.
Starting with all the components that make for a smashing e-mail, I’ll move on to other areas, including how to establish strong characters and background in fiction; how to organize nonfiction; important tips for proofreading; how to ensure consistency and eliminate redundancies; if you can trust your spell-check; and anything else that you’d like to hear about.
Writing is one of life’s greatest pleasures that is neither illegal, immoral nor fattening! So hop on board and join me on the road to polishing and perfecting your writing skills.
I’ll be the first to admit it. I am a lazy editor.
I DO enjoy reading the work my freelancers submit. Some days, my job is the best job in the world. I can kick back and read great articles from great writers on a variety of topics. I learn new and wonderful things from their articles and I bask in the warm glow of their musings. So what makes me a lazy editor? Well, the part that’s the most grueling is the actual editing.
And frankly, I’d rather just skim.
Audience: “WHAT? THE HORROR! But you’re an EDITOR! Don’t you love dissecting, cutting, pasting and mutilating our work?”
Today we have a special feature on a book that will help you become a better editor when it comes to refining your own work. Since this skill isn’t the easiest to master, editor/author Sigrid Macdonald decided to write a book on the subject. Here are the details in an interview with Sigrid…
1. The name of the book is “Be Your Own Editor”, so it’s probably best to start by asking what led you to write this book? Give us a little background and some history behind the inspiration.
I’ve been a writer for several decades. I started out doing articles for political organizations and op-ed pieces for the newspaper. Then I moved on to writing for magazines and finally, I wrote books. After I finished my first book, I was hired by a local company to be a manuscript editor. I knew nothing about editing but I was confident about my skills because I had been writing for so long — that faith in myself was misplaced!
Editing and writing require completely different skill sets. They look and sound as though they should be the same, because in many respects, editing is just like rewriting. On the other hand, writing involves a creative process of putting your ideas on paper, but editing involves the meticulous review of everything you’ve written to make sure that it’s structurally and grammatically sound and accurate.
In the old days, pretty much everyone who wasn’t a professional writer edited his or her own material. For example, most college and university students would never have considered hiring a proofreader or editor to go over their essays.
Nowadays, things have changed. Higher expectations are placed on students by professors in postsecondary education, yet many of the fundamentals of English composition and grammar are not being taught properly in the early years. Many of us are writing on websites, in the blog community or even self-publishing books. No one edits that work, whereas a professional writer can submit an article to a magazine, and the magazine editor will kindly and quickly remove any typos or awkward structural or grammatical problems. Not so when we do these things ourselves. Consequently, we may miss all kinds of redundancies, inconsistencies, misused words or poorly phrased sentences.
Be Your Own Editoris the book I wish that I’d had when I made the transition from writer to professional editor. I wrote it in order to share what I’ve learned about editing. So often, I receive inquiries about my services from people who can’t afford to hire me. That makes me feel really bad because my background is in social work and I want everyone to have access to services. This book is meant for all those talented, dedicated writers or students who can’t afford to hire a pricey editor, and could do a perfectly good job themselves if they put in a little extra time and effort brushing up on the basics of grammar and organization.
2. How did you discover the techniques you recommend in the book and perfect them? How specifically have they contributed to your success?
Many of the techniques in the book are quite simple. I talk about the need for consistency and clarity. I discuss how to compose an essay, blog post, article or nonfiction book. And I go into great detail about frequently misused words such as affect or effect, further and farther or between and among. I discovered all these things by either making mistakes in my own writing or catching them in my clients’ works. Continue reading Top Editing Tips From A Pro→
Good word choices are tricky, even for experienced writers. In my day-to-day editing duties I find a wide range of mistakes that should make good writers cringe–once they are hip to the error. Do you know the difference between a credit report and a credit rating? What about the meaning of “affect” versus “effect”?
These are common errors that give editors grief–but they cause problems for writers, too. Imagine the look on a prospective editor’s face when they read a query that talks about “the affects of the electrical storm” or when you ask the editor to “bare with you.”
I’ve ranted on these issues before, but there’s a good reason. If your query letter is full of holes, it doesn’t inspire confidence. Why should an editor take a chance on an untested writer who starts off with issues like these?
The trick is to put yourself in the editor’s shoes and try to think like them. Look at your query letter with a critical eye and try to remove linquistic land mines before they blow up in your face.
That last line had some cheesy alliteration in it, didn’t it? As an editor, I once took a pass on a writer who got too cute with alliteration in one of their published clips. It made the piece read like a high school book report, and it clued me in that the clip itself was published in a college newspaper. Not the end of the world all in itself, but definitely a warning flag.
You might think that too cynical, but that’s the kind of thinking you work against when you query.
I’ve been on this site for a while now and I’m not done reading yet! Paradigm Online Writing Assistant is a total must-see resource. If you want to know about editing, revising, essays, documenting, organizing or just about anything else under the sun–it’s here. The best part is that it is digestible and presented very well. Don’t miss this one!
Ready for a shocker? Sometimes editors are so damn busy they can’t be bothered to fire useless people right away. Instead, they use them for anything they can acutally be trusted to do until such time as it’s more convenient to let them go. We know it’s hard to find good people, so we’ll put a medicore slob into as much grunt work as possible to make our lives easier til we can get around to giving them a pink slip.
At one job, I had to keep dead weight around for MONTHS because my bosses were too slow to hire replacements. I had to look for a new body on the sly, line up my choices and tell them to hang in there for a little while. When this company did hire replacements, they wanted practically the entire office to interview them.