Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ask the Editor Free-For-All Is Back Today!

The Holidays are over. You know what that means. It's time to get down to business. Time to follow your New Year's resolutions.

If you're like me, one of your goals is to get your manuscript in shape.

To do that, you may need some help.The good news is you don't have to go it alone. Our Editors are ready and willing to assist. We invite you to ask our Editors a writing question.

Here's how it works:

Today, and every first Tuesday of the month, The Blood-Red Pencil hosts our Ask the Editor Free-For-All. I send an e-mail blast to various e-groups, Facebook, my social networking friends, blog followers, and anyone else I can think of, to come over and let our Editors share their expertise. You can get info here on submitting your manuscript to an editor or agent, publishing on Kindle, e-books, self-publishing in various formats, as well as the basics of writing. Don't be afraid to make youself heard. No question is too dumb. Everyone starts somewhere.

And, if for some reason an Editor here doesn't have an answer for you, we'll steer you to someone who does.

To Submit A Question, Follow These Easy Steps:

Leave a comment below in the comment section. When you do, include your name and blog url or website not only for promo, but so we know you’re not a figment of imagination. (One link only per person, please!)

One or more of our Editors will drop by today and answer your question in the comment section. If it seems your question requires a longer explanation, the Editor may devote an entire blog post on that topic at a later date. If that's the case, you'll be fortunate enough to receive extra promotion, along with the possibity of forwarding your profile and book cover jpegs with one of your buy links.

It's not a requirement, but a very good idea to leave an e-mail address with your comment. It also doesn't hurt to mention where you've heard about our Ask the Editor Free-For-All.

Other people will be asking questions, so be sure to stop by later and check their questions and the answers to them. Since some of you are on e-group Digests, questions and answers might carry over through Wednesday or Thursday.

That's how it works. Now, Start the New Year right. Ask your question and get your manuscript in shape.

Morgan Mandel
Killer Career now 99 cents on Kindle.

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  1. My question is Dialogue. Writing YA this is a hard question. Is it wise to stay away from slang in writing or is it alright to add a bit?

  2. I've heard many writers talk about their approaches towards editing thier own manuscripts--but how does an editor do it?

    Do you generally focus on story to start with (because it seems strange to edit sentences that might not be there later if the story is off)? Or do you hit the grammar, etc., at the same time?

  3. LM: In my opinion, slang is the calling card you'll need to gain entrance to the teen crowd. Note, however, the difference between "slang" and "cussing." Slang ("What's down with that?") establishes an insider sensibility in certain subcultures, and since voice is everything in YA, use it to the extent that your critiquers (some of whom should be teens) can tolerate! Cussing is more controversial, and its favorable use depends on your publisher's guidelines. It may keep you out of some school libraries. Search through this site for "cussing" if you'd like more tips--we ran a series on it a few months ago.

  4. I do a great deal of slang in my own books or 'lingo' of the day if an historical or YA set in another era as part of being there. Kids create language we've never heard before. I recall first time I heard 24/7 and I was in my late forties or early fifties at the time, and I had to ask what it meant but now it is a staple. I say use it for authenticity. I also use cotractions heavily for the natural sound of dialogue.

    Most editing I do on other people's books has me doing both at once - grammar issues, details of syntax, and storyline as well as character-building, and working toward creating fully-realied characters in an authentic or an authentic-feeling setting.

    Robert W. Walker

  5. Hi Jenny: The first thing an editor would ask, when reading your question, is: Does she mean "How does an editor edit her own manuscript" OR "How would an editor edit MY manuscript"? Inconsistencies and possible misinterpretations immediately catch my eye, and will be marked first. This is about communication, after all, and the reader's perception of your story will hinge on clarity.

    I'll be interested to know what our other editors have to say about this! My answer: Once I start reading, my pen never stops moving. Even though, as you appropriately point out, I suspect that the sentences I edit might not even be there at the end.

    My service comes in two parts: the marks on the page, which show problems with what is printed there and share the way the story is coming across to the reader, and a written evaluation that analyzes larger issues of story structure and characterization (both what is working and what is not), and summarize the writing problems.

    I keep my pen moving for a few reasons. One, it helps me concentrate (while they may have great potential, not all stories I receive are yet at a point where I'd call them "riveting"). Two, the writer might reject my vision for the restructuring, in which case at the very least, she will possess a cleaner manuscript.

    But I also think there is a lot a writer can learn from reading through the marked up pages. If a problem is persistent (like terminal punctuation consistently placed after the end quote) I will make a note that I am stopping marking that on the page, and list it in the evaluation under "Recurring Problems" so the author is sure to go back and check for it.

    Interestingly enough: even thought my authors know that many of the sentences won't be there at the end, they often address the on-the-page edits first. Pushing aside those issues gives them a cleaner slate from which to both perceive current story structure and rebuild. And it's not a waste of time if you end up internalizing the edits, and becoming a better writer.

  6. I have a question. How many of the Editors here use the Review feature in Word and how many prefer typed manuscripts to edit?

    Morgan Mandel

  7. Morgan, I use the Review to insert comments as I go along. When I finish the manuscript, I also send a document with an overview of areas that need to be worked on as well as what is working well in the story.

    I prefer working in Word rather than a printed copy. I think it's easier for both the editor and the writer. For example, if I notice the author is overusing the passive voice in a section or if I notice the author has a "pet" word that is used so often it sticks out, I can highlight it and leave a comment. The author then can do a search-and-find on the full document to check.

    Long ago I worked only on printed copy. I am so glad it can now be done on the computer. I'm betting my clients are happy, too!

  8. LM I have a post coming up in February in which I interview Donis Casey about her brilliant and spare use of dialect. Just enough to get the point across is the rule. Maybe I'll do a prelude for YA. Especially with young readers, you must keep it to a minimum because it will turn them off! Y'all is one thing. Youse, yar, ye, and more is too much. Keep it simple.

  9. And now I'll back-pedal and agree with some of the other points mentioned - add enough modern language to keep it real, but not so much your book will be dated in five years. Certainly don't use expressions from your childhood, like "none of your beeswax." Urban Dictionary is the place to check.

  10. I use electronic editing, too. Most publishers have switched over to it also, so you may as well get in the habit.

  11. Jenny: As a writer and editor, here's my process.

    On the first draft, I focus on getting the story down and do almost no editing. In the second draft, I focus on the structure of the story and make sure everything is logical and smooth. In the third draft, I fine tune word choice, grammar, etc. Then I send my manuscript to an editor.

  12. Jenny, I work much the same way as L.J. and others have mentioned, focusing on story elements first. I do this when editing my own work as well as for clients, although I always have another editor go through my books for me. No matter how good one is at editing, I don't think we can edit our own work and catch every mistake.

    While I am tempted to point out grammar and spelling and tying mistakes in that first edit of a client's book, I don't unless it is in a section or paragraph I know will probably be in the final version of the book.

    And I use the Review feature in Word. It has been a long time since I edited a hard copy of a ms. Electronic editing works so well, and I can send clients finished work chapter by chapter so they can be working on changes while I am finishing the edit.

  13. My biggest challenge so far, and one my crit group happily reminds me of (wink) is HEAD HOPPING. Sheesh! But it also keeps me from telling instead of showing, so it's all good. And I love that I'm learning the Craft.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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