Sunday, August 31, 2008

Proofreader's Marks

There are various manuals of style in use, but most fiction editors follow the Chicago Manual of Style. Journalists tend to stick to the AP Manual of Style, unless their publication has it's own as is the case with The New York Times.

I was introduced to my very first style manual as a teenager, and was always quite captivated by the proofreader's marks. Were you? In fact, I still look for replacement dictionaries that contain a style manual and proofreader's symbols. Wouldn't buy one without.

How do you feel about proofreader's marks? Or do you prefer your editing to come in the comments section of MSWord? Or some other format?

Three Easy Edits

I’ve been editing the first draft of my new novel (Secrets to Die For), and I became aware of some changes I consistently make—for the better. I’ll share them here, in case you find them useful.

1. I get rid of the word “it” and replace it with the specific thing that I’m referring to, even if I just named that thing in the previous sentence. “Jackson reached for his Glock. The weapon felt heavy in his hand” is better than “Jackson reached for his Glock. It felt heavy in his hand.” In verbal communication, repetitive use of “it” may be acceptable, but in narrative writing such lack of clarity is ineffective and often confusing.

2. The same is true of overuse of pronouns. So I’ve also consistently replaced “she,” “he,” and “they” with the specific name of the character(s). Sometimes it feels too formal to use the character’s name three times in a paragraph, but if the character, say, a guy named Jack, is talking about the suspect, a guy named Vinnie, then referring to either of these guys as “he” can be confusing to the reader. This is a point that Stephen King makes in his great book On Writing.

3. The third most consistent edit I make is to tweak individual scenes so that they read like mini-stories, with mounting tension, a climax, and a conclusion. The exception to that structure are scenes at the end of chapters, which I often leave with a revelation, a hint of a revelation, or a great deal of uncertainty (aka, cliffhangers).


L.J. Sellers
author of the Wade Jackson mysteries

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Now you have written

Time to revise, and then edit. What actually is the difference between the two? Join authors here who will tell you that and so much more.