Turkey, Cheese, and The Need for Editors

turkey with knife and fork thanksgiving day clipartThanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday ever. Turkey isn’t the reason—after all, we can have turkey anytime of the year. But I don’t eat it very often, because I like to save it for Thanksgiving, much as I don’t make fruitcake except at Christmastime. It might be good any time, but it’s not special if it becomes routine.

The only reason I mention that is because some people don’t like turkey—or they’re vegetarians and so don’t eat it, regardless of whether or not they like it. I know someone who says his ideal Thanksgiving dinner is steak. Seriously? No way. Gimme turkey. And stuffing. And an ocean of gravy. And rutabaga! Squash! Sweet potatoes!

And then more of the same all over again for a week straight, while enjoying the memory of Thanksgiving Day with family and friends and new acquaintances, and being thankful each day for God’s abundant blessings, both physical and spiritual. Yeah. All that’s wrapped up in the taste of the turkey leftovers I’ve been eating since Thursday. Turkey makes me smile.

tn_cheesea
I don’t associate cheese with Thanksgiving, though it’s compatible with it. Here’s why I mention it:

Some months ago, I was contacted by a fellow-writer, PD Richmond, asking if I’d be willing to be interviewed on his blog. He does an interview once a week, a feature he said he calls Featured Friday, and he apologized for the cheesy name.

I told him: “I’d be happy to do an interview with you on your Featured Friday page, cheesily named or otherwise. At least you don’t call it Feta Friday. Or Immental Interviews (except I guess the cheese is spelled Emmental). Or Tilsit Talks. Sorry…
Anyway, feel free to send me your questions at your convenience. I promise to answer them without mentioning cheese.”

(I must have been overtired when I composed that email.)

His reply: “I’m a sucker for a dodgy pun! I’m now going to be very disappointed if you don’t manage to slip at least one cheese reference into your answers. (I just hope it’s a gouda one!)”

And so the cheese fest began. I answered his interview questions as requested, sent it on its way, and he scheduled it in his lineup. As it happened, it went live the day after Thanksgiving, while I was still picking turkey out of my teeth. (Only to put more into them later in the day, of course.) You can find it here.

editing-clipart-1Before sending the interview on its way, I read it carefully, and re-read it, and felt good about it. But when I saw it in its published form this week, I found several errors! Missing words and things like that. I don’t blame the good Paneer Danby (you’ll understand if you read the interview); I have no doubt he published it just the way I sent it. But I cringe when I find errors in my published work.

Meanwhile, this underscores the need for a self-published author to hire a professional editor, no matter how competent the writer. We all need fresh, unbiased eyes to look over our stuff, not only to spot typos and missing words, but structure problems, errors in word use, improbabilities in the story, and other writerly things.

Even with the top-notch critique partners that I’m blessed with, I intend to have my current WIP professionally edited before I publish it.

If I had an editor helping me with this blog post, it wouldn’t have as many errors in it as I’m sure it has. (I don’t believe I’ve ever published a post without going back and making corrections afterward. Ever.)

And if I had an editor helping me with this blog post, he or she would encourage me to wrap it up a with a bit more style than merely ending it abruptly like this.

UPDATE: Since writing this, PD Richmond has allowed me to revise my post on his site. (How very un-cheesy of him!) Now you won’t see the errors, but there were three of them; two missing words and a misplaced apostrophe. Shameful. Thank you, Pete, for making the corrections.

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As The Old Saying Goes…

file0001772520894A man may toil from sun to sun, but a writer’s job is never done.

Oh, wait… it’s supposed to be a woman’s job, not a writer’s. But what if that woman is a writer?

[Side note: I looked online for free images for working, laboring, toiling, tired woman, and so on, but couldn’t find what I was looking for. So these guys with the jackhammers will have to do.]

Using a jackhammer is work — a lot more physically toilsome than writing. So much so, in fact, that it isn’t fair to compare the tasks.

(Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
(Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

BUT… at least when you’re done breaking up concrete, it’s done. I doubt any of the guys in the picture above went back to the job site later and said, “Hey, I want to revise that.”

Which is what this “elderly woman with laptop” (the caption given to this image by FreeDigitalPhotos) has a bad habit of doing. (In case that statement wasn’t clear, I’m talking about me, not the model in the photo.)

Okay, so I guess I’m not elderly yet. But I’m a gray-haired woman with a laptop, and that can be dangerous.

Old cover
Old cover
New cover
New cover

As you may be aware, Risen Books recently released me from my contract so I can self- publish the first two titles in the Gateway to Gannah series, with new cover art. And, although they offered me the manuscript files, I elected to use what I already had on my computer from the first time around, as I intended to revise them anyway. I didn’t plan to change either of the story details, just tweak a word here and there.

I embarked on that project about the time I contacted the designer to talk about doing new covers. So when he completed the first one last week, I had the first book revised and formatted and ready to go. I uploaded it to CreateSpace and checked the digital proof.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 7.18.47 PMHmmm… there were a few glitches. For instance, I omitted a drop cap here and there, or indented the first paragraph of a scene when I shouldn’t have. So I fixed the issues in my document and uploaded the corrected version.

Oops. Somehow one of the chapters was in a different size font. Redo. Upload again.

But then…. I’d put a fleuron at the beginning of each chapter (that little star-like thing you Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 7.24.36 PMsee in the example on the right) as well between scene changes. But it looked too cluttered that way, so I took out all the flourishes between scenes but left them at the beginning of each chapter.

Upload again.

Eventually, I was ready to order a print proof, which required a wait of several days until it arrived. During that time, I sparred with the cover designer over what to do for the next book. (I say “sparred” because I always feel like I’m a pain in the neck in these discussions. But he’s very nice through the whole process, and if he grumbles about it, I never hear him.) We discussed numerous options and he did a few preliminary sketches, and we finally came to an agreement as to what scene to depict and what it should look like.

to flourish...
to flourish…
Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 7.33.17 PM
…or not to flourish…

Meanwhile, the print proof arrived, and, highlighter at the ready, and with a pack of little sticky flags at hand for marking pages, I went over it verrry carefully.

 

And made a change to almost every page! I didn’t find many actual errors, but I found LOTS of places where I wanted to reword something. And, hey, if I’m going to make any changes, I might as well make a lot of them, right?

Correct this, correct that, for 330 pages. Upload again. Review the digital proof once more!

WAK! Here’s another paragraph that’s indented, though it’s not supposed to be. And there’s one where the drop cap is missing. ARGH!

Correct. Upload. Review. Oh, and did I mention, each time I thought I was satisfied, I had to wait for CreateSpace to look it over before I could do the final proof? The whole process took several days.

But then, finally! After an uncounted number of repetitions of this exercise, I approved the proof. Publish the puppy!

And then there’s the Kindle version. When I first uploaded it and checked out the result, I remembered–belatedly–that I didn’t want those fleurons at the beginning of the chapters in the ebook version; I only wanted to use them to delineate scene breaks. (Just the opposite of how I did it on the print version.)

Revise. Upload.

Oh, you know what? The drop caps don’t translate well into that format. I should get rid of them in the ebook version.

Revise. Upload.

Well. All that to say… the new-and-improved The Story in the Stars is now available on  Kindle, and it should be available very soon in print. (If not, I’ll have to find out why, because it should be; but at present, the only print version I can find is the original edition. Which I thought was supposed to have been taken off Amazon as of February 15, but it obviously hasn’t been.)

Next, I get to do the same thing with Words in the Wind, once Ken Raney finishes up the beautiful cover he’s creating for it.

James Michener in 1991 (Wikipedia)
James Michener in 1991 (Wikipedia)

After that, maybe I can concentrate on some of these other projects I have on the back burner.

Oh, yes — another thing about writing that makes it never-ending: you can continue doing it long after you’re too old to use a jackhammer.

James Michener published his last novel at the age of 87, and shortly before his death at the age of 90, he published a collection of poetry. Maybe by the time I’m that age, I’ll have hammered out the ins and outs of this business…

 

 

 

 

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