Professional Development – Copyediting Fiction

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A couple of weeks ago I participated in a webinar run by the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) on copyediting fiction. It was taught by Amy Schneider, who has been copyediting for over two decades. This was my first foray into editing-specific professional development, and I was pleased with the course. Amy described it as “a look over one editor’s shoulders,” which was right on target.

My primary take-away from the webinar is that I am intuitively good at copyediting. (Yup, I just patted myself on the back.) My mind just works the right way for the job, which is probably why I enjoy it so much. Much of Amy’s process and the things she says to look for I already do – I’ve learned it on the job. For instance, when I first started out I didn’t pre-read a manuscript before beginning to edit. I quickly realized I would be much more effective if I did so; this is something Amy described as standard practice for her. Additionally, looking for inconsistencies throughout the document (such as “e-mail” or “email”?) seemed to me to be just an obvious part of the job and something I do when proofreading as well.

Second, the presentation sort of cemented what I had previously only grudgingly accepted but now welcome with open arms: fiction writing is not bound by the same style conventions as nonfiction. Sure, I can use the Chicago Manual of Style as a guide, but hard-and-fast grammar rules just don’t really exist in fiction. Each author has his own voice, and it’s my job as an editor to ensure that voice is consistent throughout, not to, as Amy called it, “edit the life out of the prose.”

Finally, I learned a lot about editorial efficiency. I already do some of the process things Amy mentioned (though without the official-sounding names she had for them), but I can certainly benefit from learning about tools like Microsoft Word macros that can speed up the process. Though I charge by word and not by hour, my clients and I each benefit if I can be more efficient.

In sum, I enjoyed the webinar and will certainly look at taking more of the EFA’s courses in the future. And: I rock as a copyeditor.

I’ve been editing!

So yesterday I promised I’d share what I’ve been up to editing-wise. SO very exciting! Over the past several months I have had the great pleasure and privilege to work with a few amazing authors on varying projects. None of the books are out yet, but I will definitely let you know when they are!

First, I completed a combo line edit and copyedit for Anna Marie for her historical romance novel, Life According to Beatrice. By the time I finished, I was so emotionally invested in the characters that I kind of miss them! This was a one-pass edit, so I haven’t yet seen what Anna Marie has done with the story post-editing. I truly can’t wait to read it! Anna Marie plans to publish under her own publishing company later this fall.

Next, I had the chance to work on Lynn Woodall’s Sparrow and the Sheltering Tree, a lovely children’s book. Lynn is beginning the process of querying agents to publish the traditional way. I can’t wait to see the book in bookstores!

Most recently, I proofread Rafferty Lincoln Loves…, a young adult novel by Emily Williams. Earlier this year Emily published the exceptional Letters to Eloise, which I read in exchange for a review (it’s coming! next on the list. remember, I can’t review and edit at the same time…). What’s super awesome is that Emily wrote Rafferty Lincoln Loves… for charity, and all the proceeds will be donated to two horse charities. I am honored to have been a part of Emily’s charitable work, and highly recommend you get yourself a copy of the book when it’s out!

Also, and this is BIG NEWS for anyone who knows me personally and is therefore aware of my strong aversion to social media, The Edifying Word joined Twitter! Check me out @theedifyingword !

I popped up a “testimonials” tab here on the blog and I’m hoping to work in a logo, a headshot of myself, and a little more professionalization of this site in the coming weeks (ok, let’s be honest, probably months).

So, thanks for listening and being happy for my successes (you know you are! my enthusiasm is contagious, right?). Keep your eyes peeled for more excitement from The Edifying Word!

(PS – Did you just see me blog TWO DAYS IN A ROW?)

Superlative vs. Comparative – Getting all grammar-y!

So I acknowledge that I am sort of uptight about grammar (which I get from my dad), so I’m usually surprised and a bit disappointed in myself when someone corrects my grammar. So recently I had a little text convo with my parents where I described my 6-year-old as the baby’s “oldest sister” (she has two sisters, both older than she is). My dad texted back, “older.” And I said, “isn’t it ‘oldest’ so it can be clear which sister I’m talking about?” He said no, so I had to look it up.

Apparently, according to traditional grammar rules, my dad is right: the superlative form (-est) is reserved for comparing groups of three or more. Since I was speaking of only two of my girls, the comparative form (-er) would have been more appropriate.

Really, I should have known my dad was right; he usually is about these things. I just don’t like to be corrected.

That said, this seems to be one of those rules that is frequently broken – so now it’s more of a “rule.” There are discussion boards galore of people going back and forth trying to figure out when to use the superlative vs. the comparative, and really my original way of saying it has become pretty common in spoken English. I even double checked The Elephants of Style (my review here) to see what Bill Walsh has to say about it, but it’s actually not covered in the book.

Basically, I’m left with this: The superlative should be reserved for comparisons among groups of three or more items; however, that will sometimes lead to confusion, and so many people are going to choose clarity over grammatical-correctness and break the rule.

Now that I have ineloquently shown myself to be a HUGE grammar nerd, please – weigh in! Tell me what YOU think!