Tuesday, January 31, 2012
What comes across my desk today? Nine-hundred-page family history.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
And I don't even like to dance.
Love this, though.
PS: It's not hard to trace the line from there back to the song below. And, yes, if you're keeping score at home, singing in the following video would be Maureen Tucker (lower right), drummer in perhaps (ahem) the most influential rock band in history as well as future Walmart assistant manager, future Tea Party advocate, and future partial inspiration for a Haiku Monday entry:
Monday, January 23, 2012
Friday, January 20, 2012
1. Roman numerals. I don't think your readers will consider that your book is more worthy or that you are more scholarly if your part and chapter numbers are rendered in letters.
2. Citations in a book that doesn't need them. Don't use your exhaustive library of photocopied articles from scores or hundreds of different sources amassed over the last thirty years to impress your readers. Most of them -- unless you're writing a scholarly/academic volume or in a topic area where such documentation is the norm -- want to understand your thoughts on the subject, not look at the spines on your bookshelf. The point of most books is to educate your audience, not please your peers. [Note: This section updated based on Paisan's insightful comments, in which he brings up a most salient point that I neglected to address in the initial posting.]
3. Heavily formatted manuscripts. In my experience, a direct inverse correlation exists -- 95 percent of the time -- between the quality of your writing and the number of different fonts, colors, images, extra spaces, and instances of centered text present within the file. Very few heavily formatted manuscripts are also well written. When it leaves my desk, not only will your book read differently, but all of the time you've spent formatting it will be for naught. I change everything that's not Times 12-point double-spaced to make it so -- unless you've tried to jam so much text in a table that I have to make it smaller to make sense of it and make it appear on my screen in a usable fashion. Yes, believe it or not, I can make more sense of a manuscript that looks like it came from Microsoft Word as opposed to a nine-year-old playing in Microsoft Paint.
4. Ellipses. When you're quoting from someone else, trust that your readers are smart enough to know that another person's entire thought process did not begin and end with the few words you've cited. Also, don't introduce quotes with ellipses, as if you're building anticipation for the reader. A simple comma works.
Two things that might not make you a better author, but they'll make every editorial or production professional looking at your work praise you:
1. Leave the design to the designers. Treat your computer like a typewriter with memory, except don't hit the Enter key at the end of every line.
2. Understand that the people working on your book after you are trying to make you look better to your readers. Editors, proofreaders, indexers, designers . . . none of these folks' names appear on the cover of your book. We are not in this for the glory or the royalties or the book tours or being known as published authors. We are not trying to insult you by making changes. Trust me, we'd all love to see perfect manuscripts that don't need a mark on them or any intervention other than putting the book into print. I'd rather be paid the same rate for easier work. Who wouldn't? But if we change something or suggest a change, it's not to gratify ourselves; it's to make your work better. We've done this before, folks. Listen to your editors. This might be the eighth book you've written. Fine. It might be the three hundredth book I've edited, not to mention the next in the thousands of books your publisher has printed. Think about it.
One other note: Pick the appropriate tense and stick with it. Unless you're a really good writer, don't attempt to write a book about past events in the present tense. Very few authors can pull this off successfully in English, although I understand it's easier in German. I just finished an absolutely delightful book in which the author managed to write quite nicely in the historical present tense. It's about as rare as a complete day off.
You can file this advice under "Trying to Turn a Foul Mood into Something Productive." I hope I've succeeded.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Monday, January 16, 2012
Friday, January 13, 2012
My intent is not to proofread my way through this book, dear readers, nor to catch all those things that Stein and Toklas missed. My intent is to pay homage to an incredible effort on a writer's part. I now have the added motivation of giving thanks that someone out there— even a dead one — has enlivened an aspect of my life that has remained unchanged for almost forty years.
Monday, January 9, 2012
The chapter you’ve attached would require an entire rewrite to be comprehensible to an English-speaking (-reading) audience. While I’ve worked on numerous occasions with authors for whom English is not their primary language, usually I can make a pretty good stab at discerning what they’re discussing. I’m afraid that the chapter attached doesn’t lend itself to such easy interpretation. Working on this book would entail not only a complete rewrite, but likely much in the way of author/editor contact.
My bid for the editing would be $40 per manuscript page, and let’s define a standardized manuscript page as 265 words, which includes all notes and bibliographies. I would ask for eight weeks turnaround.
Proofreading would be done at an entirely separate stage -- after the book has been edited and formatted according to LN’s directions. Three dollars per page would be the rate there, but understand that it would involve no rewriting, but only reading for typographical errors.
Formatting: I would do that at the same time as the editing, at no additional charge.
Forty dollars per manuscript page. That’s roughly ten times my base rate for editing. And it still wouldn’t have been enough. Guaranteed.