Guest Post – 14 Manuscript-Formatting Tips for Writers and Poets – Kathy Steinemann

14 Manuscript-Formatting Tips for Writers and Poets

Don’t press the Publish button until you read this post.

Whether you self-publish or work with a traditional publisher, you should perform a thorough check for hidden codes that might hinder your book’s conversion.

Even if you’re not at the publishing stage, a professional-looking document will impress agents and slush readers. A haphazard mess will have them reaching for antacids.

Save yourself the embarrassment.

This article discusses a few common formatting blunders and how to fix them in Microsoft Word. If you prefer a different word processor, you can still use the information here to isolate the same problems in your software.

Before we begin, open your WIP in Word.

You’ll need to activate the function that allows you to see paragraph marks and other invisible symbols:

Navigate to the Home tab of Word and press the ¶ icon.

Tip #1: Never copy and paste from a website.

If you’ve already done this, you might be in for a bumpy ride.

And I’m not talking about legal issues if you’ve hijacked information from internet pages. You’d never do that, right?

No matter what you copy online, you could pick up weird spacing, tables, headings, undesired page breaks, non-standard colors and font sizes, tabs, highlighting, special characters, et al. These unexpected anomalies could prevent conversion to eBook format.

Tip #2: Select a standard font such as Times New Roman or Cambria.

Comic Sans MS won’t impress an agent or an editor. But if you’re self-publishing a printed children’s book, go for it.

Tip #3: Avoid tables.

Some eBook aggregators or programs won’t accept tables, or they do a sloppy conversion job. If you need a table, one option is to produce a graphic instead. It’s beyond the scope of a short article to explain the mechanics, but for guidance, you can search online for how to take a screenshot.

Tip #4: Remove non-breaking spaces.

These spaces, which require a Ctrl-Shift-Space key sequence in Word, mysteriously appear in some documents and will make them fail EPUBCheck validation.

Non-breaking spaces create sentences that look like this:

The°quick°red°fox°jumps°over°the°lazy°brown°dog.

instead of this:

The·quick·red·fox·jumps·over·the·lazy·brown·dog.

To replace them:

Search for [space]
Replace with [space]

Word is smart enough to replace all spaces, including non-breaking spaces, with regular ones.

Tip #5: Eliminate double returns after paragraphs.

Do you see something like the following in your manuscript?

The quick red fox.¶

Tsk, tsk. That’s what styles are for.

Search for ^p^p
Replace with ^p

If you want extra room after each paragraph, access the style you need to change and modify its spacing:

Modify -> Format -> Paragraph -> Spacing: After

Not sure how to use Word styles?

Microsoft provides how-tos for several versions of Word at the following link:

https://support.office.com/en-us/article/customize-or-create-new-styles-in-word-d38d6e47-f6fc-48eb-a607-1eb120dec563

Tip #6: Delete linefeeds, and replace them with paragraph returns.

Linefeeds eliminate extra spacing between paragraphs. They’re produced with Shift-Enter, and are helpful when writing articles for blogs. This post contains a few, because they work well in WordPress. However, they don’t belong in manuscripts.

Word expects all text joined by linefeeds to be part of the same style. An added annoyance: They hinder edits to hyperlinks and bookmarks.

Search for ^l
Replace with ^p

[That’s ^ell, not ^one.]

Tip #7: Replace double spaces with single spaces.

Double spaces between words were the norm when everyone created manuscripts on typewriters. Nowadays they’re unnecessary, and they can cause spacing anomalies.

For instance, if a line break occurs in the middle of a double space, you’ll end up with a single space at the end of the first line and another single space at the beginning of the next. Given the number of double spaces that would occur in a typical manuscript, the probability of several such anomalies is close to 100%.

Search for [space][space]
Replace with [space]

Tip #8: Remove extraneous spaces at the end and beginning of paragraphs.

No matter how careful you are, these spaces appear as you write and revise. They’re easy to replace.

Search for [space]^p
Replace with ^p

and then

Search for ^p[space]
Replace with ^p

Tip #9: Edit apostrophes that face the wrong way.

Consider this sentence:

“But I don’t trust ‘im,” he said.

Note the punctuation that replaces the missing h at the beginning of ‘im. It looks like a quotation mark.

Here’s how you would fix it. Type:

[h][i][m][cursor left x 2][‘][cursor left][backspace][cursor right x 3]

This is an excellent reason to avoid words that drop initial letters.

Instead of: ’E’s doing it again.

Try: He’s doin’ it again.

Instead of: He’s going with ’em.

Try: He’s goin’ with them.

Instead of: I’m not against ’t, honest.

Try: I’m not agin it, honest.

Plan your dialect before you write your story, and keep a file with the quirks for each person. Characters should have unique speech characteristics that enable readers to differentiate them, but the dialogue should be easy to read.

Tip #10: Replace tabs.

Search for ^t
Replace with [nothing]

Tabs don’t belong in a manuscript. Neither do multiple spaces. If you want to indent the beginning of each paragraph, set up a style for that.

Indented paragraphs function well for novels.

Block-formatted paragraphs work better for books such as cookbooks and instructional manuals, where special formatting like bulleted lists, block indents, and hanging indents often appear.

Tip #11: If you’re preparing your document for eBook conversion, find and replace these codes with [nothing]:

^b (section break)

^m (manual page break)

Tip #12: Never do this.

Do you remember the tip about double returns after paragraphs?

Here’s a practice that’s even worse: multiple presses of the Enter key to reach the top of a new page, to insert a blank page, or to set up for a section break.

In eBooks, free-flowing text, font changes by readers, and varying screen sizes will transform extra lines into a mess. You might get away with it in a paperback or hardcover edition, but a minor edit before you print could alter your paging and introduce other glitches.

Instead, on the Insert tab, select:

Pages -> Blank Page

or

Pages -> Page Break

Tip #13: Search and replace cautiously.

Why?

Consider the following, for example. Sometimes authors want to replace all ‘s (straight quotes) with ‘s (curly quotes). This is how they do it:

Search for ‘
Replace with ‘

However, when they do this, all words such as ’e’s, ’em, and ’t end up with apostrophes that face the wrong way.

Can you imagine the time-consuming mess you’ll have to clean up afterward?

Always, and I repeat, always double check your entire document after performing blanket search-and-replace operations. Yes, it takes time, but quality is worth the effort.

Tip #14: When all else fails …

Are you receiving obscure errors from EPUBCheck or your book aggregator’s conversion process?

If you can’t locate the problems via Word’s Find function, you might have to:

  1. Copy the text from your manuscript into a text file.
  2. Begin a new manuscript.
  3. Select the contents of the text file, copy, and then paste into the new manuscript. This removes all formatting.
  4. Start at the beginning and reformat the @#$%&! thing.

Imagine how long that will take. The painless approach would be to avoid the errors in the first place.

A program like Jutoh, which contains EPUBCheck and works well in tandem with Calibre, provides meaningful errors. Jutoh also allows direct edits, saves your project, and converts to multiple file formats.

Don’t give up if you experience formatting difficulties.

And remember: Today’s words are tomorrow’s legacy. Keep writing.

© Kathy Steinemann

Kathy Steinemann, Grandma Birdie to her grandkids, is a parrot-loving grandma involved in a passionate affair with words, especially when the words are frightening or futuristic or funny.

As a child, she scribbled prose and poetry, and won public-speaking and writing awards. As an adult, she worked as a small-town paper editor, and taught a couple of college courses. She has won or placed in multiple short fiction contests.

If you were to follow her around for a day, you might see her wince when a character on TV says “lay” instead of “lie” or when a social media post confuses “your” with “you’re.” And please don’t get her started on gratuitous apostrophes in pluralized words.

Her popular books in The Writer’s Lexicon series are touted by writers as “phenomenal,” a “secret weapon,” and “better than a thesaurus.”

You’ll find her at KathySteinemann.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

kathy-510x510-alex.jpg

 

Editor Interview Number Four – Kris Kendall

Hi, welcome to the Library of Erana and thank you for talking to us today.

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your editing experience. Thank you so much for having me. I’m Kris Kendall of Final-Edits.com. I’ve been editing for indie authors for about four years now and have had such an amazing experience. What started out as an occasional project has turned into my obsession. It’s so much fun!

How did you get into this line of work? I started with just offering free services to friends who were writing Twilight fanfiction but needed a little help with the proofreading. And when I say friends, I mean strangers that I stalked because I loved their stories. I built a few close friendships there that led into the business I have today. It’s been quite a ride!

Are there genres you refuse, if so why is that? I generally refuse religious and non-fiction work. I just can’t get into those and it’s hard for me to edit a book I don’t like. Even when you’re being paid, if you aren’t interested in the topic, it’s hard to be objective about what’s “boring” or what should be rewritten. I’ve had a few religious books slip through and I was very outspoken with my opinions on how I thought readers (well, me specifically) would react to their messages. Those clients haven’t been back. LOL. 😉

Are you also a writer?  If so do you self-edit or do you use the services of another editor? For the first three years of editing, I held onto the longtime opinion that “I could never write a book.”

However, I started working on a Mature YA book over the past year so I guess now I can say I’m a writer. I’ve learned a lot of what to do and what not to do by reading so many other authors that I feel it’s worth a shot. I might be terrible at it but I have to try at least once. When I’m done with my book, I’ll definitely use an editor. I have a few friends that will beta read for me and then I’ll hire a professional editor to really clean it up. Not only is it hard to self-edit but by the time I’m done, I’ll probably be sick of reading it.

What are your opinions of self-edited work by authors? Don’t do it. No matter how ‘meticulous’ you think you are, you will miss errors that your brain fills in. It might be references to sections that you’ve deleted and forgot about or just missing words that you don’t notice. Every book needs an objective set of eyes to review it at least once before it’s published. Some authors can get away with publishing first, editing, and then republishing but that usually only happens after many bad reviews have come in. Every one or two star review will hurt your ranking so it’s not worth the risk. A few more weeks could save a lot of heartache in the long run.

Please could you tell us about the process involved with editing for, say, a 100k word manuscript. Well, I still have a full-time “day job” so my editing schedule is probably slower than someone who can do it all day long. So, a 100k word manuscript will usually take me 2-4 weeks, depending on how “life” is going. I start at the beginning and use word “track changes” to mark it up. Unless it’s just a high level proofread, I look up every word that I’m not familiar with and spend a lot of time on the Chicago Manual of Style website.

I’m no grammar nazi so I have to look up the same rules about comma usage and hyphens and compound words on a daily basis. You’d think it would stick but I always feel better when I look up a rule (even if I’ve looked it up 100 times before) just to make sure.  I also make a lot of notes to the author about where I’m confused or I think something is out of character. It’s so easy to have a phrase (remember “sure, sure”) that is a signature of one character but then when other characters start using it, it’s not always intentional. Sometimes just a simple “did you mean to do that” to the author will make a big difference in the flow of a story.

What is the difference between proof-reading and editing? For me, a proofread is really about finding errors but editing is taking the book to the next level. It’s pointing out where something is missing or confusing and rewriting sentences to flow better. Those aren’t necessarily errors but the book is better when a word isn’t repeated four times over two sentences.

I try to read slowly when I’m editing so I’m really “hearing” every word in my head and paying attention to details like the time of day or the placement of body parts. For example, if the woman is resting her left hand on the guy’s waist, she probably isn’t also biting her left pinky nail in the next sentence. Silly things like that can stop up a reader so I try to find those things and adjust them before they leave my desk. Just changing it to biting her right pinky nail isn’t going to change the intention of the story but now it’s physically plausible.

Do you have part of the process you really enjoy? Is there a part you don’t? My favorite part is when I find a major plot hole or inconsistency that could have really ruined the story. It doesn’t happen with every book but sometimes an author just forgets about a detail or changes something that has a ripple effect and when I can catch that and save that book from a string of bad reviews, I feel like it’s worth all the long nights I put into it.

My least favorite part is having to constantly look up grammar rules. LOL. I didn’t like it in school and I don’t love it now….but that’s part of the job.

Outside of your work as an editor do you read for pleasure? Constantly. I can’t really fall asleep without some kindle time. Sometimes it’s only twenty minutes but other nights I can read for hours. The worst is when I’m still reading when the morning alarm goes off. Those are usually rough days.

If so do you find yourself editing the work as you go or are you able to “switch off?” I do notice typos in almost every book I read (self-published or not) but I can ignore them for the most part. If it’s a really good book with really bad mistakes, I’ll often write a note to the author and offer to edit for them…sometimes for free. It breaks my heart when a good book gets trashed because the author had a bad editor or no editor at all.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as an editor? Look up everything. If you aren’t sure about a word, look it up. I use merriam-webster as my bible. However they spell it is how I spell it. Same with commas and hyphens and semicolons. If you aren’t sure, look it up. It only takes a few minutes and will make a huge difference in the quality of your work.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-edit? Be prepared to get some negative comments about typos. No matter how many times you read it, you’ll still miss a few (or a lot). I know budgets are tight and it’s hard to justify paying an editor for a book that might not make a penny…but if you think you have something that people will buy, you’ll regret not getting it up to par at the beginning. Also, and this might sound harsh but it’s true, indie authors tend to get a bad rep for having lots of typos and every book that goes out without a proper edit just makes it that much harder for the indies to be taken seriously. If you can’t afford an editor, contact a local high school (if your content is appropriate for those grade levels) and ask if they have any students that would be willing to help for $50. You might be surprised what an AP English student can do. It might not be perfect but it’ll be better than nothing.

(Want proof? How many typos did you find in this post? I self-edited it twice! 😉

Please add any links to your blog/website etc.

www.Final-Edits.com

https://twitter.com/FinalEdits

https://www.facebook.com/FinalEdits

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Editor Interview Number Three – Jessie Hale

Hi, welcome to the Library of Erana and thank you for talking to us today. Thanks very much for having me!

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your editing experience. My name is Jessie Hale and I’ve been editing, in some capacity, for about four years. I currently freelance and work as a project manager with a media publications company, where I edit and proofread a large variety of materials. I was also a non-fiction editor with The Editing Company in Toronto, Canada, until October 2013, and I copy edit and proofread a feminist magazine for young women and trans youth on a volunteer basis. I’ve worked on YA fantasy novels, academic textbooks, magazines, self-help books, website copy, memoirs, some erotic fiction, and many dissertations and theses.

How did you get into this line of work?  I completed a publishing certificate in 2010, which included courses in copy editing and substantive editing, and then began working in the marketing department of an academic publishing company. I took on some freelance editorial projects over the years, but began editing more seriously at the beginning of 2013, when I started working as a non-fiction editor with The Editing Company.

Are there genres you refuse, if so why is that? I don’t edit anything in the STEM field, simply because I don’t have the knowledge base that would qualify me to do so. For the same reason, I don’t edit high-level legal writing. Other than that, I’m open to pretty much everything!

Are you also a writer?  If so do you self-edit or do you use the services of another editor?  I am not a writer, except for the occasional blog entry!

What are your opinions of self-edited work by authors? I think that every piece of writing, no matter how short or long, could use another set of eyes. I wrote The Editing Company’s newsletter, for example, and even though I’m a trained editor, I never sent it out without having at least one of my colleagues look it over. So, while I think that self-editing is a very important and necessary step, I would not advise an author to rely on it alone. When you’re that close to the material, it’s very easy to miss plot holes and typos and all kinds of other errors.

Please could you tell us about the process involved with editing for, say, a 100k word manuscript. That’s a hard question to answer because it depends so much on what kind of edit you’re doing and what kind of manuscript it is. When I’m doing a substantive (or content) edit, I usually start by reading the manuscript once through, not trying to take notes or think too deeply about my reactions, just reading it as I would read any novel. Then I read it again more carefully, this time taking notes about the content and characters and so on. Then it becomes a back-and-forth process with the author, allowing him or her to take my feedback into consideration and revise. The manuscript will usually go back and forth at least twice, sometimes much more. The whole process takes at least three months, and sometimes a year or more.

With a copy edit, usually I start by looking over the style sheet (if there is one) and making note of what the author or publisher prefers. Then I start reading the manuscript very carefully, correcting any spelling and grammatical errors and occasionally reworking sentences to make them clearer. For a 100,000-word manuscript, that will usually take about 80 hours. I like to give the manuscript two passes, if there’s time, but of course there isn’t always.

What is the difference between proofreading and editing?  Proofreading means different things to different people, but generally it happens much later in the process than editing. When you’re proofreading, you’re looking for very small, last-minute mistakes; typos, dropped letters, that kind of thing. It’s often done after the book has already been laid out and typeset. Editing, again, can mean many different things, but it starts much earlier in the process and focuses on a much bigger picture — does the plot make sense? Do the characters behave naturally? Is the language clear and readable? Copy editing falls somewhere in between; you’re looking for bigger errors than in a proofread and applying a consistent style, and so on, and you also might be changing sentences to make them clearer and checking that facts are consistent (e.g., that a character with blonde hair in chapter 2 doesn’t have red hair in chapter 5!).

Do you have part of the process you really enjoy? Is there a part you don’t?Whenever I get to proofread on paper, that’s a big pleasure. Most editing is done onscreen nowadays but there’s something that feels very precise and elegant about working on paper. I don’t think there’s anything about editing that I actively dislike, but probably my least favourite task is editing a bibliography, especially when it’s big and complicated. It can be quite headache inducing.

Outside of your work as an editor do you read for pleasure? Absolutely!

If so do you find yourself editing the work as you go or are you able to “switch off?”  I definitely notice mistakes more often now than I did before I started working as an editor. Mostly what I notice is decisions that other editors have made; I might think, “Oh, that’s interesting, I probably would have taken out that comma,” and that kind of thing. It’s interesting because when you work as an editor you become better able to “see” the editorial work that someone else has done.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as an editor? I think taking some kind of editorial course is really invaluable. Copy editing, especially, involves much more than most people realize, and it’s important to be familiar with the different types of editing and what they entail. The other piece of advice I would give is to read as widely as possible in as many different genres and styles as possible, so that you can familiarize yourself with different writing conventions. Also, every written document could use an editor. Offer to edit documents for your current company or look over your friends’ cover letters, or perhaps volunteer as an editor for a non-profit. The best way to learn editing is to edit, so you should get as much practice as you can.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to self edit? Give yourself space from the material. Don’t edit the day after you’ve finished writing. Take some time off and return with a fresh perspective. Try not to edit as you write — better to get your words out on paper first and refine them later. Even if you don’t want to get your manuscript professionally edited, it might still be worthwhile to pay to have one or two chapters looked at by a professional. At the very least, you’ll be able to see what a trained editor would pick up on, and that might help you as you edit the rest of the text.

What are the necessary writing guides you would recommend? I’m not a writer, so I rely mainly on the Chicago Manual of Style and the dictionary! But there is a great book called The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner that is very informative and readable. It offers a great perspective on what editors and agents are looking for and provides insight into their thought processes, which will help writers learn how to pique their interest.

Please add website/blog etc. www.marginaliaeditorial.com

 

Editor Interview Number Two – Teresa Kennedy

Hi, welcome to the Library of Erana and thank you for talking to us today.

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your editing experience. I’m Teresa Kennedy and I’ve worked in publishing for most of my adult life. I’ve served as a Senior  and Acquisitions Editor for a number of publishers and worked as a literary agent and scout. In addition, I did a lot of contract work for packagers and private clients, as well as having authored over 30 of my own books under my own and various pseudonyms. I then worked for a number of years for various editorial firms. In 2011, I partnered with a former client who appreciated my experience to form Village Green Press LLC, which offers a range of editorial, publishing and marketing services for independent authors.

How did you get into this line of work? I had quite a few stories published as early as college, so when I moved to New York in 1975, I naturally gravitated to the industry. I got a job as a Production Editor and moved up the ranks.

Are there genres you refuse, if so why is that? Hard science fiction or highly technical thrillers tend to go a bit over my head. I’m not well-versed in some of the sciences, so I just feel another editor might be a better fit.

I believe you are also a writer, do you self-edit or do you use the services of another editor? Do you find yourself being very critical of your own work? I always use the services of another editor. Most authors don’t understand that editing and writing really do comprise different skill sets. An author can read his or her own work a million times and still not see errors or inconsistencies. Some writers make good editors, but not all of them. As for being critical of my own work, I consider that the most important part of the writing effort is getting it done! That’s one of the reasons I rely heavily on editorial feedback, because when I’m writing, I’m not terribly critical of my own work.

What are your opinions of self-edited work by authors?  That’s a pretty broad question! Let me say that it depends on the author, their level of experience and their talent for writing. While self-editing is certainly important, I rarely see a self-edited work that can’t be improved in some way. Too, while it’s important to write for yourself, it’s equally important to write for your potential readers. A lot of what I do is to play the role of a professional reader; I ask lots of questions, I tell them when something’s not working or the pace is off, etc. A lot of self-edited writers aren’t going to see the same things that I do.

Please could you tell us about the process involved with editing for, say, a 100k word manuscript. Again, that pretty much depends on the shape the manuscript is in when it first comes to me. Basically though, there’s an initial read through with light edits, questions about plot or character; notes on where the story development or plot may be weak, as well as comments about how well a book may fit its genre and eventual marketing. That’s usually done for a flat fee and depending on the author’s level of experience involves a fair amount of coaching and what is known as content editing.

After it has been revised, I’ll usually do a line edit, which is a line by line, in depth process. I’ll rearrange paragraphs so that the prose flows more smoothly, clean up excess verbiage and correct any obvious problems with syntax, point of view, etc.

Finally, proofreading will check for spelling errors, correct punctuation and clear up any remaining inconsistencies or mistakes before publication. It’s basically the final polish. Many authors these days are in something of a rush to publication, so I do offer an editing package that combines all 3 services, but only to those clients whose manuscripts are in pretty good shape to start with.

Do you have part of the process you really enjoy? Is there a part you don’t? I have to say that I really enjoy the more collaborative aspects of editing that involve story and character development. Plot and character are really so intimately related; you can’t have a great plot without great characters and vice versa. So when I see opportunities where one or the other can be strengthened to the point where a good book becomes a really great book– that makes me happy, because I know the author will learn things about their craft that they will always carry with them. By the same token, it can be difficult to offer an author advice he just doesn’t want to hear or who doesn’t want to do the work necessary to improve his craft. I’m never out to hurt anybody’s feelings, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I told an author his work was wonderful when it wasn’t.

Outside of your work as an editor do you read for pleasure? Of course! The only reason to stay in this business is because of your love of books.

If so do you find yourself editing the book as you go or are you able to “switch off” as you read? Reading for pleasure is just that, reading for work is editing.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as an editor? Be aware that it’s difficult and competitive and that editing is a lot more than correcting punctuation and running things through a software program. It involves developing real relationships with your clients and earning their trust. Intern at a traditional publishing house if at all possible. You can’t help an author achieve a professional standard in their work if you don’t know what those standards are.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-edit? Self-editing is an important skill because it makes the writing process easier. You learn to identify your quirks, your weaknesses and your mistakes. Every draft should go through a self-edit. But every book should also be professionally edited. Because when it comes down to making the hard decisions, self-editing is a lot like taking out your own appendix. It can be done, but it’s awfully painful!

What advice would you give to new authors? Love your work and keep at it. Don’t expect it to make you rich, famous or an overnight success. Get lots of feedback from friends and other writers and hire the best professional help you can afford for editing, design and marketing. Always be willing to learn.

http://www.villagegreenpressllc.com/

http://villagegreenpressllc.blogspot.com/.

Editor Interview Number One – Lynda Dietz

Hi, welcome to the Library of Erana and thank you for talking to us today.

Thank you! I appreciate the opportunity to chat with you.

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your editing experience.

My name is Lynda Dietz, and I’m a homeschooling mama who is a voracious reader. I’m a newer editor, and have worked with three authors so far for a total of five books. I’ve enjoyed all of them: the books as well as the authors themselves.

How did you get into this line of work?

I think I naturally gravitated toward editing because of homeschooling. I’m always reading something for correction purposes, and I found myself more and more often wishing I could “do something” about the books I read that had easy-to-fix errors in them.

Are there genres you refuse, if so why is that?

I’m new enough that I’ve not had the opportunity to refuse work yet. 😉 But I would probably refuse to edit erotica if it were offered. I want to be able to show off my work and promote the book when I’m done with it, and I just can’t imagine showing that to my mother, among others. Lots of people like it, but it’s just not my cup of tea; plus, I think it’s difficult to do erotic descriptions well, so I’d probably spend most of the editing time saying, “You’ve got to be kidding. No way!” I do prefer to stick with fiction for now, because I tend to read fiction more frequently than non-fiction; when I’ve learned more, maybe I’ll be comfortable editing non-fiction.

Are you also a writer?  If so do you self-edit or do you use the services of another editor?

I am not a writer, although I’ve always had a knack for writing creatively. The mechanics are not the difficult part—it’s the imagination part I have a problem with. I can’t tell you what to say, but I can tell you how to say it well. If I were ever inspired to try my hand at writing, though, I would definitely use the services of another editor. A critique partner, beta readers, friends, family, and a professional editor at the end of it all…whatever it takes.

What are your opinions of self-edited work by authors?

I really think every author needs an extra set of eyes to look over his or her work. And by an extra set of eyes, I specifically mean someone who’s not a family member or friend. Those particular people can be invaluable when shoring up your ideas, for continuity, flow—and to tell you if your book is boring. However, a friend or family member may read your manuscript and “see” things that aren’t there, simply because they know you, and know what you “meant” to say. A neutral party will see what’s written. Period. I think so many of the simple errors found in self-published books could have been fixed prior to the book’s release, if only the author had gotten a qualified person to take even the briefest of looks.

Please could you tell us about the process involved with editing for, say, a 100k word Manuscript.  

I’m a copy editor who gets the manuscript when it’s as close to “perfect” as it’s going to be, since I don’t edit during the writing process itself. That type of substantive editing involves plot, character development, and more, which should all be tidily taken care of by the time it gets to me.

I’m sure it’s different for every editor, but I like to work with individual chapters at first. For a lighter edit (typos, improper usage), I have an easily-manageable number of pages to shoot for each time I sit down to work. If I’m dealing with a heavier edit (sentence overhaul or restructuring), I can send off one chapter at a time back to the author, discussing what’s needed. I read through and create a style sheet as I go along, listing character names, terms, places, and anything specific to that book. I then make any necessary changes to obvious spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Anything more complicated, such as odd verb tenses or proper phrasing, gets looked at when the “easy” stuff is done. I keep my copy of The Chicago Manual of Style and a few dictionaries close by to look up items of which I’m even the slightest bit unsure. Sometimes my memory will play tricks on me, and it’s always better to look it up than to guess.

When I feel the whole manuscript is as smooth as possible, I send it back to the author for approval. The author then returns it to me as a complete work, and I start off by going through my style sheet. If a word is always capitalized or hyphenated I look at each mention of it and make it consistent. I check for proper spelling of each character’s name, odd things like military squadron numbers and eye/hair color. Thank goodness for the “find/replace” feature of word processing programs! It certainly speeds up the process. I read through the whole thing once more, and I’m always surprised at the dumb things I missed the first time around.

What is the difference between proof-reading and editing?

Until I started editing “for real,” I didn’t know there was a difference! Proofreading in its truest sense is comparing one document to another, making sure they match exactly. For example, if you were comparing addresses or invoice numbers, or checking a final draft to make sure the author approved the surface changes you said were necessary, that would be proofreading.

Do you have part of the process you really enjoy? Is there a part you don’t?

I enjoy almost the entire process. I get to read, which is something I always want to do in my spare time, and I get to “fix,” which satisfies my need for order. Sadly, that need for order doesn’t seem to transfer to housework-related things; only books. I love the fact that I get to see an author’s work before anyone else gets a peek at it, and it’s very satisfying to know I’m helping it to be seen at its best. The only part I don’t really enjoy is when a book has been such a heavy edit that I feel like I’d rather do anything than read through it one…more…time. Seventy-five to one hundred hours with the same book can be tedious. But even then, when it’s all said and done, I’m as excited as the author is when it’s released.

Outside of your work as an editor do you read for pleasure?

Oh, yes! Reading is one of my favorite ways to spend free time.

If so do you find yourself editing the work as you go or are you able to “switch off?”

Sometimes I catch myself in editing mode while reading for pleasure, and then I think, “Oh yeah, I don’t have to worry about that.” Other times, it drives me crazy enough that I have to put the book down if it’s bad enough.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as an editor?

Don’t assume you’re able to edit simply because you love to read. Learn ALWAYS. Find people who know more than you do, and listen to their advice. I made a new friend online who’s been editing for over two decades, and she not only recommended a slew of helpful (and necessary!) books to have on hand, but she’s available when I get stuck. She’s been actively mentoring me, and I’m so thankful for her knowledge.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-edit?

Do it to the best of your ability, but then take the extra step (and often, the added expense) and have a knowledgeable, unbiased person go through your manuscript. It doesn’t have to break your piggy bank, but make sure you see samples of the person’s work first so you’re sure they’re qualified. It’s always worth the extra time it takes to get it right the first time, rather than to have to correct it later and hope readers will give you a second chance.

Please add any links to your blog/website etc.

My blog is called Easy Reader, and the link is http://ilovetoreadyourbooks.blogspot.com