Wednesday, March 26, 2014

From the Editor's Desk . . . Transcendental Editing

MaryChris Bradley

Someone asked me once about my approach to editing. Interesting question I thought, so here’s my attempt at explaining a major part of my job.

First let me say, I love what I do. I’m fortunate to be part of an industry that brings so much joy, entertainment and education to others. Then there’s the eternal grammarian in me who just enjoys editing. I always believe the simplest way is best. Indeed, my advice to wannabe writers is simplicity itself: “Butt in chair. Write.”

My approach to editing is similar:
Open manuscript file.
Click on Review>Track Changes.
Channel author’s voice.

Wait, did you just say “Channel author’s voice”? Is this some sort of paranormal experience you’re touting?

I suppose the answer is yes…and no.
Here’s the thing; an editor needs to correct the sentence structure, tidy up the flow, smooth out the bumps in the plot, doing any necessary nipping and tucking along the way. But, a good editor, first needs to get inside the author’s head. They need to hear and see those characters from the author’s point of view. Then, they must make those changes in the story, where necessary, but in a way that is seamless. The reader and the author should never be able to sense where the author left off, and the editor stepped in. If a character has a unique voice, perhaps the language of the story is not the character’s native language, then that needs to be reflected in any edits. If the story is taking place in another country, or world, possibly even an imaginary one, any edits must retain that flavor. Hardest of all, everything you edit, must still read as if written in the voice of the author.

So, how do you channel that voice? Meditation? Chants? A trance? 

Sometimes I wish it were that easy.

You really do have to get inside that story, walk around in there a little, poke the things lurking in the corners to see how they’ll react. It takes time and patience.

Early in my career I wondered why some editors always seemed to be working on books that were similar to ones they had done before. Not necessarily the same genre, but ones where the plot or tone of the story, the quirks and eccentricities of the characters, the overall flow and feel of the story, had a familiar ring to others they had edited.  

Were they re-writing those manuscripts in their own voice?

The answer is no, they weren’t re-writing. They were simply drawn to authors who were writing in a way they could get inside of. It was comfortable, safe, and familiar.

Because when they worked with authors who shared the same tone, they were able to achieve that seamlessness, meshing their corrections and edits smoothly with the author’s original words.

Does an editor re-write portions of a manuscript? 

A good one does, but you’ll never notice where they picked up the thread, or where they carefully wove it back into the author’s story.

Of course, there are several kinds of editors, including proof or copyeditors. Each of them is an important piece of the puzzle that makes up a good story.

My job as an editor is to work with the author, honing their work into the best, most engaging, smoothest flowing story possible. We may go through as many as three passes of the entire book before we are done with our work.

Then, I bring in a copyeditor. It is their job to find those nagging errors, like missing commas, or excessive ellipses, and rein them in. Their job is to make sure all the t’s are crossed, and all the i’s are dotted. They are a very important part of the equation, but they are not the whole equation, just as an editor is not the end answer. We work separately, but together, to create a finished product. Something the author, and the editors, will be proud to have bear their names. That, in an expanded-nutshell sort of way, is the heart of my approach to editing.

Copyright © 2014 MaryChris Bradley
 *Originally published 8th February 2012 on AmWriting

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Research and the Novice Writer

Today's guest post comes to us from Cyndy E. Lively

As a novice fiction writer honing her craft, reading the acknowledgments authors include at the end of their novels is both fascinating, and informative. We’re told that they’re one way to identify agents representing the type of fiction we’re hoping to publish. Acknowledgments are also a wonderful window into the methods authors use to research material for their work. Unfortunately, they can be more than a little intimidating. It quickly becomes apparent that if you’re a world renowned author, there’s no shortage of professionals willing to share their time and expertise. In one of the first acknowledgements I remember reading, the author thanked his research team for all their hard work. Travel to far-flung locales in search of a unique setting appears commonplace.

While I might one day aspire to employ a team of people working on my behalf–for the foreseeable future–I will be dredging up any useful facts I require on my own. There’s no travel budget to allow for a month spent soaking up the ambiance of the Scottish Highlands. Those willing to answer my questions will have to be satisfied with a pastry and latte in lieu of seeing their names in the pages of a New York Times bestseller.

In spite of these handicaps, research for the novice writer is far easier than at any time in the past. We literally have the world at our fingertips, and much of what we are looking for can be had for free. Google Maps can’t completely substitute for firsthand knowledge of a location, but you can view places that would otherwise be out of reach. Post a question on the web, and someone out there will attempt an answer. If you maintain a healthy skepticism, and confirm with multiple sources, you’ll likely find what you need.

The Chief of Police of a major city, a cutting edge scientist, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company probably won’t agree to an interview, but we all have friends and neighbors who in turn have their own network of acquaintances. Mining these connections can lead to people willing to share their knowledge if you ask nicely and have a brief, focused agenda.

Search any topic and Amazon has a range of titles offered for purchase. Professional organizations have newsletters, often available for a nominal fee. If your character would receive such a publication, so should you. Journals can be pricey, but libraries may provide access for free.

Stuck visualizing a character’s home? Pictures and floor plans for every conceivable type of dwelling are available online. Your character doesn’t have to be limited to a ride within your budget; automobile manufacturers post detailed photographs of their cars. Same for clothes: not every character is happy in jeans and a tee shirt.

The problem with research is often finding too much information, rather than too little. Winnowing the vast array of available data down to a manageable level takes time. There’s an art to including just the right amount of factual knowledge to imbue our stories with verisimilitude, without crossing the line into pedantry. And, if you’re like me, the allure of the search often serves to postpone the moment when I’m faced once again with a blank screen waiting to be filled.

CYNDY E. LIVELY is a retired physician living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. While she has been pursuing her dream of becoming a published novelist, her short fiction has appeared in Jupiter magazine, Leading Edge, and two short story anthologies, including Mystery Times Ten 2013, publsihed by Buddhapuss Ink LLC. You can find her on Facebook at Cyndy Lively or contact her at

We hope you enjoyed today's guest post from one of our Buddhapuss Ink authors. This was the first in a new, regular series of guest posts that we will be featuring. All of them will be written by our authors, and their topics will range from: Writing Tips to Short Stories, Poetry to Flash Fiction. If you enjoyed today's entry, please leave a comment, and share this link on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

You'll want to bookmark us so you don't miss the next in the series on April 2nd when poet and novelist, Martie Odell Ingebretsen, author of Sweet William, is our scribe for the day on this Cat's blog!