I'm pleased to have Marilyn Levinson as my guest this week. Her books have entertained me on more than one occasion, and I'm always looking for entertainment. Marilyn has made some good observations about editors and editing in her post. Welcome, Marilyn!
When Editors Edit
Having published thirteen novels in more years than I care to mention and two books coming out soon, I’ve been vetted by a variety of editors. Just as each writer has her own voice, every editor edits in her own particular way. Some editors I’ve worked with considered me a clean writer and made a few notations on my manuscripts. Their edits mostly dealt with simple grammar and punctuation issues: adding or deleting the occasional comma, pointing out that my protagonist had invited a guest for mac and cheese then prepared a dinner of meatballs and pasta. Or they split my compound words into a hyphenated word or two separate words, depending on the publisher’s style. These are small changes editors should and do make.
Other editors have inserted their stamp via changes and deletions. I thought I’d mention a few I’ve found interesting:
1. An editor changed every “he asked” to “he said.” Interesting. Recently, when I used “she said” after a question, my current editor changed it to “she asked.”
2. Another editor deleted many of my introductory sentences to a new scene, feeling they weren’t necessary. I believe such sentences establish time and setting and I continue to include them.
3. One editor eliminated expressions such as “she grinned,” “he nodded,” “she smiled.” While I felt the cut was too severe, it taught me to be more creative and not to rely on these well-worn phrases.
4. After a statement, I often write “he said,” and follow it with an action. For example: “I’d like you to make the corrections in red,” I said, handing him the pages. My editor eliminated “I said” and followed it with a new sentence: “I handed him the pages.” I’m of the school that considers “said” a tag hardly noticed by readers, and considered this type of change to be her personal preference.
5. Is there something wrong with saying “ten o’clock?” I ask because one editor eliminated my use of “o’clock” each time it appeared in my manuscript.
6. Another editor insisted on inserting the word “and” in every clause beginning with “then.” An old grammar rule, I believe, that’s gone the way of the floppy disk.
Most of the corrections—or differences of opinion—involve the use of commas. I suppose that’s because different editors follow different schools or styles. Until recently, I inserted commas to set off clauses not essential to the sentence. I inserted a comma to separate two independent clauses. In both cases, I’ve had my commas removed. I haven’t always inserted a comma after timed-related phrases such as “after dinner.” Now that I’ve been “corrected” re all of the above, I’m truly confused as to when to use a comma.
The rules are constantly changing. We authors must remain flexible and accept the new order when long-established rules are discarded. We no longer type two spaces after a period. Nor do we insert a comma after “white” in “the red, white and blue.” All of this takes some getting used to. I’ll abide by the rules and try not to get too upset when a new editor changes what I’ve just managed to learn.
Thank you, Marilyn. Sometimes it's difficult to change old habits and lessons, but you seem to do it quite well. It's helpful to know I'm not the only one who has to relearn a few things. I hope you'll come for another visit.
A former Spanish teacher, Marilyn Levinson writes mysteries and romantic suspense for adults and novels for kids and young adults. Her Twin Lakes mystery series includes A MURDERER AMONG US and MURDER IN THE AIR. MURDER A LA CHRISTIE and MURDER THE TEY WAY are the first two books in her Golden Age of Mystery Book Club Mystery series. She is currently writing a sequel to GIVING UP THE GHOST called THE RETURN OF THE GHOST.
Her books for young readers include THE DEVIL’S PAWN, and DON’T BRING JEREMY, a nominee for six state awards, NO BOYS ALLOWED, and RUFUS AND MAGIC RUN AMOK, an International Reading Association-Children’s Book Council “Children’s Choice.” RUFUS AND THE WITCH’S SLAVE will be out in time for the holidays.
Marilyn like traveling, foreign films, reading, knitting, Sudoku, dining out, and talking to her grandkids on Face Time. She lives on Long Island.
my Amazon page: http://amzn.to/K6Md1O