Monday, October 24, 2016

Marilyn Levinson, Guest Author



 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!


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 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.

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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.

 Marilyn's bio: 

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.
Marilyn's links:



 

21 comments:

  1. Ah, changes! I don't mind adapting to changes that are universally accepted. For example, leaving only one space at the end of a sentence and omitting a comma after the second word in a series of three. However, I do take exception to an editor's "personal" preferences.
    I have a friend who is a romance writer. When she tells me the stories of how one editor took this out and another editor put it back in, I wonder how she keeps herself from screaming, "Enough!" There are limits!

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    1. Ah, Pat. One of the perks of the profession.

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    2. LOL
      It might be one reason that so many authors are self-publishing now. They get tired of feeling like a puppet dancing on a string. I know it's an editor's job to catch any errors and to make suggestions where they think improvements are needed but some of them, in my opinion, take it a bit too far. After all, who wrote the book?

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  2. Great interview. We share your frustration. :)
    Janice J. Richardson

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    1. Thank you. Yes, this is something we all go through.

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  3. I like your interesting blog on this topic. I've had a few editors and one has a thing about clauses and continuity. And sometimes, her speech changes are formal for the character and not the voice I need. I reject those. I'm a huge comma person and believe one should be "After dinner," .

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  4. It's hard, isn't it? The worse was my first publisher who took out my em-dashes for interrupted dialogue and put in ellipses! She said em-dashes "are harsh on our readers' eyes." Honest! When I left her and republished, you can bet those em-dashes went back in.

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    1. My agent, or her assistant, took out all my em-dashes, correctly placed outside of quotes for interrupted dialogue, put the first one inside the quote, and replaced the second one with a comma!

      Eg: "But--" Rahier turned his attention from his ruffles to Haydn, his pale blue eyes meeting the composer's in a steady gaze, "I cannot promise to stay silent for very long."

      When I pointed out that wasn't correct usage, she said I over-used em-dashes! And yes, I did go back and correct every single one she'd changed.

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  5. Great to see your comments on editing here, Marilyn. As a writer, but also an editor, I'm aware that changes keep happening, such as one space after the period and no comma after "white" but it took me a while to get used to the new rules (and look up awhile and a while, which still confuses me). Thanks for hosting our friend, Marja.

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    1. You're welcome, Eileen. Marilyn made some great points. Sometimes we have to relearn things, and it can be very frustrating, but we persevere.

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  6. I've gone through much of the same with the different editors I've used over the years. As a matter of fact, my latest manuscript is in the hands of my current editor. Can't wait to see what she has to say about it. :) Anyway, I'm looking for forward to reading the sequel to Giving Up the Ghost.

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    1. Thanks, Evelyn. And to see how it's edited.

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  7. Good post. Usually learn something every edit. And yes, conventions keep changing...and sometimes it's hard not to be "hard headed!"

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  8. Thanks for stopping by. I think editors follow a certain style, not always the one we use.

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  9. It is truly confusing. Those of us old enough to follow old, established rules of punctuation find some of these changes hard to make. I'll cling to the final comma in a series till death. It helps to avoid confusion.

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  10. I loved this post, Marja and Marilyn. There are rule books and style guides but I've heard of some editors who like to go with their gut and can make a mess of a book. It can be pretty confusing for writers, and even other editors!

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    1. So glad you enjoyed this post. Aside from rules and style guides, our language is constantly changing. No wonder things can get confusing.

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  11. Thank you all for stopping in. Editing can be a confusing subject, because it seems that each editor seems to want something different. We do the best we can, and sometimes we have to put our foot down because we know how we want the book to read.

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  12. Marja,
    Thanks so much for having me as your guest.

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    1. Thank you for writing about a subject that interests all of us. I hope you'll come back.

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