Tag Archives: On Editing

Lady Whistledown on Editing and the Perils of Self-Publishing

Lady Whistledown on Editing and the Perils of Self-Publishing

“Publish your travel memoirs,” she said.

“I’m not—”

“Publish them,” she said again. “Take a chance and see if you soar.”

His eyes met hers for a moment, then they slid back down to his journal, still clutched in her hands. “They need editing,” he mumbled.

Penelope laughed, because she knew she had won. And he had won, too. He didn’t know it yet, but he had.

“Everyone needs editing,” she said, her smile broadening with each word. “Well, except me, I guess,” she teased. “Or maybe I did need it. [. . .] We’ll never know, because I had no one to edit me.”


—from Julia Quinn’s Romancing Mr. Bridgerton (2002)


Deadlines versus Perfectionism

Deadlines versus Perfectionism


Struggling to finish some leftover projects from 2013? Chill. It’s only January, and you are not alone.

Every time I try to make it really easy, I end up complicating it more because creativity always overrides reason.
—independent filmmaker James Rolfe, Angry Video Game Nerd Movie Update (December 30 2013 video)

Hell, even your editor feels the same way about your work.

We never have hope of achieving the perfect book…. We do, however, have hope of achieving the best reasonable text within the constraints given to us as editors.
— a veteran editor I know, who still wishes to remain anonymous


Authors versus Editors

Authors versus Editors

Last Saturday, my class in substantive editing wrapped up its final meeting. To commemorate this personal milestone, here are two short quotations, taken out of context and put together for my own amusement.

Editors are ghouls and cannibals.
—Harriet Vane to Salcombe Hardy in Dorothy L. Sayers’s Busman’s Honeymoon (1937)

If only Harriet knew her editor’s feelings, every time she went off on a walking tour, stumbled on a corpse, and was late with her next book!

The author has a constitutional right to be an idiot.
—a veteran editor I know, who wishes to remain anonymous

Thankfully, I know a lot of veteran editors, so finger-pointing will prove difficult.



I would like to point out that I’m both a writer and an editor, so you can only imagine the arguments I have with myself. 

Side Comments of the Month: the Literati Edition

Side Comments of the Month: the Literati Edition

I'm a sucker for free books (that are pertinent to my interests). These titles are courtesy of Ten Speed Press.

1) I attended the second “Write Now!” at the Mechanics’ Institute last Tuesday. I like this new monthly event because it forces me to write under pressure. There’s nothing like being stuck in a room with twelve other people with equally puzzled faces: “How do I tackle this prompt?”

Not everything produced under time pressure can be epic but that’s not the point. The point is to get the juices flowing. Rewriting and editing can come later.

Tarlyn Edwards, event facilitator and librarian, distributes old postcards at each meeting to serve as visual prompts. Attendees are allowed to keep the photos because the library has more images than they know what to do with. Since I’m a sucker for vintage postcards, I get a thrill out of picking my photo. I will post the photos and my flash fiction in another entry.


2) Literary agent Michael Larsen delivered a talk on “10 Keys to Becoming a Successful Writer” at the Mechanics’ Institute. (My Chicago Manual of Style-trained brain is just itching to correct “10” to “Ten,” but I suppose I shouldn’t because that was the proper title of the talk.)

His talk was informative and honest. I’m sure that the handout he gave, which included a flowchart of the publishing process, was a complete surprise to many of the other writers in attendance. In Manila there are no literary agents. Since I’ve never met one before, I found his insights fascinating.


3) Yesterday, my lovely classmates and I attended “Movin’ on Up: Getting Hired and Promoted in Publishing.” This was organized by the Young to Publishing Group, a volunteer-based initiative that aims to mentor and educate people new to the industry.

It was a well-attended event, with a predominantly young, female crowd. The panelists were up front on how difficult it is so get an in-house editorial job. I like how they differentiated between East Coast and West Coast publishing. This clarified certain nagging questions in my head.

I tend to lump “American publishing practices” into one messy ball, so now I will be more mindful in thinking it’s all homogenous. A small press will operate differently from Chronicle Books, which has around 200 employees, and both San Francisco-based companies won’t match the hectic pace of the Big Five in New York. It may seem obvious but until I heard someone share their industry experience, the reality of it didn’t sink in.


. . .

All these events touched upon various stages of the publishing process—writing, selling a manuscript, editing—and it made me think there’s a huge disconnect between novice writers and the rest of the publishing industry. Some of the questions and comments at the “10 Keys” talk had a wonderful, heartbreaking naiveté behind it.

Perhaps it’s awful for me to say so because I remember being equally shocked by some opinions expressed at the first Litquake event I attended. That was almost two years ago; now it no longer comes as a complete surprise.

There was a woman who almost had an attack of the vapors when Mr. Larsen said a successful book is “ten percent writing, ninety percent marketing.” I didn’t get to chat with her afterwards, which is a shame. I really wanted to tell her that, no, excellent writing is not the sole keystone to a successful, bestselling book. It’s only the first step in a long, arduous process. Yes, badly written books become runaway hits all the time.

If it’s possible to accept the current challenges of the industry and still desire to deal with words—whether to write, edit, or publish them—then congratulations. Welcome to the working week. There’s more to book production than putting words on a page.



Copy Editing versus Copyediting

Copy Editing versus Copyediting

These are just some of the references required for my classes.

It took a bit of time but I finally finished editing my entire blog. This task included making a style sheet which covers mechanical usage and standardized formatting for the entire website.

Style sheets have become a part of my life since I started taking editing classes at UC Berkeley Extension. I am grateful I learned about style sheets as I did without them for the first decade of my career. Nowadays I look back on my previous editing gigs and I wonder how I did without this useful tool. It certainly would have cut down on the minor bickering and word-to-word combat with senior editors.

It amuses me to no end that copy editors cannot agree whether it’s copy editor or copyeditor. Amy Einsohn’s fantastic reference is called The Copyeditor’s Handbook while Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (2011) lists copy editor as a noun yet copyedit as the verb. Oxford Dictionaries notes that copyedit is preferred for American English while copy-edit is British English. A quick glance at the index of the Chicago Manual of Style (2010) lists copyediting, but the reference really prefers the term manuscript editing.

At the end of the day, I believe it boils down to a few factors: the dictionary a writer consults, the style sheet the editor uses, and the target audience’s preferences.

Since this website is my public space, I have set my own boundaries. This includes all tags, categories, and entry titles in headline style, a preference for em dashes over parentheses, and copy editing spelled as two words.

I prefer to leave copy editing as two words, without a hyphen, as I have dabbled in other types of editing before. Since photo editing and video editing remain unhyphenated compound words, it seems reasonable to me to let copy editing stand as such.

I know many colleagues will disagree with this. That’s fine. They can spell copy editing as one word on their own websites. The most important matter is that I spell it as two words consistently throughout my blog, and they spell it as one word all throughout theirs. It’s not as if I am butchering the English language and spelling it as c0py3dItiNg.

In a couple of decades, the trend may veer entirely towards copy editing as one word, or perhaps a new term will come into use. Until then, I will wave my little style sheet with like a white flag of truce.