Peddling Fast. Going in Circles

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When I was a kid, I had an aquamarine bike that I lived on. That’s where my imagination was born, on that bike peddling faster and faster around the driveway that encircled my home in South Carolina. On that bike, I dreamed of other worlds, made up interesting people including lots of Knights in Shining Armor to whisk me away. That was the place, that spot, where I decided to become a writer. Even though you wouldn’t call my current profession a literary one, I write all the time, just not the novels or stories I dreamt of on that bike with my initials carved on the back as a license plate.

Do I have any regrets? No. Living in regret is a waste of precious time that could be used writing. Over the past few weeks, I fell behind on my blog, my newsletter, and fiddling around with a script idea for Dreams Thrown Away, because I was writing policies for a client. Shh…Don’t tell anyone. I hate to admit it, but there is a certain satisfaction in that type of writing as well. There must be. I have done it for so many years, and no matter how many times I tried to close the door on that side of my writing, another door slams open. It seems that no matter how hard I try to get off that loop on Askew Circle, I just spin my wheels through another opening. I am still peddling fast.

Maybe the going in circles is not such a bad thing either. I know, I know. You may think there is a lesson I haven’t learned because I am doing the same thing over and over. Or maybe, in my opinion, my circle is expanding and retracting, taking different shapes and forms, more like a spiral. You see, humans are not just malleable beings, shifting and shaping our minds and bodies with each cultural and societal shift. We have been endowed by a greater Source with the ability to do many things other species cannot. However, humans spend a lot of time trying to get one thing right. But, what if we were meant to do many things right? What a concept? Maybe each thing comes at a different time in our lives, or perhaps all at once. We are each different, and it’s time society stopped trying to make us all the same. Or, better yet, we need to stop trying to make ourselves like everybody else. Not every woman can fit a dress size 6 or should that be her desire.

This morning, as I write this, I am trying to stop myself from doing two things at once. I want to get on that bike and peddle fast, write more novels, write that script, that short story. And the other part of me says your client wants that policy by the end of the week, riding back into that circle again. But, hey, I am a spiral. I can do both, just one at a time. That’s called time management. The most important thing though is that I am WRITING. What are you doing today?

Dilsa Saunders Bailey, the author of The Sperling Chronicles and A Comprehensive Guide to Finding the Right Doctor, loves to blog as “simplydilsa,” a woman who loves to write out loud. The third novel in The Sperling Chronicles, No Tears for Dead Men, is now available in Print and on Kindle.

 

 

DO I REALLY NEED AN EDITOR? (Part 2)

GUEST BLOGGER AND EDITOR-LYNN SURUMA returns to explain the different roles of different editors.

So, you know you need an editor but what kind of editor do you need? After reading an excerpt of your manuscript or, sometimes, the entire manuscript, an editor will prescribe the process necessary. That prescription will be based on how close your manuscript is to a finished product. If you have a manuscript you want to submit to a small publishing company or to a potential agent (a necessary step if you’re going to approach a major publishing company), look for an editor who wears more than one hat, someone who does content or substantive editing and copy editing.

What is Content or Substantive Editing?

Fiction or nonfiction, a manuscript must be organized in a way that makes sense to the reader and tells the story you want to tell or delivers the information you want the reader to get. You know what you want to say, you know what you expect the reader to get from your book but, unless it is organized well, your readers can get lost. If they do, not only will they lose interest, but you will lose an opportunity for future readers.

A content editor will flag rough patches during a cursory read of your manuscript and will suggest a reorganization that will make sense to the reader and help your content emerge to its best advantage. This process may require shifting paragraphs around, deleting distracting text and/or writing additional text. Organization can get muddled, and narrative threads can get tangled if not lost altogether, when you’ve written several drafts. Among other potential landmines:

  • Does your narrative proceed logically?
  • Are your fictional characters developed enough to seem real and are distinct enough to the reader to tell one from the other?
  • If you are writing a sequel to an earlier book, did a character you killed off in Book 1 show up again in Book 2?

Editing can get pricey. If you are concerned about cost (and who isn’t!), consider choosing several individuals whom you believe to be your potential audience to read your manuscript before you submit it to an editor. They may not catch everything but, at least, you’ll have an opportunity to address glaring trouble spots before the submission.

What is Copy Editing?

When new writers think of editing, they think of copy editing: spelling, grammar, punctuation, incorrect word usage, consistency, and typos, although the latter is usually considered the purview of proofreading.

  • Do you confuse the meaning of some words, like capital/capitol, peak/peek, eminent/imminent? Are your participles dangling?
  • Did your character ask a question but there is no question mark?
  • Did you capitalize a word on one page but not on some others?
  • You named the main character’s sister named “Deena” at the beginning of your novel, but you changed it in a rewritten later chapter because it sounded too close to the name of another character, “Dinah.” You renamed the sister, “Sara,” but forgot to change the name in the earlier chapters.

Even though the process is not considered “copy editing,” your editor will also make suggestions about changes in style to help you present a clear narrative that flows well and moves forward. This is line editing and addresses issues like redundancy; over-use of a word or phrase; sentences/paragraphs that are too long or are overloaded with difficult vocabulary; and the occurrence of too many clichés.

The editing process at a publishing house is more specialized than what is outlined above but, first, you have to get your foot in the door. The point of all this is for the writer and the manuscript to be presented in the best light to interest an agent and a publisher.


Atlanta-based Lynn W. Suruma, editor and writer, has more than 45 years’ experience editing a wide variety of products, including books, articles newsletters, brochures and pamphlets, theses, proposals and reports. Her published work includes children’s stories, magazine articles, and poetry.  Since 1990, she has worked with Teachable Tech, Inc. as editor and writer of curriculum products for such clients as CNN for CNN Newsroom; The Weather Channel for The Weather Classroom; ABC Inc. for ABC Classroom Connection and ABC NewsConnect; and, for SAMHSA (US Dept. of Health and Human Services), Building Blocks for a Healthy Start.

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