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Archive for January, 2013

Today brought more presentations. Each of us chose a publisher from our genre, presented the pros and cons of the house, and made suggestions about what our fictional publisher’s house should or should not mimic. That’s right. We’re LARPing as real-world editors. We’re that awesome.

Unsurprisingly, I chose to investigate Tor Books. I was able to find a fair bit of information and a few ideas for my “house.” Instead of putting all of this into a PowerPoint (our presentations were limited to 2-5 minutes, I think), I opted to present sans aids of any kind, relying on my winning personality and charisma…or whatever it is that people who have neither of those things use. It did not go horribly. I ended up being the last one; we had two minutes remaining. I definitely rushed it a bit and in so doing missed a couple of points (such as the value of social media–seriously, Tor’s Facebook post introduced me to Stephen Blackmoore’s Dead Things, which is now on my Must Buy list). This wasn’t all bad, though, because I felt that I was (somewhat) concise and to the point. In my head, I drew up a little scenario: My boss asked me to gather some information about Tor and present it at our daily, 4:00 meeting, but it’s Friday and nearing 5:00, so everyone really wants to go home–make it short and sweet.

It was rushed, brief, and incomplete. However, rushed could be translated as efficient, which is not a bad thing; brevity is key in an industry that moves at a brisk pace; and inundating antsy folks with new information is ineffective as they are likely thinking about dinner and not what you are saying. In the memo that I prepared, I did leave it open ended, allowing for my employer or whoever was interested to contact me with further questions.

Time is the great teacher, yes?

Z.

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I discovered something today: Being little is a problem. Sure, it’s more socially acceptable than the alternative, but just try walking across a university campus in freezing, high winds. I was on my way to class when I spotted a girl walking my way. She was bundled against the cold in a bulky, winter coat and all the accouterments (fur-lined hood, knit cap, what looked like ski gloves, and a scarf that threatened to engulf her head). The sad thing is that she still looked cold. In addition to this, her feet were perilously close to being blown out from under her. Each of her steps landed both short and wide of its mark. To me, she was a drunken, Michelin baby.

It was entertaining for me. I assume it was less so for her.

Z.

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Today we gave in-class reports on our chosen genre markets. It was a group project, so my panic was kept to a minimum. These endeavors do not usually end well; one person tends to do most of the work or a consensus cannot be reached. This group, however, was quite the opposite. It probably helps that we were grouped together by interest.

The research bit was definitely a group effort. Instead of assigning portions of the report to individual people, we all set out on a broad search for information and data. In the end, we decided to focus on fantasy (a joy for me) and its potential for growth in the publishing industry. The fact that we all were a part of the research meant that, when it came time to present, we were all familiar with the information.

Despite this, I actually felt that I was not much help on this project. I gathered the relevant data from our sources and prepared the citations; the actual PowerPoint and memo were done by the others. It was weird having group members who did work, not that it was an unwelcome occurrence. Huzzah for teamwork! Seriously, I don’t say that often…ever.

I think we did well during the actual presentation. We went over the time limit by two minutes, I think. That was due to our lack of rehearsal. We were more concerned with gathering information and having it all presented than we were with timing our speech. I don’t know about the others, but I felt a tad rushed when it came to my bit. We could have been more professional in our delivery and more pointed about the prospects for our publishing house (PFFP, in case any of you were wondering; feel free to chuckle). I noticed this when the group that covered the nonfiction market presented their work. They were concise and to the point, demonstrating why PFFP should pursue that genre and what the benefits of such a pursuit would be.

Ah, well. What’s done is done. Polish can be developed!

Yeah, that’s not a thing.

Z.

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My experience in the professional writing field is absurdly limited. I have only taken a single semester of editing and have done no–for lack of a better phrase–professional writing. As such, my understanding of the various aspects of editing is reliant mostly on the personal editing that I have done of the things that I read.

Copy-editing is generally strict. There are rules to follow and there are books that delineate those rules. While there are different styles, each of them has its own book (so to speak). Misspelling, misuse of grammar, errant punctuation marks–these are all manageable.

Developmental editing deals more with those aspects of writing that are less manageable: plot development, plot continuity, voice, tone, etc. There are books and guides to aid the developmental editor in the process, but a good portion of the work is instinctual. It varies with the author, genre, and audience. What is acceptable in one setting or by one author, is unacceptable in other circumstances.

It is important to have these two forms because what one misses, the other can catch. As with most things, it is better to have multiple sets of eyes and at least a few brains working on a problem. The issues of grammaticality and overall tone are interconnected while being separate from each other. Each supports the other. A brilliant story that is rife with grammatical errors will do little to attract readers (unless you write a series in which the beginning portions are heavily edited, selling well, and then you are free to fire your editors for the rest of the series). Similarly, a story with no errors but with an erratic flow will confuse readers. There are both necessary to make a good piece a great piece.

At the time, I am most interested in developmental editing. The peculiarities related to maintaining the author’s voice intrigue me because, even in the copy-editing work I did last semester, I found myself wanting to rewrite the pieces to match my own style.

I have no idea how to assess my skill with either. Does it help to say that I received a 4.0 in the class last semester? I didn’t think so…

Z.

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I feel as if I’m asking people if I can stalk them for the semester. That shouldn’t be a problem, right? After all, they have blogs and such out there for the world to read. They’re asking to be stalked by students. Meh.

We are supposed to be finding an agent and an editor (in different companies) to follow. Once again, my aim may be higher than my reach because I found the perfect candidate via AgentQuery.com: Matt Bialer. His name may not be familiar to you, but his clients definitely will be. He’s worked with both of the Hickmans, Tad Williams, Stephen Lawhead, and (this is my favorite) Patrick Rothfuss. I stumbled across Mr. Bialer’s profile on the aforementioned website and my inner geek was given a rather high-pitched voice for a brief moment. Don’t worry. The stranger next to me did her best to ignore my squealing and happy clapping. It may have taken me an hour and a half to draft a letter to him (his assistant, actually), but I sent it and am waiting with bated breath to receive a reply. I shouldn’t do that. Disappointment is harsh. My brain’s attempts to admonish my over-excited self are being lost in the frolicking swirls of happiness and hope. I may be a tad excited about this. He was Rothfuss’ agent for The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear; he’s represented Lawhead for the King Raven Trilogy and for The Skin Map; Tracy Hickman did the Dragonlance series with him; and Williams did the Shadowmarch tetralogy (That’s a thing, apparently; it explains why fantasy authors either stop at three or keep writing for as long as possible). In my head, right now, Mr. Bialer is the epitome of a fantasy agent with ties to the high fantasy subgenre. Eep!

As for an editor, I am a bit…lost, I suppose. Most of the editors that I am finding are Sci-Fi or YA <fill in the blank>. One of my professors has suggested a couple of names: Linda Barnett-Johnson and Denise Fletcher. I found Mrs. Barnett-Johnson, and I think I found Ms. Fletcher (if she’s the one who wrote The Guardian and Altar of Freedom, then I’m on the right track). The former’s website seems to be mostly a collection of book or story recommendations; the latter has a few websites, one of them a book review site. Mrs. Barnett-Johnson’s seems more developed, so at this stage, I’ll say I’m following her. Right now, my reasoning is fairly short: She has more information and I need an editor by 12:40pm.

If anything changes, you’ll be the second to know. Possibly the third if there’s another stranger nearby when I have a moment.

**Edit**

Well, folks, I found an editor! Either my Googling skills somehow maximized themselves, or the Google gods decided to bless me. Regardless, I’ll take it.

My unwitting victim is a Mr. Douglas Cohen. He blogs on Tor.com about high fantasy (and other fantasy goodies); he works at Realms of Fantasy magazine as an editor and an art director; and he is also an writer (dabbling writer is the phrase he uses, I believe). The first thought you may have is, He’s a magazine editor. High fantasy is not exactly a magazine genre. You’re right. The first blog I found from him actually talks about high fantasy, short stories. It’s a good read. I’m going to be looking up a some shorter high fantasy works because those would fit into my schedule so much better than the usual sagas.

Also, I realized in the middle of class today that I forgot to write an e-mail requesting an interview. So…here’s that:

Good afternoon,

My name is __________. I hope that this note not only finds you well, but leaves you in the same circumstance. I am a student at Michigan State University and, as a part of an assignment for my developmental editing class, have been following your blog(s) during this semester.

<insert paragraph about how awesome I found certain posts>

I was wondering if it might be possible for me to set up an interview with you regarding your work as an editor/agent. Naturally, there are many questions I have concerning the industry. I understand that due to your actually having a full-time job and (I assume) a social life, you may not have much time available for such a session. Even ten or fifteen minutes would be a tremendous honor.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I look forward to hearing from you!

With appreciation,

_____________________

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Today’s given task (technically it was last week’s given task): Choose a market genre.

I think I’ve mentioned my love of fantasy a time or two. Epic (high) fantasy is my subgenre of choice. The world-building is what captivates me. You know when you buy such a book and the first few pages are maps and the last few pages are appendices and histories? I love those bits! I’ll probably spend a good hour going over those before I even start reading. Yes, I’m the one who runs back to the maps when a location is mentioned. Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Kingkiller Chronicles, actually created a widget for the currency exchange rates in his Four Corners universe. It is full of amazingness! Things like this are what draw me to fantasy. These authors have been creating their own worlds for years and then they open them for tourists like me, who end up moving in and making that world their home.

There are a great many common themes and elements throughout those authors that I’ve read. Something I found the other day mentioned that this particular niche tends to focus on characters who can do something that others cannot. I had not really thought of it that way, but I suppose that writer was correct. Magic is a major element of the genre and not every character can do it (which gives our sorcerer someone to protect). This idea sent me down a winding path of self-analysis…which distracted me from the research I was supposed to be doing. I will save that fun ride for another day. Please curb your enthusiasm.

Epic fantasy is the genre with which I want to become most familiar. I want to learn about those common elements and when they become copies instead of unique concepts. Which houses are best for this genre? I am partial to TOR (which is–from what I can tell–simultaneously a part of Macmillan and Tom Doherty Associates, LLC), but there are many others publishing in this genre. How advantageous is self-publishing for fantasy authors? Paolini’s Eragon is the only one that comes to mind and this due to having just read about it. His books were quite successful, but I suppose his genre is more of the YA epic fantasy. As a linguist, my own work includes a great deal of language development. Was Tolkien the last to do this successfully? Are languages a deterrent to the houses? Rothfuss does have a few languages in his books; some are given in detail (such as Temic), but others are merely alluded to (such as Yllish–this is probably because it is a system of knot-tying, without a written form). Another query concerns the tendency of using trilogies. Series make sense to me because there is usually a veritable font of stories that could stem from these worlds. Why trilogies, though? One of the books I’m reading for this class mentioned that prices ending in 9 were more likely to sell (a strange thing, really, because I just want 00 at the end). Are consumers of this genre drawn to trilogies more than novels or lengthy series?

So much to learn, so little time!

Z.

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I am a linguist taking an editing course. That makes sense, right? The Train of Thought has to pull in to the Station of Probability somewhere along the line. My future–as is anyone’s–is fluid, at least to my eyes. I could help my sister in her bakery; I could graduate with a Master’s in Russian and move overseas or to Washington, D.C., to work in some diplomatic capacity; I could follow the linguistic path and become a semanticist, teaching in a university while researching my own theories; I could focus on the English and editing courses that I’ve taken and make a name for myself in the publishing industry, preferably under the banner of TOR; I could continue to interpret while pursuing other interests (mostly languages) at my current university. My desired outcome, though, is this: I could do any or all of these things while being a writer. Strike that. I could do any or all of those things while being a published writer. I can be a writer now; I do not have to wait for the future to become the present to do that. Whatever course my life takes, I am certain that publication will be a part of it. I may attempt to publish my own works of fiction or semantic theories. I may edit those of someone else. Whichever ends up happening, I want to be ready for it and developmental editing is a part of that preparation.

What is it that I want from this class? The secrets of the universe! Too high? Very well. I want to build on the foundation that has been forming since the first time my mother read to me. I want to be able to take my instincts and opinions about a book and turn them into a cohesive, professional address, to give reason to the vague senses that I have when reading a new book. I want to be able to stun the world with my first novel. I want to make some other writer’s dream come true. I want to rock the semantic field with my first thesis. Still too high? Maybe. Let’s simplify it. I want to be heard. It could be through my own work or through someone else’s. Who hasn’t read a book or listened to a song and immediately told someone else about it because you loved it so much? Often times, we do that because that author or artist said what we wanted to say only so much better than we could have said it. If you search YouTube for marriage proposals done to Bruno Mars’ song ” Marry You,” you’ll be there for a while. We have T-shirts, mugs, and all sorts of paraphernalia plastered with quotations. Sometimes we just like the words; sometimes they tell us something of which we had not previously thought; and sometimes we had that thought, but never had the wherewithal to voice it and we want people to know that we agree with it.

Developmental editing is another tool that I wish to add to my mental toolbox. What its use will be, I do not know as yet. For the time being, I need to learn how to use that tool properly. Copy-editing taught me form. I hope that developmental editing will teach me function. It is one thing to know the proper grammar of a language; it is something else entirely to use that knowledge well. There are great thoughts out there that are waiting to be heard. Even if they seem infantile or enigmatic to you or me, those thoughts are great to someone. Editing is key to letting those ideas be heard.

That is what I want.

Z.

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