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Archive for the ‘Developmental Editing’ Category

Finals are next week. Craziness! As such, it’s time to take a look backwards, to see where I was and where I am now and how I came to be here.

If you read the first journal entry, you might remember that my desire for this course (at the end of all my rambling) was to be heard. As convinced as I was then that developmental editing played a significant part in that goal, I am even more so now. Throughout this semester, I’ve seen what good and bad editing can do. The latter, even if it’s just poor or incomplete, can cause a reader to stop listening altogether or to discount what’s being heard. The same is true of copy-editing, but maybe to a lesser extent. If you think of a novel as a dress, copy-editing makes sure that all the measurements are right, that there’s enough fabric, that the pattern is followed to the letter; developmental editing chooses the pattern, the material, the accessories. A dress may fit perfectly, but if it’s hideous it will hang on the rack for all eternity. If the fit is wrong, but it’s gorgeous, there’s still hope; I can lose weight, let out the seams, or use accessories to disguise the ill fitting sections. At least, that’s how it seems to me.

We spent a lot of time choosing the right material. I really enjoyed the chance to read within my preferred genre, to choose fantasy novels in need of editing. It made it so much easier to delve into the class. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I  enrolled; I figured there would be a lot of reading and that I probably wouldn’t enjoy it, but that it wouldn’t matter much whether I liked the material. Instead, I got to read some pretty cool stuff (and some pretty awful stuff) in the name of education!

I also really liked the group set-up. Rather than focus on group activities and group work for the duration of the course, we spent the first half in our groups and the second as individuals, though still in contact with the group. For folks who are “anti-group,” this worked really well. It managed to give a sense of collaboration, an insight into how an editorial team might function in an actual publishing house, while still allowing the individual to develop and to get a feel for freelance editorial work. There’s an awful lot of group in this paragraph…

The assignments were usually straightforward, though a little tricky. Most classes require students to simply memorize information and then spew it forth when necessary. Developmental editing’s guiding principal is clarity; under the auspices of clarity, there are all manner of edits that can be made to a piece. You also want continuity and believability. Let’s quote Pirates of the Caribbean now: “…the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.” It’s like the “wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff” of Tenant’s Doctor. Each piece is different and requires different things from the editor. So, while the sheet may have said, “Do this,” it was also saying, “There are lots of ways to do this.”

The extra stuff was a lot of fun, too. I mean by this the production work that we did: analyzing an author’s digital presence, writing a plan to improve that presence, devising a marketing scheme, and coming up with a media release. It felt like I was getting more than lessons on developmental editing; I was getting an introduction to the publishing world and how books come to be. We basically followed manuscripts from their inception to their release (hypothetically, that is). These tidbits were wholly unexpected. They were also insightful. This work tends to be on the periphery of readers, so it was cool to experiment with the behind-the-scenes aspects of publication.

Lastly, the teachers were not too shabby <wink, wink> They’re both authors, one from romance and the other from speculative/fantasy/sci-fi (because they’re lumped together always). This was neat because we students were able to see how things worked in a couple of  genres. The big-name houses are different; acquisition processes are different; the inter-genre “politics” are different–and we caught glimpses of this without having to go through it ourselves. Their frustration was our gain, so to speak…which sounds less awesome when you read that twice. They were both crazily open with us and that lack of inhibition increased the Awesome Factor and the Learning Factor. If you feel like you can’t talk to your teachers, odds are you won’t be asking the real questions for which you need answers.

I heard that there was another section of this class. It didn’t sound nearly as fun as this one…

Z.

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Right. This is just a recap of my group’s activities in the early part of the semester. We were the Sci-Fi/Fantasy editors for our publishing house; this post is just to discuss whether we could have worked as an actual editorial team.

Overall, I think we did work well together. I mentioned before that J and I were more laid back, broad-picture types, while K and L seemed more to-the-letter and detail-oriented types. L did love lists to a startling degree. It was kind of neat that it worked out like this, because an entire group of one type or the other would have been problematic. Either nothing would have been done on time in an organized fashion, or nothing would have been done on time in an organized fashion. See what I did there? I thought it was clever…

I could see some potential issues arising from personal preferences, which is normal in any workplace. We didn’t experience any kind of upheaval or confrontation in the short time that we worked together, but that does not mean that would have been the case in the long term.

Meetings were almost entirely in class or via Google Docs. Being college students and working at various jobs kind of wreaked havoc with any plans to meet in person. We managed it only once in the semester…maybe twice. Electronic communication is not ideal, but it is better than none at all. Had we been truly an editorial team, it would not have been a problem. I imagine that we would have had offices in the same area of the building and weekly meetings.

Collaboration can be a wonderful thing, particularly in editing. “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.” Yes, it’s a Bible verse. Don’t panic. See what I did there? Also clever…

(I’m not really sure why I’m doing that, but I’m leaving it in there.)

Z.

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Are you folks growing weary of my “mad dash” routine? I know I am. My A/C adapter decided that it was thoroughly disillusioned with its life and committed suicide. Here’s a good tip: Always have two computers and always keep copies of your work on both.

I just handed in the marketing/promotional plan for my author and his book. I think I may have muddled things a bit. When I started out, I was hoping to sever the ties between the book and RPGs. Somehow, my mindset shifted and this plan emphasizes the connection. Nope, I’ve no idea when that happened. I think I have an idea as to why, though.

Did you ever read those adventure books in which you chose the path you took at the end of a section and it told you to turn to a given page to see the consequences of your choice? I loved those things. I was the one who got to decide how the story went. After reading over Defender several times, I realized that it held a similar attraction for me. I have a history in MMORPGing, so when he talked about slaying a dragon and what characters were doing during the battle, I flashed back to how my own battle fared. You know what else it did? It kind of got me back into RPing. I’d taken a hiatus from gaming because school should really have most (if not all) my attention. So, in a way, I’ve read his version and now I’m creating my own. At least, that’s how it connects in my head. Basically, my theory is that the similarities to RPGs could actually be more of a benefit. Folks who RP tend to read, at least that’s the case in my experience. They may not read Shakespeare or Aristophanes, but they read. This story has promise; it just needs work. If we could refine the prose, it may even find a place outside the RP community.

Another reason for the shift is this: It is what it is. Editing can clear up the inconsistencies, make it look better; underneath, though, it’s still this guy’s RP campaign. Even with better word choices and structure, the similarities will be difficult to ignore. So, instead of trying to change the entire premise of the book, let’s just own it and make it better. Who knows? Maybe RP will make a comeback…

That was the only major thing. Otherwise, I stuck to the method I used for the digital presence piece, which means that I created a whole bunch of fictional scenarios. We also had to create a “media release.” <cough, cough> Let’s just say that mine should not be released. It’s pretty awful. Just a picture of the book against a gradient background with some text and a nondescript tribal sun. If I were the author, I’d be panicking. My artistry covers stick figures and fuzzy blobs. That was probably the tough bit for me. I didn’t like handing in something that awful, but my talents are not really geared towards artistic representation. Come to think of it, I probably could have described what I wanted. Not that it helps me much now, but I’ll have to ask them about that.

Z.

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This morning I finished my analysis of the author’s digital presence and put together a rough plan for his future activity. One of two things happened: Either I am a master of analysis or I have no idea what I’m doing. You might think I’m being dramatic, jumping to extremes like that. Things just went a little too smoothly to have been done well. Without distress, I have no idea how I’m faring and such a carefree journey convinces me that I’ve erred horribly. Life is not supposed to be easy. “Whenever someone tells you that life is a bed of roses, just remember that roses have thorns.” My bed of analysis did not have any thorns.

Part of this dilemma may be the fact that, compared to the author who was the subject of my group’s evaluation, this fellow is quite active with his social media. His “professional” website was still woefully bereft of pizzazz, but he seemed to handle his blog, Facebook, and Twitter accounts with ease. The information on each was the same; each one had status updates on his novels in progress. He communicates with his fans regularly, giving them snippets of information and teasers. It was definitely a nice surprise to find him so active.

Another portion of the equation may be the role-playing element. We were supposed to present two documents, one to our hypothetical publishing house and one to the real-but-unaware author. In my letter to the author, I may have waxed phantasmagorical. Seriously. PFFP now has a web development team, a public relations department, and one or two other departments that I’ve forgotten. I, of course, was the Acquisitions Manager; I prattled on about how we’d confirmed events at various stores and had artists who were working on sketches for the new cover. My imagination may have run away with me. When you’re inventing a world, you rarely face difficulty because you can imagine a way around it (or just bypass all the tricky stuff and skip right to the successful end).

As with the last assignment, I didn’t really consult my group. I probably should have done that, if for nothing else than simply to see what they were doing.

So, there you have it. PFFP is flourishing and everything is hunky-dory…until I receive the feedback for this, that is.

Z.

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The last week has been…unpleasant. The short of it is that I developed pneumonia and have been weening myself off of various drugs in an attempt to claw my way back into the bright daylight that is Life. In a way, it was nice. My family took excellent care of me, waiting on me hand and foot and protesting profusely when I tried to circumvent their work. In other ways, it sucked. Last week held some important deadlines. I missed them. As it turns out, there were more than I knew. This week is another mad dash to catch up on assignments.

One of the major projects due last week was the developmental edit of my manuscript’s first three chapters. As much as I am enjoying this class, I’m not too sure that I’m an editor. I can’t seem to grasp the fundamentals–or, at the very least, put them into practice. This set of edits was further compounded by my wavering ability to concentrate. My own editor’s voice was all over the map: ridiculously informal in some cases and overly harsh in others. I meant to remedy that before handing in the final document, but it was already two days late by the time I finished it. I find that I end up doing more copy-editing than developmental editing. Even those assignments that are meant to help us develop an editorial ear sound like book reviews when placed in my hands. We did have the opportunity to avail ourselves of our classmates, particularly those who were in our group. Had I been in class at all last week, I may have done just that…or not. I do tend to play my cards rather close. One of these days, one of these classes will strip me of that mentality.

I fully intend to sit down with my professors (who are reading this, so it seems oddly self-serving) when I return to class. I was definitely at a bit of a loss when we did this as a group, but there is strength in numbers. Doing the edits without regular input to ensure that I was at least headed in the right direction revealed my inadequacies far more quickly. It will be interesting to post some insights after having a chat with my teachers.

Z.

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The group segment of this class is completed; we are now doing the same tasks individually and with different manuscripts. I have already written out a proposal for three manuscripts: Pale Queen’s CourtyardDefender, and Eternal Knight (The Orb). Of these three, Defender was the least well developed, making it my pet project until the end of the semester. To that end, I am supposed to be devising a plan to edit this book (the first three chapters, that is).

Number one on my list is character development. More than once during my initial read-through, I found myself lost in the dialogues because the characters were talking exactly like each other. A high-born Elf was using the same language as a low-born Elf or a Troll. Overall, none of the characters have much definition about them. The main character ebbs and flows like a storm-tossed sea (…because tides are predictable). I find myself hemming and hawing a bit here because this character lacks an overall purpose, a fact directly addressed by his mentor-like guild leader. By extension, he would not really have set character traits. Go-Go-Gadget?

Secondly, I’d like to find a way to reduce the overt similarities to MMORPG raiding. I mentioned in my analysis to my professors that I couldn’t help picturing health, mana, and rage bars over the heads of the characters whenever I read battle scenes. Believe it or not, this isn’t because I’m a hard-core gamer. The entire story literally reminded me of my own guild days in WoW or in EQ. The big shoving match between guildies? Oh, yeah. Been there, done that. The fact that it was so familiar certainly allowed me to relate more quickly to the characters (Now, that was because I’m a gamer). I could easily picture myself battling a stone giant or a dragon because, as DPS or heals in an MMORPG, I had done it. However, that same connection also made it a bit dull and less imaginative. There are a couple of battles against dragons, one into a Titan city, and another into a goblin city that really struck me. One of the dragons is a skeletal beast, the remnants of one slain only the day before the battle; I immediately saw Sindragosa and Sapphiron. The Titan and goblin cities? I saw Blackrock. If that is what the author intended, then great. I can work with that. If he was striving for originality, then I may have to do some tweaking.

I have no idea how this will be accomplished; the work is all done in a sort of hypothetical bubble. Were I actually an editor, I’d probably be able to sit down with Mr. Crane (the author) and sort out some of these things. Ah, well! Looks like I’ll have to use my own imagination…and turn his work into mine. Yeah. That needs to not happen.

Z.

 

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Remember way back when I chose an agent and an editor to follow throughout the semester? As a refresher, I chose Mr. Matt Bialer as my agent and Mr. Douglas Cohen as my editor. Good news: Mr. Cohen is very active. Bad news: I never received a response from Mr. Bialer.

Mr. Cohen’s posts, while numerous, do not provide a vast amount of insight into the publishing world. He mostly lists information about his most recent success, Oz Reimagined, which is a collection of stories about–wait for it–Oz. He also mentions those stories of his that have been purchased by various publishers. It looks like the magazine for which he edited, Realms of Fantasy, folded and since its demise he has posted very little directly related to his editing work. He mentions that his earlier posts were nearly all about his work at Realms, but thus far, I’ve seen a lot of blurbs about Game of Thrones and a few Top-10 lists. Here’s the link to his site: http://douglascohen.livejournal.com/.

I did find another agent, Jita Fumich of Folio Literary Management. She has a bit more information about her agency and some industry-related events, but I was only able to find her Twitter account…which has only thirty tweets. Not that I can say much about that. I don’t even have a Twitter account. Here’s her link: https://twitter.com/JitaFumich.

I’ve taken a look at the Writer Beware website a time or two. It certainly has a lot of helpful information for authors. My first reaction, though, was a mild case of paranoia. However, it’s probably best to walk through life with said mild sense of paranoia.

Z.

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