A Rush Edit: Musings of a Madwoman

Early last month Desert Palm Press contacted me asking if I could do a rush edit on Musings of a Madwoman. A rush edit means I have a shortened turnaround time. In this case since the pub date was insanely close, I gave myself five days to do the developmental edit and two days to do the copyediting. Seven days total to do two rounds of editing.

It was an exhilarating, tiring, amazing experience!

Why? Well, I also work full-time as an office assistant for the State of Alaska. It’s a hectic job with lots of moving parts. So after waking up at 6:30 a.m., going a mile a minute for my full-time job, and then getting back to the house at 5 p.m., settling down to do a rush edit was an interesting experience. I always do freelance magazine editing for Tiger Oak after work, though, so it wasn’t unusual for me to do some editing at night.

What was unusual was how long the editing took me per night. I normally edit for one-two hours for Tiger Oak, but this DPP edit took me four-five hours per night! So for that whole week, I edited until 11 p.m. trying to get the first round of edits complete by Friday. I did it, of course. Thankfully I had the weekend off while the author Jazzy Mitchell did her round. By the following Tuesday, I had completed my second round, sent the manuscript back to Jazzy, and my rush-edit was complete!

It was some seriously long nights. I got a small cold because of it. I was crazy tired. I didn’t work on any Tiger Oak editing that first week and very minimal the second week since I was kinda burnt-out. But I was also really happy with how both rounds of editing turned out.

​Musings just came out and though my part was a small one overall, I am so proud of its publication. Here’s a little bit about the book:

As if navigating life and love aren’t hard enough, throw in a meteorite, and watch what happens. Physical changes and mental abilities make it hard for Marcia to ignore the effects of an extraterrestrial rock. Kiernan has her own challenges when she hears voices and realizes they are not her own. Could the changes they experience be related to their close encounter with a meteorite?

musings.jpeg

Jazzy is a lovely writer, the plot is intense and twisted, and the characters are relatable. I had a great (if super tiring) time editing her story! You should definitely go check it out.

Hope you have a lovely week!
Warm regards,
Kellie

 

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A Copyeditor’s Job – (In Poem Form)

A copyeditor’s job is broken
Down into four little C’s
Simple C’s, elegant C’s
Clarity, consistency
Coherency, correctness

It’s distillation, clarification
It’s subjective… sometimes
But the typos, the grammar mistakes
The reading every single word
And asking every single comma,
Period, semicolon, and dash—
Whether it’s hyphen, en, or em—
What the fuck are you doing there and
Asking the almost existential question
We humans, with our huge souls and tiny homes
Are afraid to answer
Do you even belong?
These are not subjective

It’s 50-60 percent technical
40-50 percent creative
See it’s not all red, blue, or purple pen
Strokes on a keyboard
Bubbles in the margins
Not all judgments or
Queries
Or slicing your work—or your heart—to bits

We don’t want to ruin your voice or
Ruin your story or
Ruin your life

But

We fix the stuff that matters
Two passes are usually fine
And if we fix something and
You
Don’t like it
Feel free to query
But know
We will back our edits, our suggestions, our marks
With orange and blue facts
From the big book of CMS

We do make style sheets
For random things like
Dumpster
Your slang words
Our sanity

So on page 305
We don’t need to remember
If you decided to spell a character’s name oddly
Strangely
Incorrectly even on page 5
For a character not seen again for 300 pages
We’ll just look at our style sheet
And go from there

Be warned though
We will kill little words
Words that do nothing
Like “that”
And in a medium to heavy edit
Watch out
Our pens or keyboards will want to run the show

Your edited manuscript might look
Colorful
By the time we’re finished

But please know
We mean you no harm
It’s not a personal attack
On you
On your sanity
On your life
It’s just…well…
We want to make your work better
Polished. Refined, even

And if we need to research if
Buttfucked is one word or
Butt plug should be hyphenated
We’ll do just that

We will also call out at least three times
The repeated actions your characters do like
Looked, pointed, smiled
Flipped off, rolled his/her eyes,
And ask you to vary it a bit, use
The full range of motions
If you will

Trust us, doing so will make your characters more believable

Like any profession
We have rules and guidelines to follow
Or we, too, will be called out
But we don’t remember everything

For example, I will never remember
Numbers or numerals so that section
In The Copyeditors Handbook will always
Remain open in my lap but
Never in my mind
I’m the same with hyphenation so
I have that section flagged in CMS
We are not perfect
We just want your writing to be

But we do it for you and your work
After it’s through our hands
Your poem
Essay
Short story
Full-length manuscript will be
Better
Than before

All that’s left to say on your part
Is “Thank you.”
On ours
“Anytime.”

Until next week!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Look Out, Folks, It’s About To Get Personal

So, this week I realized something about myself. It’s something I should’ve known much earlier in life, but I guess I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Or maybe I didn’t want to wrap my head around it.

This week has been a bit off for me. This may seem off to you, since last week’s post was so positive and uplifting. And I do feel positively about things… most of the time. But sometimes, some weeks, I go a bit sideways. This week, in particular, went more sideways than most.

First up, Monday and Tuesday, I got two more job rejections. This put me in a bad mood to start. Then also on Tuesday I realized how little I know of how to moderate a panel (or of my panelists) and started nervously sweating about it. This “not knowing things” made me feel unprepared, and as my fellow Oolie managers can attest, I like being “secure”… or in different words, I like to know what I’m doing and what will happen. Wednesday was an upbeat in the week. We had Ooligan Press manager training—which gave me some things to think about and added onto my ToDo but probably in a good way—and I went out with friends for quite the fun trivia night.

Now, backtracking a bit, since Sunday I’ve been finding bites on my skin. Very random bumps, mostly on my arms and legs, sometimes skin colored, sometimes more red and sometimes more white. I find a few more every day. No big deal, right?

Wrong.

I hate bugs. I mean, I loathe bugs. I abhor them. I wish they would all curl up and die. (Of course, that would be horrible, since we need bugs in order to keep the world in check, but whatever.)

So it’s a very big deal when I keep finding bites on my skin and I don’t know where they came from or what the hell bit me.

On Thursday morning, when I woke up and found even more freaking bites, I went to the SHAC (the school heath center). After getting some pretty weird looks for going to the doctors for a bunch of bites, they basically told me it could be a myriad of things, including bedbugs or fleas. Well, that pretty much set me off. Fleas? Bedbugs?? I went got an Einstein bagel, Skyped my mom for a bit, and then went into a frenzy even I didn’t know I had in me. Fearing I had bedbugs, I searched everywhere for the damn little things.

So, why do you care? Well, here’s where the personal part takes root.

After searching for over an hour, I went into the bathroom… and cried.

Now, this wasn’t the dainty one-tear-running-down-my-cheek kind of crying. Hell no. This was the whole-body shaking, gasping for breath, hot tears scorching my face kind of crying. It was ugly. And loud. And my cats, who had been diligently helping me search for the past hour, tried to comfort me. (One curled around my ankles and the other flopped over on the floor.)

And I didn’t know if it was because my week was overall kind-of crappy or because I thought I might have bugs that bite me in the middle of the night living in my apartment that made me cry (looking back, I’m pretty sure it was the latter though), but cry I did.

Later on when my sister called and I told her, she said in a very nonchalant kind of way, “Well, that’s how you deal with stress, Kel.”

“That’s how you deal with stress.”

And thinking back to when I was seriously overstressed—like that anxiety attack over Thanksgiving a few years back or when my old job took a toll on me—I realized it was the truth.

I’m a stress crier.

And that’s not a bad thing.

I felt better afterwards. I don’t know why. I just did.

And you should have seen how productive I was. (I had to stop my giant search party at 1:30 in the afternoon, because I had other things to get done today.) I went to the store to buy groceries. I evaluated a manuscript and edited a chapter for Desert Palm Press. I researched my panelists and made notes on them. I developmentally edited a manuscript for Ooligan Press. I copyedited my first two articles for the Vanguard. I even wrote this blog post. While I didn’t get the bites resolved, I still feel like it was a productive day.

So, am I still terrified of bugs living in my bed? Yes. Am I going to sleep on a cot in the living room to see if that makes a difference? Of course. Did I have a giant cup of black tea with milk and honey with lunch? Hell yeah.

But am I as stressed as before? Not particularly.

I don’t know what will come of this weird skin situation. I hope it’ll just resolve on it’s own, but I doubt that’ll happen. I seriously hope to high heavens it’s not bedbugs. (PLEASE DON’T BE DAMN BEDBUGS!) I doubt that it’s fleas because my cats haven’t been acting weird. But if the bites continue onto next week, I’ll probably get some sort of official bug investigator out here. And I’ll probably take my cats to the vets just to be sure.

Until then, I’m going to continue working. These stupid little bites won’t stop me. (Much.) And if they do, well, I’ll just cry a bit and move on.

Warm regards,
Kellie

The Emotion Thesaurus and Why Everyone Should Use It

Hello everyone,

has the excuse for not updating regularly—I’m in grad school—become old news yet? Possibly. And yet.

Yet.

That is still the case.

Regardless, today I want to talk about The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi and why everyone should use it in their creative writing.

I’m copyediting a manuscript—of which shall remain unnamed—for one of my classes and it has brought to my attention how much I loathe repeated actions. At best the common actions are repeated—like “looked”, “smiled”, “pointed”—at worst the not-so-common actions—like “they picked a tea leaf off their lip”—and I found myself hating it. Not just hating it but actively getting mad. Not at the characters, or the plotline, or the setting—of which the story could use more of, if honest—but at the sheer repetition of actions and how most of them showed nothing of how the character was feeling about the situation at hand.

I wanted more. I wanted other actions. And I wanted emotions behind those actions.

While there are many ways to show emotions, I’ve found myself turning to again and again to The Emotion Thesaurus.

I found this book a few years ago after a friend recommended it. We were sitting in Jitters, a café back in my hometown, and chatting about our stories. It was a common occurrence. Our writers group met once a week and, trust me, it was a welcomed gathering and one I found myself looking forward to every Monday.

We segued into writing books—as we segued into discussions about life, kids, work—and this book came up. I bought it immediately after that discussion. (On Amazon, I hate to admit, please don’t judge me. Back then I didn’t know!)

The Emotion Thesaurus is a wonderful book. It is extraordinarily helpful. Each emotion has a spread dedicated to it, giving a basic description of the emotion and physical signals that one commonly feels when having that emotion. The spread also goes into detail about the internal sensations, mental responses, and cues of acute, long-term, or suppressed emotions. These are all things you can use to describe how the character feels, outwardly or inwardly, and they are true to life. Trust me to that, they are definitely true to life.

For example: Say you want to show how sad your character is via their actions. (As you should, show their emotions through their actions, they are just like us and we do that all the time.) You would turn to page 134, with the heading “Sadness” and essentially pick from the actions shown there. (There are so many to choose from!)

Here’ s an example of how this book can help, using the Sadness cues they give:
Shelly’s chest ached, and her vision blurred. “I can’t believe…” She couldn’t finish the sentence, couldn’t form the words. Burying her face in her hands, she slumped in her chair. She just wanted to leave. Wanted to be alone. Wanted a drink.

See how pretty that is? See how filled with emotions? Even without knowing what happened, there are still enough cues in there for the reader to know she is sad about this mysterious something.

How about with happiness? Do you usually use “smile” to show that one character is happy to see another? The answer is Yes, yes you do. Because everyone does. It’s a common action. But there are other actions you can use to portray happiness. For example, on page 84, under the “Happiness” header there is a whole slew of actions that portray this emotion:

Humming/whistling/singing
Telling jokes
Laugh lines
Fluid motions
Enthusiastically waving
Stepping lightly
Initiating contact with others
Leaning in
Initiating random acts of kindness

Is “smiling” on the list? Yes. It’s the first (and second) physical signal—An upturned face and Smiling.

But is it the only action listed there? No.

This is what I’d like to see in the manuscript I’m currently reading for school. Actions. Emotions. Is it too much to ask of the author? No. Is it a bit too developmental for a copyedit? No. (For this class, at least.)

This is what I’d like to see more of in writing, mine included. So, next time, if you’re ever stuck on an action and find yourself turning back to it every time, read this book.

I highly recommend it.

Until next time!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Postscript – I’m going to be updating my blog design sometime this week. Be sure to come back and check it out!

Classes

Hello!

It’s been awhile since I updated everyone, so here goes.

Classes (Because, let’s face it, this is the only thing we do here in grad school. Kidding!) 

This term I’m taking 13 credits. Last term I took 9, so this is a whole extra class. I tried not to freak out about it over winter break. Thus far it hasn’t been too bad, though. Granted, we’re only two weeks into the term so that could change, but for now I’m handling the class load pretty well.

Book Editing: Honestly I thought I’d have a leg up on this class, because I have a freelance editing business and the people I work with and for seem to really love my editing style. (Yay!) But it’s challenging. Which isn’t to say that it’s bad, it’s just a bit of a shock. Mostly because the first thing we’re going over is copyediting. Turns out there are multiple levels of copyediting—something I was gleefully unaware of until this class—and the copyediting that I do is called ‘heavy’. Well, we’re not doing ‘heavy’ copyediting; we’re doing ‘light’ copyediting. It’s hard, guys. I’m so used to ripping sentences apart and then putting them back together correctly, that loosing that ability is jarring for me. I can only correct punctuation, spelling, hyphenation, the treatment of italics and bolds and grammar stuff. If a sentence is clear and able to be understood by a reader, even if it’s a super awkward sentence, I can’t touch it. If there’s a stray comma I get to ax it. But not much more. But I’m going to learn, damn it! (Thank goodness we’re doing a workshop in it on Tuesday.)

Book Design and Production: This class has been pretty fun thus far! We’ve learned all about typefaces and done some InDesign work. Our first two projects were interesting—for the first project we had to go through fonts and pick certain ones that matched certain words and then for the second one we had to create three typeface sheets. We’re also picking a book in the public domain to design as the final project. I picked Peter Pan. (And, yes, mostly because of Hook. And all the other Peter Pan movies I’ve seen.) We are also doing a paper that we will design, too, but I’m still trying to research something interesting.

Game Design for Writers: While the other two classes above are Core Classes, this one is an elective. It’s a completely online course with no books and no syllabus. Crazy, right? It’s supposed to be a game. Thus far it’s gotten some… interesting reviews and some people have dropped out, but I’m going to stick with it because it is fun for me and not as stressful as the other classes. (Because I don’t have a syllabus, I don’t know what to expect. Will there be a huge report monster looming behind the door or a bouncy reply-to-this-topic blob instead?) Plus, this week we get to learn about different game design models and some game design terminology, so that should be fun.

Publishing Lab: This is my 1 credit course (that feels like 4 credits because of the hours we put in) having to do with Ooligan Press. I’m still on the Write to Publish team and the conference is coming up fast—it’s two weeks away!—so that’s pretty exciting. We’re trying to pull everything together. If you’re free on Saturday, January 31, and are in or near the Portland area, come to the conference! I think it’s going to be a lovely event. My blogpost (usually due two weeks after the term started) was pushed back to after the conference. I was annoyed at first about it, but then I got over being annoyed. After all, it frees up this weekend for me a little bit, so that’s good!

That’s all my classes. Like I said earlier, thus far I’ve been handling it well. Talk to me during midterms or finals, though, and we’ll see what happens.

I hope work/school/life is treating everyone wonderfully!

Until next time!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Editing Insecurities + A Poem

I just completed another round of Desert Palm Press editing. I had a good time editing this manuscript, the story was pretty solid, the characters, exciting, and the themes, consistent. Plus it was a fantasy realm, right up my alley. As with every story, some things needed tweaking, but overall it was a very good book. I was happy to send my markups off to the author and publisher.

And yet, I worried, too.

I’m always worried about what the author will say once I send their manuscript back. Will they like my suggestions? Hate I axed out a section? Dismiss all my hard work entirely under the guise of author’s creativity? (Yes, the author always has the last say, but sometimes that comma should just stay where it is, people!) I use Word’s Track Changes feature, so the manuscript itself tends to get completely colorful – red for deletions, blue for insertions, and green for comments and questions.

It’s a silly insecurity, really, because I’ve had positive reviews from all of my clients thus far. And I like doing the work. But a small part of me always thinks what if they hate it this time? I think it’s because so much of editing is subjective, you can give four editors the same manuscript and you’ll get four different ideas in return.

I’ll stop fretting eventually. Until then, here’s a poem:

**

The Red (and Blue and Green) Pen

I use colors to make the ripping
of your story a little more bearable,
The deletions of sections a little less blue, and
reduce the blood-shed tears over my insertion ideas.
(Because I know you could’ve thought of what I suggested,
If you had more time.)

Those lime-green comments are supposed to catch your eye,
make you rethink that one line,
paragraph,
whole entire chapter or even
that ending.

I wear many hats.
I am a character analyzer,
a plotline fixer,
a finder of holes,
of stray commas,
of the incorrect usage of there, their, and they’re.

I don’t mean to hurt your feelings,
slicing up your work
throwing out your baby.

But the way the character is acting is out
of tune with the way you wrote her.
So don’t be sad when I ax
that section out.

It’s for the best.
Really.

My suggestions will make your manuscript better,
the descriptions tighter,
characters more powerful,
and plotlines solid.

You’re the reason I have a job at all.

After all, you wrote the story,
racked up the agonizing hours staring at a computer,
lost time wandering about your world,
and did a damn good job, too.

Trust my multicolored pen,
and we’ll make your work shine.

**

Have a lovely weekend everyone!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Hence, a Poem

Limbo

I don’t like it.
I don’t like being in limbo.
It’s a dark, scary void that
glasses everything over with grey and black,
fogging up my path,
suffocating my dreams. 

I don’t like it.

I don’t like not learning anything,
not furthering my career,
not following my passion,
not doing anything worth my while,
it seems. 

I don’t like it.

Even though I am
working.
I am
writing.
I am
editing the scraps that come my way
the blue moon books and once-in-a-while
jobs
the ones that show me who I am
what I do
and how the damn well I do it. 

But I still don’t like it.

I want more.

I want to become that colored-pen editor
that writer who everyone has read
that worker-bee who gets stuff done. 

And I will.

But in the meantime
in the waiting time
I’ll take what I can get.
In the void, it’s better than nothing. 

On that lovely note, I’m taking a continuing education copyediting course! Six full weeks online; perfect, since I’m juggling a full time job, an internship with Cirque and random editing jobs, along with a personal life. It started on Wednesday the 18th. I’m all ready learning new things. The lesson today, for example, centered on copyediting symbols used on hard-copy manuscripts. I learned all the common symbols and how to use them… then discovered they’re almost going by the wayside because of Microsoft Word’s Track Changes feature. (Ahh, technology.)

Anyway, that’s my random burst of happiness for the week. Hence, a random poem.
Have a lovely weekend, everyone.

Time to enjoy the 40-degree sunshine!
Warm regards,
Kellie