Copy editing is essential – Part II

Copy editing is essential

I had heard through the grape vine that copy editing was essential but I knew that my English skills were so good that I didn’t need no stinkin’ copy editor.

Well maybe…

After all those rewrites, I did recall some errors I had made but had not immediately corrected. I could do another rewrite (groan), or I could test my skills by sending my manuscript out to a copy editor, just to prove how good I really am.

I researched copy editing and, invariably, the advice was always the same. Do not think you can copy edit yourself. Do not let your girl/boy friend, husband/wife, significant other, do it for you. Do not allow that uncle, the one who “writes” for the local newspaper, edit it. Do not expect some college professor you know, to do the editing. Copy editing is essential. Hire a stranger. Hire a professional. Hire a strange professional.

I started a discussion on the Book Marketing Group on LinkedIn to which I belong, looking for copy editors. Of the ten, or so, replies I received, four asked me to send them 5–10 pages of my manuscript so they could see how much help I needed. They would correct what I sent them and tell me what their fee was depending on how much work was required to make it right.

I made the mistake of sending each of them a different segment of my work. In retrospect, it would have been wiser to send them all the same segment so I could compare their efforts.

After another week or so, I received all their replies. Even though I had only sent out a few pages they found many mistakes. It looked like I would need a copy editor after all.

Their fees varied from several hundred dollars up to well over $1000 dollars.

One of the editors, by the name of Jeni Chappelle, included a comment that my work reminded her of a writer by the name of Neil Gaiman. I am a fantasy writer but I had never heard of this guy. Please do not laugh

The book that she mentioned was called The Graveyard Book. I borrowed a copy from my local library and enjoyed it immensely even though our subject matters differed greatly. If you have never read Neil Gaiman, and enjoy fantasy, I recommend you give him a go.

The fact that Jeni had gone out of her way to recommend a book she thought I might enjoy sold me on her services.

She had my manuscript for about two weeks as I recall, and when I got it back I was happy that I had heeded all the advice I researched. My English skills were not as expert as I thought. It seems that I have the bad habit of starting sentences with clauses. I also have a bad habit of using the passive voice. I never even heard of em dashes, and my use of italics was pitiful. I will not mention how bad my punctuation is. Gulp…I am not the scholar I thought I was.

In addition to pointing out my mistakes Jeni also made some recommendations about my consistency, ideas that I had not considered. She actually improved my content.

Then it was time to fix my mistakes. I corrected most of Jeni’s suggestions but there were a few instances where I preferred my style to hers.

Another step completed.

A copy editor is essential. Do not make the mistake of neglecting this vital step.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill


Copy editing is essential – Part I

red pencil

The Infamous “Red Pencil”

Oh, you are so proud of your completed manuscript!

You can’t help but sit back and admire all your hard work. Good for you. You deserve it. Enjoy the moment but, and you already know this, you are far from being done. You are somewhere in the middle of the process of becoming an author.

You haven’t lost interest in your project have you? I hope not because the next step is editing and it gets yawn-boring. This also means you must send out your baby to have it carved up by a total stranger.

Here is a brief summary of what I have gleaned about editing from numerous websites:

There are basically three steps to this process. The first is substantive editing which can include expanding the scope of your work, altering the placement of whole sections, and eliminating content for the purpose of increasing the readability. It is the most expensive of the three steps and can run to several thousand dollars.

The second step is called copyediting and is, in my view, the most important. Copyeditors correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. They correct awkward sentence structure, and check for consistency in content and style. My editor picked up on some omissions in my consistency, and actually offered some ideas all her own. More on that later.

The copy editor will return your manuscript to you with suggested changes. They usually use the MS Word track change function which will show corrections within the text as well as comments about the text off to the right side of the page.

Once you receive your manuscript you proceed with the third step which is proofreading. You can hire the same person to serve as both copy editor and proofreader or you can hire a new set of eyes. This is the cheapest of the three services and usually costs in the vicinity of a couple of hundred dollars or so.

I finished my novel with an intact, coherent story line, so substantive editing was unnecessary. A thorough copy editing would probably suffice but did I even need that?

I am, after all, the product of Irish Christian Brother schooling. This was back in the days when bouncing your head off the blackboard when you got an answer wrong was expected punishment, when “Brother Ball and Chain Eddie” would fire glass ink-wells at us if we dared to doze off, and when you didn’t complain to your parents either because they’d bounce your head off the dining room table. There was even a time when crazy Billy…but that’s a whole other story.

I was taught Latin and English in sync. It was a rewarding experience. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was being taught to love language. Consequently, I consider myself something of a scholar when it comes to the English language, and this includes punctuation.

So did I really need a copy editor? Won’t a real careful reading with a red pencil in hand do? Yeah, I don’t need no stinkin’ copy editor. 

Or so I thought. 

Stay tuned.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill 

Rewrite your manuscript and then rewrite it again



At last! You have finished your manuscript, maybe even celebrated with a glass or two of a fine wine. Not so fast. Your work is far from done. It’s time for the dread rewrites.

As good as your manuscript is it is far from perfect. But you know that. You remember the mistakes you made here and there as the ideas came pouring out faster than you could write. It is now time to go back and fix those mistakes along with others you never realized you made.

Step one is to pick up your manuscript and start reading. With the backspace key and/or a red pencil, go over your baby and start correcting. You will be startled by the number of mistakes you find. But do not get discouraged. It just needs some work to polish it up.

If you persevere you will finish your first rewrite, the simple one with the most obvious corrections. Because of this rewrite you now know you have to go back and make some serious alterations. This part needs to be transposed with that part. Some sentence structures are just plain awkward and need rewording. A few sections may need to be deleted completely. As Stephen King says, “Carve up your baby.” Be blood-thirsty.

You will begin to recognize that you have a style all your own and, gulp, it needs improving. You use the same words over and over again. You have started some sentences with dangling participles. Forget about punctuation. We won’t even start discussing punctuation yet.

So you rewrite again. Now it’s getting boring. You know parts so well you can almost recite them. OK, put the work down, and take a break. Once you reach the stage where sentences no longer make logical sense anymore, once you become word-blinded, you need to stop.

Leave it be. Depending on your personality it may only take a few hours for recovery. For others it may take a day, a few days or even longer. If you feel drawn back to your manuscript, go pick it up and start reading. You will know if you are refreshed enough to begin again. If you are still word-blinded put it back down.

Don’t worry about losing your place or forgetting ideas as they come along. Your mind will not let the project go. You will be thinking about it while you’re thinking about it. Whole new ideas will come to mind and you’ll get excited all over again.

That’s when it’s time for the next rewrite. That’s right. I said the next rewrite and the next. There might even be subsequent rewrites in store. Boring! You bet. Boring but necessary. The beauty is you are making yourself a better writer all the while. You are honing your skills. You are working your way towards being the author you want to be. Congratulations.

Here is a link to one of the best, if not the best, descriptions of what it takes to be a writer that I have ever read. It is a piece from a writer named Chuck Wendig. Thank you, Chuck. You can skip what I write and read Chuck. You will not be sorry but be forewarned that it contains some purple prose.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Completing your manuscript

Your completed manuscript

Completing your manuscript is the next step in becoming a published author.

You have determined that you are a writer and you have found a subject about which you are passionate. You sat down, took up pen and began to write. Your manuscript has begun.

All you need do now is to write. Most of the difficulties are behind you. Or are they?

Two problems immediately come to mind. First, you do not know how lengthy your manuscript will be or how long it will take to finish which can be intimidating, and second, but certainly not of any lesser importance, are distractions.

The first problem is really not really a problem at all. You love what you are doing. It is just that, sometimes, when a character takes off on an expected journey all its own, you cannot see where your story is going or how it will get back to its main plot point.

Do not let this strange territory scare you. Revel in it. Somewhere down deep, your psyche has already worked out how this thread will weave its way through the story, back to where you need it to be. Your story will be richer and all the better for it.

The second problem of distractions is the more serious of the two. Just like the TV, and that Chunky Monkey ice cream in the freezer, stood in the way of you beginning your manuscript, there is now a fresh troop of elfish distractions hiding in wait to delay you. Some are obvious but some more discrete.

A distraction is anything that gets between you and your writing. We need reminders to remind us not to get distracted.

Most of us face this dilemma. I suppose there are some disciplined individuals who do not have this problem but I am not one. The problem of distractions is so common as to be a frequent topic of discussion in forums. Here is link to a discussion on this very point by a woman with kids and a full time job and how she deals with distractions.

Few of us are blessed with enough free time to just sit and write. It is imperative that you carve out time for yourself to write. You will note that some authors of renown (Steinbeck and Salinger to name just two) retreated to quiet cabins so as to not be disturbed. A professor I know, married with a young son, gets up at 5AM every day to write before he heads out to teach. Another author wrote one of his books in four months during his lunch hour. You must do what you have to do to write.

And, if you do, your manuscript will eventually be completed. Watch out for the temptation to start patting yourself on the back as your manuscript nears completion (another distraction.) It is not done until it is done.

Then again, it is never really done until it is published. You will find yourself tinkering with the “finished” product ad infinitum, tweaking it here and there. I speak from experience. I found myself adding new ideas and altering sentence structures even as I was correcting my manuscript using my copy editors recommendations.

But do not worry. Your manuscript is not going anywhere. Soon you will be sick of seeing it as you rewrite and rewrite and rewrite.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Writing your manuscript


A manuscript begins

So you have determined that you are indeed a writer. You just cannot help but write. The next step is to decide what the the subject of your manuscript will be.  After all you are determined to become an author and being an author requires that you get published and get paid. That requires a finished manuscript.

“What should I write about?”

There is an oft-repeated axiom that states that you should write about what you know. Comments of that nature are a bit simplistic since it is impossible to write about what you do not know. The real answer to that question is that you can really only write with passion about subjects about which you are passionate. Passion is the key.

What excites you? That is the subject of your first manuscript.

Some writers start with an idea, a concept, that passion and let it take them where it will. Others prefer to outline their story and then work within that framework. Sometimes a certain segment of the story demands to be written NOW.  If so write it.  It will not matter that it is out of sequence. That is what rewrites are for. Use whatever system works for you. Create your own system if need be and then share it with other writers.

Just write. Write even when you don’t feel like writing. Turn off that damn TV. The program you are watching, the one that has your attention, you would not ordinarily be watching anyway. Today it possesses an inordinate amount of interest for you even though you find it, basically, uninteresting.  Turn off the TV.

Walk passed the refrigerator. Yes, that Ben and Jerry’s “Chunky Monkey” ice cream is in there and, yes, it would taste great right about now but NO! Walk passed the refrigerator. You do not need the extra calories anyway. Forget about the news. Forget about calling what’s-her/his-face.  Forget about everything except your writing.

Drag yourself in front of that blank page/screen. You do not feel like writing right now but you must. It is called discipline and if you have none you will never be a successful writer. In fact, you will never be successful at anything difficult.

So finally you are sitting in front of that empty blankness with nothing to write. The blankness stares back at you. Stay there. Stay. Soon enough you will begin writing just because you are where you are. The words do not come easily. They seem contrived, awkward, boring.

But then you write a phrase or a sentence or, maybe, even a paragraph that you recognize as well written. Now you are writing and, before you know it, you have the beginning of your manuscript.


You can now sneak back to the kitchen for some of that “Chunky Monkey”, a small portion of course.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

So you want to be an author…

Throes of Creation by Leonid Pasternak

Throes of Creation by Leonid Pasternak

So you want to be an author, huh. So do a lot of us, including me. In that pursuit I am engaged in finding and completing the steps necessary to accomplish that end.

It ain’t easy.

Among the throngs of those who write the definition of who is an author and who is a writer is a hot topic. For purposes of this discussion let’s define an author as anyone who has gotten published and been paid. All the rest of us are just writers.

The term “just writers” is not an attempt to diminish our time-won rapture. After all, the pen is mightier than the sword and those of us who “just” write are blessed/cursed with a terrible affliction over which we have no control.  This affliction stalks us. Wherever we are, it is. Writing is a heady affliction but one we welcome like a hangover after too many glasses of the fine wine of creativity.

We sit down to write and take a sip of mind-settling reflection. Sometimes our minds are so parched, so needy of expression that a single sip will trigger torrents of words like the flowering of a desert after an overdue rain.  More often a single sip is insufficient. We sit motionless, staring at blank paper/screen, hands on the keyboard, waiting.

We push back, drop our hands into our laps and rise to start pacing. We need more reflection, more emoting, heavier thinking, another sip or two or three of that wine.

Then we’re back typing furiously not even realizing that we ever even sat back down to type, the words coming so fast we can’t keep up, snarling over slow typos, but writing, writing, writing, taking big gulps now, the wine so sweet, the words so exact, we go on and on and on, it’s so much fun, we drink some more and write more and more and more, joyously exuberantly exhilarated.

We stop.

Have to stop.

Wow! Where did that all come from?

We snatch the paper from the typewriter or scroll back to the top of the page and read.

Damn that’s good!  OK, OK, there are typos, some clumsy phraseology but nothing that can’t be fixed and, damn, it is good.  We have drained the wine, feeling fine, just fine and proud and, suddenly, sleepy.

Can’t wait for tomorrow. Fuck the hangover.

That’s a writer.

To become an author is another subject for another day.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Fifty Shades of Grey spanks the publishing world



Ah, the sweet sting of success.

Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed have spanked the publishing world with their surprising record-breaking sales.

The books were written by  E.L. James a British indie-author who got her start by posting an early version of this story on the internet as Twilight fan fiction. It was then picked up by the Australian publisher, The Writer’s Coffee Shop, who printed e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks.

The explosive success of this sexually explicit trilogy was primarily driven by female fans passing on their illicit find of “mommy porn” by word of mouth to female friends.  It has bound soccer moms to its pages with its deepening, romantic relationship between an ugly duckling, painfully-shy College senior and a darkly handsome, savagely-successful business magnate.

The author uses sexual dominance and submission (BDSM) as a whip to drive the deflowering of the relationship between the virgin Anastasia Steele and the damaged Christian Grey into an engorgement of something much more tumescent.  Although the novels contain astounding numbers of eye-rolling, lip-biting scenes (that only those in their twenties can live up to and will cause elders to smile in reminiscence) the story is not really about sex.  It is about the emotional relationship between Anastasia and Christian and that is what makes the novels so seductive.

The story’s success among women in the ongoing flowering of feminism is not surprising.  It is one woman’s story of her emotional triumph in the world of sexual politics.  Although Anastasia is initially invited into the world of BDSM as a submissive it is how she unshackles that relationship into one balanced with mutually acknowledged love and respect that makes her such a compelling character.  The tale is being hotly embraced by the ladies and those not so lady-like.

In spite of many disparaging reviews, one of which called Ms. James’ writing “torturous”, Fifty Shades of Grey remained on the New York Times list of top ten best selling print and e-books for 33 weeks, selling more than 40 million copies worldwide.  It broke the record on USA Today’s bestselling books list previously held by Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, and set the record as the fastest-selling paperback of all time, surpassing even the Harry Potter series.  In April 2012, E. L. James was listed as one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

The movie rights have been purchased by Universal Pictures for $4 million.  Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson have been cast in the roles of Christian and Anastasia.  The film’s scheduled release date is said to be Valentine’s Day 2015.

Ms. James has recently released a CD entitled “The Classical Album” featuring the music she highlighted in her novels. In addition she has a line of wines, Red Velvet and White Silk, available by the bottle or the case.  Ah, the sweet sting of success!FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

An open apology to my wife concerning females in male locker rooms

Please, Honey,  let me explain

Please, Honey, let me explain

Baby, please let me explain.

It was just an article I wrote because of the episode with the Jets and the female reporter that was in the news.  I didn’t really mean it the way you took it.  You know how I get sometimes.  And, no, I don’t really want to interview Anna Kournikova while she’s showering.  I was just kidding.  Besides I don’t have the proper press pass.

Me and the guys were down at Hooters having a few beers and watching the game when the subject came up about that hot attractive female reporter who wanted to interview Mark Sanchez, the Jets QB, you know quarter back.  So we started discussing it and one of the guys, probably Tommy (you know how he gets) starts sticking up for the guys in the locker room.  Well, it got pretty funny at the time but then again we had all been drinking beer.

When you got on my case last night about my column I realized that I had overstepped my bounds with those “reporterette” and “chiquita” cracks.  You know I love you, Sweetheart.  Please forgive me.  I was just trying to be funny.

Likewise about the sprayed on pants.  They weren’t really sprayed on but they were awful tight – not that that’s an excuse.  I’m just trying to explain myself and as to the “teats” thing I just couldn’t think of another acceptable term to use and the editor didn’t change it and she’s a woman so how wrong could I have been.

OK, let’s get to the “packages” part.  That is a modern term that’s used a lot in hip-hop these days so I used it to try to sound cool.  I thought my comparison of their “packages” to her “package” made it even cooler until I saw how red your face got when you read that line back to me.  I guess that was pretty stupid of me, huh?

But wait until I get home tonight because I know you’ll just love the little “package” I have for you tonight.  Wait!  I didn’t mean it that way but that is funny isn’t it.  See, I can be a little funny sometimes without even knowing it.   I meant the “package” I bought for you today at one of your favorite stores.  You’re gonna love it.  It’s an “asking for forgiveness” package.

And I totally get your indignation at the “feminist thingy” thing.  I got carried away while I was writing the piece.  You know I support equal rights for men too.  It was the beers, I guess.  “Thingy” seemed funny since I was writing about “packages.”  OK, OK!  I’ll let it go.  It was just a weak joke and you know my sense of humor (or lack thereof – ha, ha, ha.)

And Pandora’s Box that was funny too.  Even you lightened up when you read me that part remembering it as a children’s story.  It’s really a Greek tragedy but the important thing is that you got it.

And now to the other difficult part for me to explain…that “cubbies” reference.  I must have gotten that right because you got that too even though it gave you a migraine.  And, yeah, I can see how the scent thing could be taken the wrong way but I’m innocent of all charges on that one.  It was that bear analogy again.  I think I explained what the word “analogy” meant when we were discussing the differences between our mothers.  Remember?

And wasn’t that “Goldilocks” reference clever.  Oh, oh, and forget about the work “fecundity.”  I don’t really know what it means anyway.  It just sounded good and it had more than three syllables which impresses my readers (and my editor.)

You know I love you and respect your opinion that’s why I am replying so openly.  Please forgive me and can I sleep in our bed tonight?  The couch is lumpy like cellulite and it frigid cold out there this time of year.

Love you,


XxxoooxxxFotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Concerning female reporters in male locker rooms


Tennis Champion Anna Kournikova

Females reporters in a male locker-room?

Are you kidding? Hello! Is anybody home?

Yeah?  Well, there are many male reporters would like to interview Anna Kournikova while she’s showering too.

Let’s get real here.

The New York Jets got into some unwarranted trouble a while back when a female reporterette entered the Jets locker-room after practice to conduct an interview. She was whistled at and called a “bonita senorita.”  The media reported the story and the feminists got all in a twitter.

You have fifty-some sweaty guys coming off the field with their testosterone all pumped up and in walks a pretty chiquita in spray-on pants with teats prominently on display and no one expects the guys to react?

If the guys did not react there would be a problem. To attempt to denigrate guys for being guys is full frontal sexism.

The reporter in question, Ms. Inez Sainz, twittered, “I’m in the Jet locker room and trying not to look at anything.” What is she trying not to look at?  Lockers or benches or exercise equipment?  No, she’s trying not to look at male packages, in their prime, with or without jock straps, wrapped or not wrapped in towels.

Ms. Sainz, a former Miss Universe contestant, is obviously in touch with her sexuality and should be mighty proud of the package in which she is wrapped. For her to feign surprise that some guys would whistle or call her a “bonita senorita” is just plain silly.

That’s what guys do.  Get over it.

Oh, that’s right the incident happened in the workplace where sexual harassment is verboten. For football players the workplace is the field on which they war. It is not the locker-room. Do men enter the ladies room at corporate HQ or vice verse? Verboten! Hell, they even have separate suites for his and her executive washrooms.

This is all part of that feminist thingy that has been around since the late sixties.  Feminism means well but it escaped Pandora’s Box. Guys interviewed guys in the locker-room after the game and some female reporters objected. It got into the courts and, in fairness to all, the gals won the battle. Since then, however, the repercussions in the war of the sexes have been ignored.

The sexes are not the same and no attempt should be made to treat them the same.

For decades now women have been protecting this ersatz equality like mama grizzlies protecting their cubbies.  Meanwhile they continue to leave their scent on other heretofore male territories. Trouble is males like that scent and follow it for reproductive (or not) purposes. When males smell it they whistle and make unbearable sounds meant to announce their presence.  The females, depending on their own sensitivities and/or the sensitivities of other females around them, can welcome those advances or not.

When the female is alone with a team of male jocks, depending on the fecundity of the female, she may or may not feel uneasy.  If that prickly feeling makes her uncomfortable she leaves.  If she chooses to stay she is welcome but she cannot, then, complain about her surroundings.  Like Goldilocks who wandered in uninvited she might find some circumstances too hard or hot, some too soft or cold but she also might find some just right.

That feminist thingy spoiled it for everyone. If males cannot interview males in locker-rooms without granting women the same allowance, than females cannot interview females in their locker-rooms without granting men the same privilege and gay men must be excluded from male locker rooms and lesbians from female locker rooms, anyplace that scent might arouse desire.

Consequently if no one was allowed to interview anyone, any more, in any locker room we would all suffer for it by losing the spontaneity that follows both triumph and defeat and can only be captured in the immediacy of the moments that follow the game.

Sexism is not treating the sexes differently but treating them the same.  Vive la difference!FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

The Journey is the Destination

tristate-custer-wildlifeloop 060

Brian, Tom and Greg at the SD/MT/WY tri-state marker

My two brothers (Brian and Greg) and I have enjoyed motorcycling, cumulatively, for over 100 years. When we can, we ride together. We currently ride cruising bikes capable of limited off-road use to enable us to go exploring. I ride a 1992 Kawasaki 750 Vulcan; Brian a 1992 Honda 750 Nighthawk; Greg a 2002 Suzuki 805 Intruder. We only dare travel 100 miles between refuelings so range is a serious on-going problem especially on our more remote trips.
We have explored much of LI from NYC to Montauk Point (check out the dirt trails north of Montauk Hwy. near the Lobster Roll Restaurant.) We have also explored most of Connecticut on three trips via the ferries over to Bridgeport and New London.
So where to next?
As we discussed our trips we realized that it was the journey we enjoyed. It’s the ride! The journey is the destination.
So…pick a destination, any destination.
Greg found a piece in a local paper about the NY/MA/CT tri-state marker. I recalled having hiked to that monument many years earlier on a camping trip with our father. So that became our next adventure. We rode the bikes as close to the marker as we could and hiked in the rest of the way, a small rock cairn indicating where we had to leave the trail to search the nearby woods.
So far we have visited 12 of 38 dry land tri-state markers, excluding the Four Corners (UT/CO/AZ/NM) and one for the District of Columbia. (Google “the corner corner” for directions and details.)
We visited the local tri-state markers first and then during the summer 06, on a trip to Sturgis, we did four more (OH/MI/IN; MN/SD/IA; MT/WY/SD; SD/WY NE.) We use the Atlas Gazetteer maps from DeLorme electing to take the most scenic and/or the faintest map lines shown if possible. Many roads are unpaved, some no more than trails, adding to the edgy enjoyment of our explorations. Use of a battery operated, hand-held GPS is under discussion. Searching out these markers has taken us places we probably would never have gone, meeting people we probably would never have met.
On one of our last trips while returning to base after locating our latest marker we took a wrong turn (somewhere) and wound up lost (somewhere) on this great motorcycle road. It was an ideal sweep of lefts and rights, of ups and downs with the pavement perfectly pitched. That ride home at dusk was the righteous ending to a glorious day.
Later Brian reminded me that even when you’re lost, when the journey is your destination, you’re always home FotoFlexer_Photo Quill