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The Craft > How to avoid embarrassing errors in your manuscript

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message 1: by M.A. (last edited Jul 26, 2016 11:20PM) (new)

M.A. Demers | 169 comments [This is a reprint of a blog post I just wrote. There is a PDF of a sample style guide linked to the blog and which I cannot attach here. If you would like the PDF, the link is here.]

As both a writer and an editor, I often find manuscript errors created by inconsistency in mechanical conventions. A few typical examples are:

* Chapter headings that use numbers (Chapter 1) at the start of a manuscript but then are inexplicably spelled out later on (Chapter Ten).
* All caps are used to illustrate a raised voice ("GET OUT!" she screamed.) in parts of the manuscript, but italics ("Get out!" she screamed.) are used elsewhere for the same effect.
* The author uses an en dash surrounded by spaces ("I wish you wouldn't" – she raised her hand for emphasis – "do that.") but then elsewhere, and in the same circumstance, uses the more common em dash with no spaces ("I wish you wouldn't"—she raised her hand for emphasis—"do that.").
* Three spaced periods are used to create an ellipsis (. . .) in some instances but then the ellipsis symbol (…) is used elsewhere.
* A quotation is placed at the start of each chapter, but the quotation is set in italics in some chapters and regular font in others.
* The author uses italics to illustrate internal dialogue (Great, she thought sarcastically. Just great.) but then elsewhere uses quotation marks for the same purpose ("Great," she thought sarcastically. "Just great.")
* Digits are used for hyphenated numbers (She was 54 years old.) but spelled out elsewhere (She was fifty-four years old.).

Variations in spelling are also common. For example, a character uses her cellphone in chapter one but a cell phone in chapter three. Such errors will not be found by your word processor's Spell Check if such variations are not in themselves misspelled.

You might also be surprised to discover how many authors misspell their own characters' names, for example vacillating between Elisabeth and Elizabeth. Or who change a character's hair color, age, height, or other characteristic partway through the novel.

So how can you avoid these embarrassing and yet all-too-common errors? By creating a style guide that you can reference while you write.

A style guide is a list of:

*All names and other capitalized words used in your manuscript. This should include all character names, street names, locations, companies and trademarks, creative works like TV shows or books, and so on. I also add the relationships between characters, any physical characteristics specified in the manuscript, and their job or profession. This helps me keep track of all my characters — not just the main ones — and their traits, while I write.
*Your preferred spelling of specific words where variants exist: cellphone versus cell phone, to cite the above example. This is also true of words that were once hyphenated, and often still are, but are now acceptable closed. For example, you can look in a rearview mirror or in a rear-view mirror; it's your choice as an author. There are also words that started out capitalized but are moving to lowercase; the internet (versus the Internet) is one example. When a word or phrase is in flux like that, again it is your choice as the author which version to use.
*Coined words, foreign words, and uncommon words (particularly medical or other scientific terms that are often not found in a dictionary).
*Compound nouns. Is it print on demand manufacturing (compound noun), or print-on-demand manufacturing (adjective modifying a noun)? Whether you elect to use only one form, or different forms under specific circumstances, should be added to your guide.
*Preferred mechanical conventions. This includes such things as whether you want spaces around your em dashes or not, or around your ellipses; where and when you use digits versus spelling out numbers; whether you use italics or quotation marks for internal dialogue; and so on.

You will also find it helpful to add to your style guide:

*Words you use that are hyphenated or not depending on their form: for example, air-conditioning is both an adjective and a noun, but back seat is the noun while backseat (or back-seat) is the adjective. Adding such oddities to your style sheet helps you keep them straight while you write.
*Words you use that are spelled differently depending on their form. For example, in Canada licence is the noun form but license is the verb. One pays up front (adverb) but makes an upfront payment (adjective). Making a note of such differences helps you avoid using the wrong form.
*Words you use that change capitalization depending on use. For years we Googled everything, but there is a trend developing to google stuff using Google. Some words also mean entirely different things when capitalized or not; one example is the Church versus the church. The first refers to either the Catholic or Anglican Church as a body, the latter is a generic term. Again, making a note of such differences helps you avoid errors.

Style guides are specific to each project, or to a book series, and are equally important for both fiction and non-fiction works. They take and time and effort to create, but will prove an invaluable resource for you.


message 2: by Denae (last edited Jul 26, 2016 08:38PM) (new)

Denae Christine (denaechristine) | 18 comments These bother me when I read them (I only struggle with one of those in my own writing, the numbers). I usually deal with possible inconsistencies by doing a search for that word elsewhere in the book document to see if I've already used it.
I can see how a style guide would be useful.


message 3: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Demers | 169 comments A style guide is really important as a reminder of what you did earlier in your manuscript. By the time you need to use a word again, you likely forgot what choice you made earlier, and doing a search each time is more time-consuming. It is the same with mechanical conventions, like how you format internal dialogue for example. In my first novel I was lazy and did not create a style guide, and later had to fix some of the formatting in subsequent printings. I learned my lesson the hard way. A classic case of the cobbler's children who have no shoes: as an editor I knew better but, as I said, I was lazy.


message 4: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 210 comments I suppose we are all different. Some authors like to use heavily structured style guides, some don't.

I tend to use a hybrid approach. I keep a very slim style guide for each unique book - names of characters, places, speech idioms, etc - but a lot of the style choices are kept in my head and are standard to everything I write. I know how to spell license/ licence and don't need to write it down.

My wife edits everything I write. She maintains her own style guide to ensure consistency and to challenge me if she doesn't agree with something that we have written.

I don't keep extensive style guides because I find it restricts my creativity. If it's written down I feel obliged to follow it instead of trying something new.

As an alternative to style guides, we make multiple passes through the book in the editing phase. We will make sure that all chapter headings are consistent by having at least one pass through the book looking only at chapter headings. We will keep character dialogue consistent by searching for each character in turn and reading only their dialogue on each pass. I will do a Word search for particular words or phrases to make sure that they are not being over-used.


message 5: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 258 comments Thanks for the post. Some technology can help e.g. use of custom lists in auto-correct in most word processors.

In Scrivener, my preferred tool, the chapter headings and numbering are all set in the Compiler and added at output stage. It has a list of characters that you can link to the reference section i.e. inconsistent names and places will not automatically link. Likewise font consistency, but it will not catch many of the inconsistencies you list although it does pick up ellipses, triple spaces etc. If you set up your preferences for that book in the system it gets many of them.

Of course the all important edits will help


message 6: by V.W. (new)

V.W. Singer | 132 comments Usually if I make that kind of error it is just that. An error. So a style guide won't help.


message 7: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Cronin | 115 comments V.W. I agree. While tools may help others, I've learned the hard and embarrassing way that only proofing works for me. I look at a manuscript with fresh eyes after the professional edit. Hand it off to a trusted second pair of eyes, too. Wait. Refresh. Read again. Repeat. Publish a copy. Read again and avoid rushing to publish when totally exhausted! At least that's my plan the second time around.


message 8: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Demers | 169 comments Will wrote: "I suppose we are all different. Some authors like to use heavily structured style guides, some don't.

I tend to use a hybrid approach. I keep a very slim style guide for each unique book - names ..."


Editing afterwards is not an alternative to a style guide; the style guide is just to keep the writer on track while writing. Editing afterwards is still essential. What the style guide does is reduce the likely errors that the author has to go looking for afterwards.


message 9: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Demers | 169 comments Sheila wrote: "V.W. I agree. While tools may help others, I've learned the hard and embarrassing way that only proofing works for me. I look at a manuscript with fresh eyes after the professional edit. Hand it of..."

Style guides in no way eliminate the need to proof. What they do is keep the author on track while they write. They also reduce the work an editor has to do: if the client can provide me with their style guide, I don't have to guess how they want to spell "judg(e)ment" and so on. Often as an editor I will have a manuscript with dual spellings in it; my rule of thumb is to treat the first instance as the author's preferred choice, but that isn't always the case. Also, many authors want to stray from convention with certain mechanics; no problem, but if you don't tell your editor that, how will she know?


message 10: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Demers | 169 comments Philip wrote: "Thanks for the post. Some technology can help e.g. use of custom lists in auto-correct in most word processors.

In Scrivener, my preferred tool, the chapter headings and numbering are all set in ..."


Similarly, in word processors one should use styles to maintain consistency in paragraph/heading formatting. I wrote a separate post about that: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/....

Like so many writers, for years I didn't bother to learn styles. It made everything more time-consuming, and, as they say, you don't get the time back.


message 11: by Simone (new)

Simone Martel | 10 comments Thanks for this. A style guide would certainly help with consistency. I recently put together a story collection, and even though the individual stories were pretty carefully proofed, they weren't consistent. I found long dashes in some, short in others, numbers spelled out, or not. Also, unfortunately, a story of mine was published with both "disc" and "disk" in the final draft. I didn't catch it, and neither did the editor!


message 12: by Pam (new)

Pam Baddeley | 1 comments I've been building up a style guide while doing the latest in a long line of edits because I am hoping to engage a pro editor and I've been advised it's useful to supply that to the editor.


message 13: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Demers | 169 comments Pam wrote: "I've been building up a style guide while doing the latest in a long line of edits because I am hoping to engage a pro editor and I've been advised it's useful to supply that to the editor."

Absolutely! I even offer discounts to authors who do so. It reduces the workload because otherwise the editor has to create the style guide to keep track of the author's preferences.


message 14: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Demers | 169 comments Simone wrote: "Also, unfortunately, a story of mine was published with both "disc" and "disk" in the final draft. I didn't catch it, and neither did the editor! "

A good example of how alternate spellings, both of which are acceptable, can occur without a style guide. Had you created a guide, you could have searched for the unwanted alternate. Your editor didn't catch it because either s/he didn't create a guide for you, or simply because we editors are human and humans just miss stuff sometimes!


message 15: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Demers | 169 comments Simone wrote: "Thanks for this. A style guide would certainly help with consistency. I recently put together a story collection, and even though the individual stories were pretty carefully proofed, they weren't ..."

Forgot to mention: I have edited book series where the author was inconsistent from one book to the next. It was frustrating for the publisher and embarrassing for the writer.


message 16: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Demers | 169 comments The other thing to mention, and which is illustrated in the PDF of the sample style guide I link to, is that I use it to keep track of my characters' characteristics. You really cannot rely on your memory -- was your character 5'8" or 5'9" a hundred pages ago? What birth date did you give her? What was her (fake) address or phone number?

A style guide is a bit like the continuity supervisor on a TV or movie set. Have you ever watched a movie where, say, a book is on the right side of the table but is then inexplicably on the left side the next second? That's where the continuity person screwed up. No one can keep track of a multitude of details just by memory; on a set, dozens of photos are taken of each scene so that goofs like the one above don't occur, or don't occur often. Think of your style guide as a digital image of your scenes and characters.


message 17: by G. (new)

G. Thayer (flboffin) | 115 comments Not only are disc and disk acceptable spellings, but they refer to different objects. Wikipedia states “A widespread consensus has developed that the spelling variant should be dependent on the sense for which the word is intended. The convention for flat, rotational data storage media is that disk refers to magnetic storage while disc refers to optical storage.” In other words, a CD is a disc, but a hard drive is a disk.


message 18: by Simone (last edited Jul 27, 2016 09:20AM) (new)

Simone Martel | 10 comments http://www.carbonculturereview.com/pr...

Yes, it should have just been disc. People who've read the piece tell me they didn't notice. Maybe they were just being nice.


message 19: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Demers | 169 comments Actually, research has shown that most people will not notice misspellings of homophones: "The late American researcher Guy C. van Orden in his 1987 book, A ROWS is a ROSE: Spelling, sound, and reading, demonstrated that reading comprehension is affected equally by the sound of the word as by the spelling. Since regional variations are always homophones, such words are often glossed over by a reader engrossed in the text."

So perhaps it was not so much that they were being kind, but being entertained.


message 20: by Mike (new)

Mike Lee (dmlangel1101) | 9 comments I am ashamed to admit it my spelling is my weakest link. My father was a pilot in the U.S. Navy and I had 13 elementary schools as a child and I guess it never caught up with me. I check, and I check and I check, but occasionally, I miss a word. Also, believe it or not I spent over 40 years typing case reports. I need an editor, but I have a daughter in college, and am on a tight budget.


message 21: by Mike (new)

Mike Lee (dmlangel1101) | 9 comments You know, I have perfect spelling in Spanish. That's because the words are spelled just like they sound in Spanish. Spanish doesn't have silent letters, etc.


message 22: by G. (last edited Jul 28, 2016 09:39AM) (new)

G. Thayer (flboffin) | 115 comments M.A. wrote: “So perhaps it was not so much that they were being kind, but being entertained.” How true. A copy editor will catch things that a casual reader would likely never notice. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder.


message 23: by Simone (new)

Simone Martel | 10 comments I hope they were being entertained!

Missing words can be hard to catch, too. I think the brain sometimes fills them in. How else can I read a story ten times and not notice a missing "of" or "the"?


message 24: by Eric (last edited Jul 28, 2016 01:31PM) (new)

Eric Westfall (eawestfall) | 183 comments Mike wrote: "I am ashamed to admit it my spelling is my weakest link. My father was a pilot in the U.S. Navy and I had 13 elementary schools as a child and I guess it never caught up with me. I check, and I che..."

Mike,

If you're writing in Word, that should catch most of the words that are typed wrong. Obviously, it won't catch things like typing "discrete" (separate) when you mean "discreet" (being private, slightly surreptitious), or two for to, other situations. So, is there any way you can find beta readers for your genre?

I write/self-publish MM romances, usually in the historical genre (a slightly alternate Regency England with 2 novels and 1 short story done, and 3 more novels in progress) or fantasy. I belong to the Goodreads MM Romance Group, and there we have a thread for anyone to post a request for a beta reader, regardless of your particular sub-genre.

The beta request can be for a "grammar Nazi" or someone to read for substance, style, consistency, impact, etc., etc. I've found extraordinarily helpful people that way, and obviously, to return the favor/pay it forward, I beta read for others as well. While spelling might be your downfall, if you offer to beta read, let the author know you won't be reading for grammar/spelling errors (though clearly, to me at least, if you notice something you say so), but you're willing to help with responses to style, consistency, emotional impact, or whatever he or she might be looking for.

My impression is there are a lot of groups on GR for writers in various genres. Or you might just Google something about writers/authors group for [genre identifiers].

Hope this helps, and best wishes for success in your writing.

Eric-the-ever-opinionated

p.s. The "editors" I've checked out have asked for outrageous amounts $500 for something minimal, thousands for something more major, with is: (a) far beyond I'm willing to dip into my savings to spend, and (b) with no guarantee that what they say/do/recommend will make my work any better. Just my USD .02.


message 25: by M.A. (last edited Jul 28, 2016 04:15PM) (new)

M.A. Demers | 169 comments Eric wrote: "The "editors" I've checked out have asked for outrageous amounts $500 for something minimal, thousands for something more major, with is: (a) far beyond I'm willing to dip into my savings to spend, and (b) with no guarantee that what they say/do/recommend will make my work any better. Just my USD .02.
"


Eric, you use editors in scare quotes, suggesting you question their credentials, and therefore their price. On average, a quality, experienced editor will spend about 45 minutes to 1 hour for every 1000 words; on an 80,000-word novel, then, the editor will spend 60 to 80 hours. What do you think that is worth?

I have never had a client who felt their work was not improved by my edit. In my last long-form assignment, a 96000-word novel, I fixed over 3100 errors and produced an 8-page style guide. What do you think I should have charged for that?

There are a plethora of wannabe editors who have come onto the self-publishing scene and hung up a shingle, and offer rock-bottom prices that make the rates of quality editors seem outrageous. But you get what you pay for. I had a client once who hired me after he and his low-cost editor parted company: in the 3 chapters she had edited I found almost 100 mistakes she had missed.

I also had a colleague who boasted that his editor had found only 10 typos in this colleague's short book, and he thought that was a reflections of his skills as a writer. When I pointed out the errors still remaining, he realized it was a reflection of the skills of his editor.

Editing is no doubt a major expense for the indie writer, so I wrote a blog post about how writers can reduce the bill: http://mademers.com/five-steps-to-red....


message 26: by Eric (new)

Eric Westfall (eawestfall) | 183 comments M.A., I certainly intend no disrespect, but I'm frankly not following.

An ordinary mass-market paperback (in my experience over the course of 65 reading years, and some typing-out tests) runs about 300 words to the page. So a 96,000 word manuscript is a 320 page paperback novel. You indicated you found an average of just under 10 errors per page.

With those statistics that suggests to me you found 3100 errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling. Setting aside the style guide for the moment, was there anything else you did? I am not intending to insult, and I am asking for education here.

I have beta-read 60K-120K novels for a variety of authors in the MM romance genre. For me, that means I use Word's Track Changes feature to fix mistakes in grammar, punctuation and spelling, but I also put in comments when something is really good, when something doesn't make sense, when something isn't physically possible, e.g., riding a horse into town and never getting off but somehow looking directly into the street level/first floor window of a tavern and seeing things that could only be visible if you were on the ground looking in, and suggest alternatives to phrasing. I'm thorough, I'm accurate, and I make no claim to being infallible, so there may well have been stuff that I overlooked. But I didn't need anywhere near 80 hours to get through the longest novel.

So...what am I missing/not understanding here here? What part of the duties of an editor takes an average of 45-60 minutes to read, analyze and fix 1000 words?

Since I've never used an editor it's entirely possible I'm not understanding what services (again setting aside the style guide for the moment) an editor provides which take that much time.

Help me understand, please.

And again, I apologize if I've caused offense. It isn't intended.

Eric


message 27: by Sally (new)

Sally (brasscastle) | 261 comments Simone wrote: "Missing words can be hard to catch, too. I think the brain sometimes fills them in. How else can I read a story ten times and not notice a missing "of" or "the"?"

A trick that my mother taught me is to read the manuscript out loud. It works pretty well if you read it out loud to yourself, but it is even better if you read it out loud to someone else who has a print copy in front of them. Loads of errors - spelling, typos, etc. - get caught this way. An editor/author I spoke to the other day says that he will read his manuscripts backwards (not the text backwards, but paragraph by paragraph starting from the end of the manuscript, so as not to get wrapped up in his story and to see it with disinterested eyes. (Obviously, this is a separate process from when he reader for context, continuity, story arc, etc.) He acknowledged that this is very hard work and time-consuming. But if it is necessary, it is worth it.

Also, do not rely on the spell-check and grammar-check features in MS Word - they are both fraught with errors. I use them to find stuff, but I review each instance to see if what they are highlighting is correct or not. Their grammar-check has often prompted me to change a correct sentence or phrase (for example: "The horse lifted its foot.") into an incorrect one ("The horse lifted it's foot." which if written out without the apostrophe comes out as "The horse lifted it is foot." Obvious nonsense.)

So: BEWARE! Get a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style, even if it is an earlier (and therefore more economical at the second-hand bookstore) edition, and learn how to use it. It will help you to improve your work vastly!


message 28: by Steven (new)

Steven Malone | 95 comments Another mistake catcher is to use the Word voice command, or what ever it's called, to have a robot read your mss to you.


message 29: by Parker (new)

Parker Avrile (parkeravrile) | 19 comments I can tell you a little bit about that, Eric. Alpha/beta reads are the first reads where you point out problems like doesn't make sense, plotholes, etc -- things that need to be rewritten either by the writer or a second writer (which might end up being the editor) -- or sometimes you decide the work can't be published at all. They don't take much more than 150% of the time you might take to read a book for pleasure because you're not making major fixes yourself. You're pointing out potential issues for someone to fix later.

When it's a full edit down through the final copy, there's no doubt that a 100K book takes 80 hours+ of laser-focused work. At $500 for a full novel, a good editor is working for less than minimum wage.

Every edit after the beta revisions comes with the idea that this is a professional product that needs to be as perfect as you can make it. A traditional publishing house supposedly has four editors to work on every manuscript.

If you can afford only one editor, there is no alternative to that one person performing several different reads, several times, for style, grammar, etc. The reads must be performed sufficiently far apart that the editor doesn't become fatigued and start missing things. There should be at least one read aloud (or have it read aloud by your device) to see if it falls right on the ear. That in itself is a lengthy process.

You happen to have a very clean style and a good ear, so you can get away without an editor. A surprising number of writers have a good visual sense & a grasp of story but a tin ear, and absolutely every line must have little tweaks. Many writers can't write a compound sentence without putting a comma in the wrong place or tossing in a misplaced modifier. They have a story but to get the story told properly will take dozens of hours of revisions by an editor.


message 30: by Simone (new)

Simone Martel | 10 comments Sally wrote: "Simone wrote: "Missing words can be hard to catch, too. I think the brain sometimes fills them in. How else can I read a story ten times and not notice a missing "of" or "the"?"

A trick that my mo..."


Reading one's own writing backward paragraph by paragraph would be agony, but it also seems like it would work. Interesting idea.


message 31: by Eva (last edited Jul 29, 2016 11:24AM) (new)

Eva John | 12 comments A famous author and FB friend recently advised me to write for myself, nobody else. I was frustrated at finding a few small errors after my book was published, and I paid an editing service to go over the manuscript beforehand. They allow for a 3-5% margin of error, we should too. If you love your books and writing them even more, then that's your gift. The rest is incidental.
Crone A Scarlet St. James Novel by Maria Mayer


message 32: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Demers | 169 comments Eric wrote: "M.A., I certainly intend no disrespect, but I'm frankly not following.

An ordinary mass-market paperback (in my experience over the course of 65 reading years, and some typing-out tests) runs abou..."

Hi Eric,

In that particular manuscript, there were on average 13 to 16 mistakes per page. In addition to finding grammatical mistakes (spelling, dangling modifiers, misplaced commas, etc.), I also:

- noted inconsistencies in the plot and in character names
- corrected stylistic errors (the author was often repetitive with certain words and on occasion misused the em dash and the ellipsis)
- recommended reworking the text in places where it was ambiguous or awkward
- noted differences in capitalization between the book's preferred spelling (U.S.) versus the location of the story (UK)
- corrected inconsistencies in the use of italics
- performed fact-checks on certain aspects of use (it was a period piece) and made appropriate corrections
- created the style guide and then used it to double-check for consistency of use
- made over 150 comments to explain my changes so the author would understand why I made the changes (which helps the indie writer to hone their craft)

I regularly use beta readers for my own novels, and they rarely if ever find my mistakes because they are not performing a line edit, they are simply reading the book and providing me with feedback on the story. Which is all I expect from my beta readers. Every once in a while they will notice a spelling error or some other grammatical mistake, but more often they don't. In my first novel I accidentally wrote site instead of sight in three places -- not a single beta reader caught it. It was caught in a line edit.


message 33: by Jim (new)

Jim Vuksic Unbiased input in the form of observations, suggestions, and constructive criticism from a professional copy editor and a conceptual editor are invaluable during the process of converting a proof-read, polished manuscript into a commercially viable book.


message 34: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Demers | 169 comments Parker wrote: "When it's a full edit down through the final copy, there's no doubt that a 100K book takes 80 hours+ of laser-focused work. At $500 for a full novel, a good editor is working for less than minimum wage."

Exactly. Too many indie authors don't want to pay what's fair, but the problem arises from a misconception about how long it really takes to edit a full-length work.

Compounding the issue is that the author is not aware of his mistakes (or he would have fixed them himself); how, then, can he know if his editor failed to catch them? So the author blissfully goes on to publish, thinking that his book is now flawless -- until the negative reviews start coming in, or friends start pointing out mistakes. Then, and only then, does he realize that his $500 editor did a terrible job.


message 35: by G. (last edited Jul 29, 2016 03:31PM) (new)

G. Thayer (flboffin) | 115 comments Eric wrote: "M.A., I certainly intend no disrespect, but I'm frankly not following.

An ordinary mass-market paperback (in my experience over the course of 65 reading years, and some typing-out tests) runs about..."


Pages really don’t mean anything. In a 400-page MS of mine set in 11-point type on letter-size (8½ by 11½ inches) pages, the average word count is 560 per page. In a novella of 112 pages set in 12-point type for a trade paperback (5½ by 8½ inches), the average word count is 210 per page.

Most editors use a “standard” page size of 250 words/page. Their rates are set for these standard pages, so they are really charging by the word, but in 250-word chunks. M.A. is quite right when she says that good editors are not cheap. That said, spending 45 to 60 minutes on 1,000 words seems a bit excessive, unless she is referring to what many editors call a “deep edit”—one that requires extensive rewriting and more aggressive editing. A more usual line-by-line copyedit should take about 18 to 25 minutes per 1,000 words (4 standard pages).

My own editor, who is very good at what she does, says that deep edits are seldom required. My own take is that if your MS needs a deep edit, then you didn’t do a very good job of writing.

As for style, the online version of the Chicago Manual of Style only costs about $37 per year, and it’s a lot handier to use than the printed version. Besides, older printed copies are also probably out-of-date by now. I use the online manual almost every day to check on some specific situation.


message 36: by Parker (last edited Jul 29, 2016 05:02PM) (new)

Parker Avrile (parkeravrile) | 19 comments Simone wrote: "Sally wrote: "Simone wrote: "Missing words can be hard to catch, too. I think the brain sometimes fills them in. How else can I read a story ten times and not notice a missing "of" or "the"?"

A tr..."


Yeah, I've tried the "reading backward" thing before, and I think I'm going to go back to it. I've tried & tried to find a grammar bot that can at least find a frickin' dropped word but they can't. Don't get me started... It's 2016, and the automated grammar checkers know less about grammar than somebody's pet gorilla signing Koko kiss kitten.

Your brain does fill in. We have a spot in our eye that has no optic detectors. You ever notice a blindspot when you're looking around the room? No. Your brain just fills it in with what it assumes should be there. We're evolved that way, and it is very difficult to overcome that and find our own blindspots. Really, it's close to impossible, which is why we need an objective outsider to look at our stuff.


message 37: by Danny (new)

Danny Johnson | 41 comments Parker wrote: "I can tell you a little bit about that, Eric. Alpha/beta reads are the first reads where you point out problems like doesn't make sense, plotholes, etc -- things that need to be rewritten either by..."

Maria wrote: "A famous author and FB friend recently advised me to write for myself, nobody else. I was frustrated at finding a few small errors after my book was published, and I paid an editing service to go o..."

Maria...I would find that totally unacceptable to have any margin of acceptable error when using "professional" editing service..that's simply an excuse for sloppy work...best.


message 38: by Mike (last edited Jul 30, 2016 07:25AM) (new)

Mike Lee (dmlangel1101) | 9 comments Well, I had a total nightmare happen to me the other day. My version of Word 2007 spell checker was not functioning properly. Somehow someone had changed it to French.

Great! I don't speak French and I sure don't write in it. When I am writing and it is going well. I don't pay any attention to spelling, grammar or anything. You have to strike while the iron is hot. I started out as a poet and I've always done things that way. Then I go back and edit and edit and edit. Usually, I edit the work three times. I almost never get writer's block because
I follow what Ernest Hemingway used to say. The way to get over writer's block is too write even if your writing garbage. Just keep writing everyday and soon or later you will start writing good stuff, but I desperately need editing. Even after all that I am not sure I am ever totally satisfied. and I sometimes worry, I have overdone it. I tend to throw the kitchen sink at the writing. Again, I have to edit out a lot, but I still consider myself a rookie.
That spell checker thing drove me nuts for two days trying to get it to work. Luckily, I am patient and a lot of computer programming experience, so eventually, I fixed it, but I missed two whole days I could have been writing. UGH!


message 39: by Mike (new)

Mike Lee (dmlangel1101) | 9 comments Can you recommend and Editing Service?


message 40: by Danny (new)

Danny Johnson | 41 comments no, but I might suggest "Autocrit"... it's an excellent program that is very reasonably priced and will analyze spelling, use of adverbs, etc. that I found excellent...they'll let you try a sample and get feedback before you invest...


message 41: by A.M. (new)

A.M. Justice | 2 comments Mike wrote: "Well, I had a total nightmare happen to me the other day. My version of Word 2007 spell checker was not functioning properly. Somehow someone had changed it to French.

Great! I don't speak French..."


If this happens again, select all the text, go to the tools menu, choose language, and set to US or UK English, whichever is appropriate for you.


message 42: by Parker (new)

Parker Avrile (parkeravrile) | 19 comments Danny wrote: "Maria...I would find that totally unacceptable to have any margin of acceptable error when using "professional" editing service..that's simply an excuse for sloppy work...best."

I didn't want to say so but I was thinking the same thing. You want an editor who is an absolute nitpicker and perfectionist. 3 to 5% errors remaining in the document is not a professional job. It's something you put up with from a community college English teacher making extra money in the summer sipping drinks by the pool while going over your MS. No offense to those teachers, some of my friends are those people-- which is how I know about the sipping drinks by the pool part of it-- but I don't allow them to edit my manuscripts that are going to be published for sale.

Mike wrote: "Can you recommend and Editing Service?"

It's getting hard or almost impossible to hire a genuine editor. The good ones tend to be booked up with work for clients who can actually pay a decent hourly or per word rate. Right now I can't recommend an editing service because I've had trouble finding one for myself. The editors I used to use have quit the business. The amount of time to do a proper editing job can't be reduced. It really does take the time it takes. But most indies can't pay $500+ to have a book edited because their title isn't going to earn that much in an environment where three books a minute are being posted to Amazon. The pie has been sliced too thin.


message 43: by Joe (new)

Joe Clark | 32 comments This is a really fascinating discussion. I would like to throw in some comments even though I am just beginning. Last year, I started looking for a professional editing service. I succumbed to some sales pressure and submitted my novel before it was ready. Suffice it to say that I had different expectations than the editing company. I would consider using them again after I have gotten more experience in self-publishing. The editor had 10 days to work on my manuscript. He returned it in 7. I was very impressed with the front end of the novel but the last third looked like it hadn't been reviewed. The company offered to go back and correct the oversight. But by that time I had made some significant changes to my manuscript and they wanted to treat it as a new submission with a new fee for the editing service. We ended on a sour note.
The basic problem was that I should have made at least one self-edit/rewrite pass and probably two before I submitted the manuscript for editing. After that a good professional editor is worth the money.
Beta readers gave me some very good suggestions that led me to some additional rewriting. One of the beta reader even gave me a page of errors that both the editor and I had missed.


message 44: by Maggie (new)

Maggie Anton | 34 comments I want to clarify that their are two kinds of editors, both necessary: content and line/copy editors. These are such different skills that editors usually specialize in only one. First hire a content editor, because a good one will suggest enough areas to be rewritten that there's no point having a copy editor yet.

I self-published my first novel by starting my own indie press. Then I was picked up by Penguin for my next five. Each book was edited for content by my own freelance editor - yes, even though I had a big traditional publisher, I still needed my own editor to get the ms ready for them. With self-published one, I also hired a separate line/copy editor.

At Penguin, my acquiring editor suggested more content changes, which I mostly agreed with. After that rewrite was approved, it went to the copy editors [yes, more than one], who created a Style Sheet, did some fact checking, questioned awkward wording, and fixed grammar/spelling mistakes. You can see how all this amounted to way more than $500 worth of work.

Yet even after so many eyes going over the ms, half my books went to press with an error [thankfully only one] that readers pointed out to me within days of the pub date.


message 45: by Joe (new)

Joe Clark | 32 comments Maggie wrote: "I want to clarify that their are two kinds of editors, both necessary: content and line/copy editors. These are such different skills that editors usually specialize in only one. First hire a conte..."
Good discussion.


message 46: by G. (new)

G. Thayer (flboffin) | 115 comments Maggie wrote: "I want to clarify that their are two kinds of editors, both necessary: content and line/copy editors. These are such different skills that editors usually specialize in only one. First hire a content . . ."

A good content editor wouldn’t catch awkward wording? Hmmm. If that isn’t part of content, what is it?


message 47: by Eva (new)

Eva John | 12 comments Parker wrote: "Danny wrote: "Maria...I would find that totally unacceptable to have any margin of acceptable error when using "professional" editing service..that's simply an excuse for sloppy work...best."

I di..."


Sadly, you both missed the entire point of my reply and focused on the error margin! As to the issue of acceptability, the industry standard is a 3% margin of error, no two ways. There's really no point for me to reiterate what I was trying to tell you about not sweating the small stuff, you're going to beat yourself up over the "if"'s and "the"'s you may have missed.


message 48: by M.A. (last edited Jul 30, 2016 03:42PM) (new)

M.A. Demers | 169 comments G. wrote: " spending 45 to 60 minutes on 1,000 words seems a bit excessive, unless she is referring to what many editors call a “deep edit”—one that requires extensive rewriting and more aggressive editing...

Unfortunately, too many indie authors deliver manuscripts with so many errors that it takes that long to perform a line edit. When I edit my own manuscripts, I find on average only 1 or 2 errors per 250 words; I have yet to edit an indie author with so few mistakes; most manuscripts have 10 to 20 errors per page. I once edited a manuscript where just the first sentence had 4 errors in it; the first 1000 words had almost 80 errors. One simply cannot make that many changes in 20 minutes.

The unfortunate fact is that indie authors tend to make the most mistakes but are least able to afford a quality editor to fix those mistakes. But self-publishing is not just about writing, it is a business model, a model where the author/publisher pays for the many perks that otherwise come with a traditional publishing deal. It's a trade-off: with traditional publishing you pay little to nothing up front but relinquish a large portion of your royalties in return; with self-publishing you pay up front but keep all your royalties.

The indie author really has to ask themselves if they are willing to run a business. KDP and its ilk have lured writers in with the false pretense that anyone can write and publish a book. Sure, anyone can, but should they?


message 49: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Demers | 169 comments Mike wrote: "Can you recommend and Editing Service?"

You can see my rates here: http://mademers.com/editing-services-2/


message 50: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Demers | 169 comments Danny wrote: "Maria...I would find that totally unacceptable to have any margin of acceptable error when using "professional" editing service..that's simply an excuse for sloppy work...best...

Yeesh, Danny, we are not machines! Even the best editor will miss a few. And if you go cheap, your "editor" will miss even more!


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