Sojourns in Publishing

Writing. Editing. Designing. Producing. Printing. Reading.

Category: Editing

Plagiarism PSA

Most of the time, I can tell when an author’s voice changes and sounds like Wikipedia or content from an academic site. I rather delight in finding those sources and shining a great big light on where the author has copied and pasted, because plagiarism really, really gets my goat.






Because I will find it and point it out with many notes in the sidebar.


Groovy (editing) thoughts

If you find that you must separate two words (such as “will, will” “is, is”, etc.) it is better to simply choose another word or play with rewriting the sentence. Don’t let the technicality of words get in the way of the message. In a sense, words themselves must be invisible in the same way that we see the effect of the wind in the leaves of the trees and the motion of the clouds; we don’t see the wind itself, but we see what it does.Image

Proofreading for Self-Publishing

Proofreading is something that happens after thorough editing; proofreading and editing are not the same thing. Furthermore, there are different modes of editing. For the purpose of this post, let’s assume your manuscript has already been fully written, rewritten, and has had solid editing. If you want to aim for an error-free book after it’s been printed, you should perform three post-edit proofreads.

When it comes to proofreading for self-publishing, have the copy as clean as possible before layout; for the sake of efficiency, you want the designer to make as few changes as possible after it’s laid out. I aim for as much perfection as possible before then by following these steps:

  1. When the manuscript is written in full, have it thoroughly, professionally, and objectively copyedited. It’s up to you how many times you want that to happen. Once? Twice? It depends on how many people are involved and how many changes happen as a result of feedback. Once is probably not going to be enough. Ideally, I’d say at least twice. It’s worth the financial investment to have a working relationship with an editor, not just a one-time transaction.
  2. After all editing rounds are complete, have everyone involved in the project agree that it’s been edited and tweaked as much as it’s ever going to be.
  3. Give it a first proofread while it’s still in a Word document.
  4. Make corrections to that Word document as found in the proofreading round.
  5. Have the book designed.
  6. Once it’s designed, look at the PDF and give it a second proofread. Remember—one round of proofreading will catch at least 95% of existing errors, as is industry standard); 100% is not realistic at this point. Mark up any stray errors on the PDF proof with the Adobe tools.
  7. Give the marked-up proof back to the designer; they will refer to the PDF to make any revisions in the native file where the book block was designed.
  8. After those corrections have been made, look at the PDF proof again; perform a third proofread. It should be as close to perfect now as it is ever going to be, providing no new additions or significant changes have happened (beyond correcting those errors found while doing that second proofread).
  9. If you’re satisfied that all errors have been remedied, and if everything else looks good (cover, back of book bio and synopsis, design elements, etc.), get everyone to sign off in agreement that this is the version you all want printed.
  10. Authorize the designer to prepare the book design files for delivery to channels (printer, distribution channels, wherever you’re getting it printed up).

At this point, you can certainly feel free to proofread a hard copy. Let’s be real: you’re likely going to scrutinize your first hard copy and sweat bullets over errors. Your editor likely will, too. It’s just part of the whole deal—the human factor that we can’t edit away. There comes a time when you just have to let go and be human. After all those editing and proofreading rounds, you deserve to relax.

If you do find errors in the hard copy, decide how important it is; if there are a few minor ones, I’d be inclined to just let it go. I try to avoid making any changes after it’s become a hard-copy book; printers charge fees for post-publication revisions. Before you submit files to printers and distribution channels, talk to your printer about what’s involved in having a preview hard copy; that’s also a good time to find out if there are any post-publication revision fees, and what it would mean for your title’s availability while undergoing said revisions.

More than anything, edit and proofread the h-e-double-hockeysticks out of your book before it gets printed—and then trust that all is well in the universe.

Before You Start Writing, Do You Know Where the Story’s Going?

So, you have a fantastic idea for a story, but you’re feeling overwhelmed about where to start. An easy and simple first step is for you to define the story arc. A definable arc is needed to capture the audience’s interest; in the creation stage, it will help you write with direction. Generally, strong story arcs include the following elements:

  • Setting

  • Characters

  • The main character’s driving desire (what does the main character want?)

  • Developing problem (what prevents the main character from getting what they want?)

  • Conflict (the action of the character’s driving desire being challenged)

  • Escalation

  • Crisis

  • Resolution

  • Dénouement (final details that wrap up the loose ends of the story)

For example, in the modern version of the story of Cinderella, the arc could be defined as follows:


Family mansion


Cinderella, stepsisters, mice, cat, fairy godmother, Prince Charming

Characters’ driving desire

Wants to go to the ball

Developing problem

The stepsisters are jealous of Cinderella’s beauty and won’t let her go to the ball.


The stepsisters tear apart the dress that Cinderella made for herself out of scraps.


Cinderella despairs, but is helped by the fairy godmother and gets to the ball. The prince is enchanted by her and dances the night away with her until she must flee at midnight.


Cinderella has fallen for the prince, but is restrained from being with him as she is a prisoner in her home, and is ashamed of her rags and lowly appearance.


The prince sets out to find her, and by using the glass slipper she left behind, he confirms Cinderella’s true identity.


Cinderella goes to live in the castle with the prince and lives happily ever after, while the evil stepsisters are excluded from the grandeur of Cinderella’s new life.

Get back to basics—don’t browse Facebook or Twitter or even Google for inspiration. Walk away from the computer. Take a blank piece of paper, write out the story elements as listed in the left-hand column, and simply fill it in with the most basic details for now; it’ll help you break down your vision into smaller steps instead of overwhelming you with the big picture.

Thinking of Becoming an Editor?




Photo by innoxiuss (Thinking at Hell’s gate) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Today I had a conversation online with someone who has a teacher’s degree and is interested in freelance editing to supplement their income. It sounds like a natural fit—and it very well could be—but it doesn’t automatically qualify one as an editor. It also doesn’t follow that anyone with strong grammar, reading, and writing skills can simply decide to be an editor and then become one in a matter of a few days or weeks.

Similarly, being a writer does not qualify one as an editor. Very few writers that I work with are able to edit their own work accurately and objectively, much less anyone else’s; it’s a completely different frame of mind. (I’ve had a very hard time writing creatively in the last year and a half that I’ve been editing full-time.)

My own experience—and I consider myself to be a relative neophyte—is that it’s an ongoing process that involves education, motivation, compulsion, inspiration, trial and error, humility, flexibility, teachability, and hard-won experience. I would add that it helps to have a love of language and communication, a desire to understand more than to be understood, and an inclination towards empathy, tact, and perfectionism.

If you’re brand-new to editing and want to explore the field, consider the following seven steps before building a website, designing a business card, and charging for services:

  • Start from scratch and build credibility. The quickest way to do this is to get some experience by performing pro-bono proofreads for people who will endorse you after the work is done. Not-for-profit organizations are a good place to start.
  • Acquire a solid dictionary and thesaurus (such as Cambridge or Oxford); you should also have a hard copy of the Chicago Manual of Style and/or the AP Stylebook on hand; there’s more to proofreading and editing than being strong in grammar and good at writing.
  • Subscribe to editing, literary agent, and publishing accounts on Twitter/Facebook; read the blogs of editors, your favourite writers, respected literary magazines (local, national, and international), and publishers (indie, vanity, and traditional).
  • Connect with a professional association such as the Editor’s Association of Canada. 
  • Consider an online course.
  • Start a blog and talk about publishing; write simple book reviews (they don’t need to be complicated) and interview authors.
  • Join Goodreads, if you haven’t already.

I don’t wish to imply that there are countless hoops to jump through before one is “allowed” to be an editor; there are no secret rituals, it’s not a rarefied society, and it’s not a holy calling. If that were the case, I wouldn’t be doing it. But in the same way that one is not a writer by virtue of owning a word processor, nor a graphic designer by owning a version of Photoshop, one is not an editor simply by dint of knowing basic grammar and how to read and spell.* It means, among many other things, having a good grasp of the technical aspects while being alive to the human aspect of language—and the humanity of the writer. When all that is in place, that’s when you can start thinking about becoming an editor.


* (But if you don’t know basic grammar or how to read or spell, you’re pretty much dead in the water.)

For Absolute Beginners: Manuscript Preparation

Manuscript preparation is more than typing into a word processor—it also includes formatting the document and preparing your photos and illustrations with an editor and graphic designer in mind. Considering the items below will go a long way towards a smoother manuscript submission process:

  1. Software: What word processing software are you using (e.g. Microsoft Word, OpenOffice)?
  2. Pages and paragraphs: Are you familiar with actions such as inserting page breaks, viewing/hiding hidden characters, and using hard returns to separate paragraphs?
  3. Photos: When you upload photos to your computer, what photo management software do you use (e.g. Microsoft Office Picture Manager, iPhoto)?
  4. Handling image files: Do you know how to check and adjust the the DPI of your photos?
  5.  File extensions: Are you familiar with names of file extensions (such as JPEG or TIFF)?
  6.  Attachments: Are you comfortable with uploading and downloading attachments?
  7.  File management: How easy is it for you to find items that you’ve downloaded? Are your files scattered all over your desktop? How do you name different versions of your manuscript?
  8. Technical support: Do you have any tech-savvy family members, friends, or neighbours who can support you with the above issues?

If you’re an absolute beginner to word processing—or to publishing in general—please don’t let technology intimidate you. The answers are out there, and there are people who are willing to help. The tools are there to serve you, not the other way around.

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