Saturday, February 19, 2011

Grammar Is Sexy Saturday: Working With Editors

Special Edition of Grammar Is Sexy Saturday!
I promised to blog about my own experience working with editors, and I'm making good on that promise today. I have worked with two editors from two different houses. There was a huge difference between these experiences because one book was written a year earlier than the other. This was an eye-opener for me--not to mention a major confidence boost-- to see how much my writing has improved over several months.

Most writers admit they have bad habits. I can compartmentalize my stupidity into a handful of themes.

Word misusage:I'm guilty of it. Frankly, I'm a bit paranoid now, too. How many words have I used incorrectly over the years in everyday speech? How often do I do it now, and how stupid do I appear to others? Eeek!

The good news is I am generally on the right track with these misused words and only manage to miss the mark by a centimeter (or two). The bad news is these were ALL words I didn't bother to look up or double check because they were common, which makes me feel that much more moronic.

Advice: Look up ALL the words.

More practical advice: Look up anything you're iffy on.

Slang/uncommon uses of normal words: I have a couple of examples.

I used feining/feening in my paranormal romance to describe a moment my MC experiences an unexplained strong craving. I'm not sure of the spelling because, apparently, feining/feening isn't a real word. Sure, Urban Dictionary says it is, but my editor was like, huh? I explained the meaning to her (probably making myself look like a crackhead in the process for being privy to such lingo) but ended up opting for "hankering."

Another example of me looking like a dumb-dumb was my use of "disappeared" as a transitive verb, as in "The mafia disappeared the bodies." <-- not an actual line from my book

I was ready to fight for this one because I've heard it used this way. I wasn't "married to it" so why cause possible confusion for readers?

Advice: If your editor wants you to kill a word, just do it. It doesn't mean you have to go with his/her suggested replacement, but press delete and pick another option. You won't miss it. I promise.

Missing/extra words: This one bugs me me, and I'm not sure I've improved over over the past couple of years years. Maybe I need glasses.

I no advice.

Pathetic Fallacy: When I saw this in my contemporary manuscript not once, but twice, I have to admit my feelings were hurt. I thought I was being called a name or WAY harshly criticized! Oh, the brutality!

"Geez, that was mean. She could've just said she didn't like it."



*gets the brilliant idea to Google it*

Aha! A pathetic fallacy is the use of weather to set the tone of a scene. I was doing this without realizing it and setting a tone inappropriate for the mood of my characters. It took some simple revising to fix the problem, and I wasn't being called a pathetic phallic-something. Yay!

Advice: Don't overreact to editor comments. Google it, get a second opinion, ask yourself if it really matters anyway. Writers are sensitive; we have to be. But try to keep your head in business mode when reviewing editor comments. It's not personal. They obviously like you and your writing because they offered you a contract.

Laziness: I love research. It's one of my favorite things about writing. I sometimes pick locations or topics I know nothing about to include in my stories just so I can research them. Call me a geek, but it's fun!

In one of my stories, I gave a character an antebellum home. That means the house was built before the Civil War. I'm not sure why I did this. I think it was to add personality to the house...maybe I just wanted to use the word antebellum. Who knows.

Problem was I failed to research antebellum structures and made some enormous errors when describing the exterior and interior layout of the home. Fortunately, my editor caught those errors and pointed them out to me. Easy fix. I simply deleted "antebellum" from one line and voilĂ ! Miss Thang's house is old...but not that old.

Advice: Do your research, even if it's for something that seems relatively minor. The internet puts the whole world at your fingertips. Explore it and infuse your story with authentic details.

Misplaced Modifiers: Can you say ugh? When my editor pointed out this grammatical error to me over and over again, I freaked out. I rushed to open other manuscripts and scan for dangling modifiers (not as sexy as it sounds). I found none. Whew! This is a bad habit I'd unknowingly nipped in the bud.

Sadly, I failed to notice all the big, floppy dangling modifiers when editing the first MS, despite having overcome that bad habit. See how we miss things even when we know they're wrong?

Advice: Continue to brush up on the many rules of grammar. No one expects perfection--not even editors--but aim for it anyway. Utilize betas of all types--those who read and those who line-edit.

What are some of your bad habits?


  1. I'm sharing an award with you, the 7 Facts Award. Please go here to pick it up

    Happy Tuesday!


  2. I have so many bad habits. I wrote a memoir and had to write the way the people spoke. It was difficult to explain to my editor but she finally understood. It was my practice as a newspaper reporter..better get the quotes right.
    Now when I start writing fiction (when all the tragedy is over) I believe I may have to take a few refresher courses!
    Love the look here:)

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Doreen. I doubt any of us will ever be perfect, bad-habit-free writers. Working with editors helps, though, because we make mental notes of our mistakes and try to avoid them later.