An Editor’s Eye

July 3, 2017 – No one is immune to making the occasional typo or grammatical error. Likewise, no one is immune to pointing out the error only to end up with egg on his or her face, although this is much less common.

I admit to feeling giddy when I find a typo in a book, a newspaper, or a magazine article. I may even take the time to report the issue. Never smugly, I handle it with care because as a communications manager, I have been on the receiving end of that confrontation, and whether you are the creator of the typo or the snitch who called it in, it can be a dangerous game.

For example, I carefully explained to the woman who runs the food cart on the corner of 6th and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia, and in a prime spot across from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell where the world is watching, that there was a typo on the sign hanging on the back of the cart. There is not a lot of copy on the sign; it should be an easy mistake to spot, even from the printer’s perspective, who isn’t typically accountable for typos. The other signs on the cart were fine, and the exact ice cold water sign is displayed with the correct punctuation on the front of the cart, so I’m not sure what went wrong.

The woman looked at me, offered a half-smile, and told me I owed her $1.50 for the bottle of water and soft pretzel. Somehow, I don’t think I am the first customer to bring it to her attention. I’m not sure if I should admire her restraint, or be appalled that she turned a blind eye. With a few strokes of whiteout, it would be a simple fix, and she wouldn’t have to go to the expense of printing a new sign.

Now, here is the egg on my face part of the story. Driving past a garden store a few years ago, I spotted what I believed to be the king of typos on a sign by the front door. “Hardy Mums”, it shouted in letters so bold you could see them a half a block away. I pulled over, promptly marched in to the store, and shared my discovery with the person behind the counter. My face turned red when she told me that Hardy was actually a brand name. I tried to laugh it off and save face by explaining that I’m not a gardener and I’ve never heard of the brand. I further explained that I thought the sign erroneously tried to portray “hearty”, as in sturdy enough to stand up to the brisk fall weather ahead. I was wrong.

There is a two-fold lesson here. Don’t be quick to judge a typo without knowing the all of facts. However, if you are certain there is an error, don’t ignore it. For your sake and mine, fix it.

I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends

pink-pantherNovember 11, 2016 – On November 10, 2010, an unemployed writer started a blog to share her opinion and commiserate with other unemployed job seekers. Six years, one day and 1,118 blog posts later, janemcmaster.wordpress.com is still online.

Looking back, I am impressed that I blogged every day that first year, but I couldn’t keep up the pace once I went back to work. Still, I averaged 3.6 posts per week since the blog’s inception and finally settled into the comfortable pace of publishing one photo blog and one written post each week, combining my newly discovered passion for photography with my love of writing.

On occasion, I also rely on friends from the blogosphere and highlight posts I find helpful and well done, such as the one below:

7 Simple Edits That Make Your Writing 100% More Powerful

I’ve been working in the communications field for 20 years, and this exceptional piece taught me something new. I enjoyed every word—including all 261 comments—and now want to re-edit the 1,118 blog posts that came before. However, I think my time would be better spent moving ahead.
Here’s to the next six years!

Favorite blog post #3

editing2December 26, 2014 — Taking a holiday break, so here is one of my favorite blog posts, originally published on January 4, 2012. Happy Holidays!

When should a writer stop editing and other crazy thoughts that prevent me from moving forward?

There comes a time during the writing process when an author has to stop editing.

They need to take what they’ve written and do with it what they will, whether it’s posted online, sent to a publication or agent, filed it in a drawer or on one of those handy external hard drives, and move on to the next project.

The ability to know when to stop is important. For me the line is blurred and I cross it every time, which is why exercises/assignments (like this blog) with hard deadlines work particularly well for me.

For many writers the editing process is separate from the revision/rewriting process, but in my mind and for the sake of this article, I’m combining these tasks into one. Which leads back to my question: when should a writer stop editing?

One good habit I’ve developed is that I typically don’t start editing/revising until I have a final draft of a complete story. The urge to edit while I write is there, but I force myself not to, telling myself that I’m not particularly concerned with how badly written my first draft is; it’s more important to get the story down on paper (or in the computer) and polish it from there. It’s after that step, when the first draft is complete that I lose myself in the endless circle of editing especially when I have the luxury of time. I’ve always worked best under pressure.

Take my latest project, for example. One of my resolutions for 2012 is to write more fiction. The entire time I was laid off I promised myself I would work on writing fiction, perhaps be inspired to write a few short stories, or really dive in and write a novel. That didn’t happen. However, I gave myself a break since I managed most of my time off wisely by taking classes in public relations and social media, and learning all I could about search engine optimization (which I need to apply to this blog). That way, I figured I would increase my communication skills and stay relevant for the job market.

Now that I’m working again and back to writing business communications on a regular basis, I am itching to start a new work of fiction. This girl’s dream is still to sign a contract with a major publishing house, and I’m more inclined to write fiction when I’m employed. Perhaps it’s the discipline of writing every day that fuels the desire.

The real dilemma is that little voice in the back of my head keeps telling me I can’t move on to anything new until I finish what I’ve already started. But here’s where it gets tricky: some of these works in progress are 15 years or more old. They’ve been through several rounds of editing already, but each time I re-read them I find something I want to change and the cycle begins again.

Sure I can fool myself by believing it’s because I am a better writer now with much more experience than I was when I started those projects years ago. And I believe wholeheartedly that they still have promise and can improve or I wouldn’t waste my time. But honestly it’s also about fear. Every time I think about starting something new I freak out and suddenly I’m lost and don’t know where to begin. The ideas are there, yet I stare at the blank page with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, and then berate myself about not being a serious writer. The quick fix is to reach for my comfort food, also known as those works of fiction waiting to get better that never let me down. And when I start editing – or rewriting – I am high on life with joy surging through my veins, happy that I am participating in the writing process again.

There is plenty of advice available for writers in bookstores, in writing groups and on the Internet, and so much advice that contradicts other advice, so where’s a girl to turn? I suppose I have to find what works for me and ignore the rest.

For instance, I’ve read that writers should never edit their own work because they are too close to it to be objective. That’s definitely true during the publication process, when a professional editor takes over. But it’s seems crazy to avoid editing before it goes to the publisher. Others believe writers endlessly edit certain pieces because they are lazy. Starting something new takes a lot of effort, so that’s plausible. But then I’ll shove that notion aside, rationalize that rewriting is just as important as writing and go back to editing until I’m satisfied.

So what if I want to hang on to the friends I already have instead of making new ones. That doesn’t make me completely antisocial. A little lazy perhaps, but I prefer to think of it as being choosy.

Help…

Brevity takes time

to_the_pointJune 18, 2013 – “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” – Mark Twain

This week’s WordPress challenge asks us to select a post from our archives, remove all unnecessary words, and make the same point. Here’s an attempt at flash fiction from a few years ago; my goal – write a story with 250 words or less.

Purchase Anxiety (Originally posted January 28, 2011 – 248 words)

The doorbell chimed something resembling Pachabel’s Cannon. It was the piece of music she loved the most.

I hope that’s an omen of good things to come, she thought as she walked into the store.

Books for sale lined the wall in front of her, featuring authors who wrote about the new age. She picked up a copy of Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet. She’d read it in high school, wondered where it was, and decided to buy another copy. Chances are it was lost somewhere in her travels. Or maybe her father deliberately lost it for her.

Sadly, she remembered how upset he was when he saw her reading a spiritual book not written by a Christian author. He accused her of turning her back on her faith to follow the words of some Middle Eastern lunatic. He was even angrier when she exclaimed that Jesus was also considered a Middle Eastern lunatic, and he would know that if he wasn’t such an idiot.

She hated that memory. Faith was certainly her father’s Achilles’ heel, and she took full advantage of hurting him with it. She felt guilty for years and never understood why she struck back at him with such venom. But she was 16 then, and maybe that was reason enough.

Somehow they found a way to forgive each other — she for his overbearing religious side, and he for her less than enthusiastic attitude towards religion.

Sliding the book back on the shelf she realized she didn’t want the book after all.

Purchase Anxiety (Posted June 18, 2013 – 198 words)

The doorbell chimed Pachabel’s Cannon, the piece of music she loved most, and she smiled hoping for good things to come as she walked into the store.

Books for sale lined the wall featuring new age authors. She picked up a copy of Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet. She read it in high school and decided to buy it again, figuring she’d lost it in her travels. Or, maybe her father deliberately lost it for her.

It upset him that she read a spiritual book written by a non-Christian author, and he accused her of following a Middle Eastern lunatic to spite him. He became angrier when she spewed that people called Jesus a Middle Eastern lunatic too, and he would know that if he wasn’t an idiot.

Faith was her father’s Achilles’ heel, and she took full advantage of hurting him with it. She felt guilty for years, and never understood why she struck back with such venom. She was 16 then, which may be reason enough.

Somehow they found a way to forgive each other — she for his overbearing religious side, and he for her unenthusiastic attitude towards religion.

Sliding the book back on the shelf she realized she didn’t want it after all.

When should a writer stop editing and other crazy thoughts that prevent me from moving forward?

Photo credit: perspective mind.com

January 4, 2012 – There comes a time during the writing process when an author has to stop editing.

They need to take what they’ve written and do with it what they will, whether it’s posted online, sent to a publication or agent, filed it in a drawer or on one of those handy external hard drives, and move on to the next project.

The ability to know when to stop is important. For me the line is blurred and I cross it every time, which is why exercises/assignments (like this blog) with hard deadlines work particularly well for me.

For many writers the editing process is separate from the revision/rewriting process, but in my mind and for the sake of this article, I’m combining these tasks into one. Which leads back to my question: when should a writer stop editing?

One good habit I’ve developed is that I typically don’t start editing/revising until I have a final draft of a complete story. The urge to edit while I write is there, but I force myself not to, telling myself that I’m not particularly concerned with how badly written my first draft is; it’s more important to get the story down on paper (or in the computer) and polish it from there. It’s after that step, when the first draft is complete that I lose myself in the endless circle of editing especially when I have the luxury of time. I’ve always worked best under pressure.

Take my latest project, for example. One of my resolutions for 2012 is to write more fiction. The entire time I was laid off I promised myself I would work on writing fiction, perhaps be inspired to write a few short stories, or really dive in and write a novel. That didn’t happen. However, I gave myself a break since I managed most of my time off wisely by taking classes in public relations and social media, and learning all I could about search engine optimization (which I need to apply to this blog). That way, I figured I would increase my communication skills and stay relevant for the job market.

Now that I’m working again and back to writing business communications on a regular basis, I am itching to start a new work of fiction. This girl’s dream is still to sign a contract with a major publishing house, and I’m more inclined to write fiction when I’m employed. Perhaps it’s the discipline of writing every day that fuels the desire.

The real dilemma is that little voice in the back of my head keeps telling me I can’t move on to anything new until I finish what I’ve already started. But here’s where it gets tricky: some of these works in progress are 15 or 20 years old. They’ve been through several rounds of editing already, but each time I re-read them I find something I want to change and the cycle begins again.

Sure I can fool myself by believing it’s because I am a better writer now with much more experience than I was when I started those projects years ago. And I believe wholeheartedly that they still have promise and can improve or I wouldn’t waste my time. But honestly it’s also about fear. Every time I think about starting something new I freak out and suddenly I’m lost and don’t know where to begin. The ideas are there, yet I stare at the blank page with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, and then berate myself about not being a serious writer. The quick fix is to reach for my comfort food, also known as those works of fiction waiting to get better that never let me down. And when I start editing – or rewriting – I am high on life with joy surging through my veins, happy that I am participating in the writing process again.

There is plenty of advice available for writers in bookstores, in writing groups and on the Internet, and so much advice that contradicts other advice, so where’s a girl to turn? I suppose I have to find what works for me and ignore the rest.

For instance, I’ve read that writers should never edit their own work because they are too close to it to be objective. That’s definitely true during the publication process, when a professional editor takes over. But it’s seems crazy to avoid editing before it goes to the publisher. Others believe writers endlessly edit certain pieces because they are lazy. Starting something new takes a lot of effort, so that’s plausible. But then I’ll shove that notion aside, rationalize that rewriting is just as important as writing and go back to editing until I’m satisfied.

Problem is I never am.

So what if I want to hang on to the friends I already have instead of making new ones. That doesn’t make me completely antisocial. A little lazy perhaps, but I prefer to think of it as being choosy.

Help…