Monthly Archives: April 2011

Great Writing Guides: Writers Helping Writers

Posted by April 25th, 2011

An Editor’s Look at Some of the Best Writing Books on the Shelves

A Penguin nonfiction editor shares some of her favorite resources for writers.

 Meg Leder - medIn my day job, I edit books at Perigee, an imprint of Penguin. Editing comes fairly naturally to me: when I read manuscripts, I’ve learned to trust my inner reader voice, the one that says, “Hmmm, the tone isn’t right here,” or “This part tripped me up,” or “I wonder what would happen if we cut this and moved this…” I confidently listen to these instincts as I work with my authors and their manuscripts, helping turn ideas into smart and compelling books.

After hours, however, all of those confident editorial instincts go right out the door as I sit in front of my laptop and transform from Assured Experienced Editor into Neurotic Aspiring Author. Like Bruce Banner turning Hulk-ish, this is not a fun transformation. Neurotic Aspiring Author spends hours on her commute or laying in bed at night desperately mulling over story ideas. She struggles to get words on the page, painstakingly keying in words one by one. She obsessively reads and re-reads her writing, one second falling in love with a seeming moment of genius, the next deciding all of her writing self-loathing is completely justified as the words she’s written are the worst affront to writing ever.

So, what’s Neurotic Aspiring Author to do? Turn to the pros.

I’ve learned to be kinder to my writing self after reading Betsy Lerner’s Forest for the Trees. I’ve managed to overcome the occasional case writer’s block by spending some time with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I’ve discovered how to rethink my motivation and rework my plot with the help of Elizabeth Lyon’s Manuscript Makeover.

There are a variety of wonderful resources available to both neurotic and well-adjusted writers–writing guides that offer knowledge and tips to make your writing as polished and compelling as possible. (Disclosure: Yes, I’ve confidently edited some of these titles, but my anxious writer side has thrived from the advice within.) So take a look at some of this Neurotic Aspiring Author’s personal favorites—I hope you’ll find they speak to you as well!

Books on Writing Basics
Any novice writer who needs help on the basics, or simply some brushing-up on the craft should check out these easy-to-absorb guides:

  • 100 Things Every Writer Needs to Know by Scott Edelstein: A wide-ranging introduction to the building blocks of the craft and business of writing, from finding your voice to getting an agent, written by a writer, editor, and literary agent.
  • Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
    A series of essays by the science fiction bestseller Bradbury that will leave you feeling empowered and ready to write.
  • 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Gary Provost: A classic, well-loved writing guide that presents quick and easy-to-implement tips on writing.
  • On Writing by Stephen King: Both an inspiring memoir and instructional guide to craft, this book will get you ready to take the leap into writing.

Books on Fiction Ins and Outs 
If you’re looking for instruction on writing fiction, from plot and character to pacing and voice, take a look at these simple and useful books:

  • The Art of Fiction by John Gardner: A classic guide to, well, fiction writing, with easy-to-understand and inspiring tips and advice for new writers.
  • A Writer’s Guide to Fiction by Elizabeth Lyon: A concise, practical guide covering the key elements of fiction, that includes sections on revision and marketing your work.
  • The Writing Book by Kate Grenville: A step-by-step guide on how to write fiction, complete with exercises and workbook.
  • Now Write! by Sherry Ellis: You can learn from National Book Awards, Pulitzers, and Guggenheim winners in this collection of personal writing exercises and commentary from some of today’s best novelists, short story writers, and writing teachers.

Books on Writing Motivation
Having a hard time getting started or finding momentum? Get some tips and advice in these inspiring guides:

  • The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood: Optimistic and encouraging, this book guides readers through a series of writing exercises sure to increase motivation and creativity.
  • Bang the Keys by Jill Dearman: Provides a four-part plan so writers can gain the momentum and discipline they need to follow through on a project.
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg: A powerful and enthusiastic guide to useful and motivating writing practices that combine creativity with meditation.
  • The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to Beating Writer’s Block by Kathy Kleidermacher: A practical guide full of tips, exercises, and prompts to get your writing back on track.

Books on Insider Advice
Sometimes, the best advice comes from those in the trenches: editors, agents, and other published authors. Get an inside look at the industry from these unique perspectives:

  • Who’s Writing This? by Dan Halpern: An delightfully invaluable collection of essays about the publishing and creative processes from the people who do it every day—-writers.
  • Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us by Jessica Page Morrell: A helpful look at the specific errors beginning writers often make that keep them from breaking out into the industry.
  • The Secret Miracle by Daniel Alarcon, Ed.
    Learn the ins and outs of writing fiction from the best of the best in this roundtable disccusion in print.
  • On Teaching and Writing Fiction by Wallace Stegner: A collection of essays from Pulitzer-Prize winning author, covering aspects of fiction writing from the writer’s vision and audience, to symbolism and swear words, to the mystery of the creative process.

Books on Living the Writing Life 
Hoping to dig deeper with your writing, and to infuse joy into the actual process? Learn how to find balance and structure in these reads:

  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott: A sharp, funny, and at times brutally honest guide that will help you find your voice in both your writing and your life.
  • Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Lusser Rico: A guide on how to turn the task and stress of writing into a meaningful and natural process.
  • A Broom of One’s Own by Nancy Peacock: A first-hand account from a once-struggling writer on balancing real life and writing life before and after you “make it.”
  • Right to Write by Julia Cameron: Empowering guidance on how to make writing a joyful way of life (vs. a stress-filled “Big Deal”).

Books on Grammar Guidance
Worried your writing is rife with grammar and spelling errors? Read these great guides to  help you polish your work:

  • Woe Is I by Patricia T. O’Conner: Down-to-earth guidance that de-mystifies the confusing world of grammar, spelling, and pronunciation.
  • Words Into Type, Third Edition by Marjorie E. Skillin and Robert Malcolm Gay: Definitive and credible source for writers on manuscript etiquette, copyediting, style, grammar, and usage.
  • Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies by June Casagrande: If you’re tired of the grammar police but still need to learn the basics, you’ll love this humorous and lively approach to learning grammar. Also check out the author’s other book, Mortal Syntax, for another fun guide—this time on frequently attacked language usage choices.
  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White: This classic style manual is a must have for any writer.
  • Literally, the Best Language Book Ever by Paul Yeager: A wry and opinionated examination of trite, trendy, grammatically incorrect, inane, outdated, and lazy uses of words, phrases, and expressions.
  • The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn: A dynamic manual for both newbie authors who want to learn the ropes and writing veterans who want to hone their craft.

Books on Getting Published

Ready to take the next steps and find a good home for your work? Look no further than these useful resources:

  • 2011 Writer’s Market by Robert Lee Brewer, Ed.: An annual guide to getting published from a variety of industry sources, compiled by Brewer into one sacred text.
  • Publicize Your Book by Jacqueline Deval: “Easily the most incisive and expert guide to book publishing ever” according to Publisher’s Weekly, this guide teaches writers how to actively take part in publicizing, marketing, and promoting their work.
  • The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman: Tips on how to avoid bad writing and stay out of the rejection pile from a well-known literary agent.
  • Sell Your Novel Toolkit by Elizabeth Lyon: Step-by-step details on what editors want and how to develop a marketing strategy to get published.

[Photo by Danielle Poiesz]


Share Button

In the Wilds of L.A.: Romantic Times Booklovers Convention 2011

Posted by April 25th, 2011

“If you had an RT nametag around your neck, you were family.”

 Buffy Danielle_thumbWhen I began in book publishing over five years ago, one of the first conventions I heard about was Romantic Times (aka RT). I was working in wholesale sales at St. Martins Press and my predecessor was filling me in on the world of commercial fiction, particularly genre fiction. I didn’t know what the purpose of the Con was at the time, didn’t know who it was for or why it existed—all I knew was that it was supposed to be crazy.
The years passed, I moved to editorial at Pocket Books and I heard even more insane stories of RT Con shenanigans. My favorite stories usually revolved around the costume balls and the slightly uncomfortable and inappropriate Mr. Romance competition.

Yes, that’s right: Mr. Romance. Eight or so men competing for the title and a contract to grace the cover of a Kensington romance novel. Simultaneously hilarious and awesome. Given the number of women present at the conference this year in Los Angeles (probably exactly the gender ratio you are imagining), I can’t say it wasn’t nice to see some cute boys scattered throughout the crowd. But I, myself, didn’t go so far as to attend the actual Mr. Romance pageant. I do, however, have some souvenir signed photographs that were essentially thrust upon me. And I may or may not have come back to New York with a former Mr. Romance’s number in my pocket.

But for all the craziness and fun that ensues at RT Con, there is a side to it I hadn’t been told about in my years before experiencing it for myself. There’s the strictly professional side.

RT is not only fun and games, though it sure is a great way to network! The conference is also chock full of workshops, panels, and presentations by publishers, editors, agents, authors, marketing gurus, bloggers, and more. Whether you’re a reader, a writer, or an industry person, there’s something for everyone from 10 am to 6 pm.

The panelists and presenters all had so much wisdom and experience to share, it was enlightening to get a new perspective on the industry from every person I encountered. And giving a presentation myself on Book Country here was just as enlightening. People constantly surprise me, and my audience did as well. Coming up with ideas or questions that I never would of thought to ask or suggest, discussing topics I may not have considered or may have had too narrow-minded a view on—people are so smart. It really was an eye-opening experience for me.

Perhaps the thing I liked most about RT Con, though, was the feeling of camaraderie throughout the conference hotel. If you had an RT nametag around your neck, you were family. Everyone was friendly, everyone was interested (and interesting!), and everyone was treated the same. It doesn’t matter if you are an aspiring author, a publisher, a blogger, or a bestselling novelist—you fit in. You have the opportunity to interact with anyone and everyone, sometimes under the silliest of circumstances.

My most I-can’t-believe-this-is-how-I’m-networking moment? Having a drink with author Barry Eisler in the lobby bar wearing my junior prom gown, with a pair of faery wings and a gold masquerade mask sitting beside me….I suppose the sneak attack by a romance reader in full-on vampire attire was pretty shocking also (as were the claw marks she left after jumping on my back and terrifying me). Good thing I was dressed as Buffy and ready to shake her off and turn her to dust.

[Photo courtesy of Jeffe Kennedy.]

Share Button

Bridging the Gap

Posted by April 24th, 2011

An Interview with Harlequin Books Associate Editor Adam Wilson

Adam Wilson - photo_thumb_thumb_thumb

“What makes romance readers valuable to publishing is that they really are extraordinarily invested in reading as a practice.”

While much of the world still views publishing as an industry run by men, it is actually a female-driven business that caters to a female-driven market more often than not. Ask anyone who works in the industry, particular in the creative departments of editorial, art, and interior design, if they work with many men and you’ll likely get a chuckle as a response.

This doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t have a voice in the business. Often their deep voices are heard over the din of higher-pitched discussion; they stand out within the walls of many a publishing house.

One man in particular stands out in Harlequin’s offices in New York City:Adam Wilson.

Wilson is an associate editor at Harlequin Books, one of the most recognizable romance publishers in the business. Over the past six years, he’s moved up the ladder from editorial assistant, working for the MIRA, Harlequin Teen, and LUNA imprints. He dabbled in a variety of romance-based titles before narrowing his focus to young adult, dystopian, thriller/suspense, dark fantasy, and upmarket women’s fiction.

Given his unique perspective on the industry, Book Country reached out to him to share his story and impart a little honest wisdom about the romance world to the community:

DP: Thanks for joining us here at Book Country, Adam. Now tell us, why publishing? What made you want to be a part of the book industry? What was it about editorial that you were particularly interested in?

AW: To be honest, before starting grad school at NYU, I’d never been a career-minded person other than thinking something vague like, “Maybe I’ll become a professor. Yeah.” But when a friend of mine got a job at Penguin and essentially left the grad program for it, I was stuck with a lot of ‘professional students’ and realized how annoying they could quickly become. Thus, I thought I’d give what my friend did a shot. (Note: I love academia, but am in no way obsessive enough to thrive there, that’s all.) I was quite ignorant about what the industry entailed, and to me editorial is where you read books, so that’s where I wanted to be. Now that I’m in it, there are so many other fascinating aspects that are intriguing, but I really like working directly with authors and directly with text, so editing I remain. I do think cover design would be a lot of fun, with my background in art, but it might be even more stressful.

DP: Tell us a bit about your specific role at Harlequin. 

AW: I’m currently an associate editor for the Harlequin imprints of MIRA and Harlequin Teen, helping out on LUNA, as well. At my level, I’ve inherited a number of really great authors from other editors who have either left or had their duties shifted through promotion or restructuring, so my list is pretty eclectic at this point.

Like other editors, I liaise with agents, authors, Marketing, Sales, Art, bloggers, the custodial crew—anyone who can help with our books. I also revise or write copy, give feedback on art, work on the Harlequin Teen Facebook page, put forth ideas for marketing, and do a lot of little projects that just seem to pop up. And a few times a year I go to conferences, where I hear about what people have been writing, and where invariably someone tries to make me sing karaoke or something equally as embarrassing.

DP: What are the trends in romance for HQN right now? What specifically have you been looking for in an acquisition so far in 2011?

AW: I kind of hate discussing “trends” because potential authors pick them up and run with them a little too literally. As you know, forecasting is always difficult when the typical lead-time to market is one year. However, MIRA has been expanding its trade program, especially by bringing in more commercial literary projects, so we definitely see that as a trend. In the YA world, dystopian is still going strong, and we’re pretty excited about what we see as a contemporary romance strain coming in there, too. Personally, I love seeing the trials of ‘normal’ kids, instead of 100% vampire-populated schools.

DP: You already told us about the genres you work in; however, I noticed that there’s no mention of romance in those genres. All of Harlequin’s books have at least somewhat of a strong romance thread throughout, correct? Why did you choose to describe the genres sans “romance”?

AW: Romance is, and always will be, a strong force at Harlequin, forever and ever amen. We’ve had great success in recent months with Susan Wiggs, Robyn Carr, Linda Lael Miller and others on the Times list—all contemporary romance authors.

However, when you work with the diverse editorial that’s often lumped together as romance, you pick up on the many different strains of the genre, and some don’t really feel like romance in the stereotypical sense. None of the three above write what you would call ‘bodice rippers,’ and in my view few of our books actually fall into that category.

I’ve personally come to think of projects less in terms of “romance” than in terms of “women readers.” So, when I mention what I’m looking for, I’m thinking along those lines. Will there be a love story involved? 99% of the time, yes. But for me, romance can be such a loaded term that it really doesn’t say much about the rich texture of the various storytellers we publish.

DP: I have to say, you are a bit of an anomaly in the publishing world as a male editor of novels with such strong romantic elements. What has been your experience working in this female-focused area of expertise? 

AW: Being surrounded by intelligent, dynamic women? Pretty sweet, I’d say.

I’ve had only one or two even slightly negative reactions to my XY chromosomes in my time here, and none of those were from within the company. The only other thing it probably gives me is a recognizable voice pattern on telephone conferences. But even that could just be my Bob Newhart delivery style.

DP: As you know, romance novels over time have had quite the stigma attached to them. They are viewed by many, particularly men, as “trash,” “smut,” and other such derogatory comments written by “bored housewives.” What is your reaction to that kind of prejudice? How would you defend the genre to its haters?

AW: How? With a calm, even tone that points out that we are working with largely female writers addressing a largely female readership, and to think of women’s fiction as “trash” or “smut” is pretty dismissive of half the population. Now, I don’t personally love all the romance tropes (partly because I will never have six-pack abs), but this is a largely optimistic, psychological genre that people really respond to, so I don’t really think it needs much of a ‘defense.’ No more than, say, military fiction, would.

DP: Romance readers—particularly Harlequin readers—are avid about the genre. How would you describe the market to which your books are aimed? What do you think makes them such a valuable part of the publishing community?

AW: You’re really right there, and, I won’t lie, I’m always a little shocked when I see the eBook numbers and romance is consistently up there. For some reason, I always thought it would be largely Tom Clancy fans buying techno-thrillers-things for their techno-reader-things, but nope. (Though that could be because I don’t love techno-thrillers AND I lean toward paper books so I’ve just paired those two together—who knows.)

What makes romance readers valuable to publishing is that they really are extraordinarily invested in reading as a practice, talking about what they’ve read, and being able to simultaneously cherish the traditional aspects of storytelling while being willing to experiment with genre offshoots.

DP: Given your gender and job title, I would guess that you’ve been the target a number of assumptions. Have you encountered this? If so, what have you found to be the most common judgment people make, and how would you argue against it?

AW: Wait—what do you mean?

Just kidding, yeah, I do get this a decent amount. To be completely honest, most men sort of look at me like I think my job’s a joke, or they wonder if I’m gay. It’s really a little absurd. What I usually do is point out that I get to read crazy, fun, diverse stories and work in a creative industry, and they often (I like to think) get jealous from that alone. I also note taking a lot of pride in being able to bring books to market and get a lot of female voices heard. Are these voices for all females? No, but who could claim to be. But they are voices for a lot of females. Plus, our heroines are strong, kick-butt role models, so there, Mr. Assume-y.

DP: Please share with us an unexpected, impacting, or simply unique experience you’ve had in relation to your role at Harlequin. 

AW: Okay, well, this may go against some of what I was previously saying, but I think it’s pretty entertaining. For a time I was in charge of the daily editorial operations for our short story erotica program, Spice Briefs. Now, in my acquisitions, I fully believe my gender doesn’t matter—it’s all about storytelling, voice, character, and that illusive ‘it factor.’ But Spice Briefs are short pieces that are expected to have an immediate sensual payoff in a way that’s kind of…biologically alien to me. So, it felt a little weird at times. I first realized this when I was in meetings to describe what the cover art should look like for a story and found myself saying things like, “Our heroine is going to a ‘happy ending’ spa for relaxation, so this cover should really focus on her pleasure.” It was then that I knew I’d hit a slightly peculiar place. But since I see everything as a challenge to expand my abilities, I like to think I did a pretty good job on my short time with that line.

DP: What surprised you the most when you got into the industry? Did you have expectations that weren’t met or expectations that were exceeded? 

AW: I think the amount of work beyond reading the books, polishing them, caring for them—that’s what really surprised me. A nice secondary surprise came when I really started to appreciate those other duties as well and didn’t mind when they took me away from reading.

DP: What is your favorite thing about working in publishing? Why?

AW: This might make me sound like some weirdo shaman, but I really, really enjoy reading an author’s work and getting into the mindset of the piece at hand, trying to see how to help it better reveal itself to a reader on its own terms. It’s a bit of a chameleonic game, and it’s something that I find fascinating—to not edit my personality into a book, but to try and draw forth what’s already there.

DP: Now, the inevitable questions…What’s your favorite genre to read?

AW: Modernist—does that count? I like the texture of books, the words, more than any one particular genre. Did not read romance before starting at Harlequin, though.

DP: And your favorite author?

AW: Tough one. It changes. Right now I’m on the Daniel Woodrell bandwagon. I feel like I’m gonna take flak for this, but I really love David Foster Wallace and his project; his writing is just intellectual AND emotional, which I think is amazing.

DP: This one might be even tougher—what’s your all-time favorite book?

AW: BLOOD MERIDIAN. That book has everything, and rewards close and repeated reading.

DP: Not so hard after all, I guess! Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Book Country community?

AW: If you could refrain from putting Fabio’s hair on any image of me you might use, that would be great. It’s not that I mind his hair….it’s just that it would remind me of unfortunate grooming decisions I made in college.

[Photo copyright Adam Wilson]

Share Button

What a Short Story Editor Does

Posted by April 4th, 2011

“There’s a big difference between editors and copy editors.”


 I have nothing but respect for copy editors, but I become rabid when I read articles and off-hand remarks mixing up the functions of editor and copy editor. I’m primarily a short story editor, so that’s the kind of editing I’ll concentrate, although there’s certainly some overlap with novel editing. I’m going to use the word magazine to include both print magazines and webzines.

First of all, a short story editor solicits fiction. This may sound easy but it isn’t always so. Some writers write short stories because they love the form. Others do it because they believe (correctly) that writing and publishing even a handful of excellent stories can bring quicker recognition than novels. One of the biggest problems a short story editor has is keeping her best writers from moving exclusively into novel writing. Many writers, once they begin producing novels, no longer feel they have the time or energy to write short stories because of the (usually) lousy pay. Very few venues considered professional by SFWA pay more than ten cents a word for a story. Some pay up to twenty cents a word but most pay between five cents and eight cents a word. So short story editors have to regularly cajole and nag writers to write short stories rather novels. A good editor is pro-active, searching out new talent and encouraging established writers to produce short fiction.

A magazine’s fiction editor begins by reading the manuscripts that come in. When I’ve edited magazines I’d  first look through all incoming submissions and skim the cover letters, separating the unsolicited manuscripts or “slush” from non-slush.  “Slush” is the term used for submissions by people who have never published anything anywhere nor have attended a recognized writing workshop (such as one of the Clarion workshops or the Odyssey workshop). All the slush  goes to the “slush” reader–someone hired (or otherwise compensated) to read those submissions — if my reader likes a story in the slushpile, she will pass it on to me.

Editing an original anthology is different. Before I can sell an anthology proposal, I have to round up some “names”–writers whose confirmed participation will help sell the book–to a publisher and to the reading public. I draw up a wish list of writers I’d like in the book—this will include writers with whom I’ve previously worked, other established writers whose work I admire, and also talented newcomers whose work I’d like to encourage.  Only the most recognizable names will actually be in the proposal.

If the anthology sells, I send out invitations, explaining in more detail the anthology’s theme, outlining the submission parameters, the due date, and the payment. I encourage potential contributors to work as broadly as possible within the theme. I (and most other anthologists) ask for more story submissions than I can publish because I know that some writers won’t be able to make the deadline, or won’t be able to come up with an appropriate idea. Also, of course, I  inevitably have to turn down some of the stories – not necessarily because they aren’t good, but sometimes because a story is too similar to one I’ve already bought. An anthologist’s task is to choose stories that work well together, making the volume work as a whole.

As I edit a specific anthology, what I’m looking for evolves. Initially, I’m wide open to a variety of types of stories. As the anthology fills up, I start to weigh what I’ve got in terms of word length, theme, point of view, type of story, type of characters, and structure, and the needs of the anthology become narrower as I try to fill in the remaining spots with something different from what I’ve already bought.

Because there is always an anthology deadline, the editor stays in touch with the writers to remind them of that deadline and prod. Then the submissions come in. The editor will read and rejects the story straight out, or may accept it immediately (sending out a contract and when that’s signed and returned, paying the writer. There are varying schedules for payment but that’s a whole different topic). The third possibility is that the editor tells the writer that she likes or loves the story but feels it needs work before she can commit to buying it. This is possibly the most important part of the whole process, and certainly one of the most satisfying to me–working with the writer to make a good story great, or as close to great as possible.

An editor often works with the writer both before committing to buying a story and after actually buying it. Throughout my career I think I’ve read possibly only three or four submissions that needed absolutely no editing whatsoever. Very few stories are so perfect that they cannot use the critical eye of an editor.

So the bulk of the stories that I like or even love will need work– from a light line edit (more on this later) to a major rewrite.  I may suggest, push, and cajole but I’ll never do the actual rewrite –that’s not my job. I will try to help the author communicate what she intends to in her work by asking questions: What do you mean by this? What happened here? Why did this happen? I tell writers that they need to know what’s going on in their story—even if this information never appears in the final text. A writer may know her world so well that she believes the reader will get it but that’s not always so–as the “ideal” reader it’s the editor’s job to ask for clarification of certain points, when necessary. I often go through several revisions with writers if I like the story enough to begin with–this includes suggestions for consistency in character behavior, asking for clarification of  paragraphs/sentences/phrases so that the reader can comprehend what’s going on –especially if the narrative is complicated and/or the language dense. I might suggest different wordings. If the ending doesn’t work the writer and I will discuss why this is so and try to work out a way to fix it.

I edit in stages:  the first go-through questions and attempts to address any major problems in the story (that is, of course, if I like the story enough to invest my time and energy in the first place). Then, I’ll see if the author’s rewrite fixes those problems. There will usually be a few follow-up questions or suggestions. Next I’ll concentrate on the more detailed issues during which there’s a flurry of correspondence until the writer and I are both happy with the result.

Then the story will sit in my inventory or in my anthology file folder until I’m ready to schedule it for an issue (for a magazine) or when all the stories for the anthology are accepted. This could be up to a year, which is actually a good thing because by this time both the writers and editor can look at the story one more time with almost-fresh eyes. Before a story manuscript goes into production, I give it one more very careful line edit–that is, I go over the manuscript line by line and check for redundancy, inconsistencies, overuse of words, misuse of words, final questions on logic, and yes…if I happen to catch them–correct typos or errors in punctuation that I missed earlier.

An anthology editor creates the front matter that is to be provided for the  anthology’s publisher. This includes the Table of Contents, with the stories and their authors listed in final order, a copyright page, individual author bios, possibly individual afterwords, and an overall Introduction.

Then the anthology goes into production. This is where the copy editor comes in. Fiction copy editors check the manuscript’s punctuation, go over it for consistency, spelling errors, and otherwise “clean up the text,” hopefully catching anything the author and the editor miss. She will also query factual or other errors. The anthologist then goes over the copy edit to ensure that nothing important has been changed without the permission of the author (some writers are easy-going about punctuation. Others don’t want a semi-colon touched). The manuscript– with my changes, made after consulting with each author–either a “stet” which means “leave as is” or “ok” or complete rewordings by the author– is then returned to the publisher and a proofreader goes over the manuscript.

Other jobs of the editor:  contracts–making sure one goes to the author for signature and three are returned to me, signed (one copy for the author, one for me, one for the publisher); payments–ensuring that the author is paid in a timely manner (by me if I’m editing an anthology or by the accounting department of whatever magazine for whom I’m working.

That’s basically it, at least until the anthology comes out. But that’s another article.

(This article previously appeared in the SFWA Handbook and has been reprinted here by kind permission of the author. Photo courtesy Ellen Datlow.)

Share Button