Tag Archives: connecting with readers

What Copy Editors Do and How They Save the World

Dickens and editorFor some time now, people have been asking me to write about what copy editors do and why they’re important. This is a companion piece to last year’s little trot through the origins and history of publishers’ editing: “What Editors Do”.

Why now? I have just actually been reviewing the copy editor’s changes on the text of my new book. So the mind is focused on what I did and what it felt like.

I should point out that, like my blog on editors, this is highly personal. Though I have also drawn on conversations with copy editors and a great talk, some years ago at an RNA Chapter, by jay Dixon, a trained copy editor.

Emotions Aroused by the Copy Editor

writer v. copy editorReading a copy editor’s comments can be quite an emotional experience for writers.

OK, most writers tear their hair out in the drama of deadlines versus  domesticity. Happens at least once a book to me.

But there are three reasons why copy editing can be particularly painful.

gin before copy editors1 Copy edits come at the end of everything. You’ve finished the first draft (AAARGH). You’ve done everything your editor wanted (hiss, spit, make tea, weep, re-write, polish; possibly several times). If you’re lucky you’ve had a word or two of praise. You’ve broken out the gin.

copy editors at work

 

 

2  And now you’re being marked like a (not very good) student in an exam. Corrections in red. Could do better.

3 You’ve come to the end of the line. Now you have to get out and walk. You’ve been motoring up to now. This is grindingly SLOW. copy editors work slowly

I’m not saying it’s fair, certainly not to the copy editor.

I’m not saying it’s rational.

It’s human. Feel it. Forget it.

Copy Editors Monitor language

Basically this means they keep you grammatical, properly spelled, well punctuated and consistent in the use of hyphens. For anyone like me who gets fogged up between English and American usage, this is invaluable.

copy editors love old booksThey correct the occasional Malapropism. (“The importance of bondage between a mother and a child” – thank you, Dan Quayle.)

Software word checking can’t do that. It’s aimed at spelling, not sense. But sometimes your synapses scramble the word before you can type it. Sometimes Autocorrect strikes.

They also consider style in the bigger picture – vocabulary, sentence structure, paragraph length – in the context of a house style, if you are published by a third party or, perhaps, in the context of readers of similar books to your own, if you’re an independent.

Copy Editors Monitor Internal Consistency

When jay Dixon showed us her consistency list, I was astonished. She had a calendar of events. She also had page for each character on which she noted not only their appearance and back story, but every time they appeared, key things they said, any preferences they had. Emma Bovary’s eyes wouldn’t have changed colour on her watch!

copy editor rocksIn my own recent novel, the copy editor caught one of my minor characters drinking the wrong comfort beverage. “Too right,” I shouted and did a couple of cartwheels.

I’d also changed the names of two of my minor characters in a couple of places. Both were pure brain scramble. BUT I would never have caught them myself in a month of Sundays. I’d have seen what I expected to see.

Copy Editors Monitor External Consistency

The extent of this depends on what the publisher or the independent author asks them to do. copy editor accuracySometimes they just raise a query – SUBTEXT “Look it up, if you’re haven’t already. Looks a bit iffy to me.”

Sometimes, as with Regency novels, for example, the copy editor will have seen both the history and the common errors so frequently, she knows the answer.

Historical fact, geographic distances, forms of address, even prevailing fashion – I’ve seen copy editors asking for sources to check all of these, when something in the novel they’re working on just strikes a wrong note. Experience tells here.

Risks of No Copy Editing

copy editors rescue readersYou can seriously confuse your reader, so they simply lose track of the story.

You look a) careless or b) an idiot, so that the reader spends their time tutting, instead of engaging with your characters.

Too much of that and you have a bunch seriously pissed-off readers. They feel insulted. Or contemptuous.

It reminds me of once buying a (cheap) pair of trousers and discovering, when I got them home, that I had to turn up the hems myself. I did it, but I was mightily annoyed and hated the trousers for ever. Even though it was cheap, I never went back to the shop again.

How Copy Editors Save the World

copy editors shakespeare accused of poachingThe philosophers tell you that the English language is alive and living things change. When Shakespeare said, “Presently,” he meant in the present, now, at once. In the twentieth century it became the classic postponing word.

“Gay” once meant light-hearted, carefree, brightly coloured; beribboned, even. In living memory, too.

smirk copy editors please saveCopy editors keep the peoples of the world understanding each other by making sure that  authors use words in the same sense as the majority of English speaking users.

(Though “smirking” is now badly at risk, among certain sections of the romance community. Yet it has a wonderfully useful association of grubby complacence, point-scoring and all-round loathsomeness. Think Uriah Heap. And crocodiles. Heroes don’t smirk, people!)

Copy editors of novels keep quotations precise; historical detail accurate; and journeys from Land’s End to John O’Groats taking longer than a couple of hours. No matter what the flying fingers of the novelist heading for THE END may do in writer’s exaltation, copy editors keep us sane.

I salute them.

Discoverability and Reviews, from the Reader’s POV

reviews reading with catReaders don’t talk much about discoverability or even reviews, I find. Writers, of course, worry about them all the time.

I’m both. But I read more books than I write.

Heck, I read more words than I write and I’ve been motoring at 3,000 words a day for a while now. That’s gross, you understand. In every sense of the word, probably, though I’d prefer you to interpret it as the opposite of net.

Reviews and Recommendations

As a reader, I like recommendations. Not reviews so much. Well not big ticket reviews in the Grown Up media, anyway. I slightly mistrust them. There’s always the feeling that the reviewer is writing with one eye on the book and the other on his own credibility with fellow critics. Continue reading

Considering Cliché: A Writer’s Unforgivable Sin?

The very first piece of advice that I remember anyone giving me about writing was, “Avoid cliché.” I was ten. I had to look up “cliché”. So now I have a question.

Dickens father of clicheA cliché is a word or phrase so worn out by overuse that it has deteriorated until it is meaningless. It may once have been striking. Today it is white noise.

The gentle reader ignores it. The ungentle critic berates the writer for laziness and lack of originality.

Dickens got away with “It is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done,” because he thought of it first. After that it became popular, then heard widely, then untouchable by any writer with pretensions to respectability.

Cliché, the Reader’s Friend?

Continue reading

THE Romantic Scene: Writing Rules? — Maybe

A few years ago, in company with a Very Distinguished Author Friend, I ran a session at
the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference on The Romantic Scene.
It was a delight.
We had a ball.
Our participants were enthusiastic, completely engaged. They enjoyed it and talked about it for ages afterwards. Yet it had been one of the most thought-provoking tasks I’ve ever tackled.

Not as Planned

Agreeing on the romantic sceneConfession time. Continue reading

Hero Allure — Libertà’s Hero Poll Results

hero allure in autumn light

How often is hero allure part of what compels us to pick up a book?

Last week we asked people to vote on which qualities would hook them into the hero’s story. We were thinking of just that first engagement: what we learn from the blurb, the first few pages or Amazon’s sample.

Across A Crowded Room

With more and more novels to choose from every year, it’s becoming a major issue. I suppose it’s the literary equivalent of eyes meeting at a party. Something in you jumps to attention and says, “Oo yes, this one.” Continue reading

Appetising Heroes? Have YOUR say in the Hero Poll

?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?   Who Is The Man On Page One   ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?

hero in the mist - bring him into the light with hero pollBring YOUR hero out of the mist

Hero Poll — Romantic Heroes that draw YOU in

You check out the cover, the blurb, the first page or two. What is it about the hero — as he appears at the outset, warts and all — that makes you want to read his story? Continue reading

Designer Brief from Self-Publisher

The designer is key to a book’s reception. Readers see the cover before they’ve read a word.

A confession here: it took me a while to realise that this blog entry had to be called Self-Publisher to Designer not Author to Designer. The problem is I haven’t got used to seeing myself as publisher. Getting closer, after this experience, though.

hand writing a letter with a goose feather

 

I am a writer. Yet, by opting to self-publish, I’ve engaged in a twenty-first century business (ouch!) with many aspects: editorial, physical and digital production, marketing, sales, communications (that’s PR to  you and me) and finance.

And design! Here is what I’ve learned so far. Continue reading

Serendipity: a New Love Letter to a Favourite Novel

Serendipity

serendipity the key to a magic realm of readingHow many of us owe a lifelong love of a particular author to serendipity?

The kind of happy accident — in a bookshop, or a book sale, or perhaps even a hotel bedroom — when we pick up an author we haven’t heard of and start to read.

And ten minutes, or ten pages, later, we have the key to a whole new world and we are well and truly hooked.

Wonderful!

New Love Letter to a Favourite Novel

Serendipity Love Letter to a Favourite NovelToday’s new Love Letter is from a male reader (small fanfare of trumpet here for sex equality in reading!). David describes the effect of just such an unexpected discovery — a hitherto unknown writer who has since become a must-buy for him and an essential part of his reading landscape.

Just the thing to warm the cockles of every writer’s heart.

Magician

Magician First edition cover

cover of first edition

 

The writer in question is Raymond E Feist and David’s happy discovery was Magician, an engrossing fantasy first published back in 1982. You can read David’s Love Letter here. Continue reading

The Reader Writer Connection: Guest Blog by Sue Moorcroft

reader writer connection with Sue Moorcroft

Today, our guest blogger is Sue Moorcroft, an award-winning author and writing tutor who sets the gold standard for the rest of us in the art of making the reader writer connection.

At Liberta’s request — we imagine we’re not the only ones who are looking for hints to improve our links with readers — Sue’s blogging about how she interacts with her readers.

Over to Sue…

Sue Moorcroft Connects with Readers

It’s always a good day when I receive a message from a reader.

Partly because I’m lucky enough to receive a lot of nice messages, which gives me a warm glow (you may prefer to call this ego-feeding!), but mostly because it proves my work’s being read and enjoyed.

reader writer connection

 

Continue reading

First Reader Love Letter to a Favourite Novel

First Love Letter to a Favourite Novel

Libertà’s First Reader Love Letter to a Favourite Novel

Our Love Letter to a Favourite Novel feature is still a work in progress. We’ve now refined it in the light of comments we’ve received from (we hope) intending contributors. We’re really grateful for all the supportive and encouraging suggestions and we hope you will keep them coming.

At this stage, we’ve got a couple of watchwords for ourselves and our contributors as they write their Love Letters: sharing and authenticity.

  • chatting about authors we loveSharing — we want everyone who reads these posts to feel at home here, whether they’re a fellow author or not.
  • Authentic — the piece doesn’t have to be unalloyed praise. Love isn’t always blind, after all. If readers think a character was short changed or there’s something they wish had or hadn’t been in the book, but nevertheless they still love it, they should go ahead and say so in their Love Letter.

You can read more about the latest news on the Love Letter to a Favourite Novel feature on the main page.

Today with a fanfare of trumpet — we could only manage one, sadly — we’re publishing our first reader contribution. Beth Elliott shares her love for R D Blackmore’s Lorna Doone. Continue reading