Tag Archives: historical romance

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.

Napoleon bares his breast — a cautionary editing tale

Napoleon-coronation

Napoleon Bares his Breast
~ or ~
The Editor Is [almost] Always Right

Two hundred and two years ago — on 7th March 1815, to be precise — Napoleon bared his breast to (what looked like) certain death and lived to fight one more great battle. (And if you’re wondering why we didn’t do this blog two years ago, on the bicentenary, we would plead that this website was a mere twinkle in the hively eye back then.)

A cautionary tale of author and editor

Once upon a time there was an author — let’s call her Joanna — who was writing a trilogy of love stories set in 1814-15, the end of the Napoleonic Wars. (He lost, by the way.) Continue reading

Gritty Saga Research: Jean Fullerton guests

jean-fullerton-author-picTwo weeks ago, we had Katie Fforde digging in the dirt — with and without Ray Mears! — in order to write about life in the here-and-now. This week, we welcome Jean Fullerton who writes award-winning historical sagas about the not-so-very-long-ago.

It can seem worlds away from where we are now, even though some readers will have lived through the periods of Jean’s stories and experienced exactly the kind of gritty reality she describes. And if you enjoy Call the Midwife, you’ll love Jean Fullerton’s books.

Read on to find out more about the lengths an author goes to in order to get it right

Jean Fullerton, East London Author

Fullerton research 20th century nursing guide

District nurse Jean wasn’t quite like this!

 

I was born in East London where my family have lived since the 1820s.

I’ve written ten novels set in East London (published by Orion) and am just putting the finishing touches to my eleventh. This one is set during the Second World War, and also in East London. I’m now a full-time writer but I was a District Nurse in East London for over 25 years. These days, I live with my hero just outside London. Continue reading

Sugar tongs at dawn? Elizabeth Rolls guests

It’s useful, when researching, to be able to consult people who were there. But go back more than a century or so — to the Regency in Britain, for example — and there are no living witnesses to consult. Elizabeth Rolls authorRegency novelists — like today’s guest, Elizabeth Rolls — have to rely on other sources.

You may imagine that “other sources” means dusty history books and written materials. But there’s much more than that.

And getting to grips with the non-written stuff can present the odd challenge if the author in question lives 12,000 miles away, in Australia.

As Elizabeth Rolls does…

Elizabeth Rolls loves her research

To research or not to research?

For me, research is a must. I’ve had a book kick off in my mind over a snippet about the crossroads burial of suicides in the early 19th century. The past is very much a foreign country, but add 12 000 miles into the equation and you have a real challenge. Continue reading

Romantic Series: Guest Blog by Sarah Mallory

Sarah Mallory guest blogs on romantic series

Sarah Mallory

Today our guest blogger is multi-award-winning historical author Sarah Mallory who has more than 40 books under her belt, under various writing names including Melinda Hammond.

Although Sarah was born in the West Country, she now lives on the romantic Yorkshire moors, within a stone’s throw of Brontë country which is, she says, a constant source of inspiration. She is also inspired by history, an abiding love, and the Hive can vouch for her wide knowledge of the Regency and other periods. Get her into a corner (with a glass of something) and the discussion flows wonderfully.

At the request of the Hive, Sarah is going to tell us about her experience of writing historical romantic novels in a series. These days, it’s the received wisdom that readers want series books. So a guide from an award-winning author sounds just the ticket. Over to Sarah . . .

Romantic Series : The Infamous Arrandales

After two years and many thousands of words, I have finished the last book in The Infamous Arrandales series. The Outcast’s Redemption will be published in July. Hurrah! Continue reading

Confessions of a Country House Tour Guide: Guest Blog by Nicola Cornick

Nicola Cornick author and tour guide

Nicola Cornick, Author & Tour Guide

Today our guest blogger is bestselling historical author (and part-time tour guide) Nicola Cornick. She has wonderfully romantic origins that seem to us to be just right for the books she writes — full of the sweep of history, and with heroes to die for.

Nicola was born in Yorkshire within a stone’s throw of the moors that inspired the Brontë sisters. She grew up in a sprawling Edwardian house full of books and went to school in a converted Georgian mansion. Her grandmother nurtured her love of history as well as teaching her to play canasta and grow rhubarb. (Buzz from the hive: clearly even rhubarb can be romantic!)

Nicola has written over 30 Regency historical romances for Harlequin Books and now writes historical mystery.

Confessions of a Country House Tour Guide

Nicola’s Confessions start with a couple of tourist/tour guide exchanges…

“Did you enjoy the guided tour?” 
“Not much. I don’t really like history.”  

“What did you think of the view from the roof platform?”
 “I’ve seen better on the road into Swindon.”
Ashdown House restoration picture by tour guide

Ashdown House

Ah, the joys of being a National Trust guide at Ashdown House! Most of our visitors are absolutely fantastic — interested, engaged, out to enjoy their day and full of questions or indeed information about Ashdown House and the Craven family. Sometimes they are people with a family connection to the house or the estate, and are able to help us fill in a part of the history of the place. We learn a lot from them. 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

Finding Your Hero: Guest Blog by Louise Allen

louise allen author writes about finding hero

Louise Allen

Today, our guest blogger is Louise Allen, award-winning author of historical romances set in the Regency period and creator of many a gorgeous romantic hero. But she’s also written books set in the 17th and 18th centuries, plus one set back in AD410! She’s clearly been bitten by the history bug, big time, and her many fans are more than happy to follow her into any period she chooses.

Louise writes non-fiction about her historical interests, most recently the story of the first tourists to the Waterloo battlefield, in their own words. There is also a fascinating guide to walks in Jane Austen’s London — a boon for visitors and much recommended.

Given Louise’s very wide interests, we did wonder what she would choose to blog about…

Louise Allen finds her Hero

Where does a story come from? As a novelist I’m often asked that question and usually the answer is, “I have no idea, it just arrived.”

For one book, however, The Dangerous Mr Ryder, I am very clear where it came from, although the origins of the hero still elude me. Continue reading

The Writer’s Dog : Guest Blog by Anne Gracie

Anne Gracie writer's dog

Anne Gracie

Libertà’s very first guest blog comes from much-loved Australian author Anne Gracie whose captivating stories have won her fans all over the world.

Anne Gracie started her first novel while backpacking solo around the world, writing by hand in notebooks. Now published by Berkley USA and Penguin Australia, her Regency-era romances have been translated into more than eighteen languages — including Japanese manga (which she thinks is very cool).

A life-long advocate of universal literacy, Anne also writes books for adults just learning to read.

 

Move over TK, the Writer’s Cat. Make room for…

Anne Gracie and Milly, the Writer’s Dog

I grew up with animals, all kinds of animals, and a house without at least one animal seems empty to me. I’ve had a variety of pets, including cats, but the one animal that’s a constant in my life is a dog, and my current companion is Milly.

writer's dog Milly 1
She’s a rescue dog and came to me half grown, after I saw her on a dog rescue website, and brought her home, all gangly and uncoordinated.  She’s a little kelpie/cross (about 55cm, almost 2 ft.)

I sometimes tell people who ask about breeds that she’s a Baluchistan Hound. (And if you don’t know what a Baluchistan Hound is, you need to read Georgette Heyer’s Frederica.) Continue reading

Why go Indie? Joanna Maitland’s answers

This post on Going Indie was originally a guest piece on Sue Moorcroft’s blog. Many thanks to her for letting us repost it here, complete with new thoughts, several months on…

Back in November 2015, I wrote:

Why go indie? At the risk of stating the obvious, I’d say the answer is freedom.

indie has freedom

Freedom to ride off into the sunset. What’s not to like?

Here’s an example of independent author freedom in action. As originally published, in the Harlequin Undone! series of short ebooks, His Silken Seduction was well under 50 pages. That was the length the line required, so that was the length I wrote. Simples!

Continue reading