Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Publishing is War

 When you join the military, do they send you onto the battlefield with spitballs instead of guns?

So why do people who decide to be writers slap words onto the page and never take the time to polish, proofread, fix grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, formatting, etc., before they send those words to a publisher?

Yes, I know what you're about to say: Fixing those piddling little details are what editors are for.

Umm, NO! A traditional publisher will read the first paragraph of such a sloppy "masterpiece" and reject it immediately. If not sooner. No publisher has the time and budget to make your book readable. That is YOUR job -- BEFORE you submit.

The only publishers who accept manuscripts full of grammar, spelling, punctuation and formatting mistakes CHARGE YOU to fix them. I make my living as a freelance editor for people who self-publish, or publishers who contract to publish people's books for them. Books that traditional publishers won't touch because they're aimed at audiences too small to be profitable, or they are incoherent messes. Spitballs instead of rifles.

I had an editing job that frustrated me to no end. Why? Each chapter was ONE continuous (run-on) sentence. The only capital letter was at the start of the chapter -- probably the word processing program did that. No periods to indicate the stop of a sentence, very few commas to indicate phrasing. Do you know how HARD it is to figure out what someone is trying to say, without punctuation to indicate phrasing and where thoughts end?

After I inserted punctuation, then I fixed grammar and spelling. I couldn't tell if the words/spelling were right until I knew what the author was trying to say. All because the author didn't use punctuation -- a simple period -- or capitalize the start of each new sentence.

Today's Lesson: Learn punctuation. Learn capitalization. Learn sentence structure. Learn spelling. The mechanics. Your weapons in the battlefield of publishing.

How do you do that? READ. READ. READ. READ. (get the picture?) Read lots of books, big books, bestsellers, classics. Pay attention to how authors put sentences together. Pay attention to how punctuation is used. Learn grammar through example.

Writing is war, and with e-publishing and self-publishing exploding, there are a whole lot more soldiers and armies you're battling for readers. You want to go out there with the most effective weapons possible -- not a bunch of spitballs.

On the road to publication, Michelle fell into fandom in college and has 40+ stories in various SF and fantasy universes. She has a bunch of useless degrees in theater/English/film/communication/writing. Even worse, she has (or had) over 100 books and novellas with multiple small presses, in science fiction and fantasy, YA, and sub-genres of romance. Her training includes the Institute for Children’s Literature; proofreading at an advertising agency; and working at a community newspaper. She is a tea snob and freelance edits for a living ( for info/rates), but only enough to give her time to write. Her newest crime against the literary world is to be co-managing editor at Mt. Zion Ridge Press. Be afraid … be very afraid.   

Michelle is one of the authors you will find in the Buckeye Christian Fiction Anthology 2018: From the Lake to the River. I have asked those authors to share their area of expertise with my readers. You will recall Sandra Merville Hart's offering insight into power of accurate research (Click HERE if you missed it) and JPC Allen's post on understanding genre. (That one is HERE.) Thank you, Michelle for this great article on self-editing. And READERS....Be sure to comment or ask Michelle your own editing questions. I know she will happily respond.

AND...Watch for a book for writers being released by Michelle in 2019 called Do Yourself  a Favor: Tips and Quips on the Writing Life.

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