Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: editing

Leaving on a jet plane

I used to get butterflies at the thought of climbing into a pressurized metal tube and being blasted through the skies at 700 kph at an altitude of 12 km. Those butterflies didn’t show up last weekend as I flew to Montréal and back. Maybe I’m beginning to enjoy air travel. Four hours on a jet plane is much more relaxing than three days of driving.

WestJet 737.jpg

The four of us on the French editing committee decided that we might get more done by spending two days together than we do in months of three hour Saturday night conference calls. Since the other three are members of the Roxton Falls congregation in Québec and I am the outlier, way out here in Saskatchewan, it was more economical for me to fly out there.

Thus I boarded a WestJet plane to Montréal on Thursday and Ronald, Philippe, Hugues and I spent the next two days editing a book that has recently been translated from English. Even considering the amount of time we spent hashing over plans for the future of our work, we got enough done that it appears that even when the cost of my ticket is included the amount of work done per hour is no more costly than when we do it by conference call. This trip worked out so well that we are talking about doing it again some time, if our individual schedules can be aligned. Ronald and I are semi-retired and more flexible but Philippe and Hugues have to find a time that does not conflict with their employment.

I very much enjoyed the time I spent in Québec. I have corresponded with Hugues by email, talked with him on the phone, but hadn’t seen him since he was nine years old. He is 24 now and it was good to see and work with him face to face. It was good to see Philippe again, he has married since I saw him three years ago and has a five-month-old son.

It was good to be in a place where the lawns are green, the trees tall, and the crops flourishing. (It has been a dry year here at home; I mowed the lawn once in each of the last three months. The grass is still more or less green and the crop yields only a little under the average, but it hasn’t been a year of abundance.)

I worshipped with the brothers and sisters in Roxton Falls on Sunday morning. I know most of them, some of them for many years, but some I met for the first time. That is a good thing, the congregation is growing.

Monday morning when I awoke it was 22° and humid. It was 30° by dinner time and then it began to pour rain. When I got into Saskatoon in the evening, it was 12° and still dry and dusty. But all the family was there to meet me and welcome me home.

Juggling jobs

I am getting old, I call myself semi-retired, but it seems that I have more demands on my time than ever before, and I’m not at all sure that I’m managing my time wisely.

I am a bookkeeper: A large part of my income is pension, but I still have five bookkeeping clients that I need to work for on a regular basis.

I am a member of the French editing committee of our church. This doesn’t take up a lot of time, but it is enjoyable and useful work. And I do get some payment for the time spent.

I am a writer: Besides this blog, and another one in French, I have other writing projects that are really important to me, but it is hard to find time for them.

I am a father and grandfather: At this stage that may mostly mean being a cheerleader. That means being there, paying attention. I don’t think I’m doing a very good job of it.

I am a husband: My wife is going through chemo-therapy treatments for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. I go with her to almost all her appointments. The treatments have worked, there are no more symptoms, but she still needs two more rounds of chem to keep it away as long as possible. Meanwhile, she needs a lot of rest and her resistance is low. One side benefit of the chemo is that it has pretty much eliminated her arthritis pain. I’m sure that is only temporary.

Monday was our 46th anniversary. To celebrate, I took her to our nearest town where one of the vets and her husband were doing a barbecue to raise money for their non-profit pet rescue organization. So we both had a hot dog, a can of pop and a cookie. I thought it was a good deal, Chris didn’t have to cook or do dishes and the money went to a good cause.

Yesterday we went out for a more formal meal at the Cave Restaurant in Saskatoon.

Writng tips #2: 10 tips for writing more simply

[I have borrowed, translated and adapted these tips from a French website. That explains the references to French authors, in case you were wondering. These tips are intended for use in writing for the web, but would be useful in many other types of writing as well.]

once-upon-a-time-719174_1280

1. Thou shalt write short sentences.

You are not Proust! So do not write sentences of more than one or two lines. If you hesitate between several constructions, always choose the one with the fewest words. Your texts will be more rhythmic.

Tip: exchange semicolons for periods.

2. Thou shalt limit thyself to subject, verb and object.

The subject + verb + object scheme is the simplest grammatically. It is instantly recognizable and understandable to the reader. So avoid complex grammatical constructions, subordinate clauses, interpolations and parentheses within the same sentence.

Tip: turn most subordinate clauses into independent sentences.

3. Thou shalt write one idea per sentence.

One idea per sentence, one point per paragraph, one subject per article. Don’t try to say everything at once, at the risk of drowning your reader. Prioritize your ideas and start with the most important.

Tip: If your article is too long, divide it into several articles grouped by folder or series.

4. Thou shalt simplify thy vocabulary.

You do not write to amuse yourself but to make yourself understood. Don’t try to dazzle your readers with exotic words or literary style. Favour simple words known to all.

Tip: use only words that you know how to spell.

5. Thous shalt translate jargon.

You don’t need to eliminate all trade or professional jargon, but ensure the first occurrence of such a word is translated into plain English, including all acronyms and words from other languages. Not only will your readers thank you, but it will be easier for search engines to find your page because you will broaden your semantic field.

Tip: imagine you are writing for your grandmother.

6. Thou shalt avoid negations.

It is forbidden to forbid! It is not always easy (as in this article which intends to be educational), but avoid negative terms as much as possible. Opt instead for positive constructions, more involving and more direct. Flee double negatives that need to be read twice to get the meaning.

Tip: always replace “do not hesitate to do this” with “do this”!

7. Thou shalt avoid the passive voice.

Better to write “The cat eats the mouse” than “the mouse is eaten by the cat.” Not only does the passive use more words than the active form (7 words against 5), but it is also more complex to analyse. Therefore reverse passive sentences, transforming the object into subject.

Tip: choose action verbs like create, produce, decide, etc.

8. Thou shalt avoid adjectives and adverbs.

“Journalists (…) who want to use an adjective come see me in my office. Those who will use an adverb will be shown out the door,”wrote Georges Clemenceau in a memo while he was editor of L’Aurore. Years have passed, the media have changed, but the counsel remains valid.

Tip: first remove all useless instances of “true” and “genuine” from your texts.

9. Thou shalt avoid the subjunctive.

Avoid the subjunctive: limit yourself to the indicative. Also avoid the tenses we learned at school like the pluperfect, future anterior, etc. Try to stick to the present, the past, the imperfect, the future and the imperative.

Tip: use the infinitive as much as possible.

10. Thou shalt read thy article out loud.

Proofread your text carefully before publishing it. Locate the long sentences, overly complex constructions, etc. Check that you have applied all the above rules.

Tip: re-read aloud to identify difficult to read sentences. Flaubert called it the gueuloir test, you will see, it works!

(I presume Gueuloir was Flaubert’s invention; it’s not found in any dictionary. Gueuler means to speak very loudly, to yell.)

If you read French, the original article is found at: http://editoile.fr/10-astuces-pour-ecrire-plus-simplement/

The sad state of publishing

Doesn’t everybody have a dream about writing a fantastic book that will be bought by a major publisher, where an editor will be assigned to fine tine the manuscript, a publicist will be assigned to promote the book, and everyone will live happily ever after? Forget about it. It’s not going to happen.

The publishing industry has fallen on hard times, most of the well-known publishing companies around the world are now owned by a handful of big companies, mostly European. None of them are apt to publish anything by an unknown author. If they do, the editing and publicity will be the author’s responsibility.

There are many companies offering to help you publish your book, for a hefty fee. The majority of these are branches of one company which has an unsavoury reputation. They will publish your book, but the promised services – editing, cover design, book promotion – turn out to be pretty much worthless.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that it is easier than ever before for an aspiring writer to get his or her book into print. But the writer has to take charge of the whole process – editing, illustrating, book layout, cover design, promotion and sales. An author needs help in all of these aspects of preparing a book for market and then marketing it. You can spend a lot of money, or you can look for talented people who will offer their services for free or for a very small fee as a means of gaining experience and visibility for themselves.

Create Space is subsidiary of Amazon that will publish your book at no cost to you. They do print on demand, meaning that books are printed individually when an order comes in. They offer paid services to help with editing, cover design, and so on, but you don’t have to use them. Create Space is a US company and used to withhold a very large portion in US taxes and a Canadian author would have to jump through all the IRS hoops to try and recover that money. I understand that has changed.

Create Space will provide an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), but a Canadian author should obtain a Canadian ISBN. Most countries sell ISBN’s, but they are free in Canada. If you publish through Create Space it would be a good idea to create your own name to use as the publisher. Book stores are not likely to carry your book anyway, but if the Create Space name appears anywhere on your book that could pretty much guarantee they won’t touch it.

There are small publishers everywhere and one of them might be willing to publish your book if it fits their interests and their region. Another option would be a company like PageMaster in Edmonton. The owner of PageMaster did a presentation at the conference and it sounded pretty attractive. They offer all the services you need to prepare your manuscript for publishing and you can choose the ones you need. They do initial print runs of 20 to 200 copies, so that you are not stuck with a garage full of unsold books. You can probably find a business like this in other regions of the country.

The bottom line is that your name is on the book and you want to make it as high quality as you can. Don’t ask your sister in law or cousin to edit it. Find someone who will actively look for things that don’t add up, don’t sound right. If the book was worth writing, it is worth going the extra mile and making it what you really want it to be.

Making a faux pas

bird-40083_1280Today I stepped out of the place where I was working and started out for the nearest convenience store to find myself something to eat. Halfway there I made a misstep (a faux pas) and felt myself going face first towards the ground. My first thought was that I am going to be at a writers’ conference in a few days with the imprint of this impact on my face.

The ground surface at that point was broken pavement and gravel. I have serious scrapes on my right hand and left knee to prove that I partially broke my fall. My left hand is not so badly scraped, but that wrist is sore; my right knee has a small scrape, too. But my nose and forehead came out the worst. There is a long cut above my eyebrows where the top edge of my sunglasses hit my forehead. Nevertheless, I am thankful for the sunglasses as they appear to have protected my eyeglasses from damage, except for bending the nose pieces.

I had a fall somewhat like this almost two years ago and that makes me wonder what is happening to me. I have thought of a few possibilities. In neither case did I feel light-headed, or that my legs gave out. But my sense of balance never has been good, due to chronic hay fever, or allergic rhinitis. I wear progressive lenses, trifocals, and that may make it more difficult to see objects or uneven surfaces on the ground. The medications I take may affect my sense of balance, and I don’t get enough physical exercise to keep really fit.

Tomorrow I have to go to the city, no matter how horrible I look, and I’m going to buy a cane.

The Inscribe Christian Writers’ Conference begins Thursday in Edmonton and my wife and I have already paid our registration and booked our hotel rooms.

One of the sessions is on editing our own writing. We were asked to send in a sample of our best writing before the class. The class instructor emailed the corrections on mine today. I find that I make a lot of faux pas in my writing, too. For one thing, I really do try to avoid the passive voice, but my three page double spaced article came back with at least eight instances of passive voice flagged.

That’s why I am going to the writers’ conference – I still have lots to learn. Getting together with other writers is the icing on the cake.

It takes a village to raise a book

The difference between a bad writer and a good writer is that a good writer knows he needs help. Publishers used to have people on staff to provide that help. Not anymore. We are on our own. Yet we dare not trust to our own evaluation of how good our writing is.

There are three stages of editing and we need other people’s eyes and brains at each step.The first stage is substantive editing. Definitions vary somewhat, but you need someone to do a thorough review and give an honest evaluation of the whole story, whether its fiction, history, devotional, doctrinal or whatever. Are there holes in the story line? Is there missing information? Is there information that does not belong in this story? Is it interesting? Do you lose your way half way through and wind up going in a different direction? Word usage, sentence structure, grammar should all be analyzed.

After we get over the shock of this first evaluation and get up enough courage to make the changes needed, we then need copy editing. This will include things like checking grammar and spelling and may involve rearranging some text, finding overused words, eliminating unnecessary words, suggesting stronger or clearer words. It is a good idea to check that your characters’ names are spelled the same way throughout the book.

The final stage is proofreading. This is the last run through the proofs before the book is printed, to ensure that all needed changes have been made and no new errors have inadvertently crept in.

A professional editor can make the difference between a book that seems like it could have been rally interesting, and one that really is interesting. Gathering a circle of friends ho are knowledgeable and honest enough to tell you what needs to be done will make the job of a professional editor much easier, and hopefully less costly.

This is where the village idea comes in. You need first readers who will read your raw manuscript, tell you whether it has possibilities and suggest what they think needs to be improved. Ask as many people as you can and consider what they are seeing in your book and what you want people who buy your book to see.

After rewriting and polishing your manuscript to the best of your ability, you need beta readers. Not just your close family and friends who will tell you what a lovely book it is. You want people who will point out every last flaw that they can find. Trust me, you do. Better those things should be found now than when the book is in print and being sold.

Finally, you need final readers. People who have not read the manuscript before, so that those pesky little mistakes that you and all the others have missed will pop out at them.

And then when the book is being sold, some reader will notice an obvious mistake that slipped by everyone else. It’s embarrassing, but it happens to the best of writers. The more people you have helping you along the way, and truly trying to help, the more confidence you can have that you have done your best.

The Editorial Burden That Weighs on the Author

This is the title of an excellent article on the need for editing, posted today by C.S. Lakin.  Every aspiring writer should take this seriously, including myself.  We have a natural tendency to be blind to the flaws in our own writing. You will find the article here.

Do it yourself customer service

A resident in a nearby home for seniors, let’s call him Frank, gets around fairly well in a wheelchair.  However, Frank has limited strength on one side, so he also has an electric wheelchair that he sometimes uses.

Recently he discovered that a small spring assembly from one of the front wheels was missing.  Presumably it came loose and fell out.  A friend called the dealer to order replacement parts.  The dealer said he could not order the parts without knowing the serial number of the wheelchair.   There is no serial number to be found, perhaps the sticker with that information also came loose and was lost?  The friend then took a picture of the spring assembly from the other side.  The dealer still didn’t have enough information to know what parts were needed.

Then Frank asked me to help.  The next time I went to the city I took the remaining spring assembly and showed it to the dealer.  He immediately recognized what make of wheelchair it came from.  After a brief check he said he did not have those parts in stock and would have to know the model number and serial number before he could order the parts.  He did take the assembly apart, laid out all the parts on the counter and took a picture with his cell phone, promising to see if anyone else in the shop could identify them.

That didn’t sound all that hopeful, so when I got home I went to my computer and googled the manufacturer’s name.  I then went to the model number of Frank’s wheelchair and found detailed illustrations and part numbers.  There is a generation 1 and a generation 2 of this machine, but the spring assembly is identical on both, so a serial number is not needed.

I copied down the numbers of all six parts that go into this assembly, faxed the list to the dealer and a few days later he called to tell me the parts were in.

All’s well that ends well, I guess.  But I remember a day when the dealer was the source of all information and parts for the machines he sold.  Now it’s the internet and woe betide  the person who doesn’t have internet access or doesn’t know how to use it.

Do it yourself publishing

Something similar is happening in the book publishing world.  Publishers are being squeezed for cash.  Except for a very few big name authors, publishers now expect writers to look after the editing of their own manuscripts and the promotion of their books once in print.

Help is available for the aspiring author who wants to see his name in print.  Many self-publishing companies will compete for the privilege to publish your book, as long as you are willing to pay for it,  There are a number of outfits offering print on demand at minimal cost.

So now it is possible for everyone who has ever dreamed of writing and publishing a book to actually do it.  Thousands of titles are coming out each year.  The average self published book will sell 200 copies, mostly to close friends and relatives.

If that’s all you want, it’s fine to go ahead and do it that way.  If you dream of something more than that, then you need to start with professional editing.  I have seen so many sloppily edited books that could have been good books with a little help.  I have no desire to follow their example, I don’t want to publish a book that shouts homemade as soon as you start reading it.  Editing is going to cost money unless you have a friend who is a professional editor and owes you a favour.

Book promotion is a topic for another post.  We in this house are just beginning to learn about that aspect, but it sounds like traditional methods such as book signings are not going to move a whole lot of books.   The best results will come from smart use of the internet via a website and a blog.  Some people talk a lot about Facebook and Twitter for marketing, others say don’t waste you time with them.   We don’t intend to.

Spirit-led writing

The biggest publishing sensation during my younger years was On the Road by Jack Kerouac.  He had taken a long roll of paper, aligned the top edge of the roll on the platen of his typewriter and never stopped typing until he had filled the roll from top to bottom.  A publisher decided to take a chance on this strange manuscript and it became a runaway best seller.

I read the book – even then I wasn’t sure why – perhaps I needed to read it to realize that this wasn’t a road I wanted to follow.  Nevertheless, I bought into the mythology that this was a genuinely spontaneous, stream-of-consciousness novel produced by the drug addled brain of Jack Kerouac.

I should have known better.  Kerouac broke many rules of writing, but he did it knowingly – he knew words and how to use them.  He was not some ignorant dropout who didn’t know a gerund from a geranium.  He had studied journalism at Columbia University and had been writing for many years before he produced On the Road.

Kerouac’s full name was Jean-Louis Kérouac, born in Massachusetts to French-Canadian parents.  His mother tongue was French; in his youth he was known as Ti-Jean (little John).  He wrote the first draft of On the Road in French, then several drafts in English before his manic stint at the typewriter.

Writing is work, even for the father of the beat generation.  Nevertheless, there is still a naive belief among many people that “I could write a book just as good as those big name writers if only my time wasn’t all taken up with making a living.”  Christians seem to be especially susceptible to such romantic notions: “The Spirit has inspired me to write this and I know it will touch the hearts of thousands of readers if I can just get somebody to publish it without messing it up by editing.”

I think of writing as being much like making a garden.  The seeds are the inspiration.  You need to plant them in an orderly fashion, to provide space for each growing plant to develop.  Then, if you ever want a harvest, you have to be in earnest about weeding.  Get those weeds out of there, don’t let them suck all the life out of your story!

Sometimes the weeds look so beautiful; they have such delightful flowers.  But if left to grow, they overshadow the garden plants.  Their roots go down deep and suck up the moisture and nutrients.  They spread their seeds over the garden and multiply until you can hardly see the rows that you planted and the product of your garden is hardly worth the effort you put into it.

You have to have inspiration to start with – the seeds.  However, as with a garden, the biggest part of the work of writing comes in the weeding – the editing.  A famous Canadian author gave the following advice to his son when he began to follow in his father’s footsteps: “Revise and revise and revise, until your writing is as good as you can possibly make it – then revise once more.”

When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.”—Enrique Jardiel Poncela

%d bloggers like this: