Tag Archives: editing

When writers censor themselves

From The Guardian (Hat tip: Frank Wilson)

The suppression of literature is an ancient tradition that probably started with the invention of writing and which thrives today all over the world. In the west we generally venerate those authors who stand up against acts of silencing by the authorities. But what are we to think when an author suppresses himself?

Goodness, I suppressed a good bit of my novel—threw out forty pages of my little darlings early in the process—then all the rewrites and editing. I’ve not gone as far as the writers mentioned in the article, however, but then I’m not yet a sensitive and famous author.

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Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory

From Richard Nordquist, “When it comes to revising your work, consider applying Ernest Hemingway‘s famous iceberg theory of prose:”

If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing. A writer who appreciates the seriousness of writing so little that he is anxious to make people see he is formally educated, cultured, or well-bred, is merely a popinjay.
(Death in the Afternoon. Scribner, 1932)

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50 Best Blogs for Editors

From Online Universities:

Behind most great works of literature, classic and contemporary, is a hardworking editor. Not only did he or she have to approve the manuscript for publication, it also required revisions and grammar and spelling check to make the final product as readable as possible. Not every book on the shelves is a winner by any stretch of the imagination, of course, but editors are just as responsible for printing absolute treasures as they areeye-gougingly egregious offenses against all things bright and beautiful in this world. Students hoping to pursue a career in the literary arts should do their best to connect with the bountiful resources available online. Professionals from across the industry frequently take to the internet in order to educate the world on how literary works come together.

Rather than anything comprehensive, this list seeks out an eclectic selection of blogs pertaining to multiple aspects of the literary industry, including nonfiction. This decision does not discount the contributions of other bloggers out there, and we hope visitors will seek out other, unlisted opinions for a diverse glimpse at the world of reading.






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Thomas Sowell on Writing

From Crash Landing, the text of Sowell’s remarks—Some Thoughts About Writing. An excerpt…perhaps a warning:

Learning to write by trial and error not only calls for patience on the writer’s part, it also taxes the patience of wives, landlords, and creditors. Whenever someone, especially a young person, tells me of an ambition to become a writer, my heart goes out to him or her immediately—and my spirits sink. There is seldom a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, even for those who become established writers eventually—and a lot can happen between now and eventually, like broken marriages, eviction for non-payment of rent, and the like.

Even the mechanics or logistics of writing can be a challenge to figure out. Some of the most productive writers have followed the disciplined practice of sitting down at fixed times each day and turning out the words. Anthony Trollope followed this regimen in the nineteenth century and Paul Johnson with equal (or greater) success in the twentieth century. Alas, however, human beings differ and some of us are never going to be Anthony Trollope or Paul Johnson, in this respect or any other.

Instead of trying to be someone that you are not, be the best at what you are. My own writing practices are the direct opposite of that followed by these prolific and renowned writers. I write only when I have something to say. The big disadvantage of this is that it can mean a lot of down time. There are manuscripts of mine that sat around gathering dust for years without a word being added to them. How then have I managed to write more than 20 books within the Biblical threescore and ten years?

Read the whole thing.


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Words We Don’t Say

A list of annoying words could get very long, if you work at it… From ZMKC, “the words on this list should be avoided.” I liked comment number 23 from the referenced NYT article—a lesson in clarity:

When I was starting out as a reporter, my editor corrected a sentence of mine that began “The mayor was pleased with the outcome…” to “The major *says* he was pleased with the outcome.” It taught me a valuable lesson about distinguishing appearances from reality.

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10 Tips for Writing a Mystery Novel

Read all ten at WritersBreak.com. I got a kick out of number 6 because I try to avoid the kind of trivial conversation he uses to describe “real-life dialog,” but he makes a good point.

Tip #6: To write good dialogue, don’t listen to people talking to each other.

Dialogue on the page doesn’t sound like real-life dialogue. Real-life dialogue is boring, filled with mistakes, and “tells” much too much. And be careful of “he said.” It breaks up the rhythm of the dialogue, especially if it’s repeated too often.

Typical real life dialogue:

Joe: “Hey Ed, how are you?” Ed: “Fine, what’s up?” Joe: “Great. How’s your job going?” Ed: “It’s OK. But I’m looking for something else that pays more.” Joe: “Yeah, me too. What type of job are you looking for?” Ed: “I don’t know.” Joe: “Me either.” Ed: “Wanna go get something to eat.” Joe: “That sounds good.” Ed: “Where do you want to go?” Joe: “I don’t know…what time is it?”

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz. Dialogue on the written page has to involve more action, not only in the dialogue itself but in the descriptive paragraphs or narrative that should be inserted somewhere into the above conversation. Don’t let dialogue go on too long without breaking it up.


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I’ve Signed a Publishing Contract!

On Thursday, April 28, 2011, I signed a publishing contract with Hugo House Publishing, a small independent publisher based in Englewood, Colorado. I was thankfully introduced to Dr. Patricia Ross, co-owner of Hugo House Publishers, at a CIPA (Colorado Independent Publishers Association) meeting late last year by book marketing expert, Mary Walewski, who is on the Board at CIPA and who I’ve joyfully worked with in learning about book promotion. Dr. Ross and I agreed to an exploratory meeting following my “query” submission per their standards. At that meeting we agreed to get my manuscript in shape and then see what the best course of action would be for publishing. The editing took some time. We then did some market research, which took a little more time. Understanding and closing the deal was the next step. It’s done—the commitment to publishing has been made. Now there is a lot more work to do.

Dr. Ross has a PhD from NYU in English Literature, specializing in modern American Literature. She has, of course, helped me tremendously through this process, as I am learning an entirely new business. And anyone close to it knows that it is a business that is rapidly changing. Also, as I’ve gotten to know Patricia, we’ve enjoyed many discussions on literature in general, our likes and dislikes. Today we looked at book covers at the Tattered Cover Book Store, one of the best book stores anywhere, independent or otherwise. Next steps:

Book cover design.

Clean up my synopsis with themes.

Finalize manuscript—last edits.

Interior set up.

Work on back cover.

Print first proofs.

Review copies in hand—July.

Get some reviews.

Publish—early fourth quarter.





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The Lost Art of Editing

From the guardian.co.uk, thoughts on “the lost art of editing:”

I was particularly interested in this piece because I am now working with my third editor on my novel, in order to “get it right” for publication, so I hardly see any sloppiness or lack of attention with the editing project in my particular case. On top of all my rewrites and self-editing, I feel like I’m straddling that fine line between pedant and nitpicker.

Secondly, I recently read Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Freedom, and the article offers an anecdotal story about editing failures with the UK edition of that book. Franzen is a hot literary commodity and still, they screwed it up. (My review of Freedom is forthcoming, in due course.)

The article with some author’s comments at the end:

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My First Novel

I give my mother credit for putting this notion of writing a book into my head. In 1976, at age sixty-three, she sat on a stool in a narrow hall closet of our home in Ohio and slowly typed a short memoir on an ancient black Underwood typewriter. My father had her manuscript professionally typeset and printed as a small pamphlet. Mom and Dad then distributed her memoir to the extended family and friends. It was her only real writing effort, and as far as I was concerned, it was an impressive achievement, full of warm reminiscences of growing up on a farm and some signal events in her life. I thought, “One day, I could do something like that.”

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Book Review—The Maytrees

The Maytrees, by Annie Dillard (1945-), published in 2007

I’ll start with a confession, actually two: First, Annie Dillard is one of those authors that reinforces the fact that sometimes I prefer books to people. I can become engrossed in her writing—contemplating difficult sentences or paragraphs over and over, wondering where meaning is found for us mortals—without a care for humanity at large while doing so. Reading her work is a form of meditation; and I am not alone when I read her work. It is also like spending time with an old friend, which gets to my second admission…her books are old friends that I never quite fully comprehend. But I relish her company anyway. She leaves me at peace in spite of her dangling philosophical questions. Annie Dillard’s work has touched me, particularly Holy the Firm (1977) and Teaching a Stone to Talk (1982), standouts by my reckoning, read many years ago, and again in 2007. Her novel, The Maytrees (2007), is another notch on her belt, so to speak.

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