Guest Fox: Traci Pollitt

Welcome,  Traci !
By Jeff Salter 

I decided to break ranks for once and invite a guest to speak on something other than our assigned topic.

When I was recently responding to the editing / proofing corrections and comments for my upcoming release, Called to Arms Again, I was nearly to the end of the manuscript when I realized that none of my fulsome responses would actually be seen by Traci Pollitt, who had done the second stage — line editing and proofing.

There I had been responding to her diligent work, in a sort of dialog, and suddenly realized she’d never even see it.  So I wrote her a thank you note.

You see, I really value Traci’s work.  She had been selected by Senior Editor Kay Springsteen Tate to proof my first novel with Astraea Press, and I was so impressed that I requested Traci as proofer for my second and third novels.

Does that mean I agree with every single spot she marked?  Nope.  Does it mean that I loved having my plentiful writing flaws pointed out?  Nope.  But Traci has a light touch to her corrections … and she engages me in the proofing process.  Sure, it’s still tough to have someone scrutinize every letter and punctuation mark in my treasured 115,000 word manuscript (which I’m certain is the next great American novel).  But if you can do it thoroughly, consistently, objectively, and NICELY – as Traci does – then it’s a win-win situation.

Oh, yes … I was cussing and fussing and accusing Traci of trying to rid the universe of italics and colons – which I (admittedly) overuse – but, in the end, I knew she was correct.  About most of them, anyway.

Besides her day job and family, Traci keeps busy with a new manuscript to edit / proof approximately every other week.

———

Don’t Shoot the Editor
By Traci Pollitt

            I’ve been a reader since before I officially entered grade school. I am now what I would consider to be a voracious reader, each year trying to read at least 100 books. In almost every book I pick up, it seems I find at least one typo, one wrongly used word, or one incorrect punctuation mark. In recent years, it seems to have gotten worse, enough so that I know I have physically put down the book and asked my husband “Don’t these people use proofreaders anymore?” And of course, by these people, I mean the publishers.

Almost two years ago, I saw that a small e-publisher was looking for a proofreader. I was thrilled when I got hired, as I saw this as my way of saving readers like myself from wading through badly edited (or perhaps not edited at all) books. I imagined there were others out there just like me, those who cringed every time they read “there” instead of “they’re”, readers who wanted to cry when they saw missing quote marks or too many commas. I would be doing them, and the authors I would work with, a great and much-needed service.

Turns out, it’s not as easy as it looks.

Full disclosure means I have to admit that I’m not a professionally trained proofreader. I do have B.A. in English, as well as a good grasp of grammar. And when editing, I have found that most authors make the same mistakes, so I’ve learned what to look for. For example, plural possessives seem to confound even the best writers. I had one manuscript where I had to keep correcting parent’s to parents’. Why? Well, in this book, both parents were still alive and well, still married, and therefore, still living together. So every time the author had the main character refer to her “parent’s bedroom”, I would sigh, mark it out, and change it to “parents’”, along with a note about the plural possessive. It is a toughie, I’ll grant you that. There are other things that pop up a lot, things like punctuation around dialog tags (you need a comma before the word “said” in just about each and every case), choices in punctuation, and of course, the overuse of commas. Or sometimes the lack thereof. The basic grammar stuff.

I’m also checking for overall “does this make sense?” sort of things. For example, a character shouldn’t be hanging out with his friends and, when he goes to leave, pick up his jacket if that jacket has never been mentioned to date. Big red flag on the play! This sort of thing gets a comment like “Wow! Where did the jacket come from? Are you really sure it’s his? Is it a magical jacket that appeared from another world?” Yes, it sounds silly, but it’s important that the author knows it stands out. I also read for flow; can the character simultaneously open the door and throw her purse on the couch and get a drink from the fridge? Probably not. But she could open the door, throw her purse on the couch, then walk to the fridge to get a cold drink. See the difference? It’s subtle, but it’s important.

Much as I’ve loved this job, there’s one thing that has me holding my breath each and every time: will the author like/appreciate my changes/comments? I’m not an author, so I worry almost constantly that one day someone will send me an email that calls me out on this very fact, something basically saying “What do you know? You’re not a writer!” True, I’m not an author, just a reader. But that’s the point – I am a reader, and I truly believe I make suggestions that will make the book better for other readers. I don’t want readers to pick up one of these books and ask the very question I’ve asked…

“Don’t these people use proofreaders anymore?”

Traci’s Bio Blurb
I’m in my mid-40s, and I’ve been married for almost 13 years to my best friend (whose name is also Jeff). I was born in Indiana, but like many Hoosiers, I tired of cold, snowy winters and flat land as far as the eye could see. Hubby dearest and I relocated to sunny North Carolina in 2002, where we both promptly developed allergies to all the new varieties of flora surrounding us. Still better than shoveling snow! I’ve worked in a branch of a county library system for 10 1/2 years, and am determined to work there until they kick me out. I love books, reading, and teaching people new things. And I’m now slave to a gorgeous Tuxedo kitty named Surr Purr.

Traci’s blog: www.tracibookbabe.blogspot.com

Questions:
            Ever wanted to ask something of a proofer/editor?  Now’s your chance.  What have you always wondered about (in this editing process)?

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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36 Responses to Guest Fox: Traci Pollitt

  1. Traci Pollitt says:

    Thanks for having me over, Jeff! I’ll try to check in a few times during the day, and yes, I will gladly answer any questions. And thanks for saying such nice things about me (I found myself reading your intro and going “aww…”)

    Like

  2. Iris B says:

    Welcome to 4F1H, Traci!!!
    I really like the topic, and I’ve got to admit that I’ve been in the same situation as Jeff, initially fainting after seeing ALL the comment boxes and then cursing and pulling hairs “C’mon! Really?”
    But I’ve enjoyed working with each and every editor so far and appreciated their work and effort on my little stories!
    Even a bigger thrill when I got to meet one of my editors on my recent trip!
    Oh, right, and one proofreader just lives down the road from here 😉
    So, keep up the good work Traci!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      You met so many here in the states recently. Which of those was your editor?

      Like

      • Iris B says:

        Laura was one of my editors, and she was the one I met while in the states. But I also had Emma and Kay. I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone. I loved working with all of them! I seem to be the most work intensive author so I mostly get the head chief 😉 …. But I love working with Kay

        Like

  3. Traci Pollitt says:

    Thanks, Iris! Good to know that we editors are appreciated!

    Like

  4. jeff7salter says:

    Welcome, Traci — always enjoy hosting a Guest Fox … and delighted to see you here.
    I’ll be out for several long stretches today, but will check back in several times to be sure y’all are behaving.

    Like

  5. Oh, the secrets I could spill! But seriously, I always tell my authors that Traci is one of the best at what she does!

    Like

    • Traci Pollitt says:

      Aww… I’m going to get a big head with all this praise!

      Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      thanks for visiting, Kay. I’m so glad you hooked me up with Traci on that first book.

      Like

      • Traci Pollitt says:

        I am too, Jeff! Even though I’ve berated you at times for your ellipses, and em-dashes, and italics, and other such nitpicky things, I have always enjoyed your stories. In fact, I do believe I’ve mentioned more than once that all those nitpicky things can actually distract the reader, and we can’t have that!

        Like

      • jeff7salter says:

        Would you believe me, Traci, if I said I just added all those italics just to mess with you?
        Ha.

        Like

  6. Having read many poorly edited books, I can say I truly appreciate what you do, Traci. I would be horrified to have something I wrote hit the market with so many errors. Keep up the great work. A gentle touch, as Jeff says, makes the changes easier to swallow.

    Like

    • Traci Pollitt says:

      Patricia, I try not to get too red pen-ish when I do my thing 😉

      Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      also “a spoonful of sugar” helps.
      Yes, Patty, I’ve seen many books with so many typos that you’d swear they didn’t use an editor/proofer at all. In some of those cases, I strongly believe the author was simply in too much of a hurry to go over the ms. carefully.
      In this digital age, a writer can complete a first draft and upload it for sale the next day. And, sure enough, it will read just like a first draft.

      Like

  7. Traci did a fabulous job proofing my first book, Spell Check. And Jeff, good point about the proof editor not getting to see our comments! I’ll keep that in mind for book three. I got swept up in the editing process with my second book, Spell Struck, and forgot to request Traci. I’ll remember for the next one!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks for visiting, Karen. I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me during book two. And it was only as I neared the end of book three that I realized all my reactions to Traci’s comments would never be seen by her. Funny how the mind works. Or doesn’t.

      Like

      • Traci Pollitt says:

        Jeff, I think it goes both ways. I know I certainly imagined some of your responses to the comments/corrections I was making on this third book. 😀

        Like

      • jeff7salter says:

        Do you think Kay would allow you to see the copy I sent back to her? You’d probably have a few chuckles from some of my comments. Like when I was ardently defending my use of colons or when I’d reply, “If God didn’t want us to use italics, He wouldn’t have invented them!” LOL

        Like

    • Traci Pollitt says:

      Thanks so much, Karen! i really did enjoy that first book, lots of fun. And I would be flattered to do another one with you!

      Like

  8. This was a really interesting read — thanks for sharing! I’m currently slogging my way through edits that, for some reason, are proving much more emotional than last time. Objectivity, I’m learning, is sometimes…elusive. (For me. Probably not for the editor.) I know that when I get my edits, my attitude is, “I can’t wait to learn everything I’ve done wrong!” — and I mean it sincerely, because I desperately want my book to end up better than the manuscript I created. I also want to learn as a writer and improve my craft, so I REALLY appreciate it when an editor takes the time to explain why something is wrong rather than just point out the error (particularly when it’s a repeated transgression). Editors, proofreaders, cover artists, people who do the layout-type-work — I can’t do any of the stuff y’all do, and I appreciate you each and every one! 😀

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      excellent perspective, Heather. Thanks for visiting today.

      Like

    • Traci Pollitt says:

      Heather, that’s fabulous to hear! Whenever I’m editing, I hope to do two things: teach the author little grammatical things/writing techniques, and make the book that much better for the reader. I think that’s why my style is “light” as Jeff says; I never want to re-write the work, just give it a good polish.

      Like

      • jeff7salter says:

        Amen, Traci. Which is why I kept asking for you on my projects. You get into the flow of the characters and narrative and your suggestions make sense within those contexts. As opposed to using a cookie cutter and chopping thru a ms. without regard to the rhythm and content.

        Like

  9. Oh Traci! I cringe when I hear the term ‘soul-mate,’ but I think I have found mine in you! I can’t tell you how often I have put a book down and said to MY husband, “Do they actually have proofreaders any more?” And “Do they actually PAY editors for doing NOTHING?”
    You are so right about continuity and the multiple-plural.My biggest gripe is that you hardly see a true plural any more; a darned apostrophe gets in between the noun and the s , making a possessive…CONSTANTLY, nearly EVERYWHERE.I’m sure you have noticed.
    It is also funny how one extra comma can change a meaning of a sentence.I admit to being a comma-user, but sometimes someone will read my sentences and say a comma isn’t needed.Often, after I read the line, they will admit that it belongs there;it changes the tenor.
    I’m sure that you and I could talk for hours.(I am also owned by cats.)
    I’m glad you could join us here!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      I’m terrible with commas. I tend to distribute 2 or 3 per sentence usually.

      Like

    • Traci Pollitt says:

      BIG HUG!!!! My husband reads more than I do, and since we read different authors, he also sighs the big sigh about the editing, or lack thereof, in today’s works. And keep in mind, he reads the more popular authors, so we’re talking Big 6 publishers here!

      As to the commas, yes, it’s a tough call sometimes. The best comment/advice I’ve ever read said to read aloud your sentence, being sure to pause at the commas. If you sound like William Shatner (and I’m not trying to slam him here, as I think he’s fabulous!)…well, you’ve probably got a few too many commas in that line 😀

      Like

  10. You’re right,Traci, it all depends on how you want it to sound or what area you want to emphasize. Speaking of emphasis, that is another area I lecture people about; their use of exclamation points.
    I try to tell would-be writers to make their readers be excited, not tell them when to be.(It’s rather akin to a laugh track.) I find it hard to convince those who try to write fantasy.I tell them to make the extraordinary seem ordinary.

    Like

  11. Traci Pollitt says:

    It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve really enjoyed reading your questions. The one thing I didn’t put in my bio is that I’m an early bird, meaning I also go to bed early. If anyone else has questions, feel free to ask – but check back tomorrow for the answers 😀

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Good night, Traci. Thanks for today’s participation.
      Please DO check back tomorrow — and over the weekend — as we often have late arrivals.

      Like

  12. Very interesting, a fellow proofreader! I admit that I love the Oxford comma!

    Like

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