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