Okay, everyone sing it with me…
“We’ve got trouble, folks.
“Right here in Laube City.
“With a capital T and that rhymes with E and that stands for EDITOR!”
Ah, the joys of being edited. How often have you received a manuscript back from an editor only to find that this person changed elements of your manuscript that never should have been changed? That she “corrected” terminology specific to an industry, and her corrections made it all wrong? That he lowercased your deity pronouns when you wanted them uppercased. That a word you intentionally misspelled for a character’s voice is now dictionary perfect? That the edits “for clarity” have changed the details of something you researched in detail, that you made painstaking effort to write correctly, and now it was a mess? Worse, anyone in the know who reads the book now will blame you for getting it wrong!
Well, rejoice! I have a simple solution to all these problems. Friends, meet the trusty Style Sheet.
I first learned about these wonderful tools as an editor, but it didn’t take me long to realize what a benefit style sheets are for writers. Because you can use them to list any and everything you don’t want changed, to tell an editor why you’re going against accepted style, to lay the parameters for an editing job that will do what editing is supposed to do: draw the best writing out of you and enhance your story.
Next week I’ll share the template I use for my editing and writing style sheet. Feel free to copy it, adapt it, and use it as you wish. And the next time you turn your manuscript in to an editor, send the style sheet along as well. I’m betting that editor will not only appreciate it, but they’ll use it to add things they want the copyeditors and proofreaders to know. You’ll have made their jobs easier and protected your work all in one fell swoop. Now that’s a win/win.
Right now, though, I’d love to hear your editing stories, whether they’re about an edit you received or one you performed, what’s a lesson you learned from an edit?
I’ll start. Back when I was first writing, I was working for a publisher and had little time to do much of anything beyond my job. I received my galleys, as often happens, with the request to read them and send back any changes within a week. I just didn’t have the time. But I wasn’t worried. I trusted my publisher and editor. I received my copy of my novel the day I left for a writers’ conference. I was busy teaching, so didn’t get much time to look at it. Not until after my class on the most frequent foibles in fiction writing, during which I discussed the reasons to avoid –ly adverbs. There was a section in my book that I wanted to read for my next workshop as an example of the difference between showing and telling. So I flipped it open, started reading the paragraph…and found –ly adverbs.
Yup. Everything I’d told my students not to do was right there, printed for all of eternity. In my novel.
I knew I didn’t put those in there, nor did my editor. So I called the publisher just a little irritated, and discovered that the changes had been made by a new copyeditor. All throughout the book. If I’d read the galley, I would have seen them. I learned two lessons from that: Read the galleys when they come in, and always, always use a style sheet!
Okay, your turn.