Monday, May 31, 2010

The Typical Day of an Intern

Friends and family have been asking what, exactly, my day as an intern looks like. So I thought I'd write it out for everyone. In detail.

So! This is what I do!

7:30am - Alarm goes off. 'Snooze' is immediately hit.

7:35am - Alarm goes off again.

7:40am - More snooze.

7:45am - Finally roll out of bed. Literally.

7:45-8:05am - Apply makeup with unsteady hands. Reapply. Straighten hair.

8:05-8:15 - Scarf down breakfast. Whatever is available. Just be careful - milk has a tendency to go bad.

8:15-8:25am - Dig through suitcases/drawers for some semblance of a work-appropriate outfit. Try to locate shoes.

8:25-8:30am - Talk to Darlene and the dogs.

8:30am - Darlene drops me off at the bus stop. Which I could walk to (easily), but who am I to turn down a ride?

8:30-8:45am - Flip through the free paper at the bus stop. Shoot angry morning glares at the creepy man who sometimes is at the bus stop, too.

8:45-9:05am - Take bus to the Pentagon. Avoid stepping on anyone's toes. Avoid falling into anyone's lap due to jerky bus movements. It's one of my biggest fears, and so far I've avoided it.

9:05-9:40am - Take two trains to get to Tenleytown. Am sometimes smushed between sweaty, overweight, crabby adults. Am sometimes farted on. Or stepped on.

9:40am - Blessed Starbucks, served by an attractive man with dreads. One of these days, I will learn your name, and we will be friends who know each other's names.

9:50am - Arrive at work.

9:50-10am - Chat with Naomi and Elaine. Get settled in for the day. Drink more Starbucks.

10-11am - Read first partial of the day. Could be good. Could be bad. More than likely, average. Or bad.

11-11:25am - Write report on said partial. Usually involving the words, "I would suggest passing on this manuscript."

11:25-1pm - Chat with other intern. Read another partial. Write another report.

1pm(ish) - Lunchtime! This could involve wandering around Wisconsin Ave. trying to find food, overheating something I brought in the microwave, or ordering Thai.

1:45-5pm - Read another two-three partials. Write more reports. Talk to the other interns more. Ask Naomi questions. Eat cupcakes.

5pm - Walk back to the metro. Consider stopping by Best Buy for a new camera battery. Decide I'm too tired, and continue on my way.

5:15pm - Catch the first train back home.

5:30pm - Second train.

5:45-6pm - Wait for the bus. I still don't know what times they come at.

6:30pm - Arrive at bus stop.

6:40pm - Arrive home. Crash. Die.

The end!

(And yes. I seriously do love my job. So much. It makes being farted on worth it.)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Contest! (Edited)

It's Contest Time!

Lately, I've been seeing a lot of contests on the blogs I follow, and naturally, I wanted in on this latest fad. I'm a follower, what can I say? So I sat down and thought to myself, 'Hmm. What could I possibly do that wouldn't involve a lot of work, but still be awesome?'

Luckily, my last entry gave me an idea.

The contest is simple - All you have to do is be my #? follower!

That's right, I changed it. 50 was too boring. Plus, now none of you know which new follower will win. I have a Super Special Secret Number (between 20 and 60) in my head. If you happen to be that follower, you win! All you have to do is keep your fingers crossed and sign up to follow me!

The Prize: The winner will receive one of the books on my favorites list! You tell me a little bit about what you like to read, and I'll do my best to match it to something on my list (you'll have to let me know if you've already read some of them so I don't send you a duplicate).

And that's it! Pretty simple, right?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Favorite Books

I received an anonymous comment on my last entry, asking me to post a list of my favorite books. Because I'm a sucker for reading, and for coercing people to read books I love, I was more than happy to oblige! These books are my absolute favorites, or ones I've really enjoyed. Some of the YA books are ones I've loved since I was a kid, and I'm not ashamed to admit I still read them.

These are in no particular order.

The Cheney Duvall series by Lynn & Gilbert Morris
The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Staggerford by John Hassler
A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Daughter of the Game by Tracy Grant
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostava
Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
Timeline by Michael Crichton

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Society of S by Susan Hubbard
Harry Potter by JKR
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Shade's Children by Garth Nix
Secrets of the Nile (Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys) by Carolyn Keene
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
One Last Wish series by Lurlene McDaniel

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
Flyaway by Lucy Christopher
The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox
The Year of Disappearances by Susan Hubbard
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
Whores on the Hill by Colleen Curran
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The Line by Terri Hall
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

What are some of your favorites?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Guest Blog: Mika

No news on the querying front here, which is why things have been so quiet lately. I also just finished with exams, so I have finally reached that blessed time of year known as summer vacation. So, since I have jack to say, I'm turning things over to Mika!

Mika was the other editor I had while revising TANGO. Whereas Marie is a professional copyeditor, Mika was great for catching inconsistencies in the story, or letting me know when my characters were totally OUT of character. She helped me fine-tune my plot, and is still nice enough to put up with me sending her a redone paragraph a hundred times. She's been insanely encouraging, and I love her to death. So this is her take on the editing process! It's completely different from Marie's, but equally useful. Enjoy!

You can follow Mika's blog HERE.


My good friend and I were recently having drinks together at The Mint – kinda our place to hang and have a good glass of wine – when we were talking about how she can always rely on me for an honest opinion, because I am judgmental.

I was a little insulted. Because obviously, no one wants to be called judgmental.

So I retaliated with “I’m not ‘judgmental.’ I just look at things with a critical eye.”

And I guess for me, that’s what editing is all about. It’s looking at things with a critical eye.

I suppose by now you’re thinking, “Oh, jeez, that’s great advice. Good one, Mika. Marie’s blog post was way better than this garbage.”

And all I have to say back to that is, “Hey? GUESS WHAT?! There’s no one way to edit, so give me a break!”

And it’s so true. I’m not the typical editor. I started editing, because I told a person I reviewed for to get an editor. They asked if I would edit for them. That gig lasted me all of three chapters, out of a story that ended up being 20+.

So when I started editing for Sammy, I was like “oh man, what did I get myself into?” TANGO was a monster of a story, at over 70K words! 27 chapters! However many pages, and however many hours of editing that would need.

But I sucked it up, I delved, and just did what I do. And here is what that looks like for me…

Getting started:

I always edit with music. I like editing on Google Documents and on Microsoft Word. I haven’t had a bunch of experience editing hard copies, but there will be more on that later…. I will always have my email up, so I can quickly type any immediate questions to the author and send it via email or instant messenger once I have most of those questions figured out.

Basically what I’m saying is you need to get yourself comfortable, and in the zone. You can't edit when you’re distracted, or irritated, or anything else. So just make sure you’re in the right mindset first.

And the good stuff…

  1. Write what you feel, no matter what it is, about anything you see or read.

    If you see something that just pinches you wrong, even if it’s just how a word is used, let the author know. This is your job, so just do it. Don’t be afraid of doing this; just point the thing out, explain your defense, and go on to the next thing. If you feel something doesn’t work, all you have to do is say something. And write down everything that you feel about it. You get an emotional trigger, put it down. It reads awkwardly, put it down.

    You could think now that this doesn’t help much, because you could be editing every single word if you write what you “feel.”

    I never said I was conventional, did I?

    To clarify further: Let the author know about things you hate, and things you love. I can’t stress this enough. MAKE SURE THEY KNOW WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT THE STORY. You can point out all the things you feel is wrong, because that’s what you need to do as your job as editor. But I think that equally important is pointing out those things that make you go, “Yeah! That’s awesome! Rock on!” and so forth. It lets the author know what works in terms of characterization, description, etc. and that is integral to the editing process for me. And nothing is too big or too little to mention.

    So….yeah. Go with your gut instinct. Some technical people (coughMariecough) might tell you what you’re doing is messed up (like using “since” to start a sentence). But if you’re honest about what you think and what you feel, then you’re doing the best job you can do.

  1. Nothing you do is wrong, but remember that it’s also not always right.

    One of the hardest things for me to do when editing with another person was conceding that I wasn’t always right about things. We would argue and bicker over the stupidest point, and easily write 200 words about it. And it would be over…oh, whether eyes were green, or if they were blue. Something that insignificant could have a big impact on the author, and it definitely helps you learn about how others edit, and what you do have wrong.

    I have trouble admitting when I’m wrong, so it was a great learning process for me (see above comment about starting sentences with “since.”) It was also really fascinating to see how much my opinion could differ to someone else’s, and that really helped me edit my work with more clarity and precision.

    And the last point about this I have to say is no matter what you say or change, it will always be at the discretion of the author. You might be 100% convinced that what you’ve done is perfectly perfect and there’s no way that it can get anymore, well, perfect. But guess what? It’s your word against theirs, and if they don’t want to change their main character’s name from Jackie O to Spock because you think it’s a good idea, then it’s not going to happen and you have to accept that graciously.

  1. Convince your author that if they don’t have two or more editors, to get another one.

    This is easily one of the best things you can do for your writing and editing process. For me, this was easily one of the best things to keep me motivated. I am competitive as hell, and when I saw my fellow editor chugging away and cranking out fully edited chapters, it just got my editing juices flowing too. It also helps to have people that will talk to you about the work besides the author, because chances are they will want to talk about the same things.

    It will help your author too, because they will have two+ editors asking questions, requesting new sections or chapters, etc. It will give them two perspectives, two sets of opinions, and it can facilitate some great discussion about the work, which is always good for any story, poem, whatever.


Editing for yourself:

So all of this so far has been in terms of editing for other people. It is much easier to edit someone else’s work, because the things you don’t like will stand out much more than when you’re editing your own stuff.

Needless to say, editing your own work is a lot harder. You’re more critical, and at the same time you don’t want to let anything go.

I loathe editing my own work, and like all writers out there, it’s hard to tough out critiques from other people, even if they’re right. It’s getting easier, as I do it more and more, but it’s still tough as nails. I never used to edit my work. I would just write it out a couple times, and then just post it. NOT A GOOD IDEA. So, the biggest thing is remember to stay critical and try to stay as detached as possible, and to give yourself several days after writing a paragraph, chapter, whatever, before you begin your editing. I find it easier to edit my own work in hard copy if I’ve got it on my computer, and vice versa.


Now, I do my editing very subjectively, as you can see from above. I just got into it one day, and now I’m considered a fairly decent amateur “editor” (though lord knows why people want to hear my opinion about anything).

That doesn’t mean that everyone can just start editing and be good at it. I’m sorry to break your hearts, but it requires a very, very deep background in writing. I’ve been writing for over 7 years. I started researching stuff like the English monarchical hierarchy, just so I knew 100% what the difference between an earl and a lord was for my own stories when I was only 12 or 13 years old. I spent hours upon hours looking up synonyms for colours, and then making sure I knew exactly what that colour looked like, so I could expand my vocabulary. You need to be decent at writing, at the very least, to be even a half-decent editor. You don’t need to be super organized, you don’t have to be a perfectionist, but you need to have experience, and lots of it.

To help further your knowledge, here is what I recommend. Write a bunch of stuff by hand. I never typed any of my work until about four years ago. It helped me a lot, because it gives you the opportunity to get your writing-flow going, without the distraction of the internet and whatever. When you transfer things to electronic, it also gives you an opportunity to self edit your work (if you are looking at your writing with a critical eye when you’re doing so), which will get you in the habit of catching things in other people’s stuff.

Also, invest in a good dictionary, and a good thesaurus. I like the Oxford versions, but just make sure it’s a nice one, and big (it helps boost your “smart” ego too).

And read read read!!!! I don’t know what your preferred genre is. I used to only read fantasy, but since grade 12 literature and English class, I have begun to expand my horizons. Read some classics, some postmodern (In the Skin of a Lion is a great book, though a little sophisticated), some regular old fiction, and whatever else tickles your fancy. I always judge my books by the covers, especially if I’m just looking for a new story without any recommendation. If you have a library card, USE IT. I just cannot stress how important it is for you all to read to improve your own writing!!!!!! Obviously, don’t take a book you love and steal passages from it (that is called PLAGIARISM and it is a terrible thing to do). But if there’s certain stylistic things you like, words you don’t know, underline them, research these things, find ways to make it totally your own.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Guest Blog: Marie

I had two really incredibly people who helped me edit TANGO, and I'm afraid to think where my novel would be without them. They spent so much time helping me turn my terrible NaNoWriMo draft into something I was really proud of. Marie was really great about picking out all of my typos and unnecessary repetition (snapping twigs, anyone?), along with inconsistencies and countless other issues. She did professional writing and editing at university, and I can't thank her enough for all the work she's done. I really can't. She's just that fantastic. She was kind enough to write up a post on editing, which I hope you guys find useful!

You can follow Marie at her journal, HERE.



There are two great truths about editing:

1) You have to have a solid grasp of grammar and language, and
2) It's not for everyone.

Just as being a guitarist doesn't make you a drummer, so too does being a writer not make you an editor, though the crossover isn't unheard of.

Editors are, for the most part, perfectionists in every sense of the word. They are thorough, usually well-organised, efficient time managers and have an irrational love for the way changing the place of just one word can create an entirely different effect in a piece of fiction.

Writers and editors require the same sets of skills: knowledge of how sentences/paras/scenes/chapters/entire plots are constructed, understanding of grammar, awareness of fictional tools such as character/setting/point of view/etc, amongst other things. But writers use these skills in different ways than editors do. Writers immerse themselves in the creation; editors must remain removed or run the risk of missing what needs to be changed or fixed. Which is not to say editors shouldn't enjoy the piece they're working on, but it's easier to edit a piece if you're not holding your breath about what's going to happen next. If deadline permits, it's more than okay to read the work for enjoyment first, and then set to work editing it. But if something pops out at you while you're reading for pleasure, make sure you mark it! You might not pick it up next time.

There is no right or wrong way to edit. Every editor works differently, has different methods, it's just a matter of figuring out what works best for you. You should also find that most of your editing method can transfer from paper to screen. Communicating changes is different, and differs depending on where you're editing (Word documents/GoogleDocs/etc); screen editing also requires more frequent breaks to prevent muscle and eye strain. But for the most part, the way you go about the work will remain the same.

When I edit, it generally takes a few paragraphs to immerse myself in the work, to get myself to the point where the real world is background noise and all that really exists are the words and language. Once I reach that stage, I go back to the beginning and begin making changes. Singular words are usually what I notice first, where they appear in the sentence and then if they've been used recently, whether they sound similar to other words being used. As I go, I begin to take note of what I call the author's "Go to" words, those being words that the author uses all the time. The author is usually doing this unconsciously, so I highlight rather than change them, to make the author aware of what they're doing and help them prevent it in the future.

I gradually sink far enough into the role of editing where I can see the sentences as wholes, as well as parts of paragraphs. Once I reach that stage, I begin making changes to the sentences themselves, such as switching clauses and cutting entire groups of words. As I go, I also make notes of facts that have to be checked. You can assume that, if the author is writing about it, they know a fair deal about the subject, but it's possible they don't know everything. If something feels off, or something doesn't ring true, check it yourself or notify the author, just in case. Length is another thing to be aware of as you go. Weaker descriptions require more words than strong ones do, so find the strongest adjective (and avoid adverbs) or verb and use that, rather than a string of qualifying adjectives.

For the most part, editing can be broken down into four levels: light, medium, heavy and structural. Each level focuses on different things and the author will tell you which they want you to complete. In a paying job, heavy editing will earn more than light, because more work is required and more hours put in.

Light editing should include:
- spelling, grammar, punctuation
- incorrect usage (may/can, numbers in figures or words, etc)
- checking consistency (spelling, hyphenation, etc)
- paragraphing

It may include:
- checking sequences in lists, tables, etc
- checking cross references
- recording first references to figures, tables, etc

Medium editing should include:
- light editing
- rewriting sentences for greater coherency
- parallel structure changes
- passive to active voice
- inappropriate figures of speech
- confusing or incorrect statements
For fiction:
- continuity of plot, character, setting, etc
- consistent style of collaborative manuscripts
For non-fiction:
- check chapter previews, summaries or questions reflect chapter content
- key terms used consistently and vocab lists and index meet publishers criteria
- language suits audience

It may include:
- typemarking (headings, etc)

Heavy editing should include:
- light and medium editing
- improve text flow
- reduction of wordiness and cliches
- moving text
- reorganising heading levels
- suggesting additions or deletions

It may include:
- complete rewriting
- reducing word count

Structural editing should include:
- change structure and substance
- change content and organisation
For fiction:
- check characterisation, plot, etc
For non-fiction:
- check content against purpose and audience, chapter organisation, accuracy, etc.

Remember, though, it is possible to over edit. You are not the author of the work, just its editor. As such not only are you supposed to fix spelling errors and make sure the piece flows properly, but you also have to ensure the voice of the author and essence of the story shine through. Think of editing as polishing. Someone gives you a mirror, maybe with fingerprints or grime on it. You take a cloth and clean that mirror until it shines, and then present it back to the owner to do with it what they will.

Remember too that authors aren't going to agree with everything you say and it's their right to. All you can do is suggest and make your point of view clear. There will be difficulties but don't argue. You both have the same goal: to make the story the absolute best it can be.

If there's one thing every editor needs, whether they're working on hard copy or screen, no matter what level they're editing at, it's a style sheet. Style sheets are tables broken up into letter groups and are used to note down how something appears in the work to maintain consistency. You can find an example here and a blank here, though you can easily draw up your own, and change it to suit you.

As with everything, the more you do something, the better you get at it. Start small and don't pressure yourself. Try to enjoy it too. The satisfaction of knowing you've contributed to something like a book or story is immense and completely worth the time and effort.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Cover Art

I got my thesis printed and bound today, and just wanted to show off Jen's incredible cover art. If only I could use this for the actual book some day. *Sniff*

Kudos to whoever can guess who the woman on the cover is.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Inspiration Comes in Odd Places

I was putzing around on today and came across an author who'd recently been offered representation. They posted their stats and because I found them interesting, I thought I'd share.

Received two offers of representation on 4/15 for my 83,000 word romantic comedy/chick-lit novel from D4EO Literary and Book Cents Literary.

For those of you interested, here are my stats:
Began querying: 12/1/09
Offers of representation: 4/15/10

Queries sent: 115
Positive Responses = 16
Negative Responses = 99

I think it's important to remember that finding an agent takes time. You send out tons of letters, and you get results like that. It's really important to remember this business is subjective. You'll get rejected, it's guaranteed. What one agent likes, another won't. If anything, this process is going to teach me patience. I'll always be thankful for that.