An American Editor

February 27, 2017

The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap II

I rarely receive an entire manuscript in a single file. The manuscripts I work on are rarely single-author books; instead, each chapter is written by a different author or group of authors, and so the files are chapter oriented.

The Online Stylesheet

Even before I open the first chapter file, I begin preparing for the book. My first step is to create the online stylesheet (see Working Effectively Online V — Stylesheets [note: access to my online stylesheet is no longer available to the general reader]). I insert into the stylesheet any specific instructions for the project that I receive from the client. An example of specific instructions is shown here (you can make an image in this essay larger by clicking on the image):

Stylesheet Sample

Stylesheet Sample

I also add to the stylesheet any specific spellings or usages. For example, both “distention” and “distension” are acceptable spellings. If I know the client prefers one over the other, I add that spelling to the stylesheet. I also note the reference style to be used (usually with a quick note such as “references: follow AMA 10”). If there are variations, I will insert a note regarding the variations along with examples.

It is important to remember the purposes of the stylesheet. First, it is to help me be consistent throughout the project. It is not unusual to encounter a term or phrase in chapter 2 that I do not see again until chapter 10. Second, it is — at least in my business — a way for the client to observe my decision making. My stylesheets are available to my clients 24/7/365 and I encourage clients to review the stylesheets early and often. Most do not, but there have been occasions when a client has done so and has noted that they would prefer a different decision from the one I made. When the client takes the time to look at the stylesheet and advise me of a change they would like, it is easy to implement the change.

Third, the stylesheet is for the author. A well-done stylesheet can subliminally tell an author how good an editor I am. The author can see my diligence, and if the author has a preference (e.g., “distension” rather than “distention”), the author can communicate it and see that the change is made. Fourth, the stylesheet is for the proofreader. It tells the proofreader what decisions have been made and what are the correct spellings, and it gives myriad other information — depending on how detailed I make the stylesheet. It does neither the client nor the author nor me any good if the proofreader comes upon something the proofreader flags as an error because the proofreader doesn’t have a copy of my latest stylesheet in which the answer as to whether it is an error can be found (which is why my clients can both review the stylesheet online 24/7/365 and download the latest version — current to within 60 seconds of an entry having been made — 24/7/365).

Fifth, and finally, should I be asked to edit the next edition of the book, I can open the archived copy of the stylesheet and merge it into the stylesheet for the new edition. This enables consistency across editions, should that be something the client desires. And if the client’s schedule doesn’t accommodate mine, requiring the client to assign the new-edition project to another editor, either I or the client can access the archived stylesheet and provide a copy to the new editor. The importance here is twofold: first, it may give me a head start in the running to be the editor of the next edition; and second, it is good customer service and makes it easy for the client to think of me for other projects.

Once I have set up the stylesheet, it is time to tackle some of the other preediting tasks.

Cleaning Up the Manuscript

The first preediting tasks performed directly on the manuscript are aimed at cleaning up the manuscript. I do the cleanup before I do anything else on the manuscript. Cleanup means doing things like eliminating extra spacing and line breaks, and changing soft returns to hard returns or spaces. To clean up the manuscript, I use some of the macros found in The Editorium’s Editor’s Toolkit Plus 2014. For my methodology, I only use three of the Toolkit’s macros: FileCleaner, NoteStripper, and ListFixer. The only Toolkit Plus macro I use on every manuscript is ListFixer to convert Word’s autonumbered/lettered lists to fixed lists; the other two macros I use as needed.

EditTools has several macros that I use during the cleanup phase. The first macro I run is Delete Unused Styles. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t permit some styles to be deleted, but this macro reduces style clutter. (Caution: If you are applying a template to the manuscript, do not run this macro after the template has been applied. Doing so may cause template styles to be removed.) I have found that running this macro first makes it easier to deal with the often myriad author-created styles, especially the ones that are attributes. A major shortcoming of Microsoft Word is that it encourages users to use styles but doesn’t make it easy for most users to understand how to use styles properly.

Another significant problem with Word styles occurs when a compositor has taken a typeset file and converted it to a Word document for editing. Every time the typesetter modified line or word spacing, for example, the modification shows as a new style. Similarly, when applying attributes like bold and italic to an already-styled word or phrase, Word creates a new style that is identical to the already-applied style except that it incorporates the attribute. Consequently, the manuscript has dozens of overriding styles that need to be removed. Although Delete Unused Styles won’t remove these types of styles (because they are being used in the document), by eliminating unused styles, I need to deal with fewer styles.

After Delete Unused Styles, I run EditTool’s Cleanup macro. The Cleanup macro lets me customize what I want done and also enables me to create a project- or client-specific cleanup dataset that complements the master Cleanup dataset.

The Cleanup macro is intended for those things that I would cleanup in every manuscript. Look at the following image of the Cleanup Manager:

Cleanup Manager

Cleanup Manager

Fixes include changing two spaces to one space (in the image: [space][space]->[space]) and changing a tab followed by a paragraph marker to just the paragraph marker (in the image: ^t^p->^p). In other words, the routine cleanup. The macro also lets me link to a project-specific (“specialty”) cleanup dataset that contains less-generic items for fixing, such as replacing “ß” with “β”. (It is not necessary to have a project-specific cleanup dataset; anything that I would place in the specialty dataset I could put, instead, in the general cleanup dataset. I use the specialty datasets to avoid the problems that can occur if one client wants, for example, “ / ” [i.e., a space on each side of the slash] and another wants “/” without spacing.)

As we all know, different authors tend to have their own “peculiarities” when it comes to how something is styled. Those are the little things that one discovers either during a scan of a chapter or while editing. For example, in a chapter an author may style a measure inconsistently, first as “> 25” and then as “>25.” These are the types of things for which I previously used Word’s Find & Replace function. Because I scan the material before styling/typecoding, I often catch a number of these types of problems. To correct them, I use the Sequential F&R Active Doc tab of the Find & Replace Master macro, shown here:

Sequential F&R Active Doc

Sequential F&R Active Doc

This macro lets me do multiple find-and-replaces concurrently — I can select some or all of them. This macro lets me mix and match and I can save the find and replace items in a dataset for repeat use. The difference between the Sequential F&R Active Doc and the Cleanup macro is that the Cleanup macro is intended for things that are found in multiple manuscripts, whereas the Sequential F&R Active Doc is intended to replace Word’s Find & Replace.

After running Cleanup (and possibly Sequential F&R Active Doc), I may run Wildcard Find and Replace. It depends on what I noticed when I scanned the manuscript. I have created dozens of wildcard strings that I can run individually or as part of a script that I created. And if one of my already-created strings won’t work, I can create a new one. (Wildcard Find & Replace is discussed in this series in the future essay The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap VI.)

After doing the cleanup routine, I then style/typecode (discussed in the next essay in this series, The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap III) and insert preliminary bookmarks (see the future essay in this series The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap IV). Then it is time to turn to Never Spell Word (which I’ll discuss in The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap V).

Richard Adin, An American Editor

February 20, 2017

The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap I

Over the years, I have been asked by “young” editors (by which I mean editors new to the profession or who have only a few years of experience) about how I approach an editing project. Also over the years I have discussed with colleagues how they approach a project. What I have learned is that as our experience grows and as we adapt to the types of projects we edit, each editor creates his or her own methodology. But that is an unsatisfactory response to the question. Consequently, with this essay I begin a series of essays that discuss how I approach an editing project — that is, my methodology.

The Basics

As I am sure you can guess, much of my methodology is wrapped up in making as much use of methods focused on efficiency and productivity as possible, which in my case means a large reliance on my EditTools set of macros (for those of you who are unfamiliar with EditTools, you can learn about the macros that make up the package by visiting the wordsnSync website) and my online stylesheet (see Working Effectively Online V — Stylesheets [note: access to my online stylesheet is no longer available to the general reader]). I also rely on parts of The Editorium’s Editor’s Toolkit Plus 2014, primarily ListFixer and NoteStripper.

It is also important to keep in mind the types of projects I work on. Most of my projects are large medical books, ranging in size from 1500 to 20,000+ manuscript pages. This is important information because what works for nonfiction doesn’t necessarily translate well — in terms of efficiency or productivity — for fiction editing. As you read about my methodology, do not dismiss what I do by thinking it won’t work for you; instead, think about how it can be adapted to work for you — and, more importantly, whether it should be adopted and/or adapted by you for your editorial business.

Recreating the Wheel

No matter what type of manuscript you edit, the objective is (should be) to edit profitably. Profitable editing is possible only when we can make use of existing tools and adapt them to our needs. It makes no sense to reinvent the wheel with each project and it makes no sense to dismiss tools that others have created because the tools were created to work in a different environment. What does make sense is to create the wheel once and reuse it repeatedly and to take already-created tools and adapt them to what we do.

A good example is marketing. Smart marketers make note of what ads are the most effective at pushing a product or business and then think about how such ad can be adapted to promote their business or product. Years ago, when I was planning marketing campaigns for my editorial business, I would indirectly, as part of a conversation, ask clients (which included potential clients) about ads I had seen and thought effective. A positive response from clients would have me think about how to adapt the positively viewed ad for my business.

Looking at Tools

Which brings to mind another point. A common failing among editors is to look at a package of tools, decide that of all the tools in the package the editor can only make regular use of one or two of the tools, and thus the editor decides that the package is not worth buying. This, however, is faulty thinking.

In the early days of my editing career, I, too, thought like that. Then I kept seeing the same types of problems popping up in many of the manuscripts I worked on and it dawned on me that a package of tools I had dismissed had a tool in it that could solve some of these repeating problems in seconds. I realized that the package would pay for itself after just a very few uses of the one or two macros that I could use (thinking that the other macros had no value for me), and thereafter each time I used one of the macros, the package was making me a profit. I had to address the problems whether I used the package or not; the difference was the amount of time and effort I needed to solve the same problems with each new manuscript. By not using the package, I was reinventing the wheel for each project; by buying the package, I created the wheel once and reused it.

I also discovered something else. That tools I had dismissed as not usable in my business because of how I worked needed to be relooked at. Usually I would find that with a little tweaking in how I worked additional tools in the package would save me time and make me money. The lesson I learned was that the stumbling block may be how I work, not the package, and that sometimes it makes sense to modify my methods, that the “tool” knows better than me. By not using the package, I was not learning to tweak my methodology to make my business more profitable.

Artisan vs. Businessperson

Editors like to view themselves as more artisans than businesspersons. There is nothing wrong with such a perspective as long as one does not forget that editing is a business and must be approached as a business. The artisanship is the bonus we get for having a smooth-running business. We have discussed in multiple essays the ideas of being businesslike and profitability (see, e.g., The Commandments: Thou Shall be Profitable; The Twin Pillars of Editing; The Business of Editing: A Fifth Fundamental Business Mistake That Editors Make; and The Business of Editing: The Profitability Difficulty; for additional essays, search An American Editor’s archives), so I won’t rehash the idea again other than to say that if you are not profitable, you will find it difficult to be able to afford the artisanship aspects of editing — and the key to profitability is to reuse, not recreate.

Back to the Basics

The other important point to note about my business is that, with rare exception, I work only with publishers (either directly or indirectly through packagers); that is, I do not work directly with authors. The importance of this point is that publishers generally have set rules they expect to be followed by the editor. For example, I rarely have to ask whether it should be one to nine or 1 to 9 or whether it should be antiinflammatory or anti-inflammatory. Publishers follow established style guides, like the AMA Manual of Style and The Chicago Manual of Style, and if they deviate from the manuals, they do so in written form that is applied across a particular line. Working with publishers brings a high degree of consistency (although a packager can have its own additional twists) to the “mechanical” aspects of what editors do, something that is hard to achieve when working directly with authors on a one-off project.

Coming Up Next

With these caveats in mind, The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap II will begin the discussion of how I approach to a manuscript.

(For an alternative approach to copyediting, watch Paul Beverly’s video “Book Editing Using Macros.” Paul’s approach is also macro reliant, but, I think, less efficient. Paul makes his macros available in his free book Macros for Editors.)

Richard Adin, An American Editor

May 15, 2017

Thinking Fiction: The Novel-Editing Roadmap I

by Carolyn Haley

I was thunderstruck when I read An American Editor’s The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap I and saw the project scale he works on: 1,500 to 20,000 manuscript pages in a single project. Yikes! Translating that into word count comes to 375,000 to 5 million words. Per book.

In contrast, the novels I work on run 50,000 to 200,000 words. Only once has a manuscript come close to the low end of AAE’s projects; the common range is 70,000 to 120,000 words.

Yet for projects great or small, we different types of editors use the same skills and tools to edit our clients’ manuscripts. I need only a fraction of the electronic tools available, not having to deal with references and figures and tables and all, but as time goes by I increasingly use electronic tools. Learning from other editors’ tips, tricks, and processes helps me become more efficient and meet my business goal of doing the best-quality job in the least amount of time with the least expenditure of labor.

Tools also help compensate for a flaw in my reading skills. I’ve learned that once I’ve read something, I stop seeing individual words and punctuation if I read the material again soon after the first time. This means that reading a manuscript completely through before editing it can be counterproductive, so it’s better for me to skip that step and use tools to prevent and later catch errors and omissions. Although I find and address most everything needed during the editing pass, that single read-through isn’t good enough for a professional edit.

My mental blind spot goes away if I wait a few weeks or months between readings. However, my clientele aren’t willing to wait that long. Therefore, I concentrate my attention on where it’s needed most — editing — and use different software tools before and after editing to catch mechanical details my eyes might miss. I’ve settled on a four-stage work routine comprising preflight, formatting, editing, and cleanup. I adjust the routine according to each job’s parameters, using the full process for indie-author clients and reducing or adapting it for publisher clients, who usually provide specific instructions for a job and do some of the steps before submitting the manuscript.

The Four Stages

I work primarily with indie novelists, most of whom are first-time authors still finding their way. For these authors I offer substantive editing, often called line editing or developmental editing by other editors. Sometimes I offer a variant I call a teaching or mentoring edit. Such jobs require the detail precision of copyediting as well as heavy commentary and queries pertaining to content. To handle the dual role effectively, I need to encounter the story as a reader would, not knowing who’s who and what happens next. So I first use tools to make the manuscript clean and consistent, then I read until I stumble, edit accordingly, and continue, using tools to sweep up behind me when done.

This process serves for copyediting finished manuscripts, too. When I copyedit for publishers, there’s usually one or more people in line after me to review the book. For indie authors, however, I’m often the last eyes on novel before it goes out into the world. I counsel all clients to hire a proofreader before they release their work, but in many cases they choose not to, whether it’s because they’ve exhausted their budget on editing or just believe that editing plus their own tinkering and reviewing are adequate. I can’t control what they do after I’ve delivered the manuscript, so during the edit I cover as much ground as possible within the parameters of the job, relying on software tools to cover my back.

Stage 1: Preflight

“Preflight” is a term I picked up during my catalogue production days. Coworkers in my department and personnel at the print house used “preflight” to cover tasks specific to the phase between finishing a layout in InDesign and preparing the file for the printer. There’s also a Preflight function on a pulldown menu in InDesign. The combination embedded the term in my mind.

Now as an editor I use “preflight” for the work I perform on a Microsoft Word manuscript. Preflight in this context means preparing the file for the author’s production, which might be submission to an editor, an agent, or a contest, or releasing it through self-publishing.

My preflight involves two substages: document setup for the job, such as creating folders, working files, style sheets, and notes to myself to guide the edit; then mechanical tidying up of errors and inconsistencies. For the mechanical tasks I use a combination of editing software tools to tackle the nitpickery that would otherwise slow down the edit and distract me from the content elements no computer can address.

When a manuscript arrives, the first thing I do is make a new copy of the file and rename it to indicate it’s an edited version. The author’s original is never touched again, and always available in the event of a document or computer crash. Because Word is unpredictably quirky, and heavy use of track changes sometimes provokes problems, I keep making new, numbered copies of the file over the course of the job.

In case there’s a problem with a file I have open during a work session, I also allow Word’s automatic backup feature to run. The autobackup file is instantly available and contains the most recent edits, should I need to recover anything. At the end of the day’s work session, I copy all files used that day to a secure site provided by my ISP. That way, if my computer dies or house burns down, I can access a current version of the job from any computer anywhere with Internet access. At intervals I back up my whole system onto a removable hard drive that is stored a fire safe. I live in a rural area and have no secure or convenient location outside the house to keep spare copies.

Next I set up the style sheet for the job. If the author has provided a list of character and place names, and/or special vocabulary, I plug those in under the relevant headings. If not, then I fill the style sheet during the edit.

With my work setup in place, I move on to electronic grooming of the file. Before I learned about software editing tools, I compiled a list of things to search for and fix one at a time. As I found ways to automate some of these tasks, I began consolidating them into batches, and experimenting with alternative approaches. Some tools I find easier to learn and apply than others, which influences my choices. Once I find a tool that solves a particular problem, I add it to my kit and use it until a better way presents itself.

The smart plan would be to allot time for a compare-and-contrast of all features of all the editing tool packages available, but I have not yet invested that time. (If anyone does, I’ll eagerly buy your book!) For now I adopt tools according to need and opportunity. Electronic editing tools are similar to Word in a general sense, in that you’re given multiple ways to perform certain functions: You can use a pulldown menu, a keyboard command, assign hotkeys, or run built-in or customized macros. There is no right way; rather, there are alternative ways to accomplish the same task, to be used according to personal preference and appropriateness to the project.

Thinking Fiction: The Novel-Editing Roadmap II will elaborate on the individual tools used in my preflight process.

Carolyn Haley, an award-winning novelist, lives and breathes novels. Although specializing in fiction, she edits across the publishing spectrum — fiction and nonfiction, corporate and indie — and is the author of two novels and a nonfiction book. She has been editing professionally since 1977, and has had her own editorial services company, DocuMania, since 2005. She can be reached at dcma@vermontel.com or through her websites, DocuMania and New Ways to See the World. Carolyn also blogs at Adventures in Zone 3 and reviews at New York Journal of Books.

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