Saturday, September 4, 2010

re Billie's "Quest for a clean manuscript"

Billie has been proofing/editing my latest and gave me the supreme compliment of saying "When you talk to new writers, you have to be sure to tell them how much the publisher appreciates well-polished mss like yours!! It certainly spoils me for the others...!!"

This and her latest, incredibly informative post on editing makes me want to share a few secrets I've picked up along the LONG road I've traveled in this writing business. First of all, I agree with EVERYTHING she says in her post. I was the short story fiction editor for the old Futures Mystery Magazine back in the 90's. First of all, believe me, NEATNESS counts! I would get to the point of simply not reading some of the mss submitted to me AND the first misspelling, or torture of grammar, would immediately stop me, as well. Why? Because life is short, an editor's life is hard, and the writing business is too competitive with too many decent writers out there to waste time with someone who, 1. either didn't know any better, or 2. worse, didn't care. Individual STYLE is one thing. Being careless or uninformed is quite another.

After all these years, I realize that I automatically follow eleven of the twelve self-editing tips Billie so kindly and clearly set down for us. I haven't done the back to front bit since I was a research ass't for a bunch of nutty history professors, but I'm going to reinstate that discipline.

And here are some of my suggestions for those Xmas BOOKS: I rely on the experts: Of course, a good dictionary AND Roget's Thesaurus, then the Chicago Manual of Style, Strunk & White's The Elements of Style, and a newer one by someone a lot of you probably know or have heard of, G. Miki Hayden's The Naked Writer. She's an Edgar award winning short story author and teacher and a fabulous editor (and I often email her with my grammar questions!) In this book she simply discusses ALL the mistakes her writing students continually make OVER AND OVER AGAIN and tells us why they are incorrect and how not to make the same mistakes. I refer to all three of these books ALL THE TIME!

Yes, I still make typos and yes, I still make mistakes. And I'm always appalled at the number of corrections I need to make to a manuscript before it's print ready. So I'm certainly not infallible, but my mss are much better than they used to be. I just wish I'd known Billie from the beginning! I am still profiting from her good advice.



Monti said...


I keep being amazed that you were editing the old Futures mag. that I once had a short story in. Still have a copy somewhere at home and need to look it up.

Yes, Billie is quite gifted, and we are fortunate to have her as our publisher and editor as well.


Kit Sloane said...

There are sooo many people who come up to me at conferences and say, "You were the first person who accepted me.!" Well, it's really Babs Lakey who is the person to thank because Futures (and it DID first publish a lot of now published writers) was her dream.


Holli said...

I was fortunate enough to get Miki Hayden as a teacher for an online writing class for polishing finished manuscripts. I took it after receiving quite a few rejections, but before I submitted my manuscript to Billie at Oak Tree, and I have to say I think it made the difference between getting a contract and not getting a contract.

I also learned the reading backwards trick from my daughter four years ago, when her 2nd grade teacher taught it the class. This may explain why my kids are such polished writers at the ripe old ages of 8 and 11.

Holli Castillo