Born In The Age Of Editors

Revising my Next of Kin manuscript is on my To-Do List today. First, time out to read Lani Longshore’s Monday writer’s blog. She reminded me of how grateful I am for my critique group and my editor. Now, back to making the revisions they suggested.

Lani Longshore's Blog

I had an epiphany that would probably land me on the heretic’s pyre, or at least put me out of the running for tenure. Writers today are expected to have editors. The great writers of the past – not so much. Some writers require effort, readers are told, because they were such deep thinkers. What if that is poppycock? What if the venerated author was simply having a bad writing day?

Montaigne wrote in one of his essays about the Greek philosophers he adored losing the thread of their argument in places. My first thought was here was a classic case of the pot dissing the kettle. Those essays may be worth reading (or at least skimming) for historical significance but don’t expect a logical presentation of a philosophical proposal. Then I realized I was holding him to a standard that didn’t exist in his day. Montaigne was a proto-blogger…

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Thanksgiving Turkey Advice for 2023

Turkey on strike offers resolution advice for Thanksgiving 2023.

Design by Elaine (my photo)

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And the winner is . . .

Glenda Carrol, author, was the Tri-Valley Writers guest speaker on October 15. Her topic was how to make the setting a character in a novel. During her slide show presentation, each attendee was given a ticket for a chance to be a character’s name in her next novel. Our group was in a large ballroom (setting) instead of the usual meeting room. The acoustics were poor, and I couldn’t hear Glenda, so I moved from my table to a chair facing her. I jotted notes—scribbled might be a better description—until my fingers cramped. When the winning number was read, all eyes were focused on their ticket number. Nobody responded. Then, a person at the table where I was first seated, yelled “Vi” and waved my ticket in the air.

I asked Glenda to be kind to my character and let me be a good girl. Setting as a character might be my name engraved on a cemetery headstone.

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Characters on Strike

A few weeks ago, my fictional characters from the Next of Kin manuscript woke me around 4:00 a.m. and told me how to portray them in the draft I’m revising. They were informative, polite, and open to suggestions. No more. Now they’re on strike, carrying protest signs.

“You can’t go on strike,” I say. “There’s no union for book characters.”

“There is now,” Detective Morgan Madrid replies. “We created one.” Sergeant Gavin O’Sullivan nods in support.

Captain Luis Rojas stands a distance from the picket line at my computer. “Are you participating in this subterfuge?” I ask. He rubs his temple like he often does in my crime fiction manuscript. “They want me to negotiate a deal.”

I puzzle over their request. They already shape their dialogues and habits. They come and go as they please, popping into scenes that I have to revise to fit the plot.

“What kind of deal?”

“They’re unhappy because you’re taking too long with the edits. They wanted their story to be on Amazon before Christmas.”

“Captain, you’re a good negotiator. The holiday market is flooded with bestselling crime fiction books. The competition is too stiff. Next spring will give them a greater chance without all that opposition.”  

My characters huddle and whisper. Sergeant O’Sullivan shakes his head in disagreement. Finally, Captain Rojas approaches me. “It’s a deal. But they want the opportunity to disagree with the editor.”

I groan. They’re fictional. My editor is a real person. I concede and we close the deal with handshakes all around. Now that the crisis is subdued, back to editing to avoid another strike before I run out of time.

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Fools and Angels

Abraham Lincoln, as an attorney, is praised for his wise council, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Alexander Pope, an English author, warned, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Today, I would follow Lincoln’s advice. Years ago, I ignored both his advice and Pope’s admonishment. I represented myself. Not appellate court. Not district court. I defended myself in traffic court following an accident.

I walked into court in business dress carrying a lightweight leather-look briefcase with proof of my innocence. The black-robed judge looked at me from his lofty perch. “The report says you were at fault. Why are you in court today instead of paying the ticket?”

“I am not guilty of the police officer’s allegations,” I said. My knees knocked together. My voice trembled. Then boldness rescued me. “The name on the ticket is a blend of my name and the other driver’s, but the officer took my picture license and issued me a temporary. I’m here to get my original license returned.” The judge’s face contorted into a puzzled expression. He called for the officer to step forward. Nobody moved. “I will see that your license is returned to you. And the ticket is revoked. Case dismissed.”

A few years later when a driver rear-ended my vehicle in the same city, I heeded Lincoln’s words and hired an attorney. I tell my fictional characters to do the same. If they listen, it will keep us all out of trouble.

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Plot Twists in Unexpected Places

Peripety, an unknown word to me, popped off the page of the inspiration book about Queen Esther that I was reading. Merriam-Webster defines the ancient spelling of peripeteia as “a sudden or unexpected reversal of circumstances or situation, especially in a literary work.”

The definition made me take a second look at the point of peripeteia in my crime fiction manuscript. It’s there, but subtle compared to Queen Esther’s story when the tables were turned. The tension was extreme. No way out for Mordecai who would not honor Haman. But King Xerxes couldn’t sleep so he read chronicles of events in his kingdom. Then, a peripety moment when the king chose Haman to do the public honors for Mordecai for his past deed of protecting the king. The last of the plot twists was when Haman was impaled in public on the execution pole he had made to kill Mordecai.

Back to my crime fiction manuscript to ramp up the peripeteia for Detective Morgan Madrid in her quest to find a modern-day killer.  

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Uninvited Guest

Detective Morgan Madrid, my main character, has accepted a lieutenant’s position in a new law enforcement location. She’s struggling with opposition within the department. My novel critique group wants to know what’s keeping her from leaving. I puzzled over this for two days. Then Evelyn, Morgan’s mother, interrupted my sleep two days later. She told me the basic reason, but she stopped there. I turned on the light, grabbed a stack of 3 x 5 index cards (a suggestion from one of the critique members), and scribbled ideas. A second visit from Evelyn two days later interrupted my sleep again. This time I made her tell me how she wants me to incorporate the reason. She’s a minor character with lots of insight, or perhaps pride, because she convinced me to use her wisdom to explain the reason Morgan will stay in a town where she doesn’t want to live on a job she doesn’t like. Evelyn wants me to add a character, a dead family member, as the reason for Morgan’s tenacity. I will have to endure another sleep interruption from my uninvited guest because Evelyn hasn’t told me whether the new character will be her deceased father or uncle.

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Four-Letter Words

When my high school English teacher told our class to avoid four-letter words, she was referring to foul language. She challenged us to increase our language skills, verbal and written, to avoid those words. My father didn’t allow swearing in our home, even insisting that we refrain from saying gosh (a four-letter word). Sometimes, one word in a conversation or in writing portrays a different emotion.

I hate you.  I love you.

A texted emoji conveys the opposites of joy and sadness without words.

😊 🥺

A single alphabetical letter at the beginning of a word can produce a different meaning for each.

Dice. Nice. Rice. Vice.

This four-letter word makes me smile.

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Walking in Someone Else’s Footsteps

My tagline is Edit, Edit, Edit. I check the basics: spelling, grammar, punctuation, and misused words by Merriam-Webster Dictionary. I delete extra spaces after periods and other minor edits. I hone the manuscript text with Chicago Manual of Style guidelines. I add comments without making changes in areas where the writer has options. I email the attachment to the editor. Then I prop my feet up in my recliner, read or knit, and sip tea.

This week, the shoe is on the other foot (a cliche, but necessary). I am the author, not the editor. I open the document and stare at the red marks. I am surprised that I missed obvious things I caught when editing for others. Those changes will be easy. The major effort will be reviewing comments about sentences and scenes that don’t fit. For that journey, I will walk in the footsteps of authors I have edited.

Tags: author, Chicago Manual of Style, editor, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the shoe is on the other foot, walk in another person’s footsteps, Violet’s Vibes, Violet Carr Moore

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Publishing a Book is a Work in Progress

I began Next of Kin, my first crime fiction novel, as a work in process, but it has stretched into a work in progress. Both WIPs, but not the same meaning. After years of critiques by my novel group and more than a dozen manuscript revisions, my editor is hard at work trying to improve the story. My cover designer is challenged with trying to please me (a word enthusiast with little sense of visual concepts) while she creates an eye-catcher.

Publishing a book is like the old soaps (maybe some new ones). When a hurdle is finished and the end seems near, the broadcast ends with “Stay tuned for the next episode.”

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