Monday, April 11, 2011

A Class In Editing From Hannah Tinti

Before I get started, there is a book giveaway contest over on Medeia Sharif's Blog. Scroll down to the April 9th entry. Contest ends on the 15th.

Image courtesy:Mr. Ducke

A few weeks ago I went to a class on editing by Hannah Tinti. Not only is she an author of an award-winning novel, she is also editor-in-chief of the literary magazine One Story.

Some people love to edit (me). Some people hate it (Creepy QG). For a book, it can be a daunting prospect. How do you start?

First Draft (Let ’er rip):

1. In the beginning, turn off the internal editor and vomit forth the story. Yes, it may be a disgusting mess, but that’s what editing if for. Spew! You know you want to.

Image courtesy: LoanP89

Second Draft:

2. After some time has passed, sit back and read your glorious, messy thang. Then reread again and take notes. Plot, characters, pacing and themes. Yes, it’s time to dissect this baby.

3. Cut anything that doesn’t propel the plot forward. Be merciless. Or, if you’re feeling faint at the prospect, cut and paste to another file. (Wimp.)

4. Add scenes or expand characters as necessary. Did your baby come with too many toes or not enough?

5. Start to bring the writing up to the level of the strongest parts. I know you pat your back over certain areas and skip over others. Stop ignoring that slop and fix it.

Image courtesy:Jaxin CPT

Third Draft:

6. Read again. Did the changes in the second draft make it better or worse? Does the unchanged material deserve to remain so?

7. Start line edits and look hard at the grammar.

Grammar matters. If you don’t believe me consider the brouhaha that went down in Twitterverse over a self-published author’s bad grammar. Editors are looking for reasons to say no. Don’t make it easy for them to reject your work. Keep your Strunk and White (or The Chicago Manual of Style) by the computer. Don’t drop the Chicago one on your foot though—that sucker’s heavy.

Here’s some typical head-scratchers:

a) Semi-colons. Each side must be a complete sentence linked by a greater idea.

b) The em-dash. Used for asides—when a character’s thoughts are jumping around—or in place of a semi-colon.

c) Colon. Both sides are equal: they mean the same thing.

d) Learn the difference between it’s and its. The former is a contraction for it is; the latter is a possessive. It’s a shame about that cat. I can’t find its tooth.

e) Breath vs. breathe. The former is a noun, the latter a verb. To sing Sting’s Every Breath You Take, you must breathe between verses.

Image courtesy: bunchofpants

f) Adverbs. Ah yes, the potato chips of writing. It’s hard to stop at just one! It’s lazy writing—a tell versus a show. But I must say, I nearly laughed when Ms. Tinti followed her hatred of adverbs with the comment—and I'm not making this up—“Occasionally, they can be used correctly.” Surely, you must be joking.

g) Use search and replace with caution. Suppose you decide the name Bob isn’t sexy enough for your leading man. You change it to Boone. Guess what? Your characters are now enjoying shish kaBoones at their summer picnic and ridding Boonesleighs at the winter carnival. Not cool. Plus you forgot that Bob’s mother calls him Robert.

4th Draft: Yes, it’s time to show this baby off.

1) When listening to a critique, shut your mouth. Do not let the urge to justify your work turn off your ears.

2) Ask the reader what they remembered, where the story got confusing, and what they think the story is about.

3) Cry, if needed.

Image courtesy: Arturo J. Paniagua

Any nuggets of the editing process that you’d like to share? How many grammatical errors are in this document?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Most Expensive Potty Break, Ever

You won't believe what came in the mail last week:

We don't swim in in your toilet - don't pee in our pool
Image courtesy: tano_d'ere's

Dear Mrs. Narayan,

It was brought to our attention that your daughter, (redacted), urinated in the pool at Greece Arcadia High School during her Level I swim class on March 19, 2011. After receiving complaints from parents, we had the pool tested by LaxoChemicals, a third party receiving firm that serves the Greece City School District. The results revealed not only low levels of urine, but also minute traces of the bacteria Escherichia coli (commonly known as E. Coli.)

As required by the NYS board of Health, the pool had to be drained, sanitized, and refilled before it could be used. As part of the arrangement you agreed upon when registering your daughter, you are responsible for payment of the fee $875.00 for the pool restoration. Until this fee is paid in full your daughter will not be able to continue participating in her Level I swim class and any member of your family will not be permitted to register for any classes offered by the Office of Community Education in the Town of Greece.

We ask you to submit your payment as soon as possible to avoid placing this matter in the hands of a collection agency. Payment can be mailed to the address listed at the top of this letter. Checks should be made out the the "Office of Community Education - Greece, NY".

If you have any questions, or are unable to make this payment please contact me at (redacted).


Do you believe this? Considering that it showed up on Friday, I shouldn't have either. Yes, my husband made up the whole thing. He even placed the town seal in the correct color along the top of this masterpiece for the full effect.

Well played, sir. I will have to think long and hard for a fitting response and/or revenge.

So, did anyone 'get' you on April Fool's?

(I'll tell you about the writing class I took with author Hannah Tinti another time.)