Monday, January 11, 2010

Guest - Linda Robertson

Good morning, everyone! Today's guest is Linda Robertson who writes about a problem many of us authors have - word.

In addition to writing, Linda is the mother of four wonderful boys and owns three electric guitars. She was at one time the lead guitarist in a heavy metal cover band, but now works as Art Director for Strictly 7 Guitars (www.strictly7.com), owned by her beau, Jim. She's been chasing this writing dream for over twenty years.

Also, Linda will be offering a signed copy of her book to one lucky reader. Read to the Lynda Again section to see how you could win.

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THINGS MY EDITOR TAUGHT ME

In prepping for this blog, I considered various options of things I could blather on about. My ability to give instruction feels wimpy. I’d rather tell you about something I found amusing and helpful. So, I’d like to share a couple examples of what working with my editor was like.

I consider myself a word geek sometimes. In the “I-keep-a-giant-unabridged-dictionary-right-on-my-desk-and-I-look-in-it-often” way. But that does NOT mean that my dictionary-on-steroids will keep me abreast of all the slang that’s out there. I recently discovered a word, scatty, (scatter brained) as I flipped around my biggie-size dictionary and, though it was primarily British Informal usage from a century ago, I thought it fit a certain character well.

My editor suggested I change it, possibly to “scattered” or “scatterbrained.”
I resisted the editor’s snubbing of this word. I thought even though some readers might see it as a reference to jazz singers that scat out lyrics or as a crotchety senior who shoos cats away constantly, it was kind of cute and funny. Then my editor pointed out that “scat” is also a slang term used to refer to heroin. (Forehead, meet palm. whack!) Oh, the embarrassment I suffer being a writer who’s never had a drug problem!

Then she pointed out other meanings, including that it was also a reference to the dark things cats leave in their litter pans. As in cat-scat. Eww. I didn’t know. In my defense, I reminded her that I have dogs, not cats. To which she replied, “I don't want to be a grind, but ‘scat’ is any kind of animal dropping. Scatology (or coprology) is a science. Heck, owl scat was part of the fifth grade visit to the Nature Realm. You even study dinosaur scat...and yes, dog poop is scat.” I have to admit, I do love having these kind of conversations with her.

Bottom line, her basic editorial protest was that the character was not British and had no Britishisms in established speech patterns, particularly archaic ones.
The word came out of the text.

It is stuff like this that my editor catches, information that has not permeated the shuttered world in which I live. I’ve been “mommy” to an increasing number of boys for nearly twenty years so there are many facets of modern culture—primarily the “bad for kids” stuff—that I have made myself ignorant of, willingly. My editor, though also a mother, has accumulated a wide base of knowledge because she is far better read than I, and she has studied more subjects more broadly and read a little bit of everything since she learned to read. (And likely editing various horror and urban fantasy authors has afforded her a basic knowledge on a variety of, shall we say, unusual topics. She’s also been known to edit erotica.)

Another example would be fodder shock.

Apparently most copy editors in New York don’t have a rural upbringing that teaches them the terminology of some of the harvesting practices in the Midwest. This is completely understandable. (And my copy editor did a fabulous job, BTW.) However, fodder shock stymied her. I have to admit, this term isn’t even included in my gargantuan dictionary—which makes me doubt the thoroughness of this usually awesome hardback. (Gads, don’t tell me 2000+ pages isn’t enough words, or that I’ll have to go update it with an even larger, heavier one.)

My editor, bless her, never batted an eyelash over the word; she knew it was an armful of cornstalks gathered and bound. Around these parts, you see them in the fall decorating folks’ porch posts. On this one, my editor went to bat for me. The Midwestern character Persephone would, after all, know and use the term.

So, all in all, I get the feeling that my editor is a person who never stopped asking, “Why?” or digging for answers. I’m glad she’s not an archaeologist. I’m glad she’s my erudite editor.

Or maybe she’s a cyborg with a 500+ GIG memory sent here to collect data on our culture for some alien race...

Either way, I think she’s pretty damn cool. But coolness aside, that’s her job. Part of it anyway. It’s my job to tell a good story and polish it until it sparkles, then turn in that manuscript with a miniscule amount of errors and goofs. She’s good at her job, so she’s taught me a lot but I’m sure I’ll be learning scads more from her.

NEWBIE POLISH TIP: Back in the olden days of typewriters, authors would have to search each page for over-usage of words. Now we have the handy dandy ability to Control-F and FIND those little boogers en masse. Words like: really, very, eyes, hands, smiled, laughed, looked, said. The list is endless. Really. Truly. These are words I often used after/before dialogue to specify which character is speaking or to put across the tone of what they said.

He laughed very hard, eyes rolling and hands holding his stomach. “Are you serious?”
“Yes.”

See, they aren’t always necessary to say what you mean succinctly. Learn to recognize your own over-used words, and learn ways to say what you truly mean with more polish.

LINDA ROBERTSON
AUTHOR OF VICIOUS CIRCLE
HALLOWED CIRCLE NOW AVAILABLE
FATAL CIRCLE DUE JULY 2010
ARCANE CIRCLE DUE JANUARY 2011
ALL FROM JUNO BOOKS/POCKET BOOKS
WWW.WOLFSBANEANDABSINTHE.COM
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

HALLOWED CIRCLE

Persephone Alcmedi has been persuaded to compete for the position of High Priestess of the Cleveland, Ohio, coven -- now that the former priestess, Vivian Diamond, has strangely gone missing. Unfortunately, there are a few small problems with the idea. Not only does Seph know rather more about Vivian's disappearance than the other witches realize, but the epic struggle she's just survived has left her with some highly unusual powers -- ones that could be dangerous to reveal. Despite her reluctance, she agrees to participate, if only to prevent snooty Hunter Hopewell, an obnoxious but talented witch, from ending up in the winner's circle. Can Seph hide her secrets -- including her connection to the master vampire-wizard Menessos -- from the terrifyingly wise judges? Plus, there's her rock 'n' roll werewolf boyfriend, Johnny, and some angry fairies to deal with....

BUY LINK:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1439156786/ref=s9_simz_gw_s2_p14_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0FS9WP2D08958CZ8QXND&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938631&pf_rd_i=507846




VICIOUS CIRCLE the first in the Persephone Alcmedi series came out last year, and the third installment, FATAL CIRCLE will be available this summer. The fourth ARCANE CIRCLE will be released in January 2011. All are available from Pocket/Juno Books. www.juno-books.com


Linda's website (soon to be redone) has an excerpt of HALLOWED CIRCLE on the home page. (scroll down) www.wolfsbaneandabsinthe.com On twitter you can find her as: authorlinda
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

-- Lynda Again
Linda will pick one name from the commentors so make sure you leave a comment by noon Friday then check back to see whose name she pulled. Good luck!


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24 comments:

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I'm with you on this, Linda! A good editor is invaluable. That's why it's important not to just be published but to be well-published with a house that provides quality editors and copy editors. I've also been fortunate in that respect. As a former English teacher, university writing instructor and librarian, like you, I'm fussy about words. But another set of educated eyes can make all the difference.

Jacqueline Seewald
author of the romantic mysteries
THE DROWNING POOL, Five Star/Gale
THE INFERNO COLLECTION, Five Star hardcover, Wheeler large print

ddurance said...

lol, you just gotta love those editors sometimes, keeping authors straight. What would the world do without them? lol

Deidre

Lynda K. Scott said...

boy, Dierdre, isn't that the truth? :-)

Pauline B Jones said...

I had a huge need of a dictionary while writing my still-without-a-name steampunk novella and found dictionary.com to be a huge help. It gave dates words came into usage (some that really surprised me. Words that seem SO current really aren't LOL). It's also lighter. LOL!

Fun article and good advice. Never assume and have good word backup. :-)

(I'm also rejoicing because I've worked out my commenting problems by switching to Chrome. Both Foxfire and IE had me shut out!)

Pauline Baird Jones
THE KEY
GIRL GONE NOVA, 4/2010
A BOX OF TEXAS CHOCOLATES

Linda Robertson said...

I think my editor truly understands me and we work well together. I feel very lucky to have her. :-)

My Blog 2.0 (Dottie) said...

Hi Linda!

Wow, an editor's work is never done. Great article, LOL, the word geek, I was afflicted with as well until my son put me in my place.


Dottie

Coast to Coast with Costina said...

I absolutely love your books Linda! Very interesting article. Editing really is tough work!

Keep up the fantastic writing!
-Costina

susan said...

Linda, thanks for an insight on being an author and what you deal with. I think as a reader when we know it's hard work to write and get a book published we enjoy it better. susan L.

Beth said...

Great blog! You and your books are awesome, Linda!

Lil said...

I had to laugh while reading your post. I am purely a reader so though I had an inkling of what an editor does it was fun to read an example of it in detail. Your book sounds like an exciting story.

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Spav said...

Great post. I loved the first book of your series and I can't wait to read the second one.

Ali said...

Huge fan of Vicious Circle - and now I truly understand what a great team you and your editor make.

Great article - should probably be compulsory reading to any budding author!

On the use of slang terms in books, the British terms I have no problems with - but it took me forever to work out what on earth was meant with the 'pocket book' (to me a pocket book would be a file-o-fax type of diary). Yay to good editors!
(And authors who listen to them)

Sandy Lender said...

First, Lynda, it was a joy to meet you out at Context in the fall and to hear you read. I'm hearing your voice while reading this post...

Second, I am so pleased to "hear" your interaction with your editor. I edit for a publishing house and become frustrated by the authors who refuse to acknowledge my existence. My corrections and comments after HOURS and HOURS and HOURS of work go off into a void...sometimes completely unused because the author is in a hurry to complete his/her novel and offended that anyone should find herself in a position to suggest changes. I'm delighted by the attitude you have and I have no doubt that the books you produce shine brighter because of it.

(And I know their stories and humor are great because I got to hear you read a bit!)

Lovely post! Thank you for sharing!
From Sandy Lender
"Some days, you just want the dragon to win."

Sandy Lender said...

Linda.
Yes, I know too many people who spell their name with a "y". My apologies!

I blush.

From Sandy Lender
"Some days, you just want the dragon to win."

skyla11377 said...

I Have Always Wanted To Be A Writer So It Was Very Insightful To Read About Over-Usage Of Words. I Notice When I Am Writing E-Mails I Tend To Use Certain Words A lot So What You Said Really Got ME To Think About How I Write Things. I Also Know The Importance Of Having Someone To Bounce Ideas Or Words Off Of So It Was Nice To Read That You Have Such A Great Relationship With Your Editor. Really Great Blog Post.

Pauline B Jones said...

This really is an important topic for writers. Any words that smudge the clarity for readers, is a bad thing.

I really like the book SELF EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS. It helps me do my best, before my editor dives in.

Faith Van Horne said...

It is awesome that writers have a pro whose sole job it is to clean up our errors. We get to look smarter!

Sarah said...

I follow a couple of editors on twitter and have to laugh at some of the emails they get from writers. Some people have no idea. These editors put up with a lot lol.

Anonymous said...

Hi Linda,

Great article. I think a good editor is key to polishing a good story. I know myself my new editor is the BOMB because she helps me see from her eyes what is wrong with my MS and helps me polish it so it can do even better when it is released. Thanks and I look forward to reading your two books. I have them on my reading list. :)

Raine Delight
http://authorrainedelight.com

Linda Robertson said...

Thanks to everyone who's participated --and to those who may squeak in before the deadline of noon EST. I'll be drawing and announcing a winner this afternoon. The kids are off of school so it may not be IMMEDIATE/QUICK but it will get done ASAP after the deadline is reached, okay? Again, thanks to Lynda @ Star-Crossed Romance for allowing me to guest blog, and to all of you who chimed in. Hugs!
Linda

scooper said...

I never heard of fodder shock before and had to ask my cube mate if she had. Yes she did. BTW we are in Indiana, but she's got 20 years on me. Can't wait for the new book

Linda Robertson said...

Okay (...cue drumroll please...) and the winner is: Scooper!

You have 48 hours to email your address to rockinwriterlinda@yahoo.com

If I don't hear from you I'll have to pick another name!

Congrats! Thanks to everyone who participated, and to Lynda for hosting me.

Linda Robertson said...

It's official. Scooper responded with her address.

Thanks again to everyone who left comments and to Lynda for having me on her blog!

Hope everyone has a fantastic weekend.
Linda