Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Guidance from Senior Editor Becky Zins

Sometimes authors run into a bit of confusion because here at Midnight Ink/Llewellyn, authors have two editors.  I am the acquiring editor - the gatekeeper, so to speak.  I acquire manuscripts and often do a revision or two with the author before I formally put the book into production.  My revision requests are generally developmental - I don't correct grammar...

No, iz not! "Ur" iz teh possessive and "UR" iz a contraction for U R!!

That job falls to the production editors.  I picked on one editor today, Becky Zins and asked her a couple questions.  First I asked if she would provide us a short description of her job:

I like to approach a fiction title with the goal of making a comprehensive style sheet that includes not only place names, brand names, etc. but also a list of the characters and their relationships, physical attributes, and quirks. Timelines are also something I keep track of. Characters frequently have name changes throughout a ms from earlier incarnations of the story, so keeping a style sheet is crucial. Also paying attention to physical details—if a character walks from a café to the store down the street at the beginning of a chapter, but at the end of the chapter leaves the store and jumps on their bike, then there's some tweaking to do. Perhaps the most challenging aspect is judging whether a character's actions, motives, or speech is consistent with how they've been set up so far in the story, but that's another important aspect of the editorial process.
How about a list of do's or don'ts?  Or, what would make your job easier?

As far as do's or don'ts for authors, I would suggest that if they're not already making up a style sheet for themselves, maybe they should think about doing so. The more mistakes that are fended off before submitting a ms to a publisher, the better, because despite our best efforts, errors do get overlooked! So if I were writing a novel, I'd have a comprehensive timeline, list of characters, and list of terms or phrases that I would want an editor to retain instead of change (for example, say I have a character who repeatedly screws up some aspect of the English language—it's part of their zaniness—I don't want a well-meaning editor or proofreader to come along and make them sound like an English professor!). Submitting this along with the ms would assure greater communication between author and editor(s) and proofreaders.
So there you have it - helpful hints from a production editor!  If you had the ear of an editor - what would you like to know?  Becky would be happy to answer more questions.  She's a sweetie.


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Becky is my production editor. She ROCKS!

Robin Allen said...

Very informative, Terri. Not just for MI authors, but anyone publishing a book.

Good to hear, Sue Ann! Becky will be my editor on the next Poppy Markham: Culinary Cop mystery.