The birth of a child called Prose

If you are a budding author and you have given birth to a completed, rough-draft manuscript, congratulations—you have taken the first step as another parent of Prose.  Without a completed rough draft, the thoughts in a want-to-be-writer’s head are nothing but dreams floating among distant stars.

A natural birth for Prose is desired but sometimes we must force Prose out through a cesarean cut.

Then the next step begins as we raise Prose to maturity through editing and revisions to sculpt him into a readable product that hopefully will sweep across the world as if it is a tsunami but these events are rare.

This phase of parenting Prose may feel tedious, because the addicted writer often wants to move on to give birth to Prose II, and to give birth again … and again, and usually writers hate lingering over Prose already delivered through months of labor.  But as a parent, we have an obligation to make sure that the Prose we gave birth to has a chance to survive in a world where all children called Prose fight for attention and the majority loses.

Eventually, the time comes to kick Prose out of the nest—in fact, that is the duty of the parent that gave Prose birth. Some parents fear letting his or her Prose go alone into the wilderness, but it must be done.

For example, there is the rough draft of my next novel, Running from the Enemy, after writing and rewriting this Prose for five years out of UCLA’s writing extension program twenty-five years ago, he ended in a box gathering dust on a garage shelf until 2012, and every year I heard him screaming to be set free. Now, after a year of editing and revising that Prose, soon I will shove him out of the nest.

However, a parent never stops being a parent. Most parents want the best for his or her children and usually offer some sort of support after kicking the adult child out of the nest. For an author, that means marketing and promotion and hoping that, as parents, we gave Prose what was needed to survive and thrive in a brutal, competitive world where there are no guarantees of success.

Discover Authors Finding Readers or learn The Need to Edit

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

The NEED to Edit – Part 6/6

Even though I taught seventh to tenth grade English in the public schools (1978 – 2005) and was the advisor/teacher of an internationally recognized, award-winning, high-school journalism program, I am not a perfectionist (an ARG) when it comes to editing. I do my best as an imperfect mortal with dyslexia.

My students did well (above average) on standardized tests. I taught the basic rules of punctuation, the differences between a simple, compound and complex sentence, and how to write a basic essay in addition to an introduction to the parts of speech. The textbook I used was Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition (I have two editions on my resource shelf) with almost 600 pages filled with the complexity of the English language.

The literacy level of my high school students—in the same class—ranged from second grade and up.

However, most of my time as a public school teacher was spent working out of the literature textbook focusing on theme, characterization, plot, conflict, etc. We also read and studied novels such as Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men or Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

Shakespeare was also part of the curriculum, so there wasn’t a lot of time to focus on grammar and there was little time to correct thousands of student papers riddled with mistakes. As it was, my average work week as a teacher was 60 to 100 hours—twenty-five hours in class with students and the remaining hours planning lessons and correcting the deluge of student work. The focus of the public schools is reading literacy—not editing literacy and reaching grade-level reading literacy for more than half of the students is a challenge.

In addition, how many people have photographic memoires with instant recall as an ARG probably does? I don’t. Most of my students didn’t either. I do not expect that many of my students remember much of the grammar that I struggled to teach them. There is a lot of truth in “use it or lose it,” which I have never heard from politicians and critics where public education is often attacked for its alleged failings.

English is a complex language with many rules of grammar, mechanics and spelling with endless exceptions to those rules. In fact, in the back of Warriner’s, there is an eight-page section on words often confused such as principal and principle followed by 350 spelling demons such as hour which sounds the same as our and then there is teaching the difference between to, too and two; blew and blue, etc. (Note: I bought my copies of Warriner’s used through Amazon.)

I have no idea why so many people expect children and teenagers to remember everything they are taught—memory is complex and it is not perfect. In fact, what happens to most people during waking ours is stored in short-term memory and while one sleeps the brain sorts through the short-term memory and transfers memories that are considered important to long-term memory, and no one decides what is important.  That is an automatic function of the brain while one sleeps. What isn’t saved to long-term memory is deleted. Scientific studies have also demonstrated that consuming too much sugar (think Coke) in the diet causes havoc to mood and short term memory. See: Foods that Cause Memory Loss

You may be interested in what the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington D.C. says about sugary soda consumption. “Americans consume gargantuan quantities of carbonated soft drinks and suffer untoward health consequences. Companies annually produce enough soda pop to provide 557 12-ounce cans—52.4 gallons—to every man, woman, and child.” … “The amounts of caffeine in one or two cans of caffeinated soft drink can affect performance and mood, increase anxiety in children, and behavioral effects in children remains unclear.”

Anyway, back on topic (sorry about that), in late 2007, when an iUniverse editor said the manuscript of my first novel My Splendid Concubine had too many mistakes to qualify for an Editor’s Choice and Publisher’s Choice Award, I was shocked.

What shocked me was the price to pay an iUniverse editor to edit the manuscript—three thousand dollars was too rich for my budget, so I developed the editing process that I have already described.

In conclusion, I feel that some advice for ARGs (anal-retentive grammarians) may be in order.

Instead of brutally criticizing indie/self-published authors for having mistakes in his or her published novel/book, take a page from a man considered the greatest editor in publishing history, Max Perkins, and offer constructive criticism and point out the number of mistakes with a few examples and where they appear.

Saying a manuscript is riddled with mistakes is not constructive, because one ARG’s definition of riddled with mistakes might mean a dozen in an entire book while to another ARG, riddled with mistakes means the despised bumps appear on every page.

Moreover, in English, there are mistakes most recognize and then there are mistakes only ARGs notice leaving almost 60 million avid readers scratching their heads thinking, “Big deal!”

In fact, the way the brain works while reading, when a word appears such as English and it should have been England, on the way from the eye to the brain, the word converts to what it was intended to be due to contextual clues and pattern recognition. When that happens, most readers are unaware of the mistake, which explains why five pairs of eyes missed a dozen mistakes in The Concubine Saga that the sixth pair of eyes caught, and she kindly made a list with page numbers—an example of constructive criticism. She was also the artist—Denise Killingsworth—that created the cover for that novel.

Return to The NEED to Edit – Part 5  or start with Part 1

View this Six-Part Series as a Single Page

Note: My Blog posts do not go through the exhaustive editing process my novels do.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

The NEED to Edit – Part 4/6

The ideal audience for all authors is made up mostly of avid readers.

The National Assessment of Adult Literacy in the US (1992 – 2003) says 13% or 28 million adult Americans are proficient (can perform complex and challenging literacy activities) at the quantitative literacy level while 95 million are intermediate (can perform moderately challenging literacy activates), 63 million basic (can perform simple and everyday literacy activates) and 30 million are below basic (no more than the most simple and concrete literacy skills).

My literacy level is proficient but not perfect when it comes to editing. In other words, I am not an ARG.

Of the 123 million adult Americans that read at basic or above, few are experts at editing but many read books. A high literacy level does not equal a high editing level. It just means you have a higher vocabulary and understand what you are reading at a higher level.

In fact, my experience as an English teacher taught me that of the 29 million adult Americans that are proficient, only 2.8 million belong to the top echelon of editing literacy—the rare anal-retentive grammarian (ARG) with a photographic memory and instant recall that has memorized all 532 pages in the fourth course of Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition textbook.

Therefore, to be criticized viciously by one of the few ARGs (less than one percent of the adult population) is meaningless. What an indie, self-published author must strive for is to write at an editing literacy level that is adequate for the other 121 million readers that will not recognize many of the mistakes that an ARG will criticize.

In fact, here is a profile of the reading audience authors should cultivate. Sixty-two million Americans are considered “avid” readers who are “disproportionately buying books.” Source: Bookweb.org

Therefore, among avid readers, ARGs may make up at most only 4.5% of that segment of the population. Of course, it is up to the author which audience he or she wants to impress:

A. sixty-two million (39 million are female) avid readers (subtract for ARGs)

B. the 2.8 million ARGs (being an ARG does not mean one is also an avid reader)

C. adult Americans that read below basic literacy level

For an example of one ARG, in 2008, after my work earned Editor’s and Publisher’s Choice with iUniverse, was reviewed by the Midwest Book Review and earned a 5 out of 5 for grammar from a Writer’s Digest judge, I submitted my novel to a UK review Blog that counted mistakes as part of the review. The reviewer would stop reading once she found about a dozen mistakes (of any kind) and then write a scathing review.

I mistakenly believed I had a chance to earn a positive review from this Blogger, so I submitted my work but she failed it. After my work failed, I discovered that every book, except one, reviewed on this site had failed and the one that had less than a dozen mistakes was criticized for its plot, characterization and theme.

Not one self-published indie author reviewed by this one UK Blogger received a glowing review. The ARG bias was obvious.

Since the publication of my first novel in December 2007, I have given this topic a lot of thought, and I have concluded that an author does not have to satisfy the ARGs.

What an author must do is meet the traditional industry standards for editing as it is obvious that my work did.

This means that there cannot be so many mistakes that it distracts the average “avid” reader.

It is obvious that an ARG has a much higher standard than the traditional publishing industry (newspapers, magazines and publishers) does. A biased ARG may scream bloody murder for editing perfection in his or her one-star reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, but he or she is not going to find that perfection easily even among traditionally published books.

However, every indie self-published author, no matter what his or her editing skill level, may find editing tools to improve the work before it appears in the market place—even without hiring a skilled freelance editor.

To not take advantage of those tools and avoid editing is a serious mistake.

Continued August 10, 2012 in The NEED to Edit – Part 5 or return to Part 3

View this Six-Part Series as a Single Page

Note: My Blog posts do not go through the exhaustive editing process my novels do.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

The NEED to Edit – Part 3/6

There are different levels of copyediting. Some work may need only a light touch while other manuscripts require heavy editing and the price is flexible. To learn more, I suggest you visit Editors Forum.org.

The Editors Forum says, “A freelance copyeditor corrects errors, queries the author about conflicting statements, requests advice when the means of resolving a problem is unclear, and prepares a style sheet.”

Writer’s Digest, a magazine established in 1920, says, “Smart full-time freelance writers and editors annually gross $35,000 and up—sometimes into the $150,000-200,000 range.”

For trade copy editing of books, Writer’s Digest says that the high hourly rate is $100 and the low is $16 with the average $46. If charging a page rate, the high is $20 a page and the low is $3.75 with $8 the average.

Remember—the editing rate is flexible but the final cost may be determined by the complexity of the editing.

However, if the author is a starving artist and cannot afford to pay a freelance editor, he may want to follow in Amanda Hocking’s footsteps but hear what she has to say first.

“Just the editing process alone has been a source of deep frustration, because although she has employed freelance editors and invited her readers to alert her to spelling and grammatical errors, she thinks her e-books are riddled with mistakes. ‘It drove me (Amanda Hocking) nuts, because I tried really hard to get things right and I just couldn’t. It’s exhausting, and hard to do. And it starts to wear on you emotionally. I know that sounds weird and whiny, but it’s true.'” Source: Ed Pilkington writing for The Guardian

If you are not a starving artist and have the money to pay for a freelance editor, you may want to contact Rich Adin, or check Writer’s Digest Magazine’s classified section under Editorial Services, or visit Proof Reading Pal.com.

Since I have not used a freelance editor yet, I cannot recommend one—caveat emptor, let the buyer beware.

The other choice is to edit your own work with some help from friends as I did. Although there are mistakes in my work, the novels are not riddled with them and the mistakes that remain do not drive me nuts as they did to Amanda Hocking.

However, I did not edit my work alone. I had some friends and tools to help.

All authors/writers come to the table with different editing skills and that includes me. There are two literacy levels: The first is comprehension to understand what one reads. The other literacy is grammar, mechanics and spelling—the editing literacy. You will understand why this makes a difference to authors later in this series of posts.

For example, although I read and comprehend at a college graduate level, my editing literacy is not as high.

Continued August 9, 2012 in The NEED to Edit – Part 4 or return to Part 2

View this Six-Part Series as a Single Page

Note: My Blog posts do not go through the exhaustive editing process my novels do.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

The NEED to Edit – Part 1/6

Authors have one challenge most artists outside of writing do not have.

Most artists, such as painters, do not need to worry about developing skills in the logical, analytical, fact-based side of the brain. Instead these artists work almost exclusively out of the holistic, feelings based, emotional side of the brain where the imagination and creativity blossom.

Unfortunately, for authors, the craft of writing requires using both sides of the brain with an emphasis on the left side of the brain’s organized, analytical, fact-based logic where editing skills hide.

Writing the rough draft of a book length manuscript is the easy part of an author’s work and mostly this work takes place in the right side of the brain.

For editing and revisions, authors must switch gears to the left side of the brain where these skills work. If those skills have not been developed, the author—as an artist—is crippled.

However, there is an option. Authors may hire someone (more on this later with links, but I want to be clear—I am NOT an editor for hire. I am an author and I do most of my own editing) and pay for the left-brain labor of editing/revisions unless the author is economically deprived.

For example, economically deprived authors should know there are rules that govern where commas go. In fact, there are thirty-three pages in The Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference on how to properly use commas, and I use my copy of this 354 page book (designed for writers) often.

More examples: The dash [ — ] looks similar to the hyphen [ – ] but these two punctuation marks have different functions in a sentence, and the semi-colon has a different job than the colon (and I’m not talking about the colon that is the main part of the large intestine but the one that is a punctuation mark—they are both nouns and are spelled the same way).

Did you know there is a difference in meaning for on to and onto, and what does the dash [ — ] and the ellipses [ … ] have in common?

The odds are you do not know the answers to the previous question. Yet, the dash, if you have not heard, is “the most dramatic punctuation mark you can deploy within the interior of a sentence. Use it sparingly.”  Source: The Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference

About this time, the author, as an artist, is complaining that he does not have time to mess with editing. Instead, she wants to write the next so-called great novel and has endless excuses why learning how to edit is not important when it comes to the creative process.

Wrong!

Writing, revising and editing are part and parcel of an author’s work, especially if she doesn’t have a contract with a traditional publisher that hires editors to do more than half the author’s job for him.

Moreover, the economically deprived author does not need editing skills equal to an anal-retentive grammarian with a photographic memory and instant recall that has memorized all 532 pages in the fourth course of Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition textbook.

Since the average American reads at fifth-grade level, authors should not worry about a few grumpy perfectionists.

As you will discover by the end of this series of posts, all an author has to do is to write a book that does not distract an avid reader with too many mistakes—let’s say no more than one error every 10,000 words or if we are generous, one error every 5,000 words. If mistakes appear on every page, that may signal the death of a writing career before it has a chance to begin.

Continued August 7, 2012 in The NEED to Edit – Part 2

View this Six-Part Series as a Single Page

Note: My Blog posts do not go through the exhaustive editing process my novels do.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”