Monday, April 12, 2010

While Still We Live

Looking Down Yosemite Valley, California,
Albert Bierstadt,
oil on canvas, 1865.

I had just finished re-reading Helen MacInnes' 1944 spy thriller by this title (a phrase from Poland's anthem -- Poland has not yet perished/While still we live) about a young English girl caught up in the fall of Warsaw and subsequent Polish resistance to the Nazis, when the news broke about the tragic plane crash near Smolensk in western Russia.

Poland's president and his entourage were on their way to a memorial at the site of the butchery of 20,000 Polish officers and intellectuals by the secret police during WWII.

Now Katyn forest will forever remain dark and cursed in Polish memory.

* * *

My experience with editors and editing has been remarkably slight. And from some stories I read, I have been remarkably fortunate.

My first fiction editor was M.E. Ellis for Wild Child Publishing, who was a joy and a delight with whom to work. My first story went through three edits, my second, one. My last with none, except perhaps for the odd punctuation correction/paragraph alignment.

When Carina Press assigned me an Editor Guy, I expected wrath, wrenching and bad language. Not so. Editing has been astonishingly painless: a few vague passages, inconsistent spellings of names, continunity double-checking...

His most substantial revision required the insertion of more context/world building/background details here and there - a request which happily expanded my word count by three or four thousand words.

I write too lean.

And as Writtenwyrdd pointed out when she did an early beta reading of the partial manuscript, it sometimes doesn't hurt to remind the reader in chapter six of an important detail mentioned casually in chapter two.

Another thing Editor Guy did (which I thought both practical and brilliant) was to list all the unusual/obscure/arcane words which appear - words like caoine, dullahan, Da-Shealladh - for me to double-check. A list which he then provided to the copy editor to save her from going WTF and much time.

I have made a note to keep a running list of any peculiar/specialized words used in future stories. Copy editors work hard enough as it is.

This weekend I completed an Art Fact Sheet for the production of the cover.


Dave F. said...

Welcome to the club. I don't have fiction published but I did have scientific research articles published.
Getting the story onto the page is the fun part. All that creativity is free to thrill a writer. Science was sterile writing but fiction is gloriously fun and when it works thrilling to put on the page.
Then comes the work part of writing, editing and revisions and fonts and galleys and covers. It's satisfying to finish but it is work. I won't call it tedious because that has a pejorative meaning. Getting published is never tedious. Editors and copyeditors want to improve a story. They have the harder portion of the work, understanding the writer's meaning and intent and improving on an already good story.

raine said...

You write too well to need much editing, Bernita. But good to hear the experience have been happy ones. :)

Bernita said...

Dave, I don't find it tedious either. I actually enjoy the editing aspect and am endlessly grateful for it - even the times when I slap my face wondering how I could possibly have spelled a word three different ways in a final draft after checking and checking, over and over!

Thank you, Raine.I have to fiddle and fiddle, truly!
The reader is the final judge and I worry about my style sometimes.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've mostly been pleased with the editing relationships I've had, although I did have one that somewhat of a nightmare.

BernardL said...

Very interesting editing update. Thank You. I'm a reader who likes the stark story - rich in plot, and sparse on the trimmings. :)

Bernita said...

Fascinating what another set of professional eyes will spot sometimes, Charles!

Glad you find it so, Bernard!I know I like how you write.Fairly heart-stopping at times.

Chris Eldin said...

I'm glad this part of the process is enjoyable---it sounds like you've been a careful and thorough writer. Also sounds like you're matched with an editor who gets your voice and writing style.

I laughed out loud at your word list! It would be fun to see a link to this!!

I just read Dave's comment... ditto what he said.

Bernita said...

"matched with an editor who gets your voice and writing style."
You're right, Chris. I've been particularly fortunate there.
No link. Just words like souterrains, synesthesia, querns, sluagh, trug, tulpa, glamourie...

laughingwolf said...

terrible tragedy, that crash :(

glad ed guy provides good pointers, i tend to write sparsely as well

g'luck with the cover, candy proctor [aka cs harris] is not always happy with her covers....

Travis Erwin said...

I too have been fortunate with the editors I've worked with I just wish I could find more willing to accept my work.

Bernita said...

Ah, LW, that we should have her worries...

Travis, I'm always mildly astonished when an editor does, because - beyond the basics - it's so subjective.

Ric said...

Writing for the local daily paper, my usual editor generally didn't bother doing much - substitute/fill-in editors would change things willy-nilly, most annoying.

My cousin was a writer for Fortune Magazine and she is an excellent scribe - she never ceased to be amazed at how the editorial folks could make her stuff EVEN BETTER!

May we all be so lucky...

Keep sharing your journey, Bernita, it is captivating.

Demon Hunter said...

Congratulations, Bernita. Very few edits means something awesome. :-D You're very good and it shows. ;-)

Bernita said...

More than merely annoying, Ric, that would make me head-banging, hair-pulling mad!
A good editor is pure gold.
Hope I'm not boring people, Ric, but this is largely new and exciting to me.

Thank you, Tyhitia.If you only knew how many times I've pounded this poor novel backwards, upside down and sideways before I submitted it...but apparently it has paid off!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

You're well on your way. Very nice!

Lana Gramlich said...

I need to spend more time perusing some of your old posts. You have such beautiful art here & I'm desperate for some inspiration lately.

SzélsőFa said...

Now Katyn forest will forever remain dark and cursed in Polish memory.
first of all, thank you for the heads up and remembering the new tragedy.
the events at katyn has always been a dark spot, a fuel for rememberence of resistance against the former soviet imperium, and against any injustice in general. many of us don't think it was just a coincidence. those who died there now were modern-time revolutionists: against the spread of gmos, against the unwanted influence of the european union...
they seem to have had to die.
let them rest in peace and let there be apt followers of their fight for their nation.
these were my two, european cents.

SzélsőFa said...

uhm, on a second thought: i'm sorry for flooding your innocent blog with my political views. i feel deeply affected as their problem is partly our problem, too. you know the polish and the hungarian history is somehow intertwined and for many many centuries we have always been on the same side.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Betsy.

How neat if any of the selected paintings on the blog inspired you, Lana. Your paintings and the photos on your Dreaming Tree inspire me.

SzelsoFa, there is no need to apologize. Your comments are always welcome on my blog.

"many of us don't think it was just a coincidence."
I understand that.
I have to admit that chilling thought immediately occurred to me also. The coincidence is just too perfect in its Greek tragedy parallel to be real - for one not to think that. Even though there does not seem to be the slightest evidence the crash was anything but an accident...

Kaz Augustin said...

Hey Bernita! Just thought I'd pop along and say hi.

Re: Smolensk. If the past is any indication, the President pressured the pilot to land. He'd done it before but, that time (flight to Georgia), the pilot refused to bow to pressure, thus potentially saving the lives of four Heads of State. (He was subsequently awarded for his moral courage, despite the President yelling at him in the cockpit that he was gutless and would be sacked.)

As one Polish MP put it regarding this latest crash, "Polish stupidity and arrogance" led to the death of 96 people. And yes, I consider myself a born-again Pole.

Anonymous said...

Things are rolling nicely with your novel!

Bernita said...

Kas, how nice of you to stop by!
People, we share the same Editor Guy and Kas has an SF novel coming from Carina!
Kas, thank you for adding context to this tragedy.
Certainly I found it surprising stupid for so many of Poland's vitally important people to be on the same plane. I know some countries - with just this scenario in mind - do not allow it as a matter of policy.
We have nearly one million Polish-Canadians (out of a population of about 33 million) in Canada.

Jason, the Carina staff are totally efficient!

writtenwyrdd said...

I always have a dual list: One for characters, which I add to as I go along, including descriptive details; and a second for the words I make up. I can have an additional list for regional or other information, such as a listing of Arabic terms that come up, or clothing worn by a particular cultural group that actually exists.

If I don't write it down, I cannot remember it; and I guess it'll be useful to an editor or typesetter, too.

I'm glad to know you don't require much editing, Bernita. I live in fear, myself.

Bernita said...

Very useful, Written. My editor sent several similar lists to the copy editor.
The fact I didn't require much editing is partly due to you.However, as |Chris pointed out, the degree of editing may partly depend on how much an editor "gets" one's style.