Beautiful People

She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines. She was beautiful for the way she thought. She was beautiful for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful for her ability to make other people smile, even if she was sad. No, she wasn’t beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful deep down to her soul. ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and television watching lately. I think my brain needs a rest from all the chaos that my life has been for the last couple of months. It has not been a good summer. Anyway, even when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. So my entertainment choices made me ponder the way I write my characters.

Sometimes, I can read about a character and fall in love with them without even having a detailed description of their appearance. I find them attractive through their actions and dialogue. Or, after a description in the beginning which may not portray them as particularly handsome or beautiful, I will forget as I am drawn in by their personality. Intelligence, kindness, sense of humor, and a well-rounded education (not necessarily formal) are also very appealing. Most recently, I realized this in watching Endeavor on Masterpiece. Shaun Evans, who plays Inspector Morse as a young man, is not a classically handsome man, but I as I grew to love the character, I began to find him very attractive as well.

Shaun Evans via IMDb

Over the course of five novels and numerous short stories, I have fallen into the habit of writing all my main characters as physically beautiful. While I have also tried to imbue them with those other fine qualities I mentioned, I haven’t let them stand on their own. To grow and mature as a writer, I need to create characters who are beautiful deep down to their souls.

Header image via Google images.

Tools of the Trade – Style Guide

When I started writing, I also started reading about writing. There is no shortage of material available, believe me! I think it’s possible that you can get obsessed with the how to’s and never get around to doing it. Nevertheless, as per my copyediting workshop, I added a new tool to my author arsenal: a style guide. I had a copy of Elements of Style by William Strunk –a classic. However, it is a bit outdated, having been printed in 1918! I decided to move into the twenty-first century and upgrade to The Chicago Manual of Style.

So what is the purpose of the style guide? It sets standards for usage, writing and citation styles, and formatting. This results in consistency of writing style within a company. The type of style guide used is determined by the sort of material being published. For example, in book, newspaper and magazine publishing, the company will likely require The Associated Press Style Book or The Chicago Manual of Style, while in the fields of law or medicine, the copyeditor will use The Blue Book or The AMA Manual of Style respectively. These will include terminology specific to the profession.

An example of the standards set by a style guide is in the way numbers are written. Numbers can either be spelled out (ex. three) or written as numerals (ex. 86) and the style guide will determine how this is done. The Chicago Manual of Style requires numbers from one to one hundred to be spelled out as well any number that consists of only two words (ex. seven hundred). Once you know the rules as laid out by the style guide you are using, you can apply them throughout your entire article or manuscript to keep the writing consistent.

Along with my dictionary–I use Merriam-Webster–my Chicago Manual of Style has already proved very useful. I highly recommend the investment.

Wishing you happy writing and productive editing.

An Introduction to Copyediting

I finished a month-long workshop on copyediting last week and learned a few new things. I was also relieved to find that I haven’t been making too many mistakes in my own writing. So what exactly does a copyeditor do? And what’s the difference between editing, copyediting and proofreading?

Copyeditors work in the world of publishing, whether it be book, newspaper, magazine publishing, or online publishing. Any industry which requires written material will need a copyeditor. The copyeditor will perform his or her complex set of tasks behind the scenes: fixing awkward sentences, correcting mistakes in grammar, punctuation and spelling, and checking that titles and other proper names are accurate. Copyediting is much more than proof reading; it requires a mastery of the rules of grammar and a desire to make the written word shine. A copyeditor will transform an awkward or clumsy sentence into one that is as smooth and graceful as a choreographed dancer.

The process begins with the writer producing the article, feature or novel. This raw material is presented to the editor, who reads it with an eye to the story and structure of the piece. The changes they may recommend will include: plot modifications, character adaptations; and in nonfiction pieces, adding additional resource material. After the writer has made the changes and the editor has approved the manuscript, deeming it to be ready, the piece will passed on to the copyeditor.

Using the company stylebook, Chicago Manual of Style or the Associated Press Stylebook, the copy editor reads the manuscript with an eye toward lucidity, consistency, and errors. He will closely scrutinize punctuation and spelling, check the accuracy of titles and other proper names, and modify sloppy or lazy sentences. When changes are made, the copyeditor does so while keeping in tact the author’s voice and meaning. If the author’s meaning is unclear, the copyeditor will include a note asking for clarification. When the changes made are satisfactory to the writer, editor and copyeditor, the manuscript is passed along to the proof reader to check for typos or other errors that may have sneaked into the copy. The manuscript is nearly ready for publication and if the editor and copyeditor have done their jobs, the piece is now the best it can be.

I’m sure you can see how learning the basics of copyediting would be beneficial to an aspiring author. A submitted manuscript that is clean, free of errors and smoothly written will be much more attractive to potential agents and publishers than one that is sloppy and clumsily written. And especially for the Indie author going the self-publishing route, having a copyeditor’s eye is absolutely essential!