With the approach of Mother’s Day this year, I wanted to write something about mothers, so I went back and forth, looking for something to say about mothers and writing, editing, or publishing.
But I found myself empty of any great lesson, information, or wisdom to impart, so the format of this week’s post is going to be a little different. Instead of giving information or instruction, I’m just going to share a story about my own mother and how she’s influenced my career as a copyeditor.
The Reason I’m a Copyeditor
If it weren’t for my mother, I wouldn’t be here today, writing this blog and editing.
I don’t mean that in the sense that without her I wouldn’t be alive (though that’s also true). I mean that she’s the one who spoke that quiet word into my ear at just the right time and place.
At a time when I was feeling stuck in a job that paid the bills but no longer held excitement or interest for me, she reminded me of a dream my twenty-something self was too afraid to pursue. I lacked the confidence and maturity to go after it, so I pushed it aside and forgot about it.
Giving Up On My Dream Job
I read a lot of personal growth books, and I think it’s in Quitter by Jon Acuff that he talks about how most of us don’t need to discover our dream jobs but rather rediscover them. He says that most of us knew what we wanted to do with our lives as children, but many of us abandon our dreams because we’re afraid or we (or someone in our lives) convince ourselves that the dream is crazy, unrealistic, impractical, or impossible.
That was me. I didn’t mind writing if I had something to say about a topic that interested me, but where I really came alive was in the peer-review and editing stage. And if you set me to editing someone else’s work? I was in heaven!
But I was insecure and afraid. I thought I would have to move all alone to some big city, and I didn’t even know how to rent an apartment, much less where I would get the money to do so. I had heard scary stories about how hard it was to get an entry-level position at a publishing house, and then, you had to put up with toxic coworkers and low pay for years until you could maybe eventually work your way up.
I let myself believe the stories and get intimidated by the unknowns, so I never even let myself seriously consider pursuing my dream.
Rediscovering My Dream
Fast forward to my thirties. I had life experience, maturity, and confidence that my younger self lacked, and I was ready to do actual research and challenge the stories to find a way to pursue my dreams that works for me.
Turns out, I don’t have to move to a major city (or anywhere, for that matter) and work my way up through some soulless chain in a major publishing house. Actually, the reality of publishing houses isn’t as bad as my fears built them up to be, and even the structure of traditional publishing is changing.
I can build a freelance career from anywhere because the magic of the internet lets me work entirely remotely. And the rapidly growing number of self-published authors means a rapidly growing number of potential clients to help with their editing needs.
Mom’s Role in All This
I don’t harbor any major regrets in my choices and the direction my life has taken. Would I be farther along in my career if I had gone straight after my dream? Maybe. Or maybe I would have failed miserably because I wasn’t ready.
I went on to have an amazing life with amazing adventures. I joined the Peace Corps, cycled across England and Ireland, learned how to rent an apartment and do all of the things adults do, and grew and matured as a person.
I now have life experience, confidence, and financial stability that I didn’t before.
But when the time came to rediscover my dream, it was my mother who knew me well enough to give me that gentle nudge, to whisper the reminder in my ear, at just the right time.
She had listened to my young dreams, remembered, and believed I could achieve them, even though years had passed. It didn’t matter to her that my heart lay in the arts rather than science and medicine like her and her mother before her.
She never forgot or gave up on my potential, and she never let me, either.
I realize not everyone is fortunate enough to have been raised by an amazing woman, but I’m grateful for the one God gave me.
What about you? How has your mother impacted your dreams? And have you let her know what she means to you?
Maybe this Mother’s Day is the time to do it.
Last week I wrote about dialogue tags. They’re a pretty simple device used to keep straight who’s saying what.
But what about punctuation? Is there a comma? No comma? Where does the comma go?
Punctuation can be a sticking point for many writers because it feels too technical, like science to an artistic mind. So, here are a few simple guidelines for punctuating your dialogue tags.
Every writer has at least one aspect of writing that just doesn’t come naturally to them. For me, that’s dialogue. I can recognize unnatural or awkward dialogue and even correct it when I’m reading (a handy skill for an editor), but when it comes to creating it, I’m at a loss.
And a big part of creating great dialogue is the dialogue tag.
One year ago this week, I stepped way out of my comfort zone and put out my very first blog post!
Even though I never saw myself as a writer, I somehow became one. I’ll probably never publish a book (though never is a dangerous word to say because God seems to take that as a challenge), but through the simple act of putting words down and sending them out into the world each week, I am, indeed, now a writer.
If you’ve been with me on this journey since the beginning, you might remember that, in that first post, I talked about all of the benefits of journaling. If you missed it, go back and take a look. (Also, no judgment from me if you want to refresh your memory because you read it but have forgotten everything I said. It’s still there and worth a read.) So, how’ve you done this last year?
Last week, I talked about how you, the author, are ultimately responsible for marketing your book and finding your readers. This week I’m back with a few tips for how to do that.
Let me start by admitting that I’m no expert in this area, but if you’re just starting out as an author, these tips should give you a place to start.
You’ve written, revised, edited, and designed your book. You’ve gotten peer reviews, and everything’s ready and how you want it. But what now? How do you get people to buy and read your book, and just as importantly, who’s in charge of seeing that happen?
As painful as it may be to hear, you are ultimately in charge of your marketing. That can sound like a daunting statement, considering you probably didn’t become an author to sell books. You had a message and a calling to share it with the world. Surely, other people are responsible for getting it out there?
Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
If you’re going the traditional-publishing route, this question probably won’t come up. The publisher arranges all of the steps of the publishing process, and your book will go through the proofreading process.
However, if you’re self-publishing, you’re probably looking for ways to cut out any unnecessary costs. A professional copyeditor has already done a thorough cleanup of your manuscript, and the book may have even gone through a designer. So, is another step really necessary?
Writing can often be a solitary practice. Even if you’re collaborating with another author, it’s probably just the two of you who see the manuscript until you finish with the first or second draft.
Eventually, though, you’ll need to get others involved in the process, from editors and proofreaders to beta readers and peer reviewers. Feedback from readers is essential to making your manuscript into something that will appeal to readers.
However, not all feedback is useful. Have you ever handed a friend or family member something you wrote, only to receive “Looks good!” or “It could use a little work” in return? That is not helpful feedback.
But often nonprofessional reviewers don’t know how to provide you with useful criticism and suggestions. So, the task of guiding them falls to you. Here are a few suggestions for getting the most from reviewers and readers.
If I asked you to make a list of the qualities of clear writing, what would go on that list? What qualities make something readable and easy to understand?
At the top of that list are probably attributes like vocabulary and tone. Maybe you included good grammar and punctuation. But for many writers, there’s one way to improve readability that doesn’t involve changing a word: paragraph length.
Perhaps your high school teacher or college professor gave you a rule for how many paragraphs should be on each page. Perhaps you’ve never even given it a thought. It’s a bit more complicated than X number of paragraphs per page, though, and it’s more important than you might think.
Several months ago, I posted a list of commonly misspelled words most spelling checkers don’t flag because the misspellings are legitimate words themselves. They’re just not the word you were going for.
Recently, an online discussion among my fellow editors provided me with a wealth of new words to add to that list. So, with my thanks to my colleagues around the world, I’ve listed the new additions here for everyone to access freely. Enjoy.
*At the bottom of this post, I’ve included links to download the PDF versions of the list of these new additions, the original list, and a combined list of all of the words I’ve gathered so far.
Rebecca has a passion for helping you fill the world with great literature and making sure said literature doesn't get passed over for the lack of a little editing.