Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

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allion

Re: Lyrics

Hi Uncle Jim,

I have what may be a related question about rights and permissions when it refers to a song title in a story.

If you mention a song title, as in this sentence:

She heard the song 'Roxanne' on the radio as she did the dishes.

Would this use also require a permission, or is it ok to use the title to evoke a time period/reflection in the work?

The lyrics would not be used in the work at all, only the title.

Thank you for this thread!
 

James D Macdonald

Re: Lyrics

Titles can't be copyrighted.

When in doubt, consult your agent and/or your editor.
 

maestrowork

Re: Lyrics

I believe titles only would be safe. Stephen King uses a lot of pop culture references in his work and I don't think he had to pay a dime to anyone for mentioning "Bohemian Rhapsody."
 

James D Macdonald

Re: On the Climax

Dipping back to page 37 in this thread:

It's funny. She didn't say "something is missing" but "you did not put in such and such." So it seems like she does get it, but she wants some explanations to go with it.

I have to ask ...

Was this story being workshopped at the time, and did the reader have the full manuscript, or only a portion?
 

James D Macdonald

Re: Typesetting

Back on page 36 of this thread.... Pthom asked:

<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>So, what's my point? akaEraser asked, "How come we can't just make the italics or bolds or whatever to begin with?" My friend the typesetter is a small outfit; has only a few hundred clients. Uncle Jim, seriously, do the big guys still set type for whole novels by reading 8 1/2" x 11" typed copy? Especially when it's so much easier, quicker, and more error free to do it from a file. I betcha that 95% of us writers prepare our manuscripts using a word processor on a computer.

Surely, modern publishers utilize the most current and efficient technology. Don't they?


<hr></blockquote>

Let's see: Yes and no.

For the past several years I've turned in my manuscripts both as hard copy (standard manuscript format) and on disk.

All the editing is done on the manuscript, and I wouldn't want it any other way. I want to see what's happened. If the editing happened in an electronic file, how would I see what was changed, to either approve or disapprove of it?

Next bit: I use WordPerfect as a wordprocessor. Other writers use other programs. I know of one who uses XYWrite. I'm sure there's at least one who uses Peachwrite, another who uses Electric Pencil. There are probably some who use edlin. Heck, if my good old Atari were still working, I'd still be using PaperClip. I liked that wordprocessor. Somewhere there are writers working on original Macs, on Apple IIs, on a Coleco Adam (with the funky tape drive -- remember it?). Even a few holdouts who use typewriters.

I've heard horror stories from my editor chums, too: of the writer who turned in her novel on disk, with each individual page saved as a separate MS Word file. Of the writer whose files came through garbled. Of the writer who had the virus. I recently got done with a project which involved a group of writers each sending me chapter-length files. You wouldn't have believed the hand-fiddly-work it took to turn those individual files into one single coherent file.

All the way through, hard copy is faster, easier, and more efficient.

I bet that the typesetters nowadays take the marked up hardcopy, and at the end transfer the marks from the hardcopy to the text file that the writer supplied.
 

ChunkyC

Re: paper or file

To add my wordprocessor to the mix, I use OpenOffice. I always work in 12pt Courier, underlining for italics. When I saved about thirty pages to RTF for a friend to go over (I opened the resulting file and it was fine), it arrived at their computer with large chunks of text changed so that formerly lowercase letters were small caps - and italic.

Why? Who knows. These are computers. They do weird things. At least paper won't change formatting on you when you put it in an envelope.
 

James D Macdonald

Silly Article

There's a silly article in Salon today.

www.salon.com/books/feature/2004/03/22/midlist/index.html

(You'll have to look at an ad to read it.)

I'm a mid-list writer too, making my living at this game for the past fifteen years. Poor Jane Doe! She's written five books in ten years? What's she been doing with her time?

Most mid-list authors would love to have advances like she got. She's averaging $40K/year. That isn't poverty. She wants to be a writer? She should write. She should write books that people want to read.

A word of advice for her: What do you think pseudonyms were made for? Change your agent, change your name, and get to work.

You want to know my worst advance ? $2,000. You want to know my worst sales? 640 copies in hardcover. (Happy ending there: sold the book to another house, where it came out in paperback and sold over 100,000 copies.) Sales numbers and advances aren't particularly secrets. For heaven's sake! They're printed in the trade mags.

Friggin' cry me a river, lady. On your feet and get moving. Did someone tell you this gig is easy?

=============

UPDATE John Scalzi on this same article:
www.scalzi.com/whatever/archives/000703.html
UPDATE 2 More from the Nihilistic Kid
 
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maestrowork

Re: On the Climax

Dipping back to page 37 in this thread:

It's funny. She didn't say "something is missing" but "you did not put in such and such." So it seems like she does get it, but she wants some explanations to go with it.

I have to ask ...

Was this story being workshopped at the time, and did the reader have the full manuscript, or only a portion?

She only had the first half of the book.
 

maestrowork

Re: Typesetting

Virus. LOL. I once had to edit an article someone else wrote, and upon opening the file, my Norton Antivirus went berserk. Later he found out that everyone's computer at his work place was infected, as was EVERY Word file.

MS Word's editing/tracking/approval/collaboration tools are pretty good -- I use them a lot with my editor. However, you're right about different file formats, programs, platforms, etc. make it difficult to edit using only electronic formats. We will have to rely on the lowest, common denominator which is a hard copy standard-format manuscript.
 

HapiSofi

Re: Typesetting

Pthom said:
So, what's my point? akaEraser asked, "How come we can't just make the italics or bolds or whatever to begin with?" My friend the typesetter is a small outfit; has only a few hundred clients. Uncle Jim, seriously, do the big guys still set type for whole novels by reading 8 1/2" x 11" typed copy? Especially when it's so much easier, quicker, and more error free to do it from a file. I betcha that 95% of us writers prepare our manuscripts using a word processor on a computer.

Surely, modern publishers utilize the most current and efficient technology. Don't they?
They don't do it because it isn't easier, quicker, and more error-free to do it from the author's file.

Consider the manuscript. It gets edited, rewritten, finally goes to production. One copy is sent to a copyeditor who makes marks on it. Another copy is sent to a designer who does the same. (Or, if you have time to burn, the same copy is sent to one, then the other. Never mind.) The copyedit comes back, gets looked at and fiddled with by the editor, goes to the author, gets fiddled with and stetted and fiddled with some more, and comes back to the editor again.

Now. If everyone's behaved properly, meaning they've all used comprehensible marks, and everyone's used a different color of pencil so you can distinguish one set of marks from another, the manuscript is ready to go to typesetting. The typesetters are used to this system, and can sort out the marks. Typesetting is like sending out your laundry: manuscript goes out, galley pages come back; and since the typesetters have been cutting each other's throats on prices for years, it's not even that expensive. In fact, it's one of the few steps in book production that's relatively simple and reliable, and very rarely generates new error modes.

Note that this system works no matter what kind of computers and software the author, editor, copyeditor, and designer used or didn't use. This is necessary. You can't expect the author to change the way they work to accommodate your new text processing system. Most authors are incredibly conservative about their writing setup. The last CPM user on the planet will probably be an author. You also don't want to be stuck having to choose your copyeditors on the basis of their personal computer systems. The difference in customer satisfaction between a good copyeditor and a bad one is huge. You'll take the good one even if she sends in her documentation in quill pen on parchment. Are you starting to get the picture?

You can't do this all electronically because it's an incredible pain in the wazoo to keep track of who made which changes. Believe me, "Just have the author enter the changes as they go through the copyedit" is NOT an option. Typesetters are professional keyboarders. There are some authors, copyeditors, editors, etc., who are that good at keyboarding text, but there are plenty who aren't. Also, keyboarding text isn't their job. They have other things to do.

Sometimes these days the typesetters will use the author's text file as the basic keystrokes, and just clean it up and enter all the changes. However, the master document they'll be working from will still be the printed-out hardcopy manuscript with all the different-colored pencil marks on it. Nobody has yet come up with a computer technology that's anywhere near as flexible, verifiable, and multi-platform-compatible.
 

ChunkyC

Re: Typesetting

Hapi, another post all writers who skulk about here should pin to the ever-dwindling open spaces on the wall of their workspace. You make it abundantly clear why paper is better without even going into software upgrades that introduce file format incompatibilities even though the program manufacturer claims it won't, security patches that bugger up your Internet connection....

...where's my pencil sharpener?
 

James D Macdonald

Re: Typesetting

I remember one software upgrade:

"Don't worry," said the tech. "It'll be transparent to the users."

"Yeah," said the system manager. "Kinda like a helicopter's rotors...."
 

Pthom

Hey, I used to use edlin. LOL

Hey, I used to use edlin. LOL (but never for anything longer than a paragraph or two. It was more useful as a programming tool.)

My favorite word processor came with my first computer: a Leading Edge Model D. It was called LEWP (Leading Edge Word Processor) and was similar, I think, to the original XYWrite, a favorite of Jerry Pournelle ... once. I think I recall his column in BYTE magazine extolling its virtues and complaining that his co-author, Larry Niven, preferred MS Word.
I bet that the typesetters nowadays take the marked up hardcopy, and at the end transfer the marks from the hardcopy to the text file that the writer supplied.
Thanks for the confirmation of this, at least. ;)
 

ChunkyC

Re: Silly Article

Just read the Salon article.

Boo hoo. Poor baby. Only $150 grand advance. I make thirty bucks a week writing a 500 word movie review column for my local small town newspaper, the only writing I've yet to get paid for. Know what? It feels GREAT! I get paid to put words in the paper and people come up to me on the street and say they read the column and think I was bang on, or they disagree but see my point, etc. etc. It's the best feeling in the world.

Now if I manage to get some of my fiction published...my god, I'll fall to my knees and weep with joy even if the advance is only a hundred dollar gift certificate from Amazon. And this bimbo is whining about making nearly half a million dollars from writing in the last ten years?

Well lady, if you don't like the money, there's a bunch of us over here who wouldn't mind throwing it all on the floor and rolling around in it. :grin
 

maestrowork

Re: Silly Article

Chunky, what paper do you write for? I also write a weekly movie review (but I am cheaper. Only $25). I write for an e-zine.
 

maestrowork

Re: Hey, I used to use edlin. LOL

$150K advance? Where do I sign up? $40K/year for writing only 5 books in ten years? Where do I sign up?
 

ChunkyC

Re: Silly Article

Hey Maestro...I write my column for the entertainment insert of The Canmore Leader and Banff Crag & Canyon newspapers in Alberta, Canada. Once in a blue moon they put my column online. (twice in 2 years). Print circulation 10,000. It may not be the big time, but I love it. :)
 

maestrowork

Re: Silly Article

Chunky, same here. I love it and I don't really care about the pay (who can live on $25 a week anyway! Chuckle). I write for Actors Ink and the column also appears on Talk Entertainment.
 

James D Macdonald

Re: Silly Article

Two more links for y'all:

<a href="http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/archives/000701.html" target="_new">Ten pieces of very good advice</a>

<a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004925.html#004925" target="_new">Discussion of that silly Salon article</a> (don't forget to follow the sub-links).
 

SRHowen

On another BB--

having this debate--

one space or two spaces after the end punctuation of a sentence. Like so many of these arguments--the ones who say one space argue it looks better--while a true source of this is industry standard are hard to find. I have always used two spaces, seems a no brainer to me.

But is it?

Shawn
 

ChunkyC

Re: 1 or 2 spaces

Good question! I've had this discussion with my editor friend who vehemently defends the 1-space position. I always thought 2 spaces was the accepted norm. Not something you usually see in submission guidelines, nor have I seen it mentioned either way in my Writer's Digest manuscript preparation book.

Uncle Jim?

PS - ten pieces of writing advice? Three words: Fab-u-lous.
 

James D Macdonald

Re: On another BB--

One space or two?

That tells folks if you learned how to type on a typewriter or a computer. Typewriter folks use two spaces after punctuation; computer-trained folks use one.

It's meaningless. Concentrate on telling a good story.
 

SRHowen

LOL

James, that was my thought. I learned to type on a typewriter--an old electric monster in HS and before that an old Royal Green manual. Could type about 120 WPM even on that thing, still type about the same on a keyboard. :ack

Wonder what the programs such as Mavis teach now? My 10 yr old types about 40 WPM on her 5th grade typing program. Small fingers, she does better the laptop with the smaller scale keyboard.

Just checked Mavis, you set it to how you want to type, one space or two.

Also, I agree with the just write the story--but in the final formatting there are always a million questions and on this particular board i was talking about there are several people who will disagree with anyone who they see as getting ahead of them on the publishing road. No idea why I still hangout there other than I have been a member of that BB for almost 5 years now.

Side note: James can you e-mail me? Hotmail ate my address book so I no longer have your e-mail.

Shawn
 
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