Saturday, January 9, 2016

Crazy Editor Interference—It Can Be Worse Than You Thought

As an editor, I take pride in not interfering with a novelist’s voice and ultimate decisions. No, really. I always, always have the author’s well-being at heart, and I am always, always nice, not the least bit crazy. At all. Well, except maybe for when . . . 

The Find-a-Synonym Game Goes Wrong

We all know a synonym is a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word. But it’s the “nearly the same” that can make me a little crazy. For instance, I think one grimaces when in pain, either physically or emotionally. Yet Microsoft Word lists grimace as a synonym for frown, and I have seen that synonym used in more than one book without said pain, making me want to grab a permanent marker. 

As someone who is sorta kinda entitled to her own opinion, I beg you not to go with grimace for the heroine who is merely unhappy, not even though Word says it’s okay. Not unless she is also in the middle of a grimace-worthy ugly cry or has truly and severely broken bones in her body. For all that is precious, please play the synonym game by my rules. Sniff, sniff.

Notoriety Is a Good Thing

If I made a list of word misuses, notoriety would be at the top. And this time Word's list of synonyms back me up. Notoriety is not a good thing. It does not mean one is “of note.” It means notorious, bad. Downright nasty sometimes.

So if you tell me your character has gained notoriety for his crimes, fine. But if your character comments that Mother Teresa gained notoriety for her good works, I am climbing through the cybersphere to get you. And while I have you by the neck, I might go after you for other possible infractions, like penning anxious when you really mean eager, or jealous when you really mean envious, or . . . Oh, sorry. I got carried away, and some of that goes back to the synonym game anyway. Interfering is hard work.

Bodies Can’t Do That

This is a hard one, I know. But again, I am begging. Unless your hero swallows the tears coming out of his eyes and flowing down his cheeks, those tears cannot clog his throat, right? Yes, I know you don’t want to write about the gross snot that can drain into his throat, making for a nice, debilitating clog so he can hardly tell his love how much she means to him, but, please, work around this somehow. 

And think about your heroine’s poor, poor heart. If it drops into her stomach or lodges in her throat one more time, she might not make it to the last chapter of your book. I can see it now, on page 184: 

Publisher’s Note: We’re sorry, but this novel has ended a little bit prematurely, before the really good, award-winning part, because the character of Mary succumbed too soon. Her heart traveled to and from her stomach one time too many. But we hope you’re still eagerly [not anxiously, unless you are quite concerned about who will replace Mary] awaiting book two in this thrilling series, Body Wars.  

Okay, okay. I’m not really a bug-eyed, crazy editor. Not much. But, yes, if I ever edit something for you, and your novel involves lips, I may have to ask if you are sure lips can form a thin line. Just because my fat lips won’t do it doesn’t mean it's not possible. I’d just like some photographic evidence, please. Is that too much to ask?

After twenty-four years with publishing house Zondervan in Grand Rapids, Michigan, most recently as an executive managing editor, Jean Bloom returned to Central Indiana to be near family and take her freelance editorial business full time (Bloom in Words Editorial Services). Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she often posts articles about the writing life. She and her husband, Cal, have three children and five grandchildren.

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  1. What a delightful blog, Jean! I'm also a freelance editor and my list of things that make me crazy gets longer and longer as I've switched from editing nonfiction to editing fiction. I always assure my clients that I'm on their side... ;-)

  2. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I'm also a Hoosier, living in Central Indiana.

  3. A grimace can also show disgust (which is a dictionary definition), and I sometimes use it that way--especially if my protagonist has been frowning too much. But I agree with the points you made.

    1. Yes, I can think of many disgusting things that would make me grimace. :) Thanks, Kathryn.