Communication Skills

All parties working on a project need to work as a team. They must also respect each other’s point of view. If everyone is working in different directions then the project will not succeed.

Point of View

Everyone has a point of view. Often everyone thinks their point of view is the right one. This is only natural because we all see things/situations differently. However, it doesn’t mean we are always right and it can be that part of or all of the other points of view are also correct.

The key is to be objective. It’s OK to have a different point of view which you are willing to put aside because the majority thinks another way. However, never compromise your ethics.

Compromise

As the editor, you must learn to compromise. And, remember, you are not the author and should not be attempting to change the author’s style.

Remember quality and profit from the last post? Ask yourself will compromising make either of these things suffer.

Key Communication Skills

Active Listening means to respond and question. All parties need to be able to question without fear of reprisal.

Consideration must always be given to the author’s goal. The publisher/editor/copyeditor/proofreader should not become so intent on grammar and correctness that this is forgotten. This means the other parties (publisher and editors) must never become narrow-minded. And, if you are wrong…admit it!

Non-Verbal Language will tell other parties what you think even if you don’t say it. This is true on the phone too. The other person cannot see you, but they can hear the smile on your face or the roll of your eyes, and they respond to these things. They also feel the distance if they can hear you doing other things. They may feel hurried if you speak fast. Where possible, learn to adjust your tone, pace and vocal range to the person you are talking to.

Communicating the Editors Role to the Author

As an editor, the best thing you can do is define your role to the author at your first meeting. This will help develop a good editor/author relationship.

Some things you should do are: explain your role in the company; advise that your suggestions are just that suggestions and the author has the final say; explain the manuscript must comply with the publisher’s in-house style; talk about the importance of readership and what they want and expect; and, briefly explain the publishing process. Be sure to mention that once the manuscript goes to print, no more corrections can be made.

Editing Course: Developing Good Working Relationship

Before I get started on the course notes, I’d like to mention that the last two months has been hectic. I’ve been too busy to post or to do my courses. I’ve taken up the editing course again this week, but will defer the writing course until after the editing course is complete. That way, both courses will get my full attention, which will ultimately be better for me.

Unit 6: The Importance of Understanding

Relationships with anyone are delicate. They need to be worked on. The important factor for success for a partnership between two people, especially in a work relationship, is understanding the ultimate goal. All parties need to know they aim for quality and profit.

Quality: the end product needs to meet standards expected by the author and publisher.

Profit: there is no point publishing something if there’s no profit. Publishers need profit to survive.

The Editor/Author Relationship

Many works are edited three or more times. Yet it is not uncommon for an error to be found even after numerous edits. It’s also not uncommon for someone else to find an error after the work is published.

The editor must work ‘with’ the author and not ‘against’ the author. The number of edits is not a reflection on the author and does not indicate poor quality.

To obtain a more objective viewpoint, the author must be able to take a break after the first draft is finished. When they return to the work they will see things much more clearly.

The editor has a more objective eye because they are not as close to the work, they have not invested hours and hours of time working of the manuscript. And they are not emotionally connected with the work. Because of this, the editor easily spots the faults.

Where the author immerses themselves into the work, the editor must remain detached and objective. This does not mean, however, being cold and unfeeling.

The author and editor must understand what will be accepted and wanted by the audience. Because if disappointed, the audience may never purchase anything by that author again.

The Editor/Proofreader Relationship

The proofreader’s role is to help the editor bring the project to a stage of completion. The key to success here is communication.

Proofreaders need to stay up-to-date with language and style changes, new printing procedures and changes in industry standards.

And editor needs to be able to trust the proofreader in this regard and will expect an acceptable degree of accuracy.

A proofreader must detach themselves from the content and read character by character, line by line. They do not look for plot/story faults and will never be held responsible for not spotting these faults.

The Editor/Publisher Relationship

The level of responsibility will be determined by the publisher. It can be a difficult job as you may end up the ‘middle man’ between the publisher and the author. Remember, you are accountable to the publisher and that’s where your loyalty should be. You’ll need to be aware of deadlines, profit margins, sales etc but you will also need to be conscious of the author’s professional position.

Writing Course: Self-Editing Your Work

You have written a story – short story or novel, it doesn’t matter. Now it is time to self-edit it. It is easy to find flaws in other people’s work, but quite difficult to recognise them in your own.

There are three components of self-editing:

1. line/copy-editing,
2. sentence editing,
3. content editing.

Line/Copy-editing

A point to remember, whilst the spell check in word processors will identify some misspelt words, you should never rely on it when self-editing as they do not pick up words that are correctly spelled but used in the wrong context (such as to, too, two, their, there, would, wood).

However, you should use the ‘find and replace’ function to check the following:

[table style=”1″]

What to Look For What to Do
Words ending with ‘ly’ Adverbs tell rather than show. A lot of the time if you strengthen the verb, you can eliminate the adverb.
and, so, but, however, because Avoid connectives where possible. Try a full stop and make two sentences, or rearrange and shorten the sentence.
that If the sentence reads well without it, delete it.
thing, stuff Don’t be lazy! Be specific.
he, she, him, her, his, hers If you have two or more characters, don’t rely on pronouns as the reader can become confused as to who is doing/saying what.

[/table]

Sentence Editing

Once you’ve completed the basic line/copy-edit to correct spelling and grammar, you will need to examine your sentences and the words used. Ask yourself these questions:

Is the language specific, strong?
Do your words allow visualisation?
Is the main character well developed, convincing?
Will the reader sympathise with the main character?
Is there jargon or cliches that should be removed?
Are you too wordy or concise?
Is the word choice supportive of the setting?
Is the tone consistent?
Are there shifts in tone, tense, style or voice?
Is the dialogue convincing?
Does the dialogue move the story along?
Does the dialogue reveal character, conflict or emotion?

Content Editing

The course tackles this last but I feel this should be the first thing you do as major changes could result which may mean the work you’ve already completed in the line/copy-edit and sentence edit has been wasted.

Some more questions you should ask yourself:

What is your story about?
Can you sum up, in one sentence, what you story is about?
Are you saying what you want to say?
What does the main character want? Is this clear from the start?
Where is the story set? Is it important?
Will the reader relate to the main character?
Does the story have direction?
Is there a catchy beginning?
Is the conflict clear from the beginning?
Do the characters face interesting obstacles and make difficult decisions?
Does every action have cause and effect?
Is the main character well developed and interesting?
What is the character’s ruling passion or fatal flaw?
Does the character struggle, grow, change, make a stand?
Is the right character telling the story?
Does the setting create the right mood, have a strong sense of time and place, further the theme and plot?
Is there continuance, consistency and credibility?
Has the point of view or tense changed?
Are the characters believable?
Is the narrative voice right for the story?

Professional Presentation

Once the story has been written, rewritten and edited until it is the best it can be, it is time to take steps to ‘present’ your work in a professional manner.

I would recommend you using William Shunn’s Proper Manuscript Format Website as a guide, but here’s a quick checklist:

  • Use A4 good quality white paper
  • Use no less than 12 point black font
  • Never use colour ink
  • Use double spacing for manuscript content
  • Use a title page, or more often these days, insert the following onto the first page of the manuscript:
      story title
      author’s name
      approximate word count
      full name, address and contact details
  • Insert into top header, except first page, right aligned, in the following format:
      story title/ author’s surname / page number
  • Left justify content.
  • Make sure there is no extra white space between paragraphs and the first line of each paragraph is indented up to five spaces (3 is a good number).
  • Never bind pages.
  • Always keep a backup copy on disk (or, do what I do, email yourself a copy for safe keeping).
  • Most important, always read the publisher guidelines and do as directed. Always!

 

Editing Course: Be Aware of What You Edit

As an editor it is part of your job to watch out for things like offensive language and discriminatory wording — but only when it is out of context.

Most of the time, the author does not intend harm or it may be a case of misinterpretation, but the editor must be objective and consider the ramifications of inappropriate use and bring it to the author’s attention.

There are many grey areas that make this difficult such as cultural differences, freedom of speech and inconsistent laws, but the key here is keeping it within context. Ultimately, it is the author’s decision if the wording is changed or not.

Professional Integrity

It’s important to maintain objectivity and independent judgement in thinking when working as an editor, copyeditor or proofreader.

This means being able to think for yourself and being able to discuss potential problems with your clients, and remain professional when doing so.

Objectivity means being impartial, intellectually honest and free of conflicts of interest. An editor must be able to put their personal views aside and approach their work on an individual basis. It may mean that you do NOT take on a particular job because you feel so strongly about the topic. Whatever the case, you must always stand back, keep a clear head, do not pass judgement on what you are reading and stay professional.

Confidentiality means that you must never disclose information about the editing project to a third person. Never discuss manuscripts, never share company details, never gossip about your clients. If you do, your client can take legal action against you.

Cultural Awareness means understanding that groups of people have patterns of behaviour and beliefs that may impact on the way they do, say and write things. Words and meanings can be totally different with the groups. What does not offend one group, may highly offend another group. The editor should arrange a client pre-brief (in person or by phone) before editing material to discuss what the author’s intentions are as this will often be beneficial to the editor.

Some Terms You Should Know

Defamation is ‘the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, or nation a negative image’. Source Wikipedia.

Slander is the spoken form of ‘defamation’.

Libel is the written form of ‘defamation’.

Discrimination is the unfavourable or unfair treatment of a person based on their sex, age, religion, physical appearance, sexual orientation or race.

Blasphemy is ‘irreverence toward holy personages, religious artifacts, customs, and beliefs’. Source: Wikipedia.

Editing Course: Moral Rights and Plagiarism

The following notes are extracts from the Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) website.

Copyright Agency Limited
Level 15, 233 Castlereagh Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: 02 9394 7600
Fax: 02 9394 7601
Email: info@copyright.com.au
Website: www.copyright.com.au

What are moral rights?

Moral rights are provided to the creator of works under copyright laws to protect their reputation and their work.

In Australia, moral rights provide creators with three rights:

1. The right of attribution of authorship.
2. The right not to have authorship of their work falsely attributed.
3. The right of integrity of authorship.

This protects the creator from their work being used in a derogatory way that may lead to their reputation suffering.

Moral rights last for the same term as copyright — 70 years after the death of the creator.

Why are moral rights different?

Copyright protects the ‘economic rights’ of a work. In other words, it is aimed at the financial side of things.

Moral rights protect the reputation and integrity of the creator.

Moral rights cannot be held by a company, so the person who wrote the piece retains the moral rights.

What types of works do moral rights apply to?

Moral rights apply to a wide range of works including books, articles, textbooks, poems, songs, plays, film scripts, drawings, paintings, sculptures, musical works, computer programs and films.

What would be considered an infringement?

There are numerous ways that moral rights can be infringed:

  • not attributing a work to its rightful creator
  • falsely attributing a work to someone else
  • producing a falsely attributed work
  • treating a work in a derogatory way (including altering the work)
  • dealing commercially with a work that has been treated in a derogatory fashion

 

However, the creator can give written consent for their work to be used in another way than how it was created.

Other considerations to be taken into account are the nature of the work, the purpose for which it was created, if the work was created while in employment and if there are more than one author. Some of these may not constitute a breach in moral rights if the use of the work is considered ‘reasonable’.

The law also takes into account ‘relevant industry practice’. For example, an advertising team brainstorm an idea for a single advertisement. It would be difficult to attribute moral rights to every person or a single person, so no attribution would be permitted.

Can moral rights be sold?

No. Unlike copyright, moral rights cannot be transferred or sold.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is when someone tries to present someone else’s work as their own.

An editor and/or publisher must keep an eye open for two things:

1. Work that is a direct copy of another person’s work but has their client’s name on it.
2. Work that paraphrases or summarises someone else’s work but does not credit the original author.

Citing a work means referring to the creator of the work. This can be done in the text or at the end of the text.

Example:

[quote style=”1″]The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.
— Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)[/quote]

What is NOT plagiarism?

  • new and original ideas
  • writing that comes from your own experiences, thoughts and observations
  • writing that is written in your own words and your own voice
  • work written from your own conclusions from studies
  • compiled and stated facts

 

What is a copying licence?

Copying licences allow organisations to access information but fulfil their legal copyright requirements. The organisation pays an annual fee to CAL and this allows them to use copyright material as long as it is important to their business.

Go to the CAL website to find out more on copyright licences.

Editing Course: What is Copyright?

Most people recognise the copyright symbol, but everyone in the publishing industry needs to know what might cause a copyright issue.

© This is the worldwide symbol that signals a work is owned by someone and no one else has the right to use it. Sounds simple, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Firstly, each country has its own laws. In Australia, our laws are administered by the federal Government. The Australian Copyright Council is a non-profit organisation that offers free advice, information and training.

Australian Copyright Council
3/245 Chalmers Street, Redfern NSW 2106
Phone: 02 9318 1788
Fax: 02 9698 3536
Email: cpright@copyright.org.au
Website: www.copyright.org.au

Who Owns the Work?

Anything you write, be it a book, play, course, or piece of music is copyright. To assert your intellectual property right you can use the copyright symbol in the following manner:

© The Publishing Company 2010
© Karen Lee Field 2011

You may also insert the word ‘copyright’ too:

Copyright © The Publishing Company 2010
© Copyright Karen Lee Field 2011

If someone copies your work, it is known as a copyright infringement. However, sometimes you do NOT own the copyright even when you wrote the piece.

If you work for a company or contract to a company and you are paid to write the piece for them, then the company owns copyright, not you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve signed a contract without a intellectual property clause, it is still implicit under the law.

This means you cannot sell the piece to another person or company, as you do not own it. However, there is nothing to stop you writing a similar piece to sell.

Defending Your Copyright

Most authors cannot afford legal representation. This is also the case for many small publishing companies. Mega companies can and do defend their copyright and it costs a lot of money.

Nevertheless, as an author, editor or publisher you must be responsible for making sure you do not breach copyright.

As an editor or publisher, if the manuscript you are working on appears to be a copy of a book you’re read, mention this to the author. People do have similar ideas and maybe it is a coincidence. If, however, it is word for word alarm bells should be ringing. No publisher should publish a manuscript that breaches copyright as they could possibly find themselves in court!

When Does Copyright Expire?

Generally, copyright lasts for seventy years after the death of the creator.

In many cases the rights to books, artwork, songs and other works may have been purchase by another individual or company so copyright continues for much longer.

Never assume a work is out of copyright. You need to be 100% sure before using anything that may be considered an infringement.

What About Book Titles?

Titles are not copyright yet you must be careful as using a title of a highly successful book may be seen as a breach of copyright.

For example, say a book is published with the title ‘Cats’ and, as an editor, you are working on a manuscript with the same title. ‘Cats’ is a word and anyone can use it, but it may be worth mentioning this to the author due to the possibility of future confusion.

Having said that, if the manuscript has the title ‘The Da Vinci Code’ then the publisher would be taking a huge risk and would be wise to suggest the author change the name as the title is synonymous with the successful book and to try and reuse it would be unthinkable. Something related to the title would be much better.

Trademarks

Never use a trademarked name and then defame the owner of it. However, it’s fine to refer to the trademarked product in general.

Example: Jenny took her parents to Gloria Jeans for coffee.

There are two types of trademarks: ™ and ®

™ means registration of the trademark is pending. This can often take months, sometimes years.

® means registration has been approved.

It is illegal to use ® unless approval has been granted.

Writing Course: Fact to Fiction

Before I get started with the course notes, I have to say that this unit is proving to be extremely difficult. Today, I spent two hours attempting to answer vocabulary questions that left me feeling … well, ‘stupid’ is the word that comes to mind. My score left little to be desired and an ‘oh dear’ taste in my mouth. Not good. My notes, however, do not reflect this part of the unit. Really, if you’re having difficulty writing short stories you should consider doing a course as it’s not the same as reading someone else’s notes, it’s far better!

Fact to Fiction

Fiction is fact and imagination put together. You’ll be amazed by how many ideas for your stories come from what you’ve experienced and what you observe happening to other people.

There are two types of short fiction – literary and genre. Genre fiction has its own conventions and rules so we’ll look at literary fiction first. When you know the basics, then you can move on to genre fiction.

Ideas

Ideas come from everywhere, everyone and every situation. Yet still people have trouble coming up with ideas. Perhaps the simplest way to start fiction is to start with an anecdote.

Example: One day, after work, you are running late and have to run to the station, but it’s raining and slippery so you fall over, flat on your face, but get up and just manage to get to the station on time.

An anecdote is straightforward, often uninteresting and nothing much happens. Next you must insert something interesting.

Example: One day, after work, you are running late and have to run to the station, but it’s raining and slippery so you fall over, flat on your face, knocking yourself out for a few seconds but when you stand up again you can’t remember who you are.

Now you have a situation, a problem. Now the character has to make a decision and the reader will wonder what the person will do. Now you have the beginning of a story.

Vocabulary

Words are the writer’s only tool. It is essential to learn to use words effectively as you cannot be there to explain what you mean to the reader.

Writers should be avid readers too. It’s also important to refer to a dictionary whenever you encounter a word that is unfamiliar to you.

Story Length

Stories can vary in length, but often the length will determine where it might be published.

Length What it Means
500 words a short, short story or flash fiction
1000 words a length specified by magazines or some competitions
2000 – 3000 words the average length for literary or mainstream markets
3000 – 5000 words a popular length for anthologies, some of the best short stories fall into this category
5000+ stories over 5,000 words can be difficult to place

Problem Solving

If you experience problems in your writing then read below as there may be a simple solution.

Starting a story – If you cannot seem to start a story, then start wherever you feel comfortable, even if it means writing the final scene first. It doesn’t matter where you start as long as you start.

Showing not telling – This comes with experience. You will find scenes that can be better illustrated with dialogue or more descriptive words. Find beta readers to help flush out these pesky areas.

Continuing beyond the first paragraph – If you can’t seem to write beyond the first paragraph/page then you must learn to let go and simply keep writing. Don’t stop to fix errors, including typos, just write and write for a full 15 minutes. You’ll be surprised how much can be written in a short space of time.

Knowing when to let go – Striving to continue on with an idea that isn’t working for you is not recommended. Let it go and move on to the next idea, preferably one you feel passionate about.

Dialogue – If you feel you cannot write convincing dialogue, try writing a short story without it. It will mean you’ve finished a short story. It will also eliminate the problem area. Of course, you will have to master it eventually, so sit and observe groups of people as they talk. Write down their actions, facial expressions and other movements as you listen to their conversation. This will help you integrate all these things into your short stories.

Writing Course: Elements of Short Story Writing (Part 2)

You might want to read Part 1 first.

Setting

A setting doesn’t need to specify a country, it can be confined to a town, house, room, car, park, tunnel or anywhere else. The setting needs to be there but doesn’t need to take on a role. However, some authors manage to make the setting as alive as their characters.

Setting, if used artistically, can help build your characters and strengthen the plot. Think about it, an untidy bedroom tells the reader a lot about your character.

Structure

An author must make decisions on how to structure a story. Where does the story start? Where does it end? How will the story be told?

Traditional story telling follows this pattern:

  • introduce a situation
  • the situation becomes complicated, there’s a confrontation
  • the complication/confrontation is resolved

 

Time Structure

Traditional stories move chronologically through the story from beginning to end. It is often necessary to remind the reader of facts that have already been revealed, or give them other information to help them understand what is happening. There are ways of arranging your story to help you do this.

Foreshadowing helps build suspense and prepare the reader for things that will happen later in the story. For example, if the loss of a pet is going to become an issue in the story it is better to show the relationship with the pet early in the story rather than when the loss occurs.

Flashback is when the character remembers something from their past that is important to the present. It is recommended that flashbacks be used sparingly in short stories under 3000 words in length.

Sequence of Events is a story told from beginning to end but this is not always affective. However, it’s the best way to ensure the reader does not become confused.

Details and Summary

When we tell stories in real life, we gloss over the uninteresting bits and dramatise the exciting bits. This is story manipulation and it’s something writers do when writing a story.

Pace is essential. Some parts of the story might race along while others are slower and more thoughtful. Pace is controlled by word choice, length of sentences and passage content. Pace helps make the story exciting.

Plot is easily recognised in some stories but quite obscure in others. Genre stories aim to keep the reader entertained, thrilled or terrified. The traditional plot is a series of events involving conflict, which lead to a climax and then a resolution. The best planned plot is built around a well developed character.

Some questions you might ask yourself once you have written the first draft are:

Whose story is it? Whom do you most care about? Why?
Is the character’s goal specific enough for the reader to care?
Are there obstacles stopping the character reaching the goal?
What is at stake? If nothing much then the reader will be bored.
Are the events linked? Is it clear the character is in the grip of fate or is the victim of someone or something?
Is the resolution obvious, predictable or inevitable? If so, have you got to this stage in a fresh way? Does the story encourage the reader to think?
Once you get to the climax, is the story quick to end?
Has every scene contributed to the whole and to the development of the character?

Narrative

Narrative is the section of the story that is not dialogue as well as the whole of the story’s text in terms of elemental construction.

A skilful writer will inject pace into the narrative and will not include unessential details.

Never try to ‘draw the story out’ in the mistaken notion that it creates suspense. It has the opposite effect on the reader who wants the story to ‘move on’. It is also important not to rely too heavily on ‘telling’ a story as the reader will feel important facts are being glossed over and the story becomes shallow.

Elemental Construction refers to the narrative elements within a story that structure it in a particular way. This includes the choice and balanced arrangement of the following:

Location: Why here and not there?
Time: When did or will it happen?
Narrator: Who should tell the story?
Characters: How many, who are they, and how do they interact?
Length: How long should the story be?
Style: What word arrangement will be most effective?
Type of Narrative: Plot or character driven? Present or past tense? Circular or linear in its telling?

Style

Writing is generally about two things — what you write and how you write.

Style is the name given to the manner in which a piece of writing is expressed and the quality of that expression.

Style is a complex topic but here are a few basic styles and their characteristics:

Clear, lucid – simplicity of word and sentence, orderly, coherent.

Strong, virile, vigorous, forceful – exotic or exalted nature, choice of less common words, elaborate sentences.

Graceful, elegant – careful selection of words, mastery of the meanings or words, felicitous expressions, artistic structure of sentences.

Vivacious, animated, racy – concrete and picturesque expressions, spirited flow of sentences, rapid progress in narration, judicious use of dialogue.

The classifications above are not rigid. There are many ways to describe style. For example, simple, curt, crisp, vivid, urbane, lofty, serious, conversational, rambling, strained, illogical, harmonious, consistent, bombastic, quaint, absurd, delicate, light, quirky, ornate, whimsical, sensory.

Poetic concepts are also used by some short story writers. They are devices to enhance style and include things like using words commencing with the same letter, which is called alliteration, or the resemblance of sound between two words, which is called assonance.

A Writer’s Style

Style is your literary fingerprint. It allows you to sound different to other writers. It can, if you manage to develop an individual style, become so well known that readers will not need you to include you name to know something has been written by you.