Wearing My Editing Hat

I’ve been spending a lot of time editing lately (don’t worry, I’m still writing, although not as much as I’d like). Most of this work has been coming from a particular Haredi publisher — it’s fun, it’s challenging, and I’m learning a lot. I started off doing copyediting, but periodically, the acquisitions editor asks me to handle a developmental editing project.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen a few threads about what I’ve been dealing with in the manuscripts I’ve been handling. For example, I sent some R & R (revise and resubmit) notes to a writer about her first 30 pages, then offered a thread about characterization in the first 30 pages of your novel. In other tweets, I touched on words to eliminate when you revise your book and how to format your submissions. (Following me on Twitter is the best way to keep up with my professional endeavors, in case you haven’t figured that out yet.)

Anyway, a lot of the Haredi men and women who submit to the publisher I’ve been working with (it’s still freelance, and it’s very part-time) don’t use Twitter. Nor do many of the fledgling writers who may soon be submitting their first manuscript to a publisher. It doesn’t occur to them to look for writing tips on YouTube or on social media, and they may not have access to secular books about writing (I’m working on a Jewish one…but who knows when I’ll finish and whether it will be published). They might not have taken any classes or webinars on writing, nor have most of these writers participated in a writing group.

The upshot is that there are a lot of submissions which contain fantastic ideas in packages which are highly unprofessional.

You wouldn’t want your submission to be rejected because it was formatted incorrectly, do you?

This post is the one post that I want printed out. I want English teachers in Jewish schools to print it out (with attribution indicating it’s written by me) and then circulate it among their 12th graders. I want people who have friends or relatives who are planning to submit their first story to a publisher to print it and hand it to them. I want this because I WANT THEIR BOOKS TO BE AS READY FOR PUBLICATION AS POSSIBLE.

HOW TO FORMAT YOUR MANUSCRIPT LIKE A PROFESSIONAL

1) Only one space should follow your end punctuation. Once upon a time, you might have heard it’s best to skip two. However, it’s no longer industry standard to skip two spaces after end punctuation except in a few niches (including academic journals & legal writing).

2) Do not hit the space bar to indent. You should also not hit Tab to indent. Instead, use the Ruler Bar on your word processing program. Slide the TOP arrow only. 5-space indentation used to be common; most places use 3-space currently. Choose one of those sizes of indentation.

Now, every time you hit Enter, your next paragraph will indent.

3) Another common error: using both indentation AND skipping a line between paragraphs. Again, there are exceptions for some academic journals and in legal writing, but in general, you choose EITHER to indent OR to skip lines between paragraphs.

Please do not hit Enter an extra time to skip a line between paragraphs. Your copyeditor will have to go back and delete every one of those Enters. In order to set skip lines between paragraphs (or to take them away), make sure you have visited the Paragraph Menu (under Home for Word) but nested on the main Tool Bar for Google Docs (click the three dots on the Tool Bar for that option to come up).

If you are setting up a new scene, and that’s why you are skipping a line, put a pound-sign (#) or an asterisk (*) on that line.

4) If you want to start at the top of a new page, don’t just hit Enter till you reach the new page. Insert a Page Break instead.

5) Most publishers prefer a 12-point font, though most word processing programs have an 11-point default now. Make sure you’ve switched 12-point!

6) Don’t use fancy fonts. Simple serif fonts are best: Times New Roman, Cambria, Georgia, Garamond. You can use a simple sans serif font for titles such as Arial or Calibri.

7) Don’t right justify. It makes it too hard to tell whether spacing is correct.

8) Please double space.

9) Using the Footer Menu (nested in the Format or Insert Menu depending on your program), insert your name, either a phone number or email address, and then — using the Page Number Tool — the page number.

10) Head the first page with your name, the title of your book, your address, your phone number, and an email address (assuming you have one).

10 THINGS TO CHECK BEFORE YOU SUBMIT A NARRATIVE (A NOVEL OR MEMOIR):

  1. Did you identify the main character within the first page? (If you start with a prologue that doesn’t show the main character, it must be less than two pages long and should show us something about the problem and the stakes. A prologue always serves plot or characterization.)
  2. Did you start the book in the right place? This is usually at the “inciting incident.” That’s the event or decision which sets the story in motion. (Examples: In Henye Meyer’s THIS IS AMERICA!, the book starts with Tcherna’s desire to marry & money set aside for that purpose. When a sudden need arises for the men in the family to flee to America, the money is repurposed and Tcherna’s longing for a husband is thwarted. In Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, the novel starts with the arrival of a new neighbor and the main character’s mother announcing her intent to marry one of her daughters off to him.)
  3. On the first page, is there a source of obvious conflict?
  4. Does every scene serve the plot and theme or show us important details about the main character? Does each scene lead logically to the next one, and do they move towards a climax and resolution?
  5. Have you gotten feedback from someone who is in your target audience, who regularly reads this type of book, and who is not related to you (nor are they a close friend)? YOU NEED ACQUIRE FEEDBACK AND THEN TO REVISE.
  6. Did you use spellcheck and grammar check?
  7. Did you make sure that any transliterated words are spelled consistently — for example, you used “challah” every time, not “challah” and “khale” and “challoh” and “challa?”
  8. Did you cut as many instances as possible of the following words: just, even, still, begins to, starts to, trying to, & very?
  9. When the reader finishes your story, do they understand the message you intended?
  10. Have you checked all scientific, medical, and historical details for accuracy?

Again, PLEASE PRINT THIS WITH MY NAME (REBECCA KLEMPNER) ON IT AND THEN SHARE, SHARE, SHARE!

Double Dose of Good News!!!

Announcement #1:

I will be publishing a new Jewish sci-fi picture book with Kalaniot Books in the not-too-distant future. I’m feeling very blessed and can’t wait till I can share more about this book and the story of how it came to be. I will tell you this much: it took over a year of submissions before closing this deal, and I feel like it’s a message that perseverance and faith will pay off, even if it’s on God’s timeline, not ours. As soon as we have an illustrator announced, I’ll let you know.

Me, very excited after signing the book contract.

Announcement #2:

Today, Tablet is running a fun little personal essay by moi about a misadventure I had shortly before Passover. It’s about losing things, finding them, Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess, and how sometimes it’s good to lose things. You can read it here.

The World is Chaos…But You Gotta Keep Writing

There are definitely times when I cannot write. From mid-November till January, I didn’t even try to write–I was ill and then recovering from surgery. I generally take the Hebrew month of Nissan off, first to prepare for Passover, then to celebrate it, then to recover from it. And my husband reminds me that every late fall-early winter I have a slump because I’m sensitive to the diminished sunlight.

However, I’ve discovered that one of the best things I can do for my mental health when things are super chaotic in the outside world is to realize that I have a limited ability to fix the outside world. I cannot halt the war in Ukraine, I cannot shut up antisemites, I cannot save all the women of Afghanistan from the Taliban. I cannot house everyone sleeping on the streets, nor can I singlehandedly stop racism.

I can donate to charity, I can lend a hand to help a worthy cause, I can pray…but if I think about all the war, famine, loss in the world WHEN I CAN DO NOTHING TO FIX IT, then I’m just making myself depressed or anxious with no purpose. It’s not just me–it’s something a lot of creative types struggle with. I think this is especially true because 1) creative types are often very empathic, and 2) creative types need a relaxed mind to produce work. And the saddest part is that when we spend our hours worrying, rather than taking steps to fulfill our goals, we start feeling guilty for being “slackers” on top of everything else.

Directing my energy towards things I can control (or at least partly control) is more productive. And one of those things is my creative work.

I was feeling kinda down and overwhelmed about a month ago, and part of it was the Winter Blahs and part of it was a series of rejections and part of it was outside problems I couldn’t control infiltrating my mind. I’m reminding myself a lot lately that it’s not worth dwelling on what I can’t control (wars, rejections by other people).

The good news is that limiting news consumption (less than an hour of NPR a day) is helping. Getting sleep and exercise is helping. And sitting with a notebook and a pen and brainstorming helps, too.

Thank God, and bli ayin hara, I’m working on two writing projects right now. I’ve got renewed energy and we’ll see if these books come to fruition.

My Review of the Recent Sydney Taylor Bio

When I posted last week, I realized that I failed to post when my review of From Sarah to Sydney: The Woman Behind All-of-a-Kind Family ran in the Winter Issue of The Jewish Review of Books.

Many readers will recognize Sydney Taylor’s name either from her All-of-a-Kind books or from the award that bears her name, which is used to honor writers of Jewish children’s literature each year. This new biography–by the late June Cummins, completed by her colleague Alexandra Dunietz–describes a woman who contributed not only to writing, but to dance and theater, and whose personal life is illustrative of Ashkenazi Jewish women of her time and place. A particular challenge of writing the review was that the book was not yet completed by its primary author when she died of ALS.

A young Sarah Brenner–later to become Sydney Taylor–appears on the cover of Cummins’s biography.

You can read my review in The Jewish Review of Books here.

DRAMA!

So, it’s been a while since I posted, so I feel like y’all need an update. I was working on my NaNoWriMo project back in November — it was finishing the second half of my 2018 NaNo project — and I was making excellent progress when—

my gallbladder decided to cause me trouble. Like, serious trouble.

Once I realized what was going on (I went to the doctor after the second attack), I spent about a month eating very, very carefully lest I trigger more gallbladder attacks. Then I had surgery, which took about three weeks to recover from.

I’m not really back into a full writing routine yet, but I hope to at some point soon. There are kid reviews up on the PJ Our Way website now, which is fun. Although lots of readers wish the book were longer.

In the meantime, here I am with my new gallbladder, this one outside my abdomen and purchased for me by one of my chevrutas.

Adina at Her Best to Be Offered through PJ Our Way in November!

Here’s me, looking at the PDF with the digital proof of Adina at Her Best‘s PJ Our Way edition. IY”H, the tweenage subscribers will be able to choose Adina as their free book in just a couple weeks.

My husband claims I was smiling like a Cheshire Cat. I think I look happy, not creepy.

I’ve been in a bit of a mood lately, since I’d gotten out of my writing groove over the summer and I have received a slew of rejections (or just been ghosted) recently. But the email from PJ Our Way folks containing this PDF, and some progress I’ve made on other projects the last couple days, is heartening me a bit. Hopefully, I’ll have more good news soon.

To the best of my knowledge, Adina at Her Best is the first middle grade book selected for PJ Our Way that was originally published by a Haredi press. I hope it’s not the last! [EDIT: I just found out that there have been a few of HaChai’s “Fun-to-Read” titles used for PJ Our Way, so I’m not QUITE the trailblazer I thought I was. ;)] The cover is slightly different, the end of the story has been revised. Significantly, we replaced a lot of the Jewy-ist language so people with little Jewish background will still be able to understand what’s going on, and we improved the story so it’s not a White Savior narrative (I mentioned this on the blog a while back, I think).

Share any of your book-related good news (things you’ve enjoyed reading recently, things you’ve written yourself, etc.) in the comments.