A Copyeditor’s Rant

During my disappearance from this blog, I spent a lot of my time proofreading, editing, and copyediting.

First, while people tend to use the terms interchangeably:

  • A proofreader checks text for syntax, spelling, punctuation, and other similar errors and corrects them.
  • An editor may do the above, but also will consider the content of the piece, the order of sentences, meaning, style, how the author addresses the audience, and other, deeper issues.
  • A copyeditor deals with text intended for publication – for instance, in a magazine or a book, proofreads it, checks it for accuracy (for instance, are the names of sources spelled correctly?), and then formats the material according to the “house style” of the publisher.

As you can see, each job has slightly different responsibilities. Mostly, I’ve been copyediting the local publication I mentioned in earlier blog posts. In general, I love the job. The hours are flexible (so I’m free to take care of sick kids or errands), and I get to make other writers look good. I’ve developed great working relationships with several of the columnists, thank G-d.

But there are also annoyances. And – without naming names – I’m going to tell you about some of them, because many of the people who read this blog are also writers, and those who aren’t may still be in a position where they have to write something for public consumption. A little awareness about common issues might prove helpful to you.

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Writing a serial: Nickel and dime-ing your way through fiction publishing

On the way to pick up one of my kids at school on Friday afternoon, one of the other moms pulled me aside.

“We’re really enjoying your new serial in Binah,” she said.

I got a little extra bounce in my step. “Thanks!”

“But getting just one chapter a week is driving us crazy! It’s so hard to wait for the next one!’ she added.

“Sorry!” I replied.

There really isn’t anything I can do to help her, but I feel her pain. Usually, I’m the reader throwing my arms up in frustration at the end of a serial episode screaming, “I have to know what happens next! Argh!”

What’s really funny, is that now as a writer, Continue reading

My latest obsession: comparing the numbers of comments to the numbers of “likes”

Okay, I’ll admit it: there are better ways to spend my time. But for some reason, I have recently become obsessed with the following question:

Why do some articles get many “likes,” but few comments, and some articles get many comments, but few “likes?”

Until recently, I never paid attention to the social network shares on my articles. I paid attention to the comments so I could monitor and respond to them, but I didn’t watch how many people “liked” my article, tweeted about it, or whatever. I guess something happened when I finally joined FB myself.

First, I found myself comparing the rates of “likes” vs. comments on my Tablet articles, then I noticed the same discrepancies on other people’s articles.

I get that it’s easier to “like” than to write a whole comment. I do. Also, “likes” get shared with other people readers think will enjoy or appreciate the article. And that explains why some articles (the most recent one I wrote, for example) have a “likes” to comment ratio that far favors the “likes.”

Do more comments than “likes” signal dislike?

 

What I don’t get are the stories that move in the opposite direction (including one of my other articles). What makes someone comment, but not “like”? Because they’re mad at me? Because something I said incensed them? Is that it?

Do you have any insight on this issue (as a reader, writer, marketer, or publisher)? Please share it in the comments below.

In the Courtyard of the Novelist: An interview with Ruchama King Feuerman

I’ve got a treat here today: an interview (conducted via email) with award-winning author, Ruchama King Feuerman. Her latest book, In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist, just came out in September as an ebook. Recently, she signed a contract to expand the release to paperback. I became acquainted with Ruchama through Tablet Magazine online, where both of us have published essays. She was gracious enough to send me a copy of her new book and even more gracious to answer a few questions the novel left me with.

R.K. – In your first book, Seven Blessings, the central figure is a very strong female character. In this new book, you primarily follow two male, unmarried characters. What was that like for you as a married woman?

new book from Ruchama King Feuerman

In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist, now out from NYRB LIT

R.K.F.I prefer writing from the male point of view. This way I don’t worry about slippage, about parts of  my personality leaking into my characters, it’s just cleaner — what’s me is me, and what’s them is them.  I feel much freer to invent and have fun when I write as a man.  I do tend to prefer singles maybe because they are inherently dramatic. Continue reading

The Rejection Letter that’s Good for You

Yesterday, I got a rejection letter.

Yes, it happens a lot.

I’ve argued in the past that rejection letters are good for you, and I’ve gotten better at taking them in stride, but this one went even further. Its timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

You see, last night was my monthly writers’ workshop. All morning, I’d been trying to decide on a piece to bring and share. When that rejection letter appeared in my inbox around noon, I decided it was a sign.

No, not that kind of sign.

Not just a sign, but a Sign — “This is the piece you should bring to your writers’ workshop tonight.”

So, I did.

And it was magical.

Our group was smaller than usual, consisting of just three of us (usually, we’re four or five). But the two other ladies present gave me so much insight about what worked in my story and what did not, feedback that I might have been less open to, had I not just received the rejection letter. I spent a good chunk of this morning working on revisions, and plan to wrap them up tomorrow in between baking my challah and roasting my chicken.

I’m still hoping that the next time I hear from an editor, they send an acceptance letter. (To say that I pray for acceptance letters is no exaggeration.) But this experience is definitely going to help me embrace the next rejection letter.

Because another will surely come.

Posted by whom? Writing under a pseudonym

Guess who?

I know it’s no longer news, but a couple months back, the author of a well-reviewed book was unmasked as J. K. Rowling, the bestselling author of the Harry Potter series. Rowling was delighted with the experience. When critics praised her outing as Robert Galbraith, she knew the compliments were genuine, that her novel really deserved them all. She wasn’t just riding on the waves created by her earlier fame.

The article about Rowling’s literary adventure stuck out for me, because at the time her identity was revealed, I had recently published for the first time under a pseudonym. I chose to do so for different reasons than Ms. Rowling: I needed to protect the identity not of myself, but of various people within my community who were part of a real-life cautionary tale.

My turn

Unlike Rowling, when my short story came out, I had very mixed feelings. On one hand, I felt that I had done a service, telling an untold story and drawing attention to an under-reported phenomenon. I hope that readers learned something from reading the story, perhaps something that will help them make different, better choices than those made by myself and several members of my community.

On the other hand, I felt it was one of my best pieces of writing ever, and no more than five people will ever know that I wrote it.

I’m writing something again that will — if accepted — be published under a pseudonym. Again, I want to champion a cause without causing embarrassment to others, and without infringing on their privacy. But it will come again at the cost of my ego.

Have any of you writers out there had the experience of publishing under a pseudonym? How would you describe the experience? Please share in the comments below.