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Barbara's Virtual Pen

Working on a Manuscript

Unless other preferences are indicated, my editorial references are: Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed. and Merriam Webster’s Collegiate, 11th ed. All manuscripts should be in a 12-point font, double spaced with all margins at least one inch. The manuscript should be electronically transmitted. If a manuscript is submitted with chapters in separate files, the final edited manuscript will be one file with consecutive page numbering. Front and back matter may be included, or in separate file, as preferred. Scholarly works are the exception, as separate files for each chapter, title page, front matter, back matter, bibliography, etc. are mandatory in some cases. Nonetheless, even in scholarly works, page numbers for the entire work run consecutively although citations and illustrations renumber with each chapter.

If a book has been signed for publication, and I’m dealing with an in-house editor, it is up to that editor as to the level of author contact. However, since it is becoming increasingly more common to have manuscripts edited before being submitted, the issue of an in-house editor as liaison has become more common for proofreading. When an agent is hiring the editor, the specific roles are stipulated in each case by the agent.

The editing process begins with an initial reading of the entire manuscript. The preliminary reading is necessary to note organization and content as well as elements that may require special attention such as footnotes, bibliography, images. Global problems may be noted at this time (for example, spelling inconsistencies). The second reading is the major editing read, and this is the slowest read in which anything (and everything) is looked up, confirmed, changed or queried. The final reading is to resolve any unanswered queries and to catch any discrepancies that may have been missed on the first pass. Ideally, this is done reading straight through. Inconsistencies are more clearly discerned if there is no interruption in the reading. The Style Sheet created during the first read is most useful at this time.

While working on the manuscript on the first editing pass, a Style Sheet is created, to note consistency on usage, punctuation, spelling, etc., as for example, whether to use the final series comma, capitalize certain words, hyphenate others, and so on. The Style Sheet, in the case of a novel or nonfiction story, is used to keep track of characters and events. In a work of nonfiction, it may also keep track of figures, tables, charts, illustrations as well as citations. Sometimes a time chart is kept, or even a map, depending on the material.

During the editing process, I may insert Comments. The Comments tool is on the drop down menu under Insert, and are usually transmitted with the manuscript. In order to view Comments, you can put the manuscript into Print Preview and go from comment to comment and accept each change or not. The process can be done manually by putting the cursor on each comment, and right click the mouse for a drop down menu and click on Edit to read and then Delete. But please do not answer with another comment! It will only have to be deleted later. Some clients prefer to have all Comments written right in the text, highlighted in yellow. That also works.

At the beginning of the editing process, the author will be sent a few pages for examination in order to ascertain that author and editor are “on the same page.” The Track Changes element in Word may be used for these few pages. Some clients want all the editing to be done in Track Changes. I can do that although I find it distracting to use Track Changes for an entire manuscript. However, the same result can be achieved by doing a “Compare Documents,” available in the Tools menu, between the original and final edited version. On the other hand, if you read through the edited version and you “don’t miss anything,” it is probably all right. If a question arises, you can always check the redlined version at that point or go back to the original to note whether it is as remembered, and whether there was a good reason to make any change. And I am always available for questions.

Publishers usually want a completed, edited manuscript sent on a CD. I can send the client the edited manuscript on CD, as well as electronically, or some authors prefer to do it themselves after a final reading.

The author is responsible for the content and its accuracy, originality of ideas and use of language as well as fair use of published material or trademarks. For nonfiction works, the publisher must determine the integrity of a manuscript. As an editor, any available backup is often helpful in working with the text.  Read More 
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