Those of you who know me, in person and online, know that I am always working to help the new and seasoned author, business writer, and entrepreneur. I have been going through a rough patch, but have never stopped writing, advising, editing, proofreading, ghostwriting, and designing. This is my passion, and I want to share my passion and years of experience to aid writers and authors across the globe with camera-ready, professionally written and proofread books, promotional materials, websites, and anything we can create and imagine together! Rates and services are tailored to your budget and your needs with a free analysis of a sample of your project. (See my Editorial Services and “Who Am I?” Bio).
So let’s roll up our sleeves, turn on the creative juices, and make beautiful music together … in business, fiction, nonfiction, and new ideas to rock this world!–Deborah A. Bowman
Don’t forget, no onecan do their own proofreading. Not even me. You may be the creator, but I am the validator who provides unbiased editorial reviews, testimonials, and introductions to my network and consultants.
Editing and proofreading is a professional service that every writer needs … even if you’re an editor yourself. Trying to correct and find problems in your own work is limiting. You need that second opinion, that second pair of eyes to see what your mind might skip right over because the mind convinces the eye to see what it expects to see, whether that’s what in print/on-screen or not. Words and images in print or online are forever, and they can and will come back to haunt you!
Typos, autocorrect, which can cause as many problems as it corrects by inserting an incorrect word just as often as the right one, especially synonyms like “rode” and “road”, aren’t the only concern. Awkward phraseology, verb tenses (an author’s nightmare–we think in present tense, but usually write in third-person past) can cause your reader to stop reading and move onto something else. There’s so much online to read!
Some genres and authors, both fiction and nonfiction, are using first-person present tense, which was a complete no-no in the writing industry when I was educated and have worked for many years. But every decade or so, experimental “new” ideas surface that are supposed to be unique and alternative. Have you ever heard, “There’s nothing new under the sun”? It’s a very true statement. It’s all been tried before and much has not stood the test of time.
We try to remain current and far-reaching for the future as writers, but it seems like the rules change all the time. There is this lackadaisical attitude that anything goes and typos, inaccuracies … well, they’re just to be accepted as “that’s the way it is–overlook them, and that’s not a misspelling, I’ve just created a new word!”
Styles change and words emerge, but as an avid reader, author, and editor I constantly stay in touch with what’s new in the writing industry to keep my clients on-track and in-sync with evolving trends. Yet, nowhere are typos, misused grammar, misspellings, and unclear syntax an attractive addition to a written piece.
The writing industry is more competitive and overcrowded than ever and that is going to keep escalating with technology. Write about what you care about, and just as importantly, care about the quality of what you write.
I’ve loved books, all kinds of books, from an early age. I love the feel of them, the weight of them, the promises and secrets they hold. I’ve seen a myriad of changes to books in my 20+ years of editing, newspaper writing and paste-up, and especially reading for my own enjoyment. I’ve read the classics and the quirky, the long and short, the profound and ridiculous. I’ve also seen trends change and writing evolve with each new generation.
Books and subjects tend to come in droves with similar information or fictional storylines. We went through formulated plotlines in romance where the author filled in a template, not deviating from the script. Now, it’s almost anything goes, and rules and formulas have fallen by the wayside. Here’s some recent trends that are taking over the industry:
Imaginative, unique cover designs, even on textbooks and nonfiction biographies, motivational/inspirational, and business books. Full-color covers with eye-catching designs.
Chapters no longer have chapter titles for fiction. Used to be a creative struggle to come up with catchy phrases that didn’t give away the next twist or turn in the plot, but not be vague either.
Short sentences; short paragraphs, and short, quick-to-read chapters or sections. The average reader wants to hurry through action-packed stories in the time it takes to ride the subway, bus, or carpool to work. Large books are daunting, heavy to carry, and overwhelming. eReaders have helped with the weight problem, but quick-reads are probably here to stay.
Series books are very popular, in short installments.
Dystopian futuristic disasters and fantasy books are in demand.
Erotica is not only out in the open, but explicit and HOT!
Confession nonfiction stories of lifestyle is available from celebrities and notorious villains.
Different point of views are assigned to each character in fiction with experimentation in 1st person present or narrated 1st person past tense instead of 3rd person past tense, where the author has access to all the characters’ feelings and thoughts simultaneously.
Political and historical nonfiction is written in dramatized novel-type language and flair.
The world has changed and so has our reading material.
Writers are filling shelves and tablets with new creative ideas. Something for everyone. We have turned a page in books and media.
Snowzilla 2016 hit Silver Spring, MD, part of the Washington Metropolitan D.C. area hard–30 inches of snow … cars, trees, a 5-foot tall fence just disappeared. Then I thought about how the weather affected business. Closed, no customers, hard-demanding work at home just to get out of your house–the driveway, sidewalks, cars, and roads came much later. My thought process continued, and I realized this storm affected all businesses … even writing and editing!
Deborah A. Bowman, author, writer-editor, proofreader, formatter, publisher
It would be wonderful to have a special button on your keyboard that would read your writing and correct every error, typo, wrong word, omitted word, added word, or verb tense. It would be really amazing if the “edit key” would automatically rewrite awkward sentences, paragraphs, or chapters. There are software packages that attempt to go beyond the rigidity of spell/grammar-check, but do they do a better job?
No, not really, or only marginally. The computer or software package would have to comprehend the content, distinguish whether the entire piece has a theme, rewrite sentences and paragraphs to support that theme, and draw a convincing conclusion.
How can the basic rules of grammar or spelling downloaded into a software package cover all the exceptions to the rules in language and enhance the quality of the writing? It is not possible. Technology cannot grasp ideas and concepts; nor can it recognize the effectiveness of an argument to convince someone to buy, sell, invest, fund a grant, or use your company. There is no way a machine can determine the feasibility of a fictional plot. It cannot keep track of consistency, clarity, or accuracy. Software certainly doesn’t know the twists and turns of your storyline or the research that only a person can select to support facts. A computer does not have the imagination to create stories and fantasies.
One example of spell/grammar-check or editing software is that it won’t highlight a word as long as the term is in the dictionary, whether it makes sense or not. How many times have you seen “from” as “form” in printed media? Probably a lot, and the list of misses on editing/reviewing software goes on and on. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
The human element cannot be replaced by technology. How many people realize that the little blue underline on WORD that supposedly points out grammatical errors appears when there is, perhaps, another way to present the same material? In other words, your writing may not be wrong at all or it could be showing you there is a valid mistake. That is what the human being can determine and the computer cannot. Use spell/grammar-check as a guide and look at what is highlighted in your writing, but take it with a grain of salt … or maybe a pound of salt.
It gets really upsetting, however, when WORD or another software program changes a word automatically after you’ve typed it. Many times it can be helpful, but many times it can totally augment the meaning of what you’re writing.
Verb tenses are difficult for ALL writers, including myself. We think in present tense, but we write in a variety of tenses, including third-person past. I leave the verbs for my last rewrite, and I’m always surprised at how many verbs need to be changed. This brings me to the rewriting/editing/proofreading process.
My antiquated computer graphics is not near as antiquated as the books and especially the pencils and erasers in the cup. How I wish the pencils were red! I use a combination of traditional skills and new computer skills to write, edit, design, and format all types of printed media, including book manuscripts. As a fiction author myself, I enjoy many genres of books to edit, proofread, and review, including nonfiction, but I can’t edit or proofread my own writing successfully. I need another human being to see what my eyes will not notice, even though my eye has been educated and trained for many years to pickup on “glitches”.
If you write or even type something, it becomes engrained in your brain, basically memorized. It is an organic, biological function of your gray matter. It is something we in the present evolution of humankind cannot change. In the future, perhaps? But then, would we be more machine than human?
When you try to edit/proofread what you have written, your eyes see what they expect to see. You read over errors, typos, and other editorial problems. You can be reading it aloud–which I suggest so that you can hear discrepancies and determine if the writing flows smoothly–and actually say the word that you think is there, not the word that is in print. Mind boggling, but it is a biological fact.
The brain is like a computer (probably the old computer that I pictured above, depending on your age)–data in/data out–good, bad, or indifferent. Have you ever noticed that a person misspells or mispronounces the same words all the time? It was initially engrained in the brain that way so it’s what comes out. The more times you use a term incorrectly, the more engrained it becomes; therefore to you, it sounds and looks correct. Our minds, which are more connected to our conscious, unpremeditated thoughts, allow us to change what is engrained in the hard drive of our brains. You can change your mind, but not the organ which is your brain.
The important principle I want to point out is you should never be upset with yourself if someone else finds an error in your writing. It is not your fault; it’s human nature. To prevent this from happening, rely on a human being, preferably an editor who knows the rules and especially the exceptions to the rules for writing, spelling, grammar, punctuation, correct phrasing and terminology, and the correct tense of verbs. This is referred to as a copy editor.
A further step to make your writing the best and most professional it can be is to work with a content and development editor. Believe it or not, there are rules on how a piece should be written. In overly simplistic form: a theme, definition and support of the theme, and a conclusion. Having a plan to follow keeps you from writing yourself into a corner (writer’s block) or writing in circles (long, drawn-out passages with no action or support to the theme/plot). It’s very frustrating to know where you want to go with a writing project and not have a roadmap to get there.
Even though I have done all levels of writing and editing, from simple copyediting and proofreading to complete ghost writing, I can write myself into a corner or wander in circles just like anyone else. And I do believe the hardest thing for any writer to do is to cut their own words, but it is necessary to weed out the extraneous material that can confuse or lose your readers.
A suggested roadmap:
Write in chapters, sections, or all the way through, depending on how your mind works best.
Put it aside for as long as you can, from a few days to a few weeks. You might even want to work on something else to allow your brain to switch gears.
Read the material, correcting as many editorial problems as you can find; rewriting awkward phrasing or passages that could be misunderstood or ambiguous; look for discrepancies–Have you ever read a book where the character’s name changes halfway through the manuscript?–and don’t be afraid to cut, cut, cut if it does not support the theme, advance your plot, or add to the story/mission of the writing.
Description: I personally love poetic prose, but it can be overdone. Read your descriptive passages with a eagle eye, keeping what sets the scene or mood. If you have a descriptive passage, be sure and follow it with an action passage. If you have a ghastly, disturbing scene, follow it with something a little lighter, but keep it real. Some articles or manuscripts have to have disturbing revelations because it is the truth of the matter–be it in fiction, nonfiction, or any other media.
Editing: Now is the time for an editor. Always submit in double-spaced format. Very early in the manuscript, an editor will be able to tell you what level of editing you need–from copy editing to a massive rewrite to sending it back and telling you that is isn’t ready for editing yet. Hopefully, the editor will give you some suggestions or in all kindness, let you know if the writing field is not for you. I, personally, do a gratis reading of the first chapter or a single chapter of your choice to ascertain these issues.
Proofreading comes last, after formatting has been done, and is read only for typos and errors.
I know it sounds like a long process, but there are no shortcuts to literary acceptance.
I’ve got to admit that I’ve seen the written, typeset page go through a myriad of changes in my lifetime! As editors, we originally had to use symbols to show the typesetter how we wanted our words to appear on the page to express emotion or create emphasis. We now have all these tools, plus so much more, right at our fingertips. We can change the color, size, font, and typestyle to emphasize or highlight certain words, phrases, or headlines. Below are a few tips and editorial guidelines for using Italics,Bold, quotation marks, all CAPS, and underlining. You want to create voices that speak to you so that your readers can hear all of the intended expression. It’s not just the words, but how the written voice says them.
1. Italics: I was once told that the Italics typeface was used to “pretty up” a page, like drawing little flowers in the margins. I was shocked to hear this from a printer who was suggesting I take all the Italics out of my novel’s manuscript because it made the job harder to print and they didn’t mean anything anyway. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Italics are definitely used for emphasis, and combining Bold and Italics really emphasizes the word or phrase! In fiction, especially dialog, an italicized word is spoken with increased volume and firmness. It issues a command, expresses sarcastic comments or thoughts, and shows a little tongue-in-cheek humor, so to speak. But Italics are so much more!
George R.R. Martin of “A Song of Fire and Ice” fame is masterful at using Italics to show what’s going on in his character’s head…usually quite the opposite of what is actually being said. How would we ever truly know what Tyrion Lannister “the Imp” was really feeling? Just think how much wit and wisdom we would lose without those Italics!
Since Italics are used for thoughts, if you’re writing in typical 3rd-person, past tense, Italics will cue the reader that the character is thinking in present tense for a quick, stray thought or to relive past events and conversations in real-time. It also works well for dream sequences, fugue interludes, or devising plots and schemes. It reveals the true, in-depth personality of the character, not just the mask presented to the world. Would that we could see these fugue states in real life!
2. Bold: True to its name and its appearance, Bold typeface is strong and emphatic. The emphasis is harsh, loud, and immediate, and more often than not, it’s followed by an exclamation point!
In non-fiction, however, Bold can be used to highlight important points, distinguish paragraph and section headings, or draw attention to captions for pictures, graphics, figures, tables, charts, etc.
3. Quotation marks: Quotation marks are notoriously used inaccurately. First of all, quotation marks and single straight tick marks or apostrophes are not the same thing. Quote marks are used in pairs with the beginning facing one way and the end facing the other. They really should be used only for quoted material and dialog.
Somehow it has crept into our American language that quote marks can be used for emphasis also, but I personally do not recommend it. It can lead to confusion if the reader thinks an emphasized word or comment is literal. In non-fiction it can lead to misquoting a source; in fiction it can throw off a needed clue to resolve the plot.
Our British friends across the pond use single quotation marks for dialog, but you’ll notice their spellings, abbreviations, and word meanings vary from the United States as well. I recommend the Oxford Dictionary of British English, as opposed to the Oxford Dictionary of American English, if it’s your first go at a British novel. It’s interesting to see how style has evolved differently in different parts of the world, but also in different sections within the same nation.
4. ALL CAPS: Okay, first I have to say I’m not yelling at you! All uppercase has evolved into raising your voice on texting and emails. Originally it was used for the titles of books and is still used in fiction for strong emphasis in dialog.
Mostly all CAPS is used in headlines for newspapers, magazines; section/chapter/paragraph headers for non-fiction books; and once-upon-a-time fiction Chapter Titles, back when there were such things as Chapter Titles. I still see them occasionally like an old friend I haven’t seen in years. Stephen King, I believe, has continued to be a traditionalist in this regard, as well as other authors who have been producing high quality fiction for many years. It does make for a much more interesting Table of Contents and naming the chapters without giving away any plot twists is an art onto itself.
5. Underlining: This method of emphasis dates back to the typewriter days. You didn’t have access to Bold or Italic typefaces until the copy was typeset, which was a long, expensive process. If the title of a book was not in all CAPS, it was underlined.
Now, underlining is mostly used in non-fiction books, reports, charts, tables, and brochures or pamphlets for headers. Underlining has given way to completely boxed or colored sections, shout-outs, and text inserted in different shapes and graphics.
These editorial rules are evolving just as our language and writing prep-process changes with the computer age. These editorial tips, however, show a prospective client, agent, or publisher that you care about accuracy and consistency in your book or publication.
Some people excel as editors. Some excel as authors. Being an editor and an author forces me to seek the expertise of another editor for my own writing. The best thing you can do for yourself as a writer, regardless of the genre or subject matter, is have an editor or expert proofread your material. It is a proven fact that you cannot edit your own work. You read right over the errors and your brain sees what you think is there!