I recently opened an attachment of a manuscript sample and it hit me again. There’s just something about this story. This is what often influences me to take on a new client to edit a short story, or a manuscript, or help someone shift from I’m not really a writer, but I’ve got this idea to Yes, I am a writer.
My original reason for editing writing came out of a pet peeve. I was really bothered, I mean really bothered, by the impulsively mobile and ubiquitous apostrophes, quotation marks, and capital letters, and their equally grating underuse that I saw in meeting minutes, lesson plans, books, proposals, and articles.
Menus in restaurants held the longest-running record for personal teeth-grinding, and not because of the food. Plurals were sprinkled with apostrophes. menu’s, potato’s, Egg’s for sale. Quotation marks and capital letters hop-scotched along in sentences calling out the writer’s knowledge that quotation marks existed but unfortunately not knowing why or where to place them. Maxes Restaurant “says Come Here for the Best food”. Aargh!
Uppercase confusion abounded in this next one. I knew my Sister was really angry when she threw the food tray to the floor. The reader can get the anger idea from the action. But was this a religious person losing it or a family member?
To appease my husband, I put away my thick red marker that I used to slash across words in menus. Now I quietly offer my business card as we pay our bill. “I loved your food. Should you ever want to have the next menu you print up have no spelling or punctuation errors, I will edit it and proofread it for free.” It’s worth it just to be able to read the menu without irritation.
Word gradually spread. “I never know where to put the quotes.”
“I can’t think of a better word.”
“What’s a story arc?”
“Can you help me?”
As I wrote more of my own stories and gave more helpful feedback in writing groups, I realized I liked helping writers get a clean, correct look to their work, what I call the polished, pristine copy. When I started asking for a story synopsis for potential projects, my love of a good story kicked in along with the desire to teach, to help, to assist.
Colleagues and strangers became valued and appreciated clients. I’ve been privileged to help many clients get that final manuscript ready to go, or to edit and format that professional report or query letter. I’ve been blessed to be working with clients who are just as jazzed about writing as I am, who want their antagonist to leap off the page and annoy the hell out of the reader, or have the hero slide off the page and into the heart of the reader, or at least onto their admiration list.
One of my earliest edits was with a writing colleague who had a rich imagination, a loving and adventurous childhood on a farm, and dyslexia. We did it! Got her manuscript ready to go to the publisher with nary a copy edit needed. And we added a glossary of terms.
Dyslexia again is a presenting factor with a current client. I know we can accomplish the job. The plot is still under wraps, but the storyline amazed me even more when I heard of the writer’s tenacity to triumph over dyslexia. Of course, I had to take this one on.
Then there’s the client whose background seems similar to mine. The introspective challenges of the protagonist seem to parallel mine, plus the author’s a helluva writer.
Finally a mention of a very talented new writer, Chris Richards. Chris is currently on the final edits for a parallel narrative story of triumph, a story of two childhood friends whose lives ebb and flow, and blend as they help each other deal with disabilities that bring about huge life changes. I can only say I’m a fan of The Sidelines.
You’ll hear more about each of these.
From pet peeve editing to love of stories editing. I’m one lucky writer and editor.
Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about words, the writing life, people who write, and is always on the lookout for seedling ideas for stories.