Friday, August 17, 2007

Baloney Vs. Bologna: An Editing Dilemma

Bologna, the sausage, appears in the second Girl/Boy book. I wanted to call it baloney because I don't know anyone, myself, who pronounces it bologna, and this is a book for first through third graders. I didn't know if they'd even be familiar with the word "bologna." I don't know many adults among my acquaintances who would know how to pronounce that word if they saw it in print. Though that may just be the company I keep.

Well, I looked up baloney in a couple of dictionaries. Both of them described it as a variant of bologna. Good enough, I thought. I should be able to use it.

When the book came back from copy editing, my favorite copy editor had replaced baloney with bologna. So when I responded to the copy editing changes, I asked if there was a compelling reason why we couldn't stick with baloney. It wasn't a make or break issue for me, by any means, but I wondered if it wasn't a case of being realistic vs. being excruciatingly correct. Given a choice, I'll always go with being realistic.

Between the time I sent off my responses and the time I talked with my editor, I read Melvin Beederman Superhero, Terror in Tights. Bologna, the sausage, figures prominently in that story, and the word appears as bologna, not baloney. This gave me pause, since the Beederman books are written for the same age group as the Girl/Boy books.

So my editor and I discussed this over the phone this past week. By that point, I was no longer confident that I wanted to stick with baloney, but I still wanted to run it past everyone. My main editor (think conceptual/content editor) got together with my copy editor (think grammar and usage editor), who felt quite strongly that bologna is the sausage and baloney is foolishness.

My concept editors and I have always had a policy of deferring to the copy editor on lines, words, punctuation, etc. Given that she wanted to go with bologna and Melvin Beederman went with bologna, I am now going with bologna. And I'm very satisfied with that decision.

It took three of us to resolve this dilemma, and it only related to one word. This is why I like editing and editors. I don't want the burden of making these decisions by myself.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Kind Word For Editors

Somewhere this summer I saw a blog post about writers' reactions to editorial comments. (I thought it was at A Fuse #8 Production, but I can't find it now so I may be wrong.) It was an amusing account of over-the-top editorial responses.

Funny though it was, I felt, gee, should I put in a good word for editors? Nah, I guess not.

Fortunately, Gary Kamiya decided to do it with Let Us Now Praise Unsung Editors at Salon.

It's very difficult to describe the editor/author relationship. It can be very intense, "an intimate and gratifying experience," as Kamiya says in his article. I think many nonwriters assume it is adversarial. I once read an interview with a self-published writer who said she went the self-publishing route because she didn't want anyone changing her writing. Personally, I would never want to work without an editor.

Once I started publishing books, I worked with the same editor for eight or nine years. At one point, I was considering donating my "papers" (meaning the foot or two of drafts that accumulate for each of my books) to a library. The main reason for doing so, would be to get all that crap out of my house. But to do so would mean that I was deciding to donate Kathy's work, too--her sticky notes, her pages of suggestions, her letters. It didn't seem right to expose her to strangers like that. I wouldn't do that to a family member, and I wouldn't do it to my editor.

When I heard she was leaving Putnam, I didn't sleep for a couple of nights. What did it all mean? What should I do? Losing your editor is serious. Serious. I may have mentioned this when it happened a couple of years ago. I apologize if I'm repeating myself. But though I'm happy with my new editor, I still haven't gotten over the shock of losing the old one. That's how big a deal an editor is.

So, yeah, I like to hear a kind word for editors.


Monday, February 26, 2007

"This Is What A Good Editor Can Do For A Text"

D.M. Cornish, author of Monster Blood Tattoo (in my TBR basket--I have so many TBR books the two shelves won't hold them all) is the Writer in Residence at Inside a Dog. He recently wrote about editing. It sounds as if he's in favor of it.

Thanks to educating alice for the link.


Saturday, February 24, 2007


I haven't been reading Jane Yolen's journal the way I used to. In the past, I found her impressive work ethic and output inspiring. Now reading about what she's doing just makes me feel like a layabout. A lazy, disorganized, self-centered, kept woman.

However! I went over there today and saw that she just gave a revision talk at the SCBWI midwinter conference. Revision means editing. If you're lucky, it means working with an editor. I was talking about editors who don't edit just last weekend. Go to Jane's Feb. 7 to 12 journal entry and scroll down to "Here are some of the things I said about revision in my speech:" to get some info on working with editors who do edit. She has some more good info in the Feb. 13 to 14 entry.

I think Jane's definitely right about reading an editor's response letter, putting it down, and picking it up the next day. Or even later. I usually decide which portions of the letter I think are particularly important for the next draft and highlight them, too, for what that's worth.

I have never revised a manuscript with a book editor that didn't result in a better draft than the one before. In fact, by the time I'm through with a book, I am often quite embarrassed about the first draft I submitted.