Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ack! I'm behind on the blog!

Please allow me to explain, though. I've just returned home from visiting my grandmother, who turned eighty this year. She still lives in the house in New York in which she raised my mother and her two sisters, as a single parent. It's kind of amazing, considering the time and what she had to work with, that all of the kids made it to adulthood and even had functioning kids of their own. It's a testament to resilience and determination, for sure.

That said, though, I was unable to get any work done while I was there. I thought that maybe, with my mom, brother, aunt, and grandmother, I might be able to foist off my surely charming children in order to continue the blog, copy edit more efficiently than usual, and perhaps even get some writing projects going. However, it was not to be, as that "charming" adjective may be either an exaggeration or entirely sarcastic on my part. I love my children, really I do. One of them is going through a Velcro phase, meaning she is velcroed to me. Hey, why did I capitalize that first word? Because Velcro is a proper name of a product. So why didn't I capitalize it with the second use? Because that version of the word is slang, rather than an established proper title. By all means criticize my use of a slang term, but my capitalization is on target!

And I'm back home, so I'll get back into the swing of things. I'm still accepting new clients!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Past-Perfect vs. Headings: Creating Smooth Flashback Scenes

I recently edited a piece from an author that had a significant number of what I term "flashback scenes." This particular piece was written in first-person past-tense (I was, I went, etc.), so when the main character expressed a reflection or memory within the regular narrative, in order to illustrate itself as a memory, it had to be written in past-perfect tense (or what a good friend and author terms "past-past" tense - I had been, I had gone, etc.). Is there a problem with this?

Grammatically speaking, no. However, it does make things complicated and somewhat tedious to read, if past-perfect reflections/memories are extensive. What if the memory or reflection is so extensive that you are remembering yourself remembering things from prior to the reflection? You end up with so many "had had" inserts that it's like looking at a puzzle. Without doing it like that, though, you risk the reader misunderstanding the sequence of events as you're attempting to lay it out.

This copy editor's opinion is that past-perfect tense should only be used selectively, in small doses. Does this mean I don't want to see flashback scenes and that I think every author's narrative should come out in a linear fashion? No, most definitely not. How boring would that be? My own writing certainly doesn't come out linearly.

But there's an alternative: headings, also known as subtitles. It's lately trendy to use subtitles at the beginning of each chapter to illustrate perspective change, so that a novel or story can be written from multiple perspectives. As a reader, and as a proofreader, I love this method - it's so clear, and with the headings, I, the editor, have less confusion that I have to go directly to the author to reconcile. If someone slips into the other perspective beneath the other character's heading, I can change that effectively. The same is true - perhaps even more so - of time changes. "First meeting," or "1975," can tell the reader to shift his or her perspective in just a few short words - the writing that follows will be much clearer and more understandable, as it will maintain the established tense of the book. Consider headings - and pepper in your past-perfect in tiny doses.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

So you're from New Yawk; I had no idear!

I just finished editing a YA novel set in the deep South. The author accomplished what many first-time authors struggle mightily with: a grammatically accurate representation of accent, dialect, and vernacular, that was clear and smooth to read. How did he do this, might you ask?