Fiction Q&A: Using italics for character thoughts

Hey Kristen —

Sorry to pester you, but I didn’t know who else to ask. I was going over a critique someone gave me, and they mentioned that top editors teach to never use italics, even with internal thought. Some say never to use italics at all.

question answer

© JJAVA • Fotolia.com

Here’s my concern. Almost everyone else I’ve run into says italics should be used for internal thoughts that would normally be spoken as words. Continue reading

Use styles to keep your manuscript in order

Document outlineWe all want our documents to look good. Here are some advanced techniques to make sure your manuscript is not only good-looking, but orderly, whether you’re submitting traditionally or self-publishing.

The first thing to remember is that your manuscript needs to be edited before it’s designed, so save the design work for later. Too often I see amateur writers spending lots of effort on designing their manuscripts prior to editing. This just complicates the editing process.

A lot of us have a case of Stockholm Syndrome with Microsoft Office, but one thing it does really well is styles. Word’s styles integrate nicely with Adobe InDesign, which is the app most professionals use for book design. Continue reading

How does one train to be a fiction editor?

 

When I guest blogged at Random Writing Rants the other day, a commenter asked about how one gets trained as a fiction editor. Here’s an expanded version of my answer.

I belong to two professional associations, both of which provide editor training:

Establish Your Authority by Defining Terms in Your Own Words

I’ve seen a lot of books, both published and unpublished, in which authors use what I call the “Webster cliché.” This is the bit where the author brings up some aspect of his topic, and then, assuming the element is unfamiliar to the reader, writes something like this:

Webster’s defines “element” as “one of the simple substances air, water, fire, and earth of which according to early natural philosophers the physical universe was composed.”

This is a problem, and not only because I picked a different definition of “element” than one would expect from the context of the first paragraph. Continue reading

When it’s okay to spell okay ‘OK’

Writers and editors may be the only people who get into arguments about spelling. In fact, I think it could easily be said that if you’re inclined to argue about how things ought to be spelled, you’re an editor, at heart if not by title.

OK button

Illustration by 3d_kot – Fotolia.com

I’ve been inclined to spell OK with two letters for as long as I can remember. Maybe I read an article about its origins early on. There’s no telling. But that spelling became deeply ingrained when I worked in the newsroom, because it’s the one endorsed by the Associated Press Stylebook.

So I was surprised when not one, but two critique partners, on two different occasions, told me OK was “wrong” and that the only acceptable spelling is okay. Further shock ensued when they both cited The Chicago Manual of Style as the origin of this edict. Continue reading

English is hard. I’m here to help.

English is a beautiful but complex language. Because it borrows words from pretty much every other language on the planet, it has a massive vocabulary. Syntax can be intricate. Word formation is often illogical; for example, flammable and inflammable both mean “easy to burn.”

Reference Books for study

Feodor Korolevsky • http://istockphoto

Rules for punctuation are almost inscrutable. The Chicago Manual of Style’s section on commas is 14 pages long. For a seminar handout, I condensed the bare minimum most writers need to know about commas, and it’s still almost a whole page. This kind of thing makes writers crazy and keeps copyeditors in business. Continue reading