THE CRAFT OF WRITING – PART 2
THE CRAFT OF WRITING – PART 2
The Valley of Elah or The little things that make Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors valuable to writers
by Kay DiBianca
I bent down to pick up the little stone. It was round and flat and smooth in my hand. Such a small thing, hardly important among the thousands of similar stones that lay in the dry creek bed.
I stood and our guide led my husband and me through the valley where gentle hills shielded us on either side. Alone in that idyllic place, we were captivated by the peace, the shalom, of our surroundings, and I found it hard to believe we were standing on the site of one of the most famous battles in history, the Valley of Elah, where David fought Goliath.
We’re all familiar with the story: “Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:40
I’m not sure I appreciated the magnitude of David’s task until I picked up that stone and realized how small it was. And yet one of those stones, slung more than three thousand years ago, saved the young nation of Israel and changed the world.
The lesson is clear: little things can make a big difference.
When I sent my manuscript of The Watch on the Fencepost to my newly acquired editor, I was pretty confident I had found all the obvious errors. But when she sent the corrected copy back to me, there was so much red ink I thought I should offer to buy her a new printer cartridge! The errors were small, but they added up to a manuscript that looked amateurish.
Since my editor was Kathy Ide, I figured it might be wise to pick up a copy of her book, Proofreading Secrets of Best-selling Authors and skip the embarrassment of sending her an updated document with a bunch of errors again.
Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors is a concise reference guide to issues of punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling (which she calls “PUGS”), using The Chicago Manual of Style as its basis. It explains, for example, when to use “blond” vs. “blonde.” And when to spell out a number instead of using a numeral. And when you should use an apostrophe and an s or just an apostrophe when forming a possessive. These may be small things, but a knowledgeable reader may toss your book aside if she sees too many of these errors.
Like those little stones we found in the Valley of Elah, Kathy’s book provides lots of ammunition to help writers conquer the “PUGS” giant. Little things really do make a big difference.
I am delighted to welcome Kathy Ide as the guest for my second article on the craft of writing. Along with her numerous activities in writing, editing, and mentoring, Kathy serves as director of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference. She is also owner of the Christian Editor Network LLC, the parent company of four divisions for aspiring and established freelance editors and proofreaders. In addition to Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, Kathy has written the Capitalization Dictionary. She is also the compiler and editor of a four-book series of Fiction Lovers Devotional books, including 21 Days of Grace, 21 Days of Love, 21 Days of Joy, and 21 Days of Christmas.
Welcome, Kathy, and thank you for joining us!
Thank you, Kay!
What made you want to become an author?
I’ve been an avid book lover since I was a little girl—reading under the covers with a flashlight when I was supposed to be sleeping. In my thirties, a friend from church asked me to help her prepare for a writers’ conference she was directing, then invited me to attend. I went mainly to meet people whose names were on the covers of books I had at home—celebrities in my eyes! At that conference, I discovered that authors are “real people” and that most write in their spare time. I decided to give it a try. I scooped up one of everything on the freebie table, including sample magazines and writers’ guidelines. I wrote an article for a magazine I’d never heard of. When they sent me a check for $100, I was hooked!
Why did you decide to write Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors?
After I’d been writing for a few years, I started doing some proofreading book manuscripts for Moody Publishers. If I thought a word was misspelled or a punctuation mark was wrong, I had to write the dictionary page number or the Chicago Manual of Style rule in the margin to prove it. When I realized I was looking up the same words and rules over and over, I began a “cheat sheet.” Over time, it grew long enough that I put it in a three-ring folder. When my fellow authors, editors, and proofreaders saw it, they wanted it a copy. And they asked me to add other issues they struggled with. I eventually self-published it as Polishing the PUGS: Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling. That caught on, and I kept adding more sections that my colleagues requested. When I was offered a contract with a traditional publisher, they wanted to change the title—so people wouldn’t think the book was about dog grooming! When a colleague came up with Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, I loved it. So I gathered tips from the authors I’d met through years of writers’ conferences to add to the book.
How do you manage to juggle a busy schedule of writing, editing, mentoring and all your other responsibilities?
Good question! It truly is a “one day at a time” thing. I start each morning asking God what He wants me to do that day. And I seek His direction throughout the day as well. At the end of the day, I choose to trust that whatever I didn’t manage to accomplish must not have been what God wanted me to get done that day.
In addition to daily guidance, I regularly ask God if there’s anything I’m doing that I need to either stop doing, find someone else to do, or get more help with. When I feel stretched too thin, unable to accomplish well all the things God has called me to do, I consider my priority list. What items on that list are things that only I can do—being a good wife to my husband, a good mom to my boys (even though they’re adults now), a good godmother to my sweet little girl? Which things can I get more help with (even if I already have an excellent team working with me)? Are there things that God called me to do at one time that He wants someone else to take over now?
What one piece of advice would you give to new authors?
View what God has called you to write as a calling—every bit as important as if He had called you to be a pastor or serve on the mission field. He knows who He wants to reach with what He’s put a passion in your heart to write. And He knows the exact moment when that person is going to need to read it. So pursue this vital calling by learning the craft of writing, polishing your work through critique partners and professional editors, make connections with fellow writers and other industry professionals at writers’ conferences. When “life happens” and you get distracted from your writing goals, or when you get rejected by the agent or publisher you were sure was the right choice for you, don’t get discouraged. God knows about the circuitous journey from idea to publication. Trust His timing. And don’t give up.
Do you have any books coming out soon?
In 2020, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas will be releasing the long-awaited sequel to Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors. I’ve combined the information in the flyers I give to my editing clients with tips from multi-published writers I know to create Editing Secrets of Best-Selling Authors.
Other than your own books, what book on the craft of writing would you recommend to our readers?
Most of my favorite craft books are about writing fiction—not just because that’s what I enjoy reading most, but because nonfiction books can be so much better if they include anecdotes that use fiction-writing techniques. And narrative nonfiction (especially memoirs) can truly come to life when written with these techniques.
I’ve most enjoyed Story by Robert McKee, The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maas, Getting into Character by Brandilyn Collins, and Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.
What do you do when you want to get away from all your responsibilities in the publishing world?
Vacation with my husband! Rick is exceptionally patient, understanding, and supportive with my crazy schedule. So I make a point of spending focused time with him when I can. A few years ago, we bought an RV and jet skis (used, but new to us!). One of our favorite vacations involves getting together with family members and renting a houseboat for a week on Lake Powell. Rick and I are out on the jet skis all day, exploring the many coves and inlets of the lake with their massive rock walls so similar to the Grand Canyon, then spend relaxing evenings chatting with the rest of the group, hearing how they enjoyed the motorboat, kayak, or traveling slowly down the lake and enjoying the scenery.
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
My website, http://kathyide.com/
Mount Hermon writers conference, https://writers.mounthermon.org/
SoCal writers conference, https://socalcwc.com/
Christian Editor Network LLC, https://christianeditornetwork.com/
Thank you, Kathy, for sharing your expertise with us!
Thank you, Kay!