Editing Q&A

9Worlds GeekFestI was late, so these are mostly notes from the Q&A.

Editor: Abigail Nathan

Editors have several copy editors looking at a doc at the same time, because you are only human and you miss things. –for FYC

editing can sound intimidating
lots can be done by the writer (after time off)
but hiring an editor can be beneficial

story doctor—How do you hold enough story in your head to see if the shape is right?
If I’ve skipped, you’ll do 3 or 4 passes on any manuscript. Think it is just instinct. If I’m questioning it, I put a check mark.

When you are writing, if you know you are fudging, mark it, so you can come back and look at it.

jarred out of the scene or the story

limited resources, but spend a bit of money, which type of editing should pay for?
I tend to advise on each manuscript. It depends where you are up to.

If you’ve really polished it, a copy edit might be enough.
It’s worth talking to the editor you are hiring.

Manuscript assessments, that I make a bit more intense.
Usually outlines story as I have understood them.
If know no $$$, Might point out things that they have done that they need to fix.

la_summary martinhow to make the work shorter?
Example: last hard copy I did for a publisher, came in huge box. When I had to send it back, 2000 pages.

The worry that someone is not going to understand your story, if they start cutting and it’s not the right cutting, stop them.

If you are hiring someone to work with, make sure they understand your genre. That will disappoint you all over.

Learning to cut is quite difficult.

Lots of technique to do daily.
Use Twitter for how to be concise. (use in 003? 106?)
Really does work.

Trust readers.
Show; don’t tell.
Most people show and tell.
Character thinks back through the scene. You don’t need that. If you’ve written the active scene right in the first place…

Readers fill in details.
We all do that.
With too much information, readers might complain. If publishers use photos and images, that can be difficult because it doesn’t seem to match what the authors described.

Worked on a 300,000 manuscript. Mostly too much back story.
Cut back. Make sure you start at the right point.

Had 5 manuscripts that started with dinosaurs, but were not all about dinosaurs at all. “You can chop these first 8 chapters.”

Don’t let them tell you how to rewrite it, but if they can tell you what didn’t work….

High School student at deskwork with short stories?
Yes. Same idea on shorter level.

Starting story in the right place. Being more concise.

Work with someone whose done short stories a lot.

Principles are same, but different level.

Lots of self-editing. Most of you self-edit. Thinking about “working on your story.”

why might an ending not be working?
lots of reasons.

Is it ending in the right place?

Have you got an epilogue?

Have you wrapped up too much? Not enough?

Often think that “great ending” and then there are two more chapters…

perspective—group disagreement—obscure and obvious? single perspective? how to resolve?

Editors are more distanced. Fall in love with manuscripts all the time. We fall hard.

But I think we have a distance. While editors are writers, you are trained not to tell your story…. It may be the other people want to hear the story they want to write.

Session on how to be a good writing reader… Fanfic session. Fantastic for learning how to write. Lot more friendly. Lots more sympathetic.

Pencilhow do you know when to stop editing?
When you start thinking that. When you aren’t making headway any more.

If you get to the point where it is a single word, a comma… put it away.

Keep away from two weeks (or 3 months) and no big plot points jumping out at you, then good.

descriptions good, dialogue good; when I put the two together, doesn’t work. How do you make the two work together?
might be that you read and write in short bursts

Weaving it together is editing yourself and cutting those words down.

Exercise: word goal. Two things that need to work together. There are 3,000 words; you’ve got to get it down to 1,500. Then figure out how to get those two cut.

Lot to do with context.

*My suggestion, exercise: Try to work those two things together like some author that you enjoy and want to emulate.

*Session in the evening open house, tomorrow night, writing exercises and feedback.
Feedback and XXX.

*Who is listening to the story? Who is listening to the dialogue and the description? Maybe figure out the speaker…

*Try swapping how you write normally around.

*Write a story that is only radio and one no dialogue.

grading collapseHow do you edit kindly?
No one believes me, but sending back a manuscript that I have marked up, I will worry about that. It doesn’t matter how wonderful the manuscript is, they only notice the negative.

I will spend hours going over the edits, trying to make it so it doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Try to make sure I am not criticizing the person.

Sometimes I say a lot and they don’t hear it.

My role is to smash dreams.

What needs to be described, time taken?
That is going to be different for every story.

Make sure your story is three dimensional, as well as making sure what story you want to tell.

Then layering. Not explaining everything that happened but make the work three dimensional. What can she see? Is the room hot or cold?

Writers get stuck with a word count. Word count is still an issue, but the length may not be a problem with digital publishing. Get the story right first.

*Used to have the same problem. Took 2 or 3 story ideas and put them all together. Jam them all into one story, even though they don’t fit, and try to write that. –It is actually one of the things that worked for me.

How do you analyze pace of story?
If I find myself thinking about dinner, washing, that’s the slow part. If I forget to mark anything, it’s working perfectly.

Watch my own reactions as I am reading through. Even… might only be a few paragraphs.

A lot of editing is the back brain picking things up.

Writing works like that.

You become more aware of instincts as a reader when you recognize that. So something has lost me, why is that?

Started off writing fanfic. First story that was important to me to get it right, I sent it to someone who was a ruthless reviewer. Spent the first 24 hours upset, but then realized she was right and rewrote the story.

We all want the love. But you have to be honest.

Treat the edits as a suggestion. That bit is highlighted, which says there is where the problem lies.

Most of the writers I work with who want to learn to write will spend time.

Some people just want to work with an editor. Take the work to a publisher and say, “Yes, I’ve worked with an editor. It’s all good.”

How do you give feedback if they’ve just rewritten a work?
Writers don’t think that editors know about fanfic.

If they’ve quite clearly copied something, point it out. “This is really similar to XXX.”

What’s the most common kind of story development problem?
Fantasy writers are in love with prologues.

Knowing who you are writing and who you are writing for.

Prologues—practical perspective, on Amazon, “Look inside” that tends to be the end matter on either end. If you put the prologue there and it has nothing to do with the story, unhappy readers.

Prologue—hook. Prologue should be something different. From perspective of characters who aren’t important till later in the book.

Usually prologues are adding backstory. Adding backstory that you don’t need.

POV. Very important.

Limited abilities and perspective. If writing from a particular character’s point of view, you can’t see what is happening to yourself. Needs to be phrased as feeling or touching, not seeing, if it is about the viewpoint character.

Don’t think love scenes work with both points of view.

Have breaks for point of view shifts. –psychology of reading. So much with a carefully placed line break.

Readers will pick up on the format. Segues and breaks. subconscious stuff.

Student Holding Stack of BooksSeries of books. Not necessarily same story. But same character in each story. How much does reader need to be referred back?
If you want them to read in order, don’t put too much in.

If you anticipate audience is jumping in, put more in.

If stories are linked, if they’ve written a story… Have difficulty deciding what to put in and how to remind them.

Most publishers like to keep editors on the same series. –but fresh eyes show that “no backstory here and needed” ….

How often say scene written from wrong character?
every edit

Soliciting editor… don’t have the beginning, the end, just the middle? Can they look at this and see issues?
Have done that for people. But need a conversation because not the same thing as the completed work.

“I’m assuming you’re going to do this.”

Don’t pay for this. It’s not polished.

Find honest friends, but not cruel ones.

Don’t waste money on editing at this level.

Worried About Student Evaluations?

Here’s a lay article about research that indicates you can change your student perceptions in the first two seconds of the class… and that they’ll have those same perceptions for the rest of the semester.

I went and read a scholarly article by Dr. Nalini Ambady (referenced in the article above).

This article found that 10 and 15 second videos from the first day of class were enough for raters to agree with what was said about the teachers in the student evaluations at the end of the semester.

Here’s what I learned from the article:

Stand up. Sitting down is rated negatively. (Not that I would sit down on the first day of class–unless it were in exhaustion.)

Teacher effectiveness (by what criteria?) was not effected, but teacher evaluations were by:
Though they do note that it needs to be genuine.
(So I’m going to get one of my colleagues to text me jokes 1 minute before the first meeting for each class!)

The highest correlation, as far as I understood the study, was with smiles.


The second strongest was with a touch to the upper torso (so, “I’m Dr. Davis” and poke myself in the chest might work? as long as it isn’t too violent and seems natural. Maybe I need to practice till it becomes natural.)

Other things that look like they make a positive difference:
strong gestures
weak gestures (talking with hands)
nod head
have your arms be symmetrical (so gesture with both? or use them the same way?)
walk–don’t stand still–move!

The strongest negative was frowning. Do NOT frown.

The second strongest negative correlation seems to have been with touching your head. Do NOT mess with your hair or ear or anything else above the upper torso. Bad, bad, bad. (Just writing that makes me want to mess with my hair. Going to have to think of it as old politeness rules and stop it.)


That’s the advice I found. I wonder if you can change your nonverbal cues so that they stick all semester or if just having them work the first day are sufficient to shape students’ attitudes for the whole semester.

Going to definitely be looking for some jokes to tell. Maybe I can borrow self-deprecating humor from the Brits and use that joke I sent a colleague to use during the interview process?


Are English departments becoming irrelevant?

A colleague sent a link to Pulling the Plug on English Departments in The Daily Beast.

“Within a few decades, contemporary literature departments will be largely extinct,” Pulizzi submits before predicting that “communications, composition, and media studies will take English’s place.”

Rather than expressing anxiety, or at least, worry over the impending destruction of one of the only mechanisms for introducing young Americans to a pillar of art, human history, and the Western tradition, Pulizzi credulously asks, “Why should college students read narrative prose when they get their fill of stories from television, cinema, and interactive video games?”

…the future of a text-free college education does not seem outlandish.

The author is opposed to this, as I am, though our freshman offerings (and those at the rest of the state) has dropped “literature” as traditional literary readings.

Studies and experiments also demonstrate that reading comprehension and retention rates are superior among people who read from a printed page as opposed to those who get their information from an electronic screen.

I wonder if these studies (which I have not read and which are not linked) are referencing simple electronic screens or if they are talking about the typical chunked and short internet readings available. Is the author saying that because I read my novels on my iPad via the Kindle application that I no longer have long-term focus or that I’m letting my reading muscles get flabby? If he’s saying that–and he isn’t clearly NOT saying that–then I want some citations.

While far from a cure all for social ills, literature, more than any other medium, increases and enhances the ability to empathize.

Yes, yes, it does. It’s why “Teaching the Taboo: Reading Mental Health and Mental Illness in American Literature” was important enough to me that I wrote and published and article on it.

I particularly appreciated my colleague’s call to arms, in response to the article and the physical re-location of our offices:

“[I]t might be good to contemplate what we do and come roaring out of the box, no apologies made for trying to challenge our students to rise above the general intellectual sloth that surrounds us.”

Working on Research: Practical Idea

When you’ve been working on a topic for a while, over time and across multiple stops and starts for teaching and service and life in general, you can lose the focus of your topic. If you’re like me, you may find that you have already done the work you have started to re-do. Sometimes you will find them too late; you have finished the project and sent it off and then discover that you had more/better/more complete information that did not end up in the submitted project.

Now, when I am working on a project, I go through relevant and related folders and look at what is in them so that I’m not repeating work that I have already done or missing work that I should have repeated.

It’s a habit I hope to cultivate and would like to encourage in others.

Last week I sent off a project that I think is fairly well done and I hope that it will be accepted or at least receive an R&R in a few months time. And this morning, working on my next project, I discovered information that I intended to put in that particular project. So now I have a new file, in the folder where the final copy sent out as a submission rests, that reads “Use on XX if R&Red.”

Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford

Dr Sandra McNeil, Abbotsford House (Scott’s home)
Scott’s Conundrum Castle: Abbotsford as a Place of Learning

Learning Officer with Abbotsford, right in the heart of the Scottish borders

Discussing own engagement as a heritage educator: Offer Abbotsford as a case study, profound change through major capital development with a goal to re-engage local community with Abbotsford and with Scott’s work…

Abbotsford Sir Walter Scott home 1812This is an image of Cartleyhole Farm c. 1812 (purchased in 1811). As soon as he purchased the farmhouse, he added the columns.
locals called it “clarty hole” (muddy hole)
Scott renamed it Abbotsford.
humble farmhouse cottage and set about to change it
buildings associated with writing, but this is synonymous with him because he recreated it (Jefferson and Monticello)

Scott spent ½ year in Edinburgh, ½ year on the borders.

strange classical portico added as soon as he bought it
3 different architects
1 architect “Scottified it” (scots or scott? We don’t know.)
more like abbeys, churches
Turner sketched the cottage and first extension 1819. This was a simple sketch, outline only on yellow/yellowed paper.
removed the farmhouse and added second building–seen in an image entitled “house from the south court”
used “salvaged” or reclaimed articles
One example is The Tolbooth door from the Midlothian… Tradition held this was the door you passed through on your way to execution.

The house represents Scott’s antiquarian interests… emotional creation… perhaps a fiction.

Abbotsford_Morris_edited WC pdAmong other things he called Abbotsford:
a conundrum castle
flibberty gibbet of a house
Delilah of my imagination

His literary career was always part-time.
laird of Abbotsford, land of his ancestors
property opened to public as a tourist attraction within 5 months of his death
g-g-g-great-granddaughter died in 200X. 2007 a trust was established. Capital project to preserve building and catalog objects and education.
11.68M pounds
2010 green light to project

engage under-represented groups
schools, local families, adult learners, community groups

Heritage Education is very well developed in Scotland. Focuses on historic places/spaces. Experiential approach. Explore, engage with, be inspired by…

Abbotsford House, north elevation, by M. Schnitzler, WC CC3.
Abbotsford House, north elevation, by M. Schnitzler, WC CC3.
Evaluate what Abbotsford could offer to targeted audiences?
failing to attract the audiences
usually it was enthusiasts who came, making their own links between Abbotsford and their own connections to work
borderers’ enthusiasm with Scott not being passed down
not looking at its community

previous audience (restricted with those already familiar with Scott)
most visitors from overseas

Talked to the local teachers and found most of them were united in their guilt about their own lack of knowledge.
There is also a lack of teaching materials on Scott:
some adaptations, a few brochures, nothing related to Abbotsford
The teachers recognized it was in town, but didn’t understand how to link their classrooms to Abbotsford.
Scott’s writing was seen as a barrier. Difficult, long-winded…

Abbotsford by LeCardinal. WC CC3.
Abbotsford by LeCardinal. WC CC3.

Been learning as I go on about Scott and Abbotsford. That has helped me because I am thinking it through from audience point of view.

2 major sources:
1. paper given Dr. E Gordon Brown, 2000, examined Scott’s impulse to create Abbotsford—ties between literary achievements and building
“antiquarianism wasn’t an idle hobby” it was writing and collecting absolutely indivisible for Scott.
2. Abbotsford is the product of antiquarianism and its inspiration.
Scott offers lots of engagement. David Hewitt “bricalage of fragments” commenting on Scott’s guidebook to Abbotsford
“museum for living in” constructing a creative place of inspiration
use heritage to engage
taking their first steps to engaging with the poems and novels

Abbotsford by Ad Mesken, WC CC3.
Abbotsford by Ad Mesken, WC CC3.

Examples of last 3 years:
young people recording Scott’s border ballads
started reciting them together
not prompted, but enjoyed it

140 come for 3 days every September (4 had been there before)
this year half had been
now in this one school everyone in SD 1-5 has come to visit.

They’re coming…
We worked with an Edinburgh poet who specializes in responding to historic places, Ken Cockburn.

Photo by Christian Bickel, WC CC2.
Photo by Christian Bickel, WC CC2.

Engagement with local primary story, design intensive day, create a play trail in Abbotsford
almost everybody in this small village has been to Abbotsford
from there, these children all know the name

nursery class came in this morning

Sir Walter Scott. He was a writer. He built this interesting place.

project: October 2013, collaborative project with Scottish Chamber Orchestra
entire school system (200 students)
worked with composers to create their own songs

Abstracts and Titles

Sage Connection has an article on writing good abstracts.

What rarely gets covered in all this are the actual key findings of the article. Readers are normally left to guess what the researcher’s ‘bottom line’ conclusion or academic ‘value-added’ is, still less what key ‘take-away points’ the author would ideally want readers to remember.

The article has 10 specific suggestions, with particular questions to help you figure out what you should be doing and how to do it.

Choosing Titles for Academic Papers also looks interesting.

Collective Memory

Discussion of collective memory is at Helmers 1612-1633 in
Helmers, Marguerite. “Framing the Fine Arts Through Rhetoric.” Defining Visual Rhetorics. Eds. Charles A. Hill and Marguerite Helmers. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004. 1323- of 6169. Ebook.

“Reading material memory and the rhetoric of exhibition spaces demands that all signifiers be examined, from ambient noise to the announced “subject” of the exhibition” (Helmers 1641 of 6169).

May need this for a chapter I proposed.

Rhetoric of Cool: Ch. 7 Imagery

Rice, Jeff. “Imagery.” The Rhetoric of Cool: Composition Studies and New Media. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 2007. 133-57. Print.

steampunk_archive_icon_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d5jsav0“An accepted trope regarding electronic writing… work with images” (Rice 133).

In 2005 Dean Rader in a College English review essay said that composition students were more facile with the interpretation of images than the interpretation of print media (65, qtd in Rice 133).

texts with inter-weavings of visual and verbal (133)

Defining Visual Rhetorics talks of visual nature of the process of rhetoric (133)

conflated boundaries of visual and writing
“in film (Anger and Smith),
culture (Baraka),
the computer screen (Nelson, Engelbart, and McLuhan),
and even the written page (Burroughs)” (Rice 134).
either “explicitly situated within” or “implicitly shaped by electronic-based rhetorics” (134)

Rice argues that composition is logocentric. (Er, yes. I think we all agree with that.)

Absence of imagery in rhetoric of composition is “an ideological hesitation” that limits both our recognition of its relevance and our students’ facility with producing these kinds of rhetoric (Rice 135).

Why/when would students compose visually if they had the opportunity? (Rice 135)

Wysocki said that new media compositions make their values as overtly visible as possible (15, qtd in Rice 135).

The visual “can generate concepts in ways print often cannot accommodate” (Rice 136).

Sketchpad iconSoftware of Sketchpad “equated writing with visual expression” (Rice 137). The idea was to “allow writers the ability to forge rhetorical gestures via the visual display” (Rice 137).
Sketchpad‘s visuality was meant to push writers into a …rhetorical experience” (Rice 138).
Sketchpad opened the visual to “all writers (and not just painters or artists)” (Rice 139).
Christensen asked about Sketchpad “How does one teach a rhetoric of the sentence for a compositional text that lacks a sentence or has images in addition to sentences?” (Rice 139–his language, not Christenson’s)
The software draws attention to “importance imagery plays in digital communications” (Rice 140).
Sketchpad “is a reflection (not a cause) of increasing interest in visuality and expression” (Rice 145).

“For McLuhan … electronic visuality, opens up new types of senses and awareness” (Rice 137).

“finding visual connections” (Rice 137)

“material based (making images) and conceptual (imagining connections)” (Rice 138)

“interactivity … alters rhetorical expression” (Rice 139) Meaning that working with a computer changes how we compose and the rhetoric with which we compose.

Writing about images…
Focus is too often on “writing about images, not with images [emphasis added]” (Rice 135).
Visual rhetoric has become a trope to those who use images pedagogically, while neglecting rhetorical issues (Rice 140).
In teaching focus is on analysis not creation/production (Rice 140).
Trapped! “caught in print-based literacy assumptions regarding writing” (Rice 140)

WC CC2.5 by Dake
WC CC2.5 by Dake
Begins a discussion of the typewriter.
Pretty much everything I underlined was related to computer.
“supposedly novel way of writing” (140) Does change composition. How would images change composition if we were working on them first?

He says typewriters were ignored, considered experimental, even after they became commonplace in the culture (Rice 141). I wonder if the same has happened with computers. It does not seem so to me, but is using technology the same as understanding the impact of that technology on rhetoric? No, it’s not. So maybe it has happened with computers.

I hope that what I am doing here (now) or with/through my notes/studies will help me develop a better, more thorough understanding so that I can create/appropriate a pedagogically-enriched rhetoric of electronic/computer composition.

“Alan Kaprow … found the typewriter to be indicative of visuality and visual-based expression” (Rice 141).

McLuhan said typewriter “fuses composition and publication” (Rice 142).

I admit to being slightly confused by this. How is the typewriter any less alphabetic than a pen and paper or a stylus and parchment? I see how the computer is more imagistic–with a multiplicity of fonts even in the word processing aspects. I don’t really see how typewriters are.

According to McLuhan, computer-aided composition engages the user in the visual aspect and “extends writers’ ability to generate knowledge because of how it extends perception” (Rice 142).

Talking about the rhetoric of cool he has introduced/created/collaged, Rice says “[t]he connections, commutations, and juxtapositions … are meant to produce a new type of media writing while also altering a perception of what composition entails” (143).

Says they are “relatively new” in 2006 (Rice 143), while I think they are seen as passé in 2014, because they are used for our tenure and promotion portfolios.
“writing space as total in-depth involvement” (Rice 143)

Rice made a note about television, fairly short and not developed section. (144)

Screencasting comments, which I received at least 3 abstracts concerning for the SCMLA meeting in October, seems to be on the rise. Is this the application of television’s visuality to our creation of personhood and interactivity in pedagogy?

Blue Note RecordsBlue Note Records
Rice begins on page 145 to discuss the album covers, “trying to expand further the notion of what constitutes writing in the popular sphere.”
He says the covers show “specific ways writers can utilize imagery” and “how to teach its visual methods” (146), which are described as “one or two colours… and outrageous graphics” (Miles, qtd. in Rice 146).
Argues they “commutated the symbols of an urban and popular culture into a cool aesthetic” (Rice 146).
The covers “construct a variation of what we now often refer to as visual arguments, and they represent what we have come to call visual rhetoric” (Rice 147).
Record covers are ads and displays.
The covers’ visual elements were “used commercially to discuss and respond to difficult subject matter (race relations)” (Rice 148).

Can an image discuss? Or does it create a reading? Is that the same thing? It seems to me that an image (one image at least) is far more likely to be misread than a paragraph or tweet. How can we create images that will not be misread? Did Blue Notes Records create such images or were they only sometimes read as conversations about race relations and identity?

Question of Selfhood
Says this is “most important to writing with images” (Rice 149)

[T]he pedagogical decision to not teach students how to work with imagery reflects not only an anti-visual ideological position but also a desire to use print in order to de-emphasize the existence of non-conventional or disruptive subject matter along with perceived non-conventional forms of writing (such as images). (Rice 149)

“must interact with the imagery…
must juxtapose the iconic markers the image displays…
must create a reading based on association” (Rice 149)

“question of ‘facts’… . nature of ambiguity” also issues of truth, opinion “challenges the conventional notion of argumentation” (Rice 150)

“trend within composition pedagogy that situates new media only in terms of print culture” (Rice 151)

[A]ny application of technology introduced into the classroom should make significant strides toward achieving what may be done differently than if the technology was never used at all. (Rice 151)

Rice discusses the writing teacher’s perception/image of the (digital) writer (153).
“The fault is in the way the discipline itself–as a whole–imagines writing and writers” (154).

typingWhat kind of writer is he looking to create?
“participant in electracy” (154)
a “media being” (Burroughs, qtd. in Rice 155)
“understands how media shapes her view of the world and her ability to communicate within that world” (155)

Where is the writing student whose juxtapositions, appropriations, commutations, nonlinear thoughts, choral moves, and visual displays mark a significant body of writing taught and encouraged? Where is the curriculum whose outcomes speak to these rhetorical gestures? (155)

“[W]e have to expand the types of writing students do so that they better reflect the kinds of writing media generate” (156).

“Media change us, and media change the nature of our work” (157).

Note: He has an entire chapter on images, in a book without any images at all. Irony? Or his own falling back on the tradition of composition studies, even in a work which is intended to move it forward?