Waxing Lyrical : Daz Pulsford on Editing the Fox Spirit Way

Welcome to the waxing lyrical series in 2016. The series is open to any creative (writers, artists, publishers, editors, musicians etc) who want to air their opinions on the creative industries, from any perspective. If you are interested in contributing please contact adele@foxspirit.co.uk for more information. The only real rule is no personal attacks, we don’t have to agree with you but we won’t support attacking a person or group of people. 

Daz has been editing for Fox Spirit since we began and has always been fairly flexible with us about enforcing the house style on submissions, however as we’ve got busier it has become more important so here he is with some tips to make sure your submission is in tip top shape. It’s important to note that any publisher or agent will have their own submission rules and (and this can not be said enough) you need to follow them, or you risk your submission being discounted without even being read. 


Editing the Fox Spirit Way.

(Or how I learned to love the ellipsis…)

First up: let me begin by saying how utterly wonderful all you lovely authors are, with your colourful use of languages, broadly acceptable adherence to word count and slightly less than universal conformity to Microsoft Word 97-2003 or later. I’ll waive the varying acceptance of English (UK) as standard because it’s actually fun adding the letter ‘u’ and reversing instances of ‘er’ over and over again.*

House Rules on submission guidelines are on our website at: https://www.foxspirit.co.uk/sample-page/submissions/

Please read them – you would not believe** the number of stories I have to spend ten minutes simply reformatting and tidying (fonts, double spaces, random tabs, wrong dialogue marks and other egregious crimes.)

Please note – if you submit a story in Open Office, a very old Microsoft (MS) Word format, or some other random hipster notepad format, I will hammer and curse at it until it opens in MS Word and does as it’s told.

Stop waffling and tell us what you mean!

Sorry – what I am stressing  is the importance of reading our House Rules, plus any additional rules on language, tone, sex & violence etc. set out by either Aunty Fox or your Editor (if it’s for an Anthology). It will ease my burden considerably and make us far nicer to you.

Because I’m frightfully vain and convinced half of you think editing is worthless before the Proofing stage; I have a lesson for you: using Review in MS Word.

Proper use of Tracked Changes:  (see screenshot)

It’s on the Ribbon under the Review Tab. My amendments are shown in the left hand column. Any changes you accept will disappear. I suggest you do these one at a time if there are not many, or if you plan to dispute or amend your text further. Any changes you make will show in the left column with your reference in (which is whatever name you set in the Word Options menu – you did do this, right?)

There is an ‘Accept all changes in document’ option, but make sure you are happy with all the edits first. This way both you and I can see what has been accepted as an edit and what further there is to look at.

I turn Review Changes on after I have made broad formatting changes – otherwise your eyes would bleed from all the hundreds of Red lines and notes about using double spaces after a full stop (stop it, I mean it!) and using an ellipsis 3 different ways in 27 instances.

Comments are left for suggestions, or ‘What on earth are you babbling about here?’ sort of questions. They cannot be accepted, only deleted. Ideally; you make the suggested change, or comment yourself about it and leave the original comment there.

See It wasn’t that painful was it? Now, with comments accepted, your own changes made and comments dealt with – send it back and I’ll decide you’re talking nonsense and put it back the way I had it it’s really rather nice now and ready to add to the ‘Completed, no bribes extracted’ pile.

Please – learn to use Track Changes. If you don’t have MS Word, there is still likely to be an alternative within your software that will know what my edits are trying to show you and convert them.

Things to avoid

This is an ‘Oh no, they didn’t,’ list compiled from the array of blisteringly baffling returns I’ve had.

  1. Typing your edits out into an email, either as text fragments or with line references. This is instant head/desk for me, and also I re-format the document for margins, line numbers are irrelevant.
  1. Using the wrong language. Sending us a Novel? Use whatever language you like, it’s yours. Submitting to an Anthology? Check with the Editor – it’ll usually be their language or English (UK) as default.
  1. Accepting all the changes, including the ones you made after getting the edits back. Not helpful – how do I know what you’ve changed?!***

    No kittens or authors were harmed in the making of this post.
  1. Leaving my email in Spam because you haven’t been checking after Aunty Fox sends out the ‘Edits will be with you soon’ email. I don’t mind chasing you up once. Twice is a disappointment. Three times means missed deadlines and starting another voodoo doll with your name on it.

And that’s it – your easy guide to keeping the Editing Den moving efficiently and pleasantly.

*Find & Replace you say? Try it – see what happens…

**If you do any copy-editing yourself then obviously you will be shaking your head and muttering about ‘blinkin’ authors, coming over here with their freedom from any sense of formatting and crazy ideas about dashes.’

***Actually, I do know, and can fix it – but I’m not telling you how as it will only discourage you from paying attention to Leaving The Tracked Changes On, Please.