Today the Dragon Wins

"Today the Dragon Wins" offers information from Fantasy Author and Professional Editor Sandy Lender. You'll also find dragons, wizards, sorcerers, and other fantasy elements necessary for a fabulous story, if you know where to look...

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Sandy Lender is the editor of an international trade publication and the author of the fantasy novels Choices Meant for Gods and Choices Meant for Kings, available from ArcheBooks Publishing, and the series-supporting chapbook, What Choices We Made.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Grammar Guide
Editing Versus Proofreading

In last week's Grammar Guide, I mentioned there is a difference between editing and proofreading. Most people in the publishing industry are well aware of this, but newbies question it and even seasoned professionals like to combine it to save pennies. So let's get to the bottom of it here!

Proofreading is what you do after everyone has played with the manuscript and the product is "almost" perfect. Proofreading in magazine terms is when you have some original copy to check your final copy against, making sure Hostenteffler's name is really spelled with two "f"s, according to the business card the company's PR firm sent in. Proofreading in magazine terms is when you have some original copy to check your final copy against, making sure the company you're about to print 5,000 copies of a brochure for really wants their slogan to have a period after each word, even though that's grammatically insane and makes my head spin around on my shoulders. (Call me possessed if you wish, but there are some grammar rules that just shouldn't be broken, even in the name of marketing. JMHO.)

Editing is what you do long before you get to the proofreading stage. Editing is the job of people who can grasp large concepts over time and notice that, hey, such-n-such character didn't have blue eyes the first time the author described him. Editing is the job of people who figure out that such-n-such character was in one section of the country on a Tuesday, thus cannot possibly be in another section of the country on Wednesday morning unless he either has the ability to teleport or a private plane got him through the snow-storm-of-the-century the author has just convinced the reader is taking place between the hero and the heroine. Editors also notice when Dragon Troops in Book I of someone's trilogy are suddenly called Dragon Troopers in Book II (I actually caught this at the last minute in a book I was editing recently because there was just something bothering me about those blasted troopers that was taking me out of the story...)

Does all this make sense? Editors catch big-picture problems as well as small details like that. Authors aren't expected to catch it all. Yes, in this industry today, we authors are called upon to do an awful lot of our own editing and proofreading before we even approach agents, and that's the name of the game so we just have to get used to it, but even for all that care we take with our original manuscripts, the editor is essential in catching those crazy things we miss. We're too close to the story to see them. In Choices Made by Gods, the sequel to Book I of the Choices Meant for Gods trilogy, I have a character badly burned in one scene, who is later healed by a goddess. Great! my own editing, I have the "healing" scene happen earlier than I originally intended. Fine. The problem is I sent the novel off to my test readers without asking an editor to review it. The test readers caught my HUGE gaff where I have the character babying the wounds after they've been healed in a scene where I forgot to edit in the "fix." This is a prime example of why thou dost need an editor. (Thank God for test readers, eh?)

And once Choices Made for Gods gets through the editor, I'll go through it for editing again because...well...I'm anal retentive and I've been editing for 15 years and I can't help myself. And then I'll turn it over to a proofreader. And then I'll proofread it again at the galley stage. (I'll probably still end up with a typo on the last page again, but it won't be for lack of trying not to!)

(Fantasy Author Sandy Lender has been an editor in the magazine publishing industry for more than 15 years and is the author of the epic fantasy novel Choices Meant for Gods, now available from

"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

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