Denise Dietz

                                               QUIBBLES & BITS

I have an editing service called STRAY CAT PRODUCTIONS. You’ll find a link on my website. I don’t advertise — 95% of my clients are word-of-mouth referrals. The other 5% kind of stumble into my site.


A woman said she wanted me to edit her husband’s "adventure novel." But she would NOT pay me more than $100 because … are you ready? … her husband had used spell-check.

More on spell-check later.

An arrogant attorney [is that redundant?] wanted me to ghost-write his legal thriller. "The concept is better than anything John Grisham ever wrote," he bragged. Rather than paying me for my ghosting, he’d pay me 50% of the royalties [hee!] When I tactfully turned him down—without telling him that Grisham had already "borrowed" his plot concept—he became agitated. A Hollywood producer was about to sign on the dotted line, he told me, and there were "dozens of writers" who’d gladly ghost his book. Well, shoot. Obviously, I’d let a golden opportunity slip through my fingers.

I get way too many editing requests from people who can’t write. I’m being brutally honest here. I told my husband Gordon that it’s like American Idol. During the [endless] auditions, there are kids who can’t carry a note in a bucket. But in a heartwrenching way (at least to me), they honestly believe they can sing. Because they can’t hear themselves. Furthermore, their best bud, mother, sister, boyfriend/girlfriend told them they were terrific.

If a query begins: "My best bud [mother, sister, boyfriend/girlfriend] says my book is the best thing they ever seen, better then gone with the wind even," it’s a red flag.

Recently Jason Printer wrote a brilliant, tongue planted firmly in cheek blog called: 20 Surefire Tips To Get Your Book Published. In it he suggested the following: "Call every editor in the publishing industry and tell them to publish your book. If they refuse, call again five minutes later. If they still refuse, send a dead animal to their office. You’ll have a deal before the janitorial staff disposes of the carcass."

Some of the blog comments were ALMOST as funny as Jason’s blog. Here’s the comment I posted:

"The dead cat didn’t work for me. The phone feedback — as far as I could tell, since the editor’s bloodcurdling screams predominated — was that dead cats are a no-no for crime fiction fans. Go figure! Next time I’ll try an armadillo."

In a more serious vein, I’m now going to give you a half dozen incredibly relevant submission tips:

1]  An editor will NOT read your brilliant first chapter, get hooked, and say, "I don’t care how many typos and formatting problems this manuscript has, I’m buying it!"

2] An editor is NOT paid to correct your typos, grammar, formatting, and POV goofs. This might gobsmack you, but it’s easier to turn the book down.

3] Spell-check will NOT do your work for you. When the first line of a manuscript reads: "Hot tears ran down her checks," there’s a problem [unless she’s paying her bills on a slant]. And while your high school English teacher might have allowed you to spell phonetically, 99 out of 100 editors won’t.

4]  "That" and "who" do NOT mean the same thing. An editor has pet peeves, just like anyone else. Mine is "that" for "who" [or whom]. I also wish writers would learn the difference between its and it’s.  And If you tell me she dropped her eyes, I am not amused.

5]  Changing your 12-pt Times New Roman to … oh, say 22-pt Broadway Bold … to emphasize the letters on a sign, or the words in a ransom note, will NOT impress an editor (that Stephen King guy can get away with it, but you’d better wait until you’re earning his paycheck). An illustration for a chapter heading — or even worse, cover art — submitted with your manuscript won’t impress an editor, either. A non-pub was puzzled by that advice. "But it makes me stand out from the pack," he said. "Yep," I replied. "It sure does. It brands you AMATEUR."

6]  And last but not least, do NOT write XXX or ??? for information you plan to look up later. Or if you do, look up the information before you submit. I tend to use yada-yada, but if I forget to fill it in, I’ll always find it when … are you ready? … this is the most important piece of advice in today’s blog … here it comes … WHEN I PROOF MY BOOK BEFORE SUBMISSION.

Yep, I proof my manuscript, even if it’s better than gone with the wind and my best bud tells me Yada-Yada [working title] is neater than sliced bread and hip-hop dancing put together.

And, of course, I read it out loud — to my dog Pandora. She’s a good listener, most of the time. But she runs and hides [and sometimes howls at the top of her doggy lungs] when an American Idol wannabe sounds too "pitchy."

Quote of the week:
"I got stung actually pretty bad across my back. There’s sort of a remedy that we’ve all heard … urine. It’s the remedy if you have a bad sting. So I asked Dylan if he would pee-pee on my back. He looked at me like he’d gone to heaven. He was like ‘This is what I call a good summer holiday! Pee-pee on daddy’s back!’ I don’t know if it helped at all, but my son was happy. We’ll work it out in 20 years when he’s in therapy!" Michael Dougas. [Dylan is five.]

EYE OF NEWT’s Davy St. Charles hopes last week’s buried bean remedy removed any unwanted warts. This week Aunt Lillian has a Household Hint for you:

"Ants are said to never cross a chalk line. So if you have ants, get your chalk out and draw a line on the floor, or wherever your ants tend to march — and see for yourself."

Over and Out,

13 thoughts on “dfg34hdb

  1. Rob Gregory Browne

    Great post. I remember years ago a friend of mind was sure he’d written the greatest detective novel ever. He brought me over to his apartment, sat me down and gave me the manuscript. “Read,” he said.

    I had thought I was going to take it home, but he didn’t want his masterpiece leaving his apartment. Oookay.

    So I started reading and by paragraph two I knew I was in trouble. By page six I was tempted to chuck the thing across the room. The guy simply had no clue whatsoever what he was doing and, based on those pages, the chances that he’d ever learn were slim to none.

    After a few more pages, I tactfully suggested some changes and the guy’s eyes got angry and he was suddenly ranting, “You don’t like it? You don’t LIKE it?”

    I seriously thought I was in physical danger. Trapped in his apartment, no less.

    I finally managed to get out of there after he disappeared for a moment to “get something.” I figured he was going for a gun.

  2. Ron Estrada

    I married my spell-checker. So, maybe we should have an “American Writer” reality show. People could watch for hours as we chug coffee and…well, do this. Never mind.

  3. Naomi

    Your post really resonated with me in ways I unfortunately cannot reveal.

    And thing about chalk and ants–it’s true. Someone told me that ants leave an invisible trail; that’s how they follow each other to sugar, water, etc. I think it may be the alkaline content in chalk that disrupts that trail. Anyhow, I’ve used chalk to dissuade ants from entering through cracks, and it really works. Less toxic than ant spray, for sure. If you really want to drive an ant crazy, draw a chalk circle around it. But that’s only if you’re a mean and cruel person, and I know our Murderati readers are nothing like that.

  4. Beatrice Brooks

    Rob, you poor baby. Been there, done that. It’s hard to say no to friends, even harder to tell them the truth. When I waitressed I had tons of requests to “just look over my manuscript and give me your honest opinion.” That was easy. I merely said my editor wouldn’t allow me to read unpublished material. People nodded sagely.

    Ron, I’m not suggesting you divorce your spell-checker. Maybe a menage a trois with a free-lance editor?

    As for a reality show … Author Idol? … writers live with so much rejection, I don’t think they could take being voted off!

    Naomi, you have my promise that all Aunt Lillian’s “household hints” work. I’m not so sure about Davy and Sydney’s spells. But like chicken soup for the dead person, it couldn’t hurt 🙂


  5. Beatrice Brooks

    Elaine, it’s easy if you add the word “is.” You wouldn’t say “I clutched it is handles.” But you would say “I clutched its handles.”

    Same goes for “me” and “I” – another pet peeve and one I find more and more [thank you, sports announcers]. Example: “He handed the box to Jim and I.” Take out the “Jim and.” You wouldn’t say “He handed the box to I.”

    “The waitress served breakfast to Mom, Dad and I.”

    Take out Mom and Dad and it reads: “The waitress served breakfast to I.” Substitute “me” for “I.” Or even better, “The waitress served Mom, Dad and me breakfast.” Easy, eh? 🙂

    And don’t get me started on the passive “went” rather than an active verb.

    He went to the fireplace and stirred the logs. Then he went into the kitchen and poured a cup of coffee. Finally, slowly, he went upstairs.

    There’s nothing WRONG with the above. But how much better it might sound like this:

    He stumbled to the fireplace and stirred the logs. Then he ran into the kitchen and poured a cup of coffee. Finally, slowly, he climbed the seeemingly endless staircase.


  6. Pari

    Oh, Deni, I’m getting nervous here.

    Actually, I’ve had to do some reading for a publisher and can say that it continues to amaze me when I run across those “yada-yadas” and other obvious omissions of proofing.

    The publisher for whom I work has told me more than once that I don’t have to read more than a few pages if I can tell it won’t be good.

    I usually give the manuscript at least 50 pages because, hell, I know how difficult it is to write one.

  7. Elaine

    Thanks Deni! All is clear now. More or less. I warned all of you I was a dolt. Now you see why. Just kidding. (?)

    Actually, I DO know the difference, it’s my fingers that have to be reminded while they’re flying over the keyboard.

  8. Julia Buckley

    Deni,Another hilarious post, albeit true. And doesn’t everyone pay her bills on a slant? (Notice I said pay HER bills rather than pay THEIR bills. That’s MY pet peeve).

  9. Terry in Ketchikan

    “Who” and “that” — ahhh. Nice to know the misuse of these (actually, only the “that” seems to get plunked down where it doesn’t belong) is one of my peeves as well, one not shared by most of the world. Also … reading out loud is the best proofreading possible. The tongue will not allow a mistake that gets past the eyes, which apparently believe the mind about what’s supposed to be there instead of what is … oh my. I must stop. What an impossible sentence.

  10. Luise

    Reading aloud — you’ve got it. Editing, proofreading, whatever, it slows you down just enough to see the homonym, not just hear it, to hear the missing (or excess) punctuation. Two senses *are* better than one!


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