Tag Archives: editing

Pomona Valley Review: On the Selection Process

Earlier this summer, I was selected to be part of the editorial board of Pomona Valley Review – an arts journal that comes out once a year. Because of my experience here as a managing editor, as well as Melanie and I presenting on Pomona Valley Review’s poetry panel last year at the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Associate conference (PAMLA), I was put in charge of the editorial board and took on the position of lead editor for the 11th edition of the journal.

While I have been published in the past through a handful of smaller journals (PVR included), this was my first time behind the scenes selecting artistic items that would be published. The process, I found, was very different from what we do here and not something I took into consideration when I would submit pieces myself.

I know that the knowledge I’ve gained in working as an editorial board member during this past issue of Pomona Valley Review has helped me understand how I should submit my work as a writer/poet to increase my chances of being published in the future. And, of course, I want to share that gained knowledge with you, the reader.

Submissions Interface

Pomona Valley Review uses Submittable for all of it’s submissions – stories, poetry, pictures, paintings, etc. But there are still many people who try to email in their submissions. When a journal selects one way and makes that way apparent, as a submitter, you should really follow what the journal asks. In general, if a journal asks for submissions one way and you send it in another way, your chances of being considered go down from the start. The policy at Pomona Valley Review is that unless we’re hurting for submissions, we won’t look at work that isn’t submitted in the correct manner.

Now, there was one author with poor vision and their adaptive software (text to speak) worked best in email. The process of creating a word document, uploading it, attaching it, and submitting a biography wasn’t accessible for that individual so their submission was taken via email. So exceptions can be made for accessibility purposes but otherwise, you’d need to stick with the platform the journal asks you to use.

How To Manage Being A Managing Editor

For those who don’t know me, I have a lot of little side gigs outside of being a master’s student and my work as an advisor on campus. Three of my multiple little side-ventures are in the world of editing. I am the co-founder and managing editor of this blog, The Poetics Project, as well as the managing editor for The Socialist, the Socialist Party USA’s national magazine. This summer I was also selected as the lead editor of the Editorial Board of Pomona Valley Review’s 11th issue.

So how do I do it? Am I some insane monster that never sleeps? Am I in it for the money? Wait, is there money? Hold on, I’m off track now with the hypothetical questions. Do I just half-ass all of my roles and call it a day? Do I have no life to speak of? Am I a lonely person? Do my academics suffer? Do I have no hobbies?

With the exception of the first question, all of the answers to the above are no. I’ve literally been asked these questions multiple times, so let me go into each one and elaborate a bit on my answer of no.

Am I some insane monster that never sleeps?

Okay, I totally sleep. I don’t know why this is always one of the first questions people ask when they find out that I’m a busy person (then again, maybe it’s the bags under my eyes. That’s just how I look!). Sleep is important and we all need it to function; in fact, when I don’t sleep, I get a terrible case of what I like to call homophones—i.e., I start writing in homophone (think they’re/their/there or your/you’re or new/knew, etc.). I need to sleep just like a normal person—although, as a grad student, eight solid hours is generally something I never get. I do get a good six to seven hours of sleep a night most of the time, and I enjoy strong coffee in the day time to make up for that extra hour I never seem to be able to manage (like, even on the weekends—I may just not be the kind of person that sleeps for eight hours at night).

Am I in it for the money? Wait, is there money?

I work as a managing editor because I want to, not for money. Even in my day job, I get to help a lot of people and that makes me happy. I could never just work for a paycheck—not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’ve done it in the past and I’ve been terribly unhappy doing it. Also, there’s no money in what I do on the side. The Poetics Project, The Socialist, and Pomona Valley Review are completely free to users and contain no ads, so we don’t generate any revenue. All of my projects are projects of passion. I know there are probably managing editor positions I could find that would pay me, but I don’t know if I’d love their content as much as I love the content at the other places I volunteer at, nor do I know if I want to make managing editing into a career over being a potential teacher in the future.

Writing Apps for Every Writer

Writers may not be cooks, knives at the ready, but we certainly need our own set of tools to get the job done. The problem is what works for one writer may not (and usually doesn’t) work for every writer. There are no set rules: don’t use a bread knife to carve a chicken, for instance. If the bread knife leads to a finished novel, then fuck rules, right? Instead, focus on which tools work best for you, which brings me to writing applications.

To be clear, I will be focusing on internet-based, no downloading necessary writing applications in this post (the majority of which are free). In the course of my research, I was a bit stunned by how many options are available to today’s writers. Below I’ve included some of my favorites. Take a look, and see how incorporating the writing apps below into your creative process could help you be a more productive writer.

750 Words

I’ve been using 750 Words for less than a week, but so far it’s keeping me on task. That is, I’m accomplishing the goal of writing 750 words, at least, daily. For thirty days, the website is free to use. After that, the creators ask that you become a member to continue using the service. The fee is $5/month. It offers a distraction-free writing environment, foregoing bells and whistles. The goal-based, minimalist environment encourages you to produce something (anything) every day, a habit many find necessary to being a writer at all.

When I sit down and log into my account, I don’t necessarily have a plan. I free write. I resist the urge to edit, to self-critique. Whether you continue to use the service or not after the end of your thirty-day trial, you’ll still have access to your writing and stats—another great feature. And honestly, at the price of a cup of Starbucks coffee, if it keeps you trudging onwards, do it.

An example of stats from 750 Words
An example of writing stats from 750 Words (Credit: 750 Words)

 

Self-Publishing: No Degree Necessary

Self-publishing has taken off, that’s no secret. Bestsellers, from Fifty Shades of Grey to Wool, began as self-published books. Recently, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), in the UK, even began its own masters program in self-publishing. A full-time student can complete the program in one year; when he or she graduates, they will have all the skills needed to edit, design, publish, and market their own book. At least, that’s the idea.

I’ll admit, I’ve read very few self-published books. So few, that as I write this, I can’t recall their titles. But by no means do I “hate on” self-published books. Sure, I have, on occasion, expressed the belief that self-published titles are generally lacking in editing, design, and marketing—all those aspects of publishing that UCLan hopes to teach—but that isn’t always the case. If I’m being honest, those nameless self-published titles were bad apples that spoiled the rest.

What do I mean by spoiled? The great thing about self-published titles are that you can often get them for cheap (sometimes even free if they’re e-books). Low prices are great; that means more books for me. Yet, in my experience, this leads to reading a lot of bad writing, and in the end, I’d rather pay more for the good stuff.

(Credit: IndieBound)

For a long time, most readers have felt this way. Publishers may be the “gate keepers,” but, as a reader, I appreciate knowing that I can trust a book stamped with HarperCollins’ or Penguins’ logo will be a good read. However, I think it’s important to remember the exceptions, because, surely, not every reader will love every book published by the “Big Five.” So why shouldn’t that same logic apply to self-publishing?

Self-publishing has many positives. None too small to overlook. Wool, as I mentioned earlier, was a great success story. Hugh Howey originally self-published the book as a stand-alone, short story on Amazon. When it began to develop a following, he continued the plot with additional stories, all of which he eventually sold to Simon & Schuster for six figures.

Throwback Thursday: Authors, Editors, and Readers Alike All Hate the Word Very, a Lot.

I’m guilty of using the word very. It’s probably appeared in more than one of my blog posts and academic papers. I have one professor, though, that always points it out in my writing and tells me to take it out. He says it’s useless. He says it adds nothing to further my point. He says it’s lazy writing.

He’s right, and there are others that agree with him.

So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.
N.H. Kleinbaum, Dead Poets Society

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
Mark Twain

Well, you could take Mark Twain’s advise, but I feel like damn wouldn’t be deleted as often by publishers now as it was when Mark Twain uttered those words sometime before 1910 when he died. There are other ways of avoiding the word very.

Exposition: The Good, The Bad, and The Unnecessary

Recently, Cracked.Com ran a great video rant on sloppy exposition in movies. In essence, using a fake news report to set up the exposition of a movie is not only sloppy, but boring and often unnecessary.

This too holds true for literature. There are good and bad ways of introducing the necessary background information of the world a story is set in for the story to make sense.

Just to be clear, when I talk about exposition, I’m referring to narrative exposition, or the insertion or presentation of important background information within a story; for example, information about the setting, characters’ back-stories, prior plot events, chronological context, and so on (Wikipedia).

I’ve always been a fan of the way science fiction does this, as a literary genre. In many science fiction stories, from The Time Machine to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, there are characters that are in the dark to what is going on in the world. When The Narrator or Arthur Dent learn something new about this strange world they’re set in, so do the readers. This trick isn’t isolated to the genre of science fiction, but it does work extremely well in sci-fi because it allows a lot of exposition in a way that doesn’t feel strange or forced to the reader.

The Ten Commandments for Editors

I’ve come a long way from copy editing my college newspaper for coffee money, when my main rule was don’t let another “recieve” go to print (yeah, that happened). I possess more technique now, thank God, and editing copy from novels to law books to financial articles feels like home. In many ways, I’m finally living my dream: I make my entire living by editing and writing, and no, I don’t need to wear orange hats on the weekends. When people ask how to be a successful editor, I recite this creed.

Thou shalt slow down. It’s easy to read and read quickly, but that’s not editing. Look at every word and element and question the hell out of them.

Thou shalt cut. All—and I mean all—writing is better with a few casualties. Tighten up copy by killing deadwood and being concise. Using the most direct presentation is the difference between being an amateur and being a pro.

Thou shalt love Merriam-Webster. “Jackanapes” isn’t spelled how you’d expect, “efficacy” is a noun, and you can learn a lot about hyphens by using the dictionary.

Making Writing Sweet and Simple: A Lesson In Conciseness

If you’re a student whose taken any English course, then chances are you’ve probably learned how to bullshit. In writing courses, students are given word- and page-length requirements, but sometimes, we don’t need all of those pages or words in order to get to the point.

So what do we do? We stretch things out. We restate things in a “new” way. We plop in a few quotes we found while researching. Or if you’re crafty, like some of the creative folk I attended college with, you do sneaky things like changing the font size of all punctuation so sentences suddenly become longer, and then you pray to God that your teacher doesn’t break out a ruler. Or isn’t a type nerd.

In the “real” world—the one outside of academia—getting to the point is preferred; in fact, it’s applauded. If there’s anything people hate, it’s their time being wasted.

As an undergrad, I took a lot of technical writing courses as part of a certificate program. There’s nothing like staring at a document, one sentence at a time, with a classroom of other students, and examining every word for its meaning, its use—deciding whether or not it serves a purpose or is just filler. It may seem mundane, but technical writers get paid sixty thousand plus a year in order to make sure writing is clear. To make sure that instructions and warnings in manuals won’t get a company sued and will limit incoming calls to customer support. In other words, technical writers help companies save money. Not only in potential legal fees, but in printing costs—tighter writing takes up less space. Less ink, less paper. And these hyper-detailed, sentence level word skills (yeah, that was a mouthful) translate into many other writing fields—whether you write creatively, edit others’ pieces, or work in marketing.

Dear Montana Kaimin: A Letter from a Temperamental Columnist

“My rambling brat (in print) should mother call, / I cast thee by as one unfit for light, / The visage was so irksome in my sight.” — Anne Bradstreet, “The Author to Her Book”

Dear Montana Kaimin,

The other day, I sorted my portfolio and a certain stack of newspapers and remembered completing my undergrad at the University of Montana.

The worst part was definitely Spanish, in which I mainly learned charades and spent all-nighters memorizing las palabras and asking: 1) What the hell am I doing in life? and 2) Did I really just eat half this cake?

The best part, however, was working for you—and you, at least, answered that first question. I was a paid copyeditor for two years and also published twenty-three columns beneath a cartoon that made me look like a panda. Editors spent more time playing Nintendo than dropping stories in the slot, and occasionally a photographer would throw up in a garbage can before the paper went to print at midnight. I learned AP style, began building my portfolio, and heard terms like “pitch,” “copy,” and “slug” for the first time. We squeezed homework in between stories, and no one ever cleaned the microwave. It was the best part of my college experience.

But there was a catch.

My published columns were never exactly the columns I wrote—and I hated you for that. It could have been anything: a disrupted sentence structure, a rearranged paragraph, a misplaced semicolon. Goddamn you all! I’d protest the whole thing by refusing to bring home copies on pub day. I’d read it once, slam it on a bench, and tell it to think about what it had done wrong overnight.

Prewriting Characters

Alas, my friends, I’m here to admit that I was wrong (gasp!), which is probably something my boyfriend would be shocked to hear me say—so let’s not tell him. Last November, all of the contributors at The Poetics Project decided to join together in a pact to complete our own NaNoWriMo projects. We failed, miserably, but along the way we wrote about our failure and our writing processes. I wrote this little gem about how I hated the idea of outlining an entire novel. It’s much better to dive right into the unknown, right? Wrong.

You see, I didn’t actually say I didn’t see the need for an outline. Instead, I said that I prefer to write a shitty rough draft before wasting my time with one. After all, the stories that form in our minds as we excitedly conjure them up at the most inconvenient times—in the shower, in the car, or, you know, in the throes of passion (yep, that is how you spell throes)—are not entirely formed. And diving, as it were, is not a horrible idea. A little free writing can help spark connections in your developing plot and help you feel out the direction you want to take things in.

What I was wrong about, however, was the value of prewriting.