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Deanna Hoak

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Deanna Hoak

I'm a freelance copyeditor specializing in fantasy and science fiction. My main site can be found at deannahoak.com.

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March 29th, 2011

It’s been a while since I came out with a copyediting post, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the usefulness of The Chicago Manual of Style (henceforth CMS, as it’s known in the industry) for copyediting fiction. CMS is an excellent style guide, and when I edited college textbooks, I relied on it very heavily. Copyeditors–fiction or nonfiction–are usually asked to follow CMS by the managing or production editors who hire them. (These editors ferry books through the production process and hire the freelancers but often don’t read the books all the way through.)

SF/F has a strong genre community, though, and I’m in a somewhat unique position for a copyeditor in that I am a part of this community in which I specialize. I attend SF/F conventions and appear on panels. I talk to authors and editors one-on-one, am friends with many of them, and most people in the genre know who I am. Because I am interested in doing the best job that I can, I speak with authors and editors about my work and about what they expect from a copyedit. What I’ve found, over the years, is that most SF/F editors and authors do not–adamantly do not, in many cases–want copyeditors to apply The Chicago Manual of Style to novels in any kind of rigorous sense at all.

I have no idea if this type of thing is news to the folks who produce CMS. In all, it may not make much difference to them, since, as I noted, copyeditors are usually asked to follow CMS anyway.

Why should there be such a disconnect, though, between what the authors and editors want and what is actually done? (And there isn’t at every publisher, but it certainly is the case at some.) In fiction–unlike nonfiction, in which authors often get significantly less say regarding edits–authors are able to stet (revert) any change they don’t like. If they’re unhappy that the copyeditor followed CMS, then, they can simply stet the changes that bother them. It’s never seemed to me to be in anyone’s best interests for that to have to happen.

I think the reason for the disconnect hit me when I was reading the latest edition of CMS this week, though. In contrast to previous editions (one of which even had a footnote noting that the usage was acceptable), this edition specifically notes that the use of they as a gender-neutral singular (which is ubiquitous in spoken English) is to be avoided: “Many people substitute the plural they and their for the singular he or she. Although they and their have become common in informal usage, neither is considered acceptable in formal writing, so unless you are given guidelines to the contrary, do not use them in a singular sense.”

The critical words in that quotation are formal writing, and I think they illustrate why so many of the authors and editors I’ve spoken with believe that much of CMS isn’t relevant to fiction. Is a novel “formal writing”? Dialogue certainly isn’t–the whole purpose of dialogue is to sound as much like speech as possible; unless one has a character who is a pedant, dialogue is not supposed to sound formal. The same would certainly be said for a first-person novel. Whether any novel at all is “formal,” in fact, seems like a matter for the author and the editor to decide.

I asked SF/F authors on my Facebook and Twitter feeds whether they considered novels to be “formal” writing. A few replied that they thought it would depend upon the novel. Laura Anne Gilman noted, “If by ‘formal’ we mean a standardized voice…oh hell no.” Sarah Prineas said, “I’d take ‘formal’ to mean ‘adhering to all grammar and punctuation rules,’ which would lead me to say no.” Clay Griffith said, “I distinguish novel writing from academic writing, which demands adherence to specific formats such as Chicago Manual.” James Enge made the astute observation, “A novel should be able to include formal styles, but never be enclosed by one.”

For my part, as an experienced copyeditor (and as one with an INTJ personality, who always wants to know, foremost, “Does it work?”), I analyze each book individually rather than apply a style wholesale. While I would never insert they as a singular when an author didn’t use it that way, neither would I alter the usage unless given specific instructions to do so. I feel similarly about many of the rules presented in CMS, and I believe this is part of the reason authors and editors appreciate my work. Fiction, to me, is not “formal writing” in the sense that’s traditionally meant. Authors’ styles and voices are nuanced and delicate and individual and are part of what sells books; it is important to work within those styles in order to avoid damaging them.

Originally published at Deanna Hoak. You can comment here or there.

February 16th, 2011

Interview with WoW Insider

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I’ve mentioned before that I play World of Warcraft. Those of you interested in that side of me might like to check out the interview that WoW Insider’s Lisa Poisso posted with me yesterday. It was a fun interview, and I get to name some of the fiction I think WoW players would find particularly interesting. (I’m sorry to those of my authors and friends I didn’t get to mention, too–it was terribly difficult to pare down the list!)

Originally published at Deanna Hoak. You can comment here or there.

December 28th, 2010

Copyediting compliments from Ernest Cline, author of Ready Player One

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I’m incredibly fortunate in having a job I truly enjoy, and I never feel more so than when I get to copyedit a book that is exciting and touches on my interests and that I find difficult to put down, even though I’m working. When the author of such a book appreciates my work and takes the time to tell me so, it makes me happier than I can describe.

As a wonderful way to round out 2010 and begin 2011, author Ernest Cline, whose first novel Ready Player One I got to copyedit, sent me such an e-mail, which he has given me permission to quote here:

I finished going over your copyedits today and am writing to tell you how much I appreciate the work you did on my book!

In addition to finding a gazillion typos and grammatical errors that everyone else had missed, your notes and queries were fantastic! They raised all sorts of logical questions that had never occurred to me, and I’m very thankful to you for pointing them out, so that I could address them before the book goes out to the world. I feel incredibly lucky to have had someone with a gamer’s eye for detail copyedit my book. You really did an amazing job, and I hope that I’m lucky enough to work with you again in future.

I honestly loved Ready Player One and encourage you to check it out when you can. (The book is due out from Crown in summer 2011, and the movie rights have sold to Warner Brothers.) It’s a futuristic science fiction novel that’s also chock-full of awesome old-school geekery and was a pleasure to work on.

Originally published at Deanna Hoak. You can comment here or there.

November 16th, 2010

Words and sounds

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I often become enamored of certain words I see while copyediting, and the latest comes from China Miéville’s novel Embassytown, which I’m working on now: panjandrum.

I love it when the sound of a word and its meaning match up so well. Panjandrum was coined by the dramatist Samuel Foote, which is undoubtedly how it gained that effect.

What are your favorite words with meanings and sounds that match well? Bonus if they’re neither coined nor onomatopoeic.

In my Twitter feed so far we have vexing, splendid, mellifluous, short, appetence, quirk, and melancholy. #wordgeekery

Originally published at Deanna Hoak. You can comment here or there.

November 15th, 2010

I spent a glorious afternoon yesterday hiking in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and took photos until my camera ran out of battery power.

I’m unfortunately not the best photographer in the world, but I did get a few good shots, like the ones below, and the refuge itself is a gorgeous place. You can view the whole album here if you’d like.

I hope all of you also had beautiful weekends.

Originally published at Deanna Hoak. You can comment here or there.

November 12th, 2010

Renovation WorldCon

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So I know it’s early for the question I’m about to ask, but I’m turning a significant number of years old next year (45, as a matter of fact) and would like to celebrate the occasion with my friends in the genre. To that end, I’m thinking of planning a birthday party at next year’s WorldCon in Reno. (I had my 40th at ReaderCon, and that was great fun.)

So I wonder if I could get a headcount on those of you going to Renovation next year who might want to help me celebrate. I’d have quite a lot of planning to do, as I don’t actually care for room parties and ideally need to think of something else, so I’d love a preliminary notion of where to start, number-wise. :)

Originally published at Deanna Hoak. You can comment here or there.

November 11th, 2010

Gator

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Would you like to see a picture of the gator that was sunning at the pond near my house today? I often see gators and a variety of birds when I’m out unicycling. (I’ve been riding about three miles a day lately!) He was about five feet, I think–not the biggest I’ve seen, but not tiny, either.

And here’s a close-up. Lovely, friendly-looking guy, isn’t he?

Originally published at Deanna Hoak. You can comment here or there.

Veterans Day

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I’ve been thinking about losses today–mine and those of other families.

My dad, whom I miss so much, died at 56 from cancer caused by the Agent Orange he was exposed to in Vietnam–he worked on planes that sprayed it. Several of my uncles also served in that war.

My mom’s dad fought in WWII and couldn’t talk about it for crying.

My husband was deployed twice–once when our daughter was less than two, and once when she was five, and our son a toddler.

I support our veterans; I often don’t support the governmental decision to spend their lives, or have them take others’ lives, or the policies that leave them at risk when they come home. We can do better.

Originally published at Deanna Hoak. You can comment here or there.

November 5th, 2010

Missing email

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Hi, all. I wanted to let you know that I just last night discovered the existence of a web-based spam filter on my email. Because I never use web-based email, I had no idea that my ISP had it in place. The filter was deleting mail every month, and when I discovered it yesterday, there were four valid emails in it, which is vastly frustrating. I have no idea how many emails I may have lost over the last few years.

If you have tried to contact me in the last few years and have received no reply or acknowledgment, please accept my apologies. I believe I have the filter turned off now, and I will try to be very proactive about replying to any email I get so that you will know you’re getting through.

I hope you’re all doing well.

Originally published at Deanna Hoak. Please leave any comments there.

February 8th, 2010

Hi, all. Livejournal CrossPoster no longer works with the WordPress theme I use at my main site, www.deannahoak.com, and until such time as I am able to switch out my entire theme (which is not likely to be soon), this LJ will not be updated. Please do add my main site to a feed reader if you are interested in keeping up with me.

I hope to see you there. :)

Best,
Deanna
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