Note to Readers
The Subversive Copy Editor Blog
by Carol Saller
1y ago
After 12 years of blogging and social media, I’m retiring! I still have things to say about writing and publishing. If you don’t want to lose touch, please join my free “Writer, Editor, Helper” email newsletter list, beginning in early 2023. If you are reading this via RSS or email, you are automatically subscribed. Unsubscribing will be easy, if the newsletter doesn't interest you. “Writer, Editor, Helper” is aimed at general readers. If you’ve thought about writing a book, if you’re in the middle of writing a book, if you’re interested in how publishing and self-publishing work, you’re my r ..read more
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Is a Comma Needed to Introduce Dialogue?
The Subversive Copy Editor Blog
by Carol Saller
1y ago
Q. Would you add a comma before the quotation marks in the following sentences? Ellie finally admitted, “They look different from before.” Kat set the painting on the windowsill, muttering “One more to go.” It would be more accurate to say “I made it up” than “I exaggerated.” Mimicking Hector’s level of sass to perfection, Bel said, “Try to keep up.” The Chicago Way It’s a writing tradition to put a comma after a word like “said” when it introduces dialogue or a quotation. CMOS 13.14 has this to say: When it is simply a matter of identifying a speaker, a comma is used after  ..read more
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Does Your Novel Need a Copyeditor before Submission?
The Subversive Copy Editor Blog
by Carol Saller
1y ago
In the writers’ groups where I hang out online, these queries are evergreen: How do I know if I need a copyeditor before I submit my work to an agent or editor? How do I find a good copyeditor? How much does copyediting cost? The replies and comments are typically so head-spinning in their range and variety that no one could blame writers for being confused. And who can blame a writer for resisting an expense they aren’t convinced is necessary? Starting with the assumption that every book-length manuscript needs a copyeditor at some point before publication,* the question is wheth ..read more
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Should Your Novel Have Chapter Numbers or Chapter Titles?
The Subversive Copy Editor Blog
by Carol Saller
1y ago
Earlier this year, Fiction+ considered whether a novel should have a table of contents. Although it might seem to be a matter of personal preference, there are strong practical reasons for including or not including a TOC, depending on a book’s genre and format. Is the same thing true when deciding whether chapters should be numbered or titled? A survey of my social media turned up a number of reasons to go one way or the other, along with some strong opinions: Personal preference (“I like the look of numbers,” “I like the look of titles,” “I always use roman numerals, but then I’m wei ..read more
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When Your Novel Quotes a Real Source
The Subversive Copy Editor Blog
by Carol Saller
1y ago
  Careless quoting is a writing crime. Fiction or nonfiction, a writer must be scrupulous in quoting words precisely and crediting their source. Most publishing contracts hold the author liable for misrepresentations and plagiarism, but even without that legal pressure, a writer, of all people, should naturally respect the intellectual property of others. Writers of historical fiction, memoir, creative nonfiction, and books for children often handle source materials that provide background and authenticity to their stories. Sometimes they quote from published or unpublished writings; som ..read more
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What Makes a Chapter of a Novel?
The Subversive Copy Editor Blog
by Carol Saller
2y ago
First-time novelists often struggle with dividing their work into chapters. A sample from my Facebook feed: “How long should a chapter be?” “Is it okay to have this one randomly short chapter?” “Is there a standard for how long a chapter should be?” “What is considered a reasonable maximum length of a chapter?” “Is it okay to throw a long chapter in between two shorter chapters?” “Is 3,000 to 4,750 words per chapter too long for a young adult urban fantasy?” What is a chapter? A chapter is a chunk of a book that comes to a recognizable end, usually marked by a page break or by an extra space ..read more
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3 Easy E-Tricks for Writers, and 1 for Fun
The Subversive Copy Editor Blog
by Carol Saller
2y ago
Almost every writer I know has a love-hate relationship with their writing program, whether it’s Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Scrivener, or a yellow legal pad. It’s clear there’s no single perfect choice for drafting, editing, and formatting your work for publication. Scrivener is great for drafting but has limited formatting capabilities. Docs is great for collaborations, and it can handle basic formatting, but it lacks compatibility with professional formatting and editing tools like PerfectIt and the add-ins from the Editorium. MS Word is the publishing workhorse, more or less required for ..read more
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Exclamation Points in Creative Writing
The Subversive Copy Editor Blog
by Carol Saller
2y ago
Exclamation points are controversial. Writers can’t be blamed if they’re confused! Exclamation has always announced straightforward shouting, alarm, surprise, excitement, amazement, disbelief, exasperation, or even just helpless flustering. In the eighteenth century, readers could expect melodrama: And those were some of her last words! O how my eyes overflow! Don’t wonder to see the paper so blotted! (Samuel Richardson, Pamela, 43) Exclamation points still serve in all those ways. But somewhere in the last century, the shouty little mark fell out of fashion in literary prose. Editors to ..read more
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Is the Subjunctive Mood Right for Fiction?
The Subversive Copy Editor Blog
by Carol Saller
2y ago
Although some believe that the subjunctive mood in English is dying, many of us use it all the time, whether we know it or not. And that means the subjunctive is right for fiction, even in the mouth of a character who wouldn’t know a subjunctive from a subplot. The Chicago Way CMOS 5.123 and 5.124 explain that the subjunctive mood “expresses an action or state as doubtful, imagined, desired, conditional, hypothetical, or otherwise contrary to fact.” It’s useful for stating wishes, conjectures, demands, and suggestions. This is in contrast to the indicative mood, which we u ..read more
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Is the Subjunctive Mood Right for Fiction?
The Subversive Copy Editor Blog
by Carol Saller
2y ago
Although some believe that the subjunctive mood in English is dying, many of us use it all the time, whether we know it or not. And that means the subjunctive is right for fiction, even in the mouth of a character who wouldn’t know a subjunctive from a subplot. The Chicago Way CMOS 5.123 and 5.124 explain that the subjunctive mood “expresses an action or state as doubtful, imagined, desired, conditional, hypothetical, or otherwise contrary to fact.” It’s useful for stating wishes, conjectures, demands, and suggestions. This is in contrast to the indicative mood, which we u ..read more
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