Gooder English

What are you writing? I can help you write “gooder English.” That’s the phrase I stole from the Spanish-American performer Charo for engineers who were writing user-hostile computer manuals. I’d just pat the guys on the knee and say, “I can help you make that make sense. Let’s go for gooder English.” The “gooder” makes my authors laugh.

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Why Writers Need Editors

In his comedy, The Clouds, Aristophanes sends a young Athenian man to school at the Thinkery, which is run by Socrates. I wouldn’t even begin to compare myself to Socrates, but I have a pretty good idea what it’s like to live in a Thinkery. I live a wonderful life working and playing with words. I’m blessed to have edited more than 300 books, which—counting the people who have come back to me with their second or third or fourth project—means I’ve helped maybe a couple hundred people make their dreams of holding in their own hands a published book they wrote come true.

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Write A Better Book

What I Can Do to Help You Write a Better Book?

Basically, here’s what you get when you hire me. You send me your book, either all at once or chapter by chapter, and I use MS Word’s Track Changes tool to make corrections in grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax, and English usage. And I write to you right on the page (not in those annoying comments balloons) and in boldface so you can easily see my comments and questions.

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What Can I Edit?

I’ve worked on both fiction and nonfiction.

I’ve edited more novels than I can remember—romance, action-adventure, science fiction, western, amateur detective/mystery, historical, speculative, horror, young adult…and novels I can only speculate that the author wrote for therapy or wish-fulfillment. (Nothing wrong with that!) I must confess that they’re not all good novels—in one horror novel, a man becomes an ingredient in a kitchen-sized kettle of soup—but I support every author’s right to write his or her book. My job is to help my novelists write the books they want to write.

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The Chicago Manual and The Elements of Style

My primary source for usage, formatting, and other editing issues is the Chicago Manual of Style. I also use William Strunk & E.B. White’s Elements of Style and recommend it to nearly everyone I work with. If you don’t have The Elements of Style, buy your copy now.

Why? Because so many people love participial phrases. But they write things like “Entering the room, the light followed her across the floor.” If you do this, I’ll write you a note: As written, the light entered the room.

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Some Straight Talk About Publishers

Now let me turn to an issue you may not get the straight facts about. I’m speaking from my own experience and from what many of my authors have told me.

The first thing you need to know is that what publishers care about is making money. Great literature is of no interest to them. It used to be, back in the olden days, but now that traditional publishers are mostly gigantic business conglomerates, they couldn’t care less about good writing.

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Authors Around The World

I’ve worked with authors all around the world. For some foreign authors, English is their second language. The first thing I do is ask who their target reader is. Is it the American reader? Do they want their book to be written in idiomatic American English or do they want to retain their foreign accent? If the setting is in the U.S., do they want it to be accurate? The author from Algeria who now lives in Los Angeles had the geography in his novel down pat, but two authors who set their books in New York City but had never been there, so I was able to help them when their geography got a bit skewed.

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Fun With Words

As I wrote all those term papers in college and graduate school, I made sure to insert at least one pun in every one of them. (A psychologist I’ve known for forty years attributes this punnishness to a busted synapse in my brain.) I titled one term paper, which compares the Oedipus plays of Sophocles and Hugo von Hofmannsthal,“Complex Oedipus.”

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Proofreading Is the Final Step of Editing

But proofreading is not part of my job. Sue Jorgenson ( and I have been friends for 20+ years, and she’s been proofreading the books I’ve edited for at least a decade. (She lives half an hour down the freeway from me.) She prints the manuscript I send her and reads it on paper.That means she sees things you and I both missed because we’re seeing what’s in our head on the computer screen. Then she brings me her marked-up copy, we have a nice visit, and I make her corrections (or nearly all of them).

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Goddess Meditations

Goddess Meditations by Barbara ArdingerGoddess Meditations was published in 1998 and taken out of print in 2002 because it wasn’t selling as well as Llewellyn’s “teen witch” books.  When I wrote Goddess Meditations, I was holding several intentions. First, I knew that no one had written a book composed solely and entirely of meditations to goddesses before. (There have been several since 1998.) As a spiritual feminist, I wanted to create such a book. Second, I had been leading guided meditations in rituals, small and large, private and public, for about a decade. People had liked them and kept urging me to write a book. And, third, I wanted to deal with a number of issues in my own life. So I wrote the book. And rewrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it. All that writing led me through my own issues and gave me some important healing.

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