It’s hard to believe that Lock & Load is now a month behind us! Once again I was amazed at the energy, dedication, and fun-loving spirit of our players. While circumstances didn’t allow me to arrange one-on-one writing consultations this year, I did have the chance to talk with a lot of con attendees over the course of the event. Here’s a quick review of some of the questions that came up.
Q: I just scored WARMACHINE: Colossals, hot off the press. Did you really read this whole book?
A: Absolutely! In fact, I read several versions of some parts. With the fiction, this usually takes the shape of reviewing the work at various stages in order to give the author feedback. I don’t get to spend nearly as long with the text as I’d like, but we do try to ensure I see everything at least once.
The completists among you will appreciate that I also read all the support text, like assembly guides, packaging, press releases, league materials, and so on. No Quarter is an exception; though I pitch in here and there, our fearless Editor-in-Chief Aeryn Rudel handles the bulk of the magazine editing.
Q: Is there a simple way to tell if I’m using semicolons right?
A: Actually, yes. In order for a semicolon to do its job, it needs to be between two complete sentences. Think of it like the fulcrum of a scale: if one side has a sentence that’s complete and the other has just a phrase, the scale will be out of balance.
To tell if your sentence is complete, check for both a subject and a verb describing that subject’s action. For example, “Semicolons confuse me” is a complete sentence, with a subject (Semicolons) and a verb (confuse), but “As for semicolons” is just a phrase, since it doesn’t include a verb. Thus, you can use a semicolon in the sentence “Semicolons confuse me; I’m never sure I’m using them right,” but not in the sentence “As for semicolons; I’m never sure I’m using them right.”
Q: Um, why is there a squeaky rubber shark on the hobby table?
A: Where, I ask you, should the squeaky rubber shark be? If I had to venture a guess, I’d say perhaps the players of certain factions appreciate inspiration when assembling and painting their models. I’m not naming names, mind you. Just speculating.
Q: Do you have a favorite faction?
A: Several. Overall, I really love the Trollbloods. HORDES: Metamorphosis was my first book at Privateer Press, and while the main part I remember from editing the fiction is Doug Seacat gleefully popping over every time he heard me react in disgust to the increasingly gory descriptions of Thagrosh’s little change, I bonded with Mulg, Madrak, Grissel, and Calandra. On the table, I like to keep things simple and in your face, which The Butcher and Lola are all over. (This became even more fun for me after working with Doug on “Not Everyone Dies” for No Quarter #28.)
Q: I’ve always helped my friends with their writing, but I am starting/want to start editing “for real.” What do I need to know?
A: Talk about a loaded question! Most importantly, make sure you know your stuff. Do not rely only on what you remember from high school or college English classes for your decisions. No matter how good the teacher and the memory in question, bad information or reasoning is bound to sneak in, and rules do change over time. The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.), which is the style guide I use, has over 500 pages of guidance on grammar, usage, punctuation, spelling, and such—and that doesn’t even count the content that addresses technical areas, foreign languages, documentation, and so on. The other guide that’s a standard in the U.S., The Associated Press Stylebook, also has hundreds of pages of information, though it’s slanted more toward journalism. Professional editors, whether new to the work or industry veterans, understand that getting to know and using one or both of these style guides is key to improving at the craft.
There are plenty of “life lessons” every editor should remember as well: Be nice, not argumentative. Present your queries and comments clearly and concisely. There’s no such thing as perfection, but strive for it anyway. Don’t expect to fix everything in one pass; the human brain is wired to correct errors on input, and spotting problems can be a lot harder than you might expect. Learn from your mistakes and move on. Take care of your back. Keep reading for fun, even though it’s a lot harder once you’re breaking down text every day. And most of all, remember to breathe.