Ramona Richards

Ramona Richards started making stuff up at three, writing it down at seven, and selling it at eighteen. She’s been annoying editors ever since, which is probably why she became one. Twenty-five years later, she’s edited more than 350 publications, including novels, CD-ROMs, magazines, non-fiction, children’s books, Bibles, and study guides. Ramona has worked with such publishers as Thomas Nelson, Barbour, Howard, Harlequin, Ideals, and many others. The author of eight books, she’s now the fiction editor for Abingdon Press. An avid live music fan, Ramona loves living in the ongoing street party that is Nashville.

Comments, Insertions, and Deletions

There’s a great power in words, if you don’t hitch too many of them together.
                                                                                                    ~Josh Billings

Writing is a lonely art . . . that is until editors show up. They’ll make revisions by adding to your carefully written work, moving stuff around, and deleting text (ouch!). There’s no way to identify your original text from the modified text—unless you use Word’s Track Changes tool.
                                                                                                    ~Dan Gookin*

“You want me to use what? But I don’t know how to do that! Seriously?”

[INSERT: shot of humble acquisition editor wincing and biting tongue.]

Okay, you can stop reading now if you are a whiz at Word’s lovely Track Changes feature.

If you’re not . . . well . . . why not? Why are you ignoring the one tool that most publishers use in their initial edit of a manuscript, the one thing you can say yes! to that will make you every editor’s friend?

In other words, why are you shooting your career in the foot?

Being unfamiliar with Track Changes won’t stop you from advancing in your writing career. You can still get published. But you’ll limp through the editorial process with any company that depends on this tool, slowing down the process and annoying people who have to pamper you just because you’ve not bothered to learn an essential tool of your trade.

Your JOB.

If you have a day job of any profession, imagine what would happen if you said to your boss, “I don’t want to do that because I don’t know how. It’s too hard to learn.”

If this is a regular job, we all know what happens next. But let’s pretend it’s a contract job. Paperwork has been signed, money paid. The boss is now stuck with you for six months, but he still needs to get the job done. So he either does it himself (my time and scheduling) or hires someone else to do it (my budget).

Imagine now how this boss is going to feel about you.

Before you protest that writing isn’t your job (I know that it may not be your “day job,” the one that keeps the bank and grocery store happy), understand that if you don’t approach it with the same intensity that you do a “regular” job, with the same care about craft and tools, then publishing for you will be a fluke. A short-lived fluke.

Even hobbyists like radio airplane builders or cross-stitchers care that they’re doing as much as they can to be the best they can.

Yes, a few publishers don’t yet use Track Changes, but eventually even they will move to an electronic model. Contracts and proofs will come via pdfs, and manuscripts will be edited on the computer and sent back and forth via e-mail. It’s fast, easy, and—believe it or not—material is less likely to be lost.

Don’t laugh. Material lost online can be recreated. Material lost by the USPS is usually gone forever.

Learning to use Track Changes is incredibly simple. Just pick a document, save a copy, go to the Tools drop-down menu and turn on Track Changes (in Word 2007 and 2010, go to the Review tab and click on Track Changes). Then play around with it for ten or fifteen minutes. Insert, add comments, delete. Get familiar with the way an edited manuscript looks.

You can use tutorials online, like the one in the link below.

There is an old actor’s adage that says, If a director asks you if you can ride a horse, say, “Yes! Of course!” Then go learn to ride a horse.

So if an editor asks, “Are you comfortable with Track Changes?” . . .

And don’t think you can be sneaky by accepting the changes your editor sends and returning a clean copy. “Ha!” you think. “Now they won’t know what I added.”

Oh, yes, we will. That’s what the Compare-and-Merge command is for . . . not that you’d want to learn that or anything. . .

When in doubt, delete it.
Philip Cosby

*Learn Track Changes: http://bit.ly/luPSXn.


Track Changes