Start the Presses! (DOG EAR)

Start the Presses! (DOG EAR)

t was the weekend of my quarterly chore, putting together the fall issue of the Journal Box, a newsletter I do for our National Model Railroad Association region. This is just an example of what happens when you are a known writer – everyone has resumes, cover letters, and assembly-and-print nightmares for you to do. Because, you know, you write and all.

But seriously, if I’d been there and they’d asked someone else, I’d have been writing a “why didn’t they pick me?” blog. So, yes, better to complain from the battlements than from the base of the wall, I suppose.

Anyway, I’ve finally included this great picture of what editors and proof writers do.

Usually I start the weekend of editing fun by getting the old edition (in Microsoft Publisher) moved to the new issue folder. There, I clean all the old stuff out, stripping it down to the woodwork.

Next, I review my articles –  since everything is emailed, I’ve dumped the submissions into a folder for this edition. I look at what I’ve got and jot down the order of the pieces I’m going to use, usually in the order of division reports, then other statements (treasurer, editor and other’s report). Then I fill out the edition with how-to’s, working from the front back. Generally I leave the piece with the most pictures as the final article, since I can use these pictures to absorb all that leftover white space. Pictures are great for that. You know how they are worth a thousand words? It really applies here.

The real efforts are the submissions themselves. Sometimes they are typed straight into the body of the email itself. Or maybe a Word attachment. Or sometimes (and, God, I hate this) a PDF (which is a trouble to strip out the text and put it into a format that isn’t, literally, set in stone). And there is always one guy who is all caps – I have to always remind myself how to set to proper casing and then make a sweep to check for missed caps (names and places, generally). Remember the picture above with the guys sloshing the brown stuff in. Yes.

Even if it’s in Word (which I like) there is occasionally wacky formatting that gets sucked up with the cut and paste. This is always a problem to turn off (since I’m not sure how it was turned on). Worst case, I dump it into a blank “plain text” file and save it off – that will remove all the formatting. Then, I cut and paste it back, letting my Publisher version “seize the wheelhouse” and format correctly. It all takes time.

It’s amazing that these older guys, people who have retired from careers in banks, business and engineering, write so badly. Fragment sentences. Run-ons. No commas or too many. Numbers where they need to spell it out. Monkey with a type writer stuff. I limit myself to not rewriting copy – I can’t go that drastic and there are feelings and emotions in these submissions. But I do my best.

The final amazing thing is when I take my “clean” copy and print it off for my wife to red-pen. Two-three hours later, I’ll get back pages saturated with red ink, circled words, wrong words, formatting inconsistencies. I’ve never been that good of a proof-reader and always gave my final copies to my wife to go over. If you have anyone like that, chain them to their desks – they are invaluable for not letting you look stupid to someone who edits better than you.

So, anyway, final copy is out (as of noon, Monday, after a pair of long weekend days at the desk). Let’s hope the readers don’t wrap their fish it my newsletter.