Many of my college friends are in Chicago this week for a wedding, which makes me a little sad that I don't live there. I have been thinking about living in Chicago for the last few days, since I stumbled across the pictures for HGTV's upcoming giveaway.

I won't win this one either, but I am trying really hard to figure out if there's a way to affordably DIY the Frank Lloyd Wright Tree of Life lightboxes from the living area. Looking at the photos of the view out the apartment's window has brought a flood of memories (though some of the memories, I realize, are actually scenes from Divergent playing in my head, others are real).

Some of my most vivid memories of Chicago:

When we accidentally gave a drug dealer a ride home from the Jazz Festival.

When I got suckered into giving a guy $20 to help me walk my luggage to Ogilvie (a cab ride would have cost less than half as much).

When I changed for the opera in a McDonald's bathroom, leaving Jenny to carry my snow boots around the city.

When my sister Amanda visited and we wandered farther north in the city than I'd ever been before on foot with her friend Reed and we stopped to eat in a random little restaurant and I tried pumpkin ravioli for the first time and it was underwhelming.

oh, the days of black sweaters and red lipstick

My first trip into the city, with Jenny and Micah and Chaeli, to the Art Institute, where I had my first conversation with the latter and she asked each of us in an intent and deeply interested way, "What are your passions?"

The midnight study run to the 24 hour Starbucks where, during my reading for Art & Theology, I stumbled across a picture of Constantine and realized that my friend Brendon looked exactly like him. (The next day I approached Brendon and said "Guess who you look like?!" thinking how glad he would be to look like Constantine. He gave an epic scowl and said, "I know." Three minutes later, I realized he thought I was going to be the hundredth person to point out his resemblance to Conan O'Brien, which was also uncanny. I tried to apologize, but we haven't really spoken since...).

The first time I saw the water along the lake shore turn to ice from the parking lot of La Rabida Children's Hospital.

Photo from Steven S. Gearhart. More through the link.
The view of the city coming in on the Metra, an indelible sight. If any part of Chicago makes it into a novel of mine someday in the future, it will be that train ride.



I have been editing a lot lately. I have read and reread at least 23 manuscripts since the beginning of the year. Let me type that out for emphasis: twenty-three! And there are about four more left for the month of August, so I'm not slowing down any time soon (except to blog a bit, I guess).

I am learning a few things about editing as I go, the most important being that it is never a waste of time to read something again. There's a reason publishers object to digital books being priced lower than print books. They both cost exactly the same amount to make in terms of time and expertise - and since digital books have to be formatted in a number of different ways for various platforms, they arguable cost even more.

I am finding the ideal number of read-throughs for a manuscript, after all content is ironed out and sentences are looking more or less as they ought, is three. This is why there are copyeditors, line editors, and proofreaders, and why each of them have a slightly different function. Each reading is a different exercise, using a different muscle of the brain. Each reading strips a new layer of errors away from the text, until it's (hopefully) perfect.

This is also why conscientious readers have a difficult time with self-published material. It is so often lacking one - or all - of the aforementioned editorial layers. And quite honestly, a good book deserves nothing less than a thorough scrub before publication. Good readers deserve it, too. As do good writers. In short, it's good for everyone and everything.

If I'm honest, though I'm quite particular about things, these editing layers are not my strong suit. I am better with content, as most people who have undergone extensive creative writing seminars and workshops are. But the wonderful thing about these types of editing is that you can learn them. You can learn to identify a run-on sentence, especially one that seriously disturbs the language of a paragraph. You can learn to notice when quotation marks are missing, or facing the wrong direction, or not remotely necessary. These are technical things, of which some creativity but not much is required to master.

One of the most significant pieces of advice I would give an aspiring writer would be to learn these things for themselves. Because a publisher will do them for you (or should), but an acquisitions editor should not be turned off by the lack of them at that first step in the game.

More importantly, though, knowing the rules of grammar, punctuation, and even formatting - all those technical things - will really help your writing to begin with. It's rather like knowing the rules of etiquette. When you first learn them, they might feel unnatural and hindering. But as you grow familiar with them, you learn that they are tools by which human interaction, conversation, daily life, is made more simple. They become the frame for other things.

And any artist will tell you that the frame of a piece is (almost) as important as the piece itself.
There was an error in this gadget