The schedule of events for the 32nd annual Key West Literary Seminar is now available. Millionth Monkey is a sponsor/advertiser of this year’s Key West Literary Seminar.
The Millionth Monkey professional editing service has selected about 75 books on writing that it recommends to writers — regardless of their level of experience. We have read each of these books at least once, and in some cases several times. The list includes books on (1) the nuts and bolts of writing, (2) literary theory, (3) reflections of accomplished authors, and (4) some right-brain stuff. The list is on our Writing Tips page at http://www.millionthmonkey.net/writing-tips.html. (It’s near the bottom of the page, so keep scrolling.) Millionth Monkey (http://www.millionthmonkey.net) provides editing services for authors (fiction and nonfiction), publishers, scholars, web developers, self-publishers, and law firms.
The proprietor of the Millionth Monkey editing service is a licensed attorney. (He’s also a former partner at a Miami law firm and former editor-in-chief of the top law review at his law school, from which he graduated magna cum laude.) Millionth Monkey has edited, rewritten, and proofread websites for scores of law firms throughout the United States. Millionth Monkey offers the following services for law firms and attorneys:
- Firm website (and audit it for compliance with Bar rules)
- Appellate brief (including Blue Booking)
- Dispositive motion (including Blue Booking)
- Discovery motion (including Blue Booking)
- Pleading (including Blue Booking)
To learn more about what Millionth Monkey can do for you, visit http://www.millionthmonkey.net or email us at email@example.com.
Michael Huber of the Millionth Monkey editing service wrote the following column for Red Room, the website of novelist Sherry Parnell.
Everyone Needs an Editor
By Michael Huber
I have written thousands of articles for publication, and I have edited tens of thousands. Yet, before I subjected you to this short piece, I asked another experienced editor to review it — twice. Why? Because, as author and journalist Timothy Foote once said, Everyone needs an editor.
You can offer an agent or publisher a manuscript that is a masterwork in terms of characterization, plot, structure, setting, point of view, and theme. But if it is marred by errors in grammar, usage, punctuation, spelling, diction, and syntax, it is headed straight for the slush pile at best. The “mechanical” errors send a clear message to the agent or publisher: This is an amateur.
“Mechanical” problems cost you credibility before agents and publishers even look at the heart and soul of your work. And they’re not going to make the effort once they encounter a raft of grammar, punctuation, and spelling problems. “This thing’s a mess,” they will say as they cast your manuscript aside and turn to the next one in the towering stack.
Labeling concerns such as grammar and punctuation “mechanical” is, in fact, misleading (and generally an exercise in rationalization). These are the tools of the writer’s trade. For a writer to say, “I’m a good writer; I just don’t know all that grammar stuff” is as absurd as a carpenter proclaiming, “I’m a good carpenter; I just don’t know all that hammering and sawing stuff.” Writers put together words and groups of words. That’s what we do. If we don’t know how to put words together correctly, can we really call ourselves writers?
But here’s the rub. Even if you are a grammarmeister, you won’t see your own errors. You can read your piece a thousand times, and if “harrass” looked OK to you on the first pass, it’s still going to look OK on the thousandth pass. If you believed the semicolon should go inside the quotation mark this morning, you’re not going have a semicolon epiphany this afternoon.
You can’t depend on SpellCheck. (It’s true. Its true. So there. So they’re. So their.) And you can’t depend on a friend, relative, or significant other to tell you the brutal truth. (“Oh, my, Son, that’s quite an ugly baby you’ve got there!”)
A good editor, of course, does much more than just correct your grammar, usage, punctuation, spelling, diction, and syntax. A good editor has a good ear, and will improve the flow and organization of your piece. A good editor will work on your word choice — homing (not honing, though he or she does that too) in on the word that is not merely right but is just right. A good editor will spot inconsistencies in tense, point of view, and voice. And, perhaps most important, a good editor is not wedded to that sentence that you worked so long and hard on; the editor will cut what needs to be cut.
On that note, let me leave you with a quotation from the educator Jim Collins: “A great piece of art is composed not just of what is in the final piece, but equally important, what is not. It is the discipline to discard what does not fit — to cut out what might have already cost days or even years of effort — that distinguishes the truly exceptional artist and marks the ideal piece of work, be it a symphony, a novel, a painting, a company or, most important of all, a life.”
Michael Huber began his career as a writer and editor in 1977. He is the founder and proprietor of the Millionth Monkey editing service (www.millionthmonkey.net). Millionth Monkey provides professional editing services for authors (fiction and nonfiction), scholars, publishers, students, ESL writers, businesses, web developers, self-publishers, nonprofits, attorneys, and anyone else who appreciates that when the stakes are high, the prose must be clear, clean, and crisp. Michael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m often asked about the origin and significance of the phrase “millionth monkey.” On my website, I reproduce the following three quotations in an attempt to (somewhat cryptically) explain my company’s name.
From Émile Borel, “Mécanique Statistique et Irréversibilité,” J. Phys. 5e série, vol. 3, 1913 (excerpt trans. by M. Huber):
“Imagine a million monkeys randomly hitting typewriter keys and that, under the supervision of illiterate foremen, these monkey typists work hard ten hours a day with a million typewriters. The illiterate foremen gather the pages and bind them. And after a year, they would find that these volumes contain exact copies of books of all kinds and of all languages stored in the richest libraries in the world.”
From Douglas Adams. The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, London: Pan, 1979:
“Ford!” he said, “there’s an infinite number of monkeys outside who want to talk to us about this script for Hamlet they’ve worked out.”
From “Monkeys Don’t Write Shakespeare,” Associated Press, May 9, 2003:
Give an infinite number of monkeys an infinite number of typewriters, the theory goes, and they will eventually produce prose the likes of Shakespeare. Give six monkeys one computer for a month, and they will make a mess.
Researchers at Plymouth University in England reported this week that primates left alone with a computer attacked the machine and failed to produce a single word. “They pressed a lot of S’s,” researcher Mike Phillips said Friday. “Obviously, English isn’t their first language.”
A group of faculty and students in the university’s media program left a computer in the monkey enclosure at Paignton Zoo in southwest England, home to six Sulawesi crested macaques. Then, they waited.
At first, said Phillips, “the lead male got a stone and started bashing the hell out of it.” “Another thing they were interested in was in defecating and urinating all over the keyboard,” added Phillips.