Zen and the Art of the Style Sheet

first pass

One of the all-time coolest parts of the editing process occurs after copy edits, when an author receives a little thing called a “Style Sheet.” In addition to outlining the basic grammatical rules and tenets of the manuscript (which is frankly less exciting to me than it probably should be), The Style Sheet itemizes and provides page numbers (!) for:

-Initials and abbrevs (like how I did that?)
-Slang and vernacular
-Foreign words/phrases
-Books, journals, TV shows, etc. 
-Song titles
-Trademarks (see below)

In case you’re not already riveted, let me explain why this is so cool.

I have almost no recollection of actually writing any of the terms I read in the style sheet. (I’m 2/2 with this—it also happened with THE LOVE WARS.) I do *usually* remember the character’s names—a sign of great mental sharpness, I know.

Part of this is because it’s usually been a few months since I was deep in the manuscript, but there’s also something else at work. It’s evidence of one of the best parts of writing—the state of trance.

Drafting can be, for me, very uncomfortable: I stare at the screen. I type  pages and pages of sentences that will eventually get axed. More than once, I’ve been frustrated enough to literally fill a page with repeating “AHHHHHHHHHH”s in a written scream. It’s strangely satisfying. (Google searching for “AHHHHHHHHHHH” is less so. At least for me. But I’ve tried that too.)

There are times, though, usually after a fair amount of background work and written screaming, that the words start to pour. I’m truly not so aware of the details of what I’m writing, just that I am and that it’s in service to the story I’ve been trying to tell.

I’ve been referring this to as a state of trance, but it’s probably not specific to writing. It’s zen or flow or being in the moment, i.e., when there’s no separation between you and the task that engages.

For your amusement, I’ve included the Trademarks list from THE NEVER NEVER SISTERS below. I noted with surprise the many junk food references. I wondered at what point I’d conjured a Toyota (Camry), so I went to page 199 and saw that a pivotal family memory occurs in the car. Plexiglass, Scrabble and SPAM? Isolated, they’re meaningless, but when I looked up how they fit into the story, it was like seeing long lost friends.

What gets you in the zen/flow/moment?

(And, as promised, a glimpse at the trademarks in all their random glory:)

  • Advil, 42
  • Bananagrams (game with letter tiles), 183
  • Bankers Box (per previous style sheet), 95
  • Band-Aid, 71
  • Barcalounger, 109
  • Calvin Klein, 211
  • Coke, 46
  • Disney, 203
  • Friendly’s (restaurant name), 258
  • Fritos, 181
  • Hershey’s (Hershey’s Kisses), 1
  • History Channel, 180
  • Keds, 200
  • McDonald’s, 201
  • Party City (store name), 234
  • Pictionary (game), 236
  • Plexiglas, 266
  • Pop-Tarts, 99
  • Redweld (brand name of file folders), 153
  • Scotch (tape), 8
  • Scrabble (game), 235
  • Spam (canned luncheon meat), 38
  • Toyota (Camry), 199
  • Trivial Pursuit (game), 236
  • Walmart, 21
  • Werther’s (candy), 2
  • Ziploc, 253



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