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Editing, Featured, Proofreading, Writing, Writing Style

Close-Ups

March 27, 2017

Have you noticed how cat selfies are taking over social media? Most bloggers know that if we want more people reading our blogs, we throw in cat photos or videos. So, in a blatant attempt to engage a host of readers in this blog post, I’m leading off with a close-up of my kitty, Smokin’ Mocha Java. Gotta admit, I’m prejudiced, but then again, I’m her human.

Mocha is here for a reason. It’s to introduce a mundane, nerdy post about one of the things writers HATE to do. It might be the most hated task in writing and producing a book. That final read-through, when you’re as sick of the manuscript as you can be, when you couldn’t see a grammo or typo if it scratched you on the hand, when you know that every word is perfect–until you get the galleys back from the publisher. Every error screams, “What were you thinking? Are you nuts? You think this is ready for the public? Sheesh!”

That’s right, final edits and proofreading are the bugaboos of most writers, me included. I call this “close-up reading.” Let me share my routine, if you will. If you are bored, I’m down with that. Thanks for stopping by. Catch you later.

What, you’re still here? You want to share my pain? Terrific. Here’s what I do for the last polishing of the manuscript before it goes to print.

  • I read the manuscript through from beginning to end with no pen in hand. This let’s me escape into the story and characters. It also allows me to ignore said typos and grammos.
  • Next, I read every word, every sentence, to see if it belongs, to see if it advances the plot, to see if it develops the character. I look for words I overuse, like like, just, very, anything ending with ly. All get the knife.
  • I listen to the dreadful computer voice read the book to me. Windows Narrator lets you choose a lot of options, but it still. sounds. like. a. robot. Mr. Robot also points all missing your brain know are there. Oh, wait, that should read “all missing words your brain knows are there.”
  • I read from the last page to the first, from the last sentence on the bottom of the page to the top of the page, and right to left. Are you still with me? I cut a mask that exposes a single line of text, which forces me to look at every word OUT OF CONTEXT. By looking at each word in its own right, I produce the best copy I can.

Even with all this, typos slip in. I think they sneak into the manuscript between sending it to my publisher and my publisher sending it to the printer. No amount of pest control strips or sprays prevents at least on typo from living through to the printed page. No matter how closely writers edit, there’s always something that gets through the close-up review. It’s so mortifying.

Mocha wants the last word: “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.”

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 Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max Unintended Consequences and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery. She has a new short story, “Midnight in the Church of the Holy Grape,” in 50 Shades of Cabernet. Her works have appeared in several anthologies and on NPR.
Editing, Featured, Writing, Writing Challenge, Writing Style

Entering the Death Throes of Editing

February 27, 2017

For the next month I will be heads down editing a manuscript to send to my publisher. If you’ve never been in my shoes, er, chair, er, sitting on my ball at my desk, you might not know what death throes of editing  means.

It starts with a complete read of the manuscript. I print it out first and read it from start to finish. Somewhere along the way, I pick up a red pen and begin marking sections that need work. Or words that need changing. Or chapters that were once brilliant and now have no home in the book. This is what I think of as the first rough cut, the first time I start at page one and read straight through to “the end.” This read can lead to a flip flop from despair to elation. “It’s junk.” “It’s great.” Usually, it’s somewhere in between.

I find places where I need to fix the story line. I may have glitches in hair color, time line, characters’ names. Yes, I have goofed on characters’ names, going from Eric to Alec, from Beth to Annie. No matter how many tables I have of the characters’ names and what they look like, overeager writing can create chaos. This continuity fix takes time, but it’s the most fun, because it’s where I finally polish the story line.

Okay, now that I’ve fixed the continuity problems, I need to read for word choice.  That is the tedious read. Does every sentence fit? Is every word the right one to convey the sense I want conveyed? What do I need to change to maintain the voice of the narrator? Every word has to be as perfect as I can make it. This is the director’s cut, where everything I think should be in the book will survive.

Finally, I pull out the Chicago Manual of Style and make sure that my grammar conforms to the norm. I read for missing words. I read for missing, or, too, many, commas. I look at punctuation! because? hey…We all #need; punctuation.

When that is done, I read from the last page to the first, right to left, bottom of the page to the top. Line by line, word by word, gray hair by gray hair I work through the manuscript. And lastly, I use Microsoft Narrator and listen to the book. This is the final cut, the best I can do.

AND STILL I MAKE MISTAKES. STILL I MISS TYPOS. STILL I DON’T KNOW THAT THE U.S. HAVE NEVER USED CORDITE IN GUNPOWDER.

Sigh.

 

Blue Ridge Literary Agency, Dawn Dowdle, Editing, Rewriting

Writing and Editing

December 2, 2010

The old maxim is true: you never begin writing until you begin rewriting and editing. In my case, I received edits and suggestions back from my agent, Dawn Dowdle. I worked through them and sent them over for her second review after Thanksgiving.

There truly is nothing like having an agent review every page, every comma (many misplaced) and every line of your book. I’m lucky, because not all agents put in the amount of effort to make a manuscript squeaky-clean. (And from many of the books I’ve read lately, the fine art of copy editing is dying.)

So, when I finished reviewing every change, answering every comment, adding a few comments of my own, I realized my manuscript is in much better shape than it was.

My eternal gratitude for Dawn’s close review. After three critique groups had a go at the work, and two professional editors had their say…

And now we will see what additional changes Dawn suggests to make the manuscript marketable.

Editing, Proofreading, Writing

Proofreading

April 5, 2010

Have I mentioned before how much I despise proofreading? It’s that necessary evil, the last step before I think “I’d done.” I can only proof for about an hour at a time, so I have to break up a manuscript into easier-to-swallow bites. (Or should it be easier-to-proof pages??)

Still, it has to be done, so I pulled out my red pens and my reading mask. No, not one that goes over my eyes (although . . .) but one that only exposes a single line of text. I read from bottom to top, right to left, word by word. It’s tedious but any wrong word, any grammo, any typo pop out.

At any rate, this weekend was warm and sunny, so proofing on the deck with water lapping on the dock was relaxing. Too relaxing, because I kept dozing off. Maybe it was the sun on my face. Maybe it was the droning of the carpenter bees looking for a spot to drill. Maybe it was the pfssst from the wasp spray on any bee with the audacity to land on our log home. Maybe it was the incredibly dull writing style. Whatever.

I can never tell my friend that her work put me to sleep. I think I go back and finish proofing my manuscript. I don’t fall asleep in it.

Would that the last two best sellers I read had editors who took the time to read thoroughly and make all the necessary changes. Sigh.

Editing, Music Inspiration

Archaeological Dig

October 7, 2009

When I write a first draft, I keep a list of CDs I listen to, often by chapter. As the mood of a chapter changes, so does the CD in the player. Sometimes all I listen to is a single song over and over, until the chapter is complete. Other times, I put on a CD and let it play.

I like to edit and revise to the same music to see if it still sets the right tone. But when I reopened Shades of Pale, the second Mad Max manuscript, I couldn’t find the play list. I dug through my various thumb drives, backed up CDs, my external hard drive and my three laptops to find it. I still couldn’t find the play list. I dragged out shovels and dental picks, brooms and tiny brushes just like I did on a dig one summer back in college. And I nearly panicked. Eventually, I found a rather tattered CD tucked into the wrong physical file folder. Voila! The play list.

I have now added the songs and CDs under the title of each chapter so that I don’t lose it again.

It will be interesting to see if the songs still inspire, or if they have lost their allure in the past few months since the manuscript rested in repose on a shelf. More on that as I get deeper into the editing.

Editing, Rewriting

Second Mad Max Draft

September 29, 2009

I’ve polished my first Mad Max manuscript until it is as squeaky clean as I can make it. So, I’ve put the Fantastic, Scrubbing Bubbles, Mr. Clean and Swifter dusters back on the shelf.

And now it’s on to editing the second Mad Max, Shades of Pale. I finished the draft a few months ago and put it on the shelf. I had to get away from it so that I could approach it with clearer eyes. I’ve done a two-day read-through and see where I need to add the back story, flesh out characters, solidify the storyline and look at every sentence, every word to be certain that each is needed and drives the story forward. In other words, time for a detailed revision.

As you can see, I’m not the only one rethinking or re-visioning a work. My friend Becky Mushko posted this entry on Monday. Great minds think alike??? Or maybe we are just at the same point in our respective drafts.

I shared a chapter or two with my two critique groups and will share more in the upcoming weeks.

I can’t wait to get started!!

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