Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Checking In

It’s nice to be missed…even if only by ONE lousy blog reader who sent me a private email.

Anyway, a half-hour ago, I hit “SEND” to forward the product of another zillion hours of reading, revising, and editing Stealing Amy to my publisher.

Yep, like I’ve said folks. The work doesn’t stop once you sign the contract.

You’re probably thinking, hey−what about her editor? Well, I don’t have one assigned yet. And you know what? Turns out I’m glad. Because I realized something important: I’d been visualizing an editor as a safety net, y’know? Like whatever I missed, she’d catch. Then I started thinking, WAIT. What if she doesn’t? It’s still MY name on the book. It’s not like the old days when editors functioned as copyeditors and really DID fulfill the role of backup.

With that in mind, I looked at revising Stealing Amy in a whole new way−a way in which, I’m learning, I should have been been looking at it all along.

There’s no room for errors. There’s no excuse for sloppiness. Every detail is important.

(Ack. Me! Detailed-oriented. Uh-OH, huh?)

I wish I’d kept track of how many times I’ve gone through this manuscript (and I’m only referring to the times SINCE Triskelion accepted it for publication.) And I wish I knew I’d done it for the last time…but alas, but probably not.

Like I said, an editor hasn’t even seen it yet!

So, here’s what’s kept me from blogging much in the past couple of weeks: the major passes I remember (in random order):

1. Check formatting, including: appropriate spacing between periods and next sentence. Sounds odd, but it’s something you gotta do and, trust me, takes a lot of time and effort, not to mention undivided attention. Yes, you can arrange for your settings to tip you off, but they’re not fail safe. You really gotta focus.

2. Check all Spanish. Stealing Amy takes place in Mexico; hence, a lot of Spanish words. Guess what? I took French in school. This time, not something I could use a Microsoft Word tool for.

3. Do a search and replace with highlight on the word ‘heart.’ Found 87. Evaluate each one and change accordingly.

4. Check continuity. Yikes. These are things that give a writer nightmares, ‘cuz if you don’t find them, readers will. For instance, I discovered my hero, Nick, checks his watch a dozen times throughout the story. Little did I remember, way back when I started this opus, that he’d lost his watch in chapter one.

Or take another character, Jorge Santiago. In chapter seven he’s got a thick swatch of jet-black hair with twin shocks of gray at the temples. In chapter eighteen, he’s nearly bald. Oops.

Worse, I discovered a scene that’s suppose to bridge from another−except a CRITICAL piece of information disappeared in between them.

5. Good old-fashioned spell check. Ah, this one’s a killer. Wonderful as it is (and I thank Microsoft for including it) do you have any idea how long it takes to run a 375-page manuscript through it? Pure agony, I tell ya!

6. Finally, the dreaded passive sentence. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know enough to avoid “to be” verbs like the plague (this blog notwithstanding−whatever that means). But sometimes, when I’m on a roll, they just…er…seem to escape my nimble fingers. THIS particular pass through the manuscript took me DAYS.

Anyway, that’s just a sampling. I’m telling ya, folks. Don’t try this at home without strict supervision.


John said...

I hope I'm not that ONE (and only) lousy blog reader who missed you, but I can't remember e-mailing you.

I've made 40,000 passes through Runners, and it seems to be just about as bad as when I started.

However, don't overdue it and compromise your writing style. Maybe the watch thing needs fixing, but if you are heartful, be heartful. Better than being inconsistent in finding word replacements that sound like word replacements.

Carol B. said...

Did you know you can have Word check for the percentage of passive sentences in the whole manuscript by changing the settings in your spell checker?

In Word, click on Tools, Options, then choose the Spelling & Grammar tab. Check the box at the bottom beside "Show readability statistics", then click "okay" OR "recheck document", then "okay" if you already have your manuscript open.

More than likely, what you're talking about are instances where you need a more active verb rather than true passive voice.

Passive (Verb is passive when when its subject is acted upon.)
Ex: The bastard WAS KILLED by Joe.

Active (Verb is active when subject is the doeR of the act.)

Ex: Joe KILLED the bastard.

And you probably didn't need to know any of that, did you? LOL!

randy said...

No, John...LOL...you haven't lost your mind--it wasn't you who emailed me. I DO have other readers *g*

And, yes. You're so right to caution me about overdoing it on the edits. But I get lazy. I tend to use the same expressions and words over and over. Finding some new ways to say "her heart sank" was a GOOD thing.

randy said...

Carol, I knew I could do that with Word but I'd forgotten how! I figured, what the hell--might as well try to do it on my own. And yes, I know the difference when I SEE it, but (ack) passive vs. strong verbs are NOT my forte!