Gettin’ Feedback 2

Everybody needs to spend time on the edit. Writers as diverse as JK Rowling and James Joyce have at some time or other commented on the special forces selection process otherwise known as editing. Joyce once came downstairs and declared with purpose and satisfaction that he’d finished. When quizzed if he meant the book, he replied: no the sentence. I know how he feels. Rowling mentioned in an interview that there were times when she hated Harry Potter although I won’t say I know how she feels in case my meaning is ambiguous.

We all need someone else to proof our work before sending it to CreateSpace. That’s a given. The more you rewrite, the harder you push the story and the characters, yet the more typos will creep in because of cutting, pasting and generally being out of touch with a scene that’s already been written. Sometimes you make a genuine mistakes. Sometimes you make genuine mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up; that’s why publishers have editors. As for working on different software or even different versions of MS Word, don’t even get me started.

During this edit it’s transpired that my own brain fart is hyphenation. It seems that I have no clue whatsoever whether a compound is two separate words, joined by a hyphen or have now become one. Fortunately nobody else seems to know either. Respected publications such as the BBC for BrE and The New York Times for AmE are not always consistent, and that’s being polite. To add to my confusion, The Oxford English Dictionary cut 16,000 hyphenated compounds back in 2008 and dictionary.com’s take on a word often conflicts with its general usage. Anyway, I’m probably just a cheapskate and should invest in the full dictionaries instead of relying on the free versions.

Rewriting can also lead to continuity, plot logic and motivation errors because removing a stick from the bottom affects the tower that’s perched above and even the foundations down below. So should you bother to rewrite? Hell yeah. You have to. Some believe in the twenty ideas rule — reject them all unless it’s at least the twentieth. I accept the idea in principle, but giving it a number I find dogmatic and fanatic. What if plot twist number 19 is a scorcher? Do I reject it and go with “and then she woke up and it was all a dream” because that was idea number 20? As I said, I accept the idea in principle solely because countering reader expectations is a big part of keeping them flipping pages. Countering them in character? Now that’s how we really earn our corn. If only we were getting paid.

Right, I’m off to brain fart a little more, and is that brain fart, brain-fart or brainfart because I’m damned if I know. Never mind, it’ll only take the next hour trying to find out. More on this anally retentive nonsense next time. The final part on editing next time I post.

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One Comment

  1. Andrew
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    Clever quip on ol’ HP!

    I’d add that in addition to the above, there’s the issue that for some reason when you’ve written and re-written something and have been staring at the screen for hours, you’re far more likely simply not even to notice your own mistakes. I have no idea why this is, but can say for certain that you’ve pointed things out to me that, once seen, are painfully obvious. Hindsight being 20/20 aside, these blackholes seem to affect all of us.

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