Tag Archives: writing

Proofreading Hell

I know. I was MIA there for a while. It’s because I was in proofreading hell.

 

Proofreading your own work is like being a doctor operating on yourself. It’s a bad idea. Still, if you were a doctor stuck on a desert island and a shark attacked you, and you had to operate on yourself, you would. Hell, you would probably operate even if you weren’t a doctor. Just like if you were a writer, stuck on a desert island with your manuscript and a limited budget, you’d get out your scalpel and start cutting.

 

That was my situation. Sure, I paid for my book to be edited. Once. And proofread. Once. But that’s like only having money for half a facelift. Or one boob enlarged. It’s really only part of the process. And if you can’t pay for the rest of it to be done, you might as well do it yourself. (Which is why I have yet to have any plastic surgery.)

 

When you edit your own work, you run several risks. One is simply not seeing your work objectively. Not being able to make necessary changes because you are too in love with a particular character or plot line or piece of dialogue that doesn’t serve the broader picture. In my own opinion, I think I was a pretty brutal editor of my own work—refining and tweaking and cutting, in addition to what my professional editor did, to get the story as tight as possible.

 

However, as far as proofreading goes, that’s a different ballgame. I’m the first one to admit, I’m a terrible proofreader, especially of my own work. I’m pretty certain that if you go back and look at any blog I’ve ever written, you will find at least one typo in each. At least. Which is why I had my manuscript professionally proofread. But, here’s the deal: once is not enough. It’s just not. When one person reads through over three hundred pages they will catch mistakes. If she is a professional she will catch many mistakes. But very few people will catch ALL the mistakes on just one go round. Which is where my descent into hell comes in.

 

Let me start off by saying, I was not an English major. And while I’ve always been pretty good at figuring out where to stick a comma or when to use I versus me, grammar and punctuation have never been such a focus that I could tell you about dangling participles or predicate nominatives. As a result, well, let’s just say the process became very labor intensive.

 

For example, did you know that you’re supposed to use “curly” quotation marks and not “straight” quotation marks in a manuscript? Probably not because I’m guessing most of you never needed to notice the difference between the two. Or the difference between an em dash—and an en dash–. Subtle, right? But technically, they are not interchangeable and you need to know when to use one versus the other. What about ellipses… or is it … or is it . . . ? Depends on what reference manual you use. How about writing numbers? I know, you think that one is easy, right? Everything up until ten is written out and everything after that is spelled. Wrong. Again, depends on your style manual. How about when to use I was versus I were? Oh, yeah, that one depends on “the mood” of the verb. Seriously. And so now you know why I’ve been MIA all this time. And why the next photo I post will have a whole lot more gray hair showing.

 

Along the way, besides figuring out all of these stylistic consistencies and finding the errant word missing or slight misspelling, I noticed something else. It’s just, I noticed that I just used the word just, just too much. To the point where I started to think that maybe I should leave the word in there and suggest people make a drinking game out of it. (Hey, college students of legal drinking age, every time you read the word “just” in “Divine Bloodlines,” just take a drink!)

 

And so I read it and read it again and again, combing through each page, each phrase, each word, to try to find all the errors. The sad part is, I probably will still have a few things in there. Hopefully, they will be the subjective things, like, where to use or not use a comma. But, there might still be one or two others. In which case, my new plan is to tell everyone that I purposely put those typos there! Sort of like the Easter Eggs in those superhero movies that only the most attentive watchers will find. So, yes, go ahead and look for my typos, because I meant for them to be there. I, just, like, really did.

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What Writing Looks Like

My husband and I have a running joke that I don’t listen to anything he says. To some extent, it’s true. But it’s not because I don’t listen. At least, not on purpose. I don’t blatantly ignore him in favor of watching television or some other guilty pleasure. The problem is, I’m working. However, it’s very hard for him to tell when I’m working because it doesn’t necessarily look like work.

Since I’ve started writing, I’ve felt that the gig is a lot like motherhood. Great work, but very hard to get paid for. Plus, your physical actions don’t necessarily translate into other people’s vision of what work should look like. For example, if a mom takes her kid to the park, it’s viewed as one of the perks of motherhood. Yeah! You get to be outside on a beautiful day. What no one is watching is how fast that mother has to be to follow her kid around the park to keep him from falling off the slide, or putting wood chips in his mouth, or stealing another kid’s toy. It’s just another day at the office for mom.

Writing is similar for me. However, the work aspect is even more invisible to the people around me, because a lot of it goes on in my head. I’ve usually written at least part of whatever I’m going to put on paper in my head before I even sit down to the computer. That’s why when my husband comes in to talk to me while I’m folding laundry or doing the dishes, it’s not that I’m not listening. It’s just that I’m busy working. Outlining stories, or revising dialogue, or writing complete blogs. While I’m standing there folding his underwear.

Don’t get the wrong idea. My husband is and has been incredibly supportive of my desire to start writing. But, it’s been an adjustment for him. He’s had the good fortune of working from a home office much of the time for the past few years. Early on, when we realized this was going to be the pattern, we set some ground rules. Or, really one rule: that I leave him alone. Which, I totally respect because he is working. When the kids were little, and my husband wanted to take a break, he’d come out of his office to say hello, stretch his legs…the usual water cooler stuff. He was used to having them, and me, basically at his disposal. Then I started writing.

Now when he comes upstairs to shoot the breeze during those water cooler moments, and he finds me making the bed or cleaning up after the kids, what he can’t see is that I’m doing the internal work of a writer. Thinking. It’s not that I’m not listening, it’s just that I just have trouble hearing him with the very loud voice that is talking over him in my head, trying not to forget the new idea I just got or the first few lines of the blog I wanted to write.

The same often happens when he sees me at the computer.

Him: “Hey, what’s up?”

Me: (Largely ignoring him while I type.) “Nothing.”

Him: (I don’t know what he’s saying, but it sounds a lot like the grown ups in a Charlie Brown animated special.)

I used to let the exchange going on for a while, hoping he’d get the hint by my irritated glances, impatient sighs and basic refusal to make eye contact. But, he’s nothing if not persistent. (It’s how we ended up married.) So I’ve finally had to simply tell him, “Can you leave me alone? I’m working.”

The first time I said it, I think he was kind of surprised at the role reversal taking place, but since then, he’s gotten used to walking in on me staring off into space or clacking away on the keyboard, and while he doesn’t always remember to leave me alone, he’s now less surprised by my blatant rudeness.

One time, we were driving in the car, and I was silent, but gesturing with my hand.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“Yeah, why?”

“You were moving your hand. You looked like you were going to say something.”

“Oh, that! No, I was just thinking about cover art for the book. I’m thinking about using an image of a hand and I was moving my hand around to see what position would work best.”

My husband gets a kick out of telling people that story because “you know you’re married to an Italian woman when she uses her hand to talk even when she’s not talking out loud.”

True, I wasn’t talking. And I probably wasn’t listening. But I was working.

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