When you are proofing, eventually it reaches a point where you are fiddling with a sentence, a word, even a few letters. You are now zeroing in on minutiae. That is one of the toughest places to be in writing: you are essentially finished, but you keep finding “bits” that you tweak and alter.
Tweaking like that, though, sometimes reveals what you’ve missed, too. And among 100,000 words, you WILL miss things.
For instance, yesterday I found an egregious spelling mistake – that had been repeated half a dozen times throughout the text because I must’ve done it the once and “autocorrected” it again and again. (Ever feel like an idiot?) I also found somehow I’d gotten an entire paragraph into the wrong chapter – it must have been a cut and paste edit that somehow got dropped in again where it wasn’t meant to be at all. I could have bashed my head into the wall when I saw both of those beauts.
Also, as I re-read one chapter yesterday I came upon one scene I’ve never much liked. And if you don’t like it, why should anyone else? So I did a short revision, and I think it’s an improvement. I went for understatement, which is – for me, anyway – usually a far better approach.
Do you write “angry?” I try not to. However, I will admit there are times when I let loose.
I have all too often sat in front of my PC or Microsoft Surface, found myself feeling infuriated, and slammed keys and took it out on the pages. Briefly, I’d feel better, yes. But after I went back and reread my “tantrum,” I usually toned it down considerably.
For eventually I remember what I’ve also written about here recently. Be careful: your words are forever.
….and, from far away Newport, Rhode Island, U.S.A., messages from my uncle started appearing out of the blue yesterday afternoon. He does that. Unexpectedly, thoughts and advice disjointedly come flying my way.
I usually try to jump to and – if possible – answer him immediately. You may know he’s a HarperCollins published crime novelist. (His first book appeared in the early 1980s. And he, urr, also sorta resembles one of my characters.) We got involved in a back and forth about reading and my writing.
This starts the revealing bit: it opens with the end of my response to a reading suggestion he’d made:
Proofing Distances, I’ve also been referring at times naturally to the first two volumes: Passports and Frontiers. When you write a series, continuity issues become huge. After all, as an author you don’t want to make even one silly mistake.
Because, of all that you write, you KNOW someone will pick up on any error. ;-) By now, there are A LOT of characters – parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, college chums, girlfriends, boyfriends…. and they are all distinct people. And there are varied settings, happenings and other background that must not be “misremembered” either.
Amidst all of it, there are lighthearted moments. Life isn’t always “heavy.” I thought I’d pull some excerpts from Passports and Frontiers and (in no particular order) “rapid fire” share them here. Something a bit different. I hope you enjoy them!:
The U.S and Canada are said to be the only two major developed countries to grant automatic citizenship to the offspring of foreign nationals whose parents are in the countries without legal authorization. Regarding the U.S., Rasmussen polling noted on August 19:
Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters disagree with the current federal policy that says a child born to an illegal immigrant here is automatically a U.S. citizen….
It is not just “federal policy.” It is a right that stems from nearly 120 years of legal practice based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. That amendment was ratified in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865).
Donald Trump’s call for doing away with birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants has once again focused media attention on the idea and led some of his GOP rivals to signal openness to it….
The pressures of an ongoing, mass immigration, particularly from Mexico and Central America – and especially foreign nationals entering and staying without official permission and having U.S. citizen children – has become a contentious issue among many Americans. It is certainly driving this new debate on birthright citizenship.
Yesterday, I was on about the cover art. Of course, the tale between the covers is far more important. After all, you can change a cover even after publication, whereas the book itself is “forever.”
I’m still working through the final proofing of Distances. As I am, it’s not only about keeping an eye out for errors and typos; it’s also about its language – carefully reviewing the text in detail to try to make sure it conveys the story in the style I want. I suppose it’s not unlike an artist’s having a last look at the painting and applying the final brush strokes.
While writing the books, occasionally I run parts of the text through the Flesch-Kincaid readability check. That above is how chapters 125-133 in Distances “rate” overall in reading terms according to that test. Flesch-Kincaid has become so commonplace that it’s now even available in Microsoft Word when you do a combined spelling and grammar check.
That post I wrote yesterday about that cover of that, errr, “erotica” novella having created a logo dispute with the Chicago Teachers Union, encouraged me to take time afterward in the day to finish off the Distances cover “officially.”
We’ve all bought books. We know it’s usually the first “contact” we have with one. The cover can be the difference between attracting us to the book…. or not.
As a writer, you could be the next “big thing,” but if the cover’s lousy quite a few people who are put off by it will never learn that. When you indie publish, the decision falls to you. When I was considering what to do for a cover for Passports back in 2013, new to all this, I had searched through hordes of “stock photo” possibilities, including human models. Frankly, most of what I saw was dreadful stuff that made me groan.
That retired English literature professor’s disdain for “social media” embraced by “young people” led me to thinking. How much has changed in novel writing over the last few generations. One aspect of such change has zero to do with annoying kids insisting on using Twitter on holiday when, AS WE ALL KNOW, they should be sitting on Bournemouth Beach immersed in The Great Gatsby.
I don’t write my novels longhand. True, there is nothing new in someone doing that of course. We know typing has been around for over a century.
But a typewriter is just another form of physical writing. What’s changed in the last two generations is increasingly everything is on computers. And those computers are becoming ever more sophisticated.
As you may know, I’ve been proofing the Distances manuscript using a Word file emailed to my Kindle. (The last part of that sentence would’ve totally baffled F. Scott Fitzgerald.) I’m not inking out lines and words and scribbling in planned changes above them or in the margins and handing those changes to my devoted secretary…. who is invariably a lovely, ever-helpful woman who works for close to nothing because I can barely pay her, and she can type, because, being a man, as you know I’m a pathetic typist….