Before I start, have some music to listen to this Sunday morning! (Or whenever you happen to be joining us.) Editing manuscripts has somehow gained the reputation of being as much fun as doing calculus with your hair on fire, when really it can be quite painless. Bearing this in mind, here are three songs from Rough Trade Records, an independent label that just signed the amazing Alabama Shakes. So kick off your shoes, have a cup of coffee (or tea, if you must). The first one, Billie Holiday, an ethereal tribute to "My Girl," is my current favorite:
I found over many years of teaching that focusing on grammar and typos in a manuscript is the worst thing you can do. Don't get me wrong- these things are important. You can't ignore them. But what we've found is that the act of writing itself has layers of varying importance. Spelling and typos rank near the very bottom in importance as far as editing goes. What's most important then? It's simple, really: the biggest concerns, the foundation of your writing, is the most profitable thing on which to focus. Here's what gets me really excited about the subject:
When we focus on the larger concerns in our manuscripts, the smaller ones tend to disappear. Like magic, right? ;)
Ok, not like magic, but the basic principle is sound. If the foundation isn't solid, no amount of detail will save the house. That's kind of obvious. But what's so fascinating to me is that by focusing on the plot, issues with pacing, characterization and the like, many of your grammatical snafus and misspellings will disappear on their own. It's as if these Lowers Order Concerns, or Locs, are symptoms of bad writing rather than the cause. Fix the Higher Order Concerns, or Hocs, and the Locs often go away. Not totally, and there is no way to get out of proofreading, but they will at the very least shrink a bit.
Conversely, you can also look at a section riddled with Locs as a signal flag for deeper concerns. Odds are, if there's a section with lots of misspelling, passive voice, and unnecessary tense shifts, something bigger is going on. Try ignoring the Locs and plug the section back into your overall plan: are the characters not being themselves? Perhaps the whole thing doesn't relate to your meta-plot, and needs serious cutting. Maybe you need to go all the way back to freewriting, brainstorming, or whatever discovery process works for you.
In a nutshell: Hocs before Locs, everytime.
For more information about what exactly constitutes a Hoc and a Loc, check out Purdue University's Online Writing Lab, or OWL, (slathering on the acronyms today, aren't I?) It's one of the best writing resources out there, bearing in mind it's set up largely for academic non-fiction. It's an engaging site, and if you think of things like "thesis" as your main message or central polt, then it's easy to transfer these ideas to fiction.
And now for the ROW80 report:
1. Word count for this week: roughly 3,000. Making good progress towards publisher's deadlines and my own, indie-pub ones too.
2. Number of pages edited: 600ish?
3. Blogging: missed on Wednesday but did my epic Blood Redemption reveal on Monday. It's the last blog entry if you're a fan of the series and missed it.
4. Reading: In this case, I'm going to count the editing as reading. Perhaps that's cheating a bit, but you do have to read the book before you can edit, right?
5. What else? Marketing/ the business of books? I got a press release this week! Crazy, huh? Check it out here, and my author page is up at Curiosity Quills. Also, on Nov. 30th, I'm going to be one of the "drafting titles" for The Indie Book Collective's Bestseller for a Day. (Or the IBC's BFAD, to continue with the acronym trope.)
I think that's everything. I always have that feeling like I'm forgetting something important when I make these updates. Grr! Oh well. I often have that feeling in all areas of my life. Oh, wait, we dodged another tornado this week, but only just. An F2 long track touched down 1/4 mile from my home. So many of our neighbors were without power, and lost roofs and cars and such. We sustained no damage, thank goodness, except to my sanity when I looked out the back window and saw a fallen-leaf shaped funnel cloud in my own back yard. It was the rotating winds, not the actual tornado. Still, this whole storm business is getting ridiculous. I do not, supposedly, live in the tornado belt, but the weather seems to have forgotten this. As we head into Thanksgiving, I hope those who celebrate it have a great food, fun, family and friends filled weekend. If you don't celebrate, I hope you have all those things anyway! Until next time, V