Cleaning Up Our Manuscript: General TidBits Continued

10 Sep

An easy way to figure out “less” and “fewer” is to think of “fewer” as items you can count as in 1, 2, 3: I have 10 items at the grocery, so I can stand in the “10 items or fewer” line, NOT the “ten items or less” line. Think of Less as what you can’t count individually one two three. I have less time to stand in line at the grocery with my ten items or fewer. There are some trickity things when referring to money, but I’ll leave that alone.

When we write “the clock said” or “the letter said” or “the sign said” – that is really not correct – pickity persnickety Kat!– we actually should say/write: “the sign read,” “the letter read,” “the clock read,” because of course signs and clocks and letters can’t speak. Ha!

There are some grammar functions that trick me up, or that I may be unaware of as I write or in edits, and I had to decide that I wasn’t going to worry so much about them and hope for the best. Perhaps most readers will be as confused about them as I am and will not notice anything wonky.

However, as I also have said, even if readers do not know why our work reads so smoothly and lyrically, if they only know they read without bumping out of the story or without stopping and thinking, “Hey, wait a minute . . . ” (at least as much as possible, for we are human and are not perfect), then we have done our jobs, and sometimes doing our jobs means cleaning up our manuscripts as best we can—and that means paying attention, learning new things, or old things we’ve forgotten, being aware of what we are doing so we can effectively manipulate the language and do things On Purpose for greatest effect.

Many times I throw rules out the window and wave buh-bye to them and simply go by the rhythm of the phrase/sentence. I hope for my work to be rhythmic, so breaking the rules is sometimes necessary to create a mood or feeling or a sentence that Fits.

I was never too interested in starting with “ideas” and applying images. I wanted the stuff of it all, the pillow, the mint leaf, the crust of paint. Let the little things lead.”—Naomi Shihab Nye

Another thing those who know me have heard, and I will say over and again: those “little things” – those images, those sensory details, the details and images make your poetry and prose come alive. Don’t be afraid to add something small as a curled leaf, a spot on an otherwise pristine bedroom wall, tracks of freckles across a nose, a single red bird in a field of white snow (as long as you watch for cliché!), or images/sensory details, such as a woman chopping onions and then sautéing them in melted butter, a boy watching his father shave/work/laugh/cry/spit/scratch/leave, a girl placing a bare foot into the water and shivering—the foot is only the beginning of the entire body’s immersion in what will become…, a moment of discovery, a glance, a sigh, a well-placed touch with just the tip of the second finger from the left—play with your images, think of the big things, yes, but those little things, little images, will make your work live, come alive.

Now, on to work on Secret Graces – I found a problem about halfway through and I need to resolve it. I had to switch some chapters around and etc etc etc! That creates a ripple effect and I’ll have to get down to working hard!

7 Responses to “Cleaning Up Our Manuscript: General TidBits Continued”

  1. Angie Ledbetter September 10, 2009 at 8:29 am #

    Me luv you're wurds. :)Hope the revisions are easy! I bet there's one more little detail you'll be able to find the perfect place for.

  2. Barry September 10, 2009 at 9:47 am #

    Mmmmmmm This writing stuff is more complicated than I thought.Perhaps if I use fewer and fewer words until I've use none at all….YES that would work! lol

  3. Lazy Writer September 10, 2009 at 10:41 am #

    I had to laugh about the 10 items or fewer line. The sign at my grocery store says 12 items or less. I guess they have it wrong. Maybe I should tell them. :)

  4. Sheila Deeth September 10, 2009 at 12:58 pm #

    Got to know the rules to break the rules. Nice article. Those 10 items…

  5. Strange Fiction September 10, 2009 at 3:47 pm #

    Great tips Kathryn!

  6. Jill of All Trades September 10, 2009 at 9:22 pm #

    Wonderful info. Luckily I have an in-house grammar expert in my oldest. Her masters is ESL so she is CONSTANTLY correcting for me, whether I like it or not. LOLGood luck with the rearranging. That is so overwhelming for me.

  7. Ann September 12, 2009 at 9:55 pm #

    In our resource room, we have two photo copier. One is a "reso" where there is no coping credits, so teachers happy use it, whereas the other copier has credits deducted.At the "reso" there is a sign, "This machine is only for 25 or higher". Someone crossed out higher, and corrected "more" Now, I don't know which is correct.

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