Cleaning Up Our Manuscripts . . .

23 Mar

In editing my manuscripts, I do clean up some things that readers may never even notice. But, I notice it, so I fiddle dee dee with it until I fix it. Of course, there are always things that can be missed. As much as I want the final product to be perfection, it just won’t happen. Too many ways mistakes can creep in: Tight deadlines, rewrites and more deadlines, and the “I am sick of looking at this manuscript” blues. That “sick of looking at this manuscript” doesn’t happen to me until the very very end of the process, when I have to read again the entire document on the last galley proof, and I’m reading it Line by Line by Line trying to spot troublemakers and sneaky sneakers. By then, I’ve read my manuscript too many times to count. Over and over again I read it. And if I’m not bored with my own work, that’s a good sign, I hope! *laughing*

Here are a few nitpickers I look for, and while many writers do not look for these because I see them in books I read, I, for whatever reason, just have to try to fix them. I think even if the reader doesn’t know they are reading a cleaner manuscript, some visceral part of them will, right? The manuscript will read faster—meaning the reader will turn pages faster. And of course, some of these are just things that bug me and wouldn’t make a difference, I suppose, but – I am picky.

The word “got” –

I got to go to the store can become I have to go to the store
I have got lots of candy should become I have lots of candy
I got rid of that body can become I buried the body in the woods *laugh* … whatever.

Second Person (You)

I read a novel not long ago that used second person so much and it kept bumping me out of the story. We say it a lot—“You know how it is, once you eat one cookie, you eat fifty-five of them.” Well, maybe “you” do or maybe “you” don’t. Or, “You know how your hair really looks like crap on rainy days?” Then you have to explain—No, I don’t mean YOUR hair, I mean in general, you know, those days hair looks bad in general and . . . I just don’t like second person that “speaks directly to the audience” unless that is a part of the novel’s purpose. Sort of like Malcolm in the Middle, or the new Modern Family show (two shows with brilliant writing, acting, and episodes by the way), where the characters ARE actually talking to the audience directly. And even though I understand that “you” can often mean in that universal way, it still is second person and it still bugs me. Like, the narrator will say “You know the air is stinky because you’ve been there before” – well, no I don’t know and no I haven’t been – the character does and will, though, so why not just say “he knows the air is stinky because he’s been there before.” Huhn. Whatever!

I recently read a novel where the main character, the narrator, cried every time I turned a page—okay, not that often, but it sure seemed so. She cried; she wept; she sobbed; tears sprang to her eyes; tears spilled over her lashes—you get the idea. The dang woman just cried too much and after about halfway through the novel, I rolled my eyes every time she said she was going to cry or did cry. Once the narrator said she was done with crying and I shouted (in my head), “YAYYYY!” but two pages over, there she was, crying anyway. *sigh* Stop the waterworks. After a while, it becomes a tic. I try not to have TIC words or actions in my writing, but I know sometimes I do. I can only hope I catch them so that readers don’t have the eye rolling moment of “okay okay, I get it!” or “Gosh, she sure does that an awful lot.” But, on the subject of crying women—please, don’t have your novel water-logged with waterworks!

(PS – I’m speaking of things in the narrative – dialogue is different. Also, if the character’s voice calls for it, then grammar goes out the window somewhat . . . not entirely, but somewhat. For example, Virginia Kate says “different” when it should be “differently” but that’s how she talks. I use dialect sparingly, though.)

That’s it for now. I’m in an incredibly busy time right now. I’m hoping to catch up and get back to the contest and et cetera. Y’all have a good day.

What kinds of things do you Notice when reading a book, or when writing your own, that stand out in a way you wish it didn’t?


16 Responses to “Cleaning Up Our Manuscripts . . .”

  1. Shrinky March 23, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    Glaring mis-use of grammer sets my teeth on edge. How can anything be "quite" unique? It either is, or it isn't. It is also inexplicable to me why anyone would write it as unexpainable (if you get my drift)..Good luck with the proofing, sounds as though you are virtually there.

  2. Rick March 23, 2010 at 10:22 am #

    I laughed so hard looking at your picture of Donald Trump's hairdo that I had a hard time reading the post. My God that is funny! Thing I notice- spelling errors are the worse. Although characters showing up after they've been killed off is hard to bear. Changing eye color. Overuse of the word "had." I think I'm getting a little too into this picky thing…And how are you doing, by the way?

  3. Michelle H. March 23, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    Oh, I sometimes "get" those lazy eyes where I reread my manuscript so many times and have it so memorized that my mind just seems to skip over mistakes which are RIGHT THERE! No matter how hard I try to fix it, they do the sneakity-sneak and the "ha-ha, Michelle can't see us!"Once, I read a book where it switched from present to past tense by the second chapter. Now this was disconcerting from a well-known author.As for tics, I've "got" myself a little ol' list that I go through, "getting" rid of "that," "only," "was," "were," and the ilk. "Got" is on the list (along with it's changing verbiage), as well as the use of negatives.

  4. Susan R. Mills March 23, 2010 at 11:14 am #

    Those are some great things to watch for. I especially hate the whole crying thing. There are other emotional reactions besides crying. I use crying some, but I prefer to use other things to show sadness.

  5. destrella March 23, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    The thing that bothers me and throws off my reaading is a blatant typo. A misspelled word will make me re-read a paragraph 3 or 4 times to see if it really was wrong. :O)

  6. destrella March 23, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    The thing that bothers me and throws off my reaading is a blatant typo. A misspelled word will make me re-read a paragraph 3 or 4 times to see if it really was wrong. :O)

  7. Glynis March 23, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    Unexpected gaps in a sentence and typo's jump out at me. I hate the continuous crying character. I also hate the one who F*'s after every other word, and it is not in context with the storyline.PS: There is a blog award for you over at my author blog. Do with it what you will.PPS: I have not forgotten the photo for calendar, it will be emailed to you soon.

  8. Kelly Bryson March 23, 2010 at 12:08 pm #

    I've broken myself of the habit of 'just', 'quite', and even'. And my MC spends some time trying not to cry, because crying has a severe environmental impact, what with the emotion-absorbing trees;) I've overused sighing, shrugging, and not answering, though. The first step is to recognize that there's a problem;)

  9. Suldog March 23, 2010 at 12:15 pm #

    I find that, often, I put stuff out for consumption with the same uncommon word in close juxtaposition to itself. That is, if I write, "I was rather distraught at the outcome" in one sentence, I will almost invariably use the word "distraught" again, within the next four or five sentences, when elaborating. Well, of course, if you use the same words to elaborate as you did originally, then you aren't really elaborating, are you? No. So, that's a failing of mine, and if I'm lucky, I find it upon the first re-read. If not, other folks find it, and I look like a distraught goofus.

  10. Charlene Ann Baumbich March 23, 2010 at 12:43 pm #

    Good editors and copyeditors can help break of us of our worst habits, ones we don't even know we have, and therefore won't notice. Those dear hardworking souls are undervalued and unsung.Having said that, on one manuscript I used "a bit" nearly every twenty pages. A bit of this, a bit of that. He turned a bit to his left. She ate a bit of the pie. During the final read, thank goodness I noticed! The overuse was, indeed, a bit of crazymaking! :-\

  11. Terry Odell March 23, 2010 at 12:44 pm #

    I "notice" things that other authors do with gestures, expressions, etc., because I'm always on the lookout for more variety in my own work.Most recent read — character "looped" his arm around her shoulder. I liked it, but it then became very conspicuous as the author used it numerous times.

  12. Karen March 23, 2010 at 4:20 pm #

    I always notice the "ings" and passive voice. I tend to write that way and then need to go back and change it in the rewrite.

  13. Sheila Deeth March 23, 2010 at 6:06 pm #

    I notice too many "ands" in my writing. And I notice my editing gets weaker as I get near the end of the book. I'm editing my "Psalms in Parables" book backwards second time through, in hopes of balancing things out.

  14. Terri Tiffany March 23, 2010 at 6:32 pm #

    Oh gee, my character might cry a tad too much. But she's pregnant–does that count?

  15. Titus March 23, 2010 at 7:17 pm #

    Typos for sure, but most of all when a character behaves in a completely inconsistent fashion to serve the requirements of the plot. Particularly prevalent in crime fiction, I notice. Ooh, the nice caretaker was the serial killer after all (in the final three pages)!

  16. K.M. Weiland March 24, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    It's those final galley proofs that get me too. By the time I get to proofreading for nothing but typos, I'm usually about ready to go bonkers. My biggest tic is overused words. ("Jaw" probably gets first place.) I'm utterly blind to this problem; if it wasn't for the eagle eyes of my editors, I'd be in big trouble!

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