Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"I Confess...I Did It..."

Mistakes. Everyone makes them. Mine happen to be switching POV in mid-scene "head hopping" it's called, and telling the reader what is going on, rather than showing the action. I got the first one from the books I grew up with; undoubtedly, that's where I got the latter one as well!

I once proofread a manuscript which literally gave me a headache every time I tried to work on it. No capitals; no punctuation. But surprisingly enough, the author had studied (and retained!) paragraph structure and quotation/dialogue! But words were consistantly misspelled and the wrong tense frequently used. My brain went numb after half a page, trying to compensate. I wasn't sure if it was my job to take the figurative 'red pen' to her work.

Honestly, if it hadn't been for the adult content, a 3rd grader would have done a better job.

Helping my kids with their English homework has helped me 'brush up' on the grammer rules, although I still have trouble with 'objects', 'direct objects', and 'articles'. But 'noun', 'verb', 'adjective', 'adverb', 'prepostions'...I'm pretty confident.

I'm also fond of complex sentances, and was stunned during my final year of colege when a professor told me I had a run-on sentance. ME? No WAY! I read the thing out loud three times before my roommate suggested where to cut in half!

Some people have said a good way to catch your mistakes is to read your work backwards. I read mine out loud, or print it out and reread it. I've also sent it to a fresh pair of eyes, a trusted friend who hasn't read it before.

And rest assured...I've caught mistakes in some of my favorite print authors. Not every publisher/editor catches them. Just read books #1-3 of WEB Griffin's 'Men in Blue' series. A prominent character's last name changes in book #2, only to return to the original spelling in book #3 and beyond.

My dad pointed out he's caught mistakes in Stephen King's work, but his all-time fav was when he attended Purdue. His professor wrote the textbook, and on the first day of class, handed out an equally thick supplimental, in which he corrected all of his mistakes!

And sometimes the mistakes are accidental. My alter-ego was furious when she discovered her memory was faulty when she wrote her first book, and had the space shuttle Challenger exploding in 1985. She looked up the info, in order to spell an astronaught's name right...and lo and behold...it actually exploded in 1986! She sent the corrections to the publisher, and when the books were published, the mistake was left in. And when the editor tried to contact her before it went to print, communication/'office hours' was a problem. So in her first book, the incident occurs twice.

I figure there are three types of people:
-Ones that catch it and vow never to read her work again, based on one tiny error;
-Those who read it and think, 'Wait...didn't that already happen?'
-Those who don't catch it.

Do I quit reading an author just because I catch a mistake? No. Unless, of course, it's an ongoing issue with every single book!

Oh, and the author with the basic grammer issues? We no longer communicate. She found a better crit partner, and I've even bought two of her books, although I'm not thrilled with her writing style. Occassionally, I see emails from her on the loops and she's having some success, so more power to her. I tried to reach out and help her; she refused. I guess she's found friends more to her liking.

So don't sweat it if you make a mistake. As I told Stephanie last week; 'Don't get it right; get it written!'

A good editor/friend will help with the rest.

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