Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sweating the Small Stuff


In between blogging, research, revision, and writing, I go over the WIP for the small stuff.
You know, those squiggly green and red lines that dance like intoxicated angle worms under the rich, composted soil of your word-garden.
First, of course, is spelling. I double check if the proper name is simply one the dictionary doesn't recognize, make sure it is spelled right and then add it.
The typos and the times when I've altered a passage and neglected to change the verb form to the proper tense.
And to find the places where - through some hasty glitch - I wrote "concentrated", instead of "consecrated."
That last is the one that leaves me feeling faint and ill.
That sort of mis-use is probably the one most likely to have a script fired into the bin of slush-pile hell.
And I dither over British spelling vs. American spelling.
You see, at first I eradicated British "humour," excised it completely. Then I started to blog, then the ingrained spark plugs began to fire up again in my roto-tiller. There's a connection there in my synapes, I'm sure.
Have I, in later revisions, become inconsistent?
Sweat.
I attack the spaces caused by an over-active thumb on the space bar.
I fuss about indents, trying to figure out "tabs" and why some want them and some do not. And what are they anyway.
I check for ***, and "em dashes."
Perspire.
I view punctuation with a sweat-stung eyes. Did I leave out quote marks? Did I leave out ?? Are the rules about commas I learned at Miss Bustlewhistle's knee now defunct and de-classe?
Great drops.
By the time I through the first pass, heaving out various weeds and small stones, the prose I thought zipped along very smoothly on first reading after absence, now strikes me as clunky, dull crap.
I have to go change.
Warning: Weed and rake at limited intervals, or the exercise puts out your back and makes you feel like heaving the lot into the incinerator.

Batter, (go) on the: ( to walk the streets) as a harlot, to be debauched; to be on a riotous spree; from late 1830s, obsolete.
Battle-royal: A vehement quarrel, a vigorous fight; from about 1690; colloquial > Standard English. Derived from medieval jousting between two sides each commanded by a king; also cock-pit.
Bawbles: ( properly baubles) testicles; late 18th - early 19th c.; earlier, e.g. Shakespeare, bauble = penis, probably Standard English.
Bawcock: a fine fellow; generally derisive; obsolete by 1700s; colloquial; from the French beau coq.

28 comments:

Ric said...

And at some point, we begin to wonder why we keep doing this day after day. The journey keeps getting us closer to the Holy Grail but, for now, all we get in more and more rejection letters to file away, put on Stephen King's railroad spike, and ponder the meaning of 'well-written but'.

Writing is like sex. What is perfect for you might leave the next person wanting for more. Trying to find out what they want - and providing it - is the hardest part.

Carla said...

Re British vs US spelling, have you found the function on Word that lets you alter the language of the spell-checker? I naturally write in British English, but if I'm writing for a US medical journal, I set the spell-checker language to US English, and then it will automatically find all the British spellings for me. Now that's progress.

Bernita said...

Knew I should have written a sex post for Ric for the weekend...

Savannah Jordan said...

Bernita~
Tell me about it!! I was warned by my editor that my ms was next in queue. She said if there were any edits to make on my own I should make them now. HA! "How about the entire ms?"

And Ric~
I like the anology between writing and sex. But, for women, you might not want to 'go there.' We are fickle, feisty, finicky creatures...

Bernita said...

I don't know what half the buttons or functions are for on my toolbar, Carla.
Have seen a little thingy at the bottom that says US.
I will ask one of my patient children.

Bernita said...

And italics, Savannah, some want them left, some want words underlined in stead.
~ wipes brow~
Whole rigamarole makes me more and more inclined toward electronic, even with my technical disabilities.
Swear I end up damper all over than I do during sex.

Dennie McDonald said...

Edits are so hard! I hate second guessing myself. And often I stress over word choice - I once had a critique (this was early one inmy group experience) and someone said I had too many "ly" words - well I took every single one out. Then he said it was too dry - It's a balancing act.

Savannah - the editors are great and it will be smooth sailing I am sure -

Ric said...

See how easy it was to get Bernita to equate editing with sex?

Just love that woman!

Dennie, even though Stephen King says to take out all the adverbs, I agree it tends to make the writing sterile.

Savannah, all those "F's" are why we keep coming back for more.

Bernita said...

I like to please the reader, Ric.

I'm sure it will be small stuff, Savannah, as Dennie says, probably more of a "which" choice rather than a wrong choice.

Rick said...

Oh, yeah, self-editing sux. You're always seeing what you meant to write, not what you actually wrote.

Bernita said...

Not always that, Rick.
Sometimes the process convinces you that what you wrote seriously sucks.
I'm trying to blame the process of nit-pickery for that perception.

Erik Ivan James said...

Don't know why, but I have the sensation that Ms. Bernita has cabin fever and is ready for a stong dose of Spring. Huh, Dear Gal?

Bernita said...

Possibly, Erik dear.
You see, I know I garden well.Prizes, even, for my herb garden.

Gabriele C. said...

That may yet prove to be an advantage of my editing while I go process. I make slow progress that way, and sometimes it's frustrating, but I catch a lot of the buggers already. I can't move on knowing there's muck behind that needs to be changed.

Dennie McDonald said...

You know what I use to help me edit? I have a program that reads it back to me (at read please dot com - you can download a free version) and it really helps w/ missing words and whatnot.

I find it's hard to edit alone because you kow what you meant for it to say and your brain fills that in sometimes when you re-read it.

Bernita said...

Well, I try, Gabriele, but I can always find something, especially when one learns of specifications. While all seem to want proper margins, double space and all that, there are picky differences regarding certain spacings and such.

Nice tool, Dennie. Afraid I couldn't bear that even if I could master the tech.

Rick said...

Bernita - Oh, I was thinking of the final editing pass, basically proofing. Realizing how bad your own stuff stinks goes especially with earlier editing passes - when you're reading for style and flow, and not finding it.

Bernita said...

I find that feeling can attack me at any time, Rick, but I think that's quite common.
A passage that strikes one as bang-on one day can have you thinking "so, so what? That's nice, dear, but is it really useful?" when you look at it from a different angle.
I'm nearly to the point thought where I have to stop dithering and fussing and take the machine for a test drive.

Savannah Jordan said...

Ric~

;) I'm good with the 'f's. LOL

Rick said...

Oh, yes, the this-is-crap feeling can strike at any time!

I've noticed a fairly common pattern with me, though. I may like a passage - even grin ear to ear about it - soon after writing it. Then, a couple of weeks later, it makes me wince. Once a good deal more time has gone by (at least a couple of months) I feel better about it again. At least sometimes I do!

Do others of you have this same cycle, or some other frequent pattern in how you react to your own work?

kmfrontain said...

You just described the ongoing battle I have with my Lulu published stories. Currently doing a "then" search, "then" as in the adverb meaning "in this instance". And no, I never seem to have the same standards twice when I do a proofread/edit of my stories. I'm thinking I should write my standards down somewhere so I can stick to them. Mostly I suffer comma-itis. ;-)

Bernita said...

Odd thing, I almost never use "then." Then someone mentioned it as a common over-use and irritation, then I found myself using it.
It was like a curse.

kmfrontain said...

Yeah, well, I was thinking Newfie/Cape Bretonish/down-east-Canadian-speak when I was writing up some of my characters. Not that any are Canadian, but I wanted that relaxed sort of style.

So it's supposed to be overused, is it?

Well, then.

Bernita said...

Doesn't apply to dialogue, KM, in any event.

kmfrontain said...

Well, I've got it all over the place as a timing word in any case. Don't know how you avoid using it without going through mental hoops.

Bernita said...

It depends on the type of scene, I suppose.
Possibly on the POV.
Never really thought about it.
If the action follows logically, the reader does not need a cue word.

ivan said...

I'd like to see Sandra weigh in on this, but it strikes me that ideas
are non-verbal. You have the symbol
in front of you, like a madman.
You know for sure that you don't think like anybody else; you think like a Chinaman, really crappy on overall politics, but great at thinking for yourself. Your unique self.
The times I've pushed a project through on discipline alone, it was criticized as being too wordy.
A writer too wordy? An oxymoron?
A moron?
I think the original Tom Wolfe
wrote about these matters, perhaps in Only the Dead Know Brooklyn. Wolfe was given to wanderings, subways, the sound of the city.
I mentioned to a sucessful editor that sometimes, in a post- alcoholic haze, in the early hours of the morning, wandering through the city, I had this sense of being able to see around corners and all things, including what I was about to write, explained.
"That's the time you should write," said John. "That's when you get to the heart of the matter."
I think those of you who have tried drugs know what I'm talking about. Any of my own drug addictions have been of the prescription kind, but I've got a sense of what a cocaine high might be, since I'm addicted to dentists.
Yeah. Sweating the small stuff.
Don't.
Sweat the small stuff in the second or third draft.

Shesawriter said...

Editing and revision are the bane of my existence. Both were invented by Satan.

Tanya