The Editing Pit

 

I think unpublished manuscripts are like the Home of Dreams from the movie “The Money Pit.”  I can picture Tom Hanks laughing like a maniac as more and more time, money and work get funneled into the manuscript.

But, as he was told, again and again, “If the foundation is good, everything else can be fixed.”

Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is proving to be a daunting task, despite it’s deceptively thin appearance.  I’ve made it through the first three sections on sheer goat-headedness.  The elements seem to come in three Flavors for me:

First, rules I understand and already try to use.  (“Yes,” she whispers, as she pumps the air with her fist.)

Second, rules that I am unfamiliar with, but understand and will try to apply to my writing.  (“Hmmm.”  The writer scratches her head thoughtfully, brows crunched together, and tries to appear dignified.)

Third, rules that… can’t… brain.  more examples, plz…  halp…  (The room echoes with the sound of a head hitting a desk, while the soft pat, pat, pat of brain tissue, slowly leaking out of an ear, marks the passage of time.)

I think it’s going to take more than a single read through to get a good grasp of it all, although my worst offences seem to be related to #18.  My style seems to favor two clause sentences, giving my paragraphs a singsong sound.  I’m trying to control the urge, but it just seems to happen before I realize it.  I’m not doing it on purpose, because it can get really tedious. My brain just seems to organize thoughts this way, and sometimes I….   DAMMIT!!

My favorite section so far, Misused Words and Expressions, is full of fun, archaic words.  I feel at home, among these words, and easily grasp his points.  If I was being tested, I would expect a good passing grade, although most of what I would get wrong may be simply outdated.  I’m sure I have never applied the word ‘clever’ to a horse, incorrectly or otherwise.

However, I think the section would be better titled Pet Peeves and Things That Really Piss Me OffI swear I have felt the sting of a ruler on the back of my hand from his tone of writing.  Despite only being in the ‘F’ words, I am already flinching from a smack on the back of the head.  I know it’s coming…

For now, I keep shoveling grammar and style into the manuscript, hoping to turn it into the Dream Novel.  (Don’t laugh!)

My last post referred to a bunch of writing books by author, but not the titles.  It was a presumption on my part that everybody else has read them all, and I was last to the party.  In an effort to help those who haven’t gotten around to them, I will post an extra blog with an annotated bibliography of the books I have found helpful to date.  Look for it in the next week or two.

 

My Prestigeous, But Low-Budget, Writing Program

 

 

 

For those of you keeping track I napped my way out of the post-finished-manuscript funk after about 48 hours.  For someone who has problems bouncing back from depression I consider that fairly good.  I couldn’t let go of that fictional world, so I spent the last week typing up the short stories that occur about the same time as the main story.  They may never see the light of day, or they could be freebies for those future readers interested in my world.

So now, I am tackling the Editing…

<cue dramatic music>

While I was writing this manuscript, I realized my extremely shaky grasp of spelling (due to undiagnosed dyslexia) and a high school level of grammar (from thirty years ago-eek!) was just not going to cut in the fast-paced World of Publishing, independent or traditional.  So, OCD Capricorn that I am, I studied, I organized, and I thought it through.

The books I found in my local used book store, because I’m broke, were my starting points.  I learned from Stephen King that my new method of writing was OK, even though it was the opposite of what I was taught.  Terry Brooks explained how to do it properly, like I was taught, but to just keep going if that didn’t work.  Christopher Vogler took me on the hero’s journey in a way I understood, while Kim Hudson gave the female counterpoint.  John Warner taught me to laugh with the muse.  Alice W. Flaherty explained exactly what was wrong with my brain to make me a writer.  James Frey helped me push the story deeper, with hooks for the reader.  Noah Lukeman, while rolling his eyes, and in a Sahara dry tone, explained how to not be a total idiot, and bore my readers to death.

Currently, Elizabeth Benedict is explaining to me that it is OK for a book to have sex scenes, while not overdoing it… unless that is what the story needs.  Next on the pile is my very own Strunk & White, just brought home from a used book store like it was the Holy Grail.  (I’m not kidding, angelic voices sang as it was brought into the house.)  Below that is a couple of grammar books, written in catchy ways that will hopefully push past my weird memory blocks, and giving me a better working grasp of rules and modern usages.

I’ve learned a ton of things from these writers, and they have pointed me toward even more books; both about writing and great fiction that I have missed.  My ‘To Read’ list is massive, and judging what is next is becoming impossible.  Still, I persevere, hungry for more.  And frankly, all this newfound knowledge should have ripped my manuscript to pieces.

But, it didn’t.

It tweaked, it clarified, and it deepened.  It showed me ways to reach the reader without hitting them over the head with my ideas.  While I was learning to tell a ‘damn good story’ with words, I kept finding my characters and story, hitting the important points these teachers were making, over and over.  I started to think that I may have something, maybe something good enough for someone else to read, maybe even enjoy.

It gave me hope.

I have stories to tell, and I’m going to do that.  I hope you’ll join me, and tell me some in return.

Do you have any favorite books about writing?