Friday, February 26, 2021

Did I learn?

 I'm working my way through my pile of paper. I'm not talking about an innocent little inbox. My pile is the accumulation of stuff from the beginning of time. The sorting basically means three large categories: writing, household, and trash (why am I keeping this?) 

My "real" files are fairly well organized into file folders. Too many file folders, perhaps. My household pile consists of a lot of duplicate material. It will be simple to handle. Trash is obvious.

But, oh, the writing category. There's fan mail from when people used to take the time to write letters, newspaper reviews from when print journalism reigned supreme, touching little hand made souvenirs presented at programs from a time when organizations were delighted to have an author show up. There's convention badges, tote bags galore, program printouts, old letters. Carbons of letters I wrote to my first agents and letters to editors. 

And drafts of books. After a book is published there's no need to save printed first and second drafts, but I do. Now I use that paper to print out other peoples' book when I've agreed to read them. I also have some edited manuscripts and I've found myself going through them to read my editor's comments.

One of the delights of being published by Poisoned Pen Press was working with Annette Rogers and Barbara Peters. It was a double editorial whammy and a matchless learning experience. 

Structural editing (the dreaded editorial letter) is an art unto itself. The dynamic duo made books better.  But apart from plot and structural comments, here are some of the composition errors that make me cringe. 

1. Just. When did I fall in love with this word? Annette must have flagged it a jillion times. Do you have a pet word that is over-used? 

2. Passive Voice. You think it doesn't matter? Try using active and then read the sentence both ways. There's a huge difference.

3. Paragraphs. Always start a new one when the speaker changes or there is new action within a scene. 

4. Using too many words or sentences to make the same point. Say it once. Say it well and then shut up.

5. Unnecessary dialogue tags. Not just adverbs but even the "he said" and "she said" when the speaker's identity is already clear. 

6. Clear in head only. This is when a sequence is clear in the writer's head, but it's not clear on paper. 

I had a lot more to learn and still do. I'm keeping my double-edited copy of Lethal Lineage because so much was wrong with that manuscript. I had one heart-warming victory, however. Lethal was my one and only locked-room mystery. Neither my agent or the two editors saw the ending coming, yet it made perfect sense to them. They admired it.

Oh fabulous day. Oh joy beyond measure. 


Mario Acevedo said...

I'm going to steal this post.

Tanya said...

Charlotte, you have very concisely captured some of the aspects that differentiate a novice writer from an experienced one. Bravo!

Donis Casey said...

"Just" is my bugaboo, as well!