Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Nit Picks or Valid Points?


I'm not writing about spooks and goblins, but rather other scary things. *smile*  Being an author is a confusing job at times.  I've always considered I could write with some coherence, but when you start having other people critique your work or edit your final manuscript, you start to wonder if you really know anything at all.

Rita has done a fine job of pointing out a majority of the mistakes unseasoned authors make, but I need to add my few examples to the mix.  I'm sure glad she mentioned her tip from school because it certainly helped me with who versus whom. 

I just finished a novel where the author used "threw opened" the door.  Now, since I'm not sure whether I'm an expert or not, I would have written "threw open" the door to keep it in the present tense.  Who's right?  I have no idea.  Help me out here.

Another little tip I learned and wonder if anyone cares besides one particular editor (and clearly, not every editor does)...if you use sit there is no need to say "down" because sitting indicates, down...unless of course someone is startled from sleep and sits up in bed, but then you'd better show the reader by using something like, Clara heard a noise and bolted upright in bed.  On the other hand, if you use stood, there is no reason to use "up" because standing indicates up.  Seems petty to me, but I made the suggested changes and it read just as well.  Does anyone notice?

Then of course, there's the good ol' action before reaction.  Who knew people cared what happened first...a mouse skittered across the floor and Ellie jumped onto a chair?  Well, I do know now.  Why would she leap onto a chair unless she saw something that scared her?  Makes perfect sense, right?

I'm still trying to avoid the latest writing faux pas pointed out to me.  I can't count how many books I've read where an author has identified who is feeling, hearing or seeing something...example:  She heard a noise outside the window and a chill ran up her spine.  Well, guess what?  A seasoned author has clearly kept the reader involved in the specific character's POV, and would therefore know who heard the noise, therefore telling them again is obviously insulting their intelligence.  So, I'm trying very hard not to be rude and watching sentences which start with a pronoun, specifically, since the use of too many shes or hes is also redundant.  At the end of each paragraph, I'm reading back to see which I can eliminate, and I've surprised myself.  If I start the scene clearly in one character's POV, I can simply mention that a noise sounded outside, or he walked into the room...and of course if she was there, she heard and saw both.

So, my dilemma now is trying to resume being a normal reader.  Instead, I have an internal editor who reads with a red pen mentality and looks for these so-called mistakes...ones I never make anymore.  Yeah right.  I can't even remember where I put my car keys, what are the chances I can remember every editing rule I've had pointed out over the years?   Yeah, that's my trick or treat.


Gail Roughton said...

Sorry to tell you this, darlin', but I don't think once we turn "professional" we can revert to just being readers! No matter WHO we're reading!!

Joan Hall Hovey said...

I agree, Gail. We're always editing.

'Threw open the door' is correct of course. How about this: 'He coward in the corner'. I knew better, but it must have seemed right at the time. Anyway,that's one of my bloopers that managed to get through, though I fixed it later. -:)
Good stuff here, as always dear friend.


Ns said...

I probably wouldn't nit at standing up or sitting down, but "threw opened" just ain't right.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, Ginger,

Unfortunately, becoming an author is an almost sure way to destroy the experience of reading for pleasure. Well, I take that back, partially. When you read an absolutely fabulous book, where the language is pitch perfect, you have a far deeper appreciation of what went into that. It's not just magic. It's hard work!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Ginger,
Great blog. You raised so many relevant points. I really cringe when I read some of my earlier books, but writing is a learning curve and I am still learning.



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