Monday, March 22, 2010

Final Edits, Superpowers, and the Bermuda Triangle

As we come down to the wire I am receiving the final edits on Emerald Storm from proofreaders. As they do, I am adding to my list of mistakes I consistently make. I do this in the hopes of learning to avoid them in the future. Sometimes this actually happens.

I was a notoriously bad speller in high school, to a point where my friends referred to the stories that I wrote back then as being written in “Sullispeak” a language each prided themselves on being the greater scholar at. I was so bad that I spelled “evil” wrong. This was baffling to my friends who maintained it took real talent to screw up a word with only four letters. (I spelled it “eivl.”) This, above all, was what convinced me at the age of eighteen that while I had written three full-length novels, I could never be an author. That is how I ended up in the fast lane to artist. As you can see, I wanted nothing to do with a career where I might make money or even find employment.

It wasn’t until the advent of computers and spell-check that I contemplated writing again. Well, I never stopped writing, but for the first time I thought seriously about trying to publish something once I had a Sullispeak to English computer program. Back then, this was a DOS-based word processor called SAMNA. The intricacies of grammar came much later and I’m still struggling with its nuances. The good news is that, as an author, I have the Marvelesque superpower to defy grammar rules and even invent new words (like I just did with Marvelesque—impressive huh?) Still, it is better to know the rules before you break them; otherwise it’s just a mistake. Turns out spell-check is a great teacher. I can now spell evil…see.

As you might expect, as they come in, I watch for similarities in the editor’s comments. You would be surprised at how often professional editors contradict or debate each other. One editor will remove all the commas that another editor put in. As a result, I look for the commonalties, those aspects that all editors do the same. What I found was not a matter of grammar at all, and not a spelling error, not even a typo.

The one common standard I found consistent to all the proofers was their uncanny lack of any corrections in certain areas of the book. Always the same areas. It is as if there are little Bermuda Triangles in my story where editorial marks disappear. It could be that I merely succeeded in writing perfectly in these areas…but I know that’s not true because I found mistakes in the Triangles myself. No there’s a much simpler explanation.

They are the exciting parts.

I just hope my readers suffer from the same inexplicable phenomenon.


  1. Very interesting observation! Not having seen anyone's corrections but my own, I find this fascinating! I'll be the first to admit that much of proofing is a matter of personal preference. So much is open to interpretation, it's nuts. Plus, you have different schools of thought - AP style vs. Chicago style vs. ten other styles. It's crazy - and confusing, even for us editors! You just need to find an editor you like, one you agree with more than others, and you're good to go!

  2. Ham1299
    I noticed you had posted on Facebook that you were reading Storm, you were on page 96 I think and then the posts stopped. I've been wondering what happened.

  3. I have to thank the computer spellchecker. I never was a good speller my self. But, I have found spellchecker doesn't always pick the correct word. Then I have to go on a mission to find it. Glad to hear you are in the final stretches with the book.

  4. Michael ~ I finished it a couple of days ago. I have a previous commitment I'm currently honoring (to be finished in the next day or two), then I'll give Storm my editing read. Robin knows all about this. I just assumed that meant you knew! I'm sorry. I will begin the editing read ASAP - and I'm planning to focus on it (meaning read, edit, read, edit, and little else until it's finished) once I get started!

  5. Robin never tells me anything. She keeps me locked in an upstairs bedroom forcing me to write, and telling me I can leave when my legs are better.

    Melissa, here's something that can help you out. It is the best little computer utility I've ever found and it is completely free. It is called WebWord and you can find it at:

    Ctrl/CMD + right click on any word, anywhere on your computer and it launches a dictionary and thesaurus. Great for checking to see if spell check picked the right word.

  6. LOL Why am I not surprised? There's always one half of a couple that never tells the other - I'm the one often not told stuff, too. I feel your pain. Sounds like Robin is quite the slave driver! ;-) That WebWord sounds interesting. I'll have to check that out!

  7. Thank you for the link. That sounds and looks like a really handy program. I am definitely checking it out! Thank you!