Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On insight and errant apostrophes

There is nothing like doing hours of proof reading and self editing to force you to come face to face with your literary bad habits. We all have them; they are as much a part of us as our favourite anecdotes and verbal tics. The trouble is that what works just fine in a letter or email tends to become something much less forgivable when it appears in a 40,000 word document you really hope someone will publish.

For me, my bĂȘte noir is apostrophes.  I have been unknowingly scattering them throughout my writings like tiny bombs, turning my manuscripts into minefields of misspellings in the process. I’m not sure when it started, or why, but somewhere along the line don’t became don’t’, and all versions of its became it’s, whether it was grammatically correct or not. It was a real learning experience to sit and read aloud every line of my novel and discover just how deep my love affair with those hovering commas actually went. All I can say is thank the gods for the “Find – Replace” function. It cut down the time it took me to weed them all out.

I also discovered my “fall back” phrases. Pat sentences or descriptors I use and abuse to the point that they appear far too often, sometimes in the same sentence. My English teacher would be proud to know I have mastered alliteration too; in fact I’ve mastered it, crushed it and made it my play thing, then sprinkled its corpse liberally throughout my work again. Leaping lilac llamas, do I like alliteration.

It took hours to go over it all and give it a good polish, and reading it aloud caused me to burst into giggles on a semi-regular basis. I may have written the love scenes with maturity and focus, but reading them aloud turned me into a sniggering teenager who could only hope my neighbours weren’t catching an earful. 

That novel was submitted almost two weeks ago, and I’m pleased to tell you that it made it through the first line of defense and wasn’t outright rejected by the publisher. It may be months before I hear further, but hey, if they didn’t laugh and kick it to the curb straight off, I’m counting that as a win.

Now I’m off to edit and layout the next Wordplague book, where instead of correcting my own writing quirks, I get to do battle with the quirks of other writers.

The Spacebook, coming to Amazon soon!