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The Copy-Editor’s Revenge

Monday, May 24th, 2010

After writing in here about my editing woes, I thought I’d give Shakespeare’s copy editor, channeled here by Rowan Atkinson, a chance to reply:

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As Granny used to say…

Friday, May 21st, 2010

A friend of mine wrote recently, and said,  “‘It’s a great life, if you don’t weaken,’ as my grandmother used to say.”  The images that conjured up were somewhat terrifying, but it reminded me of my own grandmother, who was definitely a low-comfort woman.  If you complained about–anything, she’d say, “From the day of your birth, ’til you ride in a hearse, there’s nothing so bad that it couldn’t be worse.” My mother remembered a day in childhood when she ran inside, crying to my grandmother, “Nobody loves me and my hands are cold,” and my grandmother said mordantly, “God loves you and you can sit on your hands.”  A hug and an “I love you” might have been a wee bit more helpful…

Another friend’s grandmother had more sensible advice.  She used to say, “Never trust a poseur.”

So–here’s your chance–what words to live by did your grandmother comfort or terrify you with?

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Towards a theory of writing

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Thank you all for your good wishes on my previous post.  I’m back from a marathon weekend in Massachusettswith my independent editor.  We worked until two every morning going through the manuscript for Body Work, and all the flaws in it are now strictly of my own production.  While I was going through the text line by line, comparing what I’d written to how it had been rewritten, I realized I have a goal in my writing.

My desire is that the written word be transparent, so that the reader is within the minds and actions of the characters.  I strive to write in natural rhythms that make the reader hear as well as see the text.

Text has a cadence like music.  When I am writing action scenes, I use text breaks to increase tension.  The break is like a pause between measures of music; it arrests the reader’s attention.  Too many pauses, or too many uninterrupted phrases and the piece becomes monochromatic, banal.

Some writers, like the great but sadly late Donald Westlake, used short terse dialogue to good effect.  I prefer to have my characters in motion while they’re speaking.  I find “he said” “I said” on the page distracting to the reader’s eye, or at least to my eye, so I try to alert the reader to who’s speaking by the actions of the speaker.

Victorian novelists wrote long and lavish travelogues as part of their novels, but today we don’t have the patience for that.  Scenery has to contribute to mood or action in a thriller, or to mood in a non-genre novel.

Enough!  I’d be glad to know how some of you approach the written word, what works for you on the page as writers and readers.  I’m always eager to improve my craft.

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Potholes in the Road

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

I’ve been bumping through a few potholes lately, which is why my posts are sporadic.  Minor ones–my husband was pickpocketed as he got off a commuter train in downtown Chicago.  A professional band of thieves–they had his credit card numbers distributed throughout the country within minutes–we got reports of charges as far away as Orlando, Fl.  Kudos to MasterCard for instantly sorting this out.  Kudos to my husband’s dentist: my husband was en route to have a new crown made and the dentist gave him cabfare home.  Boos to the U.S. banks.  In Europe, you have to have a pin number to use a bank card as a debit card.  Here, you only have to swipe the card.  It took a week for Chase-Morgan Stanley-Megatherium to agree to cancel $2800 in charges.

A bigger pothole.  Death of one of my cousins, my age.  He was a marathoner who had a sudden heart attack as he was getting ready to run a marathon.  Leon, rest in peace.

Small pothole.  Very bad job of copyediting the new book, in which the copy-editor randomly entered grammatically incorrect verbs and phrases.  I’m still trying to put the ms back together so it makes sense, and that takes all my physical and mental energy–so–more later.

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